Apparently, WordPress gives you a Gold Star for your 10th post. That suits this post nicely.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a Gougères situation. Gougères are basically cheesey puffs filled with more cheese. Delicious. Anyway, I thought the gougères production was going badly (which is ridiculous and paranoid) so I didn’t go to my friend’s party because I thought they were fucked up. They weren’t, but I figured that out after I decided to wrap myself in a blanket and never leave the house again.
I relayed this story to my shrink, not thinking this was a big deal, just annoying cause my friend boycotted me for a week. She referred to it as an “incident” and asked what I could do in the future to keep myself from getting into such a negative head-space when I make pastries that aren’t up to my standards (perfect in every way).
This is what came to my mind:
I’ve always been a fan of superheroes — my first crush ever was on Batman, because, well, he’s BATMAN. And when you work in kitchens it isn’t a bizarre thing to see someone you work with walking around on his or her break with an apron around their neck all cape-like.
So I says to her I says: I could get a cape.
I COULD GET A CAPE? That’s so stupid. That wasn’t what I meant, I was just trying to visualize myself being totally awesome.
When she gained control over her laughter, she said “I don’t know what that means, but as long as it works for you.”
I could tell she wasn’t ever a comic book girl, so I half-heartedly attempted to reason why wearing a cape could help anything, but to no avail. Oh well. I did, however, think of Stain Boy when I made these chocolates and avoided having my head explode when I remembered that making chocolate is stupid messy if you are me and you only make them sometimes.
And so we come to today’s adventure:
Chocolate is my nemesis.
Or perhaps I am the nemesis of Chocolate. I think it knows that I eat it out of instinct rather than logic.
So while Chocolate and I get along in many areas (my stomach, for one), when it comes to tempering it, I fail. Almost always, multiple times until I eventually get it but by then I hate Chocolate more than most things. When I was in school, in a safe environment with plenty of marbled surfaces and somewhat climate-controlled room, I could do it. I was fast, the chocolate was smooth, had a snap, I was proud.
Then I graduated. And it was as though the chocolate gave me the middle finger and then assed my car, starting this feud. I had to make chocolate occasionally when I was at the bistro. Nightmare. I worked with it at home on the tiniest marble in the world. Disaster. My mother found me in the kitchen, 4am on Christmas day, trying to temper chocolate, JUST BECAUSE. I had nothing specific I wanted to do with it, I just felt compelled and couldn’t sleep until I did it.
Why then, do you wonder, did I decide to make bon bons for Christmas this year? I guess I’m a masochist.
The tempering technique described by Chef Eddy van Damme was recommended to me by a friend of mine who pastry chefs in London. She finished school a year or so ahead of me and had always complained about tempering not being her strong suit, so I decided to trust this guy. His blog is really great, even if he is a handsome celebrity — I rarely trust the good-looking or the famous.
There are different ways of tempering chocolate. Wait, do I need to explain the tempering process?
This is for children. Don’t be offended if this reads like it’s been dumbed-down. I’m not a scientist so I refuse to get all uber technical on my blog. This blog is about me having fun, and science is only fun when unicorns are involved. Also, I should say this is a blatant rip-off of the Callebaut video we were shown in school to explain said chocolate science (C.S.). I was relieved to have already read a book on C.S. and thus didn’t need to pretend to know what those pointy things were doing and why there were so mad.
To explain briefly:
There are 6 types of chocolate crystals, and they form one after the other. The temperatures are when the crystals melt. If you start with a beautifully tempered chocolate bar, you must only melt it to 31 degrees Celsius and go about your business. Why? Because level 5s (which I call Happy Crystals) are the only crystals that can form level 6 crystals (the AMAZING Crystals) which make chocolate durable, smooth, and shiny. If your chocolate is not tempered from the beginning, melt it to 50 degrees to get rid of all those nasty crystals, then cool it to form level 4 and level 5 crystals (29 degrees), then melt it to 32 degrees so all that’s left are the Happys, which, when they set, will become the Amazings.
Tabling – to portion some heated chocolate onto a marble to cool it through agitation, usually to 21-25 degrees then combined with hot chocolate to achieve 32 degrees. Takes time to learn, makes a kind of a mess, but looks super flashy. This is what they make you do in school, so, you know, when you’re working in a Chocolaterie and the power goes out, you can temper the chocolate without a machine. Some shops make people do this all day for flare. It’s like visiting the most fattening zoo ever.
Seeding – Adding tempered chocolate (set) to melted chocolate to lower temperature and encourage Happy crystals. Sucks cause not all the chocolate melts and so you’re left with chunkies floating around, unless you use a giant block, but who can afford that? Not this guy.
Incomplete Melting – As vaguely described above, gotta start out with tempered chocolate though. Good luck finding that in bulk.
Thinning – THIS IS THE ONE. Melt. Cool to 35 degrees through agitation. Add 1% grated cocoa butter. Agitate to 31 degrees. What do ya know? You’ve got tempered chocolate that didn’t make a mess and didn’t cost you your first born. A+.
So with that I proceeded to make a huge mess, because well, I relate to stain boy on many levels. And above is what happens when you cool your apartment to 16 degrees instead of the more appropriate 19 degrees while chocolatering.
Nutmeg Truffles pg. 465 – delicious. Tempering not so necessary as truffles are rolled in cocoa to set, but I do it because it’s good technique.
Lemon Ganache with Popping Candy pg. 455 – silicone moldies. Delicious but had air bubbles.
Maldon Sea Chocolates pg. 467 – Molded centres in demi-spheres then hand-dipped, finishing with fleur-de-sel. To be honest, I’d rather eat some of that awesome Lindt Fleur-de-sel. That stuff is crack.
I will say this – the only molds I have are ones that I picked up from the school for a super deal because they were getting rid of them. They are ugly and look like chestnuts, have stupid flowers on them, or are shaped like maple leaves (which are awesome, but you can’t fill those with, say, Jasmine tea ganache). So I bought new molds. I was totally tricked by clever marketing (and reasonably low prices) into getting silicone. DON’T GET THESE if you want to be a happy confectioner. Popping them out was great, no complaints there, but all the gusto I could muster while tapping those molds to rid them of air bubbles was no match for the floppy tray. This would make more sense if you could get a hard plastic tray to pop these guys into while working with them, then pull them out to empty and wash the silicone.
Here is an establishing shot of finished product. Had to severely alter it (Vintify?) because my camera corrupted the shot that was in focus and had the white balanced. Pictured here are the Browned Butter Marshmallows from BraveTart, and Strawberry Balsamic Rosewater Macarons which just tasted like those pink wafer cookies we all liked when we were kids. I used the Lenôtre recipe, which makes me happy all the time. I put this box together for Secret Santa at work.