By far the most frequent — and worst — pastry-related injuries I’ve seen have resulted from attempts at making chocolate shavings. Why? Because even experienced pastry chefs and bakers still make their chocolate shavings like this:
In other words, by scraping a huge knife along a solid bar of chocolate…towards them. Only in a professional kitchen the chocolate bars are a lot bigger. (The knives are too). Fortunately I’ve never seen anyone actually commit chocolate hara-kiri making chocolate shavings this way, however I have seen scores of very nasty, very deep finger and hand injuries. The great pity is that it is all so completely avoidable, since a thin and flexible — but blunt — icing spatula works every bit as well:
Nowadays I tend not to need the kind of volume of chocolate shavings I did in my bake shop days, so I dispense with the scraping all together in favor of a simple vegetable peeler:
This is a darn good method, especially if you give the chocolate bar a short, 5-second zap in the microwave to soften it up a little. However for the big, thick decorative curls, you need to employ a completely different method. Which is to say you must melt your chocolate completely, spread it thinly and evenly on the back of a sheet pan with an icing spatula, then gently scrape it up into ribbons when it’s partially set. I usually harden the chocolate in the fridge once it’s spread, then let it sit at room temperature for five minutes or so to soften a little. Once it has loosened up a bit, I score a thin 1/2″ strip down the length of the chocolate mass, then scrape the strip toward me into a curl like so:
Yes, you need a sharp knife to do this, but at least this technique doesn’t require you to point it at your belly. It takes a little practice to really get this down, but after a couple ounces of broken curls (which you can just re-melt…or eat) you’ll be a pro. Make sure to hustle the finished curls into the fridge quickly so they keep their nice curvy shapes. Where’s the ice cream?
Ah yes, there it is. And is it just me, or does a scoop of homemade banana ice cream seem naked if it isn’t sitting on a warm brownie?
Oh yeah…that’s the stuff.