Claudia and Nancy's Chocolate Factory - Lavender, Lemon and Strawberry Marshmallows on Chocolate Bark

Yes, that's chocolate on our faces, hands, arms and clothing.  Getting in touch with our inner child here.  Deb actually gave that as one of her reasons for picking our current Cook the Books Club selection,  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl.  It was just partly this lightweight, but charming fairy tale's fault for inspiring me to do the chocolate making thing once more.

 Kealani (my granddaughter) remembers me saying the last time, that it was the LAST TIME.  A lot of work, in other words.  Or, maybe not so much work as MESS.  You might compare the process to having a baby, in that you don't ask the just delivered mother if she's going to do it again.  If I wait a bit I might even want to.  You have to weigh the good with the not so.

We did lick up a lot.  And it was good.  It also means I won't be buying any chocolate bars for quite awhile.  Four pounds worth.  And if anybody happens to wonder why I don't post more dessert recipes, well this is your answer.  I'd most always rather just have a little chocolate.  Preferably this kind.

Nancy and Mike have a small cacao plantation started, though their cacao trees are young and not yet producing. Looking ahead, they have invested in a Santha Wet Grinder for conching (refining to get really smooth) chocolate.  As well, a Champion Juicer for getting it into a liquid state in the first place. I have since discovered that step is not necessary, as the overnight grinding in the Santha or other concher is quite sufficient. Thus, I brought my nibs over to do our chocolate making production, using the new machines.  Above was our first step in making finished chocolate, putting the roasted, husked beans through their Champion Juicer.

There is a lot of process involved before you even get to that point, however.  I started with mature pods from which the beans were removed, fermented, dried,  roasted and husked, then brought to Nancy's house.

The liquid cacao goes from the Champion into a melanger or conching machine, in this case a Santha Wet Grinder, along with sugar and vanilla to refine overnight, becoming in the end, chocolate.

 Then, next day there is the messy business of getting it all out, tempered, and into molds.  And tempering, if you haven't attempted that before, is pretty tricky.  I put roasted macadamia nuts and dried pineapple in  the molds first.  Except for 1 pound of it, which was made into "bark" for my homemade marshmallows to go on top of.  But that's the next chapter.

Dark Chocolate - 70%
 For 4 lbs.
3 lbs. cacao nibs, roasted and husked
18 oz. sugar, powdered (in your food processor - the commercial kind has corn starch)
1 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)

That's it.  A deceptively simple recipe, as you might have gathered by now.

On Charlie's trip through Willy Wonka's fabulous chocolate factory, mention is made of, among the scores of fanciful treats too numerous to mention, marshmallows that taste of violets.  That was my inspiration for the next phase of this project.  I wanted to make perhaps three flavors of marshmallow - lavender, lemon and strawberry.  With colors to match, and then get them stuck onto pieces of chocolate bark. You're supposed to do marshmallows in dry weather.  Here, that can be problematic.

I tried three different recipes to see if there was a noticeable difference, aside from taste.  For the strawberry pink marshmallows, I pureed about 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries and put them in a zip lock freezer bag to await an end to the rain.  There was finally, a (mostly) dry day so I decided to proceed with batch number one.

I don't know how successful  the egg shapes were, but the taste was delightful, with just enough strawberry to make me glad I had not added any other flavorings.  There was a big clump of cut out pieces left.  Great for use in topping one's cocoa.

For the next marshmallow batch,  lavender flowers were purchased for making an infusion, to which I added a bunch of purple bougainvillea flowers for color.  This variety is edible and I've used them in tisannes.  Truthfully, it wasn't enough, so I did resort to a few drops of food color.

Finally, from our ever (almost) producing lemon tree, I used zest and juice with a handful of lemongrass leaves to make an infusion. The three combine to produce a delightful citrus flavor.

Lemon Marshmallows
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, and with no corn syrup

    * Vegetable-oil cooking spray
    * Confectioners' sugar and potato starch in equal amounts for dusting pan and marshmallows
    * 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup cold water
    * 2 packages unflavored gelatin (5 teaspoons)
    * 2 cups granulated sugar
    * 4 drops lemon-yellow food coloring
    * 1 handful lemongrass leaves
    * 1 lemon, zest and juice
 Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Spray parchment with cooking spray.  Bring water to a boil with the lemongrass, juice and zest of lemon.  Remove from heat, cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.  Chilll 2/3 cup of the infused water in freezer, then place in a mixer bowl; sprinkle gelatin over it, and let soften, about 5 minutes.
Bring granulated sugar and remaining water to a boil in a pan, stirring often until sugar dissolves. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to keep sugar crystals from forming. Boil, without stirring, until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees) on a candy thermometer.

Remove syrup from heat; add to softened gelatin. Using the mixer's whisk attachment, hand-stir about 30 seconds to cool. Place bowl on mixer stand. Whisk on medium-high until soft peaks form and mixture holds its shape, about 8 minutes. Whisk in food coloring.
 Transfer mixture to pan, and quickly smooth top. Let stand until set, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Cover tightly if storing for longer than a few hours.

Shortly before serving, lift parchment edges to remove cooled marshmallow block from pan. Using a warm knife, cut into 1-inch squares, or whatever shape you like, dusting the cut edges with confectioners sugar and potato starch mixture.

They are easy to stick onto the chocolate by holding each one over a candle  until the marshmallow softens on the bottom.

Bob likes all the marshmallows, but separate from the chocolate.  Does not like mixing things up.  I can go either way.  Yum.

This silly, yet fun book is especially wonderful for reading aloud to children or grandchildren.  One of my favorite bits concerned Loompaland (where the factory workers, called OompaLoompas, are from):
"Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the entire world - hornswoggles and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles."
And, this from the tour:
"They're (the OompaLoompas) drinking butterscotch and soda.  They like that best of all.  Buttergin and tonic is also very popular."

Not deep reading here, still inspiring for all lovers of sweets and treats.  Without it, I would never in all likelihood, have made flavored marshmallows to top chocolate bark.  Be sure to visit the Cook the Books Club round-up and see what everyone came up with.

P.S. By request, here are the Strawberry and Lavender recipes:

Nightscotman’s Strawberry Marshmallows

4 envelopes gelatin
1/2 cups strawberry puree
1-1/4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)
powdered sugar and potato starch or rice flour for dusting (this is where I added in the fruit dust)

Line a sheet pan with a 1″ rim with aluminum foil. coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the strawberry puree, orange flower water (if using) and 1/2 cup of the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture to soften (aka bloom).

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).

With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl – use a splash guard if you have one. whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that it’s level with the top of the rim (it won’t completely fill the pan). Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temp for 10 to 12 hours.

Mix equal parts powdered sugar and potato starch and sift generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters (pizza cutter works even better). Dip all cut edges in sugar/starch mixture and shake off excess. Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temp in an air-tight container.

Lavender Marshmallows

Yield: about 60 marshmallows

    * 1.5 cups water
    * 2 tbsp dried lavender
    * 2 cups granulated sugar
    * 1/2 cup light corn syrup
    * 1/4 tsp salt
    * 3 tbsp unflavored gelatin
    * 2 egg whites, room temperature
    * Purple food coloring, optional
    * 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    * 1/3 cup corn starch


1. Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining it with foil and spraying the foil very well with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a small saucepan with the water, and add the lavender. Bring the water to a full boil, then take the pan off the heat and cover it to infuse the water with the  lavender flavor. Let the pan sit for 30 minutes.

3. After the water has infused for 30 minutes, strain the lavender out, and measure out 1/2 cup of water into a medium saucepan. Measure another 1/2 cup of water into a small bowl. If you have any water remaining, you can discard it. Put the small bowl of water into the freezer to cool it down briefly.

4. To the water in the saucepan, add the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and place it over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then stop stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit (hard-ball stage). While you’re waiting for the syrup to reach the proper temperature, get the rest of the recipe ready.

5. Once the bowl of infused water is cool, sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir briefly, then let it sit for 5 minutes, until it absorbs the water. Once it is gelatinous, microwave it for 20-30 seconds until it liquefies. Stir in the vanilla seeds you scraped from the pods earlier.

6. When the candy thermometer reads 245 F, place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and start to beat the egg whites. The goal is to have them reach firm peaks around the same time the sugar syrup reaches 260 degrees F. If they are at firm peaks before the syrup is ready, stop the mixer so that they don’t become dry and crumbly.

7. Once the sugar syrup is at 260 F, take it off the heat. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the sugar syrup, and then pour it into a large measuring cup with a spout. Turn the mixer to medium speed, and slowly, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup down the sides of the bowl while the mixer runs. Once all of the sugar syrup is incorporated, turn the mixer to high speed. Continue to whisk until the marshmallow mixture is thick enough to hold its shape and is completely opaque. When you lift the whisk attachment from the marshmallow the excess should slowly drip back down into the bowl in a thick ribbon. If you want to add a few drops of purple food coloring to make your lavender marshmallows a beautiful light purple color, add it now and stir it in.

8. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top flat with an offset spatula. Let the marshmallow set overnight, or at least 5 hours, before cutting it.

9. Combine the powdered sugar and corn starch in a small bowl, and dust your work surface with this mixture. Turn the marshmallow out onto the surface and gently peel the foil back from the sides and off the bottom. Sprinkle the top of the marshmallow with the sugar/starch mixture.

10. Cut the marshmallow into squares using a large sharp knife. As necessary, dust the sides of the knife with the sugar mixture, or clean it off under hot running water. Dredge the sides of the marshmallows with the sugar/starch mixture until they’re no longer sticky.

11. Lavender Marshmallows are best soon after they’re made. They can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. If they grow sticky roll them in your confectioners sugar/flour mixture again before serving


Eliotseats said...

I made marshmallows exactly once. (Actually, they never made it to the finished product. I referenced this experience in my Homemade Life post.) I can't imagine your chocolate factory production line! You really were productive!

Deb in Hawaii said...

I took a class in making chocolate so I definitely admire you for all the work and skill you put into this--amazing. I love the marshmallows--so fun and colorful. Thanks for helping me indulge that inner child with some light, fun reading and joining in CTB. ;-)

Rachel said...

This was such an interesting post. I love seeing how the cacao beans turn into chocolate delights and all the steps in between. What a treat!

Joanne said...

Willy Wonka would be SO proud! This bark sounds delicious and I LOVE the marshmallows on top!

Heather S-G said...

What fun! I toyed with the idea of ordering cacao beans and making chocolate...but alas, I set that thought aside for the moment. I love the chocolate and the marshmallows. Brilliant post for this round of CTB =)

Alicia Foodycat said...

Going all the way from beans to finished chocolate is amazing! I am in awe! I'm actually making marshmallows today - I just hope they turn out as pretty as yours.

Simona Carini said...

That's a priceless photo! You are certainly brave: making chocolate is quite an endeavor.

Heidi Raven said...

I am so excited that I found this site! Thank you for your wonderfully creative cooking. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your marshmallow recipes - strawberry and lavender. Thank you!!


Claudia said...

Thanks Heidi, I am adding as a postscript those two recipes to my original post. I had done a Google search for recipes and found the ones mentioned on my blog.