Tabling white chocolate in order to temper it. Managing that much liquid chocolate is crazy hard.
Week 8 feels like the week where the pressure increased, and I’m still not quite sure why. I guess everything we worked was more challenging, both technically and methodically. And for whatever reason, I was off my game on Wednesday and Thursday, where I felt like I had two of my worst days yet in class. By Friday, I recovered, and thank god because that floundering, flip-floppy feeling of drowning does not sit well with me.
Feve Artisan Chocolatier
We started the week by spending two days with Feve Chocolate, with Shawn Williams. Monday began with a walk through of his studio and all the tools he uses to create stunning pieces of chocolate. For the two days, we were to work on making three different types of fancy chocolate: a salted caramel, peanut butter praline and a passionfruit one. We first got to make the pretty outsides with any combination of colors and tools that he showed us. We could airbrush, hand paint, splatter, dust, or just paint whatever colors of chocolate we wanted. For mine, I tried three different methods. The salted caramels got a ombre purple airbrush, the passionfruit were hand painted, and the peanut butter ones were piped and then dusted with gold. Below you can see Shawn showing us how to use the airbrush, two of my domes, and a few of the beautiful chocolates he made while ‘demoing’.
Before we left for the day, we needed to ‘shell’ the domes once they had the color in them. This meant running the domes under a spout of tempered chocolate and then getting out the excess. This is the thin layer of chocolate between the color and the filling. We got to choose between using dark, milk or white chocolate for this.
On Tuesday, we finished up our chocolates by making the fillings and backing them. The fillings were straight forward: A caramel for one, passion fruit puree with some chocolate and other ingredients, and then grinding up peanut butter with shards of sugar. You end up piping the filling into the decorated molds, then put a layer (or ‘back’) of chocolate behind them to seal them off. Once they set, you pop out the chocolates and you’ve (hopefully) got a set of stunning chocolates. Some of my hand painted ones didn’t turn out very well and it’s likely because I overworked the chocolate when I was painting it or the temperature fell out of temper. The color stuck to the molds and some of it was quite dull.
Meanwhile, his crew was working on a massive batch of salted caramel so we got to see the process at scale, resulting in about six full sheet pans worth of caramel. They also worked on cutting some chocolate squares using a guitar cutter. It’s basically a giant egg slicer for chocolate!
It was really interesting to see the entire process all the way through. I have a lot more respect for chocolatiers and how difficult it is to make beautiful chocolates. Chocolate is really tricky to work with, but once you get the hang of it, you can create gorgeous things.
Back at SFCS
After our two days making chocolate, we returned to the school to continue on with confections. We worked on a lot of different candies, including the following:
- Raspberry Caramel
- Fleur de Sel Caramel
- Creamy Caramel
- Lemon Caramel
- Apricot and Pistachio
- Chocolate Caramel
- Champagne pate de fruit
- Passion fruit pate de fruit
- Root beer float lollipops
- Gummy Bears
- Nougats (including this honey, almond and pistachio one I’m still dreaming about)
- Mini Peanut Butter Cups
- Almond Joys
All of us worked on our own batches of pate de fruit, marshmallows and dragees. For my pate de fruit, I did a champagne version, but the others in the class made lots of different fruit ones like raspberry and passion fruit. You can really use any flavor of fruit puree for this (one person in class later in the week did a layered one with grapefruit and campari). The champagne pate de fruit was straight forward and tasty, and to make them a bit more interesting, I tossed them in an orange sugar to do a play on a mimosa. The marshmallows were also fairly straight forward and almost easy now that we’ve made so many sugar syrups. I flavored mine with a touch of peppermint, which I found to be super tasty and can’t wait to make again for the holidays.
The dragees on the other hand are a complete pain to make. Like making chocolates, I have a new found appreciation for anyone that makes dragees. Dragees are nuts that are first caramelized, then tossed multiple times in tempered chocolate and finally in cocoa powder. First, this is a complete arm workout. It’s almost painful the amount you have to stir. You also have to use your fingers to pull apart the clumps of molten hot almonds in caramel. Then, like other times, I had a tough time tempering my chocolate. The first time I tried, it was far too warm in the kitchen and just wouldn’t set. The next day I tried in the morning and learned a good lesson: I need to just be patient (with chocolate, with myself.. in general, in life). I was finally able to toss the almonds in three rounds of tempered chocolate.
The other thing I really struggled with during the week was caramel. I’ve made a ton of caramels before, but for whatever reason the fleur de sel ones were killing me. I had to restart them three times. The first time I crystallized the sugar right away. The second time I crystallized the sugar mid way through. By the third round, I was visibly frustrated and asked Chef to come in to help. Fortunately she did and I got through it, only to realize afterward that I didn’t cook it long enough so it was really soft. Note to self: practice caramels. Practice tempering more chocolate. Blag.
Lastly, just know that gummy bears have an OBSCENE amount of gelatin in them, which makes sense given how chewy they are. This was something I was sort of put off by when I made the gummy bears. For example, with one entire batch of marshmallows, you might use 1-3 sheets of gelatin. For one batch of gummy bears, you might use upwards of 25 sheets. ….
Week #8 Pro Tips
- If you’re going to make homemade marshmallows, make sure to have a pan lined with aluminum foil up the sides and spray everything with non-stick spray to keep it from sticking. Even then, it’ll probably still stick.
- Keep marshmallows out, uncovered, overnight to set before cutting into them.
- Key things to keep in mind when making a caramel: Use ultra clean tools and pans, slowly add in sugar as it caramelizes, and have the dismount ready to go. Caramel goes very fast so you need to be ready.
- I highly recommend buying a thermapen if you want to/do work with sugar syrups at all. Other probe thermometers just take too damn long.
- If you really want to try airbrushing chocolate on a small scale, Shawn told us that there’s a cheap ($15) airbrush set at Michaels that you can buy that works well for one color.