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Working Cleanly in the Chocolate Kitchen


digigirl
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The number one thing I've learned from my recent forays into making truffles and bon bons is that chocolate gets EVERYWHERE! I don't know how everybody in these demos and pictures does it so neatly.

So I thought it might be useful for newbies like me if some of the more experienced chocolatiers on egullet would share some of the tips they've learned during their experiences with chocolate.

Are there certain procedures or techniques you use that help you stay neat? Particular tools you've found that help you work cleanly? Any info would be helpful.

About the only things I've found so far, in my *very* limited experience, is to use a MUCH larger bowl than I really need for the tempered chocolate, as it wants to get all over the sides of the bowl, the edge, etc. If I use a big bowl, I seem to have more luck keeping it down inside the bowl.

Also, wearing latex or vinyl gloves seems to help me keep it off of myself. I can wipe the chocolate off of my gloved hands, whereas when it's my bare skin, I'm tempted to lick too often or I end up washing my hands about a thousand times.

What are your tried and true tips and techniques?

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body...but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
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Wear a full apron which covers up to your chest. Real pain in the butt to get choc. stains out of your clothes, especially chef whites.

Had one or two pairs of brand new whites that were ruined from this, sad day it was. Club soda, blotting, soaking in bleach/detergent, etc...that stuff never worked.

Jim

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The number one thing I've learned from my recent forays into making truffles and bon bons is that chocolate gets EVERYWHERE!  I don't know how everybody in these demos and pictures does it so neatly.

So I thought it might be useful for newbies like me if some of the more experienced chocolatiers on egullet would share some of the tips they've learned during their experiences with chocolate. 

Are there certain procedures or techniques you use that help you stay neat?  Particular tools you've found that help you work cleanly?  Any info would be helpful.

About the only things I've found so far, in my *very* limited experience, is to use a MUCH larger bowl than I really need for the tempered chocolate, as it wants to get all over the sides of the bowl, the edge, etc.  If I use a big bowl, I seem to have more luck keeping it down inside the bowl. 

Also, wearing latex or vinyl gloves seems to help me keep it off of myself.  I can wipe the chocolate off of my gloved hands, whereas when it's my bare skin, I'm tempted to lick too often or I end up washing my hands about a thousand times.

What are your tried and true tips and techniques?

Instead of washing your hands endlessly, have an old tea towel handy for wiping them - fast and less risk of getting water in your chocolate (makes for soft hands - all that cocoa butter :biggrin: )

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Big apron that ties around the front, with a tea towel over the tie.

Gloves when doing things by hand - always open the door in front of the garbage can before you put the gloves on, then you can just peel them into the can.

Parchment sheets on the counter tops under the bowl of tempered chocolate. I temper in an 8 cup pyrex measure. I've gotten very good at getting the chocolate back into the bowl from a plate mold, but when I'm teaching students I have them dump their molds over a piece of parchment. That chocolate can harden, be melted and added back into the pool as long as the temperature doesn't get too warm. More parchment for the knocking out phases. Expensive - but worth every penny in clean up time. I have in the past used a great big sheet of silicone (like a giant silpat) on the counter, but you still have to wash that at some point.

Roll of paper towels easily accessible for wiping as required.

I scrape my tools back into the pyrex measuring cup I'm working from and hit them with the heat gun and wipe with a paper towel (or wash in the sink) frequently so they don't have chocolate on the edges when I'm trying to scrape molds.

A big bowl is a great idea by the way. The 6 kg melter that I have is nice and big and rectangular - great for working clean. But (thanks to JP Wybauw) cover the bottom with saran before I put the removable insert in place and it keeps the whole thing clean.

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Wow! I love this new topic. Chocolate, chocolate, everywhere...

One thing I find that helps is to have a large supply of knives, spatulas, silcone and offset, scrapers, spoons, etc, all together standing up in one large round cannister type of containers.

Thanks Kerry for all your great suggestions. The heat gun use is a goodie.

And you are right. I was being financially conservative and not using parchment paper but rather my silicone sheets...and then they have to be washed.

Have not tried the gloves yet. Use them to dye stuff and don't like wearing them.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Kerry--you should put your chocolate tips into a book.  The big glossy books don't go into the nitty gritty of chocolate work, just the glamour.

You saying I'm not glamorous? Just kidding - I was working on a book, then Greweling came along - and I just felt so totally inadequate!

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Kerry--you should put your chocolate tips into a book.  The big glossy books don't go into the nitty gritty of chocolate work, just the glamour.

You saying I'm not glamorous? Just kidding - I was working on a book, then Greweling came along - and I just felt so totally inadequate!

There's always room for another excellent chocolate reference! I'd totally buy it.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body...but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
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Kerry--Obviously the Grewling book is encyclopedic and a must-have. But it has a formality that precludes advice such as hitting the used utensils with a heat gun. I would buy your book. Then I could get rid of all these print-outs I made of your egullet advice.

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Parchment sheets on the counter tops under the bowl of tempered chocolate. 

Roll of paper towels easily accessible for wiping as required. 

I scrape my tools back into the pyrex measuring cup I'm working from and hit them with the heat gun and wipe with a paper towel (or wash in the sink) frequently so they don't have chocolate on the edges when I'm trying to scrape molds.

A big bowl is a great idea by the way.  The 6 kg melter that I have is nice and big and rectangular - great for working clean.  But (thanks to JP Wybauw) cover the bottom with saran before I put the removable insert in place and it keeps the whole thing clean.

Hey Kerry thanks for the parchment tip which you mentioned a while back. It made my cleanup a lot faster this last weekend.

Lastly, thanks to this forum for explaining how the spatter technique works and some of the difficulties. I ended up cleaning my sink with alcohol, then putting my molds in the sink to spatter. I lined the near wall with flexible plastic cutting boards, and that pretty much did the trick. I dipped the whisk into cocoa butter and did a 'clapping' motion and it mostly all wo rked! The only thing to clean was the sink, which was easy! The boards went straight into the washing machine. Nothing on the walls at all, and only a little on the countertops!

Edited by ejw50 (log)
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I have nowhere near the experience of the others here, but my one tip is related to scraping the chocolate off the bottom of a dipped confection. I used to try using the edge of the bowl, but the chocolate drips everywhere and makes a big mess, so I tried laying a wire cake slicer across my dipping bowl, like this:

gallery_56799_5915_44726.jpg

It works great, and is easy to move out of the way. I'd like to use a larger bowl, but then you have to melt SO much chocolate! I'm lazy, I don't want to deal with all that extra chocolate at the end of the day.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Cover your phone AND your TV remote in plastic wrap!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Yes Chris - do elaborate! That is a great tip - I made a huge mess when I was doing hand dipped last week. I'd love to hear more about your wire technique. That sounds like a good one!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body...but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
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When I use Chris's wire technique (and I do because it is brilliant!), I lean the cake cutter over the bowl and put the bottom (i.e. the handle) of the cutter on some sort of non slip material. So it isn't actually attached to the bowl but the non stick material prevents it from skittering away. The material I have is actually stuff they use in occupational therapy to prevent people's bowls from moving on the table if they can only use one hand, but that foam covered string they sell as placemats and shelf liner would work, or even a damp tea towel.

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Chris, how do you attach this cake cutter to the bowl? Are the bottoms of your chocolate coated nicely?  I hate when mine aren't coated perfectly on the bottom and it is often an issue! Thanks!

I don't attach it: the handle of the cutter has enough weight that it rests out of the way with no problems. I dip with my right hand, then, after tapping off the excess, use my left hand to pull the wire towards the center of the bowl. A swipe across it clears the bottom quite well and prevents a foot from forming, and the chocolate drips back into the middle of my work bowl. I "de-fork" the chocolate, shift the wire to the back of the bowl, "rinse and repeat."

Edited to add: the original post I made with this is over here, with lots of photos that might help. Maybe this makes it clearer?

gallery_56799_5915_7650.jpg

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I have nowhere near the experience of the others here, but my one tip is related to scraping the chocolate off the bottom of a dipped confection. I used to try using the edge of the bowl, but the chocolate drips everywhere and makes a big mess, so I tried laying a wire cake slicer across my dipping bowl, like this:

That's a great tip, Chris -- I'm going to try it.

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AAH yes, now I remember! Thanks!! I willsee if I can get ahold of one of these cutters! And about the bottoms... are they coated nicely or are they patchy- some chocolate got wiped off... SOrry for being so nosy!

To be honest, I'd never considered what the bottoms look like, except foot-free. I don't know how patchy they are (though of course I pre-coat them before dipping, so they are well-covered with at least one layer of chocolate).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Hello there.

I'm new here, but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents anyway. First off, the wire cutter idea is brilliant. I have one of those little guys, but I've never used it for chocolate. It's a Wilton product--a "cake leveler"--and costs about $3 US. Best $3 I ever spent! Tortes cakes up to 10" like butter, and now I find I can use it on chocolates, too!

To respond to the original question, I am a chocolate magnet. In school, I usually looked like a shiny brown haystack at the end of class. I consoled myself with knowing that at least the chocolate was shiny and in temper :rolleyes:

I found that with sheer practice and repetition, I was able to work more and more cleanly over time. As I became more confident with the medium, my motions became more conservative, and I stopped flinging chocolate everywhere. It was a proud, proud day when I first came home from work after being Chocolate Girl all day still wearing clean whites :biggrin:

Jenni

Pastry Methods and Techniques

Pastry Chef Online

"We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home."

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I don't work with chocolate professionally – just small amounts for myself & friends – so I don't have as much experience as a lot of you here. But I discovered very quickly that parchment paper is your friend. I lay it out over all my work surfaces before I begin, especially under the melter. It gives me a ready-made place to lay down my tools, and any chocolate that drips can just be peeled off later and added back to my stash. So it's easier clean-up AND less waste. And I jumped right on that cake cutter idea – SO much neater than using the edge of the bowl.

I try to avoid getting chocolate all up the sides of the bowl so there's less chance of getting a thumb in it when I pick it up and move it.

I've never really had a problem with getting it all over myself though. My biggest problem is that my thermometer always tips over in the bowl and gets so much chocolate on it the numbers are obscured.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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I've never really had a problem with getting it all over myself though. My biggest problem is that my thermometer always tips over in the bowl and gets so much chocolate on it the numbers are obscured.

I used to have the same problem with my thermometer, so I decided to "cut the cord" and learn to temper without a thermometer. I've learned--with some disasters along the way, admittedly--how chocolate at the correct temperature feels on my lower lip and over the backs of my fingers. Maybe this last is how I tend to get it on me:-)

At any rate, I always test the chocolate on marble or a cool sheet pan to check for streaks.

To start, once you are pretty sure the chocolate is in temper, check with the thermometer. After using it to check for 2-3 sessions, you should be able to do away with it altogether. Until you change up the kind of chocolate you're using, and that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. Um, chocolate :biggrin:

Jenni

Pastry Methods and Techniques

Pastry Chef Online

"We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home."

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