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Chopping chocolate

Chocolate

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#1 stllc

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 09:47 AM

I have recently started a chocolate business and one of the things that is puzzling me most is chopping chocolate. I am having a hard time keeping up. I sometimes spend a couple of hours on chopping the 11 lb. blocks of chocolate (a bunch of them) by hand a week- knife and/or chipper. Besides the time it takes, it's really wearing on my wrists. I have seen the chocolate cutter from Chocovision, but does this cut the chocolate into small pieces? Are there any other pieces of equipment out there that would work that I don't know about?

Thanks for any input!

#2 mjc

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 12:07 PM

buy pistoles instead of blocks.
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#3 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 12:36 PM

Although I don't know the brand of chocolate you are using, in what applications you are using it, nor the kind of quantities you are dealing with, the pistole format is probably the way to go. The slightly higher price of pistoles will be offset by the saved labor costs of manually breaking down block chocolate; my time is certainly more valuable than the extra cents per pound I pay. You can also factor in the ease of precise measurement, quick and uniform melting, and that there is no waste.

Depending on your application (tempering, ganache), there may be concern that some manufacturers may formulate pistole and block formats differently. I personally haven't done any large scale, side by side comparisons to be able to pick up on any subtle differences in fluidity and the like, though I've heard claims that they may behave differently. For me, pistoles or tablets are the way to go.
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#4 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 03:13 PM

Definately use pistoles, buy them from the same place your buying your blocks. It's rare that a wholesale co. doesn't have them.

I hate chopping up blocks! I always use pistoles and I've never had an instance where the chocolate pistoles behaved any differently then block chocolate.

Also if I do have to use block choc. I break on the side of my table into smaller blocks, then very coarsely chop, then cusinart it to a working size.

#5 tan319

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 03:36 PM

I'm with everyone here, pistoles are the way to go.
No waste, cuts labour, etc.
The only block stuff I use now is Valrhona, and that's only because my dist. doesn't carry the feves, or pistoles.
My inventory is 95% pistoles.
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#6 Lesley C

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 07:39 AM

If you must stick to the blocks, try zapping them in the microwave for about thirty seconds before chopping.
It really cuts down on the effort (I do this when I make chunks for cookies).

#7 inventolux

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 07:53 AM

I have used a "chocolate fork" in the past. It looks like a fork on steroids and you just poke it into the chocolate to break it up. Perhaps JB Prince sells them.
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#8 zilla369

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 08:27 AM

They only buy blocks where i'm working. I discovered quite by accident that a heavy-duty mezzaluna knife works like a dream.
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#9 niobe

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 07:23 PM

my favorite way to break up a chocolate block- hold it high and let it drop on the floor- it makes a terrific bang-( works best on a concrete floor) scares the bejezes out of everyone and just feels great!

now of course it has to have its plastic wrapping around it- and thats good for one drop- got to wrap it better if your'e going to drop it a few more times- but it sure gets it started well

#10 tb86ed

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 11:34 PM

If you cant get pistoles, use a serate dkinfe to cut the choc, smash the blocks on the edge of a counter and break up the larger peices wwith a ice pick or choc fork. But pistoles are the best bet if you are doing high volume production.

#11 chefette

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 09:47 AM

A 3-pronged ice pick is the tool of choice for fast chopping - unless of course you have a stage - then use them. :biggrin:

#12 thebaker

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 03:14 PM

For chopping the blocks i use and 2 handeled cheese knife.
i get good leverage from it and my wrists don't hurt..
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#13 FireIslanddish

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 03:28 PM

My best method is to put the chocolate in a ziplock and take it outside with a hammer. You gently pound the block or chunks and you get chopped chocolate. Works like a dream everytime for me.

#14 alanamoana

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Posted 13 August 2003 - 09:14 PM

one more tip along with breaking up into more manageable pieces...this may seem obvious but using your serrated knife, always cut on the corners. so, if you have a rectangular piece, cut one corner until it gets a little awkward, move to the other corner and create a point, then cut that point down...i guess what i mean is that it's easier to cut on the smaller angles, don't try to cut the entire length of the bar at once. and, as everyone else has already said, get pistoles! so much easier.

#15 chefette

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Posted 15 August 2003 - 07:14 AM

Personally, I would not select the serrated knife for this task. You want the weight and power of your French knife (if you don't use the chocolate chopper/ice pick)

But your whole point is that you are sick to death of spending time and energy chopping the chocolate. You could jus hack it all up and bag it all when you get it in.

#16 Steve Klc

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Posted 15 August 2003 - 07:43 AM

Buy better chocolate and buy pistoles. It melts faster and more evenly. Spend that time you save doing something more interesting or working more efficiently and that will make your end product better. Win-win.

Think about it--how easy and clean and efficient it is to weigh out what you need right from the box versus all the time, hassle, energy expended opening, chopping, storing, touching, cleaning, wiping hands and towels, re-wrapping chopped chunks of block chocolate? Not to mention the risk of injury trying to chop chocolate with all these various undoubtedly dull knives lying around a typical prep kitchen, etc. If that isn't worth the .25 or .50 cent difference per pound (pistoles vs. block) I don't know what is.

I'm with invento and chefette--if you have to--use the multi-pronged ice pick. It's safer and cleaner.
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#17 Aria

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:12 AM

Hey all,
I use Lindt couverture for my truffles and it's so hard to chop up those huge blocks of chocolate. I've tried the 'chocolate chopper' which looks like a huge fork with 3 prongs but it doesn't make things faster. Does anyone have any suggestions about speeding up the process?
Also, can I chop the chocolate and leave it in an airtight container for when I need it?
Thanks so much!

#18 bluechefk

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:24 AM

my favorite method for chopping chocolate also relieves aggression :laugh: keep the block of chocolate in it's paper wrapper, and put the whole thing into a small garbage bag, tied at the top. then, hold the bar above your head, let go & let it fall to the floor. makes a heck of a noise, but it breaks the chocolate up into more manageable pieces. you can store it that way, chopping pieces smaller when you need them.

#19 Hest88

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:35 AM

Heh. I actually put it in a Ziplock and then whack it a few times against the counter.

#20 Badiane

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 12:00 PM

I do the bag and drop...then when I have workable smaller pieces, I grate it in the food processor and store it in a plastic container in a cool place. That way I only have to get the processor dirty once, I don't wear out my wrist with the chopping, and I am ready to go when I need to melt some.
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#21 annachan

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 12:16 PM

I had the same problem before and ended up switching to using chocolate disks. However, I did get some advice about using the chocolate chopper. I was told that it's easier if you use the chopper along w/ a rubber mallet.

#22 Irishgirl

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 12:32 PM

The method we used at the truffle shop I used to work at was:

-Turn the whole block on its side and secure it under your arm.
-Then, using a serated knife, (the part closest to the handle) push the knife through the chocolate. At say, 1/2 inch intervals.

It makes a mess if you are using a 5kg piece, but works really quickly.

You can cut the chocolate to any width really. The better the serated knife, the more control you will have. Also, the closer to the handle you use, the more control you will have.

If you don't want Chocolate stains under your arm, you can place a piece of parchment there, or a rag or keep it half in the wrapper.

I also find that this method makes it easier to rewrap if you don't need the whole block. No odd shaped chunky pieces.

Good luck!

#23 MelissaH

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 03:06 PM

There was a tip about this in the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine: get yourself a cheap chisel from the hardware store, wash it up really well, and then chisel the chocolate hunk to pieces. I haven't tried it, but I like the idea. (Now, the real trick will be to keep my husband from taking the chocolate chisel downstairs into his workshop.... :raz:

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#24 xdrixn

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 03:30 PM

and for those who don't like loud banging noises I find an oyster shucker works well too.
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#25 scott123

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 04:04 PM

Maybe I'm the minority here, but I don't believe in pre-chopping chocolate. Cocoa butter absorbs odors very easily. By chopping it, you're exposing so much more of it air.

#26 John DePaula

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 06:49 PM

The easiest and most hygienic way to chop up those difficult blocks is to leave the chocolate in its original wrapping and place atop a sturdy, clean counter top. Again with the stress-relieving: whack the chocolate several times with a French hardwood rolling pin (e.g. JBPrince French Rolling Pin ) until it is in small enough pieces.* If you find it necessary, you can put the chocolate into one of those jumbo Ziploc plastic bags before whacking.

*Make sure the rolling pin wood grain is aligned properly so that you won't split it, just in case.

Some comments:
1) Dropping the chocolate to the floor will certainly break up the chocolate, but it is also likely to cause tiny tears in the plastic bag or covering. So your chocolate is coming into contact with the floor.

2) Placing the chocolate under your arm? :blink: I think that staining my outfit is the least of my concerns with this technique.

3) Using a rubber mallet to hit your chocolate chopper is definitely the way to go if you use this tool. You have much much more control, use a lot less effort, and you don't end up with tiny holes in your counter top/cutting board.

4) Scott is correct about the chocolate being more vulnerable to absorbing odors. Be sure to store your chopped chocolate in a cool dry place, preferably in an airtight container, and only for a short period of time.

5) I also use the food processor if I need the chocolate chopped extra finely.
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#27 etalanian

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 08:52 PM

Heh. I actually put it in a Ziplock and then whack it a few times against the counter.



Right after my kitchen was remodeled I smacked a 5kg bar of Callebaut semisweet against the edge of the marble top on the island to break it up. Unfortunately the chocolate didn't break, but the marble countertop did!
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#28 FistFullaRoux

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 09:36 PM

You could also use a rock hammer or a plain old claw hammer from the local hardware store. Get either the fiberglass or metal handle. It should wash up just fine. Just use the pointed end to break off the chunks you need.

Can also be used for self-defense when fighting off the hands of those who would eat that chocolate before it made it to the recipe...
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#29 Irishgirl

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:43 AM

The easiest and most hygienic way to chop up those difficult blocks is to leave the chocolate in its original wrapping and place atop a sturdy, clean counter top.

2) Placing the chocolate under your arm?  :blink:  I think that staining my outfit is the least of my concerns with this technique.


I was not implying to stick the chocolate in your armpit, but to secure it with your elbow against your hip. If the chocolate is still half in its wrapper, there is nothing to worry about. The prcess is so quick, that melting is not a factor.

Believe me, this is a very efficient way to chop chocolate with the most uniform pieces. Smashing it with a rolling pin will produce an uneven product.

If you are tempering, size does matter.

#30 bkeith

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 08:56 AM

The easiest and most hygienic way to chop up those difficult blocks is to leave the chocolate in its original wrapping and place atop a sturdy, clean counter top.

2) Placing the chocolate under your arm?  :blink:  I think that staining my outfit is the least of my concerns with this technique.


I was not implying to stick the chocolate in your armpit, but to secure it with your elbow against your hip. If the chocolate is still half in its wrapper, there is nothing to worry about. The prcess is so quick, that melting is not a factor.

Believe me, this is a very efficient way to chop chocolate with the most uniform pieces. Smashing it with a rolling pin will produce an uneven product.

If you are tempering, size does matter.

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I second this method. I first learned it here when chefpeon discussed it. Works like a charm.

And in addition to the wrapper on the chocolate, there's usually at least one layer of clothing between me and the chocolate. :raz:
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