How can you enjoy the kitchen in the summer without making your house unbearably hot and/or your A/C shift into overdrive? This is the first in a series of posts designed to answer that question! This week: an oven-free dessert idea for the Fourth of July (and all summer long). Bonus: it doubles as a fun art project if you’ve got bored kids in the house, or unexpected serving vessel for a dinner party with hard to impress guests! The only downside to this project is that it’s not the best idea for picnics, especially in the kind of heat the Fredericksburg area has been seeing the past couple of weeks, unless you really enjoy trying to wash out melted chocolate and candy stains.
THE QUESTION: “How can I have a festive and homemade July 4th without heating up the whole house to bake an apple pie?”
To solve this problem I say ditch the pie and focus on the ‘a la mode’. The questionee is completely right, no one feels like eating pie when said pie has turned their house into a sauna. And besides apples aren’t seasonal at this time of the year so no apple pie will be as good as it is in the fall, and the cherries I’ve been getting from the farmer’s market the past week are best eaten on the walk home from Hurkamp, not enrobed by butter and flour. And honestly, I’ve never understood the whole summer-apple-pie-celebration thing except from a marketing/nostalgia standpoint anyway...so say it out loud with me, “Why apple pie!?”.
Back to the ice cream, and my heretofore mysterious project, why not spend a day on making beautiful candy bowls for ice cream instead of icing your counter just to knead pie crust? I had a concept for making white chocolate dishes to serve flourless chocolate cake on in a catering proposal this past winter (the cake usually has a bourbon white chocolate frosting; this family was a huge fan of chocolate but hated bourbon). Unfortunately, the clients decided to go a different direction to celebrate their mom’s birthday so I didn’t get to bring that to fruition.
I know I’m not the only person who’s ever thought of candy bowls or even using balloons to mold round objects, but I think both are really fun. Basically all you need are balloons and melting candy wafers, plus some sprinkles, chopped nuts or crushed pretzels if you want to get crazy (and sturdy).
- Prepare your balloons and surface. Place wax paper on your countertop or, even better, a sheet pan, this will be your drying surface. Blow up the number of balloons for how many dishes you will need (plus an additional 2-4, sometimes the candy does not dry correctly or shatters when the balloon is popped) and coat them with a thin layer of coooking spray or neutral oil (if there is too much oil/spray it will drip down onto your bowl while the candy is drying).
- Prepare a plate or bowl with sprinkles, crushed pretzels, crushed candy, crushed nuts, potato chip crumbs, etc. These add-ons will make your bowl sturdier so while they are not neccessary, I highly reccommend a topping.
- Melt candy wafers in the microwave according to the directions on the package.
- Dip balloon into the melted candy/chocolate.
- If doing multiple colors/layers, let dry at least 30 mins or preferably 1 hour in a cool, unhumid spot (This means the fridge if you live in VA and have no or little A/C).
- After your last layer of candy/chocolate, immediately dip each side into your crushed; if you are only using one coat of melted candy the topping will be very important (do not spin the balloon in the topping, this will just smear the melted candy all over your topping plate).
- Allow to harden for at least an hour.
- Pop the balloon with as sharp and narrow an object as you can (I used a tiny craft needle); the larger the dispurtion of the balloons surface, the more likely it is that the popping will shatter your bowls.
- Gently remove the balloon anywhere that it is stuck to the bowl.
- Keep in a cool, dry place or the fridge until you are ready to use them!
For a Fourth of July flair get red, white and blue colors of melting wafers and star shaped sprinkles or toasted coconut (or both!). Dip the balloon twice, first into the white color then after drying into the blue and immediately press the star shapped sprinkles onto at least part of the blue outter layer. After popping and removing the balloo,n paint red stripes on the inside white surface of the bowls. Voila, a patriotic cup for some post-fireworks ice cream sundaes!
Lessons I learned:
- Give yourself way more room than you think you need. This goes for counter space AND the size of the bowl you use to melt the candy wafers. I couldn’t even fit some of the balloons into the smaller bowl with the white wafers.
- Make wider shapes than you think you might want. My narrow 'soup bowl' type experiments fell in on themselves when the balloon was popped. This goes double for trying complicated scalloped edges.
- When removing the balloon, gently hold the bowl and balloon in place in the center of the base and gently pull the balloon away from the edges until ony the center is still attached. You are less likely to chip pieces off of the edges this way.
- Only do one color at a time, I made a crazy mess trying to do both at once (and it led to my using smaller bowls than I should have because I wanted to put them both in the microwave at once, see lesson #1) patience is key.
- To reiterate, patience is key!
Have fun. And bonus points if you make your own ice cream to put into your beautiful, edible, bowls.
Don't forget, if you have any questions about how to eat well without heating up the house, or anything else food-related, send them to me on Facebook, Twitter, or via email to myfriendmaillard (at) gmail.com.