Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s day’

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.


5 Comments


Permalink |


Recent Articles in this category

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day
Whatever you may do this Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s full of excitement, love and friendship. Relax and enjoy your day. Happy Valentine’s Day! Photo Credit: daveograve @ flickr
February 14th, 2010 | klynch | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: valentine's day

Valentine Treats for the Beast in Your Life

Valentine Treats for the Beast in Your Life
At Woodland Park Zoo Valentine’s Day is not all hearts and flowers.  In fact, it’s herbal bouquets, heart-shaped steaks, hear-shaped ice pops made of fruit juice, honey, strawberries and cranberries, all served up with a big dose of love.  The fun holiday treats for zoo residents are part of special...
February 11th, 2010 | Mary Jo Manzanares | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: valentine's day, zoo

Toronto Restaurant Invites Sex In Bathroom

Welllllllll, isn’t that interesting. (insert your own Church Lady voice).  Valentines Day is almost upon us and, here in Toronto things certainly getting HOT HOT HOT aren’ they. Have you ever heard about a place called Mildred’s Temple Kitchen? Well, if you’ve been there or...
February 11th, 2010 | jonah | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: church lady, mildred's kitchen, sex in the bathroom, toronto restaurant, toronto star, valentine's day

A Toast to Valentine’s Day

A Toast to Valentine’s Day
Everything’s better with champagne, and you can find out all about the mystery behind the sexy bubbles with Sparkling Wine 101, a fun class offered by Waterfront Seafood Grill. This sparkling event is part of the Waterfront’s Wine Education series.  You’ll learn the versatility of champagne and...
February 10th, 2010 | Mary Jo Manzanares | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: valentine's day, wine

Show Your Love This Valentine’s Season by Volunteering

Show Your Love This Valentine’s Season by Volunteering
Sometimes showing your love is more than about money. It can also be about the time you spend together. Consider volunteering with your significant other and work together to serve meals to the homeless; walk a dog; or help build a home through Habitat for Humanity. Here’s a list of volunteer ideas...
February 10th, 2010 | Lisa Davis | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Chicago, valentine's day, volunteering

Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year at The Peninsula

Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year at The Peninsula
With Valentine’s Day falling on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Hong Kong is filled with double the reason to celebrate. As we approach this festive season, many hotels and restaurants around the city have been promoting special Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year packages for everyone...
February 10th, 2010 | Jessy DB | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: chinese-new-year, Hotels & Places to Stay, Restaurants & Bars, valentine's day

Photo Op: Romance at Smith Tower

Photo Op: Romance at Smith Tower
With Valentine’s Day only a week away, there’s a bit of scurrying around to plan a romantic occasion.  Sure, there’s hot spots for brunch or dinner, and lots of traditional romantic places.  But if you’re looking for some place a little quieter, perhaps a perfect spot to declare your love or...
February 7th, 2010 | Mary Jo Manzanares | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Photos, valentine's day

A Romantic Valentine´s Day in Buenos Aires

A Romantic Valentine´s Day in Buenos Aires
Saint Valentine’s Day, or el Día de los Enamorados, has spread out in Argentina probably as a result of cultural assimilation. It is a relatively new phenomenon. But whether it is Valentine’s Day, your anniversary or just a special romantic weekend, Buenos Aires is one of the most romantic...
February 5th, 2010 | Pablo Juan Augustinowicz | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Buenos Aires, Events, featuredarticle, Tango, valentine's day

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas in Chicago

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas in Chicago
The clock is ticking with Valentine’s Day almost a week away. If you’re still looking for a great place to wine and dine your sweetheart, check out this list of restaurants in Chicago that will make for a memorable Valentine’s Day dinner. aja (660 N. State St.; map it; 312-202-6050) … Known...
February 4th, 2010 | Lisa Davis | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Chicago, featuredarticle, Restaurants, valentine's day

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Weekend Deals/Packages

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Weekend Deals/Packages
Okay, did you drop the ball on planning a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway? Well, don’t worry, there’s still time (not too much though) to make some plans for a quick getaway. Check out these deals/packages available in different destinations throughout the South. Through February 19, you and...
February 4th, 2010 | Apryl Chapman Thomas | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: accommodations, deals, packages, Places to stay in the South, valentine's day

Welcome the Year of the Tiger on Valentine’s Day

Welcome the Year of the Tiger on Valentine’s Day
This year, Cupid is welcoming the Year of the Tiger when for the first time in 77 years, Valentines Day falls on Chinese New Year.  Right when Vancouverites are celebrating the 2010 Winter Olympics, there will be more celebrations at the Pan Pacific Vancouver with a combination of Gung Hai Fat Choy...
February 3rd, 2010 | thevancouverguide | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Announcements, Attractions, Chinese New Years, culture, dining, featuredarticle, Food & Beverage, Hotels & Places to Stay, music, Restaurants & Bars, valentine's day

Moonlight Movies in Waikiki

Moonlight Movies in Waikiki
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a Moonlight Movie at the Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk.  On Saturday, February 13, the hotel will host a poolside showing of Sandra Bullock’s popular romantic comedy “The Proposal” at 8 p.m.  The event is free and open...
February 3rd, 2010 | byun | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: embassy suites, featuredarticle, honolulu, moonlight movie, movie, the proposal, valentine's day, Waikiki

I Love Shamu!

I Love Shamu!
Looking for something different for Valentine’s Day? Reservations are being taken now for SeaWorld’s “Valentine’s Evening With Shamu” taking place on Feb. 14.  During this special romantic affair, SeaWorld’s award-winning chefs serve a gourmet, four-course meal at candlelit tables...
February 2nd, 2010 | Pam Nagata | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Attractions, valentine's day

Romantic Valentines Day Potomac River Cruises

Romantic Valentines Day Potomac River Cruises
This Valentine’s Day, surprise your special someone with a three-hour romantic trip down the Potomac River on a Valentine’s Day dinner or brunch cruise.   There are two options over the Valentine’s Day weekend (February 12-14, 2010), the Odyssey or the Spirit of Washington, both operating...
February 2nd, 2010 | Jon Rochetti | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: cruises, Events, featuredarticle, Potomac, valentine's day

All Lovey Dovey and Zooey

All Lovey Dovey and Zooey
It may not be on most couples’ lists, but in Auckland, it’s certainly voted as one of the most romantic destinations. So a trip to the Auckland Zoo might just be the idyll spot for wooing this Valentine’s Day. Located along Motions Road at Western Springs, the Auckland Zoo has several...
January 31st, 2010 | theaucklandguide | Read More | Comments: 3
Filed under: auckland zoo, featuredarticle, valentine's day, Western Springs

Valentine’s Day in Palm Beach County

Valentine’s Day in Palm Beach County
Romance is in the air, and now we move to Palm Beach County. Although, you may not have as many options as in the Miami area, the options are just as fabulous. From a Valentine’s Day Brunch at the Windsor Gardens Hotel to a posh dinner at L’Escalier at The Breakers to a private dinner on...
January 31st, 2010 | klynch | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: brunch, dinner, featuredarticle, Palm Beach, valentine's day

Vinopolis for Valentine’s

Vinopolis for Valentine’s
My thoughts on Valentine’s Day are very simple – chocolate and cakes! But if you feel like being sophisticated this year, Vinopolis – the wine specialist on the South Bank – has a number of ideas for you. Browsing the wines in style at Vinopolis There’s a Champagne Masterclass...
January 31st, 2010 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: featuredarticle, food and wine events, london wine merchants, valentine's day, vinopolis, wine

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

Share the Love this Valentine’s Day Weekend with These Deals and Packages

Share the Love this Valentine’s Day Weekend with These Deals and Packages
Roses wilt and chocolates melt, but memories from a trip last forever. Do something different this Valentine’s Day weekend by getting away with your special someone with any of these packages and deals. (And don’t forget about these or these, either.) Say “I Love You” with a Valentine’s Day...
January 30th, 2010 | Apryl Chapman Thomas | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: accomodations, deals, packages, Places to stay in the South, valentine's day