Dark chocolate covered strawberries: U-pick, U-dip and U-impress
Anne Savage | Contributor
The first thing I read about this process is that you need to know how to temper the chocolate before dipping the strawberries. Tempering is a process of heating and cooling chocolate to form stable crystals. These crystals then assure that the chocolate will be firm at room temperature.
For a more complex understanding of tempered chocolate Wikipedia has a good scientific explanation of tempering on its chocolate entry.
I wanted to understand tempering better, so I went to a demonstration from a trained dessert chef on how to temper chocolate. It took about a 30 minutes to temper the chocolate, and while I watched I kept thinking to myself, "My readers are not going to want to do this."
She started with a pound and a half of chocolate (way more than I want to spend on quality dark chocolate) and used all kinds of fancy tools that the home cook wouldn't have, including a large slab of marble. I had none of the tools she used, and, although I was tempted to run out and buy them and try the process myself, I knew that was silly and there had to be a simpler way.
This led me to the next part of this process, Google. I did quite a bit of reading on the subject of tempering chocolate and found lots of advice. I settled on a process of tempering the chocolate called seeding. I will go over the steps and give a few hints, but before I start you need to know, even if it doesn't work, you can chill the strawberries and they will still taste great and your guests will never know the difference. But, if you can successfully temper the chocolate, they will look beautiful, and you will earn bragging rights.
You will need a quart of fresh strawberries. For the freshest strawberries, I recommend that you pick them yourself; they're in season now. I picked mine from the U-pick farm in Gregory, DeGroots Strawberry Farm. Pick them with the stems still on; that will make it easier for dipping and eating.
Your chocolate should also be quality. I use 77 percent dark chocolate bars from the local chocolate maker, Mindo. I think the darker the chocolate the better. If it is too sweet, the strawberries might taste bitter. You can do this with two bars (I successfully tempered with only two bars), but the more you have the easier it is to do because the chocolate will heat slower and cool slower.
Before you melt your chocolate, wash the strawberries and dry them thoroughly. I’m serious; make sure they are bone dry. Chocolate and water will just be trouble.
Tempering the Chocolate:
- Break your chocolate into pieces and slowly melt about 2/3 of it in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. When the chocolate is just about melted I pull the pan off the burner to slow the heating process a little. Once it's melted, check the temperature. For dark chocolate you want around 115 degrees. Do not over heat! Remove it from the saucepan and wipe the moisture off the bottom of the bowl.
- Stir the melted chocolate with a rubber spatula, and stir like your life depends on it. As you stir, add the rest of the chocolate pieces bit by bit. Add some, let it melt, add some more. And keep stirring! The more it's agitated, the nice-n-shinier it'll be. For dark chocolate, you want to get it down to about 88 degrees.
- Once the chocolate is close to the desired temperature (a degree or two above is fine) you'll want to test it. Take a metal knife or spoon and dip it in the chocolate and let it sit for a couple of minutes. If the chocolate is tempered it will be hard on the outside, not tacky to the touch, a little glossy and not streaky or blotchy. If that is how it looks you have just tempered chocolate!
- Now start dipping your strawberries. After you dip the strawberry, use the side of the bowl to carefully wipe excess chocolate off part of the strawberry (the side of the strawberry you will set it down on). This is so you won’t have too much chocolate or it will just pool up around the strawberry as it sits and cause you to have what is called a large “foot” around the strawberry. Lay them out on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper to harden.
Anne Savage | Contributor
If the chocolate doesn't temper, don’t worry about it. Dip your strawberries anyway and place them in the refrigerator.
I did this process when the chocolate tempered and when it did not. Both batches tasted perfect and, to be honest with you, other than being incredibly proud of tempering chocolate I couldn't see a huge difference. The batch that didn't temper was less glossy, got a little tacky when it warmed and had less of a crunch when you bit into it. Unless you are serving a tempering expert, no one will know. It's still an impressive and tasty desert.
For lots more photos, tips and the option of a fresh mint whipped cream recipe to serve with the strawberries, go to my blog, The Savage Feast.
Anne Savage is a professional photographer living in Dexter. She specializes in food photography and is an experimental cook and avid gardener. Much of her food photography and many of her recipes can be found at http://thesavagefeast.com.