A little while ago, bestie Douggy Fresh and I participated in a truffle making workshop offered by Chocolate Tales. We heard about it a few months ago when a Groupon emailed showed up in both of our inboxes. “Learn to make chocolate and eat it after? Uh… YES!” The answer was obvious.
All in all, it was a good experience. I would have liked to have gotten my hands a little dirtier and gone as far as crush the beans myself, but that’s just me. The website clearly stated that it was a truffle making workshop. Plus, considering that I have never made any form of chocolate in my LIFE, I was most likely over-reaching in my expectations. (I don’t count melting baking chocolate.)
The workshop was comprised of 3 sections: learning, making, eating. I think we all know which part was decidely favoured by PenRei and Douggy Fresh (cough:: eating ::cough), but that does not undermine the other 3 sections.
LEARNING ABOUT CHOCOLATE
We had the pleasure of having a workshop lead by David, the chocolatier du jour! He didn’t have a chef’s hat, but that can be forgiven since I don’t know if chocolatiers wear those hats. David was very articulate and explained the process from beans to chocolate in a very charismatic way. Honestly, if I had the money, I wouldn’t mind following a lesson on how to make chocolate from scratch with him. Everybody wishes that at least one of their high school teachers was more charismatic… like David!
Anyway, stuff that I learned?
Did you know that cocoa beans are actually white and not brown? I had NO idea. When you open the pod collected from the tree, you’ll see white beans at the centre. CRAZY!
This also led to a fascinating discovery about white chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought, “chocolate is brown and milk is white, so white chocolate must be chocolate with a lot of milk”. Despite the fact that this logic didn’t make sense as I grew up, I didn’t question it too much since nothing in my life had proven otherwise. UNTIL NOW! White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids (it was separated from its brown counterparts), but is instead just cocoa butter, the fattiest, creamiest, and richest part of cocoa. Chocolatier Dave called it “the junk food of the chocolate world”. And so it is, with its delicious addictive properties. Yum yum!
Something else I learned about chocolate is that it is made up of 4 unstable molecules and 1 stable molecule. I’m not talking unstable to the point of explosion, but in the sense of culinary cuisine (don’t ask me more than that, I’m guessing it has to do with taste, texture, and combining in the end). To help turn the 4 unstable into the 1 stable, you have to heat your chocolate (always heat in a metal bowl over boiling water to heat evenly and avoid burning), pour 2/3 onto a slab of granite (granite always stays at 10 degrees celsius below room temperature) and mix it using a scraper that can be found at your local Home Depot or Canadian Tire (but please wash it first!). By using the scraper to mix the chocolate over the slab or granite, the mix between cold and hot creates a “chemical drama” (in Dave’s words) that we can’t see, but that stabilizes the molecules.
Also, random fact for you, cocoa and cacao are the same thing. It’s just different pronounciations of the same word… in case anyone was wondering.
Health benefits of chocolate:
- Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Flavonoids are naturally bitter, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
- Continuing with your cardiovascular system, it also improves your blood vessel function and lowers blood pressure. The flavonoids slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one we all try to fight or deny). It’s when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it can clog your blood vessels.
- Chocolate contains antioxidants, which strengthen your immune system to combat free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage) in your body.
History of chocolate:
- History says that chocolate started in Latin America where the cacao trees grow naturally. The Olmec, living in southeast Mexico around 1000 BC, called it “kakawa”. I think you can see the similarity to our “cacao”.
- Mayans who inhabited the same general area between 250-900 AD also ate chocolate. Mayans used cacao beans as currency in a trading culture. “I’ll give you 2 rabbits for 6 cacao beans.” Unfortunately, slaves cost a mere 9 beans. Luckily, this is not the case anymore. Boo to slavery!
- Mayans didn’t eat chocolate, but drank it. Essentially, they had thick hot chocolate for many religious rituals, such as weddings. They didn’t add sugar though, so it was a lot more bitter than the hot chocolate we know today.
- Since cacao beans were considered currency, only the rich, who had them in abundance, ate chocolate. The rest of the population used it as money. After all, if you were poor, would you eat your money?
- After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they continued the tradition of drinking chocolate. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought chocolate down to earth to share it with man. Quetzalcoatl was then cast out of paradise, for only the gods were allowed to drink chocolate.
- In 1519, Cortez (a Spanish conquistador) tried hot chocolate, but disliked it for its extreme bitterness. With all of the conquering and ruling happening around the area, the Spanish eventually discovered the Caribbean islands where sugar cane grew. One guy decided to mix the two together and then BAM! instant awesomeness happened.
- It wasn’t until the 1850s that an Englishman named Joseph Fry created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter to the mixture instead of hot water.
- 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle (you know which chocolate company he founded) added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating the milk chocolate bar.
- 1879, Rudolphe Lindt (another name dropped, boom!) invented a machine called the conch, which rotated and mixed the chocolate into a perfectly smooth consistency. Remember the hot chocolate mixed on a cold granite slab with a scraper? Think that but with a robot doing it! Okay, not a robot, just a machine. Still a big deal!
- 1907, Milton Hershey (you all know this guy) had a factory that produced 33 million Hershey kisses per day. That’s a lot of kisses!
- Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.
MAKING THE CHOCOLATE
There isn’t much for me to say in this section. The hands on portion of the workshop is something more so experience. Essentially, we made our own truffles by cutting or rolling the ganache block we got into the desired shapes, dipping them in delicious milk chocolate, and decorating them with white chocolate, coconut shavings and cocoa power. For practice, we got to use marshmallows to fine tune those… uh… natural?… skills we came into the workshop with. Everything was edible and VERY yummy. Chocolate Tales even provided us with lava cakes for us to decorate. They had a small oven with them to cook so the cakes would be ready by the end of the workshop.
EATING THE CHOCOLATE
What do you want me to say? It’s clearly the best part, but unfortunately the shortest one. I miss chocolate! *tear*
Chocolate Tales doesn’t just do open workshops to the public. They also do corporate events, kids parties and bridal showers. I know what I’ll be planning for Douggy Fresh’s bridal shower when the day comes. Knowing her, you won’t have to bring a gift, just give her all of your chocolate at the end. Ahahaha! I unfortunately found the initial price (about 70$ per person) to be quite high, but the Groupon deal I got meant that I only had to put in 37$ for the 90 minute experience. I didn’t feel that the workshop was worth 70$ (for 70$, I’d want to grind my own cocoa beans), but if you can find a Groupon deal or a group discount price, it’s a fun experience where you get to learn a lot about one of your food best friends: chocolate.
For more information, visit their website: www.chocolatetales.ca or contact them at 1-800-905-2858. Chocolate Tales can provide services and workshops at any location between Ajax to Niagara.