December 3rd, 2013

Coco&Me chocolate workshop in Paris!

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Guess what, guess what, guess what!?  

Something really exciting happened & I just have to tell you!

This time last week I was in Paris! No, not as a holiday, but was there to… (ahem!) teach about chocolates…! Yes! It was all expenses paid (Eurostar, over-night hotel stay, plus lesson fee) & so much more…! I know, tell me about it, it’s totally amazing what happened, & I’m totally over-the-moon & thank my lucky stars! ^^

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It was about two months ago I think, I received a message from Mrs C, a long-time blog-reader of mine, that she would like me to do a chocolate workshop for her. It was her 40th birthday this year, & her friends had gotten together to gift her with having a workshop by me! But that she lives in Paris…, so the question arose as to where it’ll be held. Mine? Well…, I have a firm policy not to teach at my family home – which Mrs C totally understood as she herself has a child. In which case, at hers in Paris? Ooooh, Paris? What? Me go to PARIS?! And to top off my already elated ear to ear grin, Mrs C offered to sort out the expenses for the train & the hotel! Oh.My.God!? Seriously!? So at that point I was on the telephone to my Mr D who was at work, asking him for his opinion/ what he thought. Although, to be frank, regardless of Mr D (who did enthusiastically agree also), my mind was already made up on going anyway! I mean, what an opportunity!

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Planning for the workshop was exciting & actually, pretty easy:

  •  I knew I’d definitely be showing how to temper chocolate on a marble slab, plus another tempering method called ‘seeding’ using the microwave. Although I prefer the marble slab method (as you can control the temperature better ~ which is very important when working with chocolate), the seeding method is rather useful when only a small amount is required, for example for piping a little chocolate decoration.
  • And of course the workshop should naturally delve in to how to adapt the tempering technique to actual products. You can use it to enrobe by dipping, & you can use it to mould for hollow & solid shapes.
  • Ganache & it’s wonderful variations must also be included in to the workshop too. Ganache, as most of you will know is double cream & chocolate combined. Simple to say, but the science behind it very complex, & the success lies with how well you emulsify the two entities: cream (fat suspended in liquid) & the chocolate (liquid suspended in fat). – - There’s various ways of flavouring the ganache too. Like brewing tea like Earl Grey with the double cream first to infuse it! Or what about making caramel with water & sugar, then adding that to the cream?  - – You can also control how soft you’d want your ganache by changing the ratio of cream to chocolate!

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So let me tell you about how the first day went.

My day started as I woke up at 5:30am. Outside was pitch black still & I wondered when the last time was that I woke up in the dead of night like this! But the excitement & the anticipation of traveling & giving a lesson blew away any smidgen of sleep in me no problem. Mr D kindly woke up early as well & drove me to a nearby station at 6:40am.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - station platform outside in the dark

(Here comes the train! And no, that’s not me in the picture. I’m not that stocky…!)

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Boarding the 8:30am Eurostar for the 2 hour+ journey, I arrive at Gare du Nord to meet Mrs C. We notice each other straight away (she sent me pictures of herself prior)! We both can not conceal our smiles & grins. Oh how happily bizarre this is! And how great that we managed to pull it off! There’s so much to say, so much to talk about!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - chez casimir in paris gare du nord - Coquilles St.-Jacques

(Coquilles St.-Jacques. Delicious!)

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We talked & walked to the nearby restaurant called Chez Casimir where Mrs C very kindly bought me lunch. Chez Casimir was a quaint & very French place. When we entered just after 12 noon, it was rather empty except for one couple by the window, but by the time our starters came, the place was heaving with locals. Considering it was only a Monday lunchtime, this place was doing very well indeed! (& that is despite it’s rather worn exterior, I might add! Looks can be deceptive… Surely I should know that lesson by now?? LOL)

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Now, let’s skip forwards to later that afternoon for the actual 3 hour lesson/ workshopI explained to Mrs C that we would be working with several recipes in tandem. The reason simply because there is a lot of waiting-time for the ganache to stiffen enough to pipe-able consistency & again more resting time required to then be able to roll them (or cut them) in to shape. - Working with several recipes all at once like this can sound daunting, but I should at this point mention that Mrs C is a very competent baker. And that this workshop is veering toward the advanced level.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(We made all of this in just 3 hours!!!)

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I hand over my hand-written recipe for Earl Grey Ganache Truffles. We infused the double cream with Earl Grey. Then re-heat it to pour it over chocolate to make ganache. I explain amongst other things that we exercise creativity & taste preference by deciding how much cream to chocolate ratio you use to determine softness, & how much dark to milk chocolate ratio you use to determine the sweetness.

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Whilst the Earl Grey ganache is cooling to correct consistency, we move on to make Caramel Ganache Bonbons. For this ganache, we first make caramel with water & sugar. Made with simple ingredients but tricky to successfully stir lump-free if you don’t know how. When medium-light amber in colour, we poured in the double cream that’s been warmed in another pot in tandem. It’s always a bit of a wow moment as the cream ‘fiercely erupts’ to threefold all of a sudden. I hold it as one of the little pleasures in the kitchen. This hot cream then gets sieved over the solid chocolate to form the final ganache.

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At this point in the lesson, I was hoping for the Earl Grey ganache to be pipe-able, but oh dear, it’s too soft still… Gah… Okay-okay, er… so yes…, let’s pipe design on the chocolate mould!

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We melted 50 grams of white chocolate by the seeding method, which is the one of the two tempering technique that I wanted to show. We both took turns to pipe a simple design on the heart shaped chocolate mould I brought with me. – At which moment…, I felt a little proud. The very mould was what I purchased in MORA (a professional cookware shop in Paris) over 7 years ago. Who would have thought that I would be bringing it back to Paris, this time to use it to teach with!? :-)

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Leaving the decorated mould aside to dry, we got back to the Earl Grey, now pipe-able. We practiced piping as systematic as possible, spherical & all of equal size/ weight, because the uniformity of shape effects the final beauty of the product. Where as the caramel ganache, we simply cut in to squares.

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Time for tempering dark chocolate on the marble slab. Thermometer probe on the ready, we start with melted chocolate in the bowl. Pour two thirds or so on the slab & I showed how to use two metal spatulas to slosh the chocolate on the surface. Spread wide, then bring in from the edges to form a mound, & then repeat the process to keep the temperature of the chocolate uniform. (the edges cool faster than the middle.) When it cools to 29 degrees, we then put this chocolate back in to the original bowl to combine with the hotter non-marbled lot to bring the overall temperature up to 31 to 32 degrees. Et voila.

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Or so it should have been… My nerves got the better of me it seems, as the chocolate was not tempered perfectly. It wasn’t bad, still had it’s sheen, & it hardened readily, but not super shiny as I’d hoped to show. ~ What a downer. ~ I’m so sorry Mrs C… But being a saintly angel that she is, she told me not to worry, it wouldn’t have happened if I were using my own equipment & was in my own kitchen. Bless her. Really, thank you for being so forgiving…

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We trudged on regardless, & coated the truffles & the bonbons, which has its plentiful set of techniques to master, & of which I am not going to be writing about here in fear of being long-winded. Oh yeah, before all of that, we poured the tempered chocolate in to the heart shape mould & tipped most of it back in the bowl again to to leave a film of chocolate to form a hollow shape. I explained that if you stick both sides together it becomes a case like an Easter egg.

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Also, did I mention that along side all of above, we made Caramelized Chocolate Almonds? It’s a rather moreish & beautiful snack made by coating the whole almonds in caramel until it’s all sugared up, then coating it with tempered chocolate by constantly turning it in the bowl like a cement mixer! Another fascinatingly different way of coating with the chocolate other than dipping like truffles!

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At that…, we finally finished our lesson. And phew, oh boy, on later thought, now that I write about all that we did, I realize it was rather a lot…!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(By the end the work top was a mess! But Mrs C still smiles!)

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That evening, I was invited back to Mrs C’s & had a lovely supper. Mrs C, her husband E & myself had the most pleasant time, chatting, chatting, chatting! Mostly about food, … of course. Helped by the excellent wine, relaxed & relieved after having had a good workshop, I can tell you that I slept soundly that night in the hotel. And you Mrs C, you must’ve been really knackered too, no?!

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Mrs C, you have been more than accommodating for me. It felt like it was more than ‘just’ a workshop & I can honestly say that this is definitely the highlight of this year by far for me. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Me, bebé & mum Mrs C.)  

cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Ooh, bebé! I Love~!)

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Ps: In the next post, I’ll write about how the following day went in my Paris trip! ‘Til then! Best, Tamami xoxo

May 28th, 2007

How to temper chocolate

Coco&Me picture of a fresh cacao pod - open

(Picture: I purchased two fresh cacao pod several years ago during the National Chocolate Week. The shop assistant told me they are from Cameroon. I bought them for £7 each. Très expensive. But it was an experience to remember for sure! – One was for keeping to dry, & the other for cutting open. The fresh beans were acrid & I didn’t like the taste atall, but the white pulp surrounding them was sweet & exotic like I never ever tasted before.)
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Here comes the big entry.
I am finally tackling this rather lengthy subject of tempering chocolate, after avoiding it for sometime…, shunning it under the carpet of “let’s write about easier things for now”.

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But it’s become inescapable. I’ve already featured two recipes (ganache truffles, easter eggs & white chocolate wedding cake) in my blog requiring tempered chocolate to be used. Gotta press on with it, don’t I?

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And besides, I had this impelling will to write this to give any assistance I can to the people looking for this type of information on the world-wide-web. – Because when I was self-teaching chocolate-making several years ago, I used to surf the web day-on-end to find useful introduction to tempering, but never had any luck! So maybe…, my contibution here would help out someone somewhere who’s in those same shoes I was back then!
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One note to people new to tempering is that this technique is quite advanced. You’d certainly be practising this again & again. But don’t give up, don’t give up. You can use the same chocolate again to re-temper (unless it’s burnt). And cetainly don’t go spending silly money on automatic tempering machines which are notoriously temperamental.

After a dozen or so go’s, it’ll be written in to your body, straightforward like riding a bicycle, & you’ll be laughing about why it was so difficult in the first place.
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WHY :: The reason for tempering

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‘Tempering’ is a word to describe the very particular method of controlling the temperature of your melted chocolate.

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When you melt down chocolate, the chain of cacao butter crystals become intrinsically unstable and loses its neat formation. Controlling the chocolate with certain precise temperature (tempering) stablizes back the crystals that went haywire.

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The chocolate with the temper treatment will have the most beautiful glossy sheen that screams sophistication & a crisp snap when broken.
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Chocolate needs to be tempered if you want to use it as-is, or for moulding (de-moulding would be easier as the chocolate will shrink), for coating your bonbons, & making chocolate decorations.

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If you allow your chocolate to solidify without tempering, or after inadequate tempering, you’d notice that you’d get the most aestheticly awful looking end-product with white streaks called ‘fat bloom’. Not only that, you yourself would be losing your ‘temper’ (excuse the pun! Had to say it didn’t I…) because it takes absolute ages to harden…

‘Fat bloom’ is a term used to describe the marks on your chocolate when the natural fat from the cocoa butter has displaced to the surface. Note it could also appear when you have nuts or nut oil in your bonbon filling. The nut oil will slowly migrate to the surface over time.

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Please note that improper storage with high humidity would also un-temper your chocolate, & unapetizing marks such as ‘fat-bloom’ & ‘sugar bloom’ would appear on the surface.

‘Sugar bloom’ = the splotchy sweat marks after the chocolate had been in contact with moisture. The moisture dissolves the sugar present in your chocolate & when that dries, the dissolved sugar crystallizes leave marks behind. Also worth remembering that sugar bloom may occur when chocolate encounters sudden temperature fluctuations, such as when removed from the cold fridge & then left open in a room. This is because it condensates moisture from the air.

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With WHAT :: The indispensable equipments

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  • Mixing bowls
  • Spatula
  • Digital probe thermometer, to constantly check the temperature of the chocolate. Once you’ve mastered tempering, you’ll ‘just’ know how the temperature of you chocolate is doing, & eventually & quite naturally this equipment will become redundant for you!
  • Marble slab, larger the better. In the kitchen where I did my short apprenticeship, they had a slab that was huge – like around A0 size – it was too heavy for me to carry. The size I use in my kitchen is A3 size, which I think is the minimum size you’re required to have to do tempering on. Anything smaller you’d be encountering lots of over-spilling from the sides. – If you’re finding getting a marble slab a problem (I got mine from the local run-of-the-mill household goods store), I have heard that alternatively, you can try use a very clean & dry stainless steel surface, that is, if you don’t mind the potential scratch marks!
  • Stainless steel scraper & palette knife for pushing, spreading & scraping the chocolate about on the slab. If you’re looking to purchase what the proffesionals use, try Keylink, a good UK supplier I’m constantly using for my chocolate making.
  • Double boiler. To initally melt down your chocolates & then to keep the tempered chocolate at a constant & optimum temperature while you’re doing your chocolate work, such as dipping your truffles. I use a machine called Caloribac (purchased from Keylink). And oh, please don’t waste your time with doing a bain-marie over your hob (although keep in mind that this is purely just ‘my’ opinion!). I’ve tried doing that, & I managed to spill water in to my bowl of chocolate when I clumsily handled the extremely hot bowl with my oven gloves. Doh! And you can forget about putting the bowl back on the hob to keep the tempered chocolate at a constant temperature – It’s really hard to gage precise temperature control over it. You’re likely to lose the temper & have to re-do the whole tempering process again…

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HOW :: The tempering methods

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There are three methods.

The ‘seeding’ method.
The ‘icy water’ method.
The ‘marble slab’ (tablage) method.

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The ‘seeding’ method:

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Note, for this you need a supply of tempered chocolate, as the whole idea of the method is to introduce (‘seed’) stable cacao butter crystals to unstable liquid chocolate.
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1. Put aside 1/3 of the chocolate & melt the rest. Melt until the temeprature of the liquid reaches:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Deposit the 1/3 you kept aside.

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4. Slowly mix it in (so as not to create air bubbles in your mixture). Constantly keep check on how the temperature’s doing. You need the temperature to go down to the following numbers before using it for your chocolate work:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate
26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate
25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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The ‘icy water’ method:

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It’s a good way to temper on a Summer’s day when the kitchen is too warm.

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1. First melt all your chocolates to the following temperatures:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Place this bowl in a larger bowl with cold water & ice. 10 to 20 seconds at a time. It’s a good idea to place a pastry ring or anything similar in the water bowl for the chocolate bowl to rest on so that it doesn’t slip around & risk pouring water in to your chocolate by mistake.

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4. Spatula constantly, especially the sides & the bottom of the bowl where it cools quicker.

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5. Bring the temperature DOWN to the following:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate

26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate

25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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6. Then place your chocolate bowl over another bowl of warm water, approx. at 35 ºC (95 ºF). Do this to bring the temperature UP to the following. Make sure you don’t go over the suggested figures or you’ll lose the temper:

30 – 32 ºC (87 – 89 ºF) for dark chocolate
29 – 31ºC (85 – 88 ºF) for milk & white chocolate.

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The ‘marble slab’ (tablage) method:

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1. First melt all your chocolates to the following temperatures:

55 ºC (130 ºF) for dark chocolate
45 ºC (110 ºF) for milk chocolate
40 ºC (100 ºF) for white chocolate

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2. Take it out of the double boiler in to a mixing bowl.

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3. Pour 2/3 of it on to your marble slab. (Leave the remaining 1/3 in the mixing bowl. – Make sure you spatula down the sides of the bowl, you don’t want to have thin layers of chocolate drying up on the sides of the bowl as you work on your marble)

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4.
Using your palette knife, spread it across your marble.

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5. Use both palette knife & scraper to bring the chocolate in to a mound in the middle again to keep the temperature of the mass uniform.
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6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 (spread & regroup) while constantly checking the temperature. (If you’re fortunate to have a large marble slab, you’ll be tempering much quicker if you try shifting your scraping work from one end of the slab to the other. That way you’d always be using the cool surface that hadn’t been warmed up with chocolate yet!) Make sure you’re not introducing air bubbles to the liquid as you work it.
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7. Bring the temperature down to the following:

27 ºC (81 ºF) for dark chocolate
26 ºC (79 ºF) for milk chocolate
25 ºC (77 ºF) for white chocolate

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8. Pour back this chocolate in to the bowl where you’ve left the other 1/3. (At this point you’ve got to work quickly. The chocolate is rapidly cooling down as we speak!)
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9. Slowly mix the two mixtures with your spatula. Make sure you thoroughly mix.
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10. After mixing, the chocolate should reach the following temperature:

30 – 32 ºC (87 – 89 ºF) for dark chocolate
29 – 31ºC (85 – 88 ºF) for milk & white chocolate
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Top Tips:

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Take time melting your chocolate. There are 6 elements to cacao butter crystals, which has different melt points, & you want to make sure you break it all down. You’ll also get a thinner coating on your bonbons.
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Don’t go over the suggested temperatures when melting. The cassein & the milk protein in the chocolate will burn. And don’t go too low than the suggested temperature when you’re doing your chocolate work either – you’d end up with a layer of coating that’s too thick.
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Never artificially cool the marble slab, as it’ll get too cold. Tempering must be done by gradually cooling.

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Remember, the temperature & the humidity in your kitchen would seriously play a big part. Forget tempering in the Summer unless you’ve got a room cooler.

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I personally find the ‘icy-water’ method risky & fiddly. Not only there’s the danger of getting the water in the chocolate, the temperature of your chocolate becomes very uneven.

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Do use couverture, chocolate with real cacao butter, with atleast 31% of it – do not ‘coating chocolate’.

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It’s fiddly to temper a small amount of chocolate. Atleast half a kilo is required.

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A good way to test wether you’ve tempered correctly is to dip a clean knife in to it & pop it in the fridge for half a minute. If you see a set coat of shiny chocolate, you’ve got it right!

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Well, I hope it’s been of any help… Good luck… As for me, I’m off to bed…

April 8th, 2007

Happy Easter!

Coco&Me Easter Egg

(Left column: smooth, & crocodile pattern egg moulds. Middle column: the lustrously sheen egg halves prior to packaging. Right column: the final packaged product with label & more chocolate goodies inside!)

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For this Easter I have managed to make 18 large eggs, & about a 100 solid chocolate bunnies. These are all two-toned – a swirl in one colour, & then another colour to complete the shape. Inside, I have put in a bag of assorted El Rey couverture chocolate buttons, & a chocolate bunny.

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One day I’d like to write a (lengthy) post about how to make these eggs, as it’s actually not so difficult to make & the satisfaction level goes mile high when the eggs come out of the mould super-shiny, just like how every good quality chocolates should do. You just know that the taste of these chocolate eggs would meets your high anticipation…
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But for now, I’ll just quickly explain the making process:

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How to make Easter Eggs:

    • 1. temper chocolate
    • 2. make a swirly pattern in to your (half) egg moulds
    • 3. temper chocolate which is another colour from your swirl
    • 4. pour it in the mould
    • 5. pour back the chocolate from the egg in to your bowl, so that you are essentially left with a coating/ film of chocolate on the mould surface
    • 6. Wait slightly, & then pour again for another coating so that the egg shell becomes thicker
    • 7. When the preferred thickness of the egg shell is achieved, thoroughly let it solidify
    • 8. De-mould. It should come out easily if your chocolate was tempered correctly!
    • 9. Place a bag of sweets, etc in the egg
    • 10. Prepare a flat tray with tempered chocolate, & dip the edge of one side of the egg. Stick the two egg sides together
    • 11. Let it dry completely & then package!

November 12th, 2006

Chocolat Chaud & the recipe

chocolat_chaud.jpg-

Last Saturday:

Chilly winter weather is here to stay. The morning started off with just 4 degrees. My mother bought black fingerless gloves for me, true market trader stylee, & despite my low reservation with it in the trend-o-meter rating, I must admit it was a welcome piece of garment! Just goes to show, ‘mother knows best’ right? – - – - – The trade went smoothly enough. My truffles went quickly. Huge help came from two girls looking for something to take to a dinner party & bought a huge quantity of the caramel ganache truffles coated in tempered dark chocolate. – - – - – One bit of sad news of the day was that a local couple who had been buying my Tarte Tatin every morning say they are moving from the area, & next week they will buy my Tarte for the last time… – - – - – One bit of bizarre moment was when the girl with a Halloween mask & orange bucket asking around for treats was still loitering the market four hours later & I realized that, hey, that ain’t an innocent Halloween anymore, it’s ‘begging’!
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This week’s entry is about my ideas & plans for the stall that I am always conjuring up, but never have enough time to fully develop:

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There is the Jam making - I have 41 empty jars waiting to be filled… The labels are designed & I have done numerous product tests to perfect the technique. So far I have only made & sold three jars (Strawberry jam with a tablespoon of Kirsch cherry liqueur). But when it comes to actually making more, I have no time to spare & it’s always on the back burner… Or maybe my fire for it has watered down now that I have satisfied ‘the need to know’, like ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt‘.
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I have 2kg of Pecan Nuts that need to be used. My plan was to make Pecan Tart or Tartlette aux noix with it but I haven’t found the time to test bake. I know it’s right for the season we’re in, so I better get going…
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Another plan is to serve Hot Chocolate (in French they say Chocolat Chaud – somehow French language sound so beautiful…). I know some people think it’s a sweet drink for children, but This drink is thick, rich & truly the ‘food of the Gods’ (which is the translation of the Latin name for Cacao).

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When it’s cold like this, hot chocolate is bound to go down well. So what’s stopping me?
1. I need to purchase a drinks dispenser. We’re talking £500.00 just for this.
2. I have no electricity. I need to buy a portable generator – The cheapest I have found is £60.00 on ebay UK – which is probably the wrong model for my type of usage. Apparently they are noisy & I have no idea how to use it. And it’s operated by fuel?? Wouldn’t that be smelly for my chocolates & cakes?
3. I need to source cheap & good looking cups. Would I also need get lids too? Or can I get away with serving the drink without the lid…
I wonder what price people would pay for a cup of takeaway hot chocolate? £1.50? £2.00? I don’t think no more than that. And besides how many cups would I need to sell before I see the returns?
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Since I will never be able to serve this drink on my stall, please make & drink this at home instead!

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Chocolat Chaud Recipe:

I have a fantastic recipe for Hot Chocolate. It is dark, rich & thick, it is like drinking liquid ganache, & is for adult consumption. Ideally be served in a cup, not mug, or a nice porcelain demitasse cup. Rule of thumb is 1:5 ratio of chocolate & milk+cream liquid. You can vary the thickness of your drink by how much double cream you put in it, in substitute of milk.
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(for one cup)

18g Dark fine chocolate (button form or chopped from a block for quicker melt)

72g Whole (full fat) milk

18g Double cream
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1. Simmer milk & cream in a pot.

2. Pour (1) over the chocolate in a bowl.

3. Whisk & melt the chocolate.

4. Return the mixture to the pot & heat.

5. Whisk until preferred consistency.
6. Strain the liquid (with a tea strainer) in to a pre-warmed cup.

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You can infuse the milk (step 1) with spice such as: cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg, vanilla pod, cloves, chilli… Or what about a dash of Triple sec (means ‘Triple distilled’ orange liqueur) like Cointreau? Experiment & create the original cuppa.

… For super indulgence, if you have raspberries, you can place a couple in the drink to fall to the bottom of the cup for a nice surprise at the end!

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October 29th, 2006

Chocolates&Me (ganache truffles recipe)

chocolate jars

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First, a quick report on last Saturday’s trade:
Broadway Market being outdoor, weather plays an inevitable part in the sales & general foot count. Rain is my enemy & whenever I checked the weather forecast during the week, it had the ‘double raindrop with dark clouds’ symbol for Saturday. So not expecting great number of customers to show up, I made considerably less…

On Saturday morning, it was raining & was piercingly cold when I was loading the car. It was to be expected but the thought of bad prospects of sales gave me a mild depression anyhow… But by the time we were in the market unloading, the rain had stopped & soon as my table was set up, three large fruit tarts got sold to one couple organising a big celebration. That’s my stall rent sorted easy! And no more large fruit tarts to flog. That set my happy mode for the day, & I managed to sell all my stuff except for five truffles which I gave away to my stall neighbour.

- In the end, it didn’t rain again until four o’clock! Damn you, weather forecast…! I could have made more & sold more…
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Anyway, for this entry I ought to start writing about my favourite subject; my absolute devotion to chocolate, that is to fine & honest chocolate, not to the usual suspects lining up the shelves in corner shops.

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Chocolate is my first love before pastry, & the initial intentions of the Coco&Me stall was to sell just chocolates.

The stall name itself is a play with the word ‘cocoa’, & was the idea that came out with my good friend Ari. It makes me smile when I look back at the list of candidate names we came up with at the time; there was choko, choco, choco&co, cocoa&jo… Coco&co was the major candidate, but the name was already taken by a business some where obscure in England. Hence, a slight variation of it ‘Coco&Me’ was born. We thought ‘Me’ sounded more personal & friendlier anyway.
Now I’m just glad the name is something that doesn’t especially tie me down to solely selling chocolate, because as for the Summer I am a 100% cakes stall (I can not sell chocolates in the Summer because they melt from 19 degrees temperature, & it is virtually impossible to try to temper it in a hot kitchen!).
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In very very basic terms there are two types of chocolates in this world:

  • Cheapo chocolates using vegetable fat (a substitute to cocoa butter to reduce costs) & poor percentage of cocoa solid content. It uses artificial flavourings & preservatives to make up for poor quality starting ingredients. It might use a chemical substitute called Vanillin instead of Vanilla, which has a cheap ‘candy’ like metallic after taste.
  • Fine chocolates using cocoa butter (the cacao bean’s natural fat) & high quality natural ingredients. Good chocolate should only contain cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar & sometimes real vanilla & soya lecithin as an emulsifier.

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On my stall I have four big jars of fine chocolate buttons. I sell them by weight from 50 grams upwards. I scoop them out on demand in to a transparent satchel bag & tie it with colourful Mulberry paper string.

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Currently the jars contains the following:

  • White: El Rey ICOA. The only white made with undeodorized cacao butter (deodorization is a chemical process that strips flavour). It is buttery smooth, & it isn’t cloyingly sweet like any other whites around either (others use more sugar) I truly think it is the best white the industry offers (although based on looks only, I like the Green&Blacks’ white bar with vanilla seeds – black specks on densely cream coloured chocolate looks rather lush). The ICOA is the best seller out of the four, & is very popular with the parents with small children. (By the way did you know that white chocolate is actually not really classified as ‘chocolate’? It is because it contains only cocoa butter & no cocoa solids!)
  • Milk: El Rey Caoba 41%. It is one of the darkest milks around (the usual milk chocolate has around 35% cocoa content).
  • Dark: Organic Noir Selection Belcolade 53%. It has a perfect balance between bitterness & sweetness. It is important to have ‘organic’ on my stall. It attracts so much more interests!
  • Dark: El Rey Gran Saman 70%. For the true chocoholics. Deep & intense chocolate with slight berry flavour.

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You’ve probably noticed that I am El Rey-ed out in my selection. It’s plainly because my main chocolate supplier doesn’t sell any other brands that are just as worthy, & I don’t want to buy different brands from different suppliers as it’ll incur additional shipping costs for them. Besides, aesthetically I like it that all the buttons are the same size! It looks good when customers want a mixed bag.
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On the subject of selection, I must let you know of the existence of a treasure cove for chocolate lovers called In’t Veld Schokoladen. It stocks chocolate bars from most of the best fine chocolate brands! Probably the best chocolate shop in Germany in terms of the huge selection on offer. That said, my less-chocolate-aware partner had a ‘bitter’ experience in their cafe when he asked the man about the wonderful hot chocolate they served… D asked them “what do you put in your hot chocolate? Is it cocoa powder and milk…” when the cafe man snapped on my poor guy & scoffed at the mere thought of using anything other than real chocolate! Maybe he was having a bad hair day… But what is all this snobbery surrounding fine chocolates about hey?!
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If the subject of fine chocolate interests you, there are some specialized websites like seventypercent.com, where I swotted up & gained knowledge on the last two years. Through what they had organized during the National Chocolate Week, I have been to talks & seminars & even a factory tour at L’artisan du Chocolat, which was insightful as to how ‘fine chocolate’ can be made at a huge production like theirs. I also bought two fresh cocoa pods from their shop in Sloane Square for £7 each. One for consumption (the white pulp was sweet, the beans were acrid) & one for drying whole (which I have as a display on my stall).
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Working with chocolate is initially all about trials & tribulations. Tempering (a specific method of melting the chocolate so that the end result is shiny with a crisp snap) really is tricky to master. It’s another whole new chapter if I was to write about it, so maybe that’s for future posting.
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But instead, maybe I can share a recipe for a basic ganache (‘ganache‘ is a french term referring to the blended mixture of chocolate & cream) & how to make rolled truffles which does not require you to temper if you coat it with cocoa powder. Also from this I can briefly discuss how to easily make varieties of flavoured truffles with it. Please click HERE to view the recipe on another page.
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I know, it was a long entry again… But… but, I really can go on forever about chocolates…! Thank you for reading til the end. Please leave a comment if you’d like to, & I’ll be hoping that you’d come back for my next installment next week!

t xx