Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nibby mint meltaways

The final piece for my last course assignment had to either be a cream-free truffle or a meltaway. I love meltaways and had never made them, so settled on those. The formula for a meltaway is 2 parts chocolate and one part coconut oil, plus an oil-based flavoring if desired.
Inclusions generally aren't used in meltaways, as they can distract from the silky-smooth melty sensation. But I decided to use cocoa nibs in a mint meltaway base. I enrobed them in a dark milk chocolate and topped them with some cocoa nibs I made myself by chopping up some whole cocoa beans with my trusty chef knife. I had some prepackaged Scharffen Berger nibs, but they had gotten heated up in shipping and the cocoa butter had risen out, settled on the surface and then hardened up again, giving the nibs with an unsightly bloom. These cocoa beans, which are raw and dried rather than roasted, have a deep cocoa flavor with a bright, acidic overtone. Plus, they're gorgeous and without bloom. They cracked apart easily with hardly any pressure from the knife.

I started my meltaway batch by chopping 12 ounces of milk chocolate. Then I measured out 4 ounces of coconut oil and melted it. Next I melted the chocolate to 120 degrees F, let the coconut oil cool to 120 degrees, combined them and added an eighth of a teaspoon of mint oil. Then I added the prepackaged nibs (I did it old-school, judging by sight and feel the correct ratio of nibs to meltaway base). I mixed it all thoroughly, then turned it out onto my slab. Chocolate mixed with coconut oil is extremely fluid. I could barely keep this batch from running off the slab, and I had to table it very quickly and deftly to temper the mass so it would set up properly. Once I got the mass in temper, I scraped it off the slab and into a bowl, then poured it into a frame set up on a silicone mat on my other slab. I cleaned everything up and started another batch of passionfruit caramels, and after an hour had gone by I checked the meltaway to see if it was setting. No dice. After another hour had passed without sign of much crystallization, I picked up the whole setup, slab frame and all, and took it downstairs. Our basement is wine-cellar cool -- an ideal spot for candy setting and storage. Soon the batch had set up nice and firm. It was easy to cut, and then I got to practice my dipping technique. I feel much more comfortable now with my pieces. I'm able to set them onto parchment, move them slightly forward to prevent a foot from forming, then swipe the fork out without leaving behind the dreaded vampire-fang points of chocolate to mar the smooth base. I needed to pause every few pieces to drop a few nibs onto each before the chocolate set up. The big bonus for today is that there was very little humidity, which meant my chocolate was very easy to work with, not sludgy at all. It's been a wonderful chocolatiering weekend.

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