Workshop teaches finer points of tempering, molding chocolate
VRD Community Programming
The Vail Recreation District offers a variety of community programs, fitness classes and events throughout the ski season. Visit http://www.vailrec.com to view the complete schedule and sign up for email notifications about special events.
• Children’s Art — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays: VRD staff will provide materials and teach some simple techniques that are too messy or too tough to try to do on your own at home. Attend for 10 to 30 minutes during the times scheduled above, with a drop-in rate of $5.
• Paint Your Own Pottery — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays: You choose and buy unpainted pottery that becomes your canvas. Paint simple designs or a masterpiece, which is glazed and fired. Open to all ages, with a $5 studio fee and pottery starting at $5.
• Kids in the Kitchen — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays: Adults and children eat some yummy food while children learn math, cooking skills and more. Cost is $5 per child (parents free), which includes Imagination Station entry.
• Friday, March 4 — Parents’ Night Out
• Friday, March 11 — Cocktails & Canvas: Mineral Oil Candles
• Sunday, March 20 — Parents’ Night Out
• Saturday, March 26 — Easter Egg Hunt
• Saturday, April 9 — Shut Down the Mountain: Parents’ Day Out
Felicia Kalaluhi approached her workspace, armed with a bag of chocolate pistoles, a large metal bowl and a blowtorch, to begin preparation for a recent Vail Recreation District chocolate-making workshop.
After more than a decade working as a pastry chef and creating specialty cakes and chocolates for her company, Cornerstone Chocolates & Confections in Edwards, Kalaluhi knows a thing or two about chocolate, and soon, she would be overseeing participants as they molded and decorated their own decadent sweets.
But before cranking out everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to caramel ganache-filled truffles, Kalaluhi first educated the amateur chocolatiers about how chocolate is made and how to properly handle it to create gift-worthy goodies.
There are three varieties of cocoa beans — criollo, forastero and trinatario — each with its own attributes, from crop hardiness to flavor complexity. Just as fine bourbon is generally a blend of many barrels, it’s common for manufacturers to blend different varieties of cocoa beans, sometimes grown in a range of terroirs, to achieve a complex, well-rounded flavor.
The manufacturing process of chocolate involves more than a dozen steps, from harvest to roasting, blending to winnowing. Once the cocoa nibs have been isolated from the shells, they are ground to create a paste called chocolate liquor, composed of cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportions.
“Cocoa butter is the fat from the cocoa bean,” Kalaluhi said. “It’s what gives chocolate the properties that we know and love; it gives it that mouth feel, makes it silky and smooth on your tongue.”
Dark chocolate is a mix of chocolate liquor, sugar, vanilla and lecithin, a soy extract used to offset the viscosity of the chocolate and improve its ability to flow. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain additional milk solids that contribute to their flavor and texture. Once the ingredients have been mixed, the chocolate is refined, tempered and molded.
“When we purchase chocolate from a manufacturer, it comes like this, in little coins, or pistoles,” Kalaluhi said, sifting her fingers through a bag of dime-sized chocolate buttons.
These pistoles can then be melted and the resulting fluid chocolate tempered and molded into decorative lollipops, truffle shells and coatings.
The cocoa butter in the chocolate possesses the polymorphic ability to crystallize into different forms. In order to ensure that the chocolate will set rapidly and with a desirable standard of firmness and shine, the chocolate must be re-tempered after melting.
The chocolate is tempered through a process called seeding. Chocolate pistoles are heated over a water bath to about 122 degrees and more of the manufacturer-tempered pistoles, or “seeds,” are added to the fluid chocolate and agitated by vigorous stirring in a bowl to encourage the melted chocolate to assume the stable properties of the seeds.
The chocolate cools as it’s agitated. It should finish around 88 degrees and set within 5 minutes, smooth and shiny, on the end of a metal spatula in order to be considered properly tempered. Every cup of melted pistoles must be seeded with 1⁄3 to ½ cup of tempered pistole or table scraping seeds in order for the full batch to be tempered.
“If we don’t temper it, it will set with bloom,” Kalaluhi said.
Bloom refers to the gray cast, streaks or spots that appear on poorly handled chocolate, caused either by exposure to high humidity or other moisture (sugar bloom) or the chocolate being improperly tempered (fat bloom). Tempering encourages the cocoa butter in the chocolate to crystallize to a desirable, stable form without bloom.
After these crystals have formed, the chocolate is gently reheated to melt any remaining crystals and bring it back to working temperature. Heat the tempered chocolate too much, and it once again will untemper and the process must be repeated from the beginning.
The end goal, of course, is to create a smooth, perfectly tempered chocolate that can be manipulated to create all kinds of confections. After the brief tutorial, workshop participants scattered and began sifting through molds and trays, choosing the perfect shapes for their mini masterpieces.
From heart-shaped lollipops to bon bons filled with pistachio, caramel-chocolate or coffee-chocolate flavored ganache, each treat was carefully decorated with edible glitter dust or splattered with tinted cocoa butter to create contrasting designs.
Kalaluhi doled out tips — how to create paper cones for piping chocolate, the technique for splattering cocoa butter into a mold using a paintbrush, how to apply a quick dose of heat when the chocolate began to set in the bowl — but left most of the creativity to each individual chocolatier.
Because ultimately, there’s no wrong way to create — or enjoy — chocolate.