Coconut, Basil & Lime Pralines

Last weekend, the friends with whom I attended the Praline Workshop back in November 2010 and myself decided to apply our knowledge and make some pralines.  As in the workshop, each of us made a different filling, and I decided on coconut, basil & lime.

The basis of each filling is chocolate of your choice (white, milk or dark) plus cream.  Then you add a flavour of your choice, which can be either in dry (e.g. powdered spice) or liquid form.  As I seem to have a special fondness of coconut these days, I decided to substitute the cream for coconut milk.  I had bought a bottle of Basil & Lime Syrup at a food show a couple of months ago, which had been sitting on my kitchen counter ever since, because I was waiting for inspiration to hit me as to how to use it.  However, I made sure to check with the owner of the chocolate shop that held the workshop that I could substitute the cream for coconut milk.  We also bought all our ingredients there, as everything is sold in small amounts, so that was really handy.

Before starting out, there are some preparations that should be done – or at least it’s easier if they’re done – beforehand.  Like lining your work surface with baking paper, so you can a) avoid ruining your work surface (ours was a large dining room table) and b) scrape larger bits of chocolate off the paper and re-use at a later date (especially if you’re using a little more expensive chocolate).

Also, it pays – if you’re doing this on your own – to have little piping bags already folded up made from grease-proof paper (see pic below).  Having your decorating ingredients mixed beforehand doesn’t hurt either.

Now, when you see the recipe and the long instructions, don’t go thinking it’s too much work.  It’s really so easy.  With five people doing five different kinds of pralines, we were done in three hours.  And we did 120 pieces altogether.  So for a small amount like this it shouldn’t take longer than 1½ hours.  Just one more thing – the filling for these pralines is sort of half-liquid, which is due to the fact I used quite a bit of liquid in the filling, and also because I probably used more coconut milk than you would use cream because I wanted the taste of coconut to be noticeable.

Coconut, Basil & Lime Pralines

120 g milk chocolate
50 g coconut cream
4 tbsp basil & lime syrup
20 milk chocolate shells

Lid + Coating:
200 g milk chocolate

2 – 3 tsp cocoa powder
2 – 3 tsp desiccated coconut
grated rind of 3 limes (grate the day before as it needs to have dried!)

Makes 20

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie.  The temperature of the chocolate should not exceed 50°C.   Heat the coconut milk, but do not let boil.  It should be warm but not hot.

Once the chocolate has melted, pour it into a smaller bowl and pour in the coconut milk.  Stir immediately and keep stirring until the chocolate has gone through 3 different phases of consistency.

Phase 1:  When you pour in the coconut milk, it will seem quite liquid.
Phase 2:  Next it will seem to form a lump and you will notice it’s not as easy to stir as before.
Phase 3:  After that, it’ll go back to a homogenous mass and will be easier to stir again, but the consistency will be thicker than in the beginning.

This is when you add your flavour.  I added 1 tbsp at a time, because basil can become quite overpowering if you use too much.  In the end I added 4 tbsp of syrup.

Pour your mixture into a (preferably disposable) piping bag, and snip off a very small piece at the tip.  It’s safer to cut off too little – you can always cut off some more – than too much and have your mixture rush out of the piping bag.  What’s important when filling the shells is holding the open tip not only into the opening of the shell but right onto the bottom of it and fill it slowly, making sure there are no airy spaces, the shell needs to be filled up to the rim.  If there are air gaps, the filling can start to mould.  If you fill in too much, just wipe it off with your finger.

Once all your shells are filled, you can start piping on the lids.  For this, melt 200 g of milk chocolate, fill some into a small piping bag made from grease-proof paper, snip off a very tiny piece of the tip, and start lining the edge of the shell opening first, then fill in the rest to make a lid.  Leave to dry.  This will take approximately 30 minutes for milk chocolate – both for the filling to harden and the lid to dry.

Now comes the part that we (unnessecarily) feared most – the tempering of the chocolate.  Reheat the leftover chocolate heated for the lids.  The temperature should be almost exactly 32°C.  Make sure to use a digital thermometer for this, holding it into the middle of the chocolate but not touching the bottom of the pot while it sits on the water.   If you need to cool the chocolate down, add more chocolate.  The reason for the need to temper is that the chocolate will go white if it exceeds 32°C once it’s dried, and it will be too thick to use for coating if it’s too much below.  Having said that, we did get the chocolate to the exact temperature, but once it had reached 32°C and we were using it, we didn’t bother to re-check the temperature but just kept on working.  Our reasoning was that the finished products would be eaten within a very short time and would, therefore, not have a chance to go white…

To coat the pralines the way I did, put on some rubber gloves, spoon a very small amount – about ½ tsp full – of melted chocolate into one hand, take a praline, and roll it between your hands until it’s thinly but completely covered.  Throw into the bowl holding your decorating ingredients and rotate the bowl so the praline rolls around inside it until it’s covered with the ingredients.  Repeat with remaining pralines.

And voilà – you’ll have the prettiest handmade pralines!

By the way – I downloaded these nice little gift box templates for free from Style Me Pretty (green boxes) and the HP Creative Studio for Home (Valentine boxes).