Dreaming in Chocolate
Time for my favorite subject: CHOCOLATE!!!! This post is about two different classes, and will give an overview of some of the things we learned to do with chocolate. It was so much fun. I could do this every day. I especially loved making the little chocolate garnishes.
So, when you work with chocolate, you either take large blocks, cut them into smallish pieces, and then melt them down. Or you can also start with chocolate chips and melt those down. Either way, you will bring the chocolate into ‘temper’. This means that you will bring the chocolate to a temperature in which it will set properly. To ‘set’ means to have chocolate that in its solid state will have three ‘s’: shine, snap, and shrink. Imagine opening a chocolate bar from the store: it looks glossy, and when you break it, it snaps. What tempering does is bring the chocolate into that particular state. It has to do with the temperature at which certain sugar molecules (called beta-crystals) form in just the right way.
In a professional kitchen or bakeshop, you will get chocolate from various suppliers, like Callebaut. You can get various kinds of chocolate, including milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate (sweetened and unsweetened) in different degrees of cocoa content, and also chocolate from cocoa beans from different countries. The manufacturer legally has to put information on the package at what temperature the chocolate is ‘in temper’. The chocolate we use is in temper between 87 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
We melt the chocolate in large metal bowls over a hot water bath. Hot water bath means there is pot with boiling or almost boiling water onto which we set the bowl of chocolate. We only bring the chocolate up to about 125 degrees and then take it off the heat, and then keep stirring until all the lumps are gone. Then, once all the lumps are gone, you can keep stirring until the temperature reaches 87-89, or you can also do a method called ‘seeding’. Seeding means you add large chunks of chocolate (cold) and keep stirring, and the colder chunks of chocolate will bring down the temperature of your liquid chocolate.
Once you reach the correct temperature, you do a test. Using a cool piece of metal, like the tip of a knife, you dip in the tip, shake off the excess chocolate, and then set the knife down. In about two minutes, your chocolate should have ‘set’ into the correct state: glossy sheen. If the chocolate is not ‘in temper’, it will not set properly. It will either stay in a liquid form, or it will set with a grayish color. But if it sets properly, the fun can begin!
Once you’re done with your project, you simply dump the rest of the chocolate onto parchment paper and let it cool. You can re-use it (re-temper it) as many times as you want. This is why you have almost no waste when working with chocolate.
Other things to remember: the two enemies of chocolate are HEAT and MOISTURE. Obviously, heat will melt the fat content. When moisture gets into your chocolate, you will not be able to temper it. This is why you have to be very careful with the water bath, and you can’t put chocolate in the cooler if you still want to temper it because it will come in contact with the moisture in the cooler. If the chocolate does come in contact with water or moisture, you can still use it for other things, for example ganache, because the cream in ganache has a moisture content anyway.
I created the following gallery for your enjoyment. It shows some of the things we did in class to learn about chocolate, its properties, and how you can use it. You can make many lovely decorations, pour it into forms, flick it onto desserts, and so on. Have I said how much I enjoy working with chocolate?