My Week At Chocolate Boot Camp — Days 2 and 3

Day 2 of Choco­late Boot Camp start­ed out pret­ty much where day 1 left off, tem­per­ing dark choco­late. (Here’s Part 1 of this series.) On the table in the morn­ing, using the seed method in the after­noon. I fig­ured out what I did wrong with my seed method batch on Mon­day, I mis­read the scale, so I had way too lit­tle seed choco­late. This batch was very nice­ly tem­pered and earns a pos­i­tive com­ment from Chef Russ.

There are 8 stu­dents in the course (I’m the one with the least chef train­ing, which does­n’t sur­prise me) and 15 recipes in the text mate­r­i­al, so most of us had to scale out 2 recipes Tues­day morn­ing. I did a choco­late mint ganache (which will go in some green shells that we col­or lat­er in the day, see below) and the ingre­di­ents for choco­late marsh­mal­low. It take a long time to pick the stems off of 14 grams of mint leaves. I’ve made marsh­mal­low a num­ber of times, so I was look­ing for­ward to see­ing Chef Russ’s tech­nique. My table part­ner scales the ingre­di­ents for a vanil­la ganache and a sin­gle-source Brazil­ian choco­late ganache. The oth­er tables scale the ingre­di­ents for earl grey tea ganache, palet d’or, crispy bar, lemon ganache, cof­fee ganache, berry bar, trop­i­cal bar, coconut truf­fle, cognac truf­fle, caramelized almond rocher and pas­sion fruit lol­lipops. We’re going to be mak­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent choco­late candies!

Chef says that we’re done prac­tic­ing, every­thing we’re doing from this point on is for real. (We’ve already made a few things that we’ll use lat­er on.)

While we’re busy tem­per­ing choco­late, Chef Russ is busy cast­ing items for the buf­fet table: skulls, pump­kin shaped can­dy dish­es and a creepy hand, and we’re encour­aged to watch as we have time. He also shows us how to make choco­late sheets thick enough for cut­ting out for a dis­play piece, and we helped cut out wings for some bats. He cast the bod­ies using a large egg mold, with a small­er egg mold for the ears. They’ll be spray paint­ed black after they’re assembled.

Chef shows us how to pipe and dec­o­rate choco­late lollipops:

Chocolate Lollipops

Mine aren’t near­ly as cir­cu­lar, I dec­o­rate mine with freeze-dried straw­ber­ries that are coat­ed in col­ored white chocolate.

We’re always learn­ing some­thing. As choco­late cools, the crys­tal­liz­ing choco­late releas­es heat. (This is called the ‘latent heat of crys­tal­liza­tion’ or ‘enthalpy of fusion’ in physics class.) This com­pli­cates cast­ing large pieces, because as the out­side cools and crys­tal­lizes, it heats up the inte­ri­or, pos­si­bly to the point where the inner choco­late los­es tem­per because it melts the beta 5 crys­tals. That’s why real­ly thick choco­late pieces may have semi-soft choco­late in the center.

To get around this, the choco­late mold goes in the freez­er for a while, to help it cool faster. But not too long, we don’t want it to get so cold that it gets damp or sweats when it comes out of the freez­er, as water and choco­late do not mix. Chef Russ says, “We don’t want to turn it into a can of Coke.”

We’re mak­ing some dis­play pieces too, spi­ders. We cre­ate two spheres (one 50mm and one 40mm in diam­e­ter) and join them togeth­er to form the body. Then we pipe sev­er­al sets of legs that we’ll attach lat­er. On Wednes­day, we take a brush and paint the out­side of the spi­der body with warm choco­late, to make it look hairy. I’m not the only stu­dent who drops my spi­der body on the floor. For­tu­nate­ly, I made sev­er­al of them.

Wednes­day we start mak­ing ganach­es. Most ganache recipes have you heat the cream to boil­ing, but that’s not how Chef does it. He heats the cream to about 70 ©, warm enough to melt the choco­late and bring it up to a good work­ing tem­per­a­ture. I lost my table part­ner today, he had to leave because of a fam­i­ly emergency.

We’re mak­ing sev­er­al infused ganach­es, one with earl grey tea and one with cof­fee. We’re also mak­ing a vanil­la ganache, the vanil­la beans went in the cream when it was mea­sured out on Tues­day. The Choco­late Acad­e­my staff will dry out and grind up the ‘used’ vanil­la bean pods to pro­duce a vanil­la pow­der that shows up in at least one recipe.

Wednes­day we’re allowed to use either the table method or the seed­ing method to tem­per our choco­late, I choose the seed­ing method because I’ve already got one chef’s jack­et with huge choco­late patch­es on it, and I’m try­ing to keep my oth­er one as clean as I can. In the morn­ing I do dark choco­late, in the after­noon I get to work with milk choco­late, which is has a slight­ly low­er work­ing temperature.

Some of the ganach­es go in a frame for cut­ting with a wicked look­ing device called a con­fec­tionery gui­tar. Think cheese slicer, but with around 20 wires in parallel. 


Oth­ers go in the pip­ing bag, and we are busy fill­ing choco­late shells with var­i­ous types of choco­late, includ­ing choco­late shells that you can buy pre-made:

piping into pre-made shells

We pipe the ganache for truf­fles for lat­er shap­ing into balls:

Pre-shaping Truffles

Wednes­day after­noon we work with col­ored cocoa but­ter, so ahead of lunch they wrap one of the work tables with plas­tic wrap to keep it clean. Col­ored cocoa but­ter is neat stuff, but expen­sive, 8 ounces is $20. It comes in sev­er­al dozen col­ors. You have to tem­per it just like you do choco­late, but the way we do it is sim­ple, you heat the cocoa but­ter up to the point where it starts to melt in the bot­tle (about 35 degrees) then shake it so that the cool­er cocoa but­ter in the cen­ter seeds the warmer melt­ed cocoa but­ter on the out­side, pro­duc­ing a tem­pered cocoa but­ter. You can tem­per and re-tem­per choco­late and cocoa but­ter many times, so when we’re done we just save what we can of the col­ored cocoa but­ter and put the rest away.

We use a wire bris­tle brush dipped in col­ored cocoa but­ter to dot sev­er­al sets of molds with speck­les of col­or. We also use our fin­ger, dipped in green cocoa but­ter, to pro­duce a swirl on the inside of some hemi­spher­i­cal molds. After that cools, we’ll cov­er the green with white cocoa but­ter (col­ored white, ‘raw’ cocoa but­ter is more of a cream col­or.) This pro­duces beau­ti­ful chocolates:

green swirls on chocolate shells

Chef sug­gest we take an hour as a sup­per break and then work until 10, for­tu­nate­ly he’s kid­ding. But there’s a lot to do on Thurs­day, and that’ll be Part 3 of this series.

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Published:October 15, 2016

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