Out of the Comfort Zone: Making Chocolate Candy
I love David Lebovitz's blog where he muses on living in Paris, traveling, cooking and miscellaneous ingredients and tools of interest to anyone as obsessed with cooking as I am. He is a great writer with a natural flow to his thoughts and words. Unlike so many annoying bloggers, he is grammatical and spells well. Whether that's software or taking the time to review his work before he posts, I wish more people would. The other thing about David is that he inspires me to move out of my comfort zone. I am dessert challenged and he is a baker by trade and nature. About 14 years making desserts at Chez Pannisse is one of his credentials.
When I see the photo of the chocolate bars in his blog post How to Make Chocolate Bars, I immediately think I want to make those for a special party to be a dessert and a favor, even though I have never attempted anything like that. Why? Making chocolate candy is for perfectionists, engineers and mechanics. I do not have a drop of that DNA in me. I roast, braise and saute where precision is not as essential to success. But such is the power of David that after reading the article a few times I'm determined enough to consult with another sweet expert, my old friend, a true cooking teacher, George Geary, about what kind of chocolate I should buy and where I would find molds like the cream cheese cartons David uses in Paris. Being an extremely patient instructor he responds calmly with good details on tempering chocolate, sourcing ingredients, using molds properly and does not tell me I'm crazy.
For fun and moral support I invited a smart friend to join me for shopping and cooking. Home Cake Decorating Supply Co is the place in Seattle to buy stuff for cake and candy making since 1960. They have it all, including the pans, bags, boxes and edible gold glitter. They helped me choose three different molds that would be fun and appropriate for my project, which was turning out to be quite different than David's. The ingredient list is short: good chocolate. I was pleased with the very reasonable price and deep flavor of the 72% dark chocolate recommended to me by George, Trader Joe's Pound Plus, manufactured for TJ in Belgium by Callabaut. The tool list begins with a box of food prep gloves. This is one messy project. A candy thermometer is important. You can rig a double boiler if you don't have one. Once the chocolate has been gently melted and brought up to 120 degrees F and then cooled to 86 degrees F, you are ready to begin spooning the chocolate as delicately as possible into the molds without dripping it all over the molds, the counter and yourself.
When I wearied of filling the tiny molds for party favors, I made a big bar for uncle Jens in a half sheet pan with fruit and nuts ala the original inspiration. That will be my method and model the next time. Anyone want my molds?
Here's a mini slideshow of the project.