There’s one word that only has to be whispered that makes my ears prick up and for my nose to start twitching… chocolate! Dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate, flavoured chocolate and chocolate with pieces in; I’m there, getting stuck straight in. Chocolate in our house is lethal, it doesn’t last 5 minutes and Ian has to hide it away somewhere high so I can’t see it and need a chair at least to be able to reach it. The downfalls of being 5ft 1 inch and being married to a 6ft 3 inch chap! He on the other hand finds it all rather amusing and is constantly on the lookout for other ways to hide the chocolate after I’ve rumbled yet another of his hidey-holes.
Anyway, you can imagine my delight when the lovely people at Something Sweet magazine whispered in my ear the magic word… chocolate! And would I like to have a go at learning to temper chocolate with the instructions in the first issue of the new magazine. There really was no hesitation, of course I’d love to; after all it’s chocolate. Oh and I was also interested to see what the magazine would be like, having previously subscribed to it’s sister magazine, Cake Decorating.
I must admit that when it comes to working with chocolate, I’ve been more of a melt it and use it person as it usually ends up being added into a cake batter or frosting; I’ve never really have had call to properly temper chocolate. I know, I know I’m a cake designer how could I go through life without proper tempering; well I don’t really create ‘chocolate’ cakes in that sense of things.
So when everything arrived to get started with my chocolate masterclass, my mind was whirling with ideas that I could put to the test. But I thought for my first attempt I would be better to stick to the KISS method, keep it simple silly…
Chocolate bark! Simple but effective, so many different variations and flavours, and the added bonus that I can see if my chocolate is shiny and not dull, the sign of good tempered chocolate.
Having a rummage through the cupboards I came across packets of fudge pieces, chocolate chunks and sultanas. I love fruit in chocolate, especially raisins or sultanas, give me a raisin and biscuit Yorkie bar and I’m a very happy girl. Or how about Green and Black’s sour cherry? Oh yes, you can’t go wrong with adding fruit into chocolate, except for Cadbury’s fruit and nut, and that’s only because I can’t eat it due to the nuts.
As I’d already used up the packet of Oreos I had found, and Ian had
hidden again put away for safe keeping, for the centres of truffles, a raisin and biscuit-esque bark was out of the question, and fruit and fudge was on the menu!
Back to the matter in hand… tempering chocolate. I know you’re all full of questions; was it difficult, do I need special equipment, which chocolate should I use, is it messy, and how is it different to just melting chocolate?
Well; yes it was easy, you’ll need a chocolate thermometer but nothing more fancy than that, you’re better off with a good quality chocolate but any will do, and no it wasn’t messy except when I licked the spatula after I’d finished and ended up with chocolate all over my face.
The difference from just melting chocolate is that the chocolate is melted and cooled in a controlled way to make sure that the crystals in the cocoa butter are small and even in size. This means that the chocolate is more stable and doesn’t melt as easily. Also when you break the chocolate you get that lovely snap and a shiny surface, which you can really see on the chocolate bark. If the chocolate isn’t quite tempered properly it can taste grainy or be too soft and melty.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to temper chocolate properly, and also the difference it made to the finish of the chocolate bark; that snap is so satisfying! I’ll definitely be having another go soon, I need to finish off those Oreo truffles I mentioned.
Fruit and Fudge Chocolate Bark
Yield 1 slab
Simple and easy chocolate bark decorated with fudge, sultanas and chocolate chunks - a great place to start with learning to temper chocolate
- 300g Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
- Fudge pieces
- Chocolate chunks
- Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- In a medium heatproof or Pyrex bowl, break 200g of the dark chocolate into small evenly sized pieces.
- Half fill a small saucepan with water, and place over a medium heat.
- Bring the water to a simmer and lower the heat.
- Place the bowl over the saucepan and ensure the base of the bowl is not touching the water.
- Allow the heat to gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.
- Test the chocolate temperature using a chocolate/ candy thermometer; the chocolate should be between 48-49ºC.
- Remove the chocolate from the saucepan and wrap the bottom of the bowl in a tea towel. This will allow the chocolate to cool down gradually.
- Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to melt gently, stirring occasionally. By adding the chocolate at this point, it helps to give the cocoa butter crystals good. Also the stirring helps to give good crystallisation.
- Test the chocolate temperature, and when it has reached 28-29ºC, place the bowl back over the saucepan and gently bring the temperature back to 31-32ºC. Do not allow the chocolate to overheat. The chocolate is now ready to work with.
- Working quickly, pour the tempered chocolate onto the baking sheet and holding at the corners gently tilt and shake the sheet to even out the chocolate.
- Scatter fudge pieces, chocolate chunks and sultanas all over the chocolate, press down gently on the toppings to secure them into the bark.
- Scrape out any leftover chocolate in the bowl with a spatula and drizzle over the top of the bark.
- Allow the bark to cool and firm up for at least an hour.
- Lift off the baking parchment and break into shards.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge or cool place for up to 2-3 weeks depending on your toppings.
Chocolate bark can be varied in so many different ways; pour a second layer of contrasting chocolate over the first layer for a two toned bark, or experiment with different flavours and toppings. There is no limit!
Something Sweet is now available for subscription through their website, or to buy from all quality newsagents, £2.99 per issue. With thanks to Something Sweet for a copy of their first issue and the chocolate tempering equipment.