I could write a few paragraphs about my journey of picking Labrador Tea or Juniper Berries, the discovery of making chocolates, my many failures, my successes, why I make them the way I do, and yadda, yadda, yadda. But what’s the point? You came here for the chocolate didn’t you? Nuff Said. Let’s get to the point!
As a refresher, these are the plants (herbs) you’ll need:
You can see in the picture on the left that the berries look light blue. They have a powdery coating on them that is easily wiped off when you touch them. If you wait long enough in the season, the powdery coating washes off and reveals the dark blue, ripe berries. At either point, you can pick them. It takes three years for a Juniper Berry to become ripe. In fact, it’s not a berry at all, it’s a ‘fleshy cone’!
Labrador Tea Leaves should have little white or rust colored ‘fuzz’ on the underside of the leaf. The white fuzz typically means it’s a new leaf – that years new growth. Whereas the rust colored fuzz is last years growth. Either leaf is fine. Most Labrador Tea survives the winter and it has evergreen qualities so you can pick it all year round. I find you normally smell Labrador Tea before you see it.
Choose one of the above and let’s get to it!
Yields 52-55 ‘20ml’ Chocolates
Special equipment needed: Silicone Chocolate Mold, Small artists paint brush.
(I find the $4.00 Chocolate Molds at Michael’s Craft Store perfect price and size!)
Filling: Yield – Approx 1 1/8 cups
- 4 TBSP of crushed Labrador Tea Leaves (Rhododendron tomentosum, Rhododendron groenlandicum) OR 1.5 TBSP of Juniper Berries (Juniperus communis)
- 1 cups of heavy cream (Whipping Cream)
- 8 oz of white chocolate chips (or semi-sweet chocolate chips)
- 3 ¼ cups of melted milk chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate melting wafers. (I would buy at least 4 cups of melting wafers, as it melts, it will reduce to approx 3 1/4 cup)
RECOMMENDATION: For the Labrador Tea Chocolates, I like to make the inner filling Ganache with White Chocolate Chips and the outside chocolate coating with White Melting Wafers. As Labrador Tea has a subtle flavor compared to Juniper Berries, the White Chocolate combination won’t over power the Labrador Tea flavor.
With Juniper Berries, I like to use Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for the Ganache inner filling and Dark Melting Wafers for the outer chocolate coating. The cocoa flavor pairs well with the robust flavor of the Juniper Berries.
However, feel free to mix and match. But for Ganache fillings, use actual chocolate chips (White or Semi-Sweet), and not Melting Wafers. For the outside, use Melting Wafers if you are not experienced at tempering Chocolate, like me!
Crush your herb of choice with a pestle and mortar. If you do not have one, use a coffee grinder, spice grinder. Or place in a small Ziploc bag and crush with the end of cup, mug, etc. You do not want to finely grind it, you just want to break the herb up in smaller pieces.
In a sauce pan, add cream and crushed herb. Turn on med-low heat. Heat until sides bubbles. Be careful not to scorch bottom! Reduce heat if necessary. Stir frequently for 10 minutes. Turn down to lowest possible setting and keep it warm for 20-30min more. Time+Heat=stronger flavored infusion.
Remove from stove and with a fine metal sieve over a bowl, strain out the herb. While the herb is still in the sieve, take a wooden spoon and scrape the herb against the metal sieve. This will crush any extra cream through the sieve. You will see this ‘thick’ cream on the underside of the sieve. Scrape it off from the bottom and add it to the cream in the bowl. Discard the herb.
Pour the ‘now infused cream’ into a measuring cup. Because of the applied heat during the infusion, you may have evaporated some of the cream off. That’s ok. Your one cup of cream that you started out with, should now be approx ¾ cup. If you have less that ¾ cup, add enough fresh cream to the measuring cup to make ¾ of cup.
Set infused cream aside.
Working in small batches, take HALF (2 cups) of your Chocolate Melting Wafers and place in small sauce pan. On low-medium heat, melt wafers. NOTE: If your heat is too high, your chocolate will ‘cook’, get lumpy and hard and it will be ruined. Keep on stove top on lowest setting to keep chocolate melted. Note: once you use up this half of melted chocolate, melt the other half.
With a small spoon, put some of the melted chocolate into each of the chocolate molds, just enough to coat the bottom. Tap the mold on the counter so the chocolate fills in the bottom. Take a clean paintbrush and brush up the sides of the chocolate molds. Once it’s thoroughly coated, place in freezer to set the chocolate.
Making your Chocolates:
While your chocolate is setting, get your filling ready.
Take your cream infusion (3/4 cup) and place it in a small sauce pan. Heat on low-med heat. Once heated, add your Chocolate Chips (white or semi sweet chocolate chips) and stir until smooth. You now have your Ganache filling.
Spoon some of your Ganache filling into a piping bag (or a small sandwich bag, cut the tip of the corner).
Take out your chocolate mold from the freezer and place it on the counter. Take your piping bag and fill your chocolate molds. Be sure to leave some space at the top! Tap the chocolate mold gently on the counter to settle the filling.
Spoon your melted wafer chocolate on top of the filling to seal and enclose the Ganache filling. Place it back in freezer to set the chocolate (approx 5 min).
Once harden, stretch your silicon mold to help release the chocolates from the side wall. Turn upside down and ‘pop’ your chocolates out. Trim any chocolate edges to make the chocolates look pretty! Keep them all for yourself or share with others!
Enjoy your Wild Treat!
Note: If you have a whitish finish on your milk or dark chocolates, take a hair dryer and on a low setting, from a distance, blow on the chocolate. This should get rid of that whitish finish. Or you can leave it, it doesn’t hurt anything.