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Cooking with Chocolate

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Chocolate FAQ - FAQ
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Sunday, 14 December 2008 18:57

What is couverture? 
Couverture is a special kind of chocolate that has more cocoa butter than regular chocolate, anywhere from 33% to 38% for a really good brand. This type of chocolate is used as a coating for things like truffles ("couverture" is French for "covering") There are two ways of coating candies, either by hand dipping into melted chocolate or enrobing, gently pouring chocolate over the treat.

What is the best way to melt chocolate? 
Chocolate melts best at temperatures between 104°F and 113°F (40° and 45°C). Never melt chocolate directly over a heat source. Use indirect heat such as a hot water bath so that the chocolate reaches a uniform temperature of 104°F to 113°F. This is the perfect temperature to begin tempering or recrystallization.

What does it mean to temper chocolate? 
Tempering is of paramount importance as it is mainly responsible for determining the final gloss, hardness, and contraction of the chocolate. Tempering consists of heating the chocolate to a specific temperature as a result of which the cocoa butter it contains is brought to the most stable crystalline form resulting in hard, shiny chocolate.

How is chocolate tempered? 
Tabliering (or tempering by hand) Melt the chocolate over a hot water bath until it reaches a temperature between 88°F and 90°F (31° to 34°C). Melt white and milk chocolate to a temperature approximately 2°F less, depending on the amount of milk fat they contain. On a cold table or marble surface: Pour 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto the cold table. Spread out the chocolate mass and work with a spatula until the temperature of the chocolate is approximately 81°F (27°C). Add the tempered chocolate to the non-tempered chocolate and mix thoroughly until the mass in the bowl has a completely uniform. If the temperature is still too high, part of the chocolate should be further worked on the cold table until the correct temperature is reached.

Tempering by seeding? 
Tempering can also be accomplished by adding stable chocolate crystals to the melted chocolate. Some manufacturers make chocolate for the trade in convenient small, round pieces for this process. The pieces are known as calets or pistoles. The quantity of pieces to be added depends on the temperature of the melted chocolate and on the temperature of the pieces. Generally, use the pieces at room temperature.

Tempering by machine? 
The melted chocolate at a temperature of approximately 104°F (40°C) is poured into the machine which then takes care of the rest of the correct tempering process.

How is tempering checked? 
A simple method of checking tempering is by applying a small quantity of chocolate the point of a knife. If the chocolate has been correctly tempered it will harden evenly and show a good gloss within five minutes.


Why does the chocolate sometimes get a white layer on top? 
When a thin layer of fat crystals forms on the surface of the chocolate, it is called fatbloom. It means the chocolate has lost its gloss and a soft white layer appears, giving the finished article an unappetizing look. Fatbloom is caused by the recrystallization of the fats and/or a migration of a filling fat to the chocolate layer. Storage at a constant temperature will delay the appearance of fatbloom.

Why does the chocolate have a rough texture on top? 
When the chocolate is taken out of the refrigerator and condensation collects, a rough irregular texture forms on top of the chocolate. This is called Sugarbloom. The condensation moisture dissolves the sugar in the chocolate. When the water evaporates, the sugar recrystallizes into rough, irregular crystals on the surface. This gives the chocolate an unpleasant look. Sugarbloom can be avoided by preventing temperature shocks. When chocolate comes out of a cold room, it should be stored in a warm area and allowed to come to that temperature before opening the package.

What are the ideal temperatures for working with chocolate? 
The ideal temperature of the workshop should be approximately 68°F (20°C). The temperature of the candies and fillings to be coated should be as close as possible to the temperature of the coating chocolate. If the temperature of the candies or filling varies too much from that of the chocolate, the crystallization of the cocoa butter will be adversely affected. This will result in a product that is dull and is less resistant to heat. The temperature of the molds should be as close as possible to that of the workshop without being less, approximately 68°F (20°C). If necessary, the molds can be warmed slightly. Take care that the temperature of the molds does not exceed that of the tempered chocolate. Using molds that are at the proper temperature will result in the best possible gloss for the finished product. Important note: During use, the tempered chocolate in the bowl may thicken further. This is the result of the rapid growth in the size of the cocoa butter crystals. This thickening of the chocolate can be prevented by adding a small quantity of warm chocolate or by increasing the temperature of the chocolate slightly.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 14 December 2008 19:35 )

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