Not one to give up after my first attempt, I ended up making frozen cheesecake balls using ice cube trays and then coating them in grape gel or white chocolate. These worked beautifully.
I found this great ice cube tray that makes spherical ice cubes, though the final spheres are more peach sized than grape sized. I also used a smaller hemisphere ice cube tray and it would be pretty easy to make these into a sphere by gently heating the ends and fusing two halves together after each half has frozen. I kept mine as hemispheres to make things a bit simpler (for me!). I felt finding grape sized ice cube trays for one dish was starting to seem a bit obsessive. So these are conceptual grape cheesecake balls. They definitely contain grape.
The final product are coloured gel coated spheres and white chocolate coated hemispheres filled with grape juice caviar.
Grape gel and white chocolate coated cheesecake spheres on salted caramel sand
Cheesecake ‘grapes’ (makes 10 large spheres and 18 hemispheres)
- 250 g thickened cream (35% fat)
- 145 g caster sugar
- 200 g sour cream
- 250 g cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon Xanthan Gum Powder
- In a saucepan over a low heat, mix cream, sugar and sour cream simmer until sugar is dissolved.
- Add cream cheese, mix using hand blender, blend until mixture is fully incorporated, smooth and no lumps. Remove from heat.
- Add xantham gum and blend – it should be relatively thick now.
- Pour/spoon into spherical and hemisphere ice cube trays and freeze overnight.
- For an added surprise, I buried grape caviar (see below) into the centre of each cheesecake hemisphere mould, covered and smoothed the surface before freezing.
- Unmold when frozen solid and proceed to coat (see below).
Grape jelly (for gel coating the large spheres)
I make multiple colours here for different gels to coat the frozen cheesecake spheres. I use purple grapes and add a little red or purple food colouring to make red and purple gels and I use green grapes with a little green colouring to make a green gel.
The principle here is dip then freeze, dip then freeze, dip then freeze. It might take up to ten dips to get a good gel coating, hence I make three batches of jelly, use one until it has set, before starting on the next, so the jelly always liquid and you don’t end up trying to dip frozen balls in chunky jelly with the repeated dipping from the frozen balls.
- 400 g purple grapes (or green grapes for green grape gel)
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Red, purple (made by combining red and blue), or green food colouring
- 3 gelatine leaves
- Mush the grapes with a potato masher or use a stick blender to break the skins.
- Heat the grapes, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan until boiling, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain into a bowl (using fine sieve and cheesecloth). To ensure the juice is as clear as possible, allow it to drip through the cheesecloth by gravity (do not force it through).
- Make up to 400 ml with water.
- Add a few drops of food colouring (red, green or purple) to enhance the colour as required.
- If desired, set aside about 25 to 50 ml grape juice to make caviar [see technique here – go to grape mousse recipe].
- Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes then gently squeeze out water and add to the grape juice at 40°C and stir until dissolved.
- Pour 100 ml each into three deep bowls (I use glasses).
- Wait until the jelly just starts to thicken and takes on a syrupy consistency (I allow about an hour at room temperature – you can speed this up in the fridge).
- Dip the frozen cheesecake balls one at a time, using a slotted spoon. Re-freeze the balls for ten minutes. Repeat the dip at least 3 times per ball (freezing between each dip) until you are satisfied you have a good coating a few millimetres thick (it will start slowly but look much better with subsequent dipping!). Once a batch of jelly has become too set from the repeated dipping with frozen balls, move onto the next batch of jelly.
- Store balls in freezer on cling wrap in storage boxes.
- Pour any unused grape jelly on a flat surface, cover and allow to set in fridge, to make decoration shapes before serving, such as leaf patterns and grape shapes.
White chocolate coating
- 140 g white chocolate
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (this will make the chocolate easier to handle while coating the frozen cheesecake hemispheres)
- Purple food colouring paste (use as little as possible to prevent the chocolate from seizing)
- Melt chocolate over a low heat using a double boiler, then stir through the vegetable oil and add colouring to make the desired colour. Allow to cool to room temperature
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- To chocolate coat the hemispheres, place on the tines of a fork, then dip into the white chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drain before placing on the baking paper. Leave to set in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes. Store in fridge for a few days (OK to freeze).
Salted caramel sand
- 100 g salted caramel
- 100 g Marie biscuits
- Blend all ingredients until coarse powder.
- Refrigerate until needed.
Tempered milk (or white) chocolate (for the stems)
- 100 g milk (or white) chocolate, 35 g of it grated
- Place 65 g of the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the double boiler or the chocolate may overheat and lose its shine and smoothness.
- Melt the chocolate until the temperature reaches 45°C (40°C for white chocolate) – use a cooking thermometer.
- Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate; stir with a spatula from time to time.
- Keep stirring the melted chocolate until it cools down to 26°C (25°C for white chocolate) and return to the heat stirring gently until the chocolate reaches 29°C (28°C for white chocolate).
- Once the chocolate is smooth and shiny, spoon into piping bag fitted with narrow opening and pipe onto baking sheets to form thin threads to act as stems.
- Allow the frozen cheesecake balls to thaw in the fridge for several hours before serving.
- Place ¼ cup of caramel sand on a plate.
- Carefully place cheesecake balls in top.
- Decorate with grape jelly.
- Finally, add milk chocolate to make the grape stems and to decorate.