Sunday, May 24, 2009

Life's a box of chocolates

Chocolate pralines & florentines

Lesson X, XI, XII- Chocolates

Everybody loves chocolate in some form or another.

Be it chocolate desserts like the chocolate tart, chocolate ├ęclairs or just plain chocolates- dark, milk, white ( well, I wouldn’t even consider white chocolate as chocolate. I shall leave this discussion for another day), or hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day.

Many consider chocolates as one of their comfort foods. (it does release endorphins which brings people on a “choco-high”)

Many crave for chocolate from time to time. (Maybe more so for my sister, my dad and I)

So this week’s lessons on chocolates make me hang in great anticipation and expectations.

Over the course of the three days at school, I’ve learnt that while chocolates are good to eat (make that GREAT to eat), they aren’t fun to work with. Before you get the wrong idea, I must clarify: Chocolate-making is fun; however, chocolates can be temperamental, real temperamental which makes it hard to handle. Maybe that’s how the term “tempering chocolates” came about.

Tempering chocolate is an essential step which we learnt over the few days. In short, tempering gives chocolates its perfect texture, its sheen and shiny luster. This step is crucial in chocolate making and the reason why you are paying so much for fine chocolates. It is also this very step that gave me my soiled uniform (imagine my bleached-white coat full of brown chocolate stains. Not yummy at all.)

And did I mention that chocolates are temperamental creatures? I think I already did but just to reinforce that point. First thing to remember, water is an enemy of chocolate so avoid water, even the tiniest drop of water, at all cost!

Next thing to remember is to keep to the precision of temperatures of the three step process of making chocolates. First, heating and melting the chocolate (to 45 degrees Celsius for dark), tempering the chocolate (lowering the temperature to 27 degrees Celsius) and then reheating the chocolate (to 32.5 degree Celsius). By the end of this process, your chocolate should set really easily and have a nice and glossy sheen.

If it doesn’t, then good luck to you, you will have to restart the entire process. See what I mean by temperamental.

On Thursday, we prepared the ganache (think dark chocolate infused with cointreau, milk chocolate with coffee, white chocolate with wattleseed, milk chocolate with cinnamon) for our pralines. Lovely stuff. We even ate some of the couverture during class. (but by the second day, we were quite sick of chocolate.)

We also tempered chocolate and put them into moulded structures. The first one I did was “Miss Bunny”. Chef made it sound easy to mould them.. just brush the moulds with the tempered chocolate and then pour the chocolate in the moulds and knock out the excess. Trust me, while it is easy to do that, it isn’t easy to get a perfect one.
As a result of my impatient self, I quickly brushed the moulds (apparently not thorough enough), poured in the chocolate and knock out the excess and ended up with a bunny with slight air bubbles here and there and tiny holes everywhere. Also, there was slight bloom on the bunny, which means I might have heated the chocolate a little too hot. Not good at all.

“Mr Santa” was my second attempt and this time, I kept chanting to myself “be patient, be patient, be patient”. The chanting worked. For I did every step with more care and precaution than I could muster; brushing “Mr Santa” and all the tiny nooks and crannies. “Mr Santa” must be pretty. No air bubbles,” I said to myself as I worked at it gingerly.

And so “Mr Santa” turned out way better.

I might have gotten a little complacent by the second lesson. I thought to myself, “Well, haven’t we already done tempering yesterday? This will be a piece of cake and moulding them, shouldn’t be too hard right.”

Wrong. Tempering was a mess. I shan’t get into the details.
Moulding was a bigger mess. I forgot all about my resolution to be more patient and taking it one step at a time without rushing. It was hard to coat the chocolate evenly with the moulds; it was a tedious process to keep coating and then setting the chocolate. I hate to say this but both my attempts at the chocolate pralines were quite a disaster.

Our last lesson on chocolate was on Florentines. A sweet biscuit made with all the goodies (flaked almonds, orange peels, cut glace cherries, honey and glucose to bind them together). On top of that, it was coated was dark chocolate with a swirl design. I love this biscuit for it has my favourite ingredients in it (almonds and dark chocolate).

My Florentines were a little too browned from over baking but other than that it was quite fine. We also made chocolate cigars- those tube-like chocolate garnishing that you often see on cakes.

The week ended once again almost in a flash, too quickly for my liking.
But if there is just one thing that I have learnt this week is patience and more patience.


  1. Ganbatte Simin!! =D Tempering chocolate is one thing I won't attempt anytime soon.. Haha..

  2. thanks sy! anyway how's yr holiday in Singapore? been out eating?