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The art of chocolate
Working with chocolate will take time or you may end up throwing out your creation
Apr 9, 2004
By Cindy Wells

COBOURG- With Easter just around the corner, chocolate bunny rabbits have been hopping up everywhere, filling stores and kitchens alike. But if you're going to experiment with chocolate in your own kitchen here are some things you might want to know before getting started.

The biggest challenge people face when working with chocolate, says Patti Kozlowski, owner of Cobourg's Adventures in Chocolate, is learning to take their time. "Time is the most important ingredient," she says.

"We live in such a fast paced world, we want everything fast, fast, fast," says Ms. Kozlowski, "but it takes time to make chocolate. You have to be willing to give the time or be willing to throw it out."

When working with chocolate, Ms. Kozlowski says the better ingredient you start with, the better the result.

For beginners, Ms. Kozlowski recommends people start with dark chocolate since it is the easiest to work with and will be the most forgiving. "White chocolate is really not for novices," says Ms. Kozlowski. "It can be very finicky."

During the past 15 years Adventures in Chocolate has been in business, Ms. Kozlowski says she has noticed more and more people preferring the bitter taste of dark chocolate.

At Easter, she says her best seller is milk chocolate, but dark chocolate is generally her best seller overall. At this time of year Ms. Kozlowski says bunnies are her biggest seller, but her cream eggs are also a favourite. "I've had people coming knocking on the door for them, before they're even ready," says Ms. Kozlowski.

She cautions people to be careful of chocolate labelled pure. "Just because it says pure doesn't mean it's chocolate. It could be pure chocolate syrup." She recommends people find out what the cocoa butter content is.

Seventy per cent cocoa butter content is really good for dark chocolate, says Ms. Kozlowski. She says 58 per cent cocoa content is good for making bunnies. Milk chocolate should have about 30 per cent cocoa content, and white chocolate around 18 per cent. For people wanting to try their hand at making their own chocolate creations, Ms. Kozlowski recommends starting with moulds or suckers.

She recommends people melt chocolate over a bowl of hot tap water rather than use a double boiler that can raise the temperature of the chocolate too quickly and cause it to burn, or create steam that can get into the chocolate.

Ms. Kozlowski says a drop of water in chocolate can cause unwanted crystals to form that will prevent it from setting properly.

Using the microwave can also be risky, says Ms. Kozlowski, because it can increase the temperature of the chocolate too quickly, causing the unwanted crystals or burning.

If someone is going to use a microwave she says they should work at short intervals of about 10 seconds or less, and stop and stir the chocolate at each interval.

For dark chocolate, Ms. Kozlowski says a temperature of 89 F is ideal for moulding chocolate. This is below body temperature, so "if it feels warm, you may have lost it," she says.

To cool the chocolate Ms. Kozlowski says cool room temperature is best. Chocolate likes about 65 F, she says. It can, however, be put in the fridge for a short period of time, says Ms. Kozlowski, but generally a refrigerator has too much moisture. "Chocolate only likes a maximum of 65 per cent moisture," she says.

To make a three-dimensional hollow bunny, Ms. Kozlowski pours tempered chocolate into one side of a two-piece mould. After tightly clipping the other side of the mould on, she turns it continuously for a few minutes to evenly distribute the chocolate around the mould. The bunny is then cooled until it has a nice shine.

Adventures in Chocolate periodically offers a course in making chocolate, says Ms. Kozlowski. To sign up for a course Ms. Kozlowski says people can visit the store, located at 81 King St. W. in Cobourg, and put their name on a list. She says she typically teaches six people in a course.

(c) 2004 Cindy Wells