Chocolate Works 1: Almond Bark and Raisin Clusters

2006-10-26

Please take your ten fingers home with you.
I didn't expect a full class for this course, as it's on a weeknight and is more expensive than the other Bakery Arts ones. Our instructor works during the day at a commercial bakery supply company and is quite knowledgable about chocolate. He began by going through the equipment we would need for the class and some hygiene tips (no finger licking!). Proper use of a chef's knife is key as we would be doing a lot of chopping and he didn't want any accidents.

We talked about the composition of various chocolates (dark, milk, white) including what cocoa pods, cocoa liquor and cocoa butter are. Our instructor also told us about coating chocolate and compound chocolate. On the chalkboard, he had drawn a simple diagram showing the key temperatures for tempering chocolate. This tempering process is crucial to achieving a smooth exterior surface and snap. Wikipedia has an article explaining the process.

After my partner and I chopped up a 1 kg block of Lindt dark couverture, we melted about ¾ of it over a bain-marie until it reached 50°C. Then, we stirred in the remaining pieces until it cooled to about 28°C. This took almost a half hour. Other groups tried their hand at cooling on the marble slab at the front of the classroom. Armed with a Home Depot paint scraper and offset spatula, they alternately spread and scraped the warm chocolate to cool it faster.

Almond and Raisin ClustersAlmond BarkOnce the chocolate reached that temperature, we warmed it up to 31°C and proceeded to mix in almonds or raisins to make bark and clusters. Our batch was very runny compared to most other teams. A check with Chef's digital probe thermometer showed the right temperature. We theorized that we probably heated it too much when melting it. My thermometer is a simple dial one so it's difficult to get the precise readings we require. I'd love a Thermapen but they're very expensive, so I might settle for a CDN ProAccurate instead.

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