Rich, Velvety, Bittersweet: Take us to Chocolate Heaven

Divinely dark, melt-in-the-mouth, rich, velvety, bitter-sweet – those words are music to our ears!

Chef instructor Nicola was at the helm today, and with the chocolate workshop open to both the Professional Cert students and the public, she was as always, on the ball.

For those who don’t know, Nicola has been teaching with us since 2009 and anyone who has been taught by her often remarks on to her encyclopedic knowledge, together with her natural flair with food and her superb communication and teaching skills. We’re incredibly lucky to have her here at Cooks Academy.

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We kickstarted the chocolate workshop with a demo from Nicola on the how to make a perfectly, smooth chocolate ganache (as well as slipping in a few tips of the trade).

Pro tip: don’t have the heat on too high when you’re melting chocolate over a bain-marie or the chocolate might split. According to Nicola, white chocolate is less stable, but if you add a bit of butter to the mix if should help loosen it up if it starts to get clumpy.

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Being a workshop, today was all about being hands-on and soon you could hear the sound of eagerly stirred spoons against metal bowls. Excitement was in the air.

Under Nicola’s careful guidance, the chocolate made its way from the bowl into the fridge and soon it was time to then move on to tempering chocolate.

But what is tempering, I hear you ask?

In a nutshell, tempered chocolate is carefully heated and cooled for the purpose of dipping or drizzling on baked goods, or for moulding into shapes. If the chocolate is properly tempered, it’ll end up shiny and smooth and will have that signature “snap” sound when broken.

You want to hear more? Well, here’s the nitty gritty:

Chocolate is tempered in order to ensure that the final solidified product should have all the following properties i.e. good gloss, hard surface, good shelf life, no bloom or streaks and a brittle snap and should work well for forming thin, delicate chocolate coatings.

Tempering is the process of bringing the chocolate to a certain temperature whereby the cocoa butter reaches its most stable crystal form. The chocolate is first heated to the maximum temperature of 45-50°C to ensure that all the crystals have melted. It is then cooled to 26-27°C in order to encourage some of the BETA crystals to solidify, but not the ALPHA crystals. The temperature is then raised again to 28-30°C (the working temperature).  This is just below the point at which the BETA crystals melt and the consistency of the chocolate is more workable at this temperature.  As the chocolate cools all the fat crystals solidify out in the BETA state.

Phew. How was all that for you?

Pro tip two: When tempering chocolate, it’s best to do it in the morning when there’s no heat in the kitchen. The area needs to be cool, so it’s also advisable to open all of the windows and to turn off the heat.

Here’s Nicola going through the entire process from tempering and seeding, to filling poly-carbonated trays and taking them out of the moulds:

Soon it was time for all of the cooks to take a well-deserved break and chow down an unusual but very tasty beef chili with bitter chocolate lunch. Sounds intriguing? You’ll have to book our chocolate course to find out how it tastes!

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Back into the kitchen and waiting for all of the chocolates to set, the students prepped their chocolate toppings. And the final results of all of their hard work? Well, see for yourself!

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UnaSigIf you’re interested in becoming a chocolate connoisseur, have a look at our Chocolate Workshop course here. You won’t regret it!

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