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  1. I have been molding bowls for many years and almost always include at least one in all of my classes and trade show presentations. I use metal mixing bowls or plastic serving bowls that I find in houseware sections and party shops. 1. Pour tempered chocolate into the bottom of the bowl, swirling it around to cover all but the rim, adding more chocolate if necessary. 2. Holding the bowl in a slightly inverted position over the bowl of tempered chocolate, shake and twist it vigorously to coax the excess to drain back into it. Turn the bowl upright and slap the outside of the bowl to smooth the surface of the chocolate and settle the little that's left in the bottom. 3. For a clean edge, this step is important. Wrap the tip of your index finger in the corner of a slightly damped cloth (I use Handi-Wipes) and clean the excess chocolate off the rim, swiping around the whole rim to define the thickness of the chocolate and form a clean edge. 4. Refrigerate the bowl only until the chocolate is barely dry to the touch--about 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat Steps 1, 2 and 3 to add a second layer. This time the chocolate will swirl more sluggishly because it is being applied over a cool layer of chocolate. 5. Refrigerate until firmly set--about 20 minutes. To test it's readiness to release, touch the bottom of the bowl (where the chocolate is thicker than the sides) with the back of your fingers. It should feel cold. Often you can see a separation along the rim where the chocolate has contracted. 6. To release, hold the sides of the mold with both hands, with your thumbs bracing the bottom and your fingers curled over the edge. Invert it over the work surface, pressing the bottom gently with both thumbs, if necessary. If it doesn't release easily, don't force it. Refrigerate a few more minutes and try again. Now the fun begins. I often decorate the sides with cut-out pieces of chocolate clay, chocolate leaves, or piped designs. An example of one of my bowls with a grape cluster border can be found in my book, The Art of Chocolate. Good luck and have fun.
  2. Brilliant in it's simplicity. Have you tried it yourself Elaine? ← No, I haven't tried that method but I'm sure it works. Meta was (is still?) an accomplished chocolatier. I have tried her alternate method of spreading chocolate on a strip of paper sized to fit over the openings of a row of de-moulded, liqueur-filled chocolate cups, pressing down to seal the sides, and peeling the paper off when the chocolate sets. It's not a perfect seal, but it does work on regular moulded hollow shells. I sometimes mould the chocolate shells in stiff-sided, gold foil cups, place a tiny raspberry in the bottom, fill (never to the top) with liqueur, and top with the chocolate-covered strips of paper. You can use a transfer sheet to do this. Again, it's not a perfect seal and you must warn people it is a one bite indulgence.
  3. Which way are the holes in the filling tray tapered, inward like a funnel? Is it a flat sheet or does it have a stem that fits inside the hole? Could you draw a picture? I had suspected that the finishing tray might be concave since it has to have a definite thickness to cover the ganach a straight sided hole would produce a cylindrical pillar. That makes it a bit tougher to machine and explains part of the reason it is so expensive. I had an idea for covering the pure liquid filling. If I took a tapered countersink bit like this: http://www.amazon.com/IRWIN-12411-Speed-St...39?ie=UTF8&s=hi I could possibly produce a sloping hole that would let a solid disc lodge in it. Then the sealing tray would cover that and form the rest of the sphere. I'll have to actually cast a mold to see what the spheres look like to see what I can do with them. I ordered Callebaut 811 from Qzino since they don't carry 815 and the cocao percentage is within 2%. I should get that in a couple days and then I'll try the mold out. I was told by Chocolat-Chocolat to fill it with a piping bag so I'll give that a shot. I'll have to see how quickly I can fill all 32 cavities and if the first and last have significantly different wall thicknesses as a result of sitting filled for different lengths of time. The base formula might be liquid enough to work out. From what the rep said I think that commercial uses have automated filling machinery that doses each cavity at the same time. ← I was the chocolate instructor at the Wilton School of Confectionery Art for over 20 years. Meta McCall from Canada taught the course before me. She used to add a few drops of melted cocoa butter on top of the liqueur to seal the opening. Once the cocoa butter forms a crust, you spread chocolate on top to complete the seal.
  4. Regarding air brushing stencils onto acetate sheets: Lay the stencil on the acetate, holding it in place with your finger. I use Chef Rubber's colored cocoa butter melted no higher than 88 degrees. Fill the cup and spray. For best results hold the gun slightly angled to the surface as you spray (without allowing any of the cocoa butter to flow out). If you hold the gun at a sharp angle, the air pressure sometimes lifts the stencil and causes the design to smear. Give the sprayed design plenty of time to dry completely. I put the sheet in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, take it out and allow it to come to room temperature. If the cocoa butter is still tacky at this point, it means that you probably overheated the cocoa butter and broke its temper. My best advice when air brushing with cocoa butter is to warm the tip of the gun with a hair dryer before spraying; it helps to keep the tip of the gun from clogging. I also find that the best way to clean the brush is with Dawn dishwashing detergent and hot water.
  5. Regarding an alternate method to grinding cacao beans on a metate: Several years ago I conducted a chocolate/culinary tour to Tabasco with Marilyn Tausend, owner of Culinary Adventures. Chef Ricardo Munoz Zurita, who is originally from that area, accompanied us. Several of his aunts prepared specialties of the region for us, including many which contained cacao. The metate is rarely used to grind cacao beans in Tabasco. Instead, they have their beans ground at the local molino (grinding shop) or they use a hand grinder, clamped to the side of a table. I purchased one of these very inexpensive grinders in a grocery store adjacent to the market in Comalcalco--thinking I would actually use it. Well, I'm ashamed to admit that it's still in the box, unused. If you contact me, I would be very happy to send it to you since I know that I will probably never use it. Zarela Martinez, author of The Food and Life of Oaxaca, offers another method of grinding cacao. She suggests warming the blades of a food processor before grinding the beans to a powder in the processor--and then grinding the powder to a paste in a molcajete. I'm known for having the patience of a saint, but I don't know if I'm up to doing all of that--just for the sake of grinding my own beans.
  6. I'm seriously considering attending one of Susana's weeklong courses at her ranch. My biggest concern, though, is whether the direction of the classes will be influenced negatively by those in attendance. I assume this is much less likely to happen with a weeklong series. I just hate to get there and be disappointed. Other than that, the school sounds amazing! Has anyone attended the one of the weeklong classes? Any insights about my concern or the series in general? I haven't been able to find much information beyond the single day classes. ← I have conducted chocolate study tours to Mexico for many years. Oaxaca--and classes with Susana--are always included on my itineraries. Yes, it's possible that there may be an annoying person in your group, but that's a chance worth taking. Susana is a remarkable person and an excellent teacher. While I have not been in attendance at her week-long sessions, I know many people who have, and almost all of them have nothing but praise for her. (You just can't please everybody!) Since chocolate is my specialty (and the subject of my tours), I always ask her to do some special things with chocolate while we're there. She has prepared a number of wonderful chocolate-spiked dishes for us over the years, including chocolate atole, a mystical cacao-corn beverage dating back to pre-colonial times. Susana also conducts some pretty amazing tours throughout southern Mexico. She has a knack for finding undiscovered little gems that few tourists have ever visited. Don't pass up the chance to have her accompany you to the market. She knows everybody and you can tell that thev all respect her knowledge and admire her passion.
  7. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who loathes fondant-covered cakes. As I have always told my students, the reason for making a cake look beautiful is to make it so appealing that people will want to sink their teeth into it immediately. But if that cake's taste doesn't measure up to its beauty, you've committed fraud and should be arrested and jailed (well, sort of.....).
  8. I've just returned (last night!) from one of my chocolate tours to Mexico. While in Oaxaca, I took our group to Pasteleria Rome where Jorge Rocha, the owner, demonstrated his methods for making conchas, bisquets (my favorites) and his extraordinary pan de yema. Everything he makes is fabulous because he incorporates the finest ingredients with skillful bread-making techniques. And his desserts (for which he's best known) are equally wonderful. His Tres Leches cake is out of this world.
  9. You're right about the Spaniards needing wheat for particular reasons. They felt more comfortable in that northern region of Mexico because it resembled the part of Spain from which many of the early settlers came--Extremadura. As you suggest, enchiladas will hold up better if made with corn tortillas that are not freshly made. I always give mine a quick dunk into hot oil on both sides before I sauce and fill them, which does, indeed, make them hold up better.
  10. Enchiladas should be made with corn tortillas!! Flour tortillas were practically unknown in Mexico until about 20 years ago, though they were popular in the northern states and on both sides of the border before that. The Spaniards planted wheat in that part of Mexico when they arrived because the soil was better suited for it than corn. Even corn tortillas have a tendency to get soggy if they're not served at once. Flour tortillas turn to mush. I judge a cookbook or restaurant by the kind of tortillas they use to make enchiladas--they must be corn.
  11. Regarding the Mayfleur molds, I recommend buying one first to see how you like the way it works. Personally, I think the chocolate flowers and leaves made with them look unnaturally stiff. Still, if I had to make hundreds of flowers and leaves, I think I'd probably sacrifice stiffness for speed.
  12. My knowledge was little drop of water + chocolate = seizure; lot's of water + chocolate = ok. I need to read more! Off to the bookstore! What can you do with the chocolate that has been "contaminated" with water -- be it imperfect shells or the dipping chocolate? ← I would add cream etc, and use for ganache. ← You can chop up chocolate that has absorbed moisture and use it to make chocolate chunk cookies. or.....you can eat it.
  13. Elaine, Chocolate is amazing, isn't it? I can't think of any other single thing I have had so much fun with and remained interested in for so long (well maybe one thing). There is just no end of different things you can do with chocolate. Lately I have been making chocolate from scratch, that's new for me. I have also been experimenting with panning, my latest experiments have involved almonds coated with milk chocolate and various really excellent spice rubs, makes for some interesting taste sensations. I think one of the next educational videos I'm going to make will be on panning techniques with chocolate. When I purchased my coating pan it came with no directions at all, and it has been an expensive (but interesting) learning curve. The ice tart shell idea sounds like it will be fun to try. It sounded sort of familiar, then I recalled at the PMCA last year they were talking about cooled shell molding that 'big chocolate' uses to make cups. They essentially take an ice cold metal cup, plunge it into a mold containing a precise amount of tempered chocolate, the cone displaces the chocolate, and after release leaves a perfect cup. I've lost the details on how they release the cup from the plunger. I love learning home ways to make things that are produced professionally. Thank for the fabulous idea. I think it's time I read you book from cover to cover, taking notes. I can't believe how many details I missed on my first read. Kerry ← Your experiments sound exciting and will continue to fuel your artistic spirit. I can honestly say that after working (and playing) with chocolate for over 30 years I'm still as passionate about it as I was the very first time I touched it. Are you familiar with the French cold molds that many pastry chefs use to knock out flowers and leaves lickety split by plunging them into chocolate? The copper "molds" come in a metal box and are stored in the freezer until needed. I haven't seen them in awhile but I'm sure they're still available. They remind me of fancy door knobs with a handle attached to the back--which may give you something else to add to your list of experiments.
  14. I prefer to thicken chocolate with water rather than any of those liquids that are normally off limits: extracts, alcohol, etc. (The amounts to add will vary.) For best results, thicken up to 4 ounces of tempered chocolate at a time--just enough to half fill a 10-inch decorating bag. The warmth of your hand will help keep the chocolate from setting up too quickly. I have done solid chocolate "cakes", decorated with piped chocolate swags, shell borders, and flowers using this technique. It could be used to create an unusual groom's "cake", served with a mallet alongside it. And, of course, it is ideal for decorating fancy chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies, etc. You should know before you start experimenting that this technique can be as frustrating as it is useful. It's best to thicken the chocolate, put it in the bag, and use it immediately. Once it sets up it cannot be remelted. Kerry, did you also notice my technique for dipping ice into water that appears in my book, Chocolate Artistry? I first saw Maida Heatter demonstrate this technique and couldn't wait to try it. The technique always generates gasps when I show people how to freeze water in tart shells with a large, opened paper clip positioned in the bottom to serve as a handle. Once frozen, I release it from the tart shell and quickly dunk it in and out of a small cup of tempered chocolate, never allowing the chocolate to go above the top edge of the ice. Holding the dipped ice close to the countertop surface, use your finger tip to coax the chocolate cup to drop off the ice. Immediately place the ice back into its tart shell and refreeze. The chocolate cup may have a few drops of moisture in the bottom, which I blot with a paper towel. This imperfection is inconsequential since it won't show once the cup filled. The outside of the cup will be a fluted replica of the tart shell in which the ice was frozen. This is one of those techniques that I use only when my back is to the wall and I don't have--or choose not to use--a conventional mold. To speed the procedure, I freeze multiple tart shells, removing one at a time and keeping the rest in the freezer. Any leftover dipping chocolate should not be added to chocolate in reserve, nor should imperfect chocolate shells be remelted because of water contamination. Isn't chocolate amazing? Elaine
  15. Chocolate has a love/hate relationship with liquid: it loves a lot and hates a little. Did you ever wonder why chocolate doesn't seize when you add cream to make ganache? Or why water is sometimes added to chocolate to thicken it enough to be able to pipe rosettes, shell borders, etc.? It's all a matter of proportions. A good rule of thumb is always to allow at least 1 tablespoon of tepid liquid for every 2 ounces of chocolate to prevent the dry particles of cocoa and sugar in the chocolate from clumping together, forming a thick lump. Chocolates that contain high percentages of cocoa solids may require a little more liquid, so be ready to add an extra tablespoon or more of liquid if the chocolate shows signs of thickening. Elaine
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