I’m very happy to admit that I am a chocoholic. There is no better treat than chocolate and I will quite happily devour a bag of Cadbury’s giant chocolate buttons or have a small piece of a very dark, good quality chocolate. I’m not a connoisseur and I don’t discriminate (except against white chocolate because truth be told, it isn’t chocolate). When I received the gift of a chocolate workshop for my birthday this year I was really excited as although I’ve eaten plenty of chocolate, I’ve never really worked with it. After three hours with Lisa at The Chocolate Tart I am hardly an expert, but I had a great time and learned to appreciate chocolate for more than just its taste.
I knew that I was taking part in a three hour classic workshop, but beyond this had little idea of what to expect. Would I be tempering the chocolate from scratch? Would I be decorating pre-made shapes? How much would I get to eat and take home? Luckily Lisa gave us a really comprehensive introduction to begin with so we knew exactly what to expect from the workshop, as well as learning a little more about her background in the world of chocolate and having a taste of the chocolate she uses (Belgian chocolate mixed at 2/3 milk to 1/3 dark). After washing our hands thoroughly we were ready to get started! I was impressed that there were only 5 of us in the workshop – it made it feel much more personal and bespoke in a small class.
The first items we made were fresh cream hand rolled truffles. The centres of the truffles had already been made but required rolling into shape before we could enrobe them in the chocolate by hand. This was when I discovered that I have warmer hands than I thought as I was in much more of a mess than everyone else, managing to semi-melt my centres. Once these were nicely rounded we were ready to roll them by hand in the melted chocolate we were given. The key to the whole process was making sure the centres were evenly covered, and we were meant to not get either our thumbs or little fingers covered in chocolate. For once I actually found this easier than it looked and was quite proud of my efforts.
Next on the list were enrobed crystallised orange slices or nougat (I did a mix of both). We were given a dipping fork and shown how to delicately drip the chocolate after dunking the items so we weren’t carrying too much excess chocolate (is there such a thing?!). We were also shown how to use the fork to put a pattern on the chocolate and how to use transfers. It was fairly straightforward providing you didn’t lose your nougat or orange off the fork, and that you placed the transfer the right way round. Despite being shown which way they should go I still managed to get two wrong!
Next on the list were moulded fondant creams which is the part of the class where I felt like I was doing the most and had the most freedom. We were able to pick our own mould and flavouring for our fondant before making the fondant ourselves. We began by getting our moulds filled with chocolate by Lisa who then made sure that there were no air bubbles or excess chocolate. We then left the chocolate to set on our work surfaces whilst we made our fondant, which was simply icing sugar, water and flavouring. I opted for raspberry and rose which took a while to get right as rose is such a strong flavour, but luckily we had been encouraged to taste test throughout. The fondant was then piped into the set chocolate shells which were then sealed with a layer of melted chocolate and placed in the fridge to set.
The final set of chocolate goodies we made were Knackali, which were effectively giant chocolate buttons with a transfer on the bottom and a selection of toppings on the top. The trickiest part was getting the chocolate shapes to look uniform and the toppings to look nice.
Before I knew it, it was time to package up our chocolates with pretty ribbons. I was impressed with how pretty they looked and, had I wished to part with my chocolate, they’d have made some lovely gifts to give to people.
I thoroughly enjoyed my workshop at The Chocolate Tart and would recommend it. I’d also happily go on another one! The only thing I would have preferred was to do a bit more (such as filling the moulds ourselves or making the truffles completely from scratch) but I understand that this was done for us so we had more time to do different things and take more away with us. The workshop was a fantastic gift, and one that keeps giving as I continue to eat my chocolate…