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Rose Knows: Curl Off the Old Block

Rose Levy Beranbaum - June 2nd, 2014

Rose Levy Beranbaum—award–winning author of The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible, The Bread Bible, A Passion for Chocolate, and many more—will be answering baking- and pastry-related questions in her column on, “Rose Knows.” Her latest cookbook, The Baking Bible, is due to hit the shelves in November 2014 but in the meantime, read more on her blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum.

There are times when a busy pastry chef or chef de cuisine does not want to turn on the tempering machine and make space on the counter to spread tempered chocolate for making a large quantity of chocolate curls. When just a few curls are all that’s needed to garnish a plated dessert, having the ideal size chocolate block at the ready is a very useful solution.

A silicone financier mold produces perfect 3 by 1 by 1 1/4 inches high shiny blocks of chocolate that unmold with ease and can be stored airtight away from humidity and in a cool spot for months. And a quick temper of the chocolate is all that’s needed to produce fat shiny curls.

Chop bittersweet chocolate and partially melt it in a small bowl, in the microwave, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water). Remove the chocolate from the heat before it is completely melted, and stir until fully melted. This is essential to temper chocolate that will maintain its shine and flexibility.

A financier pan with bar-shaped molds 3 by 1 by 1 1/4 inch high (1/4 cup/59 ml) cavities, each of which will hold 2 ounces/60 grams of melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set for several hours until completely firm before unmolding.

Chocolate needs to be moderately soft in order to curl without breaking or flattening. The small block of chocolate can be softened by placing it under a lamp or in a microwave using 3 second bursts. It usually takes a few tries to get it soft enough without over softening, but once this point is reached, it will hold for at least 10 minutes, giving you enough time to make lots of beautiful curls.

I find the best utensil with which to make the curls is a sharp vegetable peeler. Hold it against one end of the chocolate block and dig in the upper edge of the cutter, pulling it toward you. Increase pressure to form thicker, more open curls. Decrease pressure to make tighter curls. Until the chocolate is sufficiently warmed, it will splinter. When it becomes too warm, it will come off the block in strips that will not curl. But if the strips are not too soft, you can use your fingers to shape the curls. Keep your fingers cool by periodically dipping them into ice water and drying them well.

Special Note: It has been reported to me that many pastry chefs value Valrhona Manjari for making curls, as the orange oil in the chocolate makes it curl more easily.