But when is enough – enough? Really? I know what you are thinking. Get over it. Go to the store and just buy some chocolate – but no! It’s so much fun to mess around with the different levels of cocoa and to add stuff to the chocolate bars and to master tempering the chocolate. And of course to clean up the melty chocolaty mess!
I am like a kid with a chemistry set, the difference is that when I’m done, I have fabulous chocolate bars all over my kitchen. Today, I set out to recreate one of my favorites, although recreate is really not the right word. I think I should say – re-engineer the new and improved version.
You know I love very dark chocolate – usually 80% or darker. However, one of the best combinations out there is the Chocolove brand with Almonds and Sea Salt – at 55%. This is a great chocolate bar too, it has a perfect combination of softness to the chocolate and the sea salt is just the right amount, so you can hardly tell that it is there. So, this is a real challenge to improve upon. But I had to try.
I used 4 different kinds of Callebaut chocolate to achieve a 75% cocoa content. I used the following ratio of finely chopped chocolates:
10 ounces unsweetened (100% cocoa)
7 ounces semi-sweet (53.1% cocoa)
1 ounce milk (33.6% cocoa)
1 ounce Gianduja (26.6% -pronounced: Jon- DO – yah – a mixture of milk chocolate and hazelnut paste – amazing!)
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt finely ground (or to taste)
First, I combined the unsweetened and the semi-sweet and melted just over half of it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Then I removed if from the heat, placed the bowl on a towel to dry it and for stability. I added the remaining mixture as well as the milk chocolate. From here I had to stir the chocolate with a spatula until just a few pieces were being stubborn about melting. I returned it to the top of the pan of simmering water for just a few minutes. Next, removing the pan back to the towel, I added the pieces of Gianduja chocolate and stirred the mixture, spreading it out around the inside of the bowl, until all the pieces were melted and the chocolate was so cool that each stroke of my spatula made deep ribbons through the mixture.
By now the chocolate was almost setting up so I had to work quickly to get it into the molds. I filled each one, working the chocolate out to the edges of the mold. Then, quickly sprinkled the mixture of chopped almonds and Celtic sea salt onto the top of the chocolate gently incorporating it into the back of the bar with a knife. Finally, I firmly tapped the molds on the counter several times before setting them aside to finish setting up.
Tapping the molds releases any air bubbles which have been worked into the chocolate during tempering. You may be wondering how you will know when your chocolate is ready to go into the mold. You want it to be just the right temperature, really as cool as possible, but that means you have to work carefully and quickly to make sure it does not set up before you get it into the molds. If the chocolate goes in too warm then your chocolate bars will not have the nice hard consistency and shine which makes chocolate so wonderful, too cool and, well, they will be chunky and not so pretty.
You can find all kinds of videos and info on how to temper chocolate online. Mainly, you just have to do it over and over again until you get a sense for what works and what doesn’t. Success equals information plus experience times persistence and analysis. It’s a bit like a race and a dance between you and the chocolate. There is a sense of timing and drama about it, which must be why I like it so much…