Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Robert's Butter Creams

My biological father, Robert Dennis, became a confectioner after his stint as a cook in the Army ( not be confused with my grandfather, 'Pop',who graduated from Cooks and Bakers School at Fort Dix and was a mess Sargent for 11 years, raised me after my parents divorced, and taught me to cook.) On Daddy's infrequent visits-four times a year-4th of July, Christmas, Easter and the birthday we shared- we'd make candy. After the Korean war, he found a job at Reynold's Candies and became one of their candy makers. I learned to use the delicate plastic and heavy industrial metal molds to make everything from Easter Bunnies and stand-up Santas to how to enrobe candy centers. This blog is about the latter.

True butter cream centers are a type of cooked fondant, which takes a lot of time and effort. That's how we used to make the centers before dipping them in melted chocolate which required shaving just the right balance of paraffin wax in to the mix to make it temper and set (yes, the same stuff used to seal Grandma's jelly jars!). This is real work, and I do urge you to take the time to learn how properly-someday.

What I'm going to teach you is a 'cheater' method that I learned years later, because, frankly, I got lazy. It works equally as well, and I think it tastes just as good. It requires making a nice butter cream frosting, then adding additional powdered sugar to make the frosting  into a dough. Butter cream frosting isn't difficult to make-it's a knob of unsalted butter the size of an egg,powdered confectioner's 10X sugar, and a splash of evaporated milk. Add a half teaspoon of vanilla or whatever flavor extract you choose, or a spoon of peanut butter. Cream the sugar into the butter and milk until you have a frosting of a smooth consistency-then add just enough additional powdered sugar to make a soft dough. If you want a fruit or nut center, add the diced candied fruit or chopped nuts now. Coconut is traditional, and you can make any combination of fruits and nuts you wish.Too much powdered sugar will make the centers dry and tough.

To really cheat: use a good quality canned frosting and a tiny bit of butter, then  work powdered sugar and the extras into it. Chocolate fudge frosting makes the best centers.

Once  the dough is made, roll  into a log, and slice off pieces about 1 inch thick, then cut the slice into quarters. Coat your hands in powdered sugar, and gently roll the quarters of dough into balls, set on a buttered cookie sheet, or use greased waxed paper. Allow the fondant balls to 'cure' an hour if you're going to dip them in melted chocolate later.The centers will look a bit dry when cured-that's okay. If they're plunged into hot coating before curing, they'll melt away.I like to air dry mine, but you can put the tray into the fridge for an hour.

Truffles are basically candy centers that have not been enrobed and are melt-in-your-mouth creamy and soft. If you're going to make truffles out of them, then roll the balls in flaked coconut, chopped nuts, powdered coca or cinnamon, or fancy sugar immediately before allowing to cure.

Dipping chocolate/candy coating is available at most arts and crafts stores in the same section as cake decorating supplies.Wilton makes acceptable candy coating, I like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate, but that's a personal preference. The chocolate comes in pellets and already has the wax in it . 'White' candy coating is made out of what used to be called confectionery coating-white 'chocolate' made from the coco butter (natural oil in cocoa beans) and byproducts from extracting the cocoa for chocolate. It comes in various colors and sometimes flavors. Mint flavored is truly delicious.

Buy the best you can find- you get what you pay for. A lesser quality can be purchased at the grocery store, but some of it tastes a bit off or cheap to me, except the Baker's brand dipping chocolate used for fresh fruit. The coating can be melted in the microwave ( less mess than stove top in a double boiler) Be very careful timing the coating and stirring it. Stirring it too much makes it stiffen because it introduces air into the mix and cools it rapidly. Too much time in the microwave makes the candy coating 'cook' and get hard and's ruined because it's usually beyond help then. If it gets a bit stiff during dipping, you can add a tiny-and I do mean tiny-amount of Crisco to rejuvenate it. Or, you can add a bit of peanut butter, which will reconstitute it, but it will of course taste like peanuts (it's good to use as a 'bark'-spread out on waxed paper and sprinkled with peanuts, crushed mints, etc, and broken when it's hard.) Never use water, milk or oil. And be careful to dry your hands after washing because introducing moisture into the chocolate ruins it.

Be aware that adding anything to the coating will disturb the balance of the temper, and it will be soft and dull looking. The candy will taste good, but it won't have that pretty shine and snap when you bite into it. Place the enrobed piece of candy on the tray or paper. Professionals make a dot of chocolate on the tray or paper to set the piece on to be sure the bottom is sealed. If there are any bald spots on the pieces, you can always re-dip them after they dry ( realize the coating will be thicker).

There are all sorts of fancy 'dipping lopes and spoons on the market- I use a fork. Confectioners spread the hot coating on a piece of candy marble-which is exactly what it sounds like - and hand dip the candy centers, which is technically called enrobing.If you own a shiny marble pizza stone, this is good to use. Enrobing candy by hand is fun, but it's very easy to burn your fingers ( the coating is sticky and hot). Keep a bowl of ice water near by for an emergency and plunge you fingers in to the water right away if you get any coating on you because it can cause a second degree burn that will blister and peel!(You only have to get seriously burned once to be mindful...and for heaven's sake, don't stick your fingers into your mouth with hot coating on them because it will also stick to and burn your tongue.) Nothing like melted chocolate the temperature of molten lava stuck to your very tender tongue...

Yes, I AM the voice of experience in this regard. 

Easter Eggs are just larger pieces of fondant dough made slightly oval. You can make them any size, up to 1 lb, to slice. Decorate Easter eggs with royal icing, or store bought flowers. Cake frosting is too soft to use unless you're going to eat the candy with in a day or two.

When the chocolate has set, carefully remove the pieces and box them or drop into candy papers. You can set the tray of prepared chocolates into the freezer for a few minutes, but freezing tempered chocolate causes it to bloom-what happens when you see  white spots on dark and milk chocolate. The coco butter has come to the surface of the chocolate.

Want candied cherries? Use store bought candied cherries and enrobe them just like the centers. You can press the cherries into a candy center and then enrobe it, too. They're addicting-and fun to make.


  1. Thank you for sharing. A chocolate enrober will remove all the manual labor involved with hand dipping products into chocolate. They also will chocolate enrobe the product more evenly than when performed by hand.


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