Welcome to our new(ish) column, "Ask the Pastry Chef," by Amy Morris, a pastry sous chef at J&G Steakhouse. Have a question for Amy? Leave it in the comments section.
This week's question: How Do I Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries?
Chocolate covered strawberries are perfect for Valentine's Day. Around this time, you'll see them readily available at your local grocery store. However, the last time I checked the price, I have to admit that I winced. If you don't have the time and are willing to pay extra, then having them ready to go is perfect for you. But, if you do have the time and are willing to do a little extra work, then you can save your money towards a great dinner instead.
Dark chocolate is the best choice when choosing chocolates, but if you prefer, milk or white chocolate will work as well. I recommend buying dark chocolate in the 60% range. Ghirardelli sells a 60% bittersweet chocolate that is available almost anywhere or any top rate brands will work the best. I don't recommend getting cheap chocolate. Chocolate is basically one of the two main ingredients and it's important to get a chocolate that tastes good. You will be able to taste the difference!
The first project to tackle when making these strawberry delights is to temper your chocolate. This process is much easier than it sounds and you don't need to be an expert to be able to do this. The tempering process is recommended if you want to get that crisp crunch from your chocolate when you bite into your strawberry. If this step is skipped, it will appear less glossy and more than likely will be soggy.
There are a few tempering processes that can be done, but the easiest one to follow is the seeding method. Tempered chocolate is added to melted chocolate. It is then slightly cooled till it reaches the desired temperature. Don't worry, after you've read over the process this will make much more sense and before you know it, you'll be an expert!
Here's what you'll need:
2 11.5 oz block or bags of 60-66% dark chocolate
1 package of strawberries, washed and dried
Stainless steel bowl
1)Begin by setting up your water bath by preparing a double boiler. Place a pot of water on the stove and let it come to a simmer. You don't want it to boil because that may cause the chocolate to overheat and make it unusable.
2)Place 1 bag of chocolate in the stainless steel bowl and set it on top of the simmering water. Melt the chocolate by stirring it while it's over the hot water and take it off the heat when it is completely melted.
3)Next, add in 1 oz of chocolate from the 2nd bag and stir it into your melted chocolate. Continue stirring the chocolate for about 2 more minutes or until dark chocolate reaches around 89℉, while milk or white chocolate reaches around 86℉. The chocolate should be smooth.
4)Take a strawberry and holding onto the stem end, carefully dip it into the tempered chocolate. Alternatively, take a wooden skewer and pierce the skewer into the strawberry about half way thorough from the stem end of the strawberry. Continue by dipping it into the chocolate. Hold the dipped strawberry over the chocolate for a few seconds to let excess drip off, or gently scrape the bottom of the strawberry against the bowl and place it on the parchment. Doing this step will help in eliminating a pool of chocolate to form around your strawberry and instead will cling uniformly around it. If you do see a pool of chocolate after you have set it on the parchment paper, pick up the strawberry and place it down again on a clean area of the parchment.
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5)Let the chocolate dipped strawberries harden at room temperature, or place them in the fridge to speed up the process. Leave the strawberries as they are, or top them off with a drizzle of white chocolate, sprinkles, or both!
They are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be refrigerated. Take note that if refrigerated, condensation may appear on the chocolate.
Chocolate covered strawberries are much easier than they are made out to be. This is a quick and simple way to surprise your special someone and paired with champagne this will definitely make your Valentine's Day memorable.
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