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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Meal, AI style

Class was great today. I was already in a good mood about how well our showpiece turned out yesterday, and today was going to be a breeze!

I decided to spend my practice time designing and making a chocolate box, so I'm not walking into it blindly for finals next week. Our team also decided to practice their box-making skills. There was SO MUCH CHOCOLATE! You never thought you'd hear someone say they were sick of seeing chocolate, did you? Yeah, well...that was me today. We literally have a GIANT bin of chocolate that we reuse for showpieces since they don't get eaten, they can be remelted and reused. I wouldn't be surprised if this bin weighed 50 lbs...no joke.

The time-consuming process of making a chocolate box begins by making a box template. A bottom, a lid, and four sides (a handle, drawers, legs, and different styles of boxes if you want to be more crafty) cut out of cardboard. Next is to temper a LOT of chocolate. Enough for all your pieces. Doesn't seem like a lot of chocolate, but trust me, it is. After the chocolate is in correct temper, we spread it on a sheet of acetate, and let it set up to almost firm. At that stage, we place our template down, and score the chocolate. After letting it harden completely, were able to take a hot knife and finish cutting out the pieces, and the final step is to assemble.
My chocolate spread onto acetate and beginning to harden.

This isn't so much difficult as it is annoying. You could be the cleanest person on the planet, and I firmly believe that after working with chocolate in bulk like this, you'll come out wearing more chocolate than what you worked with. Trust and believe.

I chose to start off with a bit more complex box. A box that had no straight edges, a wavy box perhaps. The lid was to have a handle and was supposed to lift straight off of the box. I glanced over at another table, and one of the lady's boxes kind of resembled a jewelry box. It reminded me of my favorite jewelry box, one that my uncle had made me when I was younger. It wasn't until my chocolate was tempered and ready to pour that I decided I wanted to change my template. Bad timing, seriously. I quickly changed it from a lid piece to a drawer piece, and designed a box with three permanent sides, and a pull out drawer. I cut out my new template as fast as I could and poured my chocolate.

I've never been really good at tempering chocolate, as that too is a long process, but my chocolate seemed to be in perfect temper and was really cooperating well with me (crossing my fingers that it's like that for the actual final.) I sat down and waited for it to firm up a bit.

It was then announced to our class that our restaurant (located on campus and run by upper class culinary students) was serving free Thanksgiving meals to all students. WOO! We all jumped up and ran to the restaurant to get in line. We received our ticket and walked through the restaurant picking up beautiful turkey, cheese potatoes, stuffing, gravy, veggies, cranberries, a freshly baked roll and a fry-sized piece of pumpkin pie (Hey, don't judge- we have a lot of students. :]) We went back to class and turned the back tables into a Thanksgiving banquet hall. We all sat there, the girls and I, and even Chef came over. We laughed, chowed, and laughed some more; everything sort of fit into the Thanksgiving Spirit! So much fun.

After eating and laughing, I noticed that our chocolate was ready. Nervously, and quickly (only an hour left of class) I began cutting out my box. I was so shaky, but after the first couple pieces, it was nothin'! I placed them in the refrigerator to firm them up faster and then assembled my box. 

Only a couple mistakes, not too bad for my first box. I know what I have to work on template-wise for my final next week, but all in all, I was happy with it.
My chocolate box; ta-da!
After completely assembling my box, I'm so much more confident in next week's final. BRING IT ON! I'm just on a roll of things actually turning out decently, and not to toot my own horn, pretty proud of myself. I really thought this class was going to take over my life, but now I can say I have successfully made a chocolate box, fully capable of holding - take a guess - chocolate candies!

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