Okay, first let me say, I know I have a lot to learn.
And patience has never been one of my strong personality traits, so perhaps the Ecole Chocolat course, along with generous lashings of yoga class, will eventually bear fruit in helping me to become a more zen-like creature, appreciative of every moment – even the one where I cannot get the molded chocolates I have been watching for hours, to release and drop from the molds.
Last week, I took my first tentative steps into creating an original chocolate piece. I ended up with two variations, but the basic flavour and texture ideas are the same: an organic, slightly sweetened and concentrated strawberry puree and ladyfinger, molded in a dark chocolate shell; and a strawberry pate de fruits “stuffed” in a dark chocolate shell.
Sounds really quite delicious when described like that. Last week, I detailed the process of making the chocolates, and left off with them cooling and setting in the molds, in my son’s bedroom. I left them overnight, and for many hours the next day, until I could “screw my courage to the sticking place”, and prepare myself and the kitchen for the unmolding process.
It is supposed to be straightforward, but I had had so many problems with the backing coat, trying to make sure everything was properly sealed, that I feared I had left on far too much chocolate, around the actual cavities.
So, my first task was to get rid of it. A slow and fiddly job, I tried to imagine myself as a sculptor’s apprentice, firmly tapping away with the bench scraper, along the sides and top surface, then finessing the small areas with a tiny off-set spatula, and turkey trussing skewer, so fearful was I of damaging the lovely, expensive polycarbonate molds.
I ended up with a tasty pile of “contaminated with filling” chocolate shavings and chunks, knobbly and dull-looking (which did not bode well for the actual chocolates). I scooped these into a container, remembering the “Reverence for Chocolate” article, on the Ecole Chocolat website: a very good reminder to treat this rare substance with the respect it deserves. The boys and their friends have become adept at recognising the small plastic containers I bought exclusively for this course, and eagerly look forward to whatever gets scraped off or left over from my Ecole homework.
It was now “go time”. I looked carefully at the underside of the mold, to see if they appeared “cloudy”, indicating the chocolate had properly pulled away from the sides. It was difficult to tell, which probably should have been my first hint. I flipped the mold over, held my breath and … nothing. The chocolates were firmly adhered to their cavities. I had expected this, and smacked the mold down, hard, on the marble slab, lifted it up and … still nothing. So, I tried another mold, then another, then another.
The boys were begging for mercy by this time, as they were trying to do their homework, and the noise was scaring them, and the cats. I felt very discouraged, but my wise partner suggested giving them one more day. Back they went to the cold bedroom. The next morning showed very little change, although I was able to release three of the heart-shaped ones.
My partner is a wonderful man, and hugely supportive of my efforts, whether theatrical or chocolate, and is usually pretty in tune with my moods and insecurities, but he risked everything at that moment by a casual, “They’re not coming out because the chocolate wasn’t properly tempered, right?”
Neither was I, at that moment. He sensibly left the room.
Desperate measures were called for. The picture of not being able to get these bon bons out, loomed all too clearly into my mind, and I foresaw scooping out the cavities with a spoon, trying to save as much of my work as possible. But, I had one more thing to try.
I put them all in the freezer. I know, I know, I was just asking for “bloom”, but I had to get them out! The short ending to this story is – it worked. One by one, I flipped the “frozen” molds over and, after some energetic flicks of the wrist, the chocolates released. I will treat these molds to a gentle coating of cocoa butter, which will hopefully, make the next “release” a little easier, and provide a bit of sheen to my next batch of chocolates.
And now, to taste them. After allowing them to come to room temperature, they did indeed develop bloom. And they are not the perfect, glowing specimens I have been able to produce, with a less troublesome filling. The backs of most of them, are not fit to be seen – irregular, bumpy, scored with scraper marks. I “lost” a few – they actually came apart in the mold, and had to be scooped out.
But I have to say, the ones that came out taste pretty good. You can’t really go wrong with strawberry and chocolate, and since my “raw ingredients” were all of a very good quality, I had a lot of forgiveness.
I had the good fortune to have built in taste-testers, that afternoon, as both of my sons had a friend over for after-school projects, and the next day, I took samples in to my teen acting class.
Here are some of their honest, on the moment, descriptions of both types:
Organic Strawberry Puree/Ladyfinger in Dark Couverture
- Surprised at/liked the liquid filling
- Wanted a more intense strawberry taste
- Ladyfinger not a noticeable taste, but helped to soak up the liquid
- Liked the way the dark chocolate melted with the strawberry
- Kind of like trifle, without the cream
- “can I have another one, please”
- Not too sweet
- Liked the crunchiness of the tiny little strawberry seeds
Organic Strawberry Pate de Fruits (made with fruit pectin) in Dark Couverture
- Nice change from milk chocolate jelly
- Intense fruit flavour
- satisfying tooth resistance
- “satisfyingly smushable”
- Big thumbs up
- Put in more jelly – less chocolate
- “fun” taste – not too complicated
- Fresh tasting
- “would be good with a peanut butter sandwich”
I would like to thank all my wonderful taste-testers for their valuable input. Hmm. Perhaps I should do another chocolate tasting with an “all teen” panel. I am sure the results would be very different than my first “all adult” one.
I have to say, I loved the pate de fruit chocolates, although I think the strawberry puree ones need tweaking, perhaps pairing them up with another flavour, such as lemon, or maybe mango.
I feel I have a long way to go before I come up with something that feels like my signature piece, but it was really fun to have my first go at it, and it has definitely got me thinking about other flavour and texture combinations I would like to try – and perhaps, on the next go, I will go for hand-dipping, rather than the molds – I think I’ve had enough dramatic tension for a while!