Fun with Tempered Chocolate by Anne

chocolate lego Safety advisory: Lego and train not edible.

The post below is a continuation from the post a couple of months ago about the "shiny science of chocolate."  

When dipping truffles, you can easily tell if your chocoloate is in temper or not by how quickly it sets.  In this picture below, the truffle on the left was dipped in chocolate that was simply melted to 108˚ rather than tempered.  It is still wet, even though it was dipped quite a bit earlier than the truffle on the right, which was dipped in (almost!) tempered chocolate.  Notice, however, that there are a few faint streaks in the truffle on the right.  This is because I jumped the gun on the dipping, and the chocolate wasn't completely in temper yet.  Not enough cocoa butter crystals had formed to be completely stable and consistent yet--I believe this is why you can see those very faint swirls.



Thanks to the new and fabuloso tempering machine, the chocolate did reach perfect temper a few minutes later, and I managed to make some streak-free chocolates. 

However!  There are so many other tiny details that affect the outcome of a truffle.  For example, even when in temper, chocolate can vary in viscosity with each 10th of a degree.  This affects how thick of a crunchy coat the truffle will have.  It's something to think about:  Do you want an eggshell-thin coating around your soft ganache, or something more substantial? This subtle variation  is just one factor to consider.  Others include the texture of the surface--smooth, or swirly ridges?  Perfectly smooth looks elegant, although there is no room for error.  If you choose imperfect ridges, you get some textural interest, plus it's a bit more forgiving.   Also, the sheen can be affected by how you dip the truffle.  If you use a dipping tool, you have the option to make your chocolate very shiny because nothing comes into contact with the surface.  However, it takes longer to use a tool than your fingers. If you do use only your hands, then contact with your fingers gives the chocolate a pearly matte glow, which also looks very pretty, and you can dip much more quickly this way. 

Yep, I'm probably going to try the infinite variations.   If I run out of truffles to practice with, I may move on to rubber duckies.

Sweet Emulsion by Anne

No pic tonight.  I almost hit the hay before realizing that I did not yet fulfill my NaBloWriMo responsibilities.  Downstairs there are 200 cute little truffles waiting to be dipped.  Wait, still? Not dipped? Yes. I had some very good "opportunities for learning" today with creating the centers of chocolate truffles.  Things went completely strange -- the ganache turned rock-hard, even though in the past I did the same exact thing with different effects.

I even had to call "The Chocolate Man" (he is real, look him up) to find out if it was the chocolate I was using -- I had bought it in bulk from him.  After conferring with him, I tried a few things to salvage my strange chocolate situation.  As I started to do some chocolate doctoring, I discovered that there are so many mysteries to unravel when working with chocolate.  I had 6 separate bowls of ganache, and each reacted completely differently to my similar actions to each.  For goodness sake, guys, I just want you all to be emulsified.  Is this too much to ask?  I was able to semi-salvage four of the six bowls. 

I have learned enough today to realize that I need to take chocolate classes soon.  It turns out I know nothing about making chocolate truffles, and any successes I've had in the past were sheer luck and good direction-following.  But...I was still following directions today...and different authorities are saying different things (as usual).  So whose directions to follow?  I'm pretty sure I'm rambling tonight.  I want to talk more about chocolate emulsions, and soon. 

However, it's mere minutes until tomorrow, and besides needing to finish this post before tomorrow, I also have a list for the morning that contains 22 items to do, including dipping the chocolates in a machine I haven't even had the opportunity to turn on to see if it even WORKS.  This is a little dramatic.  But if it does not work, I have a backup.  I can still make the truffles the classic French way and roll them in cocoa powder.  I also have a set of truffles that have been made with Grand Marnier, and I'm going to garnish those with a tiny square of candied citrus peel.  Then there's the third variety, which I will be rolling in almond bits.  So, worst case scenario, I'll have naked truffles.  No actual drama.  Just hoping to get to dip the little guys.

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow!  It will be such a thrill to see how the evening--and the food--unfolds.  I'd like to remember this feeling.  Dream-following is heady stuff.

Balls and Machines by Anne

one truffle When is the last time I have waited for something to come to my house with such elated impatience? I'm thinkin' Christmas, the single digit years.  I'm getting a chocolate tempering machine.  Not a big one, but one that will easily help me dip a decent batch of truffles.  I am dying for it to arrive!

I keep picturing the process that's coming up this weekend: The dark and light spirals of chocolate and cream slowly smoothing together.  The yielding softness of buttery ganache as I gently coax truffles into roundess with my palms.  The satisfying plop of a naked truffle dropping into perfectly tempered chocolate, arising from its bath, fully enrobed in darkness and gleaming like a pearl.   Have you felt just-barely-melted chocolate in your hands lately?  It could seriously be a spa treatment.  I would like the chocolate facial, please.  

Last Monday, sitting next to Rosalie at the play-dough table at her preschool, I looked down at what my hands had been doing while I was talking to her.  Scattered on the table were many small, perfectly round spheres, each approximately one inch in diameter.  "Huh," I realized. "I'm making play-dough chocolate truffles again." 

It's time to come to grips with the fact that I subconsciously make truffles all the time.   Looking over the appetizer menu for the upcoming event, I hope I didn't include too many balls.  Will anyone notice all my savories that are actually confections in disguise?

I'm not a sweet tooth, I keep reminding myself.  I'm not a sweet tooth.  But more and more it seems like I've been unfairly ignoring baking and confections.  Many excuses come up whenever I consider practicing pastries. 

First, I don't wanna eat sweets.  I like salad! Cheese! Sushi!  Second, as I'm repeatedly reminded, confections and pastries are full of details and exactitude and chemistry.  I appreciate the details in theory, but sometimes details send me into a claustrophobic wet paper bag that I try to punch my way out of with some act of messy rebellion.   And then there's the whole random thing.  We've been noticing that our daughter is a methodical soul, just like her dad.  Definitely not like her mom. 

I was just remarking to Michael the other night that it almost hurts me to be methodical in my actions.  It's nearly impossible!  I try to do it all the time, but then that brain lightning hits and my feet run me across the room to do something completely unrelated and somehow completely necessary.  "Well, why are you trying to be methodical, anyway?" my wise and logical husband wondered.  Oh, I don't know.  To see if I can?  Isn't it supposed to be efficient or something?  And then there's the truffles!  And the science! And the exact temperatures! 

Where will this tempering machine take me? I can't wait to find out.  Oh, please show up soon!  I'll be waiting here, making play-dough balls.