Circus by Chef Jacques Torres, William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Adapted by StarChefs
Yield: 5 1/2 cups
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 3 1/2 cups whole unblanched almonds
- 21 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered
- 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar or unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
Place the granulated sugar and water in a large
copper pot or 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring the mixture
to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and stir to coat
them evenly in the sugar syrup. Your goal is to cook the almonds
until the sugar crystallizes and caramelizes - when water is added,
the sugar crystals dissolve. As the syrup boils, it becomes thicker
as the water evaporates and big soaplike bubbles begin to form.
Soon, all the moisture evaporates and the mixture becomes sandy.
The sandiness is the sugar recrystallizing. It only takes the reformation
of one sugar crystal to recrystallize the others. Keep stirring!
Next, you will see the sugar close to the heat change from sandy
to a clear liquid. The melted sugar clings to the almonds. When
the sugar changes from clear to golden brown, the nuts are caramelized.
Once this happens, pay close attention; the time it takes to pass
from caramelized to burned is only a matter of seconds, especially
when making smaller batches. You know the nuts are finished when
most of the sandy sugar is gone. The first few times you make these,
I suggest you try the following: When the sugar closest to the heat
changes from sandy to liquid, remove the pan from the burner and
continue to stir. The residual heat in the sugar and nuts will continue
to cook the mixture while you stir it. Lower the heat to medium-low
and continue to stir the nuts while moving the saucepan on and off
the heat at 10-second intervals. This will give you more control
as it cooks.
When the nuts begin to caramelize, remove them from the heat and
finish stirring. Use a wooden spoon to spread the caramelized nuts
onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Do not touch the nuts
as they are extremely hot. Let the nuts cool completely. If your
freezer will accommodate the baking sheet, you can place the nuts
in the freezer for about 30 minutes to speed up the cooling process.
When the nuts are completely cooled, break apart any clusters that
may have formed. At this stage, you can choose to serve the nuts
as they are.
If you choose to coat the nuts in chocolate, place the cooled nuts
in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add one-third of the tempered chocolate
and immediately fold the nuts until they are thoroughly coated and
the chocolate has set. If you do not fold immediately, the chocolate
will set and the nuts will stick together. Add another third of
the chocolate and fold thoroughly until set. Add the remaining third
and fold thoroughly, being sure all the nuts are well-coated. Separate
any clusters of nuts that have formed. If you plan to serve the
nuts as they are, let the chocolate set completely. If you decide
to move onto the next step, do not wait for the chocolate to set
completely. Add the powdered sugar or cocoa powder and stir until
all of the nuts are well coated. If you'd like to coat half of the
nuts in powdered sugar and the other half in cocoa powder, you can
use the same bowl if you start with the powdered sugar. Before serving,
place the nuts in a sieve to remove any excess sugar or cocoa powder.
The nuts will keep in an airtight container at room temperature
for up to two weeks.
Tempering is important because it determines the final gloss, hardness,
and contraction of chocolate. When you melt chocolate, the molecules
of fat separate. In order to put them back together, you must temper
it. There are a variety of ways to do it, but the result is always
the same. Chocolate is tempered when its temperature is between
84°F and 88°F. One of the easiest ways to temper it is to
place it in the microwave for thirty seconds at a time on high power
until the chocolate is melted. Be very careful not to overheat it:
The chocolate may not look as if it has completely melted, because
it retains its shape. The chocolate should be only slightly warmer
than the bottom lip. You may still see lumps in it once you've stirred
it, but don't worry; the residual heat of the chocolate will melt
them. You can also use an immersion blender to break up the lumps
and start the recrystallization process. Usually the chocolate begins
to set (recrystallize) along the side of the bowl. As it begins
to crystallize, mix the crystals into the melted chocolate and they
will begin the recrystallization process. I like to use a glass
bowl because it retains the heat and keeps the chocolate tempered
for a long time. Another way to temper chocolate is a technique
called seeding. In this method, tempering is achieved by adding
small pieces of unmelted chocolate to melted chocolate. The amount
of unmelted chocolate to be added depends on the temperature of
the melted chocolate, but it is usually one fourth of the total
amount. I usually use an immersion blender to mix the two together.
A simple method of checking tempering is to apply a small quantity
of chocolate to a piece of paper or to the point of a knife. If
the chocolate has been correctly tempered, it will harden evenly
and show a good gloss within five minutes.