Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two ganaches are better than one.

I'm studying the formula for butter ganache, a less-popular ganache than the cream variety. I suspect the reason butter ganaches aren't made as often in current American chocolatiering circles is that more care is needed in its preparation. The formula is easy: 2 parts chocolate to 1 part liquefier (butter plus any liquid flavoring). Sweeteners are not considered liquefiers, which is something I need to remember, as it's counterintuitive: For butter ganaches, only liquid sweeteners may be used. I'm tinkering with the idea of using fruit powders along with concentrated fruit purees in my butter ganaches, which leads me to wondering if I should make my own purees or buy them. I'll probably buy them for consistency's sake. I realize this is chocolate-geek noodling at its worst. I'll make the next post a bit more exciting by showing the results of my butter ganache experiments.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Things that make you go "ick"...

There are some things that chocolate should never be paired with, and chief among them is bacon. Bacon is the darling of the foodie world right now. Artisan bacon made from locally raised, free-range, heritage-breed pigs. Bakers have jumped on the bandwagon with bacon-topped maple bars, bacon-bit-dusted cupcakes, and more. Inevitably, the chocolate world followed suit. Ignoring the maxim that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, one world-known chocolate maker has put out a bittersweet-bacon bar, and at least two respectable chocolatiers I know of have developed a recipe for bacon ganache. Bacon ganache. It's enough to make me reach for my smelling salts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

School's in.

I'm learning to temper chocolate all over again, after more than 20 years of streak-free candy making hobbyist bliss. I'll step back a bit: Just after New Year's Day, I decided to sign up for an online course in professional chocolatiering, offered through Ecole Chocolat. At first thought, "online" and "chocolatiering course" do not seem to fit well together. Yet, they do. I've been conducting assigned research, reading lectures, completing exercises, and finding resources (equipment, packaging, ingredients, supplies) that it would have taken me forever to locate on my own. And, I'm getting my hands into chocolate a lot. I first learn to temper chocolate in the 1980s when I worked at The Chocolate Gallery in Santa Barbara. The owners taught me to temper chocolate using the seed method: You melt the chocolate to a certain temperature to destroy all crystal formations. Then you cool it while agitating and slowly introducing solid ("seed") chocolate. This reintroduces a stable, crystalline structure, so once you've shaped the chocolate or draped it over a delicious filling, it will set up firm, shiny, and with a distinctive snap when it's bitten into.

I've known all along that the purist's way of tempering is without using seed chocolate, but simply melting the chocolate, pouring it onto a marble slab to cool, and working it with a spatula until it becomes stable enough to crystallize. That's what I practiced tonight, with various degrees of success. The first time, I managed to overheat the chocolate after the initial cool-down period. That destroyed the stable crystal formations and the result was spotty chocolate with no snap. Boo. But the second time I got it just right. Then, according to the assignment, I was supposed to scrape the correctly tempered chocolate onto a piece of parchment to let it set. But I couldn't help myself -- I had two pounds of perfectly tempered semisweet chocolate sitting in front of me, so I stuffed a dozen or so dates with marzipan, then dipped them  and set them on some parchment to firm up. They were tasty. But the presentation needs work. They look like something a small animal left behind.