Mmm, chocolate…

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#ChallengeCompleted: Chocolate-Making Workshop

When? Saturday 25th March

Nominated by: Susan

Technically, this wasn’t originally a #ChallengeKate; it was a Christmas gift. ‘Kate, I am so excited about this!’ Susan exclaimed when she presented me with the voucher in December. ‘I just KNOW you will love it!’ A workshop dedicated to learning about, working with and – most importantly – tasting chocolate? Absolutely! In fact it was such a fabulous gift, Susan agreed to turn our activity together into a #ChallengeKate.

The Original Chocolate Workshop Susan had booked was run by My Chocolate and took place in Islington. The two-and-a-half-hour course promised a ‘quick (and tasty) history lesson’, then the chance to get stuck in, making giant chocolate buttons and fresh truffles to gift wrap and take home.

Having not long returned from Costa Rica, a fabulous trip that included a tour of a chocolate farm, I felt pretty well versed in all things cacao-related. But the recap that kicked off this course was great in reiterating a lot my new-found knowledge. Our first tasting involved blind-testing two chocolates: one a high-quality piece, the other a cheap alternative. The difference in texture and taste was immense and the superior chocolate, with its creamy texture that lingers in your mouth for ages rather than melting quickly and its bend of perfectly sweet but bitter tastes, was picked out without hesitation by every person in the group.

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With my chocolate appetite whetted, I was more than ready to get hands on and stuck into some chocolate. Preferably quite literally. First up: creating a giant chocolate button. The Master Chocolatier running the session first demonstrated how to achieve the round shape and create a marbled effect on top, then gave us ideas of how we could personalise our button with the edible treats available – marshmallows, white chocolate flakes, honeycomb pieces, salt granules (to be used very sparingly!) and grated coconut.

The hardest part was being instructed in no uncertain terms that we were NOT to lick our spoon after it had been dipped into the molten chocolate – or, indeed, not to let any body part (fingers, faces…) come into contact with the tempting bowls of liquid, glossy tempered chocolate presented to each group of eight to play with. Instead, she demonstrated how we should wipe our chocolate-sodden spoons clean on the paper towels provided. Sacrilege! (She did concede to allow us to suck the paper towels later, if we so desired…).

I was quite pleased with my button. I felt I’d achieved a good size (coaster-size) and round shape and my milk chocolate frosting looked good on the dark chocolate base. My line of honeycomb pieces across the middle worked well. I wasn’t so sure about the marshmallow cross lines; a case of less is more, perhaps – although when it comes to sweets, I think I’d already decided there was no such thing as ‘less’…

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Next up we were shown the art of truffle-making – the quicker of the two methods, with no time-consuming chilling required. Add three parts double cream to six parts tempered dark chocolate (measured with our spoon), mix well together to blend completely, then spoon into a piping bag. We were shown how to pipe bite-sized pieces then, coating our fingers with cocoa powder to stop the ganache mixture becoming too sticky in our hands, we moulded each piece into a ball. Each sweet should then be tossed into the bowl of either tempered milk or dark chocolate to coat, then fished out with the dipping fork, excess chocolate tapped off and the truffle gently deposited on to the table top to be decorated and allowed to set. We were each given a slab of chocolate fudge to incorporate into our creations (perhaps used as a centre to the truffle, or shaped with the cutters we were provided for use as a garnish), and some transfers we could use to imprint a delicate edible pattern on the top.

I got creative. As a true chocoholic, I also thought it through: why use the delicious fudge to stuff into the truffle? Why not just chuck a chunk on its own into the tempered chocolate, coat that, and just have an ‘extra’ sweet? Ditto the left-over pieces of marshmallow. My five pieces of ganache quickly grew into a set of ten tempting handmade chocolates…

It was messy. Isn’t that the point? But oh, how hard it was diligently wiping every trace of chocolate off my dipping fork in between every single submersion of it in the bowl of liquid chocolate my group shared. How much more efficient it would have been if I could simply have licked the fork clean each time…

Chocolates made, hands washed and the worst of the mess cleared up (the joy of a course such as this, of course, is that we didn’t have to worry about washing up – although I reckon I could have left that bowl of tempered chocolate pretty clean given half a chance…), we were given presentation bags and ribbons to package up our chocolates and take home.

The parting advice was to remind us that the truffles had fresh cream in them, so wouldn’t keep very long. What I shame, then, that once I’d got home, I ‘couldn’t remember’ which of my sweets had the ganache in and which were purely chocolate-covered marshmallow or fudge. Better eat them all, then, just to be sure…

Thanks, Susan, for a fabulous #ChallengeKate!

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