Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Give The Gift Of Chocolate This Valentine’s Day


This Valentines day why not give your sweetheart something more than a box of chocolates. Why not surprise that special someone with the ultimate gift of handmade chocolates.  We have put together some tips below to make your experience of working with chocolate a little more sweet. Read over these tips and then try our recipe for Ganache.



Basic Chocolate Rules

Water: Chocolate and Water don’t mix! Chocolate is oil based and the oil and water mixing will cause your chocolate to seize, making your truffles not turn out right. Don’t forget to dry all your tools (hands included), molds, dishes before working with the chocolate.

Stirring: In some cases, like truffles, too much air in the mixture is a bad thing. Be mindful of the desired density of your creation and stir accordingly. Gentle folds or stirs while you’re melting chocolate for a truffle ganache is always best. While whisking the ganache for a filling, you may want a lighter texture so whisk/stir more vigorously.

Cooling: If you’re in a rush and want your chocolate to cool faster, you can pop it into the refrigerator to speed up the cooling. However, if you get impatient and throw it in the fridge AFTER you’re chocolate has begun to set; your chocolate is more likely to come out appearing cloudy or matted and not shiny.

Cleanup: Don’t feel like dipping everything in sight with that left over chocolate? Pour it onto wax/parchment paper or a silicone mat and let it harden back into one big bar (or make smaller puddles of chocolate for easier melting next time).

If you were using the melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle, pastry bag, or tube, remove as much chocolate as you can, then place the tools into the freezer. Allow the chocolate to harden and squeeze the tube/bag/tube, causing the chocolate to break away and be ready to melt again later.

Storage: Chocolate is willing to absorb odors and is moisture sensitive. Keep it stored in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in the fridge.



Final Note: Chocolate can be a fickle mistress so don’t be afraid to keep working with it and experimenting. See more tips on working with chocolate in our article on Dipping Chocolate.

Working with Chocolate: Dipping Chocolate

Temperature: Tempering chocolate means that you’ve allowed it to reach a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled it down to about 93 degrees F. This gives the chocolate an even, glossy finish. An easy way to do this is to melt 2/3 of the chocolate and heat to 110 degrees; then add the remaining 1/3 and reheat to 93 degrees.

Keeping chocolate at a consistent temperature is also important to producing a smooth, consistent look. A double boiler is good for melting but often imparts too much heat while you’re working. Using a larger bowl lined with a heating pad that you can nestle your bowl of chocolate into can be a great solution. If you prefer to work with strictly kitchen tools, a griddle can be useful or

microwaving the chocolate occasionally to keep it up to temperature will also work.

Melting: For small amounts of chocolate: if you’re unsure about working with a double boiler because of the water/steam, microwave your chocolate in 30 second intervals. After each 30 seconds in the microwave, remove the bowl and stir to distribute the heat, help it melt evenly, and avoid scorching.

For larger amounts of chocolate (greater than 1 lb): it’s best to use a double boiler. Fill a medium/small metal pot about half way with water. Use metal mixing bowl to cover the pot will allow you to mix and melt in the bowl in larger quantities. Do be mindful of steam condensation on the edge of the bowl (see above water caution).

Leftover Dipping Chocolate: If you have leftover chocolate from your truffle recipe, grab some pretzels, nuts, or dried fruits hanging around in your kitchen and dip them too! Be creative and drizzle some over popcorn or make a trail mix that’s drizzled with chocolate.