By Kaitlin Wayne
Student, Professional Culinary Arts
When I first came to tour the International Culinary Center, I was completely impressed with all the beautiful displays of chocolate formed into all shapes and sizes. So, when the chocolate unit finally came around in my Professional Pastry Arts course, I must say I was nervous to take on this daunting task. How was I ever going to make a structure made of chocolate, strong enough to hold a vessel filled with chocolate confections? Designing and planning soon became my best friends. I was nervous and unsure of my ideas until I began to put them on paper and work out the kinks. Using all of the chocolate techniques we had learned in class, I was able to put those skills to work to create something I ended up being very happy with.
The most important part of chocolate work is tempering. Tempering, tempering, tempering. This process involves cooling and agitating the chocolate to precise temperatures to produce stable beta crystals. You can tell when chocolate has been properly tempered by its “snap,” shine, smooth texture and whether it sets quickly. (Insider tip: A digitial thermometer is your best way to ensure proper temperatures when tempering chocolate.) Now, once you have achieved getting your chocolate in temper, you can begin building your masterpiece. Some of the techniques I used included cutting the chocolate into my desired shapes – like leaves, a flower and a log. I also piped the chocolate into a disk for the milk chocolate portion of the flower, and used a paring knife to create the white chocolate petals.
While this was a stressful task at times, the end product was worth it! To be able to stand back and look at the work you have done knowing that you overcame what was once such an intimidating task is extremely rewarding. As pastry chefs, often we have to take on challenges that can be laced with pressure and difficulty, but we get through them only to push ourselves further the next time around.
Learn more about Professional Pastry Arts.