Some eight years ago, I was hunting Delhi stores for chocolate powder. There was a shortage at that point and I had to deliver a cake topped and soaked with rich chocolate icing. A bit lost, I walked into Defence Bakery and saw a cooking chocolate bar lying on the counter. This could be the solution!
The late Dalip Dhingra (one of Delhi’s best bakers) said I could give it a try. He assumed I knew what could be done with that bar. The result was that there were uneven bits of chocolate in the middle and all over the pudding. It could be passed off as something creative but it wasn’t what I had planned. This was when I sought more orderly results to my creative instincts. And the late Dalipji left me with a few tips.
To get things going, here are a few things you need to keep in mind. You need a sense of taste and technique. You need to figure out what blends well and how you set or lay the chocolate out so that you can have good rounds or square pieces. And how to use moulds to reduce the role of the hands.
But to begin with, you need to push out of your mind the fear of calories and the assumption that making chocolate is difficult.
Before the industrial revolution the common form of chocolate was a bitter drink of cacao. The Spanish made it more palatable with cream and sugar. And then came the industrial revolution. This meant that machines did things that you did with your hands with a lot more consistency.
At home, you need to invoke this bit of history as both cream and sugar are essential to making good chocolate, assuming that the cacao is good. Today you can get sweetened cooking chocolate in the form of bars. It is good to use cooking bars with 65-70 per cent cacao.
Tempering of chocolate is also a skill as this is done by melting the chocolate over simmering water or in a double boiler. If you want your chocolate flavoured, then oil-based essences are available to choose from – almond, Irish cream, orange and many more.
But always be sure that the essence is oil-based, there is no water in your pan and the cream is not replaced by margarine or oil. There is little or no margin for error – the chocolate will turn lumpy if you ignore these points.
Below is perhaps one of the easiest recipes for a good home-made truffle chocolate (the way chocolates were made once, I was told).
(Rangnekar cooks for a hobby. For a living, he works as a PR professional and writer) Truffle Chocolate
Ingredients and Implements
500 gm cooking chocolate bar (sweetened) 260 ml whipped cream (full cream, heavy)
Drinking chocolate powder
A thick steel bowl
A double layered thick pan
A bread board (wooden) A knife (wedged)
Butter paper/cookie sheet
Scoopers, Two teaspoons
Pick a cooking chocolate bar of the flavour you prefer. Bitter chocolate, almond flavoured chocolate or even a regular milk chocolate will do. It would be good if the cocoa content is at least 65-70 per cent to make the final product rich. Whipped cream is available in dairy stores or even your neighbourhood bakeries.
Take your bread or wooden chopping board and place the chocolate bar on it. Slice the chocolate into bits (small pieces of 2 cms) using the wedged/bread knife (or any other sharp one you may have) into small strips. While doing that, the chocolate often breaks into bits which is actually helpful when it’s time to melt and churn the chocolate with cream.
place the pieces in a thick steel pan that is preferably heat resistant. This would help keep the chocolate at more or less the same temperature as when it was unwrapped.
Now pour out the whipped cream and bring it to a boil. The pan must be heavy metal, that will help in controlling the heat flow.
Once boiled, pour the cream over the chocolate and let the two mingle a bit on their own.
A four to five minute wait would be good. Then take a spatula and mix the two in gently yet firmly. What you are going to see is the creation of thick mix and not a very liquid chocolate. This is due to the lower than normal content of whipped cream that I have suggested. You need to ensure that the final product is lump free so the mixing needs to be firm and constant.
Often this mixture is called ganache or truffle-cream. Pour this out into another bowl and place it in your fridge at the normal temperature. About 45-50 minutes later, you can take it out and scoop out bits to create small balls. The mixture, please note, will be harder by now.
If you find the balls becoming a bit sticky, then place them in the fridge again or on an ice tray. Use your hands to make chocolate balls rather than the scooper. The balls should be placed on the butter paper laid out on a tray or pan.
Place the tray with the chocolate balls into the fridge again for around 10-15 minutes.
After that, pick each ball up with two teaspoons and roll them in the drinking chocolate powder so that they are dusted and given an attractive finish. Often this stage is ignored as many prefer to have the chocolate as is. It’s for you to decide.
Time to eat!
From HT Brunch, October 23
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