I've become a little obsessed with birch trees this winter. You probably noticed, and I'm going to continue with it right now with these birch tree wafers! A great little understated edible curiosity for your Christmas gatherings, and they're dead simple! All you need are chocolate-filled wafers, bright white candy melts and black food colouring. I found very quickly that edible pens don't work on candy melts so you'll need a paint brush and either edible black paint or black gel food colouring. But that's all!
I wasn't sure how they would turn out and I had them in mind for a few weeks before actually finding the time to try them, but they didn't go quite as well as I had hoped.
Problems I encountered:
Candy melts: they're thick. I knew this going in, having used Wilton candy melts before, but I had meant to buy crisco to thin it out. I used bright white candy melts I picked up in Lakeland and they really are paper-white, which is perfect, but if I'd added any oil I was worried it might affect the whiteness, so instead I struggled through. I made sure to heat them slowly - I usually do it over a double boiler, but this time I actually just filled a pan with boiling hot water, set a heatproof bowl filled with candy melts over the top and din't actually turn on the heat, I just let the heat of the already-boiled (and slowly cooling) water melt them and it did the trick - they were the smoothest candy melts I've gotten without adding anything to them, but it would certainly have been easier if I'd had some shortening or something.
Dipping: I had hoped that the toothpicks would do while covering them, but they just kept spinning on the sticks instead, so I had no choice but to hold the wafers by the very end. I had also hoped initially that the candy melts would run down and cover the ends but when I saw how thick it was I knew that wasn't going to happen. However, once the candy melts set they reinforce the wafer and it's easy enough to just take a knife and slice the bottom of the wafer roll off so it's nice and tidy. But the candy melts were too thick to actually dip so I had to use a table knife to apply and smooth the mixture out over the wafer - it's best to use the top of the knife, not the blade, as it won't leave any ridges from the serrations.
Drying: I didn't think about standing the wafers up while the candy melts set so I had to gather tooth picks and a cardboard box rather last-minute, and then I didn't think to pre-puncture the box so I was trying to jab toothpicks already stuck in candy melt-covered wafers in through the cardboard. Not good. So if you're going to dry them that way, be sure to make a good number of holes in the top of a cardboard box with a tooth pick before you start, spacing them apart so the wafers don't knock into eachother.
They also didn't want to stand up at all while drying so I had to arrange them so that they leaned as much as they liked but still didn't knock together.
Painting: The gel colouring takes a while to dry, so I actually didn't paint them all around, I just painted about 2/3 of the surface and then lay them down in an air-tight box on that unpainted surface. The trouble here is that if they roll around in the box they're going to smudge and mark one another, so you want to move the box as infrequently as possible - in fact you're better off setting the box where you're going to keep it and then filling it. They were dry to the touch the next day, but I did find that if you rubbed them they did smudge ever so slightly. Otherwise, however, they were just fine - and no, the colouring didn't affect the taste.
So it's clear that pretty much everything went against my expectations despite a successful outcome. It just needed a little more thinking, and if I used candy melts more often I think most of my problems - the melting, drying and dipping - would have been avoided.
But like I said, despite the above problems stemming from unpreparation, it all actually turned out really well and didn't take long at all!
You will need:
Chocolate-filled wafer rolls, or similar (I used Bolero because they were sold in a sturdy tin)
Bright white Wilton candy melts
Edible black paint/gel colouring
Fine paint brush
Straight-edged knife/small palette knife
1. Melt your candy melts - do it over a gradual heat to prevent it from burning and going lumpy. I used to heat them for about 5 minutes and they were never quite right, but I did it for about 30 minutes by standing the bowl of candy melts over a pot of boiled water off the heat, stirring every 5 minutes, and it yielded much better results. They'll still be thick, though, so it's best to add a little shortening like Crisco to thin it out - I didn't have any on hand and I got on fine, though it wasn't dippable.
2. Holding the wafer rolls at one end, cover with candy melts and use the flat edge of a straight knife or a short palette knife to smooth it around.
3. Either lay them down on a clean surface to set (this will give one slightly flat side but it will make both painting and paint-drying much easier), or stand them up as I explained above.
They don't take long to set. I made about 7 trees in my first run and by the time I'd finished the 7th - about 10-15 minutes after completing the first - the first was dry. I still left them alone for half an hour to be sure.
4. Once they're dry, take a knife and cut off the ends that you held while coating, unless you did manage to cover the lot.
5. Take your edible paint and follow the instructions to prepare, or get your gel colouring. Taking a clean fine paint brush, dip it into the colouring straight from the pot or paint and apply it in horizontal lines across the candy melts. Vary the thickness and length.
6. Pick the coated and painted wafers up by the very ends and move them to their 'waiting' area until they're being served. This could be onto a cake plate with a cloche or into an air-tight box for longer storage. Be sure to space them apart so they're not touching so that they don't mark one another. Let them dry.
7. Serve when ready!