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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Culinary School - Session 61: Introduction to Chocolate and Tempering Chocolate

Culinary School: Session 61 (01.12.15)

Introduction to Chocolate and Tempering Chocolate

Chocolatum Academicus...

Yes, the Latin is fake, but the very real truth is that Chocolate can be a rather academic topic. Who knew something so delicious could be so technical?

Working with chocolate is so much more than dipping strawberries. In fact, were Willy Wonka a real chocolatier (and who's saying he's not) , he'd likely be an eccentric MIT professor with a sweet tooth.

Chocolate doesn't grow on trees... wait, yes it does!

That shelf of Hershey's Bars at your local supermarket checkout is the last stop on an extremely long journey. No, chocolate doesn't come from rural Pennsylvania. Not even close.

Chocolate is grown within +/- 10 degree of the equator: a region referred to as the "Cocoa Belt". With a consistently hot and humid climate, it's perfect for growing cacao trees.  

Globally, there are three types of cacao trees.

  • Forastero: Accounting for 80-90% of global production, Forastero trees grow primarily in West Africa, Brazil and Ecuador. These trees are hardy and disease resistant. However, the flavor of Forastero chocolate is somewhat acidic and lacks depth.
  • Criollo: At just 1-5% of global production, this is the premium cacao tree. Grown in Venezuela, Colombia and parts of the Caribbean, chocolate from this tree has a mild yet complex flavor and is prized by chocolate manufacturers.
  • Trinitario: This varietal is a hybrid of the Forester and Criollo trees.

Turning cocoa pods into a bar of chocolate is long and complicated process. And disappointingly, there aren't many Oompa Loompas involved.

Cocoa Pods

Fully matured pods must be harvested by hand from the cacao trees (each tree may yield upwards of 40 football sized pods, and each pod contains 30 - 50 seeds). The pods are left to ferment for up to three weeks, a process that softens the acrid flavors of unrefined cocoa. 
The seeds inside the pods are removed and dried. The drying process concentrates flavor. By reducing moisture content, the drying process also decreases the risk of spoilage from mold.

Cocoa Seeds inside Cocoa Pods

Seeds are then roasted. Each chocolate manufacturers will have its own roasting process, typically at 250 - 320 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours.  Roasted seeds are cracked to extract the cocoa nib.

Nibs are ground into cocoa liquor, a paste of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Cocoa butter can be extracted from the liquor, leaving only the cocoa solids, which are processed into cocoa powder.

To improve the texture of the cocoa liquor, the paste can be further refined through conching. Heavy rollers press and grind the liquor, smoothing any remaining grit.

In the end, the cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar, emulsifiers and aromatics are combined to create different types of chocolate. 

Viva variety!

In the United States, dark chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa liquor while semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate must contain 50% or more. While the ratio of cocoa butter to cocoa solids is not specified, it's clear that the higher the percentage of total cocoa liquor, the greater the amount of cocoa solids... and therefore, the deeper the flavor.

As dark as it comes, Unsweetened Chocolate, also called "100% cacao" or "pate a cacao" is nothing but bitter to most palates. One small taste is all that's needed to see clearly exactly how much the cocoa flavor benefits from sugar, milk and aromatics.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

99% Pure Chocolate

Milk Chocolate

Enthusiasts may view it as an inferior product, but it's hard to deny the popularity of Milk Chocolate. In the U.S., Milk Chocolate must contain 10% Cocoa Liquor and 12% Milk Solids. That's a pretty low bar compared to the European standard, which requires 30% Cocoa Liquor and 18% Milk Solids. Perhaps the European Chocolate superiority complex is warranted.

White Chocolate

I refuse to accept White "Chocolate" as actual chocolate. Lacking any of that rich, cocoa flavor, this is a "Chocolate-derived Confection", at best. Yes, White Chocolate contains Cocoa Butter, one of the component parts of Cocoa Liquor - but so do some facial creams. Nevertheless, White Chocolate can be tempered, molded, turned into a ganache or poured as a glaze... just like real chocolate. It's only because of these shared characteristics that I even bother to list it here.

Gianduja Chocolate

Gianduja is another special case. It is a mixture of chocolate and hazelnut paste (approximately 1/3 by weight). The combination creates is a sweet, nutty product that could easily be described as solid Nutella.

- Ingredients Running Tally -

As this entire unit is dedicated to chocolate, it seems only right to finally add it to the tally. 

And then there's poor flour. Sorry, my friend, but I fear your numbers may stagnate for a while. With all of that bread and all of those cakes, you certainly had a good run. Enjoy your down time. 

Ingredients used to date (01.12.15):
  • Flour: 23,760g
  • Eggs: 13,950g (279x)
  • Sugar: 16,635g
  • Butter: 14,780g
  • Milk/Cream: 12,850g
  • Chocolate: 500g (since 01.12.15)

    - The Techniques -


    Tempering Chocolate


    The fat in chocolate (Cocoa Butter) can crystallize in six different forms. For a shiny, snappable piece of well-tempered chocolate, you want the Form V / Beta II Crystals. 

    Chocolate from a manufacturer should come well-tempered. Unfortunately, when that chocolate is heated over 94 Fahrenheit, the tempering is lost. You may have a seemingly smooth, flowing bowl of melted chocolate for dipping fruit or glazing cakes. But when that chocolate cools, it will be dull in appearance and may even be soft and tacky to touch.

    You need to re-temper the chocolate. Tempering will create a melted chocolate which, when it cools, will set hard, shrink, have a shiny appearance and a smooth mouth feel. From a food science point of view, that means recrystallizing the cocoa butter in the chocolate by forming stable From V / Beta II crystals. 

    There are many different techniques for tempering chocolate. A few of the older techniques (e.g. tabling and ice bath) were practiced during this session and are highlighted below.

    Tempered Chocolate Broken into Pieces

    While the exact temperatures vary for dark, milk and white chocolate (and even then, there are unique thresholds by manufacturer based on their particular recipes), the process remains the same. 

    1. Melt the chocolate to 122 Fahrenheit. This will break down all of the existing crystals, effectively giving you a clean slate. The temperature is not so hot, however, that it will break the chocolate emulsion - separating the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids.
    2. Quickly cool the chocolate to 81 Fahrenheit. As the chocolate cools, crystals begin to reform.
    3. Reheat the chocolate back to 90 Fahrenheit. Heating the chocolate to just below the melting point of the target Form V Beta Crystals dissolves any unwanted crystals while these good crystals remain intact. 
    4. Hold the chocolate between 86 - 90 Fahrenheit, neither forming new crystals nor breaking down existing ones.
    Throughout the process, it is important to continually agitate the melted chocolate so that the heat remains well distributed and so the crystallization, when catalyzed, spreads throughout the entire mixture.

    Melting Temperatures for Crystal Forms (Dark Chocolate)
    • Form I / Beta-Prime II: 61-67F
    • Form II / Alpha: 70-72F
    • Form III / Mixed: 78F
    • Form IV / Beta-Prime I: 81-84F
    • Form V / Beta II: 93-95F
    • Form VI / Beta I: 97F

    Focus Techniques:
    - Tabling: A portion of melted chocolate is spread on a table and agitated with a spatula. Once the tabled chocolate cools to 81 Fahrenheit, it is scooped back into the bowl of warmer melted chocolate, hopefully raising the temperature into the 86 - 90 Fahrenheit range.  
    - Ice Bath: A bowl of chocolate is melted over a double boiler. Once it reaches 122 Fahrenheit, it is stirred constantly while being placed in and out of an ice bath, quickly bringing the temperature of the entire mixture to 81 Fahrenheit. Once the target temperature is reached, the bowl is very briefly placed back on the double boiler and heated to 86 - 90 Fahrenheit.

    Later this week will continue with several additional methods, including "seeding" - one of the most commonly used modern techniques.

    Tools for Tempering Chocolate

    Melting Dark Chocolate for Tempering

    Spreading Tempered Dark Chocolate to Set

    Next - Session 62: Chocolate Fruit & Nut Cake and Chocolate Leaves

    Previous - Sessions 59 & 60: The Midterm Written & Practical Exams!

    Take a look at the full syllabus

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    1 comment:

    1. There are some great private label confectionery that produces some yummy goodies loaded with cereals, oats and chocolate chips. I’ll surely try the one you suggested in your blog post. Hope I’ll like it.