The Chocolate Factor

Time to make the sweets

As the chocolate cools it sets, becoming less runny and more recognizable as a product. He scrapes the hardened chocolate off the marble and back into the water bath, where the remaining one-third is still melted. After Contee reheats the tempered and tabled chocolate (to 89 degrees for milk and white, 91 degrees for bittersweet), the product is ready to use. At this point you can pour the chocolate into molds to make truffles and fill with liqueur; you can tint it with special food coloring made just for chocolate; or you can make ganache by adding heavy cream to it. Contee uses this batch to spread onto transfer sheets, pieces of cellophane preprinted with designs. When the chocolate is firm enough to peel off, the cellophane will come away bare, leaving its designs like temporary tattoos on the skin of the chocolate. Then you can cut the chocolate into whatever shape you desire.

"Pastries are as creative as you are," Contee says as he ends the lesson. "If you follow simple rules about respecting the chocolate, you'll find it's good to play with." More fun than Play-Doh and definitely tastier. But next time I'll wait until a decent hour of the day, or at least until the sun rises. It's the chocolate that needs to be tempered, not my sleep habits.

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