If you are looking for a way to make an incredibly delicious, customized gift for a loved one, you might be tempted to head to the store to pick up a few chocolate-making supplies. However, becoming an impromptu chocolatier might be more difficult than you think. Here are two ways to avoid chocolate drama, so that you can make candy fit for mama:
1: Temper, Temper, Temper
Have you ever wondered why the gourmet chocolate you buy at the store looks glossy and smooth, while the stuff you make at home looks clumpy and cloudy? Although you might chalk it up to professional chefs and expensive equipment, the real secret to perfect chocolate lies in the tempering.
Chocolate is made up of cocoa particles, cocoa butter, sugar, and lecithin. The solids inside of chocolate are dispersed inside of a liquid emulsion when chocolate is melted, which set up inside a crystalline structure when chocolate is cooled. These structures, called polymorphs, range from form I to form VI, with form V producing ideal chocolate. The way chocolate is handled as it is formed changes these crystals, which is why tempering is so important. While form I yields chocolate that is crumbly and cloudy, form V crystals create chocolate with these properties:
- Shiny, Smooth Chocolate: Chocolate with a high number of form V crystals will be smooth and shiny, allowing you to create beautiful candies.
- Chocolate With A Snap: Since form V crystals are also more stable, chocolate with these structures will also set up harder, producing a desirable snap.
- Melts Less Easily: Chocolate with form V crystals also has a higher melting point—around 92-95° Fahrenheit as opposed to 61-67° Fahrenheit for form I crystals.
To properly temper chocolate, you will need a high-end candy thermometer capable of detecting subtle temperature changes. After gently melting your chocolate, spread about three quarters of it onto a cooled marble slab. Using a bench scraper, work the chocolate until it reads a temperature of 82° Fahrenheit. Next, put the slightly cooled chocolate back to your main mixing bowl, and gently heat it again. Tempering is complete when dark chocolate reaches 88-90° Fahrenheit and milk chocolate reaches 86-88° Fahrenheit.
2: Keep Water Out Of Your Chocolate Bowl
Melting and cooling chocolate properly isn't the only thing you need to worry about. If water makes it into that bowl, you might be left with a batch of unsightly, curdled chocolate. Since melted chocolate is virtually free of water and contains dispersed fats, adding as little as 3 or 4% water is enough to completely seize your entire bowl of chocolate. To put those numbers into perspective, if you melted a pound of chocolate, an addition of a Tablespoon, or half an ounce of water, would be enough to ruin your melted chocolate. When water is added, it clings to the sugar particles and forms clumps—since the water mixture and the surrounding oils or fats won't mix.
Fortunately, you don't have to let your chocolate get ruined by a little water. Here are a few tips to keep your melted chocolate smooth and perfect:
- Watch the Water Vapor: If you are melting chocolate in a double boiler, keep an eye on that steam. If water accumulates on your fume hood and drips into that bowl, you could end up with problems.
- Be Careful with Extracts and Dyes: Before you add dyes or extracts to color or flavor your chocolate, take the time to read the ingredients. Never use water-based products, since these can clump your chocolate. Instead, look for additives made for candy making, which are typically oil-based.
By knowing a few tricks of the trade, you might be able to make chocolates that you can be proud of. For more information or advice, contact a business such as Abdallah Candies And Gifts.