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General Information About
Working With Chocolate
Please read Chocolate 101 at Chocoley.com To understand how to properly work with chocolate, you must know the differences between real chocolate and compound chocolate and their applications.
Work in an ambient room temperature between 65°-70° F. and a humidity level not to exceed 50%.
Do not allow chocolate (or your tools) to come in contact with steam,
water, or any moisture. A small amount of moisture contaminates chocolate.
Even small amounts of moisture from steam or a damp spoon can change
the thickness of melted chocolate so that it will no longer remain
fluid. Chocolate that is melted alone is most vulnerable to seizing.
If chocolate seizes, sometimes it can be "saved" by stirring
in solid vegetable shortening or vegetable oil one teaspoon at a time.
This may or may not be appropriate for the intended recipe.
- Do not use a wooden spoon to stir chocolate; it retains odor and
moisture which will ruin the chocolate. For optimum results, use a
spatula designated only for chocolate.
- Because chocolate is so delicate to work with, many cooks often find they have a problem melting it properly. Chocolate naturally melts just below body temperature, so applying direct heat (atop a stove) is apt to scorch it. Instead, utilize a double boiler and melt it slowly in a heatproof bowl or pot set at least an inch above a pan of simmering water, being careful both to stir frequently and make sure none of the water below or the condensation from the steam leaches into the chocolate.
- Real chocolate usually has a lower melting point than compound chocolate. The melting process and working process are different between the two. Melting, working, and cooling temperatures vary with different chocolates. Check the recommended temperatures for the chocolate type and flavor you choose. Keep in mind, the humidity level in the room, along with the room temperature can alter ideal conditions & results. For real chocolate, refer to our information about chocolate tempering.
- Use a chocolate thermometer specifically designed to register the small degree changes that are necessary to ensure accuracy. The thermometer should not touch the bottom of the bowl; it will cause an inaccurate reading.
- Prepare small batches of the chocolate at a time so that you can control temperatures. Then, immediately put in refrigerator until set. Only leave the chocolate in the refrigerator until set – not longer, or you can create problems.
- Melt on a low setting, stirring slowly & frequently. Don't overheat. Chocolate is highly susceptible to burning at moderate or high temperatures. White and milk chocolates are the most vulnerable to high heat, but dark chocolate can be affected as well. If the chocolate has been burned, it will most likely taste burned, has likely seized and should not be used.
- Maintain a low heat source for the entire time that you are working with the chocolate. If you take away the heat source prior to filling molds or prior to other uses of the chocolate, the chocolate can set up too quickly and you'll get less than desired results. A heating pad placed under the melted chocolate will help keep it from cooling too quickly.
- Although it’s not the most desirable way to melt chocolate, you can use a microwave oven to melt chocolate, but be sure you stop it frequently to stir it. Generally when the chocolate appears melted about two-thirds of the way through remove it from the microwave oven and continue to stir it until smooth. The residual heat contained in the melted chocolate will help melt the rest.
- If you melt in a microwave, when you remove from the microwave, place the container on a heating pad on low heat while you are using the chocolate, such as molding it.
- If you melt in a double boiler, keep the bowl over the warm water while you are working with the chocolate or place the container on a heating pad on low heat while you are using the chocolate, such as molding it.
- If you melt in a crock pot, make sure it doesn’t create “hot spots”, and keep the temperature set to low while you are working with the chocolate.
Methods for setting up (hardening) chocolate
- Professionals recommend different methods for letting chocolate set up. You’ll have to experiment and see what works for you. Many professionals believe that you should let your creation set up at room temperature and they claim that if you put it in the fridge or freezer you’re likely to get thermal cracking. Other professionals do use the fridge and/or freezer (with low humidity levels, as many have moisture in them. Try placing several paper towels in the fridge/freezer in advance to absorb moisture). If using the fridge/freezer, try this: After preparing the chocolate molds or free formed chocolate, place them in the freezer or refrigerator on a level tray. Freezer time should only be 5-10 minutes (depending on size and thickness of the chocolate product). Refrigerator time is approximately twice that of the freezer time.
WARNING: Don’t leave chocolate in the fridge/freezer for too long. The chocolate can become too cold and will sweat or even crack when brought into room temperature. If it does sweat try wiping off most of the moisture. The surface will probably stay sticky for several days.
- If chocolate sets too quickly, it becomes very fragile. When the chocolate and/or the room is too warm, it won’t set quickly enough. If the chocolate sets up with light streaks, it was too cold. If the chocolate doesn’t set at just the right speed, the chocolate will be weak & brittle.
- You can use an Exacto knife to cleanly cut poured chocolate into
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