I'm tuckered out. I've been making chocolates for the past six hours straight. You learn by doing, and right now it's a pretty steep learning curve, but the nice thing when the learning curve is so steep, you see improvements quickly. I'm getting the hang of doing the chocolate thing, though I'm more convinced than ever that having a chocolate tempering machine is an absolute must. It's a royal pain in the arse without it. This is what you have to do: melt chocolate to 120º to melt all of the crystals, then let it cool to about 110º (which seriously takes about 45 minutes or so) then you add seed crystals from already tempered chocolate. Then you watch the thermometer vigilantly and when it gets to 90º you pull out any unmelted chunks and hope that you've achieved the holy grail of tempered chocolate. You've got to test it out to see if it dries quickly and has a nice snap, and if it doesn't, then you have to start all over. I had to start over once tonight with my dark chocolate. The whole process seriously takes over an hour--pretty maddening.
Once you get it tempered, you have to try and maintain the chocolate in a two degree temperature window. You do this by keeping a pot of water simmering, and when you see the chocolate dipping too low, or getting too thick to coat the chocolates properly, you put the bowl of chocolate over the simmering water--just long enough to get it back into the "zone," but without going over that 90º mark, because if that happens, you have to start the process over again. It's insane, really, and without a machine to maintain the perfect temperature you feel like you're running a gauntlet and doing battle against time. I think with the tempering machine, it would have taken me less than half the time. I guess that's something to look forward to.
I have my Irish Cream chocolates dipped, and all have a music score design on them that came from a cocoa butter transfer sheet. They look pretty cool. Tomorrow I'll finish my marzipan. I have those coated with a bottom coat, and they're all cut out, ready for dipping. I'll top those with some freeze dried raspberry powder--they'll look pretty snazzy too. When I get home from my concert tomorrow night, I'll start tempering chocolate and hopefully be done by 1:00 again. On Saturday, I'm going to make my toffee bark and then I'm done.
But right now, it's time for bed. I'm exhausted.