In Advanced Baking we're moving into the candy/confections section of the course. To start us off, Chef Mark introduced us to chocolate work - making truffles and various types of decor. The foundation of all of this is tempering chocolate.
Chocolate (more specifically, cocoa butter) contains fat molecules capable of forming different kinds of crystal bonds, but it's only when beta crystals bonds are formed (at a certain temperature) is the chocolated considered tempered - a stable form which allows the chocolate to harden and contract and take on a glossy shine.
Tempering chocolate starts with melting chocolate in a double boiler - at least one pound's worth so the temperature of the end mixture won't fluctuate too rapidly. After all the chocolate is melted (usually at about 120°F), the mixture is cooled by one of three methods: block (introducing a tempered block of chocolate, a quarter of the mixture's weight), seeding (similar to block except it's bits of chocolate that's introduced to the mix), or tabling (working the chocolate over a cool surface like marble). Once the chocolate is cooled to about 80°F, it is warmed up a bit (to 86-90°F) and kept at that working temperature. If the chocolate isn't kept in that range, it will either form lumps and harden (too cool) or the beta bonds will break apart (too hot). As you might guess, the process is rather tricky.
Chef Mark demonstrated the tabling method (also the most messy). His trick for the chocolate to stay in working range was to keep the bowls on heating pads (the ones you can buy for cheap at a drugstore).
With the tempered chocolate he coated a hard plastic truffle mold (available online here). Excess chocolate was poured out since it was just for coating.
Then the truffles were filled with a ganache mixture (made from chocolate, cream and light corn syrup). The truffles were then sealed with more tempered chocolate and left to cool/set.
We knew when the truffles were ready to be unmolded by looking at the bottom - the ones which had contracted away from the mold were ready.
Then Chef moved on to decor work. To make these chocolate cigarettes he laid down a strip of white chocolate, combed through it with an adhesive spreader (available at hardware stores), then spread a layer of dark chocolate over it. Then he took a bench scraper and angled it 45 degrees into the strip, scraping forward in one quick motion so the chocolate came off the marble and curled into a cigarette.
Then there were chocolate ribbons/curls, made by spreading chocolate over acetate tape and combed through with the adhesive scraper. The tape was looped over and left to set - once the chocolate hardened the tape could be peeled off and the chocolate curls were left.
Then Chef demonstrated designs on acetate paper. An easy one was the marbled design, which involved dripping different chocolate lines haphazardly on the sheet, then spreading more chocolate over those lines.
Here's the finished marble design, with the acetate paper peeled off.
Chef had used a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the marble design before the chocolate set, so after it set he was able to pop those pieces out. Here's a broken piece that's still very pretty:
Patterns can be created by spreading the chocolate over all manner of surfaces. Chocolate over bubble wrap yielded this honeycomb design. Ingenious, and very cool.
Chef says the hardware store is the chocolate maker's supply store, but you can really find inspiration anywhere.