Lavaloha Chocolate Farm

Chocolate bars do NOT grow on trees. Growing chocolate is labor intensive as most of the harvesting and processing of cocoa and production of chocolate is done by hand. We toured the Lavahola Cocoa farm yesterday (Monday, May 17,) in the rain.

The Lavahola Chocolate Farm maintains a small garden near the visitor center. It contains a variety of native plants, and houses a few ducks.

There are three types of cacao, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario, all of which are grown at Lavahola.

Forastero is the hardiest, higher yield and most reliable strain. It is therefore the least expensive and most profitable. Unfortunately, it is bland and bitter and requires more additives to make it into a salable product.

Criolo is the connoisseurs go-to chocolate. It is quite rare and accounts for about 3% of the worlds supply, and therefore quite expensive.

The Trinitario bean was the happy result of a disaster in Trinidad. The Criollo plantations were destroyed by a hurricane (or disease) so the farmers replanted with the high yield Forastero to rebuild their industry. The new trees were planted on/near the roots of the Criollo trees and the resultant hybrid, Trinitario, is hardier than Criollo and tastier than Forastero.

Cacao grows on small trees and start producing after about 4 years. It is climate sensitive and this latitude is as far north as cacao will grow. In fact the higher elevation (200’) on one end of the farm is too cool to grow cacao.

The pods are harvested after they turn red and when scraping the outside exposes a yellow interior. They are cut open and the beans are dried for several months before being examined and selected by the chocolatier. The highest quality beans are roasted and puréed in what looks like a peanut butter mill.

If you happen to be in Hilo on the Big Island take a trip up the mountain and visit Lavahola Chocolate Farm. It’s well worth investing the hour. The staff was knowledgeable, friendly and fun.

True Lies and False Confections

This morning some radio commentator mentioned St. Valentines Day is Monday. After reviewing my calendar I said to myself, myself I said, “Yikes! Time is running out to make my chocolate candies for friends and family.”

Last year I began using my sous vide to temper chocolate. It is easier to control the temperature of the chocolate than in a double boiler.

Sous Vide Chocolate Tempering Set-up

Here is the setup I use. A pot of water chosen to fit both the sous vide and small pan holding the chocolate. The pan with the chocolate fits snugly so it wouldn’t fall into the water. The dishcloth is used to wipe and water from the bottom of the pan, if necessary, like when removing hot water from the water bath and adding ice to cool the water. There are two acrylic molds in the background to make the candies and the blue silicone mold to hold any excess chocolate. The excess made some nice solid chocolate hearts. Barely visible at the top of the photo is my morning coffee, an essential part of any kitchen adventure.

TEMPERING CHOCOLATE

Weigh desired amount of chocolate remembering it is easier to control the temperature of larger amounts of chocolate.

  1. For dark chocolate, set the sous vide to 126 deg and let the chocolate heat to 122 deg F and hold until it is all at temperature. That’s the beauty of using the sous vide to temper. It will hold indefinitely at any temperature you select.
  2. Remove the sauce pan containing the melted chocolate, wipe the pan dry and set it aside
  3. Replace 6-8 cups of water with 8-10 cups of ice. (Ice takes up more room than water. Add more cold water to the water bath if required.)
  4. Set the sous vide to 75 deg.
  5. When the chocolate cools to 82 deg, set the temperature to 95 to hold the chocolate in temper at 90 deg for over an hour.

NOTE FOR ACRYLIC MOLDS

  1. Paint the inside of each mold with a silicone brush allowing the chocolate to dry before repainting. Leave the brush in the tempered chocolate
  2. Paint three coats of chocolate being sure to examine the sides and corners closely to assure the entire inside of each mold is covered. Hold the coated mold up to the light and see if there are any holes in the coating.

I used different molds, the heart shaped one for the caramel filling and the domed one for the marshmallow. It required about 100 g of caramel to fill the 18 cells of hearts and 50 g of marshmallow to fill each of the domes.

FILLING CHOCOLATES

I warmed the caramel to piping consistency, filled a piping bag with the slightly warm caramel. When filling the chocolate shells be sure to leave adequate room to seal the bottoms of the chocolates. Repeat with about the marshmallow.

Cutting the chocolates for photos is always difficult. The tempering makes them hard and brittle. I used a very thin serrated knife.
Any suggestions would be welcome.

Pour enough chocolate across the filled molds and spread to assure each cell is covered with chocolate. (NOTE: the chocolate was kept at 90 deg and remained tempered throughout all the steps. Yay sous vide!)

Once the bottom coat of chocolate is fairly cool scrape off the excess with a bench knife. Save the excess for you next adventure.

Holiday Sweets

As the holidays approach, the baker often changes his spots from baker to chocolatier. Everyone seems to like my chocolate coated soft caramels dusted with some Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

I ran out of my favorite Barry 64% cacao chocolate. This chocolate is both delicious and has a 4 out of 5 liquidity which makes a nice thin coating. I found some re-packaged bulk Barry Callebaut 70% dark chocolate which did not have a liquidity rating. After using it I would guess it is in the 2-3 range of 5. By not flowing as well yhis resulted in a thicker coating, but it was all that was available. Hopefully, my “go to” 64% will be back in stock soon!

Paying attention to the temperatures while tempering the chocolate really pays off. The chocolates don’t melt in your fingers and have an attractive, shiny appearance.

I hit the maximum temperature of the caramel perfectly. (238 deg) To cut it I put in in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, then cut into about 1” squared. I still had to coat the knife with some baking spray to make cleanish cuts.

Temper, Temper

I tried something new today. I use my sous vide for many, many things, but never thought of using it for tempering chocolate. I researched online and the sous vide companies described several different techniques. The problem with them is they bag the chocolate, like you would a steak, and heat and cool it in the bag. I wanted to dip my chocolates, so decided to use a pan to hold the chocolate. I had to be careful as any water that splashed into the melted chocolate would seize and ruin it. (I managed to temper 3 batches with no failures.

I made sure the large pot, plus sous vide was just big enough to allow the sauce pan to sit in the water without tipping too much. It also let the water circulate from the sous vide without splashing.

By the third batch I had the timing down. Setting the sous vide temperature a few degrees higher, or lower, than the chocolate required compensated for our ambient room temperature of 64 deg. I was using dark chocolate so set the sous vide to 126 deg and let the chocolate heat to 122 deg F and hold until I was sure it was all at temperature. That’s the beauty of using the sous vide to temper. It will hold indefinitely at any temperature you select. I then removed the sauce pan containing the melted chocolate, wiped the pan dry and set it aside before replacing 5 cups of water with 5 cups of ice, dropping the temperature to 75 deg. Returning the saucepan to the water quickly cooled the chocolate to 80 deg. I then set the temperature to 95 which held the chocolate in temper at 90 deg for over an hour.

After making the centers by pouring the candy filling into a jelly roll pan, cooling and cutting into 1” x 2” pieces, I dipped to coat the Butterfingers candy bars. The resultant center was too thin for the candy bar. I then tried pouring it into a mold, but it was too thick. Nothing I have was “just right.” However, the flavor and texture was spot-on compared to the commercial candy bar.

I used a heart shaped polycarbonate mold to make the vanilla cream and Mounds Bar clone. (It is almost Valentines Day after all.) I made a half recipe although the recipe below is for a full recipe Two coats of tempered chocolate painted into the mold made a shell for the filling.

The vanilla cream readily piped into the mold, but the coconut was too dense and lumpy with the coconut so I greased my hands and rolled small balls of the mixture then pressed them into the shell. (I warmed the coconut mixture for the second batch and was able to pipe it.)

Once filled, a layer of tempered chocolate was poured over the top and the excess was scraped off. Tapping the cooled mold on the table released the finished candies.

Mounds Bars

INGREDIENTS
• 5 oz condensed milk, sweetened
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 14 oz coconut, shredded
• 4 cups dark (64% cacao) couverture chocolate

METHOD

  1. Mix the condensed milk and vanilla extract in a bowl.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, blending until smooth.
  3. Stir in the coconut.
  4. Temper the chocolate and paint the inside of the mold. It will probably take 2 coats to completely cover the mold. Cool the chocolate between coats.
  5. Grease you hands and roll a small quantity of the mixture into a ball and force into the chocolate coated mold.
  6. Pour chocolate over the top and scrape off the excess. Chill until the top is firm.
  7. Scrape any residual chocolate from the mold and tap on the counter to release.

Vanilla Cream with Invertase

INGREDIENTS (HALF RECIPE)
• 3 tsp Meringue Powder (1 ½)
• 2 cups Fondant Sugar (1)
• 1 to 2 tsp Vanilla Extract (1)
• 1 tsp Invertase (½)
• Food Coloring (optional)
• 3 Tbsp Butter softened (1 ½)
• 3 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup (1 ½)
• 2 Tbsp Water (1)

METHOD

  1. Add the softened butter, meringue powder, light corn syrup, and water to your mixing bowl Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer beat until mixed completely, scraping the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated well.
  2. Add fondant sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, then, beat on medium speed for about 1 minute until it all creams together.
  3. Add invertase, and food coloring and mix well. This was my first recipe using invertase. It is a natural enzyme used to break down the sugar and change it from grainy to smooth.
  4. Scoop the cream filling into a disposable pastry bag and twist the end tightly, securing with a clip or a rubber band.

Butterfinger Candy Bars

(Yields about 96 miniature candy bars)
https://spinningsugar.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/homemade-butterfinger-candy-bars/

INGREDIENTS
• 1/3 cup light corn syrup
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup peanut butter
• Spray Vegetable Oil (Pam, etc.) for keeping the knife lubricated in scoring
• 1 Pound of Tempered Semi-Sweet Chocolate for dipping

METHOD

  1. First begin by greasing a 12-by-17-inch jelly roll pan (with 1-inch sides) with safflower, vegetable or canola oil. Place the pan into a slightly warm oven to warm the pan while making the candy. (Don’t allow the pan to become hot, only barely warm to give you more time to spread and score the candy later.)
  2. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine the corn syrup and water, stirring well to combine. Place over medium-low heat and add the sugar. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it is clear and then stirring often until it reaches a full boil. Clip on your calibrated candy thermometer, raise the heat to medium-high and continue to cook – without stirring – until the mixture reaches 310 degrees (F). During this cooking period, should sugar crystals form above the boiling line, carefully wipe away using a damp pastry brush, but be careful not to touch the boiling mixture. Rinse the pastry brush well – and make certain to blot-dry the brush well – between each swipe.
  3. Remove your pan from the warming oven and place on your work surface.
  4. Remove the candy from heat and add the peanut butter, stirring to blend completely using a clean wooden spoon. Working quickly, pour the mixture onto your well-greased jelly roll pan, and spread as evenly as possible. Score the mass with an oiled, heavy chef’s knife into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces, cutting at least half way through the candy. (The more quickly you do this, the easier and deeper your scoring will be.) It is helpful to spray the knife with cooking oil occasionally to aide the knife in scoring.
  5. Allow the scored mixture to cool at room temperature about 2 hours. When cool and hard, complete cutting the scored pieces using a sharp, heavy knife (I like to use my Chinese cleaver here) and break into individual pieces.
  6. Place the cut candies into the refrigerator while you temper your dipping chocolate and allow to chill for 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the candies from the fridge and dip each piece into the chocolate, then place on parchment paper to allow the chocolate to harden completely (About 3 hours).
  7. Note: You can add a certain flair to the candy by taking a clean dinner fork and touching the tops of each freshly dipped piece raising lines of “peaks” (akin to meringue peaks). Just use the back of the fork laid parallel to the chocolate cops, touch, lift and slightly pull to one side. Looks pretty snazzy….
  8. Store on waxed-paper sheets in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Raspberry Fondant Filled Bonbons

I figured there must be something I could do while my Rye Bread Part 2a a loaves were proofing. I also figured there must be something I could do with the 4 Tbl of seedless raspberry coulis I had in the fridge. Also, if you remember I want to use more of the 11 lbs of bittersweet chocolate I have, so I decided some nice raspberry fondant filled bonbons would be a good way to kill a couple of hours this morning.

I tempered a cup of chocolate and poured it into one of my molds before draining the extra back into the bowl of liquid chocolate.

While the tempered chocolate was setting I mixed the raspberry fondant. I only made a half recipe but doubled the amount of raspberry coulis and halved the amount of sugar. I wanted the filling to be very soft. The recipe below does NOT reflect my modifications.

Once complete, I piped each chocolate coated well about 2/3rds full and let it set. Once set, I re-tempered the chocolate, poured it over the filled chocolate and let it almost set before scraping the bottom clean. It’s always a challenge to bang the finished chocolates out of the mold, but just keep banging them and eventually they will release.

Raspberry (or any) fondant center

INGREDIENTS
• 2½ tablespoons butter, softened
• 2½ tablespoons light corn syrup
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ cup seedless raspberry coulis, (but you can use your favorite.)
• 3 cups powdered sugar

METHOD

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter, corn syrup, jam, vanilla extract and salt until smooth.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and mix on slow until completely combined. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat the mixture until smooth.
  3. Use the filling right away, or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month. (I have it in a piping bag, sealed on both ends.)

Caramel on the Bay, Revisited

Do you like soft, chewy caramels, especially when coated with dark chocolate and sprinkled with a bit of Malden Sea Flake Salt? Well, I do!

If you read the past few posts you know I bought 11 pounds of very nice chocolate and am looking for places to use it. Today I discovered it took about 360g, or 12 oz of chocolate to cover 72 one inch cubes of caramel. Now I know..

These are really easy to make, and worth the modest effort. I experimented with coating with simple melted chocolate or using tempered chocolate. Tempering is worth the extra step. The chocolate won’t melt in your hands, but will in your mouth.

Chocolat de Couverture Noir

On a visit to a Restaurant Depot my Q.C. Department convinced me to buy 11 lbs of bulk Chocolat de Couverture Noir. (64% is dark chocolate is not very bitter. I use 73% for dark bitter chocolate.) My question is… what should I make with it?

I am thinking Pain au Chocolat, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies and/or brownies. Note the fluidity on the package. This chocolate is suitable for coating caramel, creams, berries and other confections.

Last year I made an over the top chocolate/orange tart. My neighbor’s orange tree has a abundance of oranges too high up for her to harvest. Hmmm……

Maybe something I made before: Eclairs? Chocolate Babka? Soufflés? Chocolate pudding? (Try the easy home made chocolate pudding recipe.) Chocolate chip scones? Lava Cake? Chocolate Fudge? Oh yes, chocolate fudge!!! (Maybe chocolate/peanut butter fudge, the QC department doesn’t like Chocolate/peanut butter fudge.)

Andy other suggestions?????

Good for the Soul

Some people say confession is good for the soul. They may be right but there is no question chocolate is. However, I do have a confession to make. Actually, I have two (at least two) confessions to make.

Fran, my wife of nearly, well let’s just say many, years, frequently tells me due to my New England heritage and upbringing I am a frugal person. Actually, she uses another word, frugal is mine. I acknowledge she is correct, but I contend that’s not a bad thing. For example, I found three 6 ounce bags of Scharffen Berger bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate that bloomed while stored in the cupboard. As everyone knows chocolate bloom can be repaired by melting the chocolate and allowing it to re-crystallize.

Now I confess (#1) it seemed a waste for me to spend the time and energy, meaning expensive natural gas, to melt and re-crystallize the chocolate with nothing to show for the effort. Not only would it be wasteful, according to Fran, it would be contrary to my nature. Luckily, I recently acquired a new chocolate mold and had all the ingredients in the cupboard to make some peppermint cream filling. This allowed me to finish up the chocolate and test the new mold.

New Bullet Shaped Poly Carbonate Mold

After golf this morning I frugally decided to make some filled chocolates. I tempered and thereby repaired, all 18 ounces and made some peppermint cream filled candies.

The round candy is peppermint from the new mold. The cubes are caramels.

Unfortunately, there was too much tempered chocolate left over, but with my lucky streak intact I had some extra caramel from another batch of candies I made a couple of weeks ago. I dipped 20 caramel cubes in the remaining chocolate and set them aside to cure.

At this point there was barely enough tempered chocolate to fill and seal the new mold to make one more batch. I now have peppermint and previously made vanilla and raspberry. I also confess (#2) what I never tried, but wanted to, was chocolate coated marshmallow creams. While “fluff” is very sweet, the bittersweet chocolate provides a nice balance, plus I have only made marshmallow at home once before and I like to practice. Unfortunately, I only needed a few ounces and the recipe I have makes almost 2 pints, most of which is now sealed and sitting on the counter.

The marshmallow filled chocolates didn’t cut well but the texture is evident

I was pleasantly surprised I could hold the chocolate in temper for the 30 minutes or so it took to make and cool the marshmallow. The chocolate temperature varied between 85 and 95 degrees as it sat on a double boiler. I checked the temperature frequently and turned the burner on briefly from time to time to keep the temperature fairly constant.

Marshmallow Recipe

INGREDIENTS
• 1/3 cup water
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup corn syrup or honey
• 3 large egg whites room temperature
• 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD
1. Place water, sugar, and corn syrup (or honey) in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine.
2. Insert a candy thermometer into the pot and heat over medium-high. Do not stir from this point on as crystals will form.
3. Ensure mixer bowl and whisk are completely grease free.
4. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
5. When the sugar syrup reaches about 225°F, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Approx 3-4mins.
6. When the whites are ready, the sugar syrup should be at 240°F. Remove from the heat, turn mixer to medium and very slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whites in a thin, steady stream.
7. Once all of the syrup is in, set mixer to medium/high and continue whipping. The whites will deflate at first, but they will thicken and fluff up.
8. Continue to whip for 7-8 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and glossy.
9. Add in vanilla and whip until the fluff has cooled.
10. Pour into an airtight container and store for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

There’s Chocolate, Then There’s Chocolate

Sigh, there are many, many varieties of chocolate, and so little time.

I am a fan of dark chocolate, (not intense 85%+ cacoa but a nice 52-70%.) I find the flavor more intense than milk chocolate (34%) and of course there are the currently purported health benefits of dark chocolate. Not only do I have to contend with percent cacao but also many different manufacturers. I should probably create a spreadsheet for them all.

I am also experimenting with fillings for chocolate candies, a tough job, but someone really should do it. Last month I made two new fillings, buttercream and fresh raspberry/chocolate ganache. Both were excellent, but I wanted some candies with a soft gooey filling.

This morning I made a batch with some Guittard 46% semi-sweet baking chips I picked up at the grocery story a couple of weeks ago. I thought these might be a good compromise between the dark that I like and the milk chocolate that Fran prefers.

I tempered the chocolate, coated the inside of a heart shaped silicone mold and let it cure. This morning I made a batch of cream filling and divided it into two. One was flavored with peppermint to make some gooey peppermint patties, the other with vanilla for plain vanilla chocolates.

I want to make this same recipe but flavor with fresh strawberry or raspberry or orange ganache. I am experimenting with fillings as much as I am with different chocolates.

Homemade Peppermint or Vanilla Patties

INGREDIENTS

• ½ – ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk (amount depends on desired consistency)

• 1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract (optional)

• 339g (3 cups) powdered sugar

Optional Dipping Chocolate or use tempered chocolate in mold

• 8 ounces dark chocolate chopped

• 2 teaspoons oil

METHOD

1. In a medium size bowl mix the sweetened condensed milk, peppermint extract, and powdered sugar together. Add more sweetened condensed milk until mixed to viscosity desired.

2. Divide dough into number of flavors desired and place each portion in a small bowl

3. Add flavorings and mix well.

4. Pipe filling to fill each chocolate well to within 1/8” of the top of the well

5. Let set for 10 minutes

6. Add enough tempered chocolate to each well to seal the filling inside.

7. Scape bottom of mold to remove excess chocolate

8. Store the peppermint patties in the fridge until ready to be served! Enjoy!

A Truffle Trifle

After I finished the caramels and before the chocolate lost its temper (and had a hissy fit) I coated the inside of a silicone candy mold with the leftover chocolate. I left it in the fridge until today. (I should have taken a picture before filling. Dang!)

Beyond what I used to coat the mold I had some chocolate left over from making the chocolate coated caramels and thought, “Hmmm… I also have some raspberries in the fridge that I need to use soon.” Well, one thing led to another so I made some chocolate covered raspberry/chocolate truffles.

I made the raspberry ganache using the recipe below, filled each well of the mold leaving some room at the top to cover with more chocolate. I didn’t bother re-tempering the tops of the chocolates and they seem fine. Actually, the tops become the bottoms of the chocolates once they are removed from the mold.

The ganache stays nice and soft and the raspberry/chocolate flavor was excellent. I may try less chocolate in the ganache next time to make the flavor a bit more raspberry forward.

I also want a nice chocolate covered vanilla cream center, and maybe a nice peppermint filling too.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles Recipe
INGREDIENTS
• 1 package (10 oz.) fresh raspberries
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips – try with 1⁄2 lb. chocolate chips
• 3/4 cup cream
• 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
• One candy mold coated with tempered chocolate
OR Alternatively
• 1 lb. chocolate candy coating (for dipping)


METHOD

  1. Blend or food process the raspberries until they are liquid. Sieve the raspberry puree into a small saucepan.
  2. Add the powdered sugar to the raspberry puree and heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is thick and syrupy and reduced by about half. Remove the puree from heat and set aside.
  3. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and heat the cream (I microwave in 30 sec intervals) until bubbles start to form around the edges, but do not allow it to come to a full boil. Once simmering, pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for a minute or two to soften and melt the chocolate before whisking the chocolate and cream together gently, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
  4. Add the corn syrup and raspberry puree to the chocolate mixture, and whisk it all together. Cover the surface of the raspberry ganache with cling wrap, and refrigerate until it is thickened.
  5. Add enough raspberry ganache to each tempered chocolate coated mold to within 1/8” of the top. Cover the top of each mold well with melted chocolate. It doesn’t appear to need to be tempered at this point. Chill and when nearly softened scape the bottom of the mold to remove excess chocolate.
    If you are going to dip the raspberry ganache in chocolate chill until it can be formed in small balls (1” or less diameter) and placed on a lined cookie sheet
  6. Alternative coating method:
  7. Using dipping tools or a fork, dip a truffle into the chocolate. Bring it out of the chocolate and allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated truffle back onto the baking sheet and repeat with remaining truffles and chocolate.
  8. Place the truffles in the refrigerator to set the candy coating for about 30 minutes. If desired, you can melt red candy coating (or tint white coating with red candy coloring) and drizzle a small amount over the truffles decoratively.
  9. Place the candy coating in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in one-minute increments until melted, stirring after every minute to prevent overheating. Stir until the coating is completely smooth. Allow the coating to cool until it is barely warm. Do not let it start setting up, but let it cool down so that it does not melt the truffle fillings.
  10. Chocolate raspberry truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.