Tips from a Chocolatier

Tips from a Chocolatier

I was recently asked from a fellow homeschooling parent (you can click the link for our homeschooling blog) to comment on their career website for kids. They asked for the best tips I could give so I thought why not write an article about it here.

P.S. I’ll be writing an article on my best pastry chef tips.

Let me start with a bit of background in my chocolatiering career. I grew up between New York City and Delhi, NY

Now there aren’t many chocolate places or even bakeries in or surrounding Delhi but the city is full of them. My parents, mostly my mom, used to take me to the different ones around the city (mainly Manhattan). We visited Li-lac Chocolates, Neuhaus Chocolates, Max Brenner and Jacques Torres where I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Chocolate himself.

I met him on more than one occasion but I was about 7-8, so Matthew’s age, when we had our first meet. That first meeting was actually thanks to my late Aunt Kate, who was a pastry chef/baker turned inn keeper in Maine.

Over a decade passed where I graduated from highschool, went to college, moved a couple of times and most importantly had my amazing and inspiring Matthew.

In August 2018, I suddenly decided to apply to culinary school. I was accepted into the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) for Pastry and Baking Arts at the New York Campus. We went through 8 courses plus an externship over the course of 8 months. Our 7th course was chocolate.

We were the lucky class that had 2 classes with Chef Michael Laiskonis, who is the residential chocolatier with a state of the art lab. (Trust me I’m totally jealous on that).

Our first class was a four hour lecture about the history of chocolate, the process from pod, fermentation, roasting to bars. We were able to try beans at different stages, from different countries and we even tried Cocoa Juice. Which is expensive but delicious.

In our second class, we had Chef Laiskonis as a substitute since Chef Penny was out that day. Chef Laiskonis covered how to temper, the different stages for dark, milk and white. And we made chocolate bars. You can read more about my culinary school experiences in other articles on my blog.

After culinary school, my dream was to do amazing custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies but mostly cakes like Buddy from Cake Boss and Duff from Ace of Cakes. But two things happened, the first was I couldn’t get an externship in a bakery that did custom cakes by the time we had to start. The second was that my cakes are not 100% looking (taste amazing) so scratch that idea, at least for now. Cupcakes and cookies I’m great at so no worries there.

Anyway, I was able to get an externship at Jacques Torres Chocolate Factory at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. If you don’t know who Jacques Torres is, he’s the modern Willy Wonka and he’s also the judge on Nailed It!

His factory is divided into 4 areas, Shipping, chocolate, pastry and ice cream. In the chocolate room, we used the chocolate machines to enrobe, make truffles, mold chocolate (Easter, Christmas). In the pastry room we made cookies, cakes, popcorn and well ice cream is self explanatory. It’s all found at Mrchocolate.com

But I didn’t just learn how to work the various machines throughout the factory, I also learned different methods to creating these amazing products. And yes the final results come out differently.

After leaving Jacques Torres, I continued to worth with chocolate at home. Unfortunately due to our state laws I can not sell using my home kitchen and with my current business license, so if that’s what your goal is, well you will need to research all that for your locations. This is to help kids and young adults learn about the culinary, pastry and chocolatier industry.

Before I start listing out my tips. I want to state that if this is a career you really want and don’t want to go to culinary school, that’s okay, everyone in the factory except the managers and pastry room, had not gone to school for this. They trained on the job. You can absolutely work your way up in the industry with on the job experience.

Now all these tips are for those of you who are beginning to work with chocolate, especially at home. I’m even considering doing a course in it if I get enough interest. However, like everything you need to practice, practice, practice.

1. Classes

If there is a bakery or culinary school that does a class in chocolate. I suggest you try it. As I just stated, I may add a course on here if I get enough interest going. ICE does have classes to the public which range in money. If you are in New York and can afford a class the chocolate workshops with Chef Michael, go for it.

2. Terms of the Chocolate world

Like every industry, we have key words you need to know. Here are the most important for working at home.

Tempering: tempering is the process in which you bring the chocolate or couverture to, cool down then bring back up in order to work with and stabilize for the product you intend to make. Each chocolate and brand has a different range.

Seeding: While tempering, you will need to seed with already tempered chocolate so the molecules can understand the structure, it also helps in cool down stage.

Seizing: It is when when water gets in the chocolate and it’s no longer usable

Sugar Bloom: When the chocolate is not tempered properly, you will see white and little dots appear on your product, that is the sugar rising to the top

Molding: You see all those Christmas, Easter or any holiday designs, even chocolate bars. They are done in molds. The process is decorating and pouring in your tempered chocolate, tapping/vibrating the air bubbles. And allowing it to set in the fridge before it’s complete

Enrobing: Now some truffles do use molds, and others use the enrobing process. You cover your ganache, or your item (graham cracker, Cheerios etc) in chocolate. Now with a machine it helps you cover one side at a time but working at you you will dip it in your tempered chocolate and place it on a sheet tray/ cookie sheet to set.

3. Differences in Chocolate and the %

Dark- is chocolate that that has no added milk solids. The % is the ratio of Chocolate to added sugar and other ingredients. The higher the %, the more pure it is (and bitter)

Milk – is chocolate made with chocolate, sugar, flavoring and milk (condensed or powdered).

White – cocoa butter, milk and sugar. Cocoa butter is the fat from chocolate that is pressed out when processing to create cocoa powder.

4. Proper tools

Yes you absolutely need certain basic tools to get started, that you probably don’t already have.

– thermometer

– Scraper

– Molds

– Coloring (powdered will be airbrushed), Candy melts, Candy colors. Anything else will seize your chocolate.

The difference in these pictures is that the top uses candy Melts, bottom uses Candy colors

5. Practice, practice, practice

I'm the mom to Matthew, which we run and own Matthew's Kitchen. I'm 27 and studying to be a pastry chef. I love to cook and bake but my passion is in the pastry arts. Matthew is a 5 year old who began cooking when he was 1. Through the years he has not only gained valuable skills but has grown his palette. Together we want to share our passion for food with you and your family
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