|Assorted homemade chocolates|
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.