This is not actually a course to eat during the meal, but rather a parting gift of homemade raspberry chocolates for guests to take home and enjoy later. I think it's a perfect over-the-top conclusion to an already long and enjoyable meal.
I was surprised when I started this project at how difficult working with chocolate is - I thought, melt the chocolate and pour it into molds right? Well, technically, but my recipe research started turning up words like "beta crystallization" and I began to think I was in over my head. These chocolates are prepared sous vide using the temperature curve for dark chocolate described by ChefSteps. There are more traditional ways to temper chocolate than sous vide, but given the option for precise temperature control I'll take it! The ChefSteps recipe is written in terms of Valrhona chocolates feves - I used a Guittard 64% baker's bar with decent success. Make sure your chocolate of choice only contains cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and sugar; chocolates with other fats won't temper properly.
Note: water is the enemy of chocolate; it's optimal if you have a vacuum sealer for this recipe. Make sure to work carefully and don't get any water near your chocolate.
Prepare the raspberry coulis:
Coulis is a nice name for pureed and strained vegetables or fruits. In this case, we're making a raspberry coulis to be a filling for the chocolates by gently simmering and blending raspberries in a 40% simple syrup (simple syrup is traditionally equal parts water and sugar) with a little xanthan gum to thicken.
Makes 2 cups.
Combine the water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Add the raspberries to the simple syrup and simmer 5 - 7 minutes.
Weigh the mixture and add 0.4% xanthan gum, about a half teaspoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
Puree the mixture thoroughly with an immersion blender or blender, strain through a chinois, transfer to a squeeze bottle, and chill.
A key step in the process is rapidly decreasing the temperature of the water bath. This is easiest when changing out a substantial portion of the water; use a smaller container to minimize waste (I used a stockpot instead of my 12qt Cambro).
Break the chocolate into pieces, vacuum seal, and drop in the bath until fully melted, about 20 minutes.
Once all the chocolate is melted, rapidly decrease the bath temperature to 81F (crystallization temp) by adding ice or changing out water as necessary.
Once the chocolate has cooled to the crystallization temp, increase the bath to 84F (working temp).
Remove the bag from the bath, dry completely, and snip off a small piece of the corner to make a piping bag. Work quickly at this point - you don't want to let the melted chocolate cool too long during the process.
Fill 12 molds about 1/3 of the way up, and use a pastry brush to coat the sides. Make sure the chocolate has stuck to the sides - getting good shell walls is very important. Use a bench scraper to clean any excess chocolate from the top of the mold.
Chill the mold in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to accelerate the cooling process and set the shells.
Pipe a small bead of the raspberry coulis in the center of each shell and cover with the rest of the melted chocolate. Tap on the cutting board to dislodge any air bubbles and use a bench scraper to clean any excess chocolate from the top of the mold.
Let the chocolates cool to room temperature - I found it's easiest to let it cool overnight.
Remove the chocolates from the mold and serve, or reserve until needed.