By On The Food Trail | December 3, 2015
Apologies for this not-at-all-humble brag, but I give the best homemade candy to my friends at this time of year. As in, spouses-hide-it-from-one-another, good candy.
I have been doing this for 30 years, and if I stopped now, there would be hell to pay. Still, every now and then, I daydream about some other, easier gift. Why? Because for exquisite candy, I have to temper chocolate.
Chocolate, you see, has some unusual molecular properties. Cocoa fat, (which is a major constituent of chocolate) has a crystalline structure. During chocolate-making those crystals are split apart and super-homogenized with cocoa solids and the other ingredients, such as sugar and milk, to create a solid bar.
These tiny crystals of cocoa butter, however, don’t like to be parted from one another. They will pounce on any encouragement – warm temperatures, say – to reunite. You know that white bloom you found on the mini-chocolate bars you bought for Halloween and forgot about for a year? That’s caused by cocoa butter crystallization (which probably happened sometime in the steaming dog days of August).
This cocoa butter behavior causes trouble too when we melt chocolate for dipping candy. Simply heat the chocolate and dip, and the cocoa butter will glom together in big crystals. The coating will be streaked with bloom and have a crumbly texture, instead of the characteristic “snap” of a properly-tempered chocolate.
For shiny, crunchy candy, you must “temper” chocolate – that is, take it through a finicky series of temperature shifts that discourages cocoa butter crystal glom – before dipping. Honestly, properly tempering chocolate is a pain in the neck.
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