Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tempered Chocolate Decorations


A plain cheesecake can be suddenly transformed into a glamorous beauty with just a random spatteringings of melted chocolate.

It's important though to melt chocolate the right way so that the decorations you create are as pretty as possible - even colored, smooth and snappy. In other words, tempered.

Untempered chocolate is not attractive, and may suffer from a number of problems. It may not set up hard (tempered chocolate snaps when you break it),  look dull and blotchy and/or have fat bloom which means the fat in the chocolate will move to the surface and cause whitish streaks and blotches.

And, what's the point of a chocolate decoration if it does this? Chocolate that is front and center needs to be tempered and this can be done without using a tempering machine or thermometers.

Tempering is simply encouraging the cocoa butter to harden into a specific crystalline pattern so that it maintains its sheen and texture. The best way I've found to do this is by adding a small amount of solid tempered chocolate to the melted chocolate. The technical name for this tempering method is called "seeding."

Simply melt chocolate using a microwave (heat in 30-second intervals, stirring after each) or in a double boiler over simmering not boiling water. If you use a double boiler know that it is essential that not a single drop of water get into your melted chocolate. Water ruins melted chocolate by causing it to seize and go grainy.

Once the chocolate is melted, add a small amount of solid chocolate (1/3 of the melted quantity is the general rule) to it and stir until melted. Now your chocolate is tempered and ready to use to decorate desserts.

To decorate the cheesecake, I melted 6 tablespoons of Callebaut dark chocolate chips in the microwave and added 2 tablespoons of "seed" chocolate for tempering.

Here's how:
Get your dessert ready. I put pieces of foil around the cheesecake to catch chocolate spills.

Put 6 tablespoons of dark chocolate in one bowl and 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate in a second bowl.

Heat the 6 tablespoons in a microwave for 30 seconds and stir.

After another 30 seconds of heating, stir again. It obviously needs another 30 seconds of heating.

The chocolate is now completely melted.

Add the 2 tablespoons of chocolate to the melted chocolate.

Keep stirring until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.

It's almost there. I still see a few bits of solid chocolate.

Done. The chocolate is completely smooth and ready to drizzle on the cheesecake.

Quickly move a spoonful of chocolate back and forth over the cheesecake.

Aesthetically I should have been more careful about the big chocolate blobs that fell onto the cake but I don't think the eaters will mind. I've never heard anyone complain about too much chocolate. In the picture you can see that  thin chocolate lines have already set up. The thicker lines will take a bit longer.

Done. Using the "seeding" method to temper the chocolate makes for an even colored, smooth and snappy chocolate decoration.

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