Here are some photos of the freshly-produced chocolates and setup:
The last photo bears a little explanation. The chocolate tempering machine is what I use to prepare chocolate for use, and to hold the temperature steady while I’m dipping chocolates. It comes with a bowl divided into two parts. One side holds the melted chocolate, the other side is for unmelted chocolate. The bowl rotates to keep the melted chocolate moving, and two 100-watt bulbs (for heating) and some fans (for cooling) keep the temperature stable. The unmelted chocolate slowly melts and “feeds” chocolate to the melted-chocolate side, so you get more chocolate to replace the stuff you dip out of the bowl (at least in theory). It’s a handy little machine. Mine holds about 6 lbs of chocolate. It retails for about $800, but I got it in a bulk lot of chocolate-making supplies that I paid $500 for – a real steal!
Anyway, it solved a problem I had been having. I was tempering my chocolate on a marble slab – you do that by heating the chocolate to 120 F, then dumping it out on the granite and spreading it back and forth until it reaches about 83F, then dumping it back into the bowl and adding more hot melted chocolate until it reaches working temperature. I have a table-sized granite slab (which works just as well as the traditional marble) that I was using, with good results.
However, the granite slab warms up after a few batches of chocolate, making it progressively more difficult to temper chocolate when working for more than a few hours. The tempering machine, while not perfect, is a lot less messy and can be run continuously. It also maintains the working temperature, which is pretty handy.
I have discovered (via posting to an e-forum full of chocolate experts) that my mold-making woes may be a function of the humidity. Molding chocolate apparently becomes much more tricky when the humidity is high, and it’s been raining hard all weekend. I may wait a few days and see if things improve when the weather is better. However, I’m not sure I’ll have the time to cast more molds after the weather clears – it’s all very complicated. I’m pretty annoyed.
At any rate, I’m going to soldier on! Today’s plan is to dip all the candied citrus peel, and prepare/dip the peanut butter and sesame gianduja. Oh, and make English toffee. If I can get all that done, I’ll be happy; if not, I’ve got Monday/Tuesday to catch up before the craziness begins.