I have now had time to digest my first experiences with chocolates. This is lesson #1 of my trials. The first chocolate that I experimented with was a bittersweet Callebaut chocolate. This wonderful Belgian chocolate was purchased as 1lb blocks from our local Whole Foods grocery. Dark chocolates are our favorite in this household and this 60.1% cacao chocolate seemed like a good place to start. I had also read that darker chocolates were easier to work with so my selection made I was ready to get this chocolate tempered.
Tempering was something new to me and the chemistry was quite interesting. My references included the following books and links on the web:
Dessert Universityfrom White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner
Temper or Pre-Crystallize Chocolate Using Cocoa Butter
Stainless steel bowl in hand I unwrapped two blocks of chocolate and started to chip away at it with my chocolate chipper. I decided to invest in this smart and safe tool after chopping some chocolate over the holidays and trying to slice my finger off. If you are going to break a chocolate block I strongly recommend you get one of these. Over a simmering pot of water I now began to melt the chocolate in the bowl until the mixture reached the required 120F. Now the chocolate needed to go through the tempering cycle which seemed to take forever. This was now beginning to remind me of making bread and all that time waiting for the bread to rise.
I was now bringing the temperature back from about 83F to 88-90F to keep the chocolate in temper but not over 90F. Thankfully, I have a very fast digital thermometer for this task but something did not quite seem right. The chocolate was fairly viscous. How was I going to get this into a mold and make sure any trapped air got out? I decided that this was just the way it was and moved forward.
I grabbed my new polycarbonate lips mold and a tiny container of american red disco dust. Using a fine paint brush I dusted half of the mold with some disco dust. My thought here was to put some color on these lips. If red is not your color, there are many other dust colors to choose from. Of course if you are into goth colors I am not sure that black would look very good on dark chocolate. Save that for the white chocolate. I was now ready to get my chocolate into the molds.
The chocolate remained viscous even after stirring so I poured and spooned it out onto the mold and used a wide plastic spatula to spread it into the molds. I placed the mold on a silpat mat and gave it a few heavy taps on the counter to settle the chocolate in the molds. I then removed the excess chocolate with a wide plastic spreader back into the bowl (this stuff is expensive so save every drop you can). A few more taps on the counter and I believe I got most of the bubbles out and did one final scrap (note the chocolate was setting up pretty fast). I then put the chocolates in the fridge for a quick 15 minute chill and then back on the counter until they were set.
Once the chocolate was set I did another scrapping of the mold to help release the chocolates. I then turned over the mold, did a few taps on the counter and the chocolates all came out. The dust did a great job of adhering to the chocolate.
So what did I learn in lesson #1 of my chocolate adventures:
1. All chocolates are not the same. They come in different viscosities. This chocolate it turns out has a rating of 1 out of 5 and therefore was not suitable for molds. (actually it took me a while to figure this out)
2. One way to change viscosity is to add cocoa butter. I will save that for another lesson. This stuff is expensive and is why great chocolate is expensive.
3. The polycarbonate mold is very sturdy and put a great shine on the chocolate.
4. I tempered with and without an ice bath. I will continue to experiment with this but the chocolate had a good shine and crack so it clearly was tempered.
5. Chocolate gets everywhere. I might wear an old t-shirt next time.
You can get the mold I used for these chocolates here. The disco dust is available at cake decorating supply houses. Overall I was very pleased with the chocolates in this first run. A few trapped bubbles here or there but minor issues.
Next dipping caramels in chocolate. Many of my chocolates can be seen in the photos on the Valentines Day blog.
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