Chocolate Showpieces

When you see a chocolate showpiece in its final form - whether it's on display at a dessert table or winning a heated competition - you might be so busy marveling at the beauty of the final piece, that you forget to think of it as chocolate at all...or where the inspiration might have come from in the first place.

For pastry chef Darci Rochau, winning Food Network Challenge competitor, the goal of her chocolate showpieces is often to make them not even look like chocolate at all. And often, the original idea comes to her from somewhere in nature. At this year's Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show in Tulsa, OK, Rochau demonstrated how to build a chocolate piece, from beginning to end.

Some places Rochau gets inspiration from are floral and other natural designs. "There are so many different styles you can take away from," she says.

Take bamboo, for instance. For her demonstration, Rochau created bamboo sticks from tempered white chocolate that she piped into acetate tubes. What's interesting about the bamboo pieces is that she made them hollow by first piping the chocolate upward into the tube, and then emptying out the excess.  

After the chocolate is set, Rochau cuts away and unrolls the mold. Then with a small piping tip or a parchment paper cone, she pipes a small ring around the chocolate tube, then cuts through the center of the ring with a toothpick and flattens it with her finger, thus giving it the "joints" in the bamboo stick. "It's pretty cool, because at this point, when it's still just white, it almost looks like bone," she says.

Coloring the pieces comes from cocoa powder and airbrushing to give it color and luster. "It's the thing that looks the least like chocolate, and it was probably the easiest part to make on this piece," says her husband and assistant Gregory Rochau.