Las Vegas Centerpiece
The first thing you must do when making this recipe is to think of it not just as food, but as a work of art that is subject to your own[ interpretation. By this I mean that you should use your imagination and be creative. More specifically, unless otherwise noted, decide for yourself what size and shape you'd like the objects in your chocolate "sculpture" to be.]
For the Castle Turrets: Cut a strip of acetate that is 6 1/2 by 18-inches, and spread an 1/8-inch thick layer of white chocolate onto it. Let the chocolate set until firm yet pliable, but not hard. Next, roll it, chocolate inside, lengthwise into a long tube, but not overlapping the chocolate. Tape it closed, place in the refrigerator and allow the chocolate to set completely. When set, remove from the refrigerator, and peel off the acetate. Using a hot serrated chef's knife, cut the tube into 1 (8-inch) long tube and 2 (5-inch) long tubes. Set aside.
For the Conical Roof Tops: Cut two circles of acetate that are each 7 inches in diameter and one that is 6 inches in diameter. Make a 3 1/2-inch cut toward the center in both of the 7-inch circles, and a 3-inch cut in the 6-inch circle. Overlap the two cut sides of each circle to make a cone shape and tape it closed. Mix the cocoa butter with the powdered food coloring to the desired consistency and paint the inside of the mold. (It is best to use yogurt machine to store and warm your paints.) Using a ladle, fill the cone with white chocolate. When it is full, empty the excess back into the bowl of chocolate. The inside of the cone should be evenly coated. Wipe the edge of the plastic cone clean and place it upside down on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Once the chocolate starts to harden, about 5 minutes, scrape the edge of the cone clean again with a paring knife. You can place the cone in the refrigerator for several minutes to help the chocolate to harden. Repeat with the other cones. When the chocolate sets, peel off the acetate. Set the cones aside.
For the Dice: Place an acetate sheet on your work surface with the long side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of white chocolate onto the sheet and wait until the chocolate begins to set. Using a rolling cutter or hot sharp chef's knife, cut equal size squares in the amount and size desired. (You will need 6 squares for each die.) When the chocolate has set, carefully peel away the acetate. It should release from the chocolate quite easily. Use white chocolate to glue the squares together to form the cube. Fill a cornet with bittersweet chocolate and draw the dots on the dice.
For the Roulette Numbers: You will need to perform the following process once using white chocolate and once using bittersweet chocolate. Place an acetate sheet on your work surface with the long side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of chocolate onto the acetate sheet. Wait until the chocolate begins to set. Using a rolling cutter or hot sharp chef's knife, cut squares in proportion to your castle. When the chocolate has set, carefully peel away the sheet. It should release from the chocolate quite easily. Fill a cornet with bittersweet chocolate and draw the numbers onto the squares.
For the Playing Cards: Place an acetate sheet on your work surface with the long side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of white chocolate onto the sheet. Wait until the chocolate begins to set, then using a rolling cutter or hot sharp chef's knife, cut 2 1/4 by 3 1/2-inch rectangles. When the chocolate has set, carefully peel away the card. It should release quite easily. Using a small paintbrush and cocoa butter paints, paint the faces on the cards.
For the Castle Walls: place a piece of textured plastic on the work surface in front of you. Using an offset spatula, spread about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of white chocolate onto the acetate sheet. Let the chocolate set until firm yet pliable but not hard. Carefully peel away the sheet. It should release from the chocolate quite easily. Using the tip of a hot paring knife, cut the desired design at the top of wall.
For the Sparklers: Place a transfer sheet on your work surface with the long side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread about a 1/4 inch-thick layer of white chocolate onto the transfer sheet, completely covering the design. Allow the chocolate to set. Using the tip of a paring knife or cookie cutters, cut out whatever shape you desire. Let set completely. Remove the parchment paper and set aside. To make the sticks, roll up a piece of parchment paper tightly, tape it closed and stand it up on end inside the tube inside a roll of paper towels. Fill the parchment paper with white chocolate and allow it to harden. When hardened, peel off the parchment paper and "glue" the top of the sparkler to the stick with white chocolate.
For the Base: Overturn the deli tray and, using a clean wide paintbrush dipped in bittersweet chocolate, completely cover the outside of the tray, sides and all. Allow the chocolate to set and apply as many coats as needed to create a 1/3-inch thick coating. Allow the chocolate to set completely. Turn the tray back over and carefully lift it away from the chocolate.
To Assemble: Set the base right-side up on the work surface in front of you. Position the roulette wheel squares along the edge about half way around the circle, alternating dark and white. Use a cornet filled with bittersweet chocolate to glue each piece into place. Position the turrets as desired. Use bittersweet chocolate to glue each piece into place. Glue on the roofs. Add the walls between each turret and glue into place. Decorate with the dice and cards as desired.How to Temper Chocolate(From Dessert Circus, Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make At Home by Jacques Torres):
Chocolate is tempered so that after it has been melted, it retains its gloss and hardens again without becoming chalky and white (that happens when the molecules of fat separate and form on top of the chocolate). There are a variety of ways to temper.
One of the easiest ways to temper chocolate is to chop it into small pieces and then place it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on high power until most of the chocolate is melted. Be very careful not to overheat it. (The temperature of dark chocolate should be between 88 and 90 degrees F, slightly warmer than your bottom lip. It will retain its shape even when mostly melted. White and milk chocolates melt at a temperature approximately 2 degrees F less because of the amount of lactose they contain.) Any remaining lumps will melt in the chocolate's residual heat. Use an immersion blender or whisk to break up the lumps. Usually, chocolate begins to set, or crystallize, along the side of the bowl. As it sets, mix those crystals into the melted chocolate to temper it. A glass bowl retains heat well and keeps the chocolate tempered longer.
Another way to temper chocolate is called seeding. In this method, add 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 is usually 1/4 of the total amount. It is easiest to use an immersion blender for this, or a whisk.
The classic way to temper chocolate is called tabliering. Two thirds of the melted chocolate is poured onto a marble or another cold work surface. The chocolate is spread out and worked with a spatula until its temperature is approximately 81 degrees F. At this stage, it is thick and begins to set. This tempered chocolate is then added to the remaining non-tempered chocolate and mixed thoroughly until the mass has a completely uniform temperature. If the temperature is still too high, part of the chocolate is worked further on the cold surface until the correct temperature is reached. This is a lot of work, requires a lot of room, and makes a big mess.
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 a few minutes.
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