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technique: sous vide tempering chocolate

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Technique: sous vide tempering chocolate

Spring in Colorado is that lovely fickle season that throws it all at you – snow, rain, sun, fog, hail. That means flexibility is key to getting outside for some adventure and exercise. In our house, we keep four bins of gear at the ready in our living room. During winter months, the bins are: resort skiing, backcountry skiing/touring, skate skiing, classic skiing. In summer, the bin contents are swapped out for hiking, biking, trail running, and paddling gear. But spring means it’s all a slightly organized mess, a mish mash of late skiing and early running gear co-mingling in a way that mimics the snow and the trails in the backcountry right now.


jeremy skiing in rocky mountain national park

it wasn’t great snow, but right now we’ll just take any snow

après ski visit to trail ridge road

riding in boulder with a nice view of the flatirons

no matter the weather, neva always gets her fetch session



I had planned to get this post up some time Monday after reporting for jury duty in the morning, but against many odds, I was selected for a 2-week trial. Yay?! I’ve been called for jury duty once before about 16 years ago and got selected for a trial then, too. And while I am always hoping to NOT be selected for a jury (somehow I’m batting 0), I will say that it is something many citizens should experience at least once to see the workings, the flaws, and the positive aspects at a local level. Not to mention, the jury selection process alone gives one a rare cross-sectional glimpse into our community. You learn things about people. And if we can’t relate to people, then where does that leave us?

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and instead of sharing a recipe, I’m sharing a technique with you. Tempering chocolate comes in handy when candymaking or creating edible decorations or dipping things like fruit or cookies. Tempered chocolate results in a more stable chocolate coating that is shiny and has a lovely snap. It is definitely more effort than simply melting chocolate, but for me, the final product is far superior. I’ve shown how I temper chocolate on a number of recipes on this blog (I use the seed method). However, once the chocolate is in temper, it’s really hard for me to maintain the tiny temperature range where it remains in temper – particularly for small batches of a pound or less. After borrowing my friend’s sous vide, I began to look into using it for tempering. I read through Kenji’s overview of chocolate tempering on The Food Lab and decided against the sous vide method. He tempers his chocolate in a sealed pouch which isn’t helpful when I want to dip a lot of things into tempered chocolate. But tempering the chocolate is not the hard part. The challenge lies in keeping the chocolate at a constant temperature so it remains in temper. That’s actually where the sous vide cooker is the perfect solution.


let’s say you want to dip some strawberries in tempered chocolate



There are basically three, maybe four kinds of chocolate: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and caramelized white chocolate. I haven’t worked with caramelized white chocolate, but one of my clients uses it in her confections. I typically work with dark chocolate, will occasionally temper white chocolate, and very rarely milk chocolate. A warning about white chocolate: don’t use a white chocolate that contains palm kernel oil or coconut oil because it will not temper (it separates and becomes useless). You need to use proper white chocolate that has real cocoa butter, which means it’s going to cost you some money.

you will need chocolate – try to use a good quality chocolate



So let’s temper some dark chocolate using the seed method. The reason I use the seed method is because it’s the one I learned in my pastry skills course a decade ago, and I have enjoyed a high success rate using it. Melt most of your chips, féves, or chopped chocolate (reserve some for seeding) in a bowl over a water bath’s gentle heat until it reaches a nominal temperature, which you are measuring with a thermometer. Yes, use a thermometer. It’s important not to let a single drop of water (including condensation from steam) touch the chocolate because it can seize and you won’t be able to salvage it for tempering. If it does seize, don’t throw that chocolate away! You can still use it in baking and such, just not tempering. In the case of dark chocolate, I try to target 118-120°F as the maximum. Because there is some heat capacity in the body of melted chocolate and the bowl, I find when the temperature reaches 112°F, I can remove the bowl from the water bath and it will continue to rise in temperature to about 118-120°F as I set the bowl on an ice pack or in an ice bath to cool. For milk and white chocolates, your target temperature is a few degrees cooler: 116-118°F, so I would remove the chocolate from the water bath around 110°F.

place most, but not all, of your chocolate in a heatproof bowl

set the bowl over a simmering water bath

cool the chocolate on an ice pack or in an ice bath



**Jump for more butter**

double your pleasure

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Recipe: double chocolate tarts

My in-laws were supposed to come out for a visit with us in Crested Butte last week, but had to cancel their trip at the last minute. When we host guests at our house, we pretty much clear everything off our schedule to entertain said guests. So we suddenly found ourselves with two days wide open and a little fresh powder on the mountain to enjoy.


and he did enjoy it

the clouds made way for a view of the town of crested butte below



Neva got to go for a couple of skate skis, an uphill ski on the mountain, and a run through our neighborhood up to the lake and back. All of this in addition to her daily training. She does rather well on paved paths and roads, but she is definitely more distracted on trails. Right now, we are toggling between snow and sunshine in the mountains, the trails in a constant state of melting out. I imagine that we’ll get to hit the real trail training with Neva soon, but until then, she’s doing alright. Meanwhile, the flowering trees are bursting with color down in Boulder and the rest of the flats. I must admit that the sight of that chartreuse spring green makes me a little giddy. I even opted for a trail run over a skate ski today, and found my first sign of local mountain spring.

the morning sun gets to work melting out yesterday’s snow

crabapple blossoms in boulder

an emerging pasque flower, the first to bloom in our mountains



In addition to the two open days we got as a result of the cancelled visit, we wound up with six extra chocolate tarts, which I had planned to serve as dessert. But chocolate tarts are easy enough to give away to neighbors. Go figure! This was the sixth batch of tarts I had made in the month of March. It all started when Eileen texted me as I was grabbing lunch in Steamboat Springs. She wanted to know if we’d be in Crested Butte the following weekend for a birthday dinner party for our friend, Wendy. It just so happened we WOULD be in town that weekend and was there something I could bring? Eileen suggested dessert, so I contacted Wendy’s daughters to get the scoop on her favorite flavors/desserts. Two things stood out: dark chocolate and raspberries. How about a dark chocolate tart with raspberries? Easy peasy, or so I thought.

cream, cocoa powder, flour, chocolate, powdered sugar, butter, more butter, grand marnier



I was fairly certain this recipe would work out, but I always make a point of testing a recipe before the real deal, just in case. Good thing I did. The crust, which seemed to behave nicely for just about everyone else in the world (it’s a recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking), was a complete jerk. I suspect it has something to do with my high elevation, but it was quite frustrating to see it stick to the parchment during the blind baking. Luckily, I am friends with a lot of experienced and professional bakers – so I asked for advice on Facebook and got a slew of suggestions.

mix the flour and cocoa powder

beat the powdered sugar into the butter

add the flour and cocoa mixture

beat until just combined

wrap and chill



**Jump for more butter**

the truth about neva

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Recipe: chocolate cream puffs


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Thank you for the incredibly sweet comments and emails regarding the last post. It was not my intention to rally support, merely to point certain individuals to the door. You guys are the best. xo

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There’s something I need to tell you about Neva…


yes, that neva



I didn’t love Neva when we brought her home. I mean, of course I loved her – but I didn’t LOVE her, not like I loved my Kaweah girl. I loved Neva out of obligation and because she was my responsibility. This puppy was all kinds of feral. Neva had so many accidents in the house that we ended up taking her out to potty every half hour because she had a bladder with the capacity of an eye dropper. She’d pee in the yard and then come back inside and happily pee on her doggy bed two minutes later – oblivious to the difference. Sure, she was a puppy, and puppies don’t know ANYTHING, but Neva was like a special needs puppy because it took her longer to learn things compared to most pups. That and when we thought she HAD learned something, she would regress and get commands confused.

cute as a button, but a complete terror



Neva was highly excitable and overreacted to everything (people, dogs, bikes, cars, birds, leaves, rocks…), baying loudly like a donkey, growling and barking as she scrabbled and clawed her way against the leash toward whatever it was. When we were outside, all she wanted to do was run off and follow scents. No amount of food (she’s a lab, for crying out loud!) would bring her back. There were times when I debated for a split second whether to let her run off forever or to try and catch her. During her puppyhood, we met LOTS of other puppies who were calm, sweet, loyal, and focused on people. Neva was the opposite – her progress appeared to be inversely proportional to the amount of time we invested in her training.

she had to bite *everything*



Little pup spent plenty of time socializing and playing with other dogs, but she didn’t understand that most adult dogs wanted nothing to do with a sharp-toothed hyper baby dog. Neva was never aggressive, but she was persistent with her attentions. Dogs are pretty clear about their feelings with one another. Unfortunately, our girl did not clue in on the snarling or raised hackles and sometimes (lots of times) got the smackdown from older dogs.

mr. wyatt lays down the law, but neva just wants to love him



Our nickname for Neva was Miss FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). She never had separation anxiety issues (thank goodness), but she didn’t like the thought of something good going on without her. Neva was not especially affectionate with us. On the rare occasion that she got hurt or scared, she would stand behind one of us or try to climb into our laps for comforting. But more often than not, she looked at us as housemates with opposable thumbs rather than her pack.

passed out in the car after a loooong hike



We spent a lot of time not having fun so that Neva could have fun. She loved the outdoors as much as we did, yet spending time with her outside made us miserable. Instead of hiking, we were constantly wrangling the dog. Instead of hanging out on the stand up paddle board, she jumped off and swam to shore where one of us had to run interference to keep her from bolting off to who knows where. Instead of backcountry skiing, Jeremy skinned uphill without poles (to manage Neva’s leash) and wedged downhill rather than getting turns so Neva wouldn’t get cut by a ski. Whenever we planned to do something the question always arose, “Do you want to bring Neva or leave her at home?”, but the real meaning was, “Do you want to bring Neva or would you rather have fun?” More often than not, we brought her along because we just kept hoping that someday she’d become a good dog.

aaaand, she’s off again



Neva was not much of a cuddler, which broke my heart because Kaweah was SUCH a cuddle bug. When we came home, she didn’t get out of her bed to greet us or even show any excitement that we were back. It felt like Neva didn’t enjoy being with us except when she wanted something to eat. If we sat next to her to pet her, she would get up and lie down four feet away. She acted like she wanted to run away from us every chance she got. After the first eight months, I began to accept that maybe I didn’t have to love Neva the way I loved Kaweah. Yet I also wondered if I loved Neva at all. We resigned ourselves to giving Neva a happy life, even if she didn’t seem thrilled to be with us.

trying to shake off and cross a stream at the same time



The change was gradual, to the point of being imperceptible. Some time in the last six months, we noticed that Neva started to cuddle. She also allowed us to rub her belly or spoon with her. When she is happy or anxious, she likes to rub her side against vertical fabric like couches, hanging towels, beds, and lately our legs (when wearing pants). For the past several months, each night she started out in her bed when I turned out the lights, but by morning Neva would be snuggled between us on our bed, softly snoring away. While Neva is far from a Good Dog, she raises our blood pressure a little less each time we take her for a walk, a hike, a ski.

the goofiest goofball that ever goofed around



I never expected Neva to be Kaweah. And I should point out that I am under no illusion that Kaweah was perfect – far from it! Neva was just an order of magnitude more work than Kaweah. This might be because Neva is notably less intelligent than Kaweah. Kaweah was not the sharpest tack in the box, however Neva is a veritable ball bearing. But gosh if that little pea-brain hasn’t grown on me. I think she matured quite a bit in her second year, for which we are all grateful. I have also observed that Neva looks to Jeremy as her person, which makes me very happy, because I love him and I love that she loves him. I feel as if we are finally reaching that stage I was hoping to achieve within the first month of her arrival – a pack. I didn’t start out loving Neva the way I wanted to, but I realize that I do truly love that crazy little girl. And I find myself telling her, “I love you, baby puppy,” more and more every day, from the heart.

my heart: these two



Alright now, Valentine’s Day is coming up and I think most of you know that I don’t really care for it in the traditional sense. For me, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to be kind and loving to everyone everyday. It is also the perfect excuse to make things that people love to eat. I have made these chocolate cream puffs several times in the past year for various gatherings. I thought of them as my Frankenstein puffs because the recipe is cobbled together from parts of other recipes. I finally tired of having to reference multiple recipes, so I am posting this in one place as a favor to my future self (as I’ve said before, I blog for me, but I share with you). Ultimately, it’s all about the cream puffs. I recommend making the pastry cream first.

pastry cream: chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, butter, eggs (yolks), milk

heat the milk

whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar together

temper the egg mixture with hot milk



**Jump for more butter**