Here are some information and tips to help make your chocolate creations a stunning success...
Measuring Cocoa, Confectioners' Sugar and Flour
Measure these dry ingredients by lightly spooning the ingredient into the appropriate dry measuring cup and leveling it off with the straight edge of a knife or spatula. Tapping the measuring cup will result in an inaccurate measure.
Be sure to check your recipe before setting out to buy the chocolate for it - if you use the wrong type of chocolate, all your efforts may be wasted; certainly the results may be different.
It is not a brand or type of chocolate but rather a term used to describe professional-quality coating chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter -- at least 32 percent and often as high as 39 percent for good-quality couverture. The extra cocoa butter allows the chocolate to form a thinner coating shell than noncouverture chocolate.
Melting chocolate to use as a baking ingredient for candy work or decoration requires gentle heat. Chocolate that is overheated may scorch, lose flavor and turn coarse and grainy. Stir melting chocolate after it has begun to liquefy. Because of the sensitivity of milk solids to heat, milk and white chocolates should be stirred almost constantly while dark chocolate need only be stirred frequently during melting. Here are two good methods for melting chocolate so that it is smooth and glossy.
1. In a microwave oven:
Place coarsely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe container and microwave at MEDIUM (50 percent power) for 1 1/2 to 4 minutes, until the chocolate turns shiny. Remove the container from the microwave and stir the chocolate until completely melted. Stir milk and white chocolates after about 1 1/2 minutes. Because of their milk
proteins, they need to be stirred sooner than dark chocolate. (If overheated, these
chocolates may become grainy.)
2. In a double boiler:
Place coarsely chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove the top part of the double boiler from the bottom.
1. Chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks. Put half of the chocolate in a 1 1/2 quart microwave-safe bowl. (Use a 1 quart bowl when tempering 8-ounces of chocolate or less. When tempering more than 2 pounds of chocolate, use a larger bowl.) Microwave uncovered on MEDIUM (50 percent) power for 1 1/2 to 6 minutes, stirring every 1 1/2
minutes, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in the remaining chocolate chunks.
2. Microwave uncovered on MEDIUM (50 percent) power for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, stirring every 60 seconds, until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Gently stir the chocolate and when it is c ompletely melted, check the temperature. It should read between 110 and 120 degrees F (or the temperature recommended by the manufacturer.)
If necessary, put the chocolate back in the microwave set on low (10 percent) power for 5
to 10 second intervals, until it reaches the correct temperature. (Stir the chocolate for at
least 1 minute before checking the temperature.)
3. Transfer the melted chocolate to another 1 1/2-quart (or a smaller or larger bow depending on the amount of chocolate being tempered.) This will bring the temperature of the chocolate down to approximately 100 degrees F.
4. Wrap a heating pad (normally used for backaches) in plastic to protect it from chocolate stains. Set the control dial to the lowest setting.
5. Pour one-third of the melted chocolate onto a clean, dry work surface (such as marble or Formica). Keep the remaining chocolate in the bowl on the heating pad.
6. Using an offset metal cake spatula, spread the chocolate evenly across the work surface into a rectangle. Using a pastry scraper, bring the chocolate together, and as you do so, scrape the chocolate off the spatula. Continue this preading and scraping process until the chocolate cools to 80 to 82 degrees F for milk and white chocolates and 82 to 84 degrees F for dark chocolate, loses its shine and forms a thick paste with a dull matte finish. Work quickly so that the chocolate does not lump. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the amount of chocolate, the type and brand of chocolate as well as the temperature of the kitchen. The chocolate is now seeded. The professional term for this is "mush."
7. Add the mush to the bowl of 100 degrees F chocolate and using a clean, dry rubber
spatula, stir the chocolate gently, until smooth . Be careful not to create air bubbles a you stir the chocolate.
8. Check the temperature of the chocolate. It should register between 86 and 91 degrees F depending on the type and brand of chocolate. (In general, dark chocolate should register between 86 to 90 degrees F and milk and white chocolates should register between 86 to 89 degrees F.) If necessary, heat the bowl of chocolate in the microwave on LOW (10 percent) power for 5 to 10 second intervals, to raise the temperature the required number of degrees. (Stir the chocolate for at least 1 minute before checking the
temperature. Be very careful not to overheat the chocolate.) The chocolate is now ready
to work with. As you work, regularly stir the chocolate and check its temperature. Adjust the temperature and fluidity of the chocolate by turning the heating pad on and off. If for some reason the chocolate becomes too cold, simply reheat it in the microwave oven set on LOW (10 percent) power for 5 to 10 second intervals. (Stir the chocolate for at least 1 minute before rechecking the temperature.) Never let its temperature exceed 92 degrees F, or the stable cocoa butter crystals will start to melt and the temper will be lost.