Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

A Passion for Chocolate

After I posted up my Valentine’s Day patisserie and chocolate ideas, Rococo Chocolates very kindly invited me to try one of the chocolate making classes that I’d featured.  I arrived with some trepidation – I made truffles last Christmas for my partner’s family, and I know though they were quite edible, they wouldn’t pass muster in professional chocolate making circles!

One of the students at Rococo's choc school piping the ganache to make truffles

My collywobbles got worse when I realised one of my classmates was a professional chef.  She’d already done the class on tempering chocolate in the morning, and was back for more – in fact, she’ll be doing two more classes in a couple of weeks. And then I looked at the selection of chocolates in the shop. It was obvious that Laurent, the ‘Prof du Choc’, was not going to be an easy teacher to please.

Ready to begin

Here in the photo are the students – Gemma, Heather and Abigail, with Laurent who teaches the class. Only four of us – the kitchen is just the right size for four so the tuition is up close and personal, not blackboard style ’show and tell’. (This is the ‘real’ kitchen, not just a teaching facility – 40-50 kilos of chocolate a week are made here, and the tempering machine was running in the corner all the while we were working, the chocolate oozing and gleaming like liquid temptation.)

We kicked off by considering the ingredients for the ganache. Now I thought that’s easy – chocolate, butter, sweetener, cream. Not that easy at all, though, as it turned out.

For instance which chocolate should you use, and what percentage? There’s a formula for a ganache, which aims to get the right amount of fat and water – it depends on the kind of chocolate you use, and it’s quite scientific. (One of the surprises, for me, was just how much science there is behind it – Rococo regularly sends its chocolates off to a lab for testing – though in terms of day to day chocolate making, you can rely on a tried and tested recipe.) We talked about blended chocolate, like the Valrhona ‘extra bitter’ that we tasted; single-origin chocolate, from Brazil for instance; and even single-plantation chocolate -”Though we wouldn’t make ganache with that,” Laurent said, “It would be a waste.”

Then we talked about what kind of cream to use – and here again it’s not just ‘cream’, it needs to be a whipping cream at 35% fat. If it’s got higher fat content then you need to cut that down by adding some single cream. If you use double cream, you get too much fat.

And sweetener. We could use honey – but it needs to be a strong honey, like chestnut or acacia, with a good strong taste – or glucose. (That was fun – the transparent glucose gloops and drips and sticks to your hands as you roll up a ball of it to drop into the cream.)

We talked about flavourings, too. Laurent has been working with the big fragrance company IFF on some special chocolates, so he really knows his stuff here. Essential oils are good to use, for instance. You could use lemon, orange, lavender, ginger… “Who wants to have a ganache with some flavouring?” he asked.

Immediately, four hands went up!

Laurent demonstrated how to make the ganache – and then it was time for us to get started on our own work.

“Then afterwards,” Laurent said, “we will have a tasting.” Abigail’s eyebrows shot right up as she grinned. There’s a girl who likes her chocolate, I thought!

To my great surprise we all managed pretty well. There were no accidents to report. Laurent having already demonstrated the process, we all knew how it was supposed to work. First warm up your cream and glucose together in the pan, and melt your chocolate gently (in fact our chocolate had already been melted for us by a friendly kitchen elf).

Then very gently and gradually incorporate your cream mixture into the chocolate. You have to stir it well with the spatula, but you mustn’t get air bubbles into it.

We also used an electric hand blender, and there’s a particular knack here – listen to it. Suddenly, when you’ve got your ganache just the right consistency, the noise of the blender changes – it purrs on a different note. (If it starts growling, on the other hand, you’ve got air bubbles.)

But the way you really tell whether the ganache is ready is simple – you look at it. Is it nice and shiny? Lift it up – does it drop off the spatula in a nice steady stream, with no jagged edges or rough bits? Is it gloopy and beautiful? Here you can see Laurent demonstrating exactly how it should flow.

When the ganache is ready, it falls off the spatula in a steady, shiny stream

Gemma was having fun. “My mother said you should never stir chocolate, it makes it lumpy,” she said, and laughed. “Just imagine, all this stuff that I’ve believed for years!” (And her mum was a professional cook, too – but not a chocolatier, obviously.)

Now at this point I learned the single thing that probably has made the most different to my life with chocolate. You need to take the chocolate’s temperature.  “Most important!” Laurent said. “You need a thermometer! When you work with chocolate, a thermometer is compulsory!”

(I know there are a lot of exclamation marks in there. Laurent does all his punctuation with his hands – very expressive hands, even when they’re holding a piping bag.)

Only once we’d all made sure our chocolate was exactly the right temperature – and warmed it up a little in the microwave if it was too cool – could we add the butter. It’s the butter that gives you the sensation of ‘melting in your mouth’ when you eat a good truffle – and it’s the butter that keeps the flavour. At this point we began to learn a little about the part that personal taste plays in the business of being a chocolatier. While you can use just 12% butter, Laurent said, “I like my ganache rich in butter, so I like to go closer to 15% rather than 12 – I like ganache to be tender and soft. That’s what butter does.”

We all ended up with a huge tub of ganache to take home and finish our truffles. But we could, at that point, also use the ganache to make a chocolate souffle, hot chocolate, chocolate sauce, chocolate cake – what we’d learned could be adapted to almost any recipe involving chocolate.

And finally, at the end of the session, we just had some silly fun, learning to use the piping bag to make truffles, and dipping truffles Laurent had already made into tempered chocolate, then rolling them in cocoa powder to finish them. Up till then, the kitchen had been pristine – suddenly, it was a glorified mess, and we were enjoying a laugh together as well as getting our truffles nicely coated in cocoa.

This is the fun bit - dip your truffles in chocolate and roll them in cocoa!

Now, I had got round to thinking what went wrong with my Christmas chocolates. First, my butter was not room temperature – it was straight out of the fridge. Second, I used baking chocolate, not great quality. Third, I put the butter into the saucepan with the chocolate and the cream, so it melted. Fourth, my ganache was full of air bubbles.  Fifth, I’d used double cream. Sixth, I’d used ordinary sugar. Nul points! If I’ve learned one thing from my afternoon at Rococo, it’s that the recipe books don’t tell you anything worth knowing.

Yes, we did have a tasting afterwards. I have to tell you that Laurent is not afraid of flavour – that’s putting it mildly. Some of his combinations actually sound worryingly adventurous, and in some cases just plain wrong. I didn’t like the sound of the first one at all – I very rarely like lemon based chocolates- but I must admit, when I actually bit into it and started to experience the wild mix of tastes, I was deeply impressed. It was a white chocolate and lemon puree mix  – a zingy explosion of citrus taste, like walking through a lemon orchard in summer. We had a truffle made with mango, passion fruit and orange ganache – using fruit puree instead of the cream; it had masses of taste, and was quickly everyone’s favourite… until we tried the next one, a dark chocolate truffle with lychee, raspberry and rose.  Really, these are amazing chocolates!

Rococo has been running a chocolate school since September 2008. Some of the people who go along are professionals, like Abigail. Others are learning for their own enjoyment. And while today we had all girls together, quite a few chaps go along too.

I was amazed when we came to the end of the afternoon just how much I’d learned. Laurent is a great teacher – he not only knows everything about his trade but he also has a great enthusiasm that communicates itself to all his students. He knows all the little tips – like putting your hands in cold water before you handle the glucose, so it doesn’t stick, and keeping the piping bag vertical and not slanted, so that the chocolate builds a little ball instead of running out sideways.

The right way to pipe truffles, demonstrated by Laurent

And I also had a whale of a time. (I actually felt quite sad when our class ended.) If you have three good friends who like chocolate, and a birthday coming up, I can’t think of a better way of treating yourself than taking a day out at Rococo and learning how to make your own birthday present.

I have to report some side benefits too. Apparently, Laurent says, with my experience of making a perfect ganache, I should now be able to better my 50% success rate with mayonnaise – the process of making an emulsion is exactly the same whether it’s chocolate and cream, or egg and olive oil.  And Heather, who takes her GCSEs this year, has fixed up her work experience – in the kitchen at Rococo. I can’t think of a better place to work.


Permalink |

Recent Articles in this category

Sweets for the Sweet

Sweets for the Sweet
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete for most without chocolates and flowers, but not everyone is keen on getting in the midst of pollen or overwhelmed by floral fragrance. A great alternative would be sweet, edible gifts. The Bucket of Love, for example, would be an ideal gift for a chocolate...
February 9th, 2010 | theaucklandguide | Read More | Comments: 1
Filed under: basket, chocolate, edible gifts, featuredarticle, fruits, hearts, teddy bear

Coming up: Valentine’s Day ideas

Coming up: Valentine’s Day ideas
You don’t need to be told it’s Valentine’s Day coming up. I’m sure you don’t need to be told how to be romantic. But you might want to know where to get the best cakes and chocolates in London – particularly if like me, you’ve been ever so good at keeping your...
January 31st, 2010 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 1
Filed under: best of week, chocolate, cupcakes, london bakers, pastyshops, valentine's day

Calling All Chocolate Lovers

Calling All Chocolate Lovers
In its 18th year, the annual two-day Chocolate Lovers Festival in Fairfax, Virginia, just 30 minutes from Washington, DC, brings together lovers of the delicious and decadent treat that was first produced over 3,000 years ago.  Events during the weekend festival, all occurring in Old Town Fairfax,...
January 23rd, 2010 | Jon Rochetti | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: chocolate, Events, Fairfax, featuredarticle, food, Virginia

Best Chocolate Shops in Orange County

Best Chocolate Shops in Orange County
Valentine’s Day is less than a month away – are you ready??? Well ready or not, I’ve compiled a list of the best places in Orange County to get that perfect box of chocolate or bouquet of lollipop roses! The Chocolate Soldier, Dana Point (map) and Laguna Beach (map) Mouthwatering handmade...
January 15th, 2010 | Abbie Mood | Read More | Comments: 1
Filed under: best of week, candy, chocolate, featuredarticle

Santa’s Workshop Made of 100 Pounds of Chocolate

Santa’s Workshop Made of 100 Pounds of Chocolate
Don’t think about the calories count with this 100 pounds of scrumptious sculpture made up of chocolate and other sweet delectables at The Grand Del Mar. A colorful 52″ high by 73″ wide rendition of Santa’s Workshop, is a whimsical creation that took more than 240 hours and...
December 10th, 2009 | Pam Nagata | Read More | Comments: 1
Filed under: Attractions, chocolate, Del Mar, Events, Family Friendly, featuredarticle, holiday

6 Must-Do’s in Phoenix this fall

Hike Phoenix and other Arizona Trails Withe cooler temperatures on their way, the fall is a great time to get out and experience the endless amount of hiking trails available throughout the Valley and the whole state.  Hiking allows the entire family to get out after a long, hot summer for exercise...
September 16th, 2009 | Heather Wright Schlichting | Read More | Comments: 5
Filed under: Announcement, Arizona, Attractions, ballet, ballet arizona, Carefree, Cave Creek, chili cook-off, chocolate, cook off, Events, Family Friendly, fireworks, flamenco, Food & Beverage, gardens, Glendale, hay rides, hiking, Must-See Sights, Performing Arts - Theater & Dance, Phoenix, pumpkins, queen creek, rodeo, Scenic & Short Trips, schnepf farms, Scottsdale, State Park, The Arts, wine tasting

Champagne and Chocolate Tasting at Morton’s

Photo Credit: WaldoJ @ flickr Life doesn’t get much better than Champagne and Chocolate and Morton’s is bringing them together for 1 evening of deliciousness. Engage your senses for this fabulous tasting experience combining Piper-Heidsieck and Vosges Haut-Chocolat. There are different dates...
September 7th, 2009 | klynch | Read More | Comments: 1
Filed under: Champagne, chocolate, Events, Food & Beverage, Mortons, wine

More London chocolate

I was amused to see a book in a second hand shop the other day entitled ‘Better than Sex’. Right, I thought, I know exactly what that’s about. (To my great surprise, though, it wasn’t about chocolate.  Must have been written by a man!) I’ve been trying to find chocolate...
August 25th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: chocolate, Shopping, William Curley

Appreciate Chocolate More Than You Already Do!

I certainly appreciate chocolate. I appreciate the way it warms me up in this cold weather, the way it teases my nose, and the way that it always helps when I’m in a bad mood. But apparently there’s more to chocolate appreciation than that, and there’s a free class happening at St Mary’s to clue...
July 2nd, 2009 | Lauren Katulka | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: appreciation classes, chocolate, Events, Food & Beverage, Ropes Crossing, winter festival

Chocolate for Easter at the London Museum

What to do with the kids at Easter? Chocolate and sugar candies are hardy perennials. Show me a child who doesn’t like chocolate! or who doesn’t have a sweet tooth! But the Museum of London in Docklands takes a rather different approach to the subject from the usual treasure hunt, showing...
April 5th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: artisan du chocolat, chocolate, london for kids, london museum

Everything Tastes Better with Chocolate

Chocolate biscotti, chocolate covered strawberries, frozen chocolate-covered cappucino crunch cake, need I go on? When the flavors of rich chocolate enter the picture, life just gets better and such is the case this weekend. At Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, the world of tropical plants will...
January 23rd, 2009 | klynch | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Attractions, chocolate, Events, fairchild, festival, garden

Sweet Treats at Café Chocolat

Sydney has a few chocolate cafés now, but I’m a girl so word of new additions is always well received. The latest one to open its doors is Adriano Zumbo’s Café Chocolat. If the name sounds familiar you might be a regular at Adriano’s Balmain bakery, which is conveniently located...
November 12th, 2008 | Lauren Katulka | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Balmain, Café Chocolat, chocolate, Food & Beverage

Artisan Chocolate vol. 2: Bariloche

As if Bariloche’s breathtaking scenery and plentiful brewpubs weren’t enough to make it a veritable heaven on earth, there’s always the chocolate. Full disclosure: I don’t like chocolate. But despite the fact that that makes me Satan’s first cousin in many people’s books, I can certainly...
October 4th, 2008 | Brendan | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: argentina, Bariloche, chocolate, City Review, eating

Artisan Chocolate, vol. 1: La Cumbre

Love Chocolate? If you read my earlier post on La Cumbre, the cute town north of Cordoba, and end up there, there is one essential little place I forgot to mention. We found La Casita del Chocolate completely by accident, while wandering the country lane-like back streets of residential La Cumbre. Mel...
July 4th, 2008 | Brendan | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: argentina, chocolate, eating, La Cumbre