Ever since I tried handmaking chocolate a year or so ago with the kids, my eyes (and tastebuds) have been more alert to the possibilities of creating with chocolate. So when the opportunity to try a different route to making chocolate treats crossed my bath through the blog, I knew I was in. Chocolate Tales and I booked a date for a trufflemaking workshop midtown at The Mad Bean, and we were off to the chocolate races.
Our workshop began with a history of chocolate, which for hundreds of years was consumed as a beverage. The Aztecs ground the beans and drank a really strong, unsweetened version of chocolate – apparently Montezuma drank 10 cups of this a day. It was also given to human victims before they were sacrificed, supposedly for the calming effects of serotonin and theobromine. Personally I find it hard to believe that this could have had much effect but maybe that’s just me.
This grisly historical lesson out of the way, we could start focusing on the here and now (thank goodness). We were working with high quality couverture chocolate, which gets all its fat from cocoa butter. This is contrasted with compound chocolate, where the fat comes from fat substitutes – usually oils – and it’s difficult to temper because different oils have different burn points – this chocolate sometimes shows a white film which indicates it’s not properly tempered. It can still be tasty – which is why most of us enjoy a good Kit Kat every now and then – but it’s more a candy than chocolate.
At the Chocolate Tales workshop, we were messing around with the real thing, ie. the couverture chocolate. Our stations were laid out tidily with rows of hollow chocolate spheres, and the various tools we’d be using to fill these into Belgian truffles, as well as to make French truffles out of slabs of ganache. There was a giant bowl of melted chocolate on a double boiler at the front, which was ladled into plastic bags that we used as icing tubes. With tips on how to best fill our chocolate spheres (try to fill it without air gaps, which reduce shelf life, for eg.), we set to work.
I couldn’t take pics of us messing around with chocolate, but mess is the operative word here… we were given aprons and gloves for a reason. Melted chocolate gushed out of bags and outside of our little chocolate receptables and into our trays (and up into our mouths). After letting our filled chocolates cool, we set about enrobing them. The technique for this is to paint your hand with chocolate, and then roll the truffle into our palms to cover it with melted chocolate, then repeat. The gloves came in handy here to keep the mess at bay, but I wanted to feel this experience all the way so I removed my gloves (I was the only one). There’s something luscious and decadent and playful about doing this with your bare hands, and although I spent a spell in the bathroom trying to get all the chocolate off afterwards, it was worth it.
We all left satisfied, and possibly a little dizzy from eating chocolate spills and leftovers, with a stack of Belgian and French truffles to go, packaged prettily in decorative bags and a gift box. It was a friendly group, led by a friendly facilitator, creating a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Tuesday night.
Trufflemaking is just one of a range of workshops offered by Chocolate Tales – there’s something for the sweet tooth in all of us. One thing I’d mention… when I arrived at the workshop I thought we would be making chocolate from scratch, but the facilitator explained this process and it’s not at all workable for the end result sought – the process takes too long, is too complicated, and too mechanized. It’s possible to make a simple handmade chocolate as I did, but it won’t have the professional and consistent qualities that you and I normally associate with a truffle. The workshops are about working with the basic components of chocolate and putting them together in personalized and delicious ways.
I knew I would enjoy this DIY workshop but hadn’t thought of what a nice experiential gift this could make until I saw the friends and couples there, and sat down next to a mother who gifted this workshop to her teenage daughter. They were completely engaged with each other and the activity, and the daughter may have had just a bit of a glow when she left. I thought of my 13 year old niece, and I come December 25, she and I may be poised for more chocolate love.