Today and tomorrow we will be working in the commercial kitchen, where I have the luxury of all the trays I could possibly want, and the space to put them in. (To give you a rough idea of my working space at home, I have enough room to set one tray down on the dining room table, two trays on top of the china hutch that displays my travel treasures, and then I have to start stacking things. I have enough space for two trays on the kitchen table, so I have to use the top of the stove (which is, thankfully, flat) to do my mixing, weighing, etc. It is Seriously Cramped in my apartment, but I have been getting along nicely thanks to considerable experience with tight places.)
It will be interesting working with two people. I’ve never had a skilled helper before, and my experience with chocolate helpers in the past has been mixed. Chocolate is a tricky business, and it takes practice before you can, say, dip a caramel well and reliably. I forget this sometimes, because I’ve been at it so long. So unless I have relatively simple things to do, I have typically done everything myself. It will be interesting to see whether it does work out better with two people. The good news is that I have seen Michael’s work and it’s pretty good. Also we are working with molds which are easier to make look pretty than dipped chocolates.
It’s funny – other people see me as some kind of major chocolate expert, but I think of myself as having barely scratched the surface of what you can do with chocolate. There’s so much I don’t know! Like using luster dust in molds to give a golden (or other colored) sheen to the chocolates. Using colored cocoa butter. Airbrushing the molds with colored cocoa butter, for heaven’s sake. I look at some professional chocolates and my mind just reels. Norman Love’s in particular. (Admittedly, he is renowned in the field.)
Or thinking about formulations. I should really run a test on the various chocolate recipes from the professional books I just acquired. Vary the amounts of chocolate, cocoa butter, glucose, trimolene to get an idea of how each item affects the lot. Play with recipes until I find the one that tastes best and has the best mouthfeel. And so on. There’s so much to learn, and experiment with, and do!
So it was really interesting working with my inexperienced friend last week, and realizing how much I really do know about chocolate. I understand how to temper it, how to cast molds – which can be a little tricky, how to mix a ganache, how to dip chocolates without having the melted chocolate form a little pool at the bottom of the chocolate (which is pretty tricky and requires practice). I haven’t put in the 10,000 hours it takes to become a true expert, but I’m pretty darn good for an amateur. If I had access to more professional equipment, I’d do pretty well, I think.
At any rate, in a few hours I’ll be packing up everything and taking it down to the kitchen for the “big push”. I’m pretty satisfied with my progress so far. I have finished everything that could be done easily in advance, and it’s just the bonbons left. I have completed:
- candied bergamot peel, dipped in chocolate
- dried apricots dipped in chocolate
- candied ginger dipped in chocolate
- lavender-honey caramels (chocolate covered)
- jasmine-vanilla-orange blossom honey caramels (chocolate covered)
- lavender-lemon-white chocolate fudge
- mocha cinnamon fudge
- coconut tequila lime (coconut margarita) fudge
- coconut almond fudge, dipped in chocolate
- chocolate macadamia nut fudge
- chocolate ginger fudge
- English toffee (printed with “Season’s Greetings”)
- Brandied cherry cordials
- 3/4 of the guava white chocolate bonbons – divine
- 1/2 the fig-Cognac-white chocolate bonbons – ditto
I brought some of these to Thanksgiving dinner last night and got rave reviews, especially for the brandied cherry cordials and the fudge. Everyone agreed that they’d never tasted better fudge.
Still to come:
- Milk chocolate – gianduja (hazelnut)
- Milk chocolate – caramelized sugar
- Goat cheese + honey
- Jasmine tea
- Caramelized banana
- Orange marmalade
- Peanut butter
- Irish coffee (whisky, rolled in espresso powder and coated with crunchy coarse sugar)
- Green tea
And now, off to Peet’s! They should be open by now, and I need some green tea. And some goat cheese from the supermarket. And other ingredients needed for the Grand Push!