28 April 2006


Today was an all-day chocolate workshop at school. Between the hours of 10.00 and 16.00 BST, Chefette and her fellow etudiants de cuisine ...
  • tempered chocolate using both the 'tabling' method and the 'seeding' method
  • made and flavoured our own individual batches of ganache
  • created our own truffles
  • baked chocolate puddle cakes
  • formed teardrop-shaped dark chocolate cups using acetate
  • filled the cups with white chocolate mousse
Okay. There are probably a few friends out there reading this who are, shall we say, of a chocoholic bent. You know who you are. But before you exclaim, 'Wow, nothing could be better than making (and eating) chocolates all day!!' Allow me to enlighten you to the less glamourous side of the chocolatier's art.

For one thing, working with chocolate is messy. When tempering it (to give it a nice shine and a crisp shell), you have to keep heating it up, cooling it, and trying to hold the chocolate at 29-31C, while you paint it into little moulds with small paint brushes, and swipe great blobs of it out onto trays, tables, etc at various points. Not to mention that you have to keep checking and taking out the chocolate thermometer every few minutes to wipe it off in an attempt to get a more accurate reading, thus enabling more dripping and smearing. Naturally, during all this palaver the warm chocolate gets everywhere, and then dries itself in big, streaky clumps as it sets up. Et voila! Instant mess. (I must admit, though, that it was amusing to see the build-up of little chocolate smears on everyone's faces, arms, aprons, etc.)

The other negative I discovered is that making, tasting, smelling and cleaning up after all that chocolate can put you over the edge. Makes you feel downright chocolated out. We were unanimous by the end of the afternoon that (a) we didn't even want to look at another chocolate, and (b) if we did happen to look at another chocolate, it would make us feel really queasy.

But my truffles turned out pretty well for a first go. In the outer dark chocolate shell, I inlaid a drizzle pattern of white chocolate. The central filling (called a ganache), I flavoured with some dark rum and vanilla. So hopefully in a couple of days my appetite for chocolate will go back to normal, and I'll want to eat them. Anyway, I'll post up a photo of my six best truffles, so have a look and tell me what'cha think.

Tasting with an open mind

Got a reminder this week that it's really important to taste things with an open mind. We had an advanced meat demonstration on Thursday, with all sorts going on: thyme wrapped lamb, ox cheek daube, roast duckling, pressed tongue, ballotine of chicken and wild mushrooms, braised lamb's tongues, crepinette of chicken, roast suckling pig, and braised pig trotters. When I'd seen the list of dishes, the last thing on my mind was that the lamb's tongues would be the best dish, but they were fantastic. I am absolutely going to make them at home (provided, of course, that I can figure out a way to camouflage them so the husband doesn't know what he's eating. When it comes to lamb's tongues, I suspect his is a negative predisposition). They tasted like the most tender, slow-roasted succulent pieces of lamb you've ever eaten, and were served with a Madeira sauce on a bed of spinach. The ox cheek daube was also very tasty.

Off to Paris for the weekend. Don't forget you all to tell me what you are eating over this bank holiday!

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