Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tips, Tricks, & Warnings

If you have never worked with chocolate or sugar [cooking sugar] before, then i suggest you read this page before trying any of the recipes posted here. Listed here are some pointers to help you when working with chocolate and sugar. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments!

  • remember, chocolate is a very sensitive substance. It's melting point is just below body temperature [making it such a pleasurable experience when you put a piece of chocolate on your tongue and it melts slowly] so take care when melting your chocolate not to get it TOO hot, or it WILL burn, and after that, there's no going back
  •  Chocolate and water DO NOT mix [unless you are making a water ganache]. Make sure that your bowls and utensils [and hands] are completely dry before starting any chocolate work. If you get any water into your chocolate, the chocolate will seize up and me, its not a pretty sight.
  • You want to make sure that your chocolate is always in temper. If you are dipping ganache in tempered chocolate, and it becomes too thick, then you need to warm the chocolate a little to make it less viscous- to do this, either place it over a water bath and constantly stir for a few seconds, then continue to stir off heat until the bowl is no longer warm. [microwave: place bowl in microwave for 4-5 seconds- NO LONGER. take out and stir until the bowl is cool] be very careful, if you heat the chocolate too much, you will be taking it out of temper, and will have to start the process all over again.
  • Tempering, although a complicated theory, is very simple and anyone can do it. Chocolate that is properly tempered will be shiny, set quickly, and will also make a loud snap if you break it.

  • Cooking sugar can be very dangerous, so extreme caution should be taken anytime you do so. make sure there aren't any children nearby, or pets running around your feet- pretty much any distraction is not good when cooking sugar
  • Yes, boiling sugar is HOT. Hotter than boiling water. Water can only reach 212*F before it evaporates. Sugar does not evaporate, it melts and then boils, and can reach up to 400*F- this is why EXTRA caution should be taken.
  • There are two methods of cooking sugar: wet & dry. The wet method involves dissolving sugar in water and then cooking this solution to remove the water and concentrate the sugar [creating a syrup usually]. Through the wet method you can take the sugar through all of the different stages of sugar cooking [thread, soft ball, hard ball, crack, etc]. The dry method is the opposite of the wet method. There is no water involved. Instead, heat your pan, and then sprinkle in enough sugar to coat the bottom of the pan. Allow this sugar to melt, when it is all liquid, sprinkle more sugar on top. Continue this process until all of the sugar is in the pan and melted. At this point the sugar immediately caramelizes and  can therefore only go straight to the caramel stage.
  • BUY A THERMOMETER- not the one you are going to use for your turkey on Thanksgiving. Go to the store and get a candy thermometer, they are cheap and work perfect for sugar [I use a Taylor, and its never let me down]. If you want to invest more money on a more versatile product, consider a digital thermometer, not that much more money, but has many more uses than just sugar cooking.
  • If you do ever get hot sugar on yourself DO NOT LICK IT [I know that sounds like common sense, but I have seen it happen before] IMMEDIATELY place your hand [or whatever the sugar is on] under running cold water.
  • There are different kinds of ganache, and I am going to try to post recipes of each kind: cream ganache, water ganache, butter ganache, egg ganache.
  • Cream ganache: most common, is make using heavy cream/milk as its main liquid
  • Water ganache: the only exception to the rule no water and chocolate. In these recipes, there is a specific amount of a water based liquid [ie: fruit puree, juice, etc] and no cream. In these recipes, the butter content is usually much higher, to make up for no fat in the liquid.
  • Butter ganache: utilizes whipping up soft butter and adding your chocolate to the mixture. Very good for piping.
  • Egg ganache: sounds strange- but it uses creme anglaise [vanilla sauce, ie ice cream base] which is a stirred custard [egg] as its liquid
  • All of these recipes are my own formulation UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, please, try them and let me know what you think!
  • BUY A SCALE. I WEIGH all of my ingredients [yes, there are some recipes i post in cups, but it is very rare and only happens when it is an adaptation from a cookbook recipe]. it is MUCH more accurate than measuring, plus you only need one instrument for all your measurements, instead of a 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 C, and then the teaspoons and tablespoons and then you have a whole set of liquid measurements.....? forget that. buy one scale. just one. it will measure everything for you :] 

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