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Making chocolates is a labour of love. They need time and patience – and practice. But just like any kitchen skill, the more you do it the easier it becomes. So persevere. They are great fun and very rewarding to give as presents.
Find a good book and follow the recipes. I use Auberge du Chocolat The Secrets of Fine Chocolate Making.
The enchanting aspect of making chocolates comes from the raw material itself – chocolate. Perhaps we never loose our adolescent amazement and delight for this miraculous product. It is still exciting and tempting to watch solid bars of chocolate turn into luxurious pools of liquid chocolate. But a word of warning, just as Willy Wonka’s factory held mixed blessings, so your bowl of melted chocolate can quickly become an unruly mass of dark stickiness. It will crawl from its bowl in blobs and splatters, creep over every kitchen surface, cling to your clothes and smear itself onto any exposed body part! Controlling, harnessing and containing this marvelous substance is the secret of chocolate making.
So get a stack of clean tea towels and make a start. The basic techniques are tempering chocolate and making a ganache.
Tempering is is the fundamental skill of making chocolates. If you melt a crisp and shiny bar of chocolate and let it set – it will be dull and soft. There is interesting science behind this phenomenon. Melting a chocolate bar causes the the cocoa fat crystals to fall out of alignment. What you need to do is to manipulate the chocolate over time and control the temperature in such a way whereby the crystal structure realigns to make the chocolate shiny and brittle again when it sets.
There are many ways to temper chocolate. I prefer the seeding method using a microwave to melt the chocolate.
I was quite happy making ganache, but was unsure about the variables. Some are made with raw eggs, others with cream, some with water, some with just liqueur. Other recipes call for liquid glucose, cocoa butter, and concentrated butter. While others require specialist ingredients such as, Marc de Champagne, praline paste, Dulche de Leche, or gianduja.
Which was my best chocolate? Mrs WDC’s favourite was rum and raisin – my leftovers vanished without trace.
Cherries were sourced from Garsons Farm, Esher, Surrey.
A dear friend made a trip to the Minamoto Kitchoan in Piccadilly London and bought a bag-full of wygashi delights for my birthday.
Get down to Garsons or your local Pick-Your-Own farm and treat yourself to some amazing seasonal produce.
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