I thought it was time I undertook a practical course on chocolate tempering. Even after running a cookery school for many years and being a food writer I had never tempered chocolate, it looked too scary. Yet I have had a white marble slab for 35 years just waiting for the opportunity to fulfill its true function. In the meantime I have used it for a myriad of pastry making purposes but now it will be the sole accessory for my new-found love of using chocolate to make chocolate!!!
The course was conducted in the real chocolate Atelier of Coco Chocolate on the north shore of Mosman. Held in the most idyllic of surroundings as you will see in the photo. Coco lease one of its buildings – it looks more like a cottage and is from a set of buildings that were formerly occupied by the Australian Military for barracks and mess.
Last year I wrote a post about the Coco chocolate shop that I had discovered one Sunday morning after a stroll around the Kirribilli market. Then Not Quite Nigella posted a blog on her experience here so I decided it was a sign I too should get there on my next visit to Sydney. See her post for more background information and founder Chocolatier Rebecca Kerswell.
Our group assembled at 9am and although informed by the school’s paperwork to bring an apron, you guessed it, many forgot. One lady decided to use a borrowed tea towel and as an extra measure turned her jumper inside out. Chocolate is a messy business and I brought along a black apron that still needed two washes to remove the chocolate.
Spatulas – essential gear for chocolate making available to buy at the class. Imported bar moulds from Belgium. Expensive but durable for constant use and banging out the chocolate! Blue sheets of silicon and anything else you need to produce professional looking chocolate.
Phillipa leads this class and explained the processes. At Coco they microwave the chocolate which is exactly how I melt mine for general chocolate cooking but never having tempered chocolate before, she had my full attention.
I have had a chocolate thermometer in the drawer for years but forgot what it was for. However that was a waste of time and storage as I am going to buy one of the more high-tech gadgets – a laser gun thermometer. You just hold it over the chocolate and keep stirring the chocolate until the temperature reading is what you are after. Of course it does not happen that simply, you do have to increase and decrease the temperature by other means – either whacking it back in the microwave or waving an industrial hotblower that looks like a heavy duty hairdryer over it until the temperature rises again.
One of the students getting messy. We made some large slabs of milk chocolate spread with hazelnuts and sea salt, this was later cut up into irregular shards for packaging. An easy way to make chocolate without moulds. The slab of milk chocolate sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts and Maldon salt.
When it was time to work with the dark chocolate, my favourite and by the way it is organic we flavoured it with orange blossom essence and once ladled into the moulds we added sprinkles of mixed peel. Once the moulds set our reward was seeing the fine glossy surface, a hallmark of correctly tempered chocolate.
Ladling the dark chocolate in the mould that we hand polished with cotton wool balls, to remove any traces of chocolate from past use. We all had a turn at each process, the only way to learn.We were encouraged to sample.
A benefit of having the workshop right in the midst of this all was seeing how productive you can be in a small space and witness artisan makers working on small runs to stock several outlets. Here Rebecca the owner was packing up chocolate coated honeycomb she made from beginning to end whilst our workshop was in progress.
I am now qualified to do further courses in chocolate making. The school insists you undertake or understand tempering before you go on. Now to start practising on my white Cararra marble slab I bought so many years ago from a cemetery supplier.
If you love chocolate and have made it to the end of this post and would like to see what else they make click here for last year’s story on the shop.
For further information on the Sydney Chocolate School http://www.cocochocolate.com.au