Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Messy Work

CHOCOLATE!!! I hate it, but I love it! I don't particularly like working with it because it is soo messy. It's incriminating! It leaves a trail, it shows up, it's hard to clean. But of course, I love the way it tastes :)

After an hour long demo this morning by Chef C, half of us got to work on our chocolate pieces. We had been shown how to make each of the pieces and were given templates and a picture to follow. So, no creativity for this project really, but I didn't mind.

As with all of our kitchen work, I had to get my mise-en-place ready before starting on the chocolate. I had to cut out the templates, gather all the materials, equipment and ingredients. I had to temper dark and white chocolate using the tabling method.

Tempering is a process of heating and cooling chocolate to certain temperatures to get the crystals in the chocolate to agitate and set up. Correct tempering results in chocolate that sets, has shine, and snaps. It is a pain! The tabling method means that half of the warmed chocolate is spread on a marble slab, cooled, and then added to cool the warmed chocolate. It is messy, messy, messy! I spent about 20 minutes stirring and stirring the chocolate, agitating the crystals and waiting for my bit of "tester" chocolate on a spatula to set up. Finally! It set!

I had to make three elements of the piece using dark chocolate, so I did those first since I had the dark chocolate in temper. Here is an example of one. These are going to be standing up. The "breakout lines" will help in removing the finished pieces under the blue templates.
I also had to make a base piece, and two halves of a dome which will be glued together later. The chocolate was spread onto sheets of acetate. The acetate will give the chocolate a very nice shine when it is removed. We had fixed the acetate sheets onto plexiglass boards and used small guides to make the chocolate spread easily. The chocolate will sit on these boards until tomorrow when we remove them. The longer they sit here, the more stable they will be!

Next, I faced the challenge of tempering the white chocolate. I had 20 minutes until the lunch break and thought I could pull it off. I need the white chocolate for another base piece and to make ribbons. Well, it was finally just getting into temper right at lunch time! Fortunately, Chef C said we could work through lunch if we wanted to. I decided that it would be more advantageous for me to just keep working since the tempering process is so difficult! I used some cocoa butter-based coloring to paint some colors on the acetate paper, then spread the white chocolate over it. When it set, I put the template on top and made the cuts.

Lastly, I had to make ribbons. Argh! These were particularly difficult because I had to make them striped, using the white and dark chocolates. It was hard because I had to make sure that both chocolates stayed in temper. I cut six pieces of acetate paper for the loops and two more for the ends of the ribbon. First, the white chocolate was spread and then combed to create the stripes. Once that set up a bit, I put the dark chocolate over it and then shaped them into the loops and curly ends.

I managed to finish everything with 15 minutes to spare for lunch (some bread and peanut butter since I missed the open kitchens). After lunch, Chef C gave us a demo on modeling chocolate. I've never seen or heard of this before! It's melted chocolate (any kind) combined with corn syrup. The corn syrup makes the chocolate sieze up and it becomes a dough that you can roll out, shape, and sculpt! So cool! It can also be colored. Tomorrow, I will be making my own batch and then creating some roses and leaves. She will also show us how to assemble our chocolate showpiece. Exciting!

I'm glad that I have all the "hard" stuff done early for this project. Even though I feel that it is not my best work ever, it will have to do because we only have so long to work on it.

And here is my unassembled pastiallage box. Of course, I couldn't resist dying the pastillage my favorite color :)

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