In my eight years at Sweet Designs, I have heard many stories from frustrated home cooks wondering why their repeated attempts to make chocolates at home have failed. Their homemade confections would not release from the candy mold - or they would be gritty and chalky in texture - or they would turn an unappetizing greyish-white hue, unlike the rich, chestnut brown chocolates with a beautiful sheen that they are used to seeing at Sweet Designs.
It comes as a surprise to many people that making chocolate is actually scientific - and it takes training and a lot of practice to master. In fact, our chocolatiers are trained for at least one year before they are proficient in the process, and I was formally trained in “chocolatiering” at culinary school before joining the Sweet Designs crew.
So, what is the key to creating beautiful chocolates with an attractive sheen, rich hue, and texture with a distinctive “snap” that yields to melt-in-your-mouth delectability?
Tempering the chocolate.
Tempering chocolate is a scientific process that isolates the characteristics of chocolate that we are used to experiencing - great texture and beautiful appearance. Simply melting the chocolate down and allowing it to re-solidify will not achieve the same results.
Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, a naturally occurring fat, which is made up of 6 fat crystalline structures. Each crystal structure is made up of bundles of molecules that influence the taste, texture, and appearance of chocolate. Of the 6 fat crystals, only 1 is desirable - the “V” shaped crystal accounts for the rich cocoa taste, the beautiful sheen, and the audible snap that you hear when you break a chocolate bar.
By altering chocolate’s temperature several times while in its liquid state, we can melt away all 6 fat crystals. We must then reintroduce the desirable “V” shaped fat crystal by exposing the liquid chocolate to a piece of already-tempered chocolate - a process known as “seeding” - all while maintaining the proper temperature at the right intervals.
This tedious and temperamental process separates chocolatiers from confectioners. The next time you enter a chocolate shop, ask them about their tempering process - this can reveal whether they are using real chocolate made of cocoa butter, or simply melting confectioners coating, which is made up of hydrogenated fats and sugar.
Just remember, when working with real chocolate – never lose your temper!
By Carly Moran