Intro: Last Minute Gifts: Chocolate Covered Strawberries
A surprisingly simple dish that produces outstanding results and is guaranteed to impress that special someone.
Everything you need to know is right here:
Taking all the credit (Because saying "I did it all by myself..." versus "I got this from Instructables..." is like sleeping in the bed tonight instead on the sofa)
Step 1: The Long and Short of It All...
Here's a scary scenario:
So you are standing there, wondering what to get your better half for Valentine's Day when it is late night February 13. You ask yourself "What can I conjure up in just a few hours with only (checking the wallet) 20 dollars?" She's going to kill you.
A quick peruse through the Instructables website returned no sign of chocolate covered strawberries so I figured it was long overdue. Now I know that this dish has been covered everywhere on the web and I admit that many years ago this was where I learned myself, but over the years I have developed a few tricks to make the whole process so much easier.
This is a dish that absolutely everyone can do. Many of the required items you should already have on hand if you own a kitchen, and those items that you do not have are most likely to be the perishables. Before I begin I should also note that this dish is applicable to most any other holiday, but they taste so good that your significant other will beg you to make more sooner than you think!
Step 2: Materials
Let's face it, chocolate covered strawberries are messy! Those uninitiated will gripe about the chocolate sticking to every surface of the kitchen. While it is an unavoidable fact that you will have to put chocolate into something in order to facilitate the dipping process, I can assure you it will be just one container. In the spirit of "Last Minute Gift Giving," I hurried to the local Wal-Mart and bought all that was required just to clue you in on the expense involved.
For materials you will need:
A 10oz bag of chocolate (cheap works great) -$1.58
Two 1LB containers of whole strawberries -$4.99 x2
A double boiler or...
-a cooking pot (surely you have one of these?) -$FREE
-a METAL colander that fits the lip of said pot -$3.68
-glass or porcelain bowl that fits inside colander -$FREE
-paper towels or similar (I suggest placing a wad in your front belt loop) -$FREE
-aluminum pie plate larger than pot -$1.17
Fork (or knife in my case) -$FREE
Something that can hold toothpicks with strawberries upright that you wouldn't mind throwing away or cleaning (I like styrofoam boards) -$2.77
Wax paper (or use the Wal-Mart bags) -$FREE
a food safe thermometer (things go downhill past 140F)
a little lard (I hate buying things I use only once a year)
a second bag of opposite colored chocolate to decorate with (cheap is great)
sandwich bag for said decorating (gets some scissors or a sharp knife too)
I found a nice glass platter while I was shopping -$4.34
Total cost for a basic no thrills batch: -$14.81 (plus tax)
My cost for this particular batch: -$29.63 (plus tax)
**Keep in mind that I bought more chocolate, a glass platter, and a strainer**
Chocolate is a matter of personal taste. A semi-sweet base will best suit dark chocolate lovers. I think that it also adds a subtle complexity to the overall finished product. Milk chocolate is great for the chronic sweet tooth, and so gives a quite sweet experience. Both taste great regardless.
A crucial step is selecting the right bowl that will hold the melted chocolate. I have big hands, so it is most comfortable for me to have a wide, shallow bowl. Also with a wider bowl, you have more room to dip the strawberries. However, a bowl that is too shallow will risk you spilling chocolate into the boiler, but a deep bowl will cause heating issues with the chocolate in my experience. A good compromise for first timers--an everyday normal serial bowl.
You have a lot of freedom to experiment with adding things to your chocolate, which is one of the reasons why I recommend getting cheap chocolate in the first place. Don't get me wrong though, the cheap chocolate works great! It's just nice to spice it up once in a while. For this recipe I bought a Lindt white coconut bar ($2.07) because my girlfriend likes the taste and a Ghirardelli espresso bar ($1.98) to mix in the dip. In the past I have used French roast coffee grounds, vanilla extract, and a plethora of spices. Next batch I will try rum for "Christmas Rum Ball" chocolate covered strawberries. Let me know what you try in the comments.
Step 3: Techniques: Prep Boiler and Dip
First, clean your cooking pot and bowl. Prepare your ingredients by cutting open chocolate chip bags, and getting ready any additives. Do clean your strawberries, there is no telling what pesticides and fertilizers are used on them! A rinse and gentle rub with the thumbs is sufficient. Stick the toothpicks in the base of the strawberries as well, otherwise you risk frequently burning your fingers.
Prep the boiler: (assuming you had to improvise one)
1) Put about an inch to inch and a half of water in the pot, place colander in the pot, and place a paper towel in the colander. Don't worry when the paper towel soaks up some water.
2) Place glass or porcelain bowl in the colander, it's best if standing water does not touch bottom of bowl.
3)Turn stove on high and begin adding ingredients.
I used a whole bag of chocolate chips and 4 pieces of Ghirardelli in my dip. In retrospect, I would have liked to have added about 2 more pieces of Ghirardelli to really bring the espresso coffee taste to the forefront. Also, with 2LBs of strawberries I had just enough, so do buy another bag of chocolate chips for more strawberries. You might also want to evaluate the size of your bowl for larger batches. (HINT: 2LBs is plenty!)
Add all of your chocolate at once to your bowl, and stir frequently with the fork. Your chocolate chips are a reliable indicator for when your dip is ready, when you see no evidence of little chunks in the dip, your are ready to go. Before you begin dipping turn your burner down to medium to medium-high. Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter to make cleanup a breeze later on.
Step 4: Techniques: Dipping the Strawberries
Warning: Don't place styrofoam near a hot burner, it's just not smart. Also, steam burns hurt really bad, so take proper precautions. This is what the paper towel in the colander is for, it directs steam away from your hands when dipping. It would be smart to use gloves. I am not liable for any injuries or accidents that might occur.
Dipping strawberries is a little more involved than one might think. Rather than just dipping in chocolate and sticking them in the styrofoam, a certain finesse here makes a tremendous difference. Looking back at my pictures I determined that I was not adequately showing the technique. I took a strawberry I had left over and filmed a short video demonstrating the technique. It's normally not this sloppy!
Caption: Begin by picking up a strawberry by the toothpick. Now is your last chance to move the leaves from the body. Pinch large leaves in your fingers to keep them out of the chocolate. Dip the strawberry while rolling the toothpick between your fingers. This evenly coats the fruit in chocolate. Now for the finesse--gently move the fruit in and out of the chocolate mix while progressively becoming more shallow in your depth. The cohesive nature of the chocolate dip will pull away any excess on the fruit. When you approach the tip of the strawberry, go ahead and completely remove the fruit while simultaneously rolling the toothpick in your fingers and rolling your wrist to an upright position. This method will leave a smooth skin of chocolate and a decorative top.
When you have the freshly dipped strawberry, stick its toothpick into the styrofoam block, and repeat the process. Start on one edge of the styrofoam work your way to the opposite end, in this way you will not collide with any of your hard work. After every third or so strawberry give the chocolate a good stir or the chocolate closest to the hot bowl will begin to cook and subsequently ruin your dip.
Note: You might have noticed the knife sticking in the dipping bowl. My roommate locked me out of my dorm so I had to stick with what I had on me. Yes, it was cleaned.
Step 5: Techniques: Decorating
After all of your strawberries have been dipped go ahead and carefully remove the colander with the bowl in it and set it aside. If you want to decorate your strawberries then this step is for you. Otherwise you better hope that whomever receives your strawberries never finds out about this Instructable.
Take a pie plate and either with a knife (like in my case) or the fork poke a few holes in it. Check and make sure you have an inch or so of water left in the pot. Place the pie plate upside down on top of the pot. Did you place your opposite colored chocolate in a plastic sandwich bag? Now would be a good time to do so while you wait for the pot water to boil.
The idea behind this is that since a bowl has already been dirtied a second bowl would be adding to the problem. So why not melt the chocolate in a sandwich bag instead? When you are done you can just throw it away. Besides, if you by now after reading this paragraph opted to instead reach for another bowl consider this: you will have to transfer the contents of the bowl into the bag anyway to do the kind of decorating I am talking about. You choose.
I can see it now:
Cooking in a sandwich bag and just how much plastic is entered into my system will be a hotly debated issue in the comments below. So lets talk a little here.
"Chocolate melts at body temperature, about 95 to 100 degrees F." LINK
I am sure everyone has gotten chocolate on their finger before.
Sandwich bags are made of polyethylene.
LINK (page 7)
LDPE (Low Density Poly-Ethylene) melts at 248F.
Besides I am merely assisting the rapid melting of the chocolate by flashing it with steam, I am not, nor do I recommend that you boil or otherwise cook the bag and contents for prolonged periods of time.
(Stepping off my soapbox)
OK where was I? Ah yes, decorating. Needless to say I melted my chocolate in the freezer bag. For those of you who are looking at their sandwich bags right now don't worry, those work fine too. I melted the chocolate by placing it on top of the pie plate for a few seconds on each side and kneading the contents until a smooth consistency results.
For those of you who used another serial bowl, melting is just the same as the dip. Good luck transferring it to a sandwich bag. Tip: Get a second set of hands (hope you have kids!).
Pick one of the lower corners of the bag and snip off a tiny bit with scissors or a knife. Pick up the bag with the upper opposite corner and twist until you hold in your hands the very tool that cake decorators use. Squeeze a little onto the wax paper you laid out earlier, if the string is too tiny cut a larger hole. Be careful here because if you cut off too much at one time you will ruin the bag. You want to shoot for a string a little thicker than a rice grain.
When you are all set go to town on those strawberries. Just blindly going over all of the strawberries yields surprisingly good results. To step it up a notch you could pick three or four grouped strawberries and go in straight lines. Going one step further and going the opposite direction will make a checkerboard pattern. Heck, make little dots while you are at it. Be creative.
After you have decorated put them in the refrigerator for an hour or two to harden the chocolate.
Step 6: Presentation: Tasting Your Success
After some time has passed with the strawberries in the refrigerator, take them out and remove them from their toothpicks. I bought a glass plate to display them on. Usually I prefer a square, plain white presentation plate, but I could not find one. White contrasts really well with the strawberries too. Regardless, arrange them in some form or fashion and put them back in the refrigerator or don't waste time and give them then.
Step 7: Thoughts
Provided you prep your strawberries and chocolate beforehand you can get done with the major work in two hours. After and hour or so in the refrigerator you are ready to serve. Left overnight, the strawberries I think taste a little sweeter. Strawberries will keep for three days definitely, but a week is pushing it.
Ideally, you would want to find the best possible strawberries at the store, but due to "last minute" nature of this recipe, you may have to go with what you can get. Don't worry though, those mutant looking ones are perfectly fine.
Normally the decorative chocolate is smoother than it looks in the closeup pictures. This is due to the fact that the Lindt chocolate bar I used to flavor the chocolate contained pieces of coconut in it, making for a chunky consistency.
Sometimes the dipping chocolate turns out really well and I end up saving the remainder in small containers.
If left long enough in the boiler, all chocolate will eventually start going bad. This effect is evidenced by a grainy/sandy looking coat on the strawberries. If this happens, a) hurry up or b) add more chocolate and tun down the temperature of the burner a bit.
Disposing of the leftover chocolate is an involved process. I worry about clogging up the sink so I scrape as much as i can into the trash, then use a dish soap and brush to take care of the remainder.
I hope your effort turns out well!