Earlier this month I wrote about my fruitless attempts to stamp the flavour of a rare wild mushroom on my taste memory. There is another truffle though. One that my palate is all too familiar with me. The chocolate truffle.
I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? So when I saw a billboard in front of Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate advertising cooking classes I decided to go inside and sign up. Sandrine’s shop is filled with exquisite cakes, pretty pastel macarons, flaky croissants, savoury Quiche, meat pies, and of course, fine handmade chocolates. French ~ Pastry ~ Chocolate. Three of my favourite things.
Chef and Owner Sandrine teaches classes in a professional kitchen in the back of the shop. The Fall 2011 Schedule includes workshops in puff pastry, fruit tarts, chocolate tarts, choux pastry and chocolate. Class sizes are small and students work in pairs.
In the chocolate class that I participated in Sandrine started off by giving a short talk about how chocolate is produced, the different types of chocolate and what to check for when you buy it. In the USA, for example, chocolate has to contain at least 15% cocoa before it can be labeled chocolate. In Europe, the standards are much higher with a required cocoa content of 25% for milk chocolate and 35% for dark chocolate. After the introduction, we learned about tempering; a process of heating, cooling and warming chocolate to very precise temperatures along a crystallization curve. This results in a more stable end product with an appearance and texture that won’t degrade over time. Tempering creates chocolate that is super shiny and bright.
Once we finished with the tempering process, we swirled plump red strawberries in light and dark chocolate. (This was my favourite part of the class.)
We also learned how to make truffles. First we made the ganache by bringing whipping cream to a boil, pouring it over dark chocolate, letting it cool slightly and then whisking in room temperature chunks of butter. Once the ganache had cooled and the texture was firm, we piped it into glossy little kisses that then went into the freezer to cool completely.
To be honest, I enjoyed eating these treats a lot more than I enjoyed making them. Tempering just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s a very exact process that reminded me of a lab assignment in high school chemistry. It didn’t help that I had the misfortune of being partnered with an overeager (and annoying) young culinary student. Having said that, I would still recommend this class. It was well-organized, the kitchen was beautiful, and the instructor was very knowledgeable and experienced. Sandrine comes from a long line of French chocolatiers. She really knows her stuff. And there is the added incentive of being sent home with the fruits of your labour – more truffles and hand dipped strawberries than you can eat in a week.
Just when I thought I had a handle on this truffle thing, I found out that someone has actually gone and joined the two to make a truffle flavoured truffle! Knipschildt Chocolatier in Connecticut takes a rare French Perigord truffle, wraps it in a dark chocolate and truffle oil ganache, and dusts it in fine cocoa powder. He calls it La Madeline au Truffe and sells a single 1.9 oz bite for $250.00. No wonder Forbes magazine named it the most expensive chocolate in the world.
- There are four basic food groups: Milk chocolate, Dark chocolate, White chocolate, and Chocolate truffles. (21nogluten.wordpress.com)
Sandrine French Pastry & Chocolate #102A - 1865 Dilworth Drive Kelowna, Okanagan Valley British Columbia, Canada Chocolate - Spring 2011 Cost: $95.00 CDN Style: Hands On Duration: 3 Hours Chef Instructor: Sandrine Highlights: This class is a chocoholic's dream! Improvement Opportunities: It was a little disappointing that the dark chocolate, fruit, and nut bark the class made didn't make it back out of the refrigerator for tasting.