I’m slowly transitioning from line cook to pastry cook at my work. People ask me if it’s because I’m a girl and if I’ve been “banished” to the pastry station but this is not the case. Simply the position opened up, and I wanted to learn something new. I’ve always been bad at baking, and it was about time I reconciled with it. Besides, my two favorite chefs both have been pastry chefs at one point of their careers. So. I am now a pastry cook.
Since Pastry Chef isn’t here most of the time, it is a lot of self-educating. But a few weeks ago we had a new dessert that involved chocolate dipped biscotti, and he told us that we were doing it wrong. We weren’t tempering the chocolate, he said. “Just-melted-chocolate isn’t going to reharden.”
My first thought was WTF is tempering? And the first thing I did was to google that on my iPhone. It seemed like a god awfully intensive procedure, where you have to lead chocolate through different heat ranges to change its crystalline structure.
“If we only had a microwave,” he said. “Then it’d be super easy.”
The dessert came off the menu immediately after that. It was selling well, but we had way too many chocolate desserts on the menu. So I squirreled that thought away.
Fast forward two weeks, I find myself purchasing chocolate equipment off of Amazon.
“This year,” husband had declared, “I want a box of honmei choco.”
You see, Valentines Day is A REALLY BIG DEAL in Japan. Chocolate companies have successfully monetized the day and have trained the female public to believe that it is the day to go out and buy a box of very nice chocolates and go tell someone that you love them. There are several tiers of gift-giving though. Honmei choco is the chocolate that you give to the person you are in love with. Giri choco means “obligation chocolates” and are given to coworkers and bosses so that they don’t feel butt hurt about not getting any honmei chocos. There’s also tomo choco, which you give to your friends. And if you receive any chocolates on Valentines Day, social convention says that you should return the favor on White Day, March 14th. FYI, White Day is a day that the chocolate companies have invented to boost chocolate sales.
And Husband, being oddly Japanese-y at the oddest times, really wanted a box of hand-made honmei choco. Every February issue of teen fashion magazines have a section on how to make your own truffles, so I guess it’s kind of a rite of passage (Grown-up magazines just tell you where the hottest chocolatiers are) that us American-raised Japanese kids never get to experience.
Normally I would be like, hell no, that’s too difficult. But this year Pastry Chef’s words were stuck in my head. Supposedly easy. And I should learn how to do it any way. So I tried making chocolates this year.
First, I bought some dark chocolate at Trader Joe’s. I should have purchased some couverture chocolate, but I am a broke ass line cook, so, no.
I shaved it with a serrated knife and set it aside.
Since guys love bacon, I decided to make a bacon fat infused truffle. So I rendered the fat out of a couple bacon strips.
Then I took some beer. A stout would have been better, but I don’t drink stouts. Side note/I frigging love New Belgium’s seasonal stuff/End side note
Then deglaze that fucking pan.
Then I combined the bacon juice with some cream…
And combined it with the chopped chocolate until uniform. Basic recipe for ganache is 1 pound of chocolate to 1 pound of liquid (cream).
I let it come to room temperature, then stuck it in the fridge and went about with the rest of my day.
Four hours later, the ganache was set, so I punched it with a circle cutter.
On to temping chocolate. I took a pound and a half of shaved chocolate, and put one pound of it in a microwave safe bowl. I microwaved in 30 second increments until the chocolate came to 115 degrees. Then I added the rest of the chocolate, a little bit at a time, while mixing, until the mixture came to 89 degrees. Since this is dark chocolate, the correct dipping temperature is 88 to 89 degrees. More on that here, at Cooking for Engineers.
Then I took the ganache punches with my dipping fork and dipped the suckers.
I sprinkled them with some chopped crispy bacon.
You can probably do 5 to 6 of these at time. After that, the chocolate will fall out of temper, so I have to microwave it full power 3 seconds to get it back up to 89 (should be half power 5 seconds… but my microwave does not have a half power option). If I go over 90, the crystalline structures would be broken, and I’d have to reheat it back to 115 degrees and temper it back down. So finicky! And to get perfectly unfooted truffles are different subject. Practice practice practice.
Note to self: do it with room temperature ganache. I think my ganache was too cold or something, because while the snap was perfect, it still had a little fat bloom going on there. I was bummed for a bit, but Husband said that “it looked cool.” Sometimes he says the right things at the right time. Sometimes. If not rarely.
You get a faint taste of bacon in the back palate with these. It’s great, not IN YOUR FACE BACON, but more like, hi, it’s me, bacon!
Off to something else. I would have made beer chocolate because he loves beer so frigging much, but… I had an overripe banana on the counter, and decided to use that instead. Chef Michael Laiskonis from Le Bernadin has his notes and recipes up in PDF form on his blog, and I had printed it out for reference. He has a banana ganache recipe that is pretty easy, so I’ve adapted it for home use. The original recipe calls for trimoline, an inverted sugar. I didn’t have any inverted sugars (glucose syrup, corn syrup, honey) in my pantry so I ditched it, and it came out to be a nice, pipe-able ganache. And it made 1500g of banana ganache, which, I’m sure, won’t need.
Adapted from WorkBook, http://mlaiskonis.com
Yield: approximately 375 grams
118g heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
195g white chocolate chips
25g banana puree
25g softened unsalted butter
splash of dark rum
Combine cream and vanilla. Scald.
Place chocolate in a large bowl and pour over the cream. Don’t even try to mix it, white chocolate clumps together. Use your immersion blender to blend smooth.
Let cool to 95 degrees. Add banana, butter, rum and blend.
Let cool to room temp before using.
Now for finishing… I wanted to use my heart shape molds that I bought off of Amazon. Because Valentines Day is not Valentines Day without heart chocolates.
White chocolate is finickier than regular chocolate when it comes to tempering. Plus, I couldn’t source high grade white chocolate in time. So I copped out and bought this big old candying chocolate from my local Target.
I took a little bit of it, melted it per package instructions, and then blended it with some turmeric.
I took this turmeric white chocolate and swooshed it onto the shells. I let that harden, and spoon in some melted white chocolate, about half way up in the well, flipped the mold over, and let it drip to coat the shells evenly. Then I took a different paint brush and filled the the gaps.
I piped in the ganache about 3/4 way. Then I poured white chocolate over it and capped it by scraping it with the back of a butter knife. If I had my bench scraper or off set spatula, I would’ve done it with them. But I forgot my work stuff… At work. D’oh.
I let them cool completely and carefully popped them out.
Pastry Chef, like you said, that was relatively easy. Probably because I make ganaches all the time at work. BUT the finishing part? IT IS TIME CONSUMING. And NERVE WRACKING. And strangely addictive.
But in the end, when I boxed these up, I leaked a little squeeeeeee. They are not perfect like Godiva, no, but they are endearing. And I guess that’s what the point is, of a hand-made honmei choco. Oh, that and a happy Husband.
Thanks for reading.