How to Make Perfect Chocolate Decorations with Ease, Every Time!

 

Chocolate Decorations are a simple and fun way to take your baked goods from ‘homey’ to ‘chique’! Whether you’re applying a simple heart or an intricate butterfly, a small chocolate shape is the best way to make any dessert look worthy of a professional display.

But anyone that’s ever worked with melted chocolate knows it’s a tricky task to master. If you fail to heat your chocolate properly, or heaven forbid a drop of water enters your bowl, you run the risk of getting the chocolate equivalent of cottage cheese. Yuck! Finding the balance between ‘too hot’ and ‘too cool’ requires practice, attention, and a bit of patience.

 

Don’t be scared though! As intimidating as it may seem, working with chocolate is FUN! Following a few simple rules and taking your time can save you from wasting a batch of expensive chocolate goodness. After spending most of my summers in my aunt’s bayside chocolate store, I’ve built an arsenal of tips and tricks at my disposal that will ensure you always get the perfect chocolatey treat!

So what’s the secret? How do these professionals make it look so easy?

 

It’s called tempering chocolate. You have to begin with the right chocolate, and that doesn’t just mean high quality cocoa (although I do highly recommend it). Tempering Chocolate is the process of slowly heating and cooling your mixture until it reaches the right consistency to work with. Whether you’re working with melted chocolate for dipping strawberries, covering candy bars, or making decorations for cupcakes, proper steps need to be taken. If you think popping some chocolate chips in the microwave is going to get you a quality dessert, you’re in for a nasty surprise!

 

The tempering method begins with the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on. Making sure your chocolate has few chemical ingredients will help your chocolate become smooth and glossy. Make sure the fat in your chocolate is primarily ‘cocoa butter’. This is the fat that’s naturally in the cocoa bean and it’s the best emulsifier for your mixture.

Your next step is to set up a double broiler. As fancy as it sounds, it’s just a glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. Don’t let the water boil too hot or you will overheat the chocolate surrounding the bowl. Also, in the name of all that is holy, do NOT heat your chocolate in a metal bowl. Metal conducts heat, burns your chocolate and you will not get the right texture. If you must use a plastic bowl, I can’t stop you, but if you have a glass bowl available use it! It’s the best container to heat your chocolate in.

 

After your double boiler is set up you want to add pieces of your chocolate into the glass bowl and allow it to slowly melt. This is where patience comes in. The longer it takes for your chocolate to melt the better your mixture will be. It might be hard to wait and you’ll be tempted to turn up the heat, but I promise a little patience will pay off when you’re gliding through a smooth ocean of chocolate. Once your chocolate is about two thirds melted, take the glass bowl off the boiling water and move it to the counter. Continue mixing it until the heat from the melted chocolate fully melts the remaining chunks.

 

Now judging on the texture and consistency of your melted chocolate you can decide whether or not to add more chocolate chunks. If the mixture is too hot, or burns your finger to touch, add a few more pieces of melted chocolate to bring the temperature down. That’s it! You’ve officially tempered chocolate.

If you want do it the ‘fancy’ way, completely melt ⅔ of your chocolate in the double broiler, remove the glass bowl from the double boiler, and add the remaining ⅓ of chocolate to the melted chocolate and fold until the whole mixture has melted. This is another method of tempering chocolate that most professionals use, but I’ve never noticed a difference.

Another trick? If you find out your chocolate isn’t reaching the right consistency, a few drops of oil may just save the day.

 

Now that you’ve properly melted your chocolate, and it’s reached the right temperature, you’re ready to start making your chocolate decorations! At this point I highly recommend using a Nonstick Baking Mat.

A Baking Mat is a Nonstick Silicone surface that lines the bottom of your baking pan. They’re mainly popular because silicone evenly distributes heat and enhances whatever gets baked on the surface. But they’re not just for baking!

The flexible silicone and non stick fiberglass surface is perfect for making chocolate decorations, and I promise you, that’s the trick that all these professionals are using to make such perfect chocolate shapes. Parchment paper is weak and tears easily while silicone baking mats are durable, sturdy, and NEVER stick to your chocolate. After a few minutes of cooling, your chocolate pops right off.

 

They’re also transparent! If you put a picture of a design you want to draw with chocolate under the mat, you can see the image and trace the design with your piping bag which really comes in handy.

 

If you invest in a Baking Mat, however, make sure you buy a high quality. I’ve heard so many horror stories from my friends that used cheap silicone baking mats, and they melted in the oven or found pieces of fiberglass chipped off on their food! The good ones are a bit pricier, but in the long run it’s worth every cent.

 

The one I recommend is a Silicone Baking Mat by Baking Buddy. In my opinion, this is the best one you will find on the market. The producer of it’s silicone is the #1 top rated silicone supplier on Amazon and it has a ton of useful information bakers need to know (measurements, metric conversions, cookie recipe, baking tips, etc.) printed on the surface. You can check out pictures of this thing in action on their Amazon listing.
Whether you’re using a baking mat, or parchment paper, start practicing by piping small and simple designs (if you’re a beginner). With a little practice you’ll get the hang of the process, and start creating amazing shapes in no time!

Celebrate School Nutrition Employee Week May 5-9, 2014

Between preparing healthy meals for Minnesota’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes!

School Nutrition Employee Week is the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in school cafeterias across the state. The National School Nutrition Association has designated this week to remind everyone that school nutrition employees are superheroes that deserve recognition.

“Providing nutritional meals is an important part of making sure students can be successful both academically and in the activities they are involved in throughout the school day,” shared Brenda Braulick, president of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association.”  School nutrition professionals make over 750,000 breakfasts and lunches every day to make a difference in the lives of over 800,000 public schools students in Minnesota.”

The Minnesota School Nutrition Association is made up of over 2,900 school foodservice professionals working hard to help children by advancing school nutrition programs in our state.

SOURCE Minnesota School Nutrition Association

CONTACT: Sharon Maus, Executive Director, Minnesota School Nutrition Association, 320-251-2344, msna@citescape.com; Or Brenda Braulick, MSNA President 2013-14, 320- 656-3725, braulick@SARTELL.K12.MN.US

Wholly Guacamole® Brand Celebrates Cinco de Mayo With 9.4 Million Avocados

Wholly Guacamole® brand, America’s No. 1 selling branded pre-made guacamole, will extend fiesta flavor far beyond Cinco de Mayo this May.

The makers of Wholly Guacamole® products estimate approximately 9.4 million avocados will be used to make enough guacamole to satisfy Wholly™ fan cravings in May. Avocado fans would have to cumulatively eat approximately 12,635 each hour, 210 avocados per minute, to consume that many avocados! Further, the Wholly Guacamole® brand annual survey shows 87 percent of consumers like eating guacamole with chips and 68 percent of consumers like eating guacamole with Mexican food.

Whether avocado fans celebrate Cinco de Mayo the weekend before or after the official holiday, Wholly Guacamole® products are here to help consumers enjoy the party rather than risk under or over ripened avocados and spending time chopping. Instead, consumers can enjoy the same delicious, homemade flavor for far less time and effort with packages of Wholly Guacamole® dip.Show Us Your Cinco!
This year, the makers of the Wholly Guacamole® brand ask fans to share their Cinco de Mayo celebrations via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #WhollydeMayo for a chance to win a series of tasty prize packages. Starting at 5 p.m. CST on May 5, all who post with the hashtag #WhollyDeMayo will be entered to win a series of product prizes.

Wholly Guacamole® products are made with hand-scooped avocados and are all natural, gluten free and kosher certified. Wholly Guacamole® products are available nationwide in grocery produce or deli sections, making Cinco de Mayo planning convenient for all. Fans celebrating the holiday may love digging into Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, Wholly Stuffed Jalapenos, 7-Layers of Greatness, Taco Sundaes or other tasty recipes available at www.eatwholly.com.

About the Wholly Guacamole® Brand Annual Survey
In partnership with W5, the Wholly Guacamole® marketing team fielded a quantitative online survey between February 12 and 24, 2014. Resulting in 1,214 refrigerated dip consumers, between 25 and 50 years old.

About the Wholly Guacamole® Brand
Wholly Guacamole® brand is a brand of Fresherized Foods, one of the largest manufacturers of pre-prepared, guacamole for both retail and food service in the country. A global leader in food safety, quality and innovation, Fresherized Foods uses High Pressure Processing (HPP) — or Fresherized® technology—to create their line of Wholly™ products. For more information, visit www.eatwholly.com.

 

 

SOURCE Wholly Guacamole

CONTACT: Rachel Worthen, 214-443-7554, Rachel.Worthen@edelman.com

 


Food Trends: Soup and Salad

According to Technomic’s  “Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report” soup and salad are both rising food trends.  Specific findings include:

  • More than two-fifths of consumers strongly agree that they visit certain restaurants specifically because they enjoy the soup (46 percent) and salad (43 percent) these restaurants offer.
  • Half of consumers (51 percent) say it is important that soup can be bundled with other items; 60 percent say the same regarding salad. Additionally, 58 percent of consumers even say that they are more likely to order soup as a combo meal than as a single item.
  • Fifty percent of consumers want to try new and unique soups. Further, more than a third (35 percent) of consumers say they purchase soup because they want to try new varieties; 21 percent say the same for salad.
  • Ethnic and innovative soups, such as Asian-style ramen and chilled varieties, are poised for growth, particularly among younger consumers. Kale, chopped and grain-based salads are trending forward at the restaurant-chain level and in the retail space.

February Food News

February is American Heart Month, dedicated to the serious matter of monitoring and taking care of our beating hearts. This is important because while heart disease has claimed fewer lives in recent years, it is still the nation’s number one killer — responsible for 616,000 deaths annually.

However, almost as if to prove that no good intention goes unpunished, February is also National Snack Food Month. And America truly “hearts” its snack foods. After the brief disappearance last year of Twinkies, there are again about 350 snack food manufacturers across the country in the $16 billion a year business of testing America’s willpower or lack of it.