I have a love/hate relationship with Chocolate. 
I know most women would claim the same - 'love it, but hate what it does to my hips!' But see - I don't love it. Most of the time, I don't even like it. And the better the quality of the chocolate, the less interest I have in indulging - not because I prefer the waxy cheap stuff (oh, contraire!) but because the really good imported stuff that's probably made by the bare hands of a little old man in Germany who has been perfecting the craft for 40 years gives me a right good headache.

The stabby, throbbing kind that likes to live at the base of your skull, but frequently vacations to your eye sockets and temples.

But oh, how I love to WORK WITH IT!

And every year, the Card women get together and craft miniature culinary masterpieces of chocolatey delight! With the good, imported chocolate made by that little old man and fondant centers that we make ourselves.

You might not think so, but making fondant requires a lot of muscle! and a lot of patience. It involves boiling ingredients to exactly the right temperature on the candy thermometer: even slightly under and your centers won't set. Slightly over and they're too hard. And once the fondant is cooked to perfection and then chilled in the fridge only just long enough (under and they won't set, over and they're too hard) - you work in the marshmallow cream with two special spatulas. And you keep working it. For like an hour.

we have to spell each other because otherwise our shoulders would fall off.

then you roll the fondant into little balls or discs or what have you (depending on what you're making) and set them out for dipping.

The Dipping Room:

The dipping room has to be 60 degrees - otherwise as the chocolate sets, a funky white dusty pattern appears on the surface. We call this 'streaking'. And, just as streaking through town is considered distasteful, streaking with chocolate is a sin. You want the chocolate to maintain it's smooth brown luster. If the chocolate streaks, it becomes a cull. A chocolate cull is kind of like a leper. It's sent off away from all of the 'beautiful' chocolates onto a plate for the 'unclean'.

'skirting' also makes a cull - but it doesn't resemble 'pantsing' in any way.

The husbands love the cull plate, 'cause they can partake freely without getting a slap on the hand or a whack on the butt.

mint bars - new this year

Other sins of chocolate making: 
  • cheap chocolate (the very idea!)
  • licking fingers - this is a sin that will get you thrown out of the kitchen and likely out into the snow. You're only allowed to lick your fingers right before you wash them at the end.
  • saying anything important, witty, or particularly juicy while one of the sisters or mother is out of the room
  • not making a big chocolatey mess of yourself. If you walk away from the dipping room without any chocolate on your sleeves, down your front, or in your lap - you have failed.
  • Being crabby (we all woke up before the sun and have been sitting here in this freezing room for six hours - if you forget that we're having fun, you're fired)!


When you dip, you dip with your hands. Your fingers are covered in that beautiful, smooth, creamy chocolate - and it's better than lotion! You have to get physical with the chocolate to know how it will behave. Again, temperature is key. And ribboning. Your chocolate is ready for fondant when it feels cool to the touch and ribbons when you pick it up and pour it from your fingers back into the pan.

Then you have a window of opportunity about 10 - 15 chocolates long before your chocolate is too cold and you have to warm it and start over.

 mints (the favorite)
Once all the fondants are dipped, we do 'clean up' with the chocolate that's left in the pans. We dump peanuts, cashews, or coconut into the pan and spoon it into cups to make peanut clusters, cashew clusters, and haystacks. Nothing is wasted.

The cleanup:

cashew clusters

I love the tradition. We devote an entire day to the project because the process takes so long - but there's something about being in the same room with my mother and all my sisters, working with our hands with patience and precision to make something beautiful and tasty for others, gossiping and reminiscing - it feels old fashioned and charming to me. It feels wholesome.

orange creams

Here we are after everything is dipped and we are counting the chocolates to divide amongst ourselves (you might be able to see the hundred-thousand-dollar bars and the almond joys we also made).

We make these chocolates to give away to those on our really super nice list - though we usually share a few with our husbands (who, after all, had to live without us for an entire day!).

Even though the mere smell of that rich chocolate makes my head throb, I still love it because of this one day every year.

My favorite: almond joy
Bill's favorite: 100 thousand dollar bars
Wyatt's favorite: anything involving chocolate

PS: in case you are appalled by my sorry situation: my aversion to chocolate does not extend to cake or ice cream - both of which I enjoy with great relish. Mostly chocolate cake donuts. The kind with the white icing and the coconut on top. Oh, good gravy, I love those things.


Nae said...

MARVELOUS! Those pictures sucked me right into a dipping day! I sure love our family.

Grandpa Rusty said...

Ooh, those nasty culls. They are horrid things. Their oh-so-visible deformities cause shunning of the first order - they must be isolated, hidden, utterly destroyed.

I am the destroyer...


That Girl said...


That is all I have to say.

Queen Scarlett said...

OH MY ... that's heaven. ;-) guides on how to do this? Supplies??