Practical #9 – Chocolate & Confections

This was our last practical, and I think that it’s a good measure of the progress that we’ve made in the program that it was the most relaxed. When I think back to our first practical, and all the apprehension and stress, it’s almost incomprehensible. Our products didn’t always turn out perfectly by the end of the program, of course, but we were comfortable in the kitchen and had better understandings of how to prevent and fix problems. There isn’t much to say about this practical, and I didn’t take any pictures. Everyone finished on time, and the products looked good overall. We had to make 36 hand-enrobed dark chocolate truffles, 24 fondant cream centers, and 8 oz of dragee almonds. Two of the products required tempered chocolate.

During the block, we usually made our ganaches the day before we would use them, and then let them sit in the chocolate room overnight for them to set up. Since we only had 3 hours for the practical, we just had to chill them immediately instead until they had set up and we could pipe them out into little balls that we would roll into spheres and pre-coat and then coat in chocolate. My mistake for these was to try to pipe them out of a bag with a metal tip. It wouldn’t come out because it was so thick and I suppose the tip was so rigid. I finally transferred it to a new bag without a tip, and it piped out. The chill had had a weird impact on the ganache, though, because it was hard to roll them into balls; they melted or stayed firm unevenly so that they were a little oddly shaped and my gloved hands were covered in melty ganache.

For the fondant creams (which are like the inside of Peppermint Patties — we just didn’t have to enrobe them), we heated purchased fondant to 170, added liqueur, and piped them out into little circles. The challenge here is to get it just the right consistency so that they spread and set up without retaining a pointy top from the piping bag or oozing uncontrollably — so the final mixture should be neither too thick nor too thin. When we’d made them in class, our group’s fondant had been too thin after we added the liqueur, and it took forever for us to fix it. So, I underestimated the amount of liqueur in the fondant, and even though the first few piped out fine, it started to firm up and retain pointy tops from the bag. I just re-did them later, and I got the consistency right that time. I was told that they had a grainy texture, though, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was heated too high, even though my thermometer readings didn’t indicate that. And it was very hot when we piped it, so we used a double parchment paper cone made from the two triangles cut from a whole sheet of parchment and wore latex gloves.

The dragee almonds were made by caramelizing sugar onto almonds in a saucepan (which also toasts the nuts), chilling them, stirring them with three coats of a little bit of tempered chocolate at a time, and then a final dusting of chocolate. The keys are just to make sure that the nuts toast fully in the beginning, and to make sure that the chocolate is fully mixed in until it looks powder-y for every coat, or else they’ll clump together.

So, that was pretty much it. We cleaned up the chocolate room, and then I went off to the St. Helena’s Farmer’s Market for lunch… a cheesy/spicy breakfast burrito, watermelon lemonade, and figs. Actually, I took a picture of that…


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