Vacuum-set foams: Aerated chocolate

It’s funny sometimes, the things that give me the impetus to move projects off of my “to do” list and drive me into the kitchen. In this case, it was Halloween. After trick-or-treating was over, our basket of treats held a few leftover Aero bars, which I had always thought my husband disliked. When I saw him take one, I asked him about it, and he observed that he liked the texture, just not the quality of the chocolate.

Surely I could do better.

In typical modernist home-cook style, I’ve got at least four different recipes for aerated chocolate: one in The Fat Duck Cookbook, one in In Search of Total Perfection, one in Chocolates and Confections, and one in Modernist Cuisine. (Of course.) They all differ slightly, but the fundamentals are the same: temper chocolate (Callebaut milk chocolate, in my case), add some pure fat (oil or cocoa butter) for additional fluidity, charge in a whipped cream siphon, and dispense. This creates a chocolate foam that sets, trapping all the bubbles in a network of crystallized cocoa butter. (Ideas in Food also offers an aerated chocolate dessert, but it’s based on a different principle, being more of an aerated ganache gel than a pure aerated chocolate. I’m looking forward to trying it, too.)

An optional step in these recipes is to make what Modernist Cuisine calls a “vacuum-set foam” by placing the freshly foamed chocolate in a vacuum container, pulling a vacuum on it, and leaving it under vacuum until it has set. This causes the bubbles to expand, creating a much lighter texture in the finished chocolate. I’ve tried this technique before with the aerated mango sorbet recipe in Modernist Cuisine, which is “set” through freezing, but the vacuum pump on my FoodSaver isn’t strong enough for that recipe.

Fortunately, it is strong enough to work with chocolate, and the results were impressive. As you can see in the photo above, the vacuum-set chocolate has much bigger bubbles than the one set at ambient pressure. The only mistake I made was that I forgot to line the ramekins I used to mold the chocolate, which made it hard to get the finished product out in one piece! It would be cool to be able to enrobe this kind of aerated chocolate, or use it in a layer cake like the recipe in In Search of Total Perfection, but for that, I think I would need a square vacuum container

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