As I write this the full moon of October shines overhead, time to take a breather and explore my willingness to release things no longer needed. May you find time to do the same.
This one is for the kids. In this day and age it is generally not advisable to give out handmade treats at an All Hallows Eve door. ( Your efforts will probably not make it into anyone’s tummy).
It is however still possible to spend an afternoon or evening with invited children to have some fun with chocolate while learning how Grandmother Spider brought the Sun or how Spider Woman created the world. Share your knowledge of Ariadne or what weaving means to a culture or ask what qualities might be connected to spider as a totem animal or spirit guide.
Spiders offer myths and legends from many cultures and this is the time of year to see them everywhere.
You will need:
Long thin strips of licorice
Small coloured candy bits
Okay let’s start with “whatever kind of chocolate you choose is okay”. ( More on that later )
If you don’t have Cornflakes then Rice Krispies or Special K or a variety of granolas will do. The idea is to choose something that will remind you of chomping on bones when you bite into the spider, so I would leave out coconut for these.
I chose dark chocolate as the licorice legs will be closest in colour but that is again completely your choice. If the kids like white chocolate with red legs, go for it.
Shoestring licorice that is black black is a little difficult to find in our town. What is available at the grocery store has a reddish/purple tinge to it but we do have a Dutch Specialty store and the Dutch have a long, strong connection to licorice (Ever tried the double salted?) The licorice comes in a two part wheel that you can unwind and cut to any length. Truly black and not over the top strong, the real stuff.
You will also need eyes. If you cannot find small candy coated pieces like what is in the picture, try something larger that you can dice very small.
Once all the pieces are organized, have the kids gather around the kitchen table or island and start by asking what they might know about spiders. Open the floor to an informal chat about why spiders might be part of the symbols of this time of the year and what spiders mean to them. It a great time talk about how easy it is for some people to dispose of things that frighten them and the sanctity of life, nothing too heavy, an opportunity to shift a perspective.
The first step is to make the spider legs. Eight legs per spider unless you are making one that has had an accident. You can make one where the legs hold the body and are put in at the sides or you can make ones that have the legs already placed and the crunchy chocolate sits on top like the picture. I placed these on plastic coated parchment paper, ready for the kids to decorate once they were given bodies.
The next step is the chocolate. Melt over a double boiler with simmering not boiling water. stirring. It is also possible to melt in a microwave in short bursts, personal choice. If you are melting over water, be careful that no one gets steam burns when the bowl is removed.
If you have chosen a confectionary coating then stir to mix and add the crushed corm flakes, mixing until everything is covered. Drop by small teaspoon onto the licorice legs, pushing down to ensure a connection. You can do a single “blob” or you can fashion a body and head. My choice usually depends on the age of the children helping. Once the spiders have been made and before the chocolate hardens, add two small eyes and allow to cool.
If you have chosen chocolate with cocoa butter. Pour 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto a marble slab and using a metal spatula cool and temper the chocolate by moving it around the slab. Step one is complete when the mass feels neutral in temperature as the back of your little finger is rests on the chocolate. If it is warm temper a little longer and test again. ( It is best not to have just had a hot flash or finished up swabbing out the freezer. You want your body to be normal temperature.) When neutral is reached, add the last third and mix in.
A couple of pointers: Keep the underside of your spatula clean. This will make it easier to keep the marble clean. If there are bits of chocolate off to the side left to cool they can be more difficult to incorporate into the mixture later.
When tempering make sure to mix all the chocolate together and not just work around the edges. Use the spatula to flip the outside chocolate into the middle so that everything cools evenly.
Dark chocolate will solidify more quickly than milk chocolate so work quickly once the chocolate is ready to be used, especially if you are making small amounts and this is your first batch on the marble. If this is a big chocolate day, your slab will warm up with multiple temperings and the chocolate will have a longer work time.
Take a handful of cornflakes and crush them before dropping onto the chocolate. I use cornflakes because the kids like the roughness of the finished spiders, they look more scary than just dropping a couple of teaspoons of chocolate on the licorice legs. It also gives the bodies height. Mix until the flakes are coated and quickly drop by teaspoons onto the legs.
My suggestion for first timers is to add less cornflakes and that will give you a longer work time. The more flakes you add the quicker the chocolate will solidify. Have youngster help with as many of the steps as possible. Someone can make the bodies while someone else adds the eyes. Set up the table so that more than one person can work from the chocolate mass once it is ready ( or give each child a tray of 3 or 4 or 5 spiders to complete.
Something I have learned over the years is that if they each make their own, the spiders will get very big but if they know there will be sharing at the end, it is easier to get more spiders the same size.
If there is a leg that doesn’t seem to want to stay in place use any left over soft chocolate as glue.
As you can also see someone got a little busy and one spider has eyes on the side of it’s head. ‘Tis all good. These won’t be around long anyway.
Crunchy Chocolate Spiders from My Kitchen Wand