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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**

something to distract us

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Recipe: sous vide ribs

We are into our second week without Neva while she is studying hard at doggy training camp. We miss her terribly. I catch myself scrolling through puppy pictures on Instagram because I’m not sure how to deal with life without a dog, even though I know she’s coming home soon. Oh, but the truth is we are keeping ourselves entertained while Neva is at school. We figured a weekend trip to Crested Butte would be much simpler with just the humans. It’s sort of a casual drawn out celebration of our 20th anniversary. Dad instructed me to go to their place in Boulder and select any bottle of wine in his collection for us to enjoy, with the promise that they would celebrate with us this summer with “an even better bottle of wine!” I don’t really drink wine, so it’s actually a bottle of wine for jeremy. But I find it funny and sweet, because my parents are so very fond of him.


he chose this one because dad had seven more bottles of it



It was an oddly easy and strange weekend in Crested Butte. There was no new snow, but we didn’t feel like skiing groomers. Erin told me that we have become totally Coloradofied. We skated and uphill skied, worked, and celebrated a friend’s birthday. And we both found ourselves muttering “I miss little Neva,” at random times throughout the days. Of course, with the Daylight Saving time shift, we lost an hour Sunday morning. That would have been fine except 1) we wanted to wake up early to uphill ski before hitting the road to go home and 2) we stayed up late watching an episode of The Great British Baking Show. So we both felt particularly awful when my alarm went off at 5 am, but catching sunrise on the mountain was worth every bit of mental pukiness.

preparing to skin up the mountain

gorgeous views from the nordic trails

roasty toasty enough to warrant short sleeves

the fleeting surprise sunrise colors on an early morning uphill climb



I’ve been playing around with the sous vide when the mood strikes me and I have to say I just love this thing more and more. One of the first recipes I tried back in November was barbecue ribs. Kenji has a lot of great tutorials on Serious Eats, with plenty of clear explanations and options. The ribs turned out so beautifully, we had a dinner party just to serve the ribs to our friends (who also gave them the thumbs up). It’s quite simple as long as you have at least 12 hours to sous vide the ribs. I haven’t tried this on baby back ribs as I tend to prefer St. Louis-cut ribs because they’re meatier. You merely need a rack or two of ribs, a dry rub, liquid smoke, and barbecue sauce. I list my favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce recipes below, but you can substitute your favorite versions – or if you’re short on time, you can purchase them. Kenji does have a way to achieve the pink smoke ring, but I find it completely unnecessary since it’s mostly aesthetic, so I skip that step. Regardless of whether or not you want a pink smoke ring, I think it’s worth giving his entire tutorial a once over if you’re serious about your sous vide ribs. Plus, it’s always good to learn things!

start with a dry rub, liquid smoke, and a rack of ribs

peel off the papery membrane on the back of the rack

cut into 3- or 4-rib sections

coat with dry rub



**Jump for more butter**

jacuzzi time

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Recipe: sous vide meyer lemon cheesecake with raspberry sauce

Well thank goodness the snow is back. I was about to lose my marbles there, because skiing ice is a little hard on my knee, which I hyper-extended thanks to jamming my ski under some wind slab in the backcountry. My knee is mostly fine, but I’m icing, doing strengthening exercises, and a little bit of skiing. Just a little bit.


“is there snow on my face?”

jeremy grabs some turns before starting the work day



So if you follow my personal account on Instagram (https://instagram.com/jenyuphoto/), you may have noticed that I have been busy experimenting with my sous vide cooker. Sure, it’s great for steaks and chops and chicken and fish and eggs, but… what about sweets? I decided to try it out on cheesecake, because I’ve baked cheesecakes in a water bath in the oven before. It’s like a jacuzzi for cheesecakes. The thing is, I can only make individual cheesecakes with my sous vide cooker. You CAN make whole cheesecakes in a sous vide oven, or you can sous vide the filling in a bag and squeeze the contents onto a crust (but that sounds a little janky to me). I’ve been excited to try a lemon cheesecake for some time, because the citrus adds a nice bit of zip, zest, and brightness to cream cheese, which I find to be incredibly flat tasting. But first, let’s make the raspberry sauce. I use frozen organic raspberries because they are cheaper than fresh and work just as well for our purposes.

lemon juice, water, sugar, frozen raspberries

combine water and raspberries in a saucepan

simmer until the berries break down



**Jump for more butter**