Last week with the help of my amazing colleagues I managed to pull off an event which has been the focus of my working life for the last six months. I decided to say thank you for everyone’s help (and for putting up with my horrendous moods over the last few weeks!) in the only way I know: with homemade sweet treats.
Using the techniques I learned at chocolate making class at Coco Chocolate, I set out to make peppermint creams and white chocolate truffles in my humble kitchen. Having indulged in a certain amount of quality control (and having licked every bowl clean!), I can confidently say that my colleagues will be receiving a delicious selection of chocolates!
Not quite a marble slab: tempering chocolate at home
Making white chocolate truffles
The finished products: white chocolate truffles and peppermint creams
All wrapped and ready to go: a chocolatey thank you
I have never hidden the fact that I absolutely adore Coco Chocolate’s 72% chocolate. I have used it in brownies, cakes and just for nibbling and it has never disappointed. It is the perfect mix of intense chocolatey flavour without bitterness and manages to maintain a wonderfully smooth texture. So when a deal for a reduced price chocolate making class at Coco’s kitchens popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the chance.
Tempering chocolate on marble
Crammed into the two hour class was a wealth of information and enough chocolate to sink a battleship! The proceedings started with a tutorial in something I have always wanted to experience: tempering chocolate by hand on a cold marble slab. Tempering chocolate means that the chocolate not only maintains a wonderful shine when it sets but also ensures a simple, clean snap when the chocolate breaks.
Tempering involves heating the chocolate then cooling it to around 28C before heating it again to a certain temperature, between 27C – 32C depending on the type of chocolate. Pouring the chocolate onto a marble slab cools it quickly and generally looks divine. I must admit that had I not been wearing rather unattractive kitchen whites it would have felt almost like I was indulging in a scene from the film Chocolat!
Making hazelnut chocolates
With the tempered milk chocolate we made hazelnut chocolates and chocolate lollies before moving onto tempering dark chocolate for rose fondants and hot chocolate.
Making Rose Fondants
As you can see, I had a whale of a time playing with and eating some of my favourite chocolate. I would definitely recommend the class to anyone interested in chocolate or anything to do with chocolate. I promise you’ll learn more about chocolate than you ever thought possible and even if you don’t look at what you get to take home with you!
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate
I’m not sharing mine with anyone. Sorry to disappoint!
This week has been another hectic week for me with work what with walking across fire and attending the Loch Ness Marathon but it hasn’t stopped me from baking. In case I haven’t had the chance to tell you about it, next week I’ll be attending the Edinburgh Cake Ladies event. The theme of the upcoming event is “Feel the fear and bake it anyway” and never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to attempt the Chequerboard Cake from the Green & Black’s Unwrapped recipe book. Despite the fact that my first attempt at the cake didn’t come out looking too bad at all I did learn quite a few things:
Baking without scales is a disaster. The battery in my scales went dead so I had to resort to measuring with a measuring jug and small measuring spoons. As I’ve said before, baking is a science so any errors in measurements can wreak havoc with the finished cake. I have now stocked up on batteries just in case this happens again!
Greasing tins with butter while they are warm completely defeats the purpose of greasing the tins. I greased my cake tins while they were sitting on top of the hot oven only to find that surprise, surprise, the butter melted in the tins. I ended up having to scrape bits of the cake out of the tins.
Green & Black’s is not the only good chocolate out there. Green & Black’s make some fantastic varieties of chocolate, including their Maya Gold and Butterscotch however when it comes to dark chocolate I am a huge fan of the 72% dark chocolate from Coco Chocolate.
The “all-in-one” method (i.e. putting all the cake ingredients into a bowl at the same time and mixing) of making a cake is just as effective as creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and finally the flour. This one actually came from the lovely Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s definitely good enough for me!
Filling a piping bag with cake mixture or icing is much easier if you place the icing bag inside a tall jar or tin and fold the top of the bag over the top. I have always tried to do this using one hand to hold the piping bag while using the other to spoon the mixture in. It usually just ends up in a mess so I was pleased to see Jo Wheatley using a very sensible alternative in one of the episodes of the Great British Bake Off.
Piping anything when the room/mixture is too warm never works. Given the limited work space available in my kitchen, I had to pipe the mixture for my cakes into the tins on top of the oven that was preheating. Needless to say, the cake mixture did not keep it’s shape and the final effect was somewhat marbled rather than chequerboard.
Chequerboard or marble cake?
The smell of a vanilla sponge batter is among some of the best, most comforting smells in the world. Personally, it reminds me of baking with my mum when I was little.
It is perfectly acceptable to lick the bowl when making a cake. I was brought up in the 80s by two food technologists so whenever I feel even vaguely tempted to dive in and lick the bowl, a little voice in my head starts screaming “salmonella”. Following an in depth discussion on twitter, I have discovered that no-one else experiences this and I should stop worrying!
Despite my love for it, soured cream-based icing does not go with everything. Although the Chequerboard Cake recipe calls for a simple ganache made of melted dark chocolate and cream, I only had soured cream available. Unfortunately the effect on this cake was slightly too sour.
I should not bake when I am tired, emotional or short of time and definitely not when I am all three at once!
As you can see, I still have lots to learn. But if I didn’t make mistakes, life would be no fun at all!