Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fun with chocolate

Last week was amazing!  It all started on Monday morning, when we walked into lab to find about 10 giant boxes of couverture chocolate on the marble tables.  We all knew what that meant, we were finally about to start the chocolate section of our coursework.

We used 55% dark chocolate couverture, which is more sturdy/less breakable than it's 64% counterpart (or any of the higher numbers).  This is because the higher the number, the more cocoa butter is inside, which means it is more fluid when melted, and has a nice crunch when solid.  But since 55% is more sturdy, that's what we used for our first try.

We each started with a large bowl of couverture, which we melted over a bain marie (double boiler) and held there until it reached 55 degrees celsius.  We had to follow closely the chocolate crystallization curve for dark chocolate which starts at 55 degrees celsius, then needs to be cooled to 27-29 degrees celsius, and then brought back up to 31 degrees.

So, we had the 55-degree melted chocolate in a bowl--then it is very important to wipe the underbelly of the bowl because water is the mortal enemy of chocolate.

About 2/3rds of the bowl is poured onto cool, clean, very dry marble, and spread out to a 2cm layer on the table, then gathered back up again, and spread out again just until some of the chocolate starts to stick to the table (slight lumps).

At this point, the chocolate is placed back into the bowl of the remaining melted chocolate (see picture just above) and mixed until the cooler and warmer chocolates are incorporated without any lumps.  If there are lumps, we have to place in the oven, mix, place in oven, mix until the lumps are gone.  If, in the process of placing it in the oven to remove lumps, your chocolate has exceeded 31 degrees celsius, it is necessary to put some more back on the table to cool it again.  It really is a balancing act.  You can't get it too hot after getting the first part cool or else all the crystals you have formed will melt and the chocolate won't be the right consistency.  However, if it is allowed to get too cold, the "bad crystals" form and that's not good either.

There are a couple tests to be sure that the chocolate is ready to be used.  The finger test, take some of the chocolate on your finger and swipe a thin layer onto the cool marble and see if it takes and is a little shiny.  You can also do the paper test, dip a small piece of parchment paper into the bowl of chocolate and put it on the marble to see if it takes.

Anyway, after multiple short trips to the oven and being spread out on marble, my first batch of crystallized chocolate was ready!

We made chocolate eggs--there is a mold with a front and a back half of an egg that the chocolate coats.

There are 3 steps to proper molding, in French they are: mouler, tapoter, and ebarber.  Mold, tap, and shave (literally de-beard).

So the properly crystallized chocolate is poured into the mold and moved around to coat all edges, it is then tapped very efficiently to remove all the air bubbles, poured back into the bowl while continuing to tap and move around to coat all sides evenly, and then a metal scraper/spatula is used to scrape off the final streams of chocolate.  The mold is placed upside down until the chocolate takes--it is shaved again to remove any excess chocolate that may have started to drip out.  Then another layer is done, and so on.

Anyway, the process is really fun, it's like a brain teaser--just when you think "Ah, I've got it!" something just may decide to go wrong.

But here are some pictures of my eggs, numbers 1, 2, and 3.  See how egg number 1 isn't shiny, that's bad and means the chocolate wasn't just right when I put it into the mold.

Egg number 1--I tried to make a little nest around it...
 For egg number 2, we learned how to place gelatine shapes into the mold to make indentions into the chocolate.  I decided to make a dragonfly in mine out of some rectangle and leaf molds.

Gelatine in mold

Egg number 2 with imprint of dragonfly
Egg number 3 involved the use of modeling chocolate, and had several phases... this is phase 1

Phase 2, the addition of white molding chocolate:

And Phase 3, the addition of some color/highlights:

Anyway, we were all very proud of ourselves; everyone did a lovely job.

This week, we're working on chocolate candies!  Today we started making truffles and several other little flavored chocolates :)

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