Chocolate Rattlesnake Dragon

dragon


This was made as a Christmas present for Barbara May and her husband, Large Bear. The body is made of forty-seven chocolate cups with eleven different fillings, arranged randomly, so biting into each segment is an adventure, since there’s no way of knowing what flavor it will be.

This was made as a Christmas present for Barbara May and her husband,
Large Bear. The body is made of forty-seven chocolate cups with eleven
different fillings, arranged randomly, so biting into each segment is an
adventure, since there’s no way of knowing what flavor it will be. Maybe
there’s some sort of gambling to be done here. Someone call Vegas.
Speaking of which, I have a great idea for a restaurant in Vegas in which,
for a fixed price, you get a pull on a slot machine to determine what
you’re going to get for dinner. The first reel could be the drink, then
the appetizer, the side dish, the main course, and dessert. You might end
up with lobster; you might end up with a BLT. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Getting back to the dragon, the eleven filling flavors were golden sesame,
ginger, citrus zest, green tea, red wine, wasabi, peanut butter,
peppermint, coffee, orange, and cherry.

Why a dragon, you ask? Well, I reply, because that’s what occurred to me.
I had another idea first, involving a demonic Santa Claus playing God,
holding up a DNA strand covered with the screaming heads of tormented
elves, but I didn’t think I’d have the time to do it right. It’s too bad,
because that would have been more Christmas themed. Maybe next year.

Initially, I was planning to make the body out of candies made in several
sizes of peanut butter cup molds. This fell through because the peanut
butter cup molds I ordered over the internet didn’t arrive at my apartment
in New York until after I left to spend Christmas at Barbara May’s house
in California. I therefore had to run around to candy supply stores
looking for usable molds. What I found (at Michael’s) were molds for those
little chocolate cups that you’re supposed to fill with mousse or
raspberries. It was actually a blessing in disguise, as these worked
better than the peanut butter cup molds ever would have. They’re big
enough to fit a good amount of filling and they’re proportioned really
well for snake segments. Peanut butter cup molds would have resulted in
much squatter, less graceful snake. Of course, I now have a bunch of
peanut butter cup molds and nothing to do with them.

filled cups

The first step was to make all the fillings, except peanut butter, which
comes ready made in a convenient jar. I recommend using some kind of
natural peanut butter. I used Trader Joe’s.

The peppermint, coffee, orange and cherry centers were made of center
fondant, which I’ve made many times before. My recipe comes from The
Practical Candymaking Cookbook, which I highly recommend, though I believe
it is now out of print. The fondant is basically sugar, milk, and butter,
cooked, then worked on a marble slab to get the right texture. I then
flavored it with candy oils (except for the coffee, for which I used
instant coffee as flavoring) and colored it with paste food colors.

The golden sesame, ginger, red wine, wasabi, citrus zest, and green tea
were much more of an adventure, because instead of a recipe, all I had was
a brochure from a high end New York candy store, which I got at the New
York Chocolate Show. It had descriptions of the candies, but it wasn’t
like a real recipe. For instance, all the instruction I had for the ginger
candy was, “Milk chocolate blended with gin-flavored ganache and ginger.”

The golden sesame and ginger have a milk chocolate ganache base, which is
made by boiling cream, pouring it over chopped milk chocolate, and
whisking them together. For the golden sesame I added finely ground golden
sesame seeds and a splash of brandy and for the ginger, finely chopped
ginger root and a little gin. I determined the proportions by taste and
then wasn’t smart enough to write them down, so I won’t know any more the
next time I make them than I did this time.

The red wine and wasabi start with a dark chocolate ganache base, made the
same way as the ganache with milk chocolate. I then added red wine and
wasabi powder (because I couldn’t find fresh wasabi root) to taste.

Finally, the citrus zest and green tea are based on white chocolate
ganache, flavored with orange zest (from Barbara May’s own orange tree)
and gin and with ground up green tea.

They all wound up tasting very good. I was particularly pleased with the
ginger, red wine, and citrus zest. The only major problem I had was that
the white chocolate-based flavors and, to a lesser extent, the milk
chocolate-based flavors, were more liquid than is ideal for rolling
truffle centers. This actually was no problem at all for this project, as
I could just pour the liquid into the mold, but I was also using these
ganaches to make rolled truffle centers, both for standard truffles and
for the shrunken head truffles that I made Mom and Dad for Christmas. I
think I could solve this problem next time by using less cream to make the
initial ganache out of milk chocolate and white chocolate. See, I did
learn something by making these, even if I didn’t have the sense to write
down my recipes.

With the fillings done, I was ready to make the chocolate cups themselves.
The first step was to fill the mold with dark chocolate, and then set it
in the fridge for one minute, so a thin, hard shell formed. Then I poured
out the excess chocolate and set the molds back in the fridge to harden.

Once the chocolate shells had solidified, it was a simple matter to pour
the fillings in and then pour another thin layer of chocolate on to seal
off the top of the cup. Shaking the mold a bit helps to settle the
chocolate on top into a flat surface. Then, back in the fridge they went
to harden.

Now the fun part begins! It was time to begin adding the artistic details.
For this, I found it best to use melted dark chocolate mixed with just a
smidge of corn syrup. This gives the chocolate just a little more solidity
so it holds its shape better. It also imparts to the chocolate a lovely
dark sheen. The only drawback is that too much corn syrup will cause the
whole batch of chocolate to seize up and become totally useless. I’ll only
admit to that happing to me twice.

I put a batch of this dark chocolate / corn syrup combo into a pastry bag
with a #4 round tip and piped little dots of chocolate around the top and
bottom of each cup. These made a nice visual division between the segments
of the snake and also kept the cups from touching each other except around
the perimeter, making it possible to break off a cup to eat without
extensive damage to the neighboring cup.

Once those dots were dry (Another advantage to the corn syrup addition is
that it makes the chocolate set up much more quickly.) I joined forty-six
of the cups into twenty-three pairs, by sticking the wide ends of the two
cups together. The remaining single cup was for the back of the head.

I was finally ready to arrange the snake on the gold foil covered
cardboard cake circle I had designated as the snake’s home. I chose to
arrange the snake in a spiral, with the tail to be placed on the outside
of the spiral and the head rising up from the center. This part went
quickly, as it was a simple matter to stick the segments to each other and
to the base with a little chocolate. I had to prop the head up on a few
containers of luster dust until the chocolate that was holding it in place
dried.

closeup

Next, the hard parts – the face and the tail. Actually, the tail wasn’t
all that hard. I made all of components of the head and tail on a piece of
parchment paper, and then stuck them to the snake with a little more
chocolate / corn syrup. The tail consisted simply of a series of rings of
decreasing size. I believe I piped them with a #6 round tip. Once these
dried, I stuck them together to form the rattle, and then stuck the whole
thing onto the last segment of the body.

The head was more complicated. The basis was the same as the tail – a
series of consecutively smaller rings, though these shrank in diameter
more rapidly than those that formed the tail, resulting in a squat, round
head. The holes in the center of the rings formed a mouth. I also made
many whiskers of various sizes and shapes – some s-shapes, some curlicues,
some simple swooshes.

Once all the components dried, I was ready to decorate the head. I started
with the larger whiskers and worked my way down to the smaller details,
basically making it up as I went. I was very happy with the result. While
I was at it, I also reinforced many of the connections between the
segments to make sure nothing came apart.

I applied the finishing touches with white chocolate – teeth, eyeballs,
accents on the tips of the hair and beard, and little spikes on the
rattle.

full view

Once it was wrapped I was a little nervous about the head collapsing, but
there was nothing I could do at that point (except unwrap it to double
check, then rewrap it, which I only did once) but I was worried for
nothing. In fact, it was quite sturdy. Unfortunately, Barbara May and
Large Bear were leaving for Hawaii in two days, so they couldn’t eat the
dragon right away. We stuck him in fridge to await their return.

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