Saturday, December 17, 2005

Melting chocolate on a Wolf stove

Chocolate melts at 109 degrees Farenheit (43 degrees Centigrade). I know this because two years ago Zorg dabbled in truffle-making as a hobby and melting the chocolate turned out to be the most challenging part of the process (right up there with potential cacao overdose).

Chocolate is frustrating to melt and maintain at a melted consistency. The process, with the slightly ironic technical name of "tempering," usually requires a double-boiler and some vigilence. Microwave melting can result in a hideous grainy glob of ruined chocolate. Zorg, not the most patient of chocolatiers, looked into chocolate melters, which at the time were limited to professional models of prohibitive cost — hundreds of dollars. (There is now a home model for $30, but reviewers on Amazon rate it as better for simple melting of commerial dipping products than for tempering of chocolate for serious candy-making)

Fortunately, early in his truffle-making phase, Zorg located an electric "crock pot" cooker that had a temperature control and, at the very lowest setting, was able to melt chocolate without burning.

This weekend we've been doing a small truffle project as a Christmas gift for a friend. Last night I made a ganache truffle filling out of raspberry syrup (made from the friend's backyard raspberry crop), sugar, heavy cream, butter, and bittersweet chocolate. Today Zorg chopped dark chocolate to melt for the couverture (truffle exterior). He was headed off to the pantry to fetch the crock pot, but I was determined to try melting the chocolate on the Wolf stove. Would the Wolf reveal yet another amazing capability?

We put the chopped chocolate into a plain Revereware pot and I set the burner to "simmer." In 10 minutes, we had lovely, satiny tempered chocolate. I later dug around in some Google results and discovered that indeed, the "simmer" setting on a Wolf burner is perfect for melting chocolate. Causing me to observe that I now love my Wolf as much as I love my Mac.

I was scooping the ganache fillings with a melon ball tool, dipping it in hot water and drying it between each scoop. Apparently I didn't dry the tool well enough, and a small amount of water from the ganache balls got into the melted couverture as Zorg was doing the coating, causing the pot of melted chocolate to "seize." That looks nearly as scary as it sounds: grainy, uncooperative, dull chocolate. I dashed to Zorg's truffle notebook and found directions for reversing a seize: You add a small amount of butter or heavy cream and whisk, whisk, whisk over the heat. It worked, and we were able to get a yield of 43 really gorgeous truffles. Most of them go to our friend for Christmas, but we are saving just a few, including a pair for our friend John, the fellow who taught us how to make truffles.

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