Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Old Candy Critic Articles - Can the Candy Critic Walk the Walk?

I've decided to take down several old articles from the and re-post them here on the Candy Critic blog.  This week I look at a fun filled day when Allison taught me how to make chocolates.
So who am I? I'm a guy that eats a whole lot of candy and complains whenever it's not spectacular. I'm the guy that told the world that I don't really care for the Big Turk. I'm the guy who started out as a regular candy fanatic and has maybe crossed the line into candy snobbery. So how can I overcome? How can I maybe take a look at the other side? I figure I'll make some chocolates for Christmas. Well, I'll help Allison make chocolates – someone who's done it before. That way I don't have to buy any gifts this year. It's like that time you made your mom a card in kindergarten and she said it's the thought that counts.

We started by prepping all of the ingredients, because as any cook should know, preparation is the key to a successful food creation experience. We were ambitiously going to make several types of chocolates on this day, so there was a lot of prep work. We had to chop cherries and make almond sauce for the cherry blossoms and split almonds for the caramel and almond turtles. I'd show how we made the caramel (we didn't just melt cubes) but I've been sworn to secrecy. The final task was to start the chocolate. This part is what started to make the kitchen smell great. It's funny though, it was a great smell at first, but about 3 hours into making chocolates it wasn't so good. Is it possible? Can you have too much of a good thing? I know – I'm shocked too.

Melting chocolate is truly an art. Of all the times I've talked to chocolatiers, they always tell me that temperature is what separates the great from the good. Chocolate has so many different textures under different heat settings and one degree seems to really make a difference. We were constantly adjusting to try and get it just right. I particularly found that near the beginning the chocolate was particularly unruly, and no one likes unruly chocolate.

Now we decided to go with the mold technique, mainly because fun shapes are cool. You start by coating the molds with a very thin layer of chocolate. This is what apparently makes the chocolates shiny and easy to get out of the molds. I learned this because with the first few molds I did, I didn't exactly coat them well and the chocolate came out all white and gross.

So after the first coating has set you can do one of two things, either fill it up all the way, or fill it up only a little bit and then add something inside. I should mention at this point I was really amazed at the skill it takes to do this; it may seem easy but just knowing when the chocolate has set and how much filling to add is really a skill. I don't think you could ever read about it; it's really something you have to try and fail at a few times.

The final step is to top up the filled chocolates and put them in the freezer. This apparently speeds up drying time, and since we only had so many molds and lots of chocolates to make it was important. I’m not sure if everybody puts them in the freezer, but it didn't seem to do anything bad to the chocolates. So what did I learn in this chocolate-making day-o-fun?

Well, first of all, making chocolate takes a lot of time and patience, something I don't really have. Sure I can fake it for a day, but Allison would attest that I get pretty grumpy when it comes to things that require more than 3 minutes of attention.

Secondly, chocolate-making is something that you really have to pay attention to. This is good for those of us that like to sneak off and steal a treat, while the person in charge is busy checking on the chocolate melting results.

Finally I learned a lesson. If you make chocolates you probably want to make a lot because the prep work is insane and it takes a good hour to even get rolling. At that point you might as well just spend the whole day and be done with it. If you’re making chocolates this year, I recommend making a whole bunch, and if you make too many and have lots of leftovers, you can always send a nice Christmas package to your friendly Candy Critic.

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