Week 3, or as we all ended up affectionately calling it – Chocolate Week, was…intense. Mostly due to poor scheduling on my part, but also because it was loaded with content and work around an ingredient many of us swoon for. Also, there were a bunch of ‘extra’ activities and content that we covered, including two guest speakers and a field trip.
We started Chocolate week right where one might expect to start: tasting a wide variety of different chocolates from white chocolate to the darkest of dark. We learned all the technical terms that come with them – from tempering (and the beta crystals involved in that), conching and what the % actually means. We tried different brands including El Rey (my favorite for a lot of them), Valrhona and Guittard.
We tried some specialty chocolates too, like Caramelia (chocolate and caramel) and Gianduja (one that has hazelnuts ground into it, and holy moly that makes for an amazing ganache/sauce that is everything you‘d expect from Nutella but infinitely better).
Later on in the week, we went on our first field trip to Dandelion Chocolate in the Mission. There we got to see the entire process, from hand inspecting the beans through roasting and melanging. Chocolate making is an incredibly labor intensive and long process, but is something you could do at home if you buy a melanger. It was really interesting to taste the difference in texture of some chocolate that has been going in the melanger for a day vs. three days.
Below you see a bunch of mini-melangers that they use for testing.
We also tried a few different types of their single-origin beans, which were all 70% dark chocolates, and we did a blind test to see if we could correctly pick out the origin (hard!). Lastly, we blindly tasted a bunch of other types of chocolates out on the market to try to pick out what ingredients were added to the chocolate (again, hard!). The folks at Dandelion are really passionate about their craft, so if you get a chance to stop by or even sign up for a tour/class, I’d highly recommend it!
Once we tasted chocolates and understood why tempering is important, we got to try our hand at it. The method we use in class is called seeding, which means you gradually add more unmelted chocolate into a batch of melted chocolate until it lowers to the temper temperature (for the dark chocolate we were using, we were aiming for 32 degrees C). There are three factors that come into play for correct tempering: 1. Time, 2. Agitation, and 3. Temperature. You need a combination of the three to temper, and the only one you can fully measure is temperature. It’s a bit of a tricky process, but worth it if you want that classic chocolate appeal of tempered chocolate: a shine and snaps when you bite into it. Also tempering prolongs the shelf-life of the chocolate.
Once we all tempered chocolate a few times, we made little mediants with different toppings. So cute and pretty!
After tempering, we learned how to emulsify. This is basically adding in cream to melted (or unmelted) chocolate until it comes together completely – i.e. Chocolate ganache! We took these two main concepts of tempering and emulsifying and started working on a bunch of different chocolates, mostly truffles and rochers.
We also worked on two different types of Mousses: a pate a bombe based one, as well as a creme anglaise one. Four out of five of us messed up our pate a bombe one – for me, I didn’t work fast enough when incorporating in the cream mixture, so the chocolate began to seize. Once that happens, it’s impossible to fully incorporate while still keeping the volume on the cream mixture. Fortunately, the creme anglaise version is much easier and we all nailed that one. Once they set, the texture and consistency is gorgeous.
The pate a bombe one is on the left, creme anglaise on the right. You can see that I have pieces of chocolate in the left one, but the right is silky smooth. I can’t wait to eat more of that one.
Obviously, working with chocolate is very messy business. Almost daily we all got chocolate all over our uniforms. In particular, on Friday, I managed to spill a very large amount down my apron, pants and even on to my shoes!
Truffles and Rochers
We spent two solid days this week working on about 17 different types of truffles and rochers. Considering there are only 5 of us in the class, that was a lot of different recipes to execute in two days. And many of the recipes required a lot of time to set.
I specifically worked on some White Chocolate Orange truffles, which were hand dipped (twice) in tempered white chocolate. I also did some coffee, cherry and almond rochers, caramel apple rochers, chocolate anise logs, and dark chocolate orange truffles. The dark chocolate orange ones were cut into cubes (got to use a blow torch to keep my knife hot while cutting through the soft ganache), dipped twice in tempered chocolate and then covered with powdered sugar. That gave them a very pretty and unusual finish for a truffle, which I really liked.
Out of all of them, the ones that seemed the most labor intensive were our take on the Ferrero Rocher. Not only do you need to make the praline, let it set, but you have to roll it, dip, then roll in almonds, dip and repeat. I have much more of an appreciation for those candies now!
Needless to say, there was A LOT of chocolate to taste and take home. There’s still some sitting in my refrigerator now.
Extras from the Week
Manresa Bread – Avery Ruzicka
The head baker of Manresa Bread, Avery Ruzicka, came to speak to us on Monday about her experience in the industry and her story with building Manresa Bread. I had been looking forward to this since I heard she was coming. She clearly works so hard for everything that she has built, and has put her heart and soul into it. The main takeaways that I got from listening to her were:
- Don’t work for someone who you don’t respect (i.e. Don’t put up with an asshole chef if you don’t jive together)
- Work as hard as you possibly can, in as many different kitchens or bakeries to gain invaluable experience. Most of the time, this will be for free.
- When in a new kitchen or working with a new chef, ask questions (duh), but also do something once and pause to get feedback.
- Always say yes.
Pasta 101: Recreational Class
On Thursday night, I signed up to take one of the recreational courses at the school: Pasta 101. As part of our program, we need to complete a certain amount of elective hours and up to 12 of those hours can be courses from the school. Other ways to earn those hours are by TAing for the Recreation classes, Staging at different restaurants or volunteering.
I was lucky enough to get into the pasta class where we made four different pasta dishes. We learned how to make a rich pasta dough made primarily with egg yolks, as well as a Orecchiette dough, made with just flour, water and salt. This was a super fun, engaging class, and I think it would be absolutely fun as a date or with friends. The rec classes in general seem great for that, as most are from 6-10 pm on a weeknight, include a ton of food and even wine!
Finally, on Friday, we spent three hours doing a ‘taste’ workshop with Barb Stuckey. In this workshop, we learned about both the tastes that the tongue can taste and the other senses that come in to play when eating or experiencing food. This was a fascinating workshop full of hands on taste testing. We went through all the different varieties of Coca Cola to taste the difference between real cane sugar to HFCS to Coke Zero, made with a blend of all the non-caloric sweetners. It was eye-opening to taste both the difference in flavor as well as the difference in mouth feel. We also ‘tasted’ things by smelling and learned that the only things you can actually taste are one of the five tastes that your tongue can sense: sour, sweet, salt, bitter and umami. Everything else is a flavor that is at the intersection of taste, feel and smell.
Next Week – Cakes
This week we’re going to work on Cakes, and spend two days with Laci Sandoval learning how to properly decorate a cake. Keep an eye out here for photos of hopefully pretty cakes!
Pro Tips – Chocolate Week
- Many chocolates (even the dark ones that don’t have milk powder) aren’t considered vegan. Some companies (it’s unclear which do or don’t though) use animal bones to help deodorize the cocoa beans.
- It’s fine to let dark chocolate melt and hang out over a bain marie (double boiler) for a long time. It’s best to get that going before getting out other ingredients. Milk and white chocolates need a bit more love and watching because they melt at lower temps though.
- If you’re trying to make a chocolate emulsification or ganache, but it’s not coming together, there are three things to try:
- Add more friction – keep stirring or grab an immersion blender
- Add another liquid (not a fat though) like simple syrup or booze.
- Pasta making: Let the rolled sheets dry a bit before cutting — look for a leathery texture before moving on to cutting. This will prevent pasta from sticking together.
- Pasta making: AP flour works just as well as 00 flour (or specialty pasta flour).
- Taste workshop: Most of the ‘tastes’ that we perceive are actually flavors, which is a combination of one of the five tastes our tongues can sense, the smells/aromas from the food, and the feel of the food. Something doesn’t taste chocolatey – it tastes sweet, and is chocolate in flavor. To prove this, hold your nose closed for a bit, then put a piece of food into your mouth while still holding your nose. What do you taste? Then, let your nose go and breathe in. What do you taste then?