This time, last year, I made a very important decision. The kind that I know is going to change my life forever. It was hard at first because I come from a different background (being media) and I was scared whether I was doing the right thing, but the minute I received my offer letter from Le Cordon Bleu, everything changed.
The little experience I gathered from two professional kitchens + pushing myself everyday to prove to my parents and friends around that- I CAN BAKE made the folks at LCB also see that I had potential and now they have welcomed me with open arms. Well, I can’t be more excited about this.
Baking has been in my blood. I’ve always had dreams of opening my own little dessert bar. But through the years I must admit that I did get lost and wondered would I be able to make a living out of it after slogging my ass off? This still scares me even after I have accepted this offer and also made me realize that if I’m not fearful of the one thing I love the most and giving it my everything, how will I ever be able to accomplish all that I dream of and hence the new chapter begins.
Before I say anything more, a very Happy Diwali to you all. Hope you’ll are having a great season. Diwali for me, is all about the sweet but not so much Indian mithai. Last year, I was celebrating Diwali in the bakery of Taj Lands End and what an experience that was! I got to make mithai cupcakes, pies but the one thing that I loved doing the most was almond rocks. I used to spend half of my day in the chocolate room, just making these little treats of joy. Most of the other interns would say, “how boring are you, how can you just dip the damn almonds in chocolate and feel happy that you’ve made something?”
But that was the special connection I had with chocolate and will always have.
I remember we were making them for all the guests staying in the room and one day, I ended up making 2800 of them, all on my own. And while my intern friends would say how it’s just all about dipping almonds in chocolate, it ain’t that easy. It has a certain technique to follow and temperatures play such a crucial role. But don’t get too intimidated because once you’ve tempered the chocolate right, it becomes a piece of cake.
To start off, let me tell you my understanding of tempering and why it is so important when you’re making your own chocolates. After reading through a number of Le Cordon Bleu journals and experimenting at home, I’ve tried to make the process as easy as possible.
Tempering is basically the process that gives a smooth, glossy, evenly colored coating for your dipped chocolates. The process takes chocolate through a temperature curve, which aligns the chocolate’s crystals to make it smooth, silky, and glossy resulting in a crisp, satisfying snap when you bite into it. It prevents the dull grayish color and waxy texture that happens when the cocoa fat separates out.
When you temper chocolate, there a few tips to keep in mind. First things first, I urge you all to use high quality chocolate that is labeled with percentages in the 60-70% range. If you’re in India, Callebaut is your best bet and it is not very expensive.
It is best to purchase your chocolate in the form of tempered disks, also known as fèves so it is easier especially if you’re doing this for the first time. You can store it in an airtight container in a cool place (not in the refrigerator) reason being the wide fluctuation in temperatures, which will cause the chocolate to bloom.
The next important question is what kind of chocolate to use. There are usually two kinds- couverture and compound. Compound is more easily available and much cheaper but please do not use it. You will end up with horrible chocolate. Couverture has additional cocoa butter added unlike compound which usually contains vegetable oil or some other kind of fat. Also, make sure the chocolate you are using is not more than 2 years old, as the flavour will start to go flat.
The easiest way I’ve figured to temper chocolate is through the seeding method where about 2/3 of the chocolate is melted and removed from the heat. Then the remaining 1/3 is dropped into the melted chocolate and slowly stirred until it melts and cools slightly. The final 1/3 needs to be tempered chocolate that has not bloomed. The blooming is basically the process where the cocoa fat separates out from the rest of the chocolate, creating a dull grey coating and roughish texture. If you find that you’ve let your chocolate bloom, you can still use it but you will need to bring it into temper again by ‘seeding’ it with an already tempered chocolate.
Many a time, you find it annoying to use a thermometer? Don’t worry, I’ve been there too and found a simple test that helps you temper chocolate without it. But start doing this only once you’ve had enough practice. Won’t recommend you trying this if you’re a first timer. First get used to tempering with the thermometer and once you understand the temperatures, this will be so simple for you.
You know your chocolate has reached the right temperature by bringing the spatula to the area just below your bottom lip and dabbing on a small amount. Alternatively, you can dab a small amount on the inside of your wrist.
Tempered chocolate solidifies quickly as it cools, so make sure that you keep the temperature consistent. Keep stirring it gently while you are dipping the almonds into it. This prevents streaks. As you stir, the chocolate will continue to cool, and it will go out of temper. You will know it is getting too cool when it begins to set up on the sides. Don’t freak out, this is very normal. Just keep a pot of hot water ready and as soon as you see these signs, submerge the bottom of the bowl in the hot water for 1-2 seconds, scraping the chocolate up from the bottom and mixing throughout. Quickly remove the bowl from the hot water and keep stirring to evenly disperse the heat. Once evenly stirred, test on your skin to make sure it is still cool. is no longer cool, you will need to begin the tempering process all over again.
I had learned to make these almond rocks using dark chocolate but the experimental bug in me made me try it with milk chooclate instead. I honestly preferred it but if you want to do it with dark or white for that matter, please do go ahead. Just keep in mind the temperatures while tempering as they differ a bit.
For dark chocolate, melt to 45°C, cool to 27°C, and reheat to 32°C.
For white chocolate, melt to 40°C, cool to 25°C and reheat to 28°C.
A well tempered chocolate should break with a crisp snap and these almond rocks are just that. It’s the perfect gifting for any celebration or you can just be like me and eat them whenever I feel low. I always have them stored in a bottle at home. Please do try this and feel free to ask me any questions, however stupid they may be. There will be a lot of issues in the beginning, don’t even ask how many batches have gone straight into the bin but over time, you will become a pro at this and just like that, you’ll also have a good laugh when people say, “You want to make almond rocks, how boring are you!”
This recipe has been adapted from Le Cordon Bleu