Sunday, 24 January 2010

I wanna be a chocolate god post 11: just the chocolate, ma'am.

Well, it had to come to this eventually. I'm making my own chocolate bars. Or rather chocolate stars.

It's not hard, but it does take a little practice. You need to get a good feel for how the chocolate changes consistency as it tempers, and you need to be able to work pretty fast. Also, each chocolate will have it's own idiosyncracies, so you may need to adjust the tempering temperatures by a degree or two. Also, all chocolates taste different, so you have to play around with various chocolate: cocoa butter: sugar ratios until you find the one you like and that works with the particular chocolate that you use. But the basic idea is that you temper chocolate, and then pour it quick quick into a mould (I use silicon muffin cases). Tempering chocolate gives it that snap and sheen (untempered chocolate is fudgy, tempered chocolate snaps). For the dark chocolate I use, I heat all the cocoa butter+ half the cocoa liquor + all the sugar in a double boiler up to 115F, then remove it from the heat and stir in the remaining cocoa liquor in an double cooler (what I've decided to call it when you fill the bottom pot with cold water instead of simmering water) while stirring like mad. Then when the molten chocolate reaches 83F, pop it back on the double boiler for a few seconds (until it reaches 85F) and then add whatever flavours you want and pour it into moulds. A much better explanation of tempering chocolate is here. I mostly just practiced until I got it right.

Key 1: the chocolate should never, ever come into contact with water. Like with gremlins, water = disaster.

Key 2: this takes practice. Luckily, few people complain about having to eat slightly mistempered chocolate. And you can always turn botched batches into cakes or brownies. Many of my friends have said that they are willing to "eat as much chocolate as it takes" for me to get to the point where I can make the perfect chocolate bar. I have such selfless friends.

Key 3: you cannot make good chocolate out of cheap or bad chocolate. You need good ingredients or you might as well just melt a bunch of chocolate chips and pour them into moulds. Meh. If you do that, please don't tell me about it. It will hurt my soul.

I use raw cocoa liquor and cocoa butter that I order from here. I like the way raw chocolate tastes, and also like that I can order the cocoa liquor and butter separately, which lets me actually mix the chocolate to the taste and consistency I want, instead of just tempering pre-mixed, pre-sweetened chocolate.

My proportions:

80g cocoa liquor, chopped very finely
20g cocoa butter, chopped very finely
20g sugar, ground up a bit in a mortar and pestle

Though I usually make about 600g total at a time. Sometimes it's nice to use vanilla sugar, sometimes not. This makes a fairly dark and bitter chocolate that can go with salty things just as easily as it can with sweet, which I prefer. For something smoother, use 60g cocoa liquor 40g cocoa butter, and 30g sugar. For kid-friendly batches, I use equal amounts chocolate liquor, and cocoa butter, and I blend a few sundried bananas into the cocoa butter (about half as much banana as cocoa butter), then use about 50 g of sugar for every 100g of the cocoa liquor/cocoa butter/banana mix, depending on the sweetness of the bananas and the sweet tooth of the child. I like to use granulated sugar, just slightly crushed so that the resulting chocolate has a bit of a grainy texture from the sugar. I also like that the sweetness is slightly uneven. If you want perfectly smooth chocolate, use icing sugar (reduce the amount slightly).

In the chocolates above, the ones with roses are marbled with sesame fun. Sesame fun is 1 cup of toasted and then ground sesame seeds, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbs sugar and a good pinch of salt all mixed together and then 1/2 cup of melted cocoa butter added to it. If you a) use ready made tahini or b) skip the cocoa butter, it will be too runny to set. This is more like semi-ground sesame crumble held together with cocoa butter. It should not be spreadable, runny or oily like store bought tahini. Also, these are not filled chocolates (making filled chocolates does not amuse me, so I refuse to do it). It's a marbled chocolate, but with tahini marble instead of white chocolate marble. To be honest, I really don't like white chocolate much. I make it for other people from time to time, but that's about it. Ahem. So... to make the tahini chocolates, get a batch of dark chocolate ready to go, and have your tahini filling ready. Pour a layer of dark chocolate into the mould, then add a dollop of the tahini marble and marble it through the dark chocolate with a chopstick. Pour a layer of dark chocolate on top, and drop a dried rose onto it. You have to work pretty fast, so make sure that everything is laid out beforehand. Well tempered chocolate should set almost instantaneously. In fact, a good way to check if your chocolate is tempered is to drop a wee bit of it onto a dry plate. It should harden to a nice glossy chocolate "button" in a few seconds. If it doesn't, chances are that you haven't tempered the chocolate properly.

I also made a batch of olive oil chocolates sprinkled with vanilla salt. Other combos I've made: thyme and toasted pine nuts, ancho chili and vanilla and pumpkin seed, vanilla and salt, garam masala, rose, gold, frankensence, myrrh (can you tell what I did for christmas?), roasted cumin, black pepper and mace and nutmeg, ginger.... and of course just plain (which truth be told, is my favorite). And some others that I don't remember just right now. I've also made a few different vegan white chocolates, since people seem to like white chocolate.

For white chocolate:

80g cocoa butter
30-50g vanilla icing sugar (depending on how sweet you like your white chocolate)
40g powdered coconut milk

Melt the cocoa butter over very low heat. Stir in the other ingredients. Pour into moulds. I like to add 1/2 tsp cardamom to white chocolate. You can also add 1 tbs matcha powder and have green tea chocolate, which is lovely. In that case, omit the cardamom, and add a few drops of almond essence. Depending on the brand of coconut milk powder you use, your white chocolate may or may not taste like coconut. I use coconut milk because the consistency of white chocolate made with powdered soy milk (at least anything I've found in the UK) can only be described as "gross". So there. I've said it. White chocolate made with powdered soy milk is yuck, and I refuse to participate in it. For white chocolate with cool texture (I think of this as "adult" white chocolate), you can blend a mix of almonds and cashews, about 50g, to a powder (NOT a butter), and then blend them into the melted cocoa butter. This is especially nice with the green tea flavour. I've also done this with saffron, which was bloody amazing. You have to extract the saffron in warm cocoa butter beforehand, like pot, only legaler. It makes orange chocolate. Yay!

Finally, don't use slave chocolate. People shouldn't suffer for your sweet tooth, and chocolate is a luxury good, so please don't whine about having to *gasp* actually pay someone for the hard work they do to grow, pick, and process it. There is nothing romantic about using slave labour to make goodies for your sweetheart.