Recently at pastry school, I've been in a chocolate and sugar class. It was divided into two sections, chocolate and sugar. (You probably could have guessed that...) We just finished the chocolate section Wednesday, which ended with a final project- a chocolate centerpiece. I'll be honest, I liked making bon bons and truffles and chocolate candies, but the centerpiece was a stressful affair.
In case you've never worked extensively with chocolate before (which I hadn't prior to this class- though I had eaten chocolate extensively) there are several steps required to ensure that your chocolate will dry smooth and shiny, will be hard and will release properly from molds. Every kind of chocolate you will ever buy, from a plain ol' Hershey's bar to a box of Godiva truffles (yum!) has gone through this process, called tempering.
Tempering is basically a process in which you melt your chocolate to a specific temperature (it varies by the type of chocolate), then you pour it out and paddle it on a marble or stainless steel table until it cools to a specific temperature, then you warm it back up to another specific temperature. If you don't temper chocolate, it won't harden properly, it will have a grainy texture and it will have a sticky feel.
After tempering the chocolates (we had to use white, milk and dark in our sculptures) I poured them out, let them cool slightly and cut out my pattern pieces (which I had made from paper the day prior). Once all the pieces were cut out and cooled, I carefully assembled them using more melted chocolate and a special cooling spray that cools the chocolate so it sets faster. Some were assembled flat, others were assembled once the piece was upright on the base. The final touch was some bon-bons and chocolate garnishes on the base, some edible luster dusts and filigree work.
Mine, as you can see, was space themed, with a comet, stars and the aurora borealis. (The aurora borealis was done with colored cocoa butter and luster dusts.) From the base to the tip of the comet's tail was probably about 15in. Chef liked it, and I got an excellent grade, which was gratifying, as my goal for the project was to make something that at least wouldn't collapse under its own weight.
We just started working with sugar last night, which is a very different process. Much hotter. I should probably stock up on burn cream.
12 hours ago