Cupcakes of Love

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  Yesterday I had an order for 4 dozen valentine themed cupcakes.  The cake and the icing were just straightforward white on white.  I got creative with the garnish.  The little hearts, as seen in the photo, are made of white chocolate.
I did them myself and wanted to talk a little today about working with chocolate.

When you are melting chocolate down with the intent of having it harden back up, it’s a process called “tempering.”  You can do it several ways.  I like to use the microwave – it’s how we did it in culinary school and doesn’t require making a water bath like if you use a bain marie.  When you’re melting chocolate you want it to be in as even of sizes as possible.  Ideally you would use the coin-shaped couverture chocolate.  I could only find huge chunks of white chocolate yesterday, so I chopped it into inch by inch pieces.   For the microwave, I just put it in a safe container and started melting it by putting in for 10 second increments, removing it and stirring, and putting it back in.  Once it starts to melt and hits the right temperature (more on that later) you don’t have to keep microwaving.  Just stir until smooth.

You really have to keep an eye on the temperature when you’re melting the chocolate or it will just not harden back up the way you want it to.  White chocolate and milk chocolate have lower melting points than dark or bittersweet chocolate.  Here are the melting points:

Dark chocolates – 115 F

Milk or white chocolates – 110 F

So that’s the top temperature you can reach.  Never go about 115 F for any chocolate.  Then, as you’re stirring, you want to get that temperature back down to the tempering point, which is about 88 F.  Once you reach that 88 F, you have to work fast to get the chocolate in the form you want.

I used a pastry bag with a very fine pastry tip to make the hearts.  First, I stirred some fuschia food gel from Wilton into the chocolate.  Then poured the chocolate into the pastry back and got to work.   I free handed the hearts onto some parchment paper, and then put the parchment in the fridge so they would harden more quickly.  The more I did, the better I got.  I think they came out cute and were just a simple little accent.

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