I spent yesterday making candies in preparation for a chocolate-dipping frenzy today. I made:
- two batches of jasmine tea/orange blossom honey/vanilla bean caramels. These are my absolute favorite of everything I make, and they keep well, so I annually make double the amount and then squirrel them away to eat over the next month or so. (I also use them to bribe the photographer that does my show pieces, as he loves them too. Chocolates for candids!)
- one batch of spiced apple cider caramels. You may recall they were experimental, and I’m pleased to say that they are just TO DIE FOR! They taste like an intense apple butter mixed with caramel, with the richness of butter and cream, and a hint of cinnamon, cardamom, mace, allspice, and cloves. When dipped in chocolate they will be marvelous.
- a batch of English toffee
- prepped four batches of candied citrus peels, which I had candied over the course of the past year, but which needed to be drained of syrup, laid neatly out on baking sheets, and gently oven-dried to make the surface suitable for chocolate-dipping. (If the syrup is too runny, it gets into – and contaminates – the chocolate.)
Today’s plan is to cut and dip all the caramels in chocolate, cover the English toffee with a thin layer of chocolate, and dip all the candied citrus peels partway in chocolate. (Only partway because it makes a better presentation – also, it gives me a way to hold it while dipping. If I have time, I’ll also make chocolate Armagnac walnut fudge, and re-make the coconut tequila lime fudge, this time with a little more lime juice/zest, and a little more tequila, and a more-aged tequila which has more of the oaky subnote I’m after. (The previous batch will probably go down the coworker disposal – it’s very tasty, just not what I wanted.)
So…it’s time to bring forth The Machine!
This is an ACMC chocolate tempering machine. I’d describe it as a ‘semi-pro” tempering machine, as it will temper six pounds of chocolate at a time. (There is a more consumer-oriented machine called the Revolation that only does 1.5 lbs of chocolate at a time. From my point of view, that’s a toy, but my friends who have them love them, so who am I to argue? There are also real professional machines, next to which my machine looks like a toy – they will do 250 pounds at once!) The workings are simpler than they look:
- two 100-watt incandescent light bulbs inside to heat the chocolate (and yes, I have laid in a 20-year supply of them, now that they are no longer manufactured!)
- fan to cool the chocolate
- rotating bowl to mix the chocolate, with a white plastic divider. You put unmelted chocolate on one side, and melted chocolate on the other; the divider keeps the chunks of unmelted chocolate out of the liquid stuff, but allows it to pass through after it’s fully melted.
- temperature probe to keep track of the temperature
- various electronic bits that allow you to set a temperature, and then heats/cools the chocolate as appropriate to maintain that temperature.
Using it is pretty simple: you melt four pounds of chocolate to about 120 degrees (melting all the cocoa butter crystals), then pour it into the bowl. Then you add about two pounds of chocolate to the unmelted side of the bowl, set the controller to the correct working temperature, and wait for the temperature to stabilize. (The unmelted chocolate cools the melted chocolate, rather like chunks of ice, so it doesn’t take as long as you might expect.) When it reaches the correct working temperature, start testing it by dipping a knife into the chocolate and letting the chocolate solidify on the knife. If the solidified chocolate has streaks, wait a little longer. Once the coating on the knife comes out crisp and shiny, dip away!
I’m really looking forward to starting up the machine. It’s the starter gun for chocolate season. 3…2…1….GO!!!