When discussing topic of desserts and pastries, chocolate usually comes up at some point. No dessert menu can be complete without at least one chocolate option. So it’s no wonder that we spent a few classes on this topic. The most basic step to master when it comes to working with chocolate is learning how to temper chocolate. To temper means to get the cocoa butter to solidify in its beta crystal form. Yes, cocoa butter has several crystalline structures that form at different temperatures – six different types, I believe. The beta crystals are the only one that gives chocolate a nice shine and its characteristic “snap”. If you’ve ever had a bar of chocolate melt in the car and then harden up again on its own, chances are that it’s got a grayish surface and a powdery texture. That’s non-beta crystal formation at work there. To get beta crystals, first you heat the chocolate gently over a double boiler until it melts completely. Then cool it down to about 80°F and agitate the chocolate to get seed crystals to start forming. Then, heat it back up to 85°F so you’re left with primarily the beta crystals.
Here’s a neat 10 minute video about chocolate that you might enjoy watching. It was done by the local news station so it’s got an emphasis on San Francisco chocolate scene. Below are the results of our chocolate demonstration by the chef instructor.
The photos in the gallery below were made by me and my partner. We found that the toughest part of working with chocolate was to keep in in temper for extended periods of time so we could actually work with it. I’ve seen chocolate tempering machines and am a bit tempted to have one around. But I don’t think I do chocolate enough for the cost of such a contraption to be justified, not to mention I don’t know where I’d store it. Anyway. We started by making dark chocolate cigarettes, dark chocolate truffles with a caramel coffee ganache filling. We also made our own chocolate curls which turned out nicely. When we tried to make chocolate cups, the chocolate had cooled too much and was out of temper by the time we got to them. And we ran out of class time to re-temper so that was the end of that. Luckily, ganache doesn’t have to be made out of tempered chocolate so that’s a good way to use chocolate scraps.
We spent another class making other confections. Above pictured are caramels, a cassis pate de fruit, and dragees before it receives its final chocolate coating and cocoa powder dusting. Other confections that we could make were macarons, marshmallows, dragees, rochers, nougatine, just to name a few.