All recipes and instructions below from Valerie's cookbook, Sweet—a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist (Artisan Books, Copyright © 2013), which is available on
Amazon.comand at bookstores nationwide.
Melting chocolate is a very simple process as long as you monitor the temperature and watch the chocolate closely. There are three methods of melting chocolate: in the top of a double boiler, in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, or in a microwave. Here are a few basic rules to follow regardless of which method you choose.
- Finely chop the chocolate for quick and even melting.
- Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowls; avoid porous materials like plastic, which can harbor residual odors and flavors.
- Melt chocolate delicately; if using a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, keep the heat low and stir the chocolate as it melts. If using a microwave, heat the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 10-to-15 second intervals, stirring after each interval to prevent the chocolate from overheating.
- Do not let the chocolate come into contact with water; it will cause it to seize, rendering it unusable. Likewise, never melt chocolate over boiling water; that will produce high amounts of steam and likely introduce moisture into the chocolate. Also, make sure that your equipment is completely dry.
- Monitor the temperature with a digital or instant-read thermometer when you are melting chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate should not be heated to over 120° F; dark milk, milk, and white chocolate should not be heated to over 112° F.
- Keep an eye on the chocolate to make sure it doesn't overheat. Scorched chocolate will become grainy and coarse and there is no way to repair chocolate in this state.
Tempering chocolate is the process of breaking down chocolate's elements so it can be used in a different form. For instance, if you have a perfect, shiny block of chocolate and you want to transform it into chocolate bark, you'll need to melt the chocolate and then resolidify it in a different shape. In order to perform this magic, first you melt 75% of the chocolate and heat it to a specific temperature. Then the remaining 25%, the "seed" chocolate, is added to the molten chocolate, which cools down the larger mass while stabilizing the whole structure. When the chocolate reaches the specified temperature, it is successfully tempered.
The elements that separate in the melting process are cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and sugar. If those components are left to cool and solidify on their own, the result will be a white-streaked, dull, chalky mass. Careful monitoring of temperature and continuous movement of the chocolate are necessary for successful tempering. When you temper chocolate, the room temperature should be between 60° and 68°F. If your kitchen is more than a couple of degrees outside of the range, postpone your chocolate work for another day: If the room is too cold, the tempered chocolate will set thick very quickly, possibly too rapidly for you to use it. If the room is too hot, the chocolate will bloom or not set. Pour any leftover chocolate onto parchment. After it solidifies, break it into pieces and store in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container for future use.
Tempered Bittersweet Chocolate
(Makes 1 pound)
12 ounces 61% to 75% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces 61% to 75% bittersweet chocolate chips or feves or solid bar chocolate if you prefer Recipe:
- Melt the finely chopped chocolate according to the instructions above and then continue heating it until the chocolate reaches 120° F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Add the seed chocolate a few pieces at a time, stirring the chocolate constantly with a small silicone spatula. Be sure each addition melts completely before you add more. The chocolate will be in temper when it reaches 88° to 90°F; check the temperature frequently. To test for temper, dip a small offset spatula in the chocolate and put the spatula on your work surface. If the chocolate sets within 2 to 3 minutes and looks shiny and smooth, it is in temper. If the chocolate looks streaky or spotted or doesn't set, it is not in temper. Continue stirring and then test the chocolate again. Sometimes the components need a little extra agitation before they can unify.
- Once the chocolate is tempered, work efficiently; the temper will hold for about 20 minutes.
- For 1½ pounds tempered chocolate, use 18 bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, and 6 bittersweet chocolate chips or feves.
- For 2 pounds tempered chocolate, use 1½ pounds bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, and 8 bittersweet chocolate chips or feves.
Chocolate Bar Construction
Using a medium-sized ladle, pour tempered chocolate into your mold, filling it halfway. Holding the mold with one hand on each side, horizontally, agitate the mold on a solid surface to remove any trapped air. At this point you can create a variety of flavors; the following are a few suggestions: ¼ teaspoon of ground spices OR ½ teaspoon of Fleur de Sel OR ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper & ¼ teaspoon of grey sea salt OR ½ teaspoon of ground green tea and a few dried roses Recipe:
- Sprinkle ingredient(s) into the bar, evenly covering the chocolate surface.
- Using the ladle, just cover the added ingredient with tempered chocolate.
- Agitate the mold again to remove any residual air pockets.
- Swipe an offset spatula over the chocolate bars to ensure an even surface.
- Place the mold in a refrigerator for approximately 15 minutes, allowing the chocolate to solidify and release from the mold.
- Invert the mold to release the chocolate bars and package for gifts or personal indulgence.
For more information on Valerie Gordon and Valerie Confections, go to www.valerieconfections.com.
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