The Chocolate Life

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Aloha Happy New Year.

I've been eating Valrhona Guanaja dark chocolate for over 10 years. Until recently my wife and I have been enjoying a few of the individually wrapped pieces every night after dinner with our red wine. Now, there doesn't seem to be anyone bringing the 1kg box of Valrhona into Hawaii and the bars are just too expensive. So, I reluctantly switched to Des Alphes 73% Couverture Onyx Coins. These little coins are not the smooth, melt on your tongue chocolates the Valrhona is.

My problem started when my wife asked me to make her some chocolate covered Macadamia nuts - which she loves. No problem say I, how hard can it be. Duh, yeah right. Little did I know. And judging from the problems I've had, I'll say it another way. Little do I know.

According to Des Alphes these are the specs on the 73% Onyx: Melting - 115F, Pre-crystallization 81F, Actual Working 86-88F.

Since this is my first experience with chocolate, nuts, and tempering I went onto the internet to gather information and I received a new book on chocolate, The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg.

So far my nuts (the chocolate covered macadamias, please) have come out with a bunch of milk chocolate colored dots on them or with milk chocolate colored streaks of varying widths. In addition, most of them have not set up crisp at room temperature without cooling in the wine cellar. Some of the candies without the nuts have turned out smooth and creamy although not crisp as I would expect them after tempering. They actually approached the consistency of the Valrhona pieces.

We live in an air conditioned condo. I do not know the humidity, but the temperature is between 70 and 75. I have been attempting to temper small batches of the chocolate - 2 to 3 ounces at a time.

So, questions for the experts:

1. What are the dots? Humidity?

2. What are the streaks? Not mixed enought at the proper temperature?

3. Can I do small batches like 2 or 3 ounces or is it much easier to do a pound at a time? Everything I read says I should do at least a pound, but I'm not sure why that is.

4. What temperatures should I use? In my research I've seen 95F, 115F, 118F. For this chocolate, with the above specs, what temperature should I be using?

5. Does the temperature of the nuts being coated make a difference?

6. What do I have to do to the Des Alphes coins to make them the same consistency as the Valrhona Guanaja? Is it possible?

7. My wife actually stuck one of the warm chocolate covered nuts in the freezer for a very brief time and it came out without the dots or streaks. This made me think humidity is an issue since the freezer is very low humidity. I know there is the issue of freezing which is not good for the chocolate.

I'm sorry for all the questions, but this chocolate work is not as easy as it might appear. Hats off to all you experts who work with this wonderful product.

My goal is to use the Des Alphes to make nuts nicely covered in chocolate without all the spots and streaks as well as pieces of melt in your mouth plain chocolates without nuts.

I appreciate any help anyone can offer.



Happy New Year or Hau'oli Makahiki Hou

Tags: Macadamia, Nuts

Views: 551

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Replies to This Discussion

I have a couple of thoughts:

1) Temperature of the nuts will make a difference: Too cold and the chocolate will set too quickly; you’ll end up with a blocky mess. Too hot and obviously, they will throw the chocolate out of temper.

2) 75F seems a bit hot to be working with chocolate. Others have different experience but my optimum range is 68F-72F (tops). Outside of that range, for me at least, things get more difficult.

3) Is it possible that you’re seeing fat migration from the macadamia nuts? You may not be able to do anything about that unless you’re prepared to use some kind of vegetable gum based glaze as a barrier. I don’t know much about that sort of thing.

If it is fat migration, then try a thin coat of milk chocolate before finishing with the dark. The milk fat in milk chocolate may form a partial barrier so that it won’t come through to the dark.

4) You can thin any chocolate by adding melted cocoa butter prior to tempering.

5) After a quick review of your post, it seems that you may want to review tempering. If you’re new to tempering, it can take a while to master but it’s not difficult at all. 95F is just too hot – your chocolate will not be in temper when it’s that hot. Try the Seed Method and use the manufacturer’s suggested working temperature of 88F (max).

Anyway, try monitoring your working environment first. Make sure your chocolate is actually in temper and that the nuts are very close to, but cooler than, the temperature of your tempered chocolate. Once they’re enrobed, and just beginning to set, pop them into the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes or so. When you remove them from the cooler, cover them so that they don’t condense ambient moisture. If you still get streaking, try enrobing with milk first, then dark.

But really, it sounds like your chocolate wasn’t in temper to start with. I think there’s an article here on TheChocolateLife about tempering and there are many online elsewhere, too. Oh, and be sure to keep the chocolate well mixed so that the beta-crystals are well dispersed.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the thoughts John.

In regard to the nuts, I do seem to be getting a lot of oil in the finished product in the paper cups I'm putting the enrobed nuts into. I'm not sure if that is from the chocolate or nuts. I try to have the nuts at room temperature before working with them. The milk chocolate idea is interesting.

Speaking of temperature, I'm thinking I need to either move the covered nuts out of the kitchen area to set or place them in the cooler temporarily after enrobbing. This in itself brings in another issue.

In regard to tempering, I thought I had to heat the chocolate to a higher temperature, add seed chocolate, then cool to the lower temperature around 80F to temper. Then again raise the temperature to around 88 to work with the chocolate. One area of confusion for me - one of many obviously - is the temperatures. My impression was this higher temperature is dependent on the cacao percentage. I thought the melting temperature I posted in my original post was the temperature I had to reach before seeding. I've searched this site for info on tempering, but nothing comes up. I'll try again.

Any good links you, or anyone else, can give me would be great.

Could the lighter colored streaks in the finished product be an indication that the chocolate is not mixed enough? I've read that if I mix it too hard air will get into the chocolate which makes it grainy. Is this not really an issue as long as I'm not really beating it hard?

Thanks for the help.
Absolutely, the colored streaks and/or spots may indicate that you're not stirring enough. You don't want to whip the chocolate but don't be afraid to stir a lot and frequently.

Here's just one place to show how to temper using the seeding method.
Thanks John, I just looked at that website. I saw that link and several others at this website:

I'm going to take another shot with some changes in mixing, storage while cooling, and heating.

Thanks for your help.
Actually, I wouldn't recommend following the procedure outlined in the link you referenced above. You don't need to let the chocolate cool so much, just takes up too much of your time and as I said, it's just not necessary. If you seed correctly, you end up at the working temperature with tempered chocolate.

The way I do it if I'm in a hurry and I don't have to temper a large amount:
1) Chop chocolate using a serrated edged bread knife or you could use your food processor - fairly small shards/bits.
2) Place this in a glass mixing bowl and microwave on defrost for, say, 2 minutes. Each microwave is different (power and hot spots) so you have to experiment. You do not want the chocolate to get too hot, as it will scorch. Stir well, though it will probably only be a thick partially melted mass at this point.
3) Return to microwave and nuke for 60-90 seconds on Defrost. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
4) STOP HEATING BEFORE YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO. Your target is to get all of the chocolate to JUST melt and no further. The bowl will feel lightly warm to the touch when the chocolate is nearly all melted. Be patient, stir frequently. If you have to add a short blast at Defrost, do so but cut the time down so you don't overheat and lose the temper.

See how easy that is? ;-) And you don't have to make a big mess with tabling the chocolate.

Temper more than you think you'll need since you can always reuse the leftover chocolate in the next batch.
Success! Thanks for your help. The issues seemed to be the humidity and the lack of proper mixing.

I placed the covered nuts in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes right after I enrobed them, then placed them in the coolest room in the condo. No humidity damage.

I also mixed the chocolate much more vigorously this time and that seemed to have eliminated the lighter colored swirls.



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