I spent yesterday making candies in preparation for a chocolate-dipping frenzy today. Â I made:
- two batches of jasmine tea/orange blossom honey/vanilla bean caramels. Â 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. Â (I also use them to bribe the photographer that does my show pieces, as he loves them too. Â Chocolates for candids!)
- one batch of spiced apple cider caramels. Â You may recall they were experimental, and I’m pleased to say that they are just TO DIE FOR! Â 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. Â 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. Â (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. Â (Only partway because it makes a better presentation – also, it gives me a way to hold it while dipping. Â 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. Â (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. Â I’d describe it as a ‘semi-pro” tempering machine, as it will temper six pounds of chocolate at a time. Â (There is a more consumer-oriented machine called the Revolation that only does 1.5 lbs of chocolate at a time. Â From my point of view, that’s a toy, but my friends who have them love them, so who am I to argue? Â There are also real professional machines, next to which my machine looks like a toy – they will do 250 pounds at once!) Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â (The unmelted chocolate cools the melted chocolate, rather like chunks of ice, so it doesn’t take as long as you might expect.) Â 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. Â If the solidified chocolate has streaks, wait a little longer. Â Once the coating on the knife comes out crisp and shiny, dip away!
I’m really looking forward to starting up the machine. Â It’s the starter gun for chocolate season. Â 3…2…1….GO!!!