Thursday, January 18, 2007

Temperature, temperature, temperature

Anyone who’s ever worked with chocolate knows that it’s all about the temperature. Control it properly the chocolates will turn out shiny and beautiful but make the slightest of mistakes, you’ll either end up with ugly spots and streaks (a.k.a. blooming) or worse, a glob that never properly sets. A friend of mine who’s an avid chocolate maker says she never makes chocolates in the summer because it’s just too difficult to control the temperature. That’s fine when you live in a country with distinct seasons, but what do you do when it’s perpetually summer where you are? You soldier on and hope for the best.

It was a great learning experience for me, to say the least. First lesson, room temperature in recipe books does not equal room temperature in Singapore, even with the air conditioner on. So don’t even try to set any ganache at “room temperature.” Second lesson, a kitchen without A/C is not a place to be dipping your chocolates. I was so frustrated with the ganache melting in front of my eyes that I had to take a two-day break before continuing.

Even after I figured out how to solve the temperature problem by working directly underneath the AC vent in the living room, there was still the problem of storage. Properly tempered chocolates are best kept at room temperature (again, not in Singapore) to maintain the shine and to prevent sweating. So for a few days I kept the temperature in the living room really low so my chocolates could stay pretty. That had to be put to a stop when I started to get a nasty cold with uncontrollable sneezing fits. Something has to give and I reluctantly chose my own health over the well-being of my chocolates. The price is steep: a couple of trips in and out of the fridge later, almost all the bonbons have “blooming” on the surface. A chocolate fridge sounds really good now as a belated Christmas present…