I had a really exciting post planned for today. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. I could hardly wait to get it done and show everyone, because I just knew that you would all love it!
Then life happened.
I try to stay ahead of the game on here and have my recipes made, tested, photographed, and detailed in advance, but for seasonal treats, I tend to make them closer to the holiday I’m celebrating. That way, I get to share them at parties, school events, etc. However, when I had to travel back to the States recently, it really threw me for a loop. I had at least five great Halloween recipes that I wanted to get in over a two week period, but suddenly only had one week to do it.
“No problem,” I thought. “I can just post every day during the week leading up to Halloween!” For some reason, almost four months of living on this island still hasn’t seemed to sink in, and I actually believed that everything would work out fine and go exactly like I wanted (naive in the best of circumstances). Needless to say, that’s not the case.
Admittedly, I knew there would be certain obstacles. With the brittle that I posted yesterday, for example. It was very, very smooth sailing, but I knew that in order to get my candy to set and become hard candy, I would need to place it in front of a fan to keep the air moving. That’s just part of dealing with this environment (I know I mention the humidity here a lot, but it is truly it’s own entity). Furthermore, once the candy was finished, mine would have to be refrigerated. In the past, that’s never been the case.
If you live in Tennessee, for example, I’m sure you deal with your share of humidity, but the thing is, your humidity comes and goes. The humidity here, or in places like Florida I’m sure, it just hangs from the sky like Spanish moss. And, quite frankly, even in Florida, you are more than likely fortunate enough to have the luxury of air conditioning. With the high rates of electricity here, it really isn’t feasible.
The humidity settles over everything in a sticky blanket. That everything includes candy. If you have children, and you’ve ever given them a sucker only to find it stuck to the back of one of your living room throw pillows covered in dog hair, lint, and other household debris, then you have a good idea of what the humidity here does to hard candy. It’s like one giant, invisible, sticky toddler mouth.
So, here I sit. Typing away, and getting ready to tell you all about how discouraged I am. About 50% of the work I do in this tiny, stifling kitchen, either fails or falls far below my standard, and it is wearing on me. And it’s not just my inability to create the confections I envision, like I’ve nearly always been able to do in the past. It’s also the completely inescapable reality that I am so very limited.
I am admitting, here and now, that I have been incredibly spoiled while living in the States, and I blithely took it all for granted. Need some gluten-free flour? Sure! Just head on over to Whole Foods! Candy melts in every color imaginable? No problem! Michael’s is right around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the isolation of many U.S. towns and cities. But even then, there is that possibility to get in your car, drive to a bigger city, and get what you need…if you really want it bad enough. I live on an island. I can only drive as far as the edge of the water before I have to turn back towards home with head hanging.
Suddenly, I’m lucky to have white chocolate to add color to (and only after ordering the candy coloring well in advance). Don’t even think about ordering the candy melts, they only have a 50/50 chance of surviving the trip…if you can get them on time. The mail system here is ridiculous.
Except, here’s the real kicker…the lesson I learned today that I can’t seem to find a solution to: I’m not even lucky enough to have white chocolate. Yes, it’s available here, for an exorbitant price, but beyond that, it just won’t melt properly! I can only assume that once again, it’s the ever present moisture in the air. What’s more, this category of ‘white chocolate’ appears to include candy melts (which are, in fact, basically white chocolate).
That’s right, folks. I write a food blog based primarily around baking, and not just baking, but what I’d like to think is creative baking-fun, cute, and clever ways to decorate the things we like to bake-and I can’t use white chocolate or candy melts in their melted forms. Goodbye cake bites (a la Bakerella), sayonara candy coated pretzels, hast la vista white chocolate frosting. I could seriously cry.
I apologize for my absolute negativity. I guess I just wanted to get on here and have the freedom to whine. And, after all, it’s my blog, isn’t it? I can do what I want on here. Except that I am a naturally positive person, so this is so going against the grain for me.
Allow me, then, to end this on a more positive note. I am asking you, my wonderful friends and readers, does anyone know why this is happening? Is it in fact the humidity, or something else? Something more easily tamed. Could any one of you please help me solve my puzzle? At this point, I am resigned to holding off on all white chocolate/candy melt recipes and ideas until I return to the States (Summer 2012), but my gratitude would know no bounds if you, best followers in the whole blogoshpere, could help me get to the bottom of this!
Some important facts:
I have melted white chocolate, as well as candy melts, successfully dozens and dozens of times in the past.
I attempted to melt the chocolate in a bowl set over barely simmering water. This is how I have always melted chocolate, and my preferred method (also my version of a double boiler).
I prepared the chocolate both with, and without, additives (like shortening) that help prevent seizing.
I have not attempted to melt the chocolate in a microwave, because we don’t own one. However, my husband is going to test the chocolate in the microwave where he works. This may be a poor test, though, as the building he works in is also air conditioned, thereby negating the humidity and possibly giving skewed results. (Man! That was a geeky sentence…)
Finally, milk, semi-sweet, and bittersweet chocolate have all melted beautifully for me here (Weird, huh?).
I hope we can put our heads together and solve this!
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone for all of your tips and advice! And also for your questions as to what I’m doing/ using…they have helped me examine a lot of what may be happening. IThe answer definitely to be the humidity. Apparently (according to several chocolate companies), the moisture in the air attaches itself to the sugar in the chocolate causing it to crystallize. A friend of mine that lives here on the island has shared with me that the only way she’s been able to successfully melt white chocolate and candy melts is in the microwave. This makes sense, since a microwave would zap all the humidity right out of the air.
I don’t have a microwave yet, but I’m getting one soon, and I’ll let you all know how it does!