The Midas touch

Gold-frosted chocolate leaves dress up holiday desserts

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In India, ethereal wisps of real gold and silver have decorated desserts since ancient times. Impossibly thin flecks of gold float in every glass of the German liqueur Goldwasser. And a few chocolate makers here in the West brush streaks of gold dust onto elegant confections. Although the FDA has not approved gold or silver as a food, nontoxic forms are available in a few specialty food, cookware, and baking supply shops. And you can order edible "lustre dust" in metallic colors from Sur La Table's catalog service; (800) 243-0852. (The dust costs $3.95 for 0.7 oz.; it goes a long way.)

Gold and silver don't make any flavor impression. But a gold-frosted leaf can turn a simple scoop of ice cream into an event. For even more drama, arrange a cluster of the leaves over a satin-smooth chocolate-frosted cake.

STEP BY STEP

  1. Select firm, nontoxic leaves such as camellia or citrus. Rinse and wipe dry. With a small brush, paint back sides of leaves almost but not quite to edges with melted semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Let stand until chocolate is firm, about 1 hour; or chill about 15 minutes.
     
  2. Starting at the tip, peel leaf quickly away from chocolate. Don't touch more than necessary; hands melt chocolate.
     
  3. Put 1 teaspoon clear liquor such as gin or vodka (or use lemon juice) in a small bowl. Carefully open the nontoxic gold (or silver) lustre dust and measure about 1/4 teaspoon into the liquor. Mix with the tip of a small watercolor paintbrush. Paint the gold mixture onto the firm chocolate leaves. Let leaves stand until gold is dry, about 10 minutes. Use, or chill airtight up to 1 month. If you have paint left, let mixture dry completely. Cover airtight and keep at room temperature indefinitely, then revive with a little more liquor when you're ready to use it again.

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