Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Thingys : Holiday Memories For The Tree And The Tummy

 Christmas Memories
      My mother always had a real tree. She chose many different varieties throughout the years but I remember her favorite being the Scotch pine. Our trees would be so full and dense that it was often difficult to find enough clearance to put the ornaments in place. Mom always spent hours working to make the tree look just perfect. She was one of those people who would put the tinsel on the tree one strand at a time and had actually saved the older heavier weight tinsel, and used it year after year.

     One of the tree traditions of my youth were candy wreaths we used to call chocolate thingys. Each year we would visit Elk Candy shop in Manhattan on East 86th Street and collect our holiday supply. 

     These chocolate wreaths were covered in multicolored Nonpareils and my mother would always use them as tree decorations. They were perfectly designed to be hung on the end of a tree limb and we kids memorized just where they were placed because we knew that at some point we would be allowed to graze the tree for candy. These treats grew to become as important a part of our tree as the ornaments we made in school, the white angels and the colorful balls that had been handed down through generations in our family.

     My sister coined the phrase chocolate thingys to describe these holiday wreaths, mostly used as part of her traditional expression “Don’t eat all the chocolate thingys! Save some for me!” She was correct of course we couldn’t be trusted. There were four of us eyeing the tree and keeping a careful balance sheet of total available thingys with a precision that would have made our math teachers proud.

     This year far from Manhattan and separated from my sister by three thousand miles I think of those simpler times and remember the simple pleasures.
I have for the first time attempted to create home made chocolate thingys to send to her in Maryland.
Easier to make than I thought
½ bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ bar of 70% dark chocolate
Jar of nonpareils

I melted the chocolate in a double boiler
(The cooler the better)
When it’s melting 
pull it off the flame 
let the residual heat melt the rest
Keep it off the flame 
wait till it thickens up a bit and cools

The chocolate can’t be worked if it is too hot or too runny
So waiting is key
How long to wait will vary.

When it was cool enough to handle  
And cool enough to work with but still warm  
I placed it in a zip top bag fitted with a round small cake decorating tip.
(a small snip in the corner of the bag 
allows placement of the tip)
I needed to put my finger in the open end of the decorating tip between wreaths to keep the drips at bay.

On a silpat I free handed the wreaths
and finished them off by decorating them with the nonpareils
I refrigerated the sheet keeping it horizontal till firm.

I wish I could be there to see her face when she opens the package.

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