Invaluable Tool But Hard to Find!
All you chocoholics who work with bulk chocolate know that getting the blocks broken down into easily melted chunks can be problematic. I was fortunate in that when I first started taking classes in truffle making from Alice Medrich, of Cocolat fame, I was living in San Francisco where there are a lot of antigue stores to browse, especially for old kitchenware. I found the ice pick pictured in one of those stores and it has been my best friend for many years now, when it comes time to get the chocolate broken for sauce making, ganache and trufffle center making or whenever I need small pieces. Not sure where one can find these ice picks now, since ice boxes were long ago replaced by fridges… but there must be some left. So, take my advice, and if you are breaking chocolate bars down into pieces on a rather frequent basis, one of these items will be very handy. And would make a great wedding, Xmas or housewarming present. Heck, you could even send me one as a backup!!
I came to using candy thermometers late in life. So many recipes just gave visual instructions (candy should form firm ball when placed into water) that it was possible to complete the recipe without that tool
. However, it became obvious that successes were more the result of luck than skill in deciphering recipes. So, when I first got involved in making chocolate truffles, temperatures became critical as did the need to know precisely what temp the melted chocolate was at any given stage.
I found that the commonly encountered metal thermometer with the round dial was not accurate for my purposes (and before digital ones were available) so I found the ideal one: made by Cuisinart, with large numbers and narrow range so that the temps I would be working with would be very easy to read.
So, here’s what I recommend when using a candy thermometer:
Do a test to be sure your thermometer is accurate. Put it in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. If the thermometer doesn’t read 212 degrees F, then you need to figure the difference and add or subtract to make the temperature measurements correct for your candy recipes.
·Cook the candy as directed. Some recipes will give you a temperature to aim for, while others may use one of the following terms: “thread,” “soft ball,” “medium ball,” “firm ball,” “hard ball,” “very hard ball,” “light (or soft) crack,” “hard crack” or “caramelized sugar” stages. The temperatures for some or most of these terms should be indicated on your candy thermometer.
Place the candy thermometer in the pan with the cooking candy. Be sure the bulb of the thermometer never touches the bottom of the pan, or the temperature will register too high. You want to find out the temperature of the candy mixture, not of the pan.
Clean the thermometer after each use. And, if you are working with chocolate, never re-insert it into the mix with any water on it. That will cause the mixture to “seize” as it’s called. If it does, you will have to start all over, so don’t do it!!