Mmmmm. Chocolates… . How can anyone not like chocolates. It’s pretty sad for those who are allergic to chocolates though… . Mmmmmm. Anyway, I’ve finally finished writing up weeks 2’s post. So feel free to check it out. I’m finally on track now, but it sure is tiring to go about my own things and also find time to write about it. The only thing motivating me to keep writing on is knowing hopefully that one day this will be helpful to others. ^^ Oh well, back to chocolates.
A little chocolate centerpiece
I’ve been pretty mentally exhausted this week and to be honest, my mind draws a blank now even though I have plenty of things to say about chocolates. Maybe I should start writing out drafts so that I can never forget about the points I wish to convey to you all. The first day was pretty much Chocolate 101. You know, blah blah… . Unfortunately, I didn’t know because I was late for class. >< It’s really getting annoying this ridiculous travelling, but mm it is good for character building! Anyway, (my mind keeps running away!) I think chef talked to us about the history of chocolate, couverture and compound chocolates and tempering methods. So, what is so complex about chocolate?
Chef Michael teaching us with much enthusiasm ^^
I’m sure that many of you would’ve known by know that chocolates consist of a lot of chemical components and it is thought to have originated in the Amazon or Orinoco Basin about 4000 years ago. The Aztecs were one of the first to use cacao beans (let’s start referencing ‘cacao’ to beans and ‘cocoa’ to powder/processed form) mainly as a form of currency. Then comes the bitter water with magical health benefits Xocolatl (cho-ko-la-tel) and so on (check out wiki!). Anyway, one of the most difficult process when playing with chocolate is the tempering part. One of the main reason we temper chocolate is so that the best form of crystals (there are 6 different crystals) are present and seen and this will then ensure that we get the best appearance and texture of our chocolates (the shine and the ‘snap’ effect).
There are many ways to temper chocolate, and 2 of the most popular methods are the seeding (vaccination or addition) method and the tabling (manipulation) method. Oh fine… yes you can temper chocolate using the microwave oven too… -_- (you lazy people). Regardless of method used, you basically want to get the chocolate heated up to 45°C (to melt all 6 forms of crystals) then cool it down to 27°C (which allows only 2 kinds of crystals to form) and then heat it back up to 31°C to eliminate the unwanted crystal thus leaving just the wanted crystal type. Once the chocolate is tempered any excessive heating will only destroy the temper and the whole process will have to be repeated! >< So, there you go. A little technical but that’s what you get for asking :p. Oh and to complicate things furthur, different types of chocolates (dark, milk, white) have different tempering temperatures and not 1°C more or less! You have to be very particular about the temperature in order to temper well. Untempered chocolate = sugar and/or fat blooms and they don’t look nice… .
Another chocolate centerpiece
As for me, I prefer the tabling method as it looks cooler and a lot of chefs reckon that it tempers the best. It seems that of the 3 types of chocolate (dark, milk and white), dark chocolate is the easiest to temper whereas white is the hardest (due to the lower tempering temperature). However, I find it easiest to temper white and I somehow keep screwing up my dark chocolate. >< Even though it is my first time tempering chocolate, I still try not to rely too much on the thermometer and rather temper it by feel. All it takes now is just more practice; I’ve already begun to understand and comprehend when exactly the chocolate is reaching certain specific temperatures. As for now, I reckon I’m good with white. ^^
For the first time, we didn’t have anything to bring back home because the first day was mainly about tempering chocolate and preparing ganaches. On the second day however, we get to fill our chocolates into pretty moulds and then fill it with ganaches (mixture of chocolate and cream). Yum. Oh btw, it seems that all 3 groups of classes are meant to do only the coffee and wattleseed ganaches and not the Cointreau ganache however I found the Cointreau in the fridge. ^^ I excitedly asked Chef Michael if I could use it to make Cointreau ganache instead of coffee ganache and he said yes! ^^ Yumm… alchohol… . Typical of me, I went ahead and changed the recipe to include 2.5x more Cointreau. To be honest, I felt that the dark chocolate was too strong and seemed to drown out the flavours of Cointreau too easily. Even after adding more, the orange flavour is still not really obvious. Maybe next time I’ll use milk chocolate instead of dark for the ganache. ^^ Sometimes I wish we could play more with alchohols (and other exotic ingredients) for flavour.
My white chocolates!
The wattleseed was pretty different though as it tasted a little like chocolate, coffee and hazelnut infused together. However Chef Gert reckons it tasted of absolutely nothing. I tried tasting it in its raw form and find it a little bitter and strong. But it does impart a sophisticated taste which in my opinion could be creatively used in many ways. Did you see my white chocolates? To be honest, I didn’t think too highly of them but Chef Geraldine was praising me for it (it being my first time) and even Chef Herve (head pastry chef) told me it was a good job! ^^ Compliments makes me happy. Anyway, I felt that I could’ve done better and I’ve definitely learnt a lot this week regarding chocolates. For one, many people forget to care about the base of the chocolates in the mould. Chef Herve thought me that if your base doesn’t look good, just layer it again. Also don’t forget to clean the moulds with cotton and brush it with chocolate first to prevent air bubbles. Anyhoo, there are many more little tips like that and with that knowledge, I hope I’ll make better looking chocolates next time. ^^
We made florentines on the third day and this lesson was a little perplexing to me. Florentines are basically a delicious mixture of toasted nuts and candied fruit that are coated with a sweet sticky mixture of honey and sugar and baked until golden brown. They are usually coated with a layer of chocolate. Now, my problem is when I see something with plenty of room to improve, my mind starts going haywire. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how the florentines can be improved, it’s annoying me to death. There’s just so much potential with florentines and arghaghrh. Alright, let’s just ignore my creative side (it’s insane) and go back to the florentines.
Yummy Florentines by Chef Gert
During our demo class, Chef Gert told us that he prefers to layer the chocolate unto silicone paper, cut it out with a round mould and then place it unto florentines instead of either dipping one side of the florentines into chocolate or coating the florentines with chocolate. His method definitely looks better and more artisan rather than just dipping them biscuits into chocolate. He also taught us how to make florentine cakes which is basically just florentines baked over blind baked sweet short pastry (same as the tarts in week 2). It tasted ‘cake-ier’ than the florentines and I reckon if I think more about it, I could make it taste better. ^^ Oh and they do taste really delicious and according to Chef Luigi, the Italians prefer their florentines to be lighter in colour whereas the French prefers a more darker caramelised colour. I think I’m going to side with the French this time as the colour is what makes the florentines look appealing.
Hsiu Yen’s and Glady’s florentines
One thing that annoyed me today was the lack of tin foils and I ended up getting the short end of the stick because I was only given 7 foils whereas there were some in my class who had more than 10. Ah well, it’s not something I could complain much about and all I had in the end was just 7 florentines. 6 actually… Chef Luigi took one of my precious florentines to make a sample design. >< Anyway, before my practical class, I’ve made up my mind to do things a little differently. I felt that since I was somewhat comfortable with tampering chocolates, I could try tempering 2 different chocolates (dark and white) while doing my florentines. A little ambitious but my creative mind is driving me nuts and I just had to try something out. Moreover, I wanted to see if I could do it.
See the dark chocolate? That is called fat bloom and it happened because I didn’t pay enough attention to my dark chocolate and it probably got over-heated when I left it over the stove to tend to my florentines. And while my florentines was in the oven, I was already tempering my dark while slowly heating up my white and once my dark was tempered I went to work on my white while still trying to maintain my dark at a constant 31°C (by feel, I used the thermometer at first but ended up getting annoyed by it). All this while trying to make sure that my florentines were baked properly (I was disappointed with the oven, I think too many people were opening and closing it and 2 of my florentines end up having perfect colour, 4 being light in colour and the other 2 underbaked ><, very annoying [I should've turned it around]) and then taking them out. I then piped my white over a silicone paper, covered it with dark and cut out circular shapes to place them over my florentines. So there you have it: a very ambitious work flow for a first timer.
My white chocolate was pretty perfect though (odd as usual). Oh, the design on the silicone paper was a mistake as I found out later that the silicone paper will remove the shine of the chocolate. Maybe I should’ve used gladewrap, or something else? Also, the bubbles were annoying. Actually, I sort of lost hope in my work when I was piping the white hence the messy design as well as the lack of heart. >< It’s still an idea though.
I had to post Ja‘s florentines here so that you can compare the different designs. Doesn’t hers look nice and traditional? I didn’t like how my design turned out but Ja reckons it looked modern (minus the imperfections) and Chef Luigi and Chef Gert kinda liked the idea too. I don’t know… what do you think?