As promised here is the second installment of my Askinosie post, all about how we use this excellent chocolate in our pastry kitchen. At the end of each Petraia tasting we send out a parting gift, an assortment of house-made chocolates we call “ Petraia Rocks”. The name is a play on words of course. La Petraia literally means “place of stone” in Italian and we do think it rocks. These confections are meant to please but also gently ease our guests back into the real world after their “La Petraia Experience”.
Petraia Rocks also feature Petraia’s fruit, nuts, herbs, honey and sheep’s milk. To make them we use an assortment of molds and transfer sheets I have collected over the years. Silicone molds and acetate strips and sheets are especially handy for chocolate work, they convey a nice sheen so we don’t have to fuss with tempering.
White chocolate, with its high cocoa butter content is my first choice for flavor infused ganache and it also likes the texture and crunch that popped grains, nuts or seeds add. I love the complexity and the character of Askinosie’s different single origin dark chocolate varieties and think they are best appreciated with little or no adornment. A few cocoa nibs perhaps or a couple of flakes of sea salt is about as far as I go. I also use them to coat white or milk chocolate ganache. Askinosie sells broken bars by the kilogram which are very convenient for melting, and their cocoa and cocoa nibs are also available in the same bulk sizes.
Of course we use Askinosie for lots of other things too like gelato, sorbet, croissants, tarts, short breads and pastry, biscotti, breakfast cakes, sauces…….The list goes on and on. But we love making our rocks and are constantly coming up with new shapes and ideas for them. Below are a few examples of some of my favorites.
1. White Chocolate and Lavender Rocks
When Shawn and Caron Askinosie visited us at Petraia they came bearing gifts of a special white chocolate bar they had made just for us. Somehow they had managed to flavor their white chocolate with the Petraia lavender I had sent them. We loved the bar, and it is my inspiration here. Make a standard white chocolate ganache, but first steep a few lavender flowers in the cream then strain to use the lavender infused cream. Pour the ganache into silicone molds and freeze. When frozen, dip the rocks into more melted white chocolate and refridgerate until ready to serve.
At Petraia we use our fresh sheep’s milk instead of cream to make the ganache.
Instead of lavender try lemon verbena or lemon grass. Or mint. Or wild fennel pollen.Or horseradish leaves. A basil infused milk chocolate ganache works. Or hot chili pepper, allspice berry or bay leaf. You get the idea. With flavored ganache the variations are endless.
2. White Chocolate Rocks with Crystallized Essential Oil of Cinnamon
These crystalized essential oils from France are fun to play around with and their crystalized essential oil of cinnamon and Askinosie’s award winning white chocolate is truly match made in heaven. Place one or two cinnamon crystals on the bottom of each mold and pour the melted white chocolate over it. Refridgerate until ready to serve. A few of these intense crystals go a very long way.
Variation Instead of the crystalized oil try carbonated sugar or pop rocks.
3. Chocolate Rocks with Honey Sesame Snaps
These rocks use the sesame snaps we make with our own delicious Petraia honey but you can use store bought ones. Simply crumble sesame snaps and fold into melted white, milk or dark chocolate. Transfer to your chosen mold and refrigerate. If you’d like my recipe for honey sesame snaps leave a comment below and I’ll post it.
4. Cocoa, Honey and Coconut Oil rocks.
We make rocks using cocoa powder, our honey and coconut oil using this method from Back at the Ranch. We spread the chocolate on a transfer sheet and refrigerate. To serve we break it into shards or pour into silicone molds and freeze to harden before coating with dark or white chocolate.
Variation: We sometimes add a snap or a pop by stirring sesame snaps (see #5 above) or puffed rice or buckwheat (#1 above) into this mixture.
5. Coco Nut Rocks
Generally speaking we employ a picky bunch at La Petraia. All my kitchen and front of house staff are Italian and naturally blessed with sophisticated palates. They’re always brutally honest with me and tell me right away when there is something missing in my food. When they love something I know its ready for our guests. I started making rocks with coconut at Petraia when our front of house Manager confessed her love for everything coconut, and these chocolates in particular. They are a big hit, always.
We make these with our own honey and the almonds and hazelnuts we harvest on the property. Then we make crispy nuts from Sally Fallon’s bible, Nourishing Traditions by soaking the fresh, shelled nuts in salt water for a day or two and then dehydrating them until they are crispy. I use Kristin Rosenau’s recipe to make the coconut filling but instead of shaping it into rectangles I place an almond or a hazelnut in the bottom of our small semi-sphere silicone molds and press the coconut mixture on top. We freeze these before coating with chocolate as described by Kristin. These rocks are really healthy but they are also so good I usually have to ask someone to hide them from me. We make lots, storing the uncoated rocks in the freezer so we can dip in chocolate as we need them. Make sure to use the very best nuts and organic, unsweetened, desiccated coconut you can get. It makes a huge difference.
6. Cocoa Nib Rocks
Put a few nibs in the bottom of your mold and fill with melted white, milk or dark chocolate. Refridgerate.
7. Vanilla Salt Rocks
Anyone who has worked with me at Petraia knows I am addicted to Halen Môn sea salt with Tahitian vanilla. It goes on top of gelato, cookies, caramels, custards, meat, game, vegetable flans and so much more in my kitchen. Like me it also loves Askinosie chocolate.
Place a few flakes of vanilla salt in the bottom of each mold and pour dark chocolate over. Refrigerate.
8. Chocolate Rocks with Popped Rice or Buckwheat
These rocks work best with white or milk chocolate. Make popped rice or buckwheat by over-cooking the grains in lots of water until they are very tender. Strain and transfer the grain to a dehydrator set at 68 ˚C for several hours until completely dry. Heat grape seed oil in a small pan until it reaches 200 ˚C and fry the dried grains until they pop. This will just take a few seconds. Drain well on paper towel and salt lightly if you wish. Fold the grain into the melted chocolate and transfer to your chosen mold.
9. Honey, Lemon and White Chocolate Rocks.
Honey, white chocolate and lemon, a match made in heaven. We keep white chocolate enriched lemon curd in silicone molds in the freezer to use as we need it. Once coated the rocks can be refridgerated until ready to serve.
- 100 grams lemon juice
- the grated rind from one lemon
- 35 grams honey
- 2 whole eggs
- 80 grams grated white chocolate plus more for coating the rocks
- Combine everything but the white chocolate in a Thermomix and cook at 90°C for 6 minutes. Alternatively whisk together everything but the chocolate and cook over a double boiler, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the rind. In 3 additions fold in the white chocolate, stirring until it melts. Transfer to silicone molds and freeze until ready to coat. Coat the rocks with more melted white chocolate at least an hour before you plan to serve them to give the lemon curd a chance to thaw. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.