Sweet Petals

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people think of flowers and candy. In just a day, I am doing a demonstration for Hudson Gardens (a private garden and event center) that combines the two. The class is called Sweet Petals and in this Cooking Tip, I thought I would share some of what I will be teaching.

Just how can you combine candy and flowers? The first thing you could do is to make candy with floral flavors. Two of the most common are lavender and rose. To impart these flavors to your candy, you could use either the actual dried flowers or an extract/flavoring. For example, let’s look at chocolate truffles. To make a truffle, you first make a ganache, which is the interior of the truffle. This is then coated in more chocolate, cocoa powder, or other items. A ganache is usually made by pouring hot cream over chopped chocolate and then mixing those together when melted. Prior to doing this, you can infuse either dried lavender or rose buds into the warm cream. This imparts the floral flavor to the cream, the flowers are strained out and the result is lovely floral-flavored truffles. You might finish the truffle by sprinkling lavender or rose buds on the finished truffle. This helps the consumer know the flavor of that truffle.

If you do not want to use real flowers, you can also use flavorings. Taylor & Colledge offers a lavender paste. Savory Spice offers a lavender extract. Wild Flower Hibiscus Co offers rose and other floral extracts. Use these sparingly, though, as floral flavors can be overwhelming.

If you do not care for floral flavors in your chocolate, how about chocolate in the shape of a flower? There are numerous ways you can do this. The easiest is to use a mold such as this daisy-shaped lollipop mold.

You can also just form the chocolate into flower forms. One of my favorite projects involves making petals by coating the bottom of plastic spoons with chocolate, allow them to set up, remove from the spoon and form them into the shape of a flower.

If you wish to use true chocolate, you are limited to one color – brown. If you want color, you can use white chocolate and add food coloring. Or, you can use Candy Melts such as made by Wilton or Make ‘n Mold, which come in numerous colors. The other difference between using real chocolate and another product is that real chocolate will need to be tempered whereas candy melts do not. Tempering is a process whereby the chocolate crystals are aligned in such a way that you get a product that is shiny, snaps when you break it, does not melt in your hand, and importantly for this purpose, easily pops out of the mold. There is a trade-off between the ease of candy melts and the wonderful taste of real chocolate.

Hard candy is another category that pairs well with flowers. Once again, you could flavor your hard candy with floral flavors or make it in the shape of a flower.

You can even place edible flowers inside your hard candy. If using edible flowers, you want to be totally sure that the flowers you use are in the edible category. Not all flowers are edible and the entire plant may not be edible. Know where they come from and beware of insecticides and fungicides. Avoid flowers from florists, garden centers, nurseries or from the roadside. Another consideration is pollen, which may be a concern for people who have hay fever, asthma or allergies. Some experts recommend against eating flowers that have been exposed to untreated animal manure in the prior 4 months.

Making hard candy is not difficult but does require some adjustments if you live at a high altitude. See a prior Cooking Tip for a discussion on this topic.

Other fun things you can do is to roll out gumdrops and form them into roses. Place them on top of your cupcakes for a wonderful presentation. You can even use Starbursts to do the same if you gently soften them in the microwave first.

If you want actual recipes or links to these projects, let me know.

Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!