Lessons 76 – 78: Moving on to chocolate – Chocolate tempering, clusters and truffles

Mod 4 was here, signaling our ¾ mark in the program, we only had 25 more lessons in the classroom and then we were off to our externships. I had been looking forward to this mod from the very beginning, considering that I am one of the world’s largest chocoholics.

When I was about twelve my parents decided to sell our house and my uncle came by to help fix everything up before the sale. He noticed a small hole in my wall and went to spackle it, but the hole kept cracking and expanding. He finally realized what the problem was – I had been stuffing chocolate wrappers into the hole and up the wall for years! As the hole grew and the wrappers flooded the floor, my family’s laughter began…and hasn’t stopped since!

So needless to say, I was quite excited for ten lessons of chocolate making, but unfortunately, it turns out I prefer to eat chocolate than to learn about it. I found myself bored as we went through the terms defining chocolate – couverture, or covering chocolate, baking chocolate, compound chocolate. Then we went through the best techniques for chopping chocolate, melting chocolate and tempering chocolate.

After finally getting through all of the terminology related to chocolate we got to work tempering chocolate for the first time. Working with chocolate is so messy that we were actually given plastic aprons to wear over our chef clothes as well as gloves. Good thing too! By the time class was over we were all covered head-to-toe in chocolate! I also realized that tempering chocolate is a huge pain.

Tempering essentially means a change in temperature, so to temper chocolate there are three main ways you can do it (all temperatures written below are for dark chocolate. Subtract 1 degree if using milk chocolate and 1 more if using white chocolate).

  1. Marble Slab – Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave, until it reaches 115 degrees. Then using a marble slab and two spatulas, move the chocolate around on the slab to cool it down until it reaches 88-89 degrees. Then heat the chocolate back up to 90 degrees.
  2. Ice Water – Again, heat the chocolate until it reaches 115 degrees. Then place the chocolate in ice water and keep stirring it. Remove the chocolate from the ice water often and make sure to regularly check the temperature. If using this method, you have to make sure that you constantly stir the chocolate and don’t let it sit in the ice water too long. Also, make sure that you do not allow any of the water to get into your bowl, or the chocolate will seize.
  3. Seeding – Melt some of the chocolate and bring it up to 115 degrees. Then pour this chocolate into room temperature chocolate and hope the whole mixture gets up to the proper temperature. This is by far the least practical method and I would suggest you use one of the other two methods instead.

Once we had our chocolate tempered we were able to do some fun things like make clusters and truffles with it, but anytime you work with chocolate you have to constantly monitor the chocolate’s temperature because if you allow it to get too cool, you need to start the whole tempering process over again.

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