I've been wanting to learn more about chocolate since I started making chocolate dippers and marshmallow pops over a year ago. Chocolate is something I know very little about and my first experience using it, I burnt it and trying to work with white chocolate, near on impossible!
I couldn't understand what made it so temperamental until I started to read up about it and wanted to learn more. Just before last Christmas I found a company in Dorset called Chococo who run workshops throughout the summer, booked myself and the husband on one and then promptly forgot all about it.
Image credit Chococo
So yesterday afternoon, we made our way to Swanage to the Purbeck based chocolate company and headed excitedly to the chocolate kitchen!
The first part of the course, Jenny our tutor for the evening talked about the history of chocolate, how it's made and the ingredients which make up a fine quality chocolate. What I didn't know was the amount of sugar and vegetable fats used in everyday chocolate and what sets Chococo and other good quality chocolate companies apart, are the higher percentage of coco butter and cocoa used instead of using cheaper alternatives.
Image credit Haighs Chocolates
They mainly import their chocolate from the highly ethical and fairtrade Grenada Chocolate Company.
We then had a quick tasting session of various different chocolates from Ecuador, Madagascar and Venezuela, which all had slight variations in flavour.
It was similar to wine tasting with various grapes and regions, there are subtle differences so when you have an expert pointing out what makes them different, its makes it much easier to recognise.
The next part of the workshop - top tips and chocolate making techniques which are easy to apply in your own kitchen.
First was the ganache, made by slowly boiling cream and adding to chopped chocolate, stir slowly and if it splits, add a small amount of hot cream and this should give you the right consistency, the ganache was then left to cool in the fridge for later on.
Jenny then got the ingredients needed for the chocolate salami. I've seen this recently in recipe books and TV but never thought about making myself, it's a grown up version of rocky road. Add any ingredients you like, here we had organic apricots, pistachios, mini marshmallows and digestive biscuits.
Mixed with melted chocolate, we then rolled the mixture in to a sausage shape using cling film and put in the fridge to cool. Once it had hardened, we unwrapped it and rolled it in icing sugar to give it the salami look!
Then came out all the various toppings for the chocolate lollipops. We had everything from chopped nuts, jelly beans, marshmallows, chocolate drops to the slightly more unusual freeze dried raspberries, gold sugar and mini meringue pieces to choose from.
This is where it started to get a little messy but at the same time, a huge amount of fun creating chocolate loveliness.
What I managed to make certainly wasn't shop bought perfection but it definitely put a smile on my face!
At this point of the evening, the ganache was ready to take out of the chiller and could be dipped in the melted milk and dark chocolate and rolled in our choice of hazelnuts, cocoa or dried raspberries.
We then had a go at dipping homemade honeycomb and strawberries and sprinkled gold sugar and dusted with edible glitter!
At the end of the evening, we gift wrapped our chocolates and salami and went home not only having learnt an awful lot about chocolate but also, laden with chocolate goodies.
I couldn't have been happier!
For details of this fabulous course, click the link here.