How to work your way around chocolate
'Le pâtissier extraordinaire, Chef Nicolas Houchet, teaches the subtle art of chocolate tempering
When he was just 24, Nicolas Houchet was termed Le pâtissier extraordinaire by Timeout London. Houchet, in 2010, joined Le Cordon Bleu, London, to teach his craft. We are intimidated as we speak to him for the tutorial, just as we would be were we to enter the halls of the prestigious institution. But, he reassures us: “We get students from different industries. Many come even after becoming professional chefs. Expectations are high, but there is no reason to be. It is our job that you walk out with the skills.” Having calmed us, he proceeds to tell us how to temper chocolate.
Tempering of chocolate
Working with chocolate can be challenging due to the precision required during the handling. Firstly, you understand the need to temper, which is re-establishing the cocoa butter crystals in the chocolate. And, secondly, you learn to be mindful of temperatures changes during the whole process.
Chef and trainer Nicolas Houchet
You start off with melting the chocolate. It needs to be tempered so that when it becomes solid again, it is even and gives a polished sheen. Mind you, tempering of chocolate also affects the overall taste of the slab.
Double boil a chocolate slab: Dark chocolate should be melted at 45°C-50°C and milk should be melted at 45°C, while white chocolate should be melted at 43°C. You will need a thermometer for this.
Let one-third of the mixture on double boil so that it doesn’t harden. Pour the rest on a marble slab and spread the chocolate using a spatula. Make sure that there are no air bubbles. Continue this process until it starts to thicken and then add it to the rest of the chocolate.
Return the mixture to heat, stirring constantly until the desired temperature is reached. For dark chocolate it should register 32°C. For milk, it should register 30°C and white chocolate should register at 28-29°C .
The sign of good tempering is when the chocolate hardens evenly without streaks or bloom and develops a “snap” once crystallised, which means it makes a cracking sounds when broken.
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