Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Chocolate Chronicles

Finally, the chocolate module...

One of the modules I was looking forward to the most, when I was looking into taking the course...

One of the modules I thought I might possibly excel at, even though I have apparently never properly done chocolate molding before...

I have been terribly disappointed. Chocolate and I have now reached a new level in our love-hate relationship...

On day one, we spent the morning in theory. We watched some videos about where chocolate comes from, how it's made, what the differences are between white, milk, and dark chocolates, the basics of tempering, etc. And we got some handouts to read. We spent the afternoon watching the teacher do demonstrations of two different tempering techniques, show us how to fill molds, how to roll chocolate "cigarettes," etc. It was a lot of information to take in, and I was thoroughly overwhelmed and most definitely terrified.

The next day we jumped right into it. Not literally, of course, although you might have wondered after seeing some of our aprons at the end of the day. :) There are limited resources, and it's a very short module, so we had to be split up into "teams" which rotated in order to allow everyone equal opportunities to use all the resources available.

Tempering chocolate is a process where you bring the chocolate to a high temperature, and then quickly lower the temperature (temperatures specific to the type of chocolate being used). When done right, this makes the chocolate glossy and crackly (it snaps when you break it) and doesn't stick to the molds! The two methods we've been taught for tempering chocolate are 1) tabling, called marbling in French because traditionally a marble slab is used, and 2) "vaccination" (I can't find an English term for this process). Tabling is where, once your chocolate reaches the high temperature, you use a marble (or other solid, cool, smooth, etc.) work surface to cool down approximately two thirds of the melted chocolate, which you then add back into the rest of the chocolate, and it should then be tempered. Vaccination is where, once your chocolate reaches the high temperature, you add in solid chocolate (one third of the weight of your melted chocolate - we use small wafers/chips - and stir vigorously until the solid chocolate is melted. Both methods have their pros and cons, and I haven't personally had much success with either method, but by the end of the module I was finding the tabling method to be marginally easier. You can also temper using the microwave, but you have to be careful to not overheat or burn the chocolate - especially white chocolate, which is very sensitive.

Thursday (April 3) was a particularly rough day. My lab partner was MIA, and we had started a ton of stuff the day before which I needed to finish. I found out it was our turn to work on the marble top in the afternoon, which I was then dreading all day, because until that point I had had zero luck at it. And my group had decided to work with milk chocolate that day, instead of dark chocolate. But do you think we could get that chocolate to temper? The morning went something like this:

8:30am - Everything was properly measured out for the vaccination process, the chocolate was brought up to the appropriate temperature, the warming machine was set to the right temperature, we followed procedure precisely to vaccinate. Result: too hot = not tempered.

9:15am - Second try, new approach. Instead of 1/3 of the weight of the melted chocolate, we set aside 40%. Proceeded as before, reaching proper temperatures, following procedure. Result: too hot = not tempered. Got a bowl of ice to set the chocolate into to try cooling it down. Failed.

9:40am - Teacher intervened, removed a portion of chocolate from the machine, stirred over ice, got talking to another student and didn't pay attention, over chilled the chocolate in the bowl. Added some back into the machine. Result: borderline tempered. I'm not going to lie to you guys, tears were shed that morning.

After that things went fairly well, I finished a few individual chocolates and molded a couple Easter bunnies. Much sooner than I wished, it was afternoon, time to work the marble. But, wonder of all wonders, it worked the first try! I managed to get my chocolate perfectly tempered, and maintain the right temperature. So even though the day had a rough beginning, I managed to get lots of stuff done, and I finally succeeded at tabling! Yay!

The exam (April 15) went well. Because there is a lot to do, limited resources, and only one Michel (thank goodness!), the class was split in two to do the exam. So half did it on Monday and half on Tuesday. Everything went fairly smoothly, all things considered. I was the last one to finish, and I had a really hard time to get my chocolate to temper on the marble. The marble was too warm, the school was hot that day, I was getting frustrated... but eventually it worked, I presented everything and had near perfect results. I won't say it was perfect because obviously there's always room for improvement, and the teachers aren't technically supposed to give us an actual grade, they can only tell us pass or fail, but... it was a very positive response. I was pleased, but exhausted. On the day that we weren't doing the exam, we made Turtles, nougat, and fruit chews.

Below are pictures I took throughout the chocolate module. I thought I had taken more, but sadly this is all I find. Enjoy!

First molded chocolate forms!

Rocher praliné (sort of a Ferrerro Rocher)

Maple filled
Chocolate bunnies

More chocolate bunnies

Mouse! Made by Kelly & Anne-Marie
Orange truffles
Palais au café (coffee-flavoured ganache dipped in chocolate)
Creepy Claudette the Chicken
Easter bunnies for my cousin's little girls

Palais or (chocolate ganache dipped in chocolate, with gold dust on top)
Not a great photo, but these are regular truffles
I put together my own little boxes of assorted chocolates to sell

Assorted chocolates packages up for sale
Colouring a mold (the brown splotches are on the outside)

Finished chocolate bunnies for my nephews

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