This last week was all about confectionary: chocolates, candies and sugars. When dealing with the sweetest side of patisserie, one may find herself on an emotional roller coaster; there are ups, downs, some screams and some laughs; some moments of total frustration followed by absolute clarity.
Chocolates and Sugar are complex, fickle, fascinating and kind of a pain in the ass. There were moments this week when I found myself, covered in melted chocolate and lightheaded from the never ending stream of charred sugar vapor, wanting to bang my head against the table because the temperature of my chocolate was off by a single degree. The lows were certainly low.
But at the same time, our chefs gave us an infinite amount of time to practice, tempering over and over again for hours on end. Eventually I was covered in less chocolate and more often than not, I could properly temper it and the smell of burnt sugar was only occasional. All the pain and frustration made the highs that much higher.
While I can say with 100% certainty, I will never be a sugar artist or chocolatier; this week has given me only a hint at how complicated their jobs must be; and I have nothing but further respect for the knowledge and skill that goes into these products.
All great chocolate must be properly tempered. In the picture above, the candy on the left is properly tempered. It is shinny, uniform in color, less likely to melt in your hands and will crack when you break it in half. The candy on the right was not tempered correctly; there are undesirable white swirls of cocoa butter showing on the surface. It’s not shinny and if you were to break it in your hands, the chocolate wouldn’t crack, it would simply bend. It will also take much longer to set, making hand dipped or molded chocolates extremely difficult.
There are a few different ways to temper chocolate, but we spent the week practicing the most difficult, table tempering (pictured above). When table tempering, you must melt the chocolate over a double boiler to about 113-120 degrees F. You then pour about 3/4 of the chocolate on a clean, dry surface; preferably marble but we used stainless steel instead. You spread the chocolate out with a large overset spatula and use a bench scraper to move the chocolate around the table. The goal of this process is to evenly cool down the chocolate to about 79-80 degress F for dark chocolate (milk and white chocolate have alternative tempering times). Once you reach 79 degrees, you scrape the chocolate back into the bowl and return to the double boiler. You only want to heat the chocolate back up to a more workable temperature (maximum 87 degrees F).
Before using your tempered chocolate to create hand dipped creations like the ones above you must test a strip of parchment by dipping it in the chocolate. It should set quickly, be uniform in color and crack once dried. If your chocolate fails, take a deep breath, try not to pull your hair out and start the tempering process over again.
I must have tempered 30 times this week, creating chocolate truffles, chocolate coated praline and chocolate coated pistachio paste.
We also spent time molding chocolates, eventually filling these in with raspberry ganache.
Molded chocolates, truffles and hand dipped.
Fresh made pistachio nougat.
Mandarian marshmallows being evenly cut on a machine called a guitar.
Pate de Fruits, or fruit candies in passion fruit and black currant flavors.
Pate de fruits assortment
Hand made sugar ribbons define the very meaning of patience. This link demonstrates just how to make these things.
Blown sugar swan, created by our chef.