[This is Part III of the thrilling trilogy, "The Chocolate Covered Kitchen Goes High Tech." In Part I our intrepid protagonist upgraded her blog and bought an airbrush, which she courageously confronted in Part II. Now, she tries something desperate . . .]
So there I was. Face to face with my empty molds. My efforts to master airbrushing chocolates on my very first try had failed miserably, but I was not giving up. Where modern technology had failed me, primitive physics would prevail. Not that I know the first thing about physics, but I figured I could always jury-rig something together with enough gravity and a few beauty supplies.
“Bring me the hairdryer!” I called out to Mira in a burst of adrenal-fueled genius. I was certain she’d refuse, having this OCD thing about separating stuff that belongs in the bathroom from stuff mom plays with in the kitchen. But she must have been exhausted by my project at this point, and unwilling to engage in anymore debates, because she quickly brought it to me and even asked if I’d like a curling iron to go with it.
“No, don’t be ridiculous,” I answered, “curling irons are for sculpting chocolate, not for coloring it. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” I plugged in the hair dryer and prepared for the execution of my brilliant idea.
“This isn’t going to be like the time you used the hair dryer and melted all the chocolates because you thought they looked too cold, is it?” Mira asked.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled in response, “you never can tell. Ready?”
She aimed the camera in my direction and started clicking away.
“Wait! No! Stop!” I screamed, realizing I’d forgotten to do the most important thing, which was put something into the molds to blast with hot air. I quickly melted some more cocoa butter, then added a few drops of yellow and a drop of blue. These would be for the lime chocolates, so I wanted them to be a bright green (the last batch having been tossed in the trash because they looked like throw up as you might recall).
What I really needed was a syringe, but being neither diabetic nor a drug addict, I didn’t think I had one. I say think, because life as a materialist American has taught me that with enough junk drawers and extra closets, we pretty much have everything on earth except batteries when we need them.
If I’d had a syringe, I would have sucked up the melted cocoa butter and shot a bit into each mold, but not having that, I took a toothpick and dribbled some into each cavity. It was a mold of squares with little ridges running diagonally, and I wanted to send a puff of air across each piece so that the green cocoa butter would splash across the ridges in some sort of psychedelic effect. It wasn’t airbrushed artistry, but it was all I could manage for the time being (and I’d seen it done on YouTube).
The problem, of course, was that the cocoa butter would set up before I finished all the molds; hence the hair dryer. I picked up the hair dryer, turned it on hot, and re-melted the setting green cocoa butter just like Martha Stewart would do if she didn’t have a staff to do it for her.
When the cocoa butter had melted again I checked the temperature with my laser thermometer. 104. Just right but I’d have to move fast. I wanted it around 100, but not much lower, and I knew that by the time I finished with the next step, the temp would be sinking fast.
Or was it supposed to be around 100 when it went into the mold? Good question. But I didn’t want to know the answer, just in case I’d already botched it.
The cocoa butter having had its blow dry, it was now time for the styling. I started to unscrew the airbrush from the can of air when I remembered what had happened the first time I set it up and it had tried to attack me. I figured I’d probably used up pretty much all my air in my ludicrous battle assembling the airbrush, so I couldn’t risk another uncontrolled blast of propelling air going every which way. So I left the airbrush attached to the can of air and just unscrewed the jar. I rinsed the remnants of the throw-up colored cocoa butter with hot water and dried it, then put the empty bottle back onto the airbrush and aimed at the green cocoa-butter dribbles in the little square cavities of the mold and whose temp by then was probably diving to 97.
“Mom, are you sure this is a good idea?” my teenaged conscience asked me.
“The only thing certain in life is uncertainty” I answered like a sage, “Which is why I’m waiting until the last possible minute to do our taxes, just in case they’re outlawed.”
A flash of fear flew through my head at the very thought I might be wrong, and the IRS would still exist no matter how powerfully I transmitted my thoughts to the Universe and willed it to do as I told.
Then I ordered my wandering mind back to the task at hand, knowing my thoughts created my own reality and taxes, income, job and housing were not my worries at all, they’d all materialize in abundance as long as I Believed! (Well, at least the taxes would.)
“Succeed or fail, there’s only one way to find out!” I declared, brandishing the hair dryer like a flaming torch.
“Clean up the kitchen and order Norman Love chocolates on line?” she asked wisely.
“Don’t be ridiculous, we can’t afford those,” I answered, taking aim once again and gesturing for her to do the same with the camera.
“Have you added up how much you’ve spent on this new hobby of yours?” she asked just like Suze Orman, “I’m sure it would be cheaper just to buy them.”
I gave her a look. She knows I hate math.
“Okay, ready?” I asked her.
She started snapping, and I started blasting, shooting the canned air into the cocoa butter and making it splatter all over the cavities. But they didn’t splatter into any cool abstract designs. It was useless. I picked up the hair dryer, realizing that I’d had the power to blast air all along, forget about the Badger.
But they just flowed across the entire bottom surface of each of the squares, leaving a barely perceptible film of cocoa butter. No splatter effects, no Kandinsky designs, not even little Joan Miró blobs. Just a thin green film.
I might just as well have set them on the counter to settle on their own.
That mold done I set it aside. The next mold was a swirly dome and for that one I’d use pearl dust.
Pearl dust is something I found at the cake store, a little hole in the wall place on the north side of town that’s jam-packed with cake pans, colored sugars, doilies, pastry bags, tiny topless Barbie dolls and plastic football players, ribbons of ribbons and boxes of boxes and novelty molds and flavored oils and cocoa butter and three kinds of fondant and sugary pansies and four leaf clovers but usually nothing I really need. But it’s a great place for bakers of cakes and crafty folks and the woman behind the counter is essentially the Einstein of sugar if ever there was one. I pretty much kept to myself while she helped this shopper and that, but as soon as she saw me rifling through a box full of dust, she suggested I get brown.
It never would have occurred to me had I been left to my own devices to consider putting brown sparkly dust on chocolate, but I had sense enough to do as I had been told and I bought it.
So here I was, without an airbrushed mold to console me, but I had my chocolate colored dust to play with. So I dusted the cavities with the metallic powder, pretending as I did that it was really a precious metal that I had smuggled out of the Congo and had to hide from the Russian mob. It made it a lot more exciting.
Then it was time for the chocolate.
Remember when I sent my friend Sam a box of chocolates? Well Sam’s no dummy. She wanted more. So she sent me two bags of chocolate chips. But these were no ordinary chocolate chips. These were Callebaut, the Cadillac of chocolate chips. At ten dollars a pound, they are the most expensive chocolate chips I have ever encountered, and here they sat, two five pound bags worth more than my Ph.D.
When I first got them I thought, Oh My. This is an awful lot of money for chocolate chips, and they won’t even work for molding. Sam must have never realized what it was she was buying and how could I ever tell her?
And then I ate one. And two. Then a lady-like handful. I could barely stop. She’d sent me a bag of dark chocolate and a bag of milk chocolate. Both were exquisite, but it never occurred to me in all my life that the best milk chocolate I’d ever taste would come in the form of a chocolate chip. But here it was.
One taste of those milk chocolates and I decided then and there that I’d never let Mira know how good they were. I’d tell her they were full of lecithin and fillers and unfit for human consumption. But before I could do so, she reached into the bag and she was hooked, too. These chips were better than being alive.
So now with my brown dusted swirly molds and my green cocoa-buttered square molds, I had only to fill them. With some very fine Venezuelan couverture for the shells, I wanted something superb for the filling. The Callebaut chips. A touch of lime in the bittersweet, and oh how sweet. But the milk chocolate, so utterly luscious, would not be tainted by a drop of flavoring, not even so much as a trace of vanilla. I wanted to taste them just as they were, luscious and heavenly and so divine.
Well, imagine another hour and a half with me shuffling Pyrex and polycarbonate here, there and everywhere, chocolate smeared and dribbled and drizzled all over the place, it’s getting late, we’re getting hungry, the phone is ringing, the cats are howling and I have a stuffed pork tenderloin that needs to get into the oven but I can’t turn it on until the chocolates are done or they’ll be destroyed and I just want to get the whole thing over with so that I can sit down to dinner, eat it, wash the damned dishes and then shove a plateful of these delicious little chocolates into my head and pretend that the world is perfect.
So that’s how it went.
Then it was time. Time for the unmolding.
The first batch, the green cocoa-buttered squares came out like a newborn baby cursed with a facial birth mark. No matter. You gotta love ‘em. They weren’t at all what I was expecting, but the green had settled into the fissures of the cavities and created a lovely design. Not an intended effect, on my part, but clearly an intended effect of the mold makers that I simply hadn’t realized. They weren’t perfect though, as I’d stuck them into the freezer to make them easier to unmold, and left them there a little too long so the gloss was gone and there were some little streaks. But they tasted delicious. Could use a bit more lime oil, but still, that Callebaut dark . . . delicious.
Then, time for the brown dusted swirly domes.
I timed them , no more than five minutes in the freezer, just long enough to help them pop from the molds but not long enough to bloom. I turned them over gently, tapped the edge of the mold ever so lightly once I realized they weren’t falling out all by themselves when I heard . . .
Plop plop plop plop plop. Just like popcorn.
I lifted the mold and took a look, and saw . . .
There is a God.
The brown pearl dust had settled into the chocolate giving it a deep, rich sheen, like enormous swirls of topaz. If there had been any streaks or a less than perfect gloss, the flaws had been concealed by the miracle dust that made them glisten.
I picked one up and took a bite. A bit too thick on the top, I’d been afraid of that. But the milk chocolate? I’d never had anything like it. Made for the angels. One bite and a whole childhood of joy and peace overcame me. These were the chocolates I’d have buried with me, the chocolates I’d take with me on my journey to eternity, the chocolates I’d share with the Gods. Or, at the very least, the chocolates I’d sneak for breakfast.
By the time the day was done, the kitchen cleaned and both of us cozied together for a cup of tea and Netflix, we were happy. I hadn’t mastered much technology, the Badger 250-2 was still my enemy and I would have to conquer it another day. And my brainy idea to air-blast cocoa butter hadn’t panned out as I’d expected and I still had a lot to learn.
But with a cheap craft brush and a bit of dust, I managed to create a beautiful glittering confection, one that tasted eternal and angelic.
And Norman Love could sleep soundly, his chocolate designs unrivaled by the flakey upstart in Seattle.
At least until I read the Badger 250 instructions . . .