Monday, 6 April 2009

Oompa, loompa, doopity doo...

This week past was involved with all things chocolate. We kicked off the week with making various "raw materials" for our chocolate fillings such as praline and raw almond paste and taking "making from scratch" to a whole new level! Making the praline was interesting as it involved using a large copper pot (for its soopoib heat conduction properties!) and a good ol' fashioned spoon - hey, maybe cavemen might've made chocolate back in the day?! After a lot of elbow grease stirring in front of a gas stove, the final product was achieved, left to set and then ground into a fine paste in a culinary version of a cement mixer. We did the same with the almond paste and that was the end of Day 1.

Day 2 and Day 3 involved making all the various fillings/ganaches for our chocolates. By the end of these 2 days, I think we had the technique down to a fine art, a delicate balance of not too hot milk and not too hot melted chocolate. Get it wrong and your ganache can split, be a different colour, turn rock solid or even turn dull.....lots of pitfalls when making chocs! :)

By Day 4, our aprons had turned the same colour as the couverture we were using and there was tempering still to go, as well as dipping our chocs - no mean feat as each of us had at least a couple of hundred pieces to dip individually by hand (oompa, loompa.....). I had been dreading tempering all week but in the end, it turned out OK - the basic technique involved melting your couverture, then working it on the worktop until it reached 31 degrees (check by dipping a piece of greaseproof paper in it and leave to set to see if the all-important shine has been achieved before using), then dipping your ganaches but not letting the couverture temperature dropping below 29 degrees. If that happens, then a quick fix is to stick it in an oven for a few seconds to warm it up. If it gets too cold, then its back to heating it up and working it on the worktop again - all in all, a very long and arduous process. We found out from our chef that no chocolatier hand dips their chocolates these days, its all done with hi-tech, ultra-expensive machines - the only way they can recoup their costs is charging us plebs an arm and a leg for our tasty morsels of cocoa!  

I really enjoyed our week of chocolate making - the week seemed a little more chilled despite the intensive workload. I have some work to do on the aesthetics of my chocolates (ie. loose the feet, see pic above) but not too bad for a first attempt :)      

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