Saturday, January 5, 2013

Homemade Chocolates and Sous Vide Cooker - A Perfect Match

My friend Paul came over for one of our periodic chocolate-making afternoons yesterday. As usual, we tried a number of different chocolates: Valhrona Manjari 64%, Callebaut Bittersweet (unspecified percentage cacao) and Callebaut Milk Chocolate (also unspecified) and made a bunch of different shapes, including mendiants as well as six or seven molded shapes.

Assorted homemade chocolates
The challenging part of chocolate-making is tempering the chocolate, to get a snappy, shiny result. This involves slowly melting the chocolate, cooling it to 84°F (81°F for milk chocolate), then bringing it to 90°F (86°F for milk chocolate) and holding it pending use. With a good thermometer, it's not hard to hit the right marks, but it is exceedingly hard to keep the tempered chocolate at 90°F. This matters a lot, because if the temperature drops, it is hard to work with the chocolate.

The solution: use of a sous vide bath heated to 90°F. My friend Piglet and I just got a Sous-Vide Supreme, which is nothing more than a precise thermostatically controlled hot bath, but we have not yet learned to use it. However, I thought, why not put the 84°F chocolate into Ziploc bags and pop them into the sous vide until they reach 90°F? We could then hold the chocolate virtually indefinitely until we were ready to use it, cutting a small hold in the corner of the Ziploc and using it as a piping bag to form the chocolates. (I searched two sous vide cookbooks and the Internet for insights on this idea, but found none.) This method worked perfectly and avoided the need to carefully bring the chocolate up to temperature and then rush to use it before it cooled. (We had to do the milk chocolate without benefit of the sous vide technique because the 90°F temperature was too high.)

A note on chocolate. The easier dark chocolate to use was the Valhrona Manjari, which also has wonderful compexity and spiciness.  The Callebaut Bittersweet has a rich super-chocolaty taste that we really love but is tricky to use; we believe it has a cacao content in excess of 70%, which would suggest using slightly higher temperatures than for the Manjari. Next time we are planning to use Callebaut and Barry Venezuela 72%, which I bought in Paris, and go with a low temperature of 86°F and a holding temperature of 93°F.

Bobby Jay


Joy said...

Great idea! I found your blog through your comment on David Lebovitz's site. I think the SV idea is especially helpful for those of us working with a variety of small batches at home.

Diya Aur Baati Hum said...

nice blogger