Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Last Edited on 04/11/2012
Greetings, good eaters. Alton Brown here. You know, over the years, we have cooked hard to illuminate the mysterious mechanisms behind desserts. Most of you, enlightened by the scintillating science of sugar, now roam the cosmos of confections with neither fear nor trepidation.
And yet, and yet, I sense that some of you hunger for more. More flavor, perhaps, more sensation, more power. Yes, I feel the need growing in you even now. Perhaps you expect I can shed a little... [snaps his fingers, and the lights dim] darkness on the subject, and reveal a culinary force more powerful than anything you can imagine. Are you prepared to follow me into the dark side of dessert?
Fine, let's go.
The Living Room
[Kathleen Denson's picture "Chicken and a Bowler Hat" rises, to reveal a home safe deposit box] Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm. [enters a combination, and opens the safe] Behold, a source of unspeakable power. Hah hah hah. That's right, chocolate. Really, really, really dark chocolate.
What did you expect, squid ink? You know, chocolate is the new coffee, and since we shot our first chocolate episode, a plethora of dark bars have hit the market, opening up a whole new spectrum of dark culinary possibilities.
Just marvel at it. Dark chocolate from Madagascar, with its bright acidity, jet-black goodness from Trinidad/Tobago, with earthy spice. Ooh, the cool, clean cocoa flavors of Indonesian dark. And then, of course, my personal favorite obsidian delight, Venezuelan. Dark cherries anyone? Ahhh.
[music evocative of "Star Wars"] Believe you me, until you know the dark side, you've only begun to discover chocolate's true power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the gal...
Sorry, I meant...
[Good Eats theme plays]
Once upon a time, chocolate was chocolate.
Then, we developed milk chocolate, and then semi-sweet chocolate. Eventually, of
course, bittersweet chocolate, and then, the midnight ebony of the ever so
slightly sinister dark chocolate. All descriptors that essentially mean nothing,
other than whatever the marketing folks want them to mean.
Well those days are over. Now you go to buy chocolate, and you are deluged with percentages, all right? Fifty percent, 60 percent, 68 percent, 75 percent, 80 percent, or even, 100 percent. One hundred percent of what? One hundred percent of cocoa mass, a.k.a. chocolate liquor. And, to better understand that, we have got to go to the source.
Although the tree we're about to meet, theobroma cacao, is most likely born in jungles watered by both the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, this tropical traveler is now cultivated on multiple continents, including Central America, South America, Asia, India, and Africa. As for the U.S., we only grow and process cacao in one state. And I'd say this calls for a field trip.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory – Kona, HI
GUESTS: Bob and Pam Cooper, proprietors
A field trip to the big island of Hawaii,
which is essentially a large hunk of lava that sits out in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean. I arrive by big jet airplane, and then rent myself a vehicle. A
four-wheel drive vehicle, which is what most people around here drive. Again,
it's got to do with all that lava.
I head south down the coast, into the heart of Kona, and then up into the hills, to find The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, which is nestled amongst papaya and even coffee trees, which you see there in the foreground. And then I arrive at the factory.
Original Hawaiian has an interesting story, because a few years ago it was taken over, and is now run by a couple from North Carolina of all places. This is Bob and Pam Cooper, and they were happy to have another southerner on their soil. Immediately, they lead me to the trees.
A chocolate grove, or chocolate walk as they used to call it, is rather cathedral-like. The trees, and these are forasteros, as opposed to criollo chocolate trees, knit together to form a thick, dense canopy, which is actually important for their growth. Now the pods, interestingly enough, just grow out of the tree, wherever they want - trunk, limb, they don't care, and each one is born of a little bitty flower. That's going to be chocolate one day.
All right, the reason that this has to be done by hand, by skilled labor, is because discerning a ripe chocolate pod, which can come in many different colors, is actually tricky. You have to spot one by scraping the outside skin. If it's not green underneath, you're probably good to go. Everything else needs to be left in place. Here, for instance, the one on the left is ripe, the one on the right is not. I worked the grove for close to an hour. It's easy for ripe pods to hide behind the leaves in the dense foliage, but slowly and surely, I accumulate an entire wheelbarrow full. And every one of these pods is exactly the same variety, despite the different colors.
Now cracking into one of these is a little tricky. Use a cleaver and lightly cut your way in. [cuts into a pod] You don't want to go so deeply that you damage some of the seeds within. Now here's the strange part. [shows the seeds inside the pod] Those are cocoa seeds. Kind of netted together by a white, sticky, sweet pulp, which is probably what attracted mammals to cacao in the first place. It's sweet, it's tasty, but it in no way tastes chocolaty, and of course, there's that seed to contend with. [tastes one, and spits out the seed] There. You basically just strip all of the pulpy seeds out of the pod, and then move them to a fermenter. Basically a big box, where over about a 10-day period, yeasts naturally convert the outer pulp to alcohol, increasing the inner temperature of the seeds enough to shut down the germination process.
After that, the seeds are transferred to open racks for drying in wind and sun. They darken; they dry to about six to seven percent moisture, and they actually do start to smell a lot like the chocolate they will become. And if you actually bother biting into one, you'll find that well, they do taste chocolaty, but you sure wouldn't want to sit down and eat a bowl of them.
Most cacao farmers around the world ship dry beans to other countries for processing.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory – Kona, HI
Now we move to actual chocolate
processing. The first step is roasting, and Bob uses just a large coffee roaster
to cook the beans to the temperature that he likes. Kind of a secret. He
wouldn't tell me. The seeds are then cooled down, and at this point, the outer
shell kind of separates away from the inner nib, but it still has to be
physically removed, and that requires this machine, a winnower, which basically
shakes, rattles, and rolls those seeds around until the outer shell is removed.
It is then sorted out, so that all you're left with is the inner nib. The actual
source of all chocolate, which you see right there in that bin.
In the next room, things get a little noisy.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory – Kona, HI
[AB is wearing headphones, and shouting to
be heard over the noise of the machinery] So, this machine is actually a
combination of grinder and concher, OK? First it grinds the cocoa nibs down into
what's called "cocoa liquor", which is like a paste. Then you add the rest of
the ingredients, usually sugar and cocoa butter. And then it conches it - mixes
it together for up to 16 hours. During that time, not only are the ingredients
combined, but the volatile acids that might throw off the flavor of the
chocolate are vaporized out into the air. It takes a long time, but it's got to
be done [puts his hand on the grinder, which is very hot]. Arrggghh!
After the very noisy grinding and conching, the new chocolate moves into the tempering phase, a process of raising and lowering the temperature until the chocolate sets into a solid bar. We'll get more into that later. Now there's the liquid goodness, which is then just squirted into plastic molds. Bob is making up a one-pound bar here. They sell those to chefs. He then puts it on a shaking table to vibrate out any bubbles that may accumulate in the chocolate. Then, it is onto a rack.
Now, at Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, they do this by hand several days of the week. Got to be very careful to move those molds, and then the chocolate is moved into a very special cooling room, where the temperature is in the 60s and the humidity is quite low. They make the big mistake of leaving me in this room, by myself, completely unguarded, as I check out the wares. Eventually I am overcome with both greed and curiosity, and give one of those one-pound dark chocolate bars just a little nibble, to see what American chocolate can really be like.
Good is what it can be like. Very, very good. So, I decide to buy out the place, and fill my suitcase with pretty much everything they make, from dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and, I don't know, everything in between.
After that, I bid the Coopers a fond farewell, and promise to buy their plantation from them at some later date. Then, I head on down the hill, back to civilization. Against my will, I might add.
The word "chocolate" was coined by the Spanish and combines two pre-Colombian word chocol (hot) and atl (water).
A Pre-Colombian Set
GUEST: And anonymous conquistador
Two Spanish doctors
[AB ascends to the throne of a
pre-Colombian setting] So, how long has chocolate been consumed, you ask? Well,
since it was the only pre-Colombian food to contain the alkaloids caffeine and
theobromine, it's relatively simple to detect in trace amounts using mass
Research shows that the ancient Olmec people were already drinking chocolate, thousands of years before Cortes busted up Montezuma's chocolate binge.
Now what was it like? Well we know from eyewitness accounts, as well as ancient art, that it had a frothy head on it, a "spuma", if you will, that was whipped into being by repeatedly pouring the liquid back and forth between two goblets. What did it taste like? Well, if you were to drink it today, you probably wouldn't even know it was chocolate. It was thickened with maize and seasoned with... [tastes] chilies, maybe a little vanilla, and achiote, I believe. This is a bitter quaff indeed, served just at room temperature. The Spanish didn't much care for it, but one of Cortes' cronies did note:
CONQUISTADOR: The drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you can drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.
Caffeine and theobromine are, of course,
powerful stimulants, capable of energizing and creating a sense of well-being in
the imbiber. No wonder Aztec priests fed it to prospective sacrifices. You know,
just to keep their spirits up.
Anyway, these pharmacological effects were not lost on the conquistadors, so off to Spain cacao went. It was there, in the royal court, where chocolate first met its soul mate, sugar, which, of course, will only dissolve in a hot liquid. And since all that pouring back and forth between goblets would cool said drink, the Spanish invented the molinillo, a wooden whisk that, when spun between the palms, created such a lovely foam, it's still used back in Mexico to this day.
Now Spain kept chocolate to itself until 1660, when Princess Maria Theresa traipsed off to Versailles to marry Louis XIV. Not only did the king learn to love chocolate, his cooks enriched it by adding an egg yolk.
Chocolate's fame grew, in great part due to the raves of the medical community:
DOCTOR #1: Chocolate is one of the most wholesome and
precious drinks to have been discovered to this day.
DOCTOR #2: Chocolate nourishes and preserves health entirely, yet causes a pleasant and natural sleep and rest.
Still, chocolate was royal stuff. Even if
you could afford it, you could not secure so much as a bean if you didn't have
royal connections. That was, of course, in the continent. England was a little
bit more of a democratic place, and the bean of our desire did arrive there
about the same time as coffee and tea. More expensive than the first, cheaper
than the latter, and infinitely more nutritious than either.
Pretty soon, chocolate houses exploded all over town. But, the final link to modern hot chocolate would actually take place, not in London, but in Jamaica. There, in 1687, an English physician name of Hans Sloane, for which London's Sloane Square is named, got the idea of mixing the local cocoa drink with dairy, and thus the trinity of cacao, sugar, and milk was established in the culinary firmament, and I, for one, firmly believe that the most intense chocolate experience you can have is from a steaming cup or mug.
The Aztecs drank chocolate during religious ceremonies as a symbol of human blood.
My hot cocoa starts at the source. The
roasted, cracked seeds, or nibs. Now, ten years ago, you had to know somebody in
the business to get hold of these babies, but now they're easily sourced via
Internet and many mega marts. I have one ounce here, and I'm going to brew them,
just like coffee, which means grind them. Just three or four pulses are all it
takes. Basically, you want it to look, well, pretty much like ground coffee,
which it does.
[at the microwave] Pour one pint, that's 16 fluid ounces of whole milk, into a microwave-safe one-quart measuring container. Add the nibs, and microwave on high for three to four minutes, or until you hit 160 degrees. Of course you could do this up on the cook top, but every time I turn my back on milk in a saucepan, I end up with a big, hot, nasty mess. Plus, the nuker's faster.
All right, 163 - good enough. Now, as with coffee, cocoa nibs need to steep. So, set this aside for 30 minutes.
Finally, we chop six ounces of dark chocolate. Somewhere in the 65 percent to 70 percent cocoa range. Now, when dealing with a large, commercial block, I like to use a serrated knife and a wooden mallet to safely hack my way through. But, let's face it, for six ounces, we can use small bars, which are easily dismantled with nothing but a chef's knife. I like to use the rocking maneuver, being very careful to keep the fingers of my left hand clear away from the blade.
Now, transfer to the carafe of a one-liter French coffee press, along with three ounces of sugar, a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt, and two ounces of water. Return the nibbed milk back to the nuker for two minutes on high, just to get it up to a bare simmer. About 180 to 185 degrees. Then simply pour through a fine mesh strainer into the press, and allow to sit for one minute before stirring to thoroughly melt the chocolate.
And now the finishing touch. Attach the French press strainer and pump all the way up and down, gently, 10 to 12 times. That's going to serve two purposes. First, the fine mesh will emulsify the fat and water phases of the beverage, creating a smooth texture. And, it will aerate the mixture, producing the frothy head that Montezuma savored to the tune of 50 goblets a day. Then, get yourself a cup and pour.
To my mind, this is the definitive expression of dark chocolate. [tastes] Ah, and as for the leftovers, simply move those to a standard 16-cube ice tray and freeze until very, very solid. That'll be somewhere between four and six hours, depending on their original temperature. At that point, you can remove and either bag and save, or, well what the heck, let's just go straight over to my favorite blender. Dump all the cubes into your blender, along with about half a cup of whole milk. Now, you can change that up depending on your taste, but I'm going for a whole batch here. Pour in the dairy and then slowly crank up your blender, and blend until completely smooth.
And so we see what was born a hot chocolate, is now a milkshake, or a frappe, to be technically correct. Blend with coffee instead of milk, and you've got yourself a mocha frappe. Very nice indeed.
Although its chemical complexity is life-giving manna, dark chocolate has long been marketed as an edible harbinger of doom. Just check out the cookie aisle of your local mega mart. "Death by Chocolate," "Devil's Delight," "Darth Cookie," and "Mount Dooms," all promise to be the ultimate in darkest decadence. Kid stuff.
If you really want to turn up the dark, you simply must try my chocapocalypse now cookies, which are so dark they actually suck invisible light, as well as the meows of little lost kittens. [a kitten puppet appears] What's the matter, cookie got your tongue?
To perform this not-quite-black-magic
trick will require chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Six ounces of 54 percent
bittersweet, two ounces unsweetened chocolate, that's 100 percent cacao, three
ounces each 70 percent chocolate and 40 percent milk chocolate, which is just
barely chocolate at all, if you ask me. We'll also require two ounces of cocoa
nibs. Enough talk, we chop!
Good, now, combine the 54 percent and 100 percent chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Most recipes that call for melting chocolate specify the use of a metal bowl over simmering water. It's known as a double boiler. I don't like this arrangement for a few reasons. One, the metal bowl tends to absorb way too much heat up off of the sides of the pan. That could burn the chocolate. But also, as the steam rises, it can condense and introduce water into the chocolate mass. And that means it's probably going to seize into a giant, irreversible wad of doom. You see, melted chocolate is a colloid, right? Tiny, dry particles suspended in fat. You add water to the equation, the particles stick together. Kind of like when you stir your coffee and put the spoon back in the sugar bowl. Oddly enough, the situation can only be repaired by adding more liquid. We'll get into that later; it doesn't help us now.
So, what is the answer? I put the chocolate in a glass bowl, and heat it in the microwave, all right? Two 30-seconds bursts, at high, stirring after each, should do the trick. If it doesn't, then I just continue to microwave at 10-second intervals thereafter, stirring until smooth. What's important here is that at no time during the process does the chocolate exceed 120 degrees, or it will burn. How will you know? Well you can either stir it with an instant-read thermometer, or better yet, you can read it with one of these handy-dandy infrared or IR thermometers, which have rightfully become popular. This is not just a multitasker, it's a polytasker. The highest honor "Good Eats" can bestow upon a kitchen device. So, our first 30 seconds begins now.
The laser light on IR thermometers is for targeting only. (Don't point into eyes!)
We begin to build our batter with six
ounces of light brown sugar and four tablespoons of unsalted butter at room
temperature, cut into several pieces. It'll make this go faster. Beat that on
medium speed until it looks kind of like wet sand. That'll probably take about
two minutes. And then, slowly work in two eggs, beat with one teaspoon of
[at the microwave] Excellent, 117.5. So stir it until it is smooth, and then just let it cool down until it's about 90 degrees.
[at the counter top] While the chocolate cools, combine one and three-quarter ounces – that's about a third of a cup – of all-purpose flour, with a half teaspoon each baking powder and kosher salt, and move it to a paper plate, if you have one.
Now we add the cooled chocolate, and I would do this on a relatively low speed as to not splatter it around, and then as soon as the chocolate is worked in, slowly add the dry goods, also beating until thoroughly combined. There, you're going to have to stop and scrape down the sides at least once, if not twice.
Then, restart the machine, again on low, and bring forth the chocolates. We have the 40 percent, or milk chocolate, the 70 percent chocolate - basically, bittersweet - and the cocoa nibs, which are going to supply a seductive crunch to the final cookie.
[at the refrigerator] Once everything is properly mixed, stash your batter in the refrigerator for 45 minutes before scooping. Why? Because these cookies have a seriously out-of-whack weakener to strengthener ratio, meaning that the weight of the butter and cocoa butter seriously outweigh the starch and protein from the flour. That means that if you were to put the cookies in a hot oven right now, they'd just run off the side of the pan. Chilling will buy the outer surface of the cookie some time so that they'll set, thus entombing the lovely gooeyness within.
[back at the countertop] Now when dosing out, you want to make sure you've got at least two inches between each cookie, on parchment, on a half sheet pan. That'll still allow you about 16 cookies per pan, and you can bake two racks at a time. As for portioning, notice I'm using a disher in the one inch range. Yes, it makes a relatively small cookie but... [shows a replica of the "noisy cricket", like the weapon used in the movie "Men in Black"] Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
It is important that you do not dose out more than you can bake. Keep the rest of the batter either refrigerated, or you can go ahead and scoop it out, and move it directly into the freezer for baking at a later date. Once they're rock hard, in a couple of hours, I would transfer to a zip-top bag for no more than six months.
[at the oven] To bake, park in a 350 degree oven for eight to nine minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the process.
When they are finished, the cookies will still look rather wet. That's a good thing. Cool for two minutes on the pans, and then slide the parchment sheets onto racks, until they're cool enough to eat without burning your face off.
As for serving, plain out-of-hand eating is an insidiously chocolaty experience, but believe me when I say making little ice cream sandwiches with them is so good, it's illegal in nine states. It's just... too powerful. [AB walks off, and the kitten reappears]
No actual kittens were harmed during the production of this show.
The next lesson for practitioners of the
dark arts is a tricky one indeed - enrobing. That is the coating of an edible
item in chocolate, which then sets to a snappy, delicious, shell-like coating.
This bit of edible legerdemain is made possible by chocolate's fat face, cocoa
Unlike most food fats, cocoa butter is polymorphic, meaning it can crystallize in several different configurations. Six in fact, each with its own specific melting points. Now, just take a look here. Here are the crystals, and four of them are highly unstable, and create chocolate that's dull, gooey and streaky. Yeah, they're Tinkertoys. Just work with me, okay? However, form V are beta crystals, and form VI crystals are highly stable, resulting in a chocolate that is shiny, snappy, and slow-melting, a condition we refer to as being "in temper."
Now, since form VI crystals naturally evolve from the beta crystals over time, our goal, as practitioners of the dark arts, is to create as many betas as possible, while eradicating forms I through IV, got it? All right, now we begin by heating the dark chocolate to 115 degrees, thus dissolving all the crystalline forms.
Now at this point, we could coax betas into being through a complex series of time and temperature-sensitive maneuvers, each seemingly designed to make the average chocolatier lose one temper while failing to gain the other. Or, we can simply seed this dark brew with beta crystals, which, given a bit of time and the proper environment, would replicate themselves. Sound simple? Actually, it is.
We are going to need one kilo, that's 2.2 pounds of dark couverture chocolate. Now, that's chocolate containing between 32 and 39 percent cocoa butter. Couvertures are typically labeled as such. Now you can certainly buy couvertures in bars of different shapes and sizes. I think it's worth seeking out couverture pastilles, or pistoles, which are basically chocolate chips on steroids. They're preferred by many professionals, because they're easy to dose out, and they melt evenly, which is important. But, since there's a lot of surface area here, there is more of a chance for the chocolate to be damaged by mishandling, so only purchase from reliable sources.
You are also going to need food grade cocoa butter, and I buy mine in a four-ounce jar. I say food grade because cocoa butter is also heavily used in the cosmetics industry, and you don't want that version.
All right now, regardless of the amount of chocolate you are attempting to temper, you want to seed it with one percent by weight of the cocoa butter, all right? Since we've got a kilo of chocolate, 2.2 pounds, that is a mere 10 grams. Now I realize that you may not have a super sweet pocket digital scale yet, and if you don't, that's fine, just go with two tablespoons instead. That'll do ‘ya.
All right, here's the sequence. Stay with me. We're going to nuke our kilo, or 2.2 pounds of chocolate for 30 seconds on high, all right? We're going to remove it and stir it, with either a wooden spoon or a spatula of some type. I know it doesn't look very melted now, but this is important to evenly distribute the heat.
Now, return it to the microwave and nuke it for another 30 seconds on high. Take it out and stir it again. You'll see it's going to be a little bit more melted as you start to move that mass around.
Then, we're going to nuke a third time at 30 seconds. Remove and guess what? You're right, you're going to stir it again. Really stir it this time. You want to move that mass around so there aren't any hot pockets down in the chocolate.
Now, we're going to switch to 15 second bursts, on high, stirring each time until we reach 100 degrees. [measures the temperature] You know what, 97 is close enough for me. Now, we're going to move to 10 second bursts. Ten seconds, stir, 10 seconds, stir, until you reach 115 degrees. It could take as many as five times. Well, 114.1, good enough for me.
Now simply stir, and allow that chocolate to cool over the next few minutes, until it is down to 95 degrees. 95.2 is good enough. Now it's time to scatter our seeds.
As the cocoa butter is stirred in, beta crystals are being dispersed into the mass, setting off a chain reaction, which will, as the chocolate cools to 90 degrees, result in the creation of millions of more beta crystals. Once the temperature does hit 90, with any luck, the chocolate will be in temper and suitable for use as a coating.
All right, we're at 90 degrees, this should be in temper. How can we be sure? Well, grab yourself something flat and metal, like this spatula and dip in a little. There.
[at the refrigerator] Park this in the refrigerator and wait, ah, we'll say five minutes.
Recent research has proven that dark chocolate is good for your heart... in moderation, of course.
Ah, behold the hallmarks of chocolate in
proper temper. Now you may not be able to really tell, but the chocolate's
contracted a bit. It's hard as a rock, has kind of a matte shine to it, and it
is smooth, not tacky to the touch. This is what you want to see.
Now that we are in possession of melted, but well-tempered dark chocolate, it is time to take a dip. Now, this is going to take a little while, and you want to keep the chocolate at a workable temperature. Ideally between 88 and 90 degrees, so I find that placing the bowl inside another bowl, lined with a hot pad set to low, will keep it in a workable state longer. I also have here a landing pad composed of some parchment paper, on top of an inverted half sheet pan, on top of re-usable freezer packs. That will help the chocolate to set quickly, and not to run off the dipped item.
Now when it comes to choosing items, the sky is the limit. You can dip pretzels, candied orange peels, baby back ribs. [looks at the ribs, perhaps thinking better of having said that] Um, strawberries have never really been a favorite dipper of mine, but cherries are another matter altogether. I mean, who doesn't like a chocolate-covered cherry. And after all, they have stems, which makes this easier.
So, for each one of your foods, give a stir, dip, carefully retract, and count to about five, so that the excess chocolate can drizzle off, and then move to the resting place. Now if you'll just hold it for a moment, the base should set nicely, and you can let go and the fruit will stay upright. Now obviously this is going to take a little bit of time, but the heating pad should buy you that time. Just remember to stir the chocolate often, and you might want to hit it with a thermometer every now and then to make sure that it stays below 90 degrees, or things will get out of hand fast.
Now I can see that you're wondering, "Is there another way to temper chocolate - perhaps an easier way?" No, not really. However, it is possible to melt chocolate without letting it lose its temper in the first place. It's a risky maneuver but it can be done.
A powdery white finish on a chocolate bar is called bloom and is a result of improper handling.
[at the food processor] America, say hello
to your very own chocolate tempering machine. That's right, a standard food
processor in the 750-watt range.
Now let's say that you have a pound of couverture chocolate, finely chopped, already inside the machine, and be sure that it is tempered chocolate. If you see any fat bloom on it before chopping, do not attempt this maneuver. All right, now let's say that you gave this, ah, we'll say, 25 one-second pulses. [demonstrates]
Now at this point, the chocolate should resemble fine bread crumbs. That's exactly what you want to see, kind of a coarse chocolate powder. Now, put the lid back on, and allow the machine to run for 60 solid seconds. Then stop and kind of scrape down the sides. It's going to be kind of chunky, but just work with it. Then allow it to rest for 60 seconds. Then, start it up and let it run for another 60 seconds. Scrape down the sides, and then allow it to rest another 60 seconds.
Now what exactly is going on here? Well, you might think that heat from the motor is actually melting the chocolate, but it's actually negligible. Remember the chocolate mass is full of solid particles. These particles would be cocoa powder if the cocoa butter were all wrung out. Anyway, as the motor spins, the solid particles rub together, creating heat. Not enough to start a fire, mind you, but certainly enough to get the chocolate to a liquidous state. If we can achieve this without crossing the 91 degree Fahrenheit line, we can preserve beta crystals, while eliminating most of the other less stable crystal forms.
So, just keep repeating the cycle. One minute of process, wipe down, one minute rest, wipe down, one minute process, until your IR thermometer or your instant-read indicates 90 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Now the exact amount of processing required will depend greatly upon the temperature of your kitchen, the quality of the chocolate, and the power of your processor. And, just as before, you want to check the temper, using a metal implement, refrigerated for at least five minutes.
Of course, I've already dipped everything short of my car keys in chocolate today, so I think it's time to make bark. Chocolate bark does not actually come off of the logs of chocolate trees at all. It is, however, a confection named for the fact that it does look a lot like the bark that comes off a tree. And the nice thing about bark is it can be filled with all sorts of wonderful items. My personal favorite combination is actually the classic rocky road, named, of course, after rocky road ice cream, which contains marshmallows, but I find that marshmallow creme is superior.
Concocted in Somerville, Massachusetts, by one Archibald Query, in 1917, marshmallow creme is one of very few American confections still kicking around after almost 100 years. Of course, I make mine from scratch, but I'm a freak, and we all know it. We're going to need two ounces of marshmallow creme per pound of chocolate, and, since we want a little crunch with our mush, we will include four ounces of roasted, salted almonds. My very favorite choco-nut.
Now before working with the chocolate, we want it to be at 90 degrees. If it's cooled down a little, hit it with the hair dryer for a few seconds, and then put the lid back on and take it for a quick spin, just to help distribute that heat. This is a good method to increase the temperature by just a couple of degrees.
Now that hole in the middle of the food processor bowl can be a pain to work with, so I stick a champagne cork in there. Place the marshmallow creme into a zip top bag, snip one end, and then distribute about a third of it into the chocolate mixture. It is sticky stuff and I'm not going to lie. It won't be easy. You also want to put about two-thirds of the almonds directly into the chocolate, and then just use a spatula, kind of going around the circumference there to work that in. There, that's fine.
Now we're going to move that again to a parchment-lined back of a half sheet pan, and you can certainly use the ice packs underneath that. Now spread out that bark nice and thin. You don't want this more than about a quarter of an inch thick. And then distribute the rest of the creme and the almonds directly onto the bark. Then I typically take just a small, offset spatula and kind of work it into the chocolate, so that I get more of swirl effect when I bite into it.
If you're feeling particularly Wonka-esque, you can put your mixture into reusable candy bar molds, which are easily found on the Internet, or wherever you bought your cocoa butter, I would expect. In either case, the bark should be set in about half an hour, if the room is cool and dry.
Speaking of, whenever working with chocolate, it's a good idea to monitor both the temperature and humidity. Try to keep it under 70 and 50 if at all possible. In Georgia, the last one's kind of tough.
"All you need is love. But a little
chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
–Lucy van Pelt
GUESTS: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
A French prostitute
Thing, the hand
When your chocolate bark is set, break
into pieces and store in tents. Perfect for holiday gift giving - to me that is.
Now if you don't dig rocky road, try your own combo, but try to include something chewy, and crisp or crunchy in each version. Dried fruit and granola, caramels, pretzels, breakfast cereal, that kind of thing. With tempered dark chocolate in your bowl, the depths of decadence are beyond limit. But, decadent doesn't have to mean heavy. There is, in fact, one classic application that perfectly captures the unbearable lightness of being dark chocolate. I speak, of course, of the dessert whose invention is oddly, and I suspect, falsely attributed to... [knocking at the back door]
AB: Ah, bonjour.
TOULOUSE-LAUTREC: Bonjour. Here. Here is your mousse, you silly cook-type person.
[the prostitute hands AB a painting, based on the famous "Moulin Rouge: La Goulue" poster by Toulouse-Lautrec. The dancers have been replaced by moose, and the words "Moulin Rouge" in the original have been replaced by the word "mouse", perhaps a failed word play on "mousse"]
Toulouse-Lautrec did not create chocolate
mousse, anymore than Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese.
Mousse means "froth" or "foam" en francais, and that is exactly what it is - a light, chocolaty foam. Classically, this lightness is created by a tedious procedure involving the whipping and folding not only of cream or another dairy, into a chocolate base, but egg whites as well. It's basically a cold soufflé. Any slight misstep along the way can create a grainy, grit that lingers on the tongue like sand. Not good eats. Luckily, there is another way to create the lightness we desire, and without the dairy that can so often muffle chocolate's more fruity overtones.
Start by combining eight ounces of finely chopped, 54 percent bittersweet chocolate, with 1.5 ounces by weight of sugar, and half a cup each of water and freshly brewed coffee, in a medium, metal mixing bowl, set over a wide sauté pan, with one inch of simmering water.
Please note, I am using a water method here because I've already introduced enough liquid to the party to prevent any seizing. Note further that this is not a double boiler, but a bain-marie, or hot water bath. The pan is actually wider than the bowl, and although the bowl is indeed sitting right down in the simmering water, I consider this to be a more reliable method of melting than anything using steam.
Now once you've got a thoroughly melted and fairly homogenous mixture, move the bowl to an ice bath to cool. Now since it can move more mass at one time than a spatula, and also helps to aerate, I generally switch to a whisk at this point. Now we're looking for 60 degrees as our target, at which point the consistency will resemble heavy cream. This is important, as hot cocoa butter will not hold the bubbles to come.
And those bubbles will be produced by one of these. This is a cream whipper, a close technical cousin to the soda siphon, which you've probably seen making cocktails in "The Thin Man" movies and making messes in "Three Stooges" movies. Anyway, the science is very simple. We are going to infuse our mixture with a gas that will both froth and propel our darkness.
Now you're going to need a funnel in order to fill the canister, and you want to be very, very careful to never fill it beyond the maximum fill line, because there has to be some room for the gas to compress. Please make certain that the sealing gasket is properly seated in the dispenser head, and... [Itchy and Twitchy enter] Oh yeah, my attorneys, Itchy and Twitchy want me to remind you to read the manufacturer's instructions that came with your creamer so you don't, I don't know, put an eye out? Whatever, all right. [they leave]
So, screw the dispensing head very firmly into place, and now it is time to charge the device. We are using a nitrous oxide canister. It goes into this screw-in housing, and in this particular model, you have to remove the nozzle. It's different for different types of devices. Screw on until a small needle punctures the canister, and then you'll hear the gas rush into the creamer.
Nitrous oxide has become a popular food propellant for the simple reason that it is fat soluble. Unlike, say, carbon dioxide, which is used in soda siphons. ["Thing", appears, brandishing a siphon]
AB: Go ahead, Thing. Go ahead. Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens. ["Thing" withdraws the siphon, and disappears]
That's what I thought. Anyway, that's why
nitrous oxide is used in things like canisters of whipped cream. You may have
also encountered it in your local dentist's office, of course, in the form of
laughing gas. [drill noises, and we can hear a man screaming] Is it safe?
Perfectly, when used properly.
So we reapply the nozzle, and now the important part, vertical shaking. At least 20 shakes. Just pretend it's a martini, and then let the canister sit for 60 seconds, so that that nitrous oxide can really soak into the mixture.
And now the fun part. Grab yourself a glass, turn the creamer upside down and push the button. Look at all that dark, foamy goodness. Oh my. Of course, you can garnish, if you like, with maybe some mint, and some fresh berries - completely optional.
Well I certainly hope we've inspired you
to get in touch with the dark side of the food force called chocolate. Too long
have we dallied about at the light end of the spectrum. The real art of darkness
lies in chocolates in the 54 up to 90 plus percentile range. Just remember that
to properly perform, these chocolates have got to be of high quality, they must
be purchased from purveyors who handle them correctly, and they have got to be
stored in a cool, dry place, lest they bloom, or worse, lose their temper.
When working with such thoroughbreds, temperature control is key. Use one of these if you can [an infrared thermometer]. And if not, at least a digital instant-read thermometer.
And remember, best of all, dark chocolate is actually good for you - in moderation, of course, as is typically the case of all things Good Eats. Stay dark, America. [snaps his fingers, and the lights go out]