Making dipped candies without paraffin
Our traditional Christmas candy is a butter cream filling with several variations, dipped in dark chocolate (yes, it's wonderful). For three generations, the chocolate has been mixed with melted paraffin to help it harden. For years, my husband and I have tried to come up with alternatives to consuming a petroleum product (including beeswax, extra chilling time) but have not been successful. We know next to nothing about candy making, but we love making this old family recipe every year. Does anyone know any other alternatives to the paraffin?
First instinct is that you may want to try tempering the chocolate. It's a bit time consuming, but you'll have beautiful candies to show for it. You can find basic directions for tempering chocolate over at Jacques Torres's website- I've provided a link for you below.
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I just encountered this same problem last week - making Maine Needhams. I actually was unable to FIND any parrafin, so I went without it. I added a tiny bit of oil to the melting chocolate to make it more "dippable" and then just let them sit for a while on the counter top to harden. It took a while, but they came out great. After they had hardened a bit I tossed them in the fridge and they were fine!
I used just a bit of regular vegetable oil, to make the chocolate less thick. I had once heard from a friend's mother that she did that when dipping cookies in a bit of chocolate, so I gave it a shot. I didn't use very much... probably around a 1/4 cup for a bag of chocolate chips and 4 squares of baker's chocolate. I'm not sure on the exact amount, but I know it was just a "dollop". Sorry I can't be of much more help than that! But this was my first time making the chocolates and I was just trying not to ruin them. They were all eaten at my party, and people are apparently still raving about them (so I've heard) saying that they tasted like "something you'd buy at a candy store" so this is good! I guess it worked!
Have you tried Merkens rounds. They'll melt and harden and taste like a decent chocolate. Otherwise you need to temper real chocolate. I did it by hand for seven years and then bought a tempering machine, but I do a lot of candy over the holidays and a tempering machine is too expensive for most people just for a treat. If you do it by hand you need a marble board and a chocolate thermometer and ask the people at the baking store for tips. Patience is required and if you don't get it right you scrap that batch and start again. If you do have lots of disposable income and are interested in a tempering machine you can do a search for Sinsation on the web. It'll probably be the only non-porn hit, but they make a home tempering machine.
i just learned how to temper chocolate last week. i've read many instructions on how to perform this feat, but only recently have i found instructions that were easy to understand, by combining hints from a book i found at barnes & noble, simply called "candymaking", with tips from the box of scharffenberger (sp?) chocolate i bought. the book is pretty cheezy-looking, with a picture of a perfect hand with red nails dipping a ridiculously huge strawberry -- but if you can get past the pictures, the recipes are great and easy to understand. i didn't even need a candy thermometer (gasp!) and my chocolates came out great without refrigeration or additives.
here's what i did:
1. bought scharffenberger chocolate, only the best. that way no matter what happens, you have heavenly bowl-licking to look forward to.
2. chopped chocolate and melted it slowly in an uncovered bowl in my oven, set on the lowest setting. when the bowl got too warm to hold in my hands, i took it out for a while, or left the oven door open. the idea is to get the stuff melted completely, while still keeping it as cool as possible.
3. once it was all melted, i took the bowl out, moved to a cool spot in the kitchen, and started stirring. this was supposed to cool the chocolate to the correct temperature, but i think my kitchen was too hot or something, because after half an hour, i still had only chocolate syrup. so i turned to the instructions from the candy box: i scooped about 1/3 of the chocolate out into a different bowl, and stirred it over cool water until it started to thicken up, which didn't take long at all. stirring constantly was important to keep everything at the same temperature. then i added the thickened chocolate back to the original bowl and mixed it well.
4. in lieu of a candy thermometer, i dabbed a fingerful of chocolate onto waxed paper. if it's hardened and dry-looking in 3 minutes, you're ready to dip. if it's still wet-looking, keep stirring and slowly cooling the chocolate. or try repeating step 3.
this was my first successful attempt at tempering, and it took a good hour and a half. hopefully with practice, that time can be cut down a bit. but it was worth every minute!