I think I mentioned this in a post a while ago...but I can't remember when actually. Nevertheless, a few years ago I took a chocolate-making class via some Groupon. It was eye-opening to say the least. I mean, my eyes didn't just open but they bulged at the sight of the machine in the back kitchen that spewed out a thick stream of melted chocolate. If I could have just positioned my open mouth below that fountain of chocolate...
Aside from that godsend of a machine, our rather intense teacher exposed me to the process of tempering chocolate--which was honestly eye-opening. He spoke about the crystalline structures in chocolate and specifically those very important beta crystals that one must get into alignment at just the right temperature--via tempering the chocolate--in order for the finished chocolate product to have that gorgeous sheen on the outside and a crisp hard crack when broken. Unfortunately, attaining those two key characteristics has always been a challenge for me.
Now, there are a few different ways to temper chocolate. In the class, we did--what I would term--the "messy" way. We poured the un-tempered melted chocolate onto a marble slab, took a bench scraper and kept scooping and scraping up the chocolate back and forth onto the slab until our teacher gave it a quick look and told us to test it--and knowing what I know now, I have no idea how he would know without using a thermometer. I guess with experience you just come to know? Anyway, by testing it we took a small amount of the chocolate we had been working with and put it in the freezer to harden. If it was shiny and had a snap when broken, it was tempered. If not, we had to keep agitating it and testing it. The other--less messy--way is seeding. With seeding, you basically do all of the tempering in a bowl. And since temperature plays such a vital indicator of whether or not chocolate has been tempered--and I like being as exact as possible--I use a thermometer to help me determine how close I am to forming those famed beta crystals. Alas, even with my handy thermometer I can never seem to get a perfectly tempered chocolate. There's always streaks. Blah.
So, when I read an article on Serious Eats proclaiming that there is another way to achieve a perfect tempered chocolate that wasn't messy or labor intensive (i.e. stirring and agitating the chocolate until your arm feels like falling off), I was intrigued. Especially since it involved the use of a sous vide. The beauty with using a sous vide to temper chocolate is that--again since temperature plays such an important role--you can adjust the temperature fairly easily and hold that temperature. And once you've achieved the tempered state, you should be able to hold it in that state--provided you keep agitating the chocolate every once in a while.
Recipe for 12 - 2 inch diameter hemispheres (For a great tutorial on how to temper chocolate in a sous vide, visit Serious Eats)
16oz of dark chocolate (I used Callebaut semi-sweet) chopped
1/2c salted caramel sauce (recipe follows for about 1 cup of sauce)
Salted caramel sauce
1/2c heavy cream
2 1/2 T unsalted butter
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3/4c granulated sugar
2 T light corn syrup
2 T water
First, using a small sauce pan, combine the cream, butter and salt. Heat the the mixture over low heat while stirring until the butter has melted and the salt has dissolved. Once that's been accomplished, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and set nearby. In a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Heat that mixture over medium-high heat. Let it boil up--bubbles will ebb and flow--just let it go until it starts changing color. Once it starts changing color, slowly swirl the pan around to distribute the heat evenly. After it gets to a good even amber color and the bubbles are much smaller, reduce the heat to low and carefully pour in the cream mixture while whisking constantly. Remove the caramel sauce from the heat and let it cool completely before use.
Temper your chocolate in whatever manner you have at your disposal. Once tempered, pour about half of the chocolate into the mold to line the insides of the hemispheres with it. Turn the molds upside down and tap out any excess chocolate--make sure that the surfce of each hemisphere is completely covered in chocolate. Place the chocolate mold aside to set. After it's set, fill the chocolate lined hemispheres with your completely cooled caramel sauce--I put about a tablespoon in for these particular molds. Then, pour the other half of your tempered chocolate over the caramel to fill the rest of the molds. Use a bench scraper to scrape evenly along the surface of the mold to remove any excess chocolate and to ensure that each chocolate has a nice flat even bottom. Set the chocolates aside to set/harden. Once they have set, turn the mold over carefully and tap out the chocolates. Enjoy.