This was the last block of our 30-week program (though it was followed by a week to let us prepare for our graduation ceremony). I liked it a lot — our eight teams made such a wide assortment of candies that it was like we were our own candy shop. I was the type of kid who ate gummy bears for dinner when left to my own devices, but I’ve since reformed to the point where I think making candy is more fun than eating it. In addition to what’s below, the class also made leaf croquant (caramel and ground nuts folded together like puff pastry), butterscotch lollipops, salt water taffy, peanut brittle, gianduja, pate de fruit, gummy bears and worms, circus peanuts, marshmallows, and more. A lot of what we did revolved around precise temperature readings, whether it was boiling sugar to a certain stage or tempering chocolate… though, of course, you should also try a water test for boiled sugar, and with chocolate, you also have to keep the consistency in mind; if it’s too thick, even in tempering range, it should be heated until a little thinner.
I liked the way that the chocolate was handled in this block. In the past, for tempering, we’ve had to melt either pistoles or hand-chopped chocolate over a double boiler to 120F, take it off, let it cool a little, add a block seed and stir it around, test it once it gets down to about 90, remove the remains of the seed onto a piece of parchment to dry so that it could be wrapped up, and then get to work with the tempered chocolate, flashing it over the double boiler as needed to reheat it and drying the bottom of the wet bowl with our side towels.
Instead, this time we had access to a few handy things to make our lives easier, and we used a different seeding method. We had a warming cabinet that contained deep pans of melted dark, milk, and white chocolate. As long as the melted chocolate was at about 115, you could ladle some into a bowl and add your seed. Instead of a block of chocolate, we added enough pistoles to equal about a 1/4 of the volume of the melted chocolate. The pistoles cooled the chocolate faster than a block seed, and as long as you have little pieces of them left at 93F, they help temper the chocolate. If the pistoles are melted by 91F and the tests show tempered chocolate, then you’re golden and ready to work (if there are bits left, you have to strain them out, though, so it this method takes a little practice). Instead of dealing with a double boiler that contains seize-threatening water, we used heat guns (normally used to strip paint) to reheat the chocolate to keep it in temper. And the real beauty of this method is that once you’re done with you’re chocolate, you can just pour it back into the pans in the warming cabinet and use it again next time. There were no messy block seeds lying around that people unfailingly resisted using anyway. And having the chocolate already melted saved so much time. Efficiency and cleanliness… awesome. And I think that a lot of got over fears of tempering chocolate b/c we did it so often and it worked so well.
Pistoles, btw, are button-sized pieces of chocolates sold by manufacturers, and we tested the temper of the chocolate by coating a piece of parchment paper with the melted chocolate and seeing if it set up without any streaks in a few minutes. For our purposes, streaks usually meant that the choc was too hot, and in a few minutes, you could test again. I loved using my laser thermometer for this block, by the way.
Another thing that made our lives easier was a chocolate tempering machine… for obvious reasons. It still needs to be maintained, though, and have its temperature adjusted and a seed added. We also didn’t use it all the time.
We also had access to a guitar that could cut ganaches and gelees into perfectly even shapes. Here’s an example of one.
Chocolate Dolphins made from a mold. Tempered chocolate was poured in, the mold was tapped, the chocolate allowed to set and contract, and popped out.
Mendiants. These involved piping a round of chocolate and waiting until they had just set a little before putting the nuts and dried fruit on top.
We also made Grand Marnier Truffles from a 2p dark chocolate (1#) to 1p cream (8 oz) ratio (plus 1 oz each glucose, butter, and liqueur). They were hand-rolled, and hand-coated in dark chocolate, with either a plain, cocoa powder, or spiked finish.
A sliceable Butter Ganache was sliced on the guitar and enrobed.
Chocolate Covered Raspberry Caramels and Toffee. These were early in the week. In addition to bouncing the bonbon over the melted chocolate to get excess off, we also used a hand-fashioned contraption that had two poles keeping a wire taut, and you could scrape the bottom of the chocolate on it to prevent chocolate “feet” from forming.
The toffee was make by constantly stirring sugar, cream, glucose, and a vanilla bean until the temperature reached 293. We poured it between four bars on a silpat, waited for it to cool a little, marked it, and cut it. I learned that by boiling the cream with the other ingredients, you’re not caramelizing the sugar, but instead, its the milk solids that brown and provide the caramel flavor and color. This has a greater depth of flavor than caramelized sugar. You stir it so that the cream doesn’t scorch, and there’s so much fat and invert sugar that it won’t crystallize.
The caramels were made with raspberry puree.
Cardamom Bonbons. We peeled the cardamom pods to get at the seeds that we used to infuse our cream. We placed squares of textured acetate on top of some for the textured look, Maldon sea salt on others, and made little plaques from chocolate spread on transfer sheets with cocoa butter design on others.
We also made Shell Molded Chocolates. You have to polish the molds with cheesecloth to ensure a shiny finish, brush molds with chocolate (optional, but prevents air bubbles), fill molds with chocolate, tap on table top to remove air bubbles (you can check to see if you got them if the mold is clear), empty upside down, let set a little, scrape clean, and let set completely. Then ganache is piped in (and can be allowed to crystallize overnight), and then cover with chocolate to form the bottoms, and unmold when set.
We also made a Peanut Butter and Pecan Fudge. We waited for it to cool to about 120 (I think), and the tabled it on marble until it thickened and dulled so that it took 12 seconds for it to stop spreading out when left to itself. Also, I added the peanut butter while it was cooking, but I think it would have been best to add it before it was cooled because the PB turned into a clumped in the middle of the saucepan. I was able to remove the slightly burnt pieces, though, and the fudge turned out remarkably smooth.
Nougat Montelimar. I think it turned out like the real thing. Very good. Made with sugar, honey (a lot), water, glucose, egg whites, cocoa butter, vanilla, and almonds.
We also made Lemon Fondant Creams using fondant, lemon oil, and limoncello. The fondant was heated to 170 and flavorings were added to adjust the consistency so that they piped out into smooth discs. They were then enrobed. They were similar to peppermint patties.
Dragee Almonds. These are made by caramelizing sugar onto nuts in a saute pan, letting them cool, and then coating them with multiple layers of chocolate as you mix them in a bowl; they look powder-y when done, and then you sprinkle cocoa powder over them. They’re really good — crunchy, nutty, chocolate-y, caramel-y — and they smell great when you’re cooking them.
We also made Marzipan for Portugal bonbons (flavored with Port). Sugar, water, and vanilla been were heated to 248, and poured over ground almonds and cinnamon. After it cooled, we ground it up in a food processor, adding Port to adjust the consistency. They were cut into moon shapes with a round cookie cutter and enrobed. They were really good.
We also made Apricot Gelee Squares with Agar, which were like a less chewy pate de fruit.
Hard Candy. This was made using a pulled sugar-like technique, and flavored with cinnamon oil. They were cut with scissors while still warm.
Chocolate Box. Made by pouring chocolate into molds for the top and bottom, and rolling out chocolate modeling paste for the sides, which was fit against the outside of a cake ring until set up a bit. Most people chose to decorate their box.
We also made Chocolate Sculptures with pieces made in a cutaway gelatin mold; molded spheres with colored cocoa butter, white chocolate, and a dark chocolate; sprayed chocolate; and chocolate cut outs.