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