Introduction: Chocolate Head
This is a Swiss thing. Ever since I emigrated to the US about 16 years ago I've missed this indulgent little delicacy. The bitter chocolate shell is the perfect companion for the sweet, gooey, fluffy white interior, and the cookie it rests on offers a delicious crunchy counterpoint.
Once again tempted by Instructables' contests (who can resist the lure of an ipad or a zing?) I was inspired to reverse engineer my favorite childhood treat. Although they look nothing like the smooth commercial "Tetes choco" my home-made candy turned out even better than I remembered....
Step 1: Ingredients
Marshmallow filling ingredients:
1/2 cup agave syrup (alternate: light corn syrup)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1 small pinch citric acid (alternate: pinch of cream of tartar or 1/6 tsp of distilled vinegar)
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp sugar
2/3 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp citric acid (optional -- for extra fluffiness)
5 oz semi sweet baking chocolate
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp butter
You can of course make any thin cookie from scratch, but I chose to be lazy and I bought a box of Belgian wafers. They were delicious. I also tried these with Graham crackers, which worked too but the result wasn't quite as satisfying.
Notes on ingredients
There are a few hard to find ingredients here: xanthan gum will usually be sold in health food stores (no idea why, really, there's nothing particularly healthy -- or unhealthy -- about it). It is a thickening agent, and stabilizer and I use it also to make sunscreen lotion. Usually the gelatin is used to make marshmallows, but this recipe with xanthan gum makes a fluffier, stickier fluff better suited for chocolate heads. Plus it's kosher.
The usual acid used in candy-making is cream of tartar (found by the spices in grocery stores) but since I didn't have any and I DID have citric acid I used that instead. It worked equally well to prevent sugar crystals from forming in the syrup. Vinegar would be your third choice, because it is liquid, and the whole point of cooking syrup is to reduce its moisture content. Citric acid can be hard to find, but it will sometimes be sold as "sour salt" (in kosher sections of grocery stores) or "lemon salt." It is an ingredient of borsch, and I use it to make my home-made alka selzer, bath bombs, bath melts, and dishwasher detergent, amongst many other application. It's a cool chemical to have around. The purpose of the citric acid/baking soda mix in the second part of the marshmallow is to make it fluffier: when citric acid and baking soda come into contact with moisture they produce carbon dioxide: that's why your alka selzer will fizz. In this recipe it also gives a tiny hint of sour flavor which I like too.
Step 2: Making the Marshmallow
Mix together syrup, sugar, water and vinegar in a saucepan. Heat to 245°F (120°C) or until it starts bubbling over. Do not stir as it heats, but keep a close watch.
Meanwhile beat the egg whites till they are firm but not dry. Continue whipping at slow speed while dribbling in the hot syrup. Add the vanilla next.
Grind the xanthan gum with 1 tablespoon sugar and optional citric acid and baking soda combo. Sprinkle the mixed powder over the meringue while continuing to beat. Increase speed and beat for another 2 or 3 minutes until the sticky white blob starts separating from the edges of the bowl.
Step 3: Shaping the Head
Hold one of the wafer cookies in one hand and spoon a gob of marshmallow onto it with the other. You can try to smooth in out and shape it a little, but you won't be able to make it look like the perfect industrial chocolate head. The marshmallow is much too sticky and hard to handle to form a perfectly rounded shape. No one will care, trust me.
You should be able to make between 12 to 15 of these. Put them in the refrigerator and let them set for about 4 hours.
Step 4: Chocolate!
Melt chocolate in a small saucepan with the water over low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon. Once the chocolate has melted completely, stir in the tablespoon of butter. Remove from heat and let it cool for a couple minutes.
Dip the white blobs into the chocolate, coating the marshmallow all over but leaving the cookie uncovered. Double dipping is not only acceptable, it is necessary (licking fingers, on the other hand, is not really acceptable but it might be necessary). When the chocolate is running low it might be easier to use a spatula to spread it on. Place in the fridge to set.
Step 5: Self Control
I had to make a second batch to take this picture... In the general excitement of making these, the first batch was gone before I had a chance to get a shot of the interior! This allowed me to test the recipe with light corn rather than agave syrup (same texture, almost the same taste, maybe slightly better with agave) and without the citric acid baking soda mix (truthfully -- no discernable difference. Maybe if I added those two mixed powders after the extra beating rather than before it would add a little fluff). And I also tried graham crackers instead of the fancy Belgian wafer cookies. In this last case the extra expense is worth it: the super thin crispy cookie was way better than the crumbly, thicker cracker pictured here.
Hope you enjoy these as much as I did!