I only have one or two items under my 'Confections' category of my blog. So I feel like I'm lacking within this realm. A few years ago I took a chocolates making class taught by a local chocolatier. It was great fun. Our instructor--the chocolatier--was a bit of an odd bird, very passionate about chocolate making--which isn't what made him odd by the way--and intent on making us understand the different crystalline structures in chocolate.
|Note: Once you keep chocolate cold and take it out of the cold, it starts to condense and don't look as pretty :-(|
Tempering chocolate isn't necessarily easy for me in that I'm not always successful at it. In the class I took we tempered it using an old fashioned method (a.k.a the super messy method) of pouring it out onto a nice marble slab and scrapping it around the slab back and forth with a bench scraper until our instructor--the chocolatier--"knew" it was done. Well that was all well and good in class but not so much at home without an expert eye to tell me when it was tempered.
Luckily there is another method that's more suitable for home wannabe chocolatiers which is called seeding. Seeding is less messy and gives you actual mensurable temperatures to shoot for. But, you may have to stir the chocolate until your arm falls off or--at the very least--until it is painfully aching. The way it works is you melt about 2/3 of the of the amount of chocolate you are using until the chocolate reaches a certain temperature. Then, you remove the chocolate from the heat and little by little start adding the rest of the chocolate, stirring it until it melts and continuing to stir it--somewhat vigorously--thereafter until the chocolate reaches the tempered state temperature. It seems pretty simple right? Well, evidently not.
I've done it many times and like I mentioned earlier, sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I'm not. Sometimes, some of my chocolate looks perfectly tempered with an amazing shine and snap. Other times, it's got a few grayish white streaks running through part of it once it sets. I read an article recently by J. Kenji Lopez over at Serious Eats about three different ways to temper chocolate. His recommended method--that he claims is foolproof--is using a sous vide cooker--which I didn't know was possible. But now I want a sous vide cooker. Sure, they cost of hundreds of dollars but it seems well worth it if I can get a perfectly tempered chocolate in my kitchen. Plus, I hear them things are good at cooking perfectly juicy meat too so they sound like they are a gift from heaven. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago I decided to place my tempering chocolate woes aside and make Twix bars.
I love Twix bars. Caramel and shortbread cookie encased in milk chocolate is a simple combination but also a magnificent one. Plus it gave me a chance to practice tempering milk chocolate which I had yet to try. And I really wanted to make perfect Twix bars that were perfect rectangular prisms--just like you kinda get out of the package. I thought that if I froze everything just right and used a super sharp knife and a ruler to cut and measure everything up just so nicely that I could do it. But that didn't work out. After I assembled the shortbread and the caramel in a baking pan and froze it up for a day or so, I removed it from the cold and then the caramel quickly came to room temperature and then things got messy fast... Also, I tried to make these Twix bars "healthier"--not healthy--but "healthier" by making a whole wheat shortbread. This was ok but it made the cookie a little more crumblier so even when frozen it didn't always cut so pretty. And then there was the first attempt at tempering milk chocolate--which was actually the Caramelia baking chocolate courtesy of Valrhona--which is a mouth-watering chocolate that proves that dreams can come true.
Anyway, the thing about milk chocolate is that it has different temperatures for tempering than dark chocolates--most likely based on the fact that is has different ingredients and thus different properties. What did happen when I tempered it is that it did have a bit of a snap to it but not as much as one that comes along with tempered dark chocolate. But it didn't have a very big shine to it. But I have some thoughts on this. So as for the snap...well milk chocolate is "softer" than dark chocolate so that seemed like maybe it was ok. I mean, maybe milk chocolate can't form as many beta crystals as dark because of all of the other ingredients in it? I'm purely speculating here based on whatever makes sense in my head. Also, maybe that's why there wasn't a shine to it. Does tempered milk chocolate ever shine as much as dark--like maybe it's just not as glossy? Maybe. To make a long story short, I think I was actually successful at tempering this chocolate. There weren't any streaks and everything was smooth, it had a bit of a snap and some shine. And I'm comfortable with that conclusion.
9T unsalted butter at room temp.
1/4c brown sugar (light or dark)
1 1/2c whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper--allowing an overhang of the paper on all sides so that you can easily pull the finished product out of the pan when ready. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy--a few minutes. Then add the flour and salt and mix until just combined and there isn't any dry flour on the bottom of the bowl. Now, press the dough into the prepared pan evenly. You can use a small glass or if you have a small rolling pin to smooth it out. If not, your hands work fine--I just wanted the top of my cookie dough to be smooth. Bake until lightly browned which may take 25-30 minutes. Once done, remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.
For the caramel, I used my go-to recipe that I found and have fallen deeply in love with from a blog called Baking a Moment. Double the recipe found here and let it cool completely before assemblage. Another option for the caramel is using a different recipe that will cook the caramel to more of a soft ball stage. The reason for making a caramel like that would be so that you hopefully avoid the mess I had in using more of a caramel sauce. So, instead you would use more of a firmer caramel candy...
16oz of a chocolate of your choosing. I used a milk chocolate but dark would be delicious too. You can choose to temper it or not. If you do temper it and would like a good guide, visit Serious Eats.
Pour the cooled caramel over the cooled shortbread cookie crust and even out. Then place the baking pan in the freezer until the caramel is as firm as possible--I let mine sit in there for about a day. Once the caramel is firm remove the baking pan from the freezer. Pull the whole assembly out of the pan using the parchment paper overhangs you created when you lined it--you may have to run a knife along the edges to loosen it up a bit. After it's out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and place the assembly on a cutting board. Cut the thing up into bars--a size of your choosing. In retrospect--due to the nature of the crumblier whole wheat dough--it might be easier to cut them into 2 inch square bars. Basically the wider the better because if you go too narrow then the cookie is more likely to be less structurally sound. Now that you have everything cut up, put it all back in the freezer to re-firm the caramel. When you feel your caramel is firm enough, then melt/temper your chocolate in a big bowl. Once it's melted--and as quickly as possible--dip the chilled bars in the bowl of chocolate one by one--I found that using two forks to lift it out of the bowl was easiest. Place the finished bars on a sheet of wax paper, parchment paper or a silicone mat and let the chocolate set. Once the chocolate is set, eat voraciously or store in an air tight container. I've been keeping mine in the freezer but any place would be fine as long as your chocolate doesn't melt.