By Natalie Strayton
Baking has always been a passion of mine and a big part of my life. From an early age, I would help my mother make delicious pancakes and cookies from scratch, and I’ve always loved making our traditional family foods at holidays, whether it’s Ukrainian Paska bread for Easter, or four different kinds of Christmas cookies. As I’ve become more independent and adventurous in the kitchen, my love for cooking and baking has grown. I’ll make a menu for the week, often do the shopping, cook everything I have planned, and still find time to whip up bread or bon bons on the weekend. It doesn’t feel like the day is complete unless I cook or bake something.
Two days after my fifteenth birthday, I started working in the bakery of the Woodstock Farmers’ Market, a year-round, local food store in Vermont. I worked there during all four years of high school- after school, on Saturdays, and full time in the summer. Over the years, I gained more responsibility, and for over a year, opened the bakery on Saturdays, going in at 6am to bake off muffins, scones, and croissants. Working there provided me with strong feelings of joy, flow, and community.
During my senior year of high school, I pursued an independent project where I interned with four different local food and hospitality businesses: Piecemeal Pies, a British inspired pie shop; Twin Farms, the Forbes 2019 Hotel of the Year; The Barnard Inn; a local, artisan restaurant; and King Arthur Baking Company, alongside head bread baker, Martin Philip. Each internship lasted six weeks, and I still worked Saturdays at WFM. The summer following my senior year, I returned to Twin Farms to work full time.
After a fun, food-filled year, I attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York for two semesters. Having been sent home due to the pandemic, I was able to return to work at The Woodstock Farmers’ Market. This is an opportunity I am incredibly grateful for, and has— once again, been a tremendous source of joy, flow, and community during difficult, uncertain times.
Natalie is thrilled that this summer she will be working in the pastry department of Wequassett Resort and Golf Club on Cape Cod.
Yield: 24 Bon bons
2 bags quality dark chocolate chips, such as Guittard or Ghirardelli
2 tablespoons cocoa butter (optional, will make chocolate more fluid and easier to work with)
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon raspberry jam (to taste)
Candied ginger pieces
1 chocolate mold (easy to buy online, under $10)
Wire cooling rack
Silpat or parchment paper
Small sauce pot
One medium bowl
Two small bowls
Bench scraper or Metal Spatula
Piping bags or zip lock bags
Make the Ganache Fillings:
Measure out ½ cup of the dark chocolate chips in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds.
- Gently stir the chocolate and cream together until homogenous. Place half in another bowl.
- To the second bowl, stir in the raspberry jam. Set aside.
- Finely chop a few pieces of candied ginger into approximately 1 cm sized pieces. Set aside.
(Other flavors include milk or white chocolate ganache- same technique, different kind of chocolate; nut or dried fruit additions; orange zest; caramel; or coffee- add instant coffee to hot cream.)
Temper the Chocolate:
- Melt 8 oz of dark chocolate over a double boiler. Heat to between 110oF and 120oF. Turn off the heat but save the water and leave the pot on the stove.
- Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in 4 oz of solid dark chocolate and the cocoa butter. Stir continuously until melted.
- Continue stirring the chocolate until it reaches 80oF.
- Place the bowl back over the warm water, stirring continuously, until the chocolate registers 86oF – 90oF on an instant read thermometer. Remove from the heat.
- Dip a butter knife or small offset spatula into the chocolate to test if it’s tempered. If it sets up in under six minutes and is shiny, you’re good to go. If not, continue stirring the chocolate and do another test.
(Tempered chocolate provides a firm snap and shine, doesn’t melt in your hands, and helps the bon bons release easily from the molds.)
Fill the Molds:
Pipe a small amount of the tempered chocolate into each space in the mold, filling to the top.
- Place the bowl of tempered chocolate over the warm water to maintain the temperature.
- Tap the mold gently on the counter to allow the chocolate to settle into all crevices.
- Invert the mold over a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, or into another bowl, pouring out the excess chocolate.
- Use a bench scraper or the side of a metal spatula to wipe off the excess chocolate from the mold, holding at a 45o angle, above the baking sheet or bowl.
- Place the mold upside down on a wire rack. Allow to set up for 5-10 minutes.
- Use a small piping bag to pipe the plain ganache into half of the bon bons, filling almost to the top. Gently press a piece of candied ginger into each one.
- Pipe the raspberry ganache into the remaining bon bons. Be careful not to get any ganache on the outer ring of the bon bons, or they won’t seal properly.
- Chill in the fridge for five minutes until the ganache is firm.
- Use some of the remaining tempered chocolate to cover the bon bons.
- Use a bench scraper to wipe off the excess chocolate at a 45o angle over the bowl or baking sheet.
- Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Flip mold over onto a clean baking sheet with gentle force to release the bon bons.
(To decorate the bon bons: use colored cocoa butter to decorate clean molds before filling, with a small paint brush. Be careful not to use any water-based food coloring or the chocolate will seize. Alternatively, pipe leftover tempered chocolate or milk or white chocolate on finished bon bons to distinguish between the two. For leftover tempered chocolate, spread into a slab on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and allow to firm up. Use for re-melting or chop into chunks.)