Sunday, 18 March 2007
I made my first mucky foray into the world of tempering chocolate today. Thus far my approach to chocolate making has been that they never last long enough to develop a bloom. However, my cute impluse buy bunny and chicken moulds arrived courtesy of Jane Asher today, and for chocolates this big it seems to make sense to spend the time to get a nice glossy finish.
Deciding on doing the minimum possible I went with the seeding method of heating half the chocolate until it is fully melted, and then adding the rest of the chocolate finely chopped, stirring until it melts. The result was a dismal failure, white bloom everywhere, and still a kitchen covered in chocolate.
So I've bitten the bullet and bought a chocolate thermometer. The nice thing about the process of tempering chocolate is that if you follow the instructions aboslutly to the letter you will have hard, glossy chocolate, that keeps and breaks with a snap. Its not making meriangues or custard, where it can all go to hell for no discernable reason. On the other hand there is pretty much no room for error.
You have to heat the chocolate to above 41 oc (but not above 50 oc) and then you have to cool it to between 31-2 oc for dark chocolate or 30-1 oc for milk chocolate and then add the seed chocolate and hold the temperature steady until you use it. So attention is required. The point is that you want certain crystals to form in the chocolate, these are smaller, and less easly melted, meaning firm glossy chocolate. The right crystals are the ones that form at these particular temperature ranges. So you heat all the chocolate to 41 oc, at which temperature all crystal strcutures in the chocolate melt, and then you bring the temperature down to the ideal range, and hold it there while crystals form. To aid this you add the seed chocolate, which is already tempered chocolate (which most bought chocolate is) in unmelted lumps. The crystals in this already tempered chocolate encourage the formation of more of the same kind of crystal, thus seeding it. This method works for any quantity of chocolate. I used about 2/3rds of the chocolate for melting, and the other 1/3rd for seeding.
The other difficult bit about this whole process of chocolate making which is vastly underestimated is molding itself. The chocolate needs to be thick enough to come out of the mold, and the mold itseld needs to be joined exactly so there are no unweildy overlapping edges. This was something that took me a few trial runs to get right. In essence, you need more chocolate than you think, and you need a steady hand when placing the sides of the mould together. Practise, in this case, makes perfect, but for someone as ill-coordinated as me a lot of practise is required.
The upside is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when your first rabbit emerges intact and glossy from its mold. Strange pleasures for strange people.
In the end I made some plain chocolate rabbits and hens, and a whole load of chocolate eggs flavoured with different insides. The winners were the marbled white and dark chocolate eggs enrobed in pistachio nuts which I'd finely chopped. For the novie I'd recommend starting with solid chocolate eggs, and working up to chocolates filled with ganache and hollow chocolates.