It is said that pirates captured a ship bringing the first chocolate back from America and threw it overboard saying it was disgusting! In my time, over the past 11 years working with children and as a mother of 22 years, I have only ever met two children that thought chocolate was disgusting and one of those happens to be my eldest son.
Chocolate can be traced back to the Aztecs (and even further!) but that is far enough for my muddled old brain. The Aztecs used cocoa beans to make a spicy, frothy drink called chocolati. It was a right royal affair for the Emperor Montezuma (funny how things come back into fashion isn’t it?) who served this to his Spanish guests in golden goblets. But the Spanish thought it tasted bitter and added insult to injury by stealing all their gold and adding sugar to their Chocolati.
Look what we can do with the stuff these days. From a bog standard bar of brown stuff to elegant chocolatiers who produce amazing masterpieces from it. How do they do it? “Who knows and who cares”, I hear you shout. “Just give me a chunk now to go with my nice cup of tea”. We must start with the word “tempering”, what does this word mean? In layman’s terms it involves heating up the chocolate to a certain temperature then cooling. This process stabilises the cocoa butter crystals so they then link together like best friends arm in arm. This in turn gives chocolate its shine and sharp snap – Beautiful!
Here are a few extra tempering tips for you guys to try at home with your children – only on special occasions mind you, as it is good to remember that chocolate is not a food to be taken lightly or often. I think perhaps it should come with a warning tag, “may cause headaches, sore tummies if consumed in large quantities and never to be used as a substitute for breakfast, lunch or dinner”. Oh and just in case you don’t know it is not considered one of your ‘five a day’.
Making chocolate lollies or using moulds with children can be great fun. There are four main methods of melting chocolate but number 4 is the safest option for children.
- Microwave it (on defrost mode). Problem is it can melt unevenly and burn
- Over a bain-marie. Good method for adults as it melts the chocolate slowly – not so good for children as they could easily get scalded.
- Tempering machine. Excellent, if you can afford one. They can be expensive and unless you have intentions of turning into a professional chocolatier a waste of money.
- Cookies favourite for children is electric melting pots. They are not very expensive and are far more child friendly then any of the above. Look online – dare I say Amazon?
Tips for understanding chocolate:
- Chocolate does not like getting wet (bit like my son who hates washing)
- Always use good quality chocolate. Couverture is easy to buy online or in a supermarket
- Do not over heat chocolate, it burns very quickly
- Do not stir chocolate while tempering
- If you stuff up and get a white bloom on the chocolate it’s ok still to eat or re-temper
- Heat gently until the chocolate, although still keeping its original shape, has melted. This is a big indication that it has reached the correct temp.
- Once ready you will need to work with the chocolate quickly before it sets
- For more information look on www.homechocolatefactory.com
- But most of all have fun, it still tastes the same tempered or not