Monday, April 18, 2011

The Chocolate Class

At the end of last year there was a Groupon for a chocolate class at Chocolee Chocolates in Boston's South End.  My mother purchased two of these Groupons for my brother Dave, who lives in NYC, and is our family's resident chocolatier, and myself.  Four months later, we finally found a time that worked for both of us when there was also space available in the class.

Chocolee Chocolates is run by Lee, a pastry chef who has been working in the industry for thirty years.  Her shop is at 23 Dartmouth Street in the South End and the class was held in the connected kitchen (and actually community soup kitchen) just behind.  Working in a more professional kitchen definitely reminded me of why I need a bigger one.  By the way, here is what it looks like in my closet-kitchen after I wash dishes:
I could use a little more space...
I digress...

The classes are held on Saturdays from 10am-1pm.  We took the green line in and walked through a windstorm to get there, which meant we were late by about 10 minutes, but very ready for chocolate.

The class was a lot of fun.  It seemed intimidating at first because there was no "getting to know you" of the other students and as a teacher, I am used to that kind of thing, but it quickly broke down into friendly conversation once the knives started flying and chocolate started rolling.  There were eight students all together.  

Lee started by giving us an overview and then broke the kitchen down into stations.  There was chocolate-chopping (which is why I now have ENORMOUS muscles), ganache-making, chocolate melting, and ganache rolling for free-form truffles (out of this amazing earl grey ganache that had been made previously).  

Every time a new task was introduced, Lee would stop us from what we were doing and have us gather around to see it.  Then we'd go back to work or take over the new task.  Eventually, the free-form truffles needed to be coated and decorated and the filled candy trays needed to be prepped.  Then we each got to make a tray of filled candies, using either milk or dark chocolate for the shell, and filling them with dark chocolate, cardamon, or hazelnut (which we made in class) ganache.  Then we waited for them to set and got to slam them against a table.  I learned that there is a lot of slamming of trays in chocolate-making.  On the first day of vacation from running a middle school library, AND having frozen to death the night before just to see the Sox go from 3 and 9 to 3 and 10, it was just what I needed.  

In the end we each took home a box of free-form truffles, filled candies from eight trays, and a bag of almond bark.  It was a lot of chocolate.  Which we are slowly chipping away at.

Meanwhile, in the midst of our learning/cooking, Lee and her assistant were also pulling amazing-looking pastries out of the oven.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, I recommend popping your head into her tiny storefront.  It's worth it for the smells alone.  And if you have the opportunity to take the class, I'd recommend that as well; it was a welcome way to spend a chilly Saturday morning.
Free-form truffles and the first batch of filled candies
What the box looked like by the end of the class.
This was the tray I did,  I used the transfers, which was a sheet of plastic with the little hearts on them, and a magnetic tray.  It was a very interesting process.
This is how you get the filled candies (and your agression) out of the molds.
action shot
The trays these were filled in were dusted with edible dust prior to filling.  That's what makes them sparkly and purple.
What was left of the enormous block of dark chocolate we started with.
Lee, me and Dave.

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