Tempering Chocolate… wickedly glorious pictures clouding your imaginations and sudden hunger pangs gripping your tummy?
Can’t blame you and trust me, the actual experience of playing around with a huge glob of melted Dark Belgian Chocolate is almost criminal!
Now I am aware that only some of you are likely to have heard the term or maybe seen it being used on the telly, but mostly there is ignorance to what tempering actually means.
A fortnight ago, I too was totally unaware of it, till my husband introduced me to this little nook called Chef’s Parade right opposite St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary, on our recent holiday.Advertisement
Let me begin by extending my genuine appreciation to the staff and especially to our chef Nora of Chef’s Parade for this rare experience of a chocolate-making course.
This may sound mundane to some of you, but I would hardly be taking so much time out or making so much effort to write about a simple chocolate making class. What this establishment provides is much more than that.
First of all, let me paint you a visual picture of this charming place to the best of my expressive abilities.
The most important of course is the immediate senses of warmth and scrumptious baking that assault you upon entrance.
The shop has been divided into three major sections – a small cafe-cum-bar to the front, a sitting area to its right and a larger kitchen platform surrounded by big ovens and other requisite kitchen appliances.
The delectable smells of steaming freshly brewed coffee, croissants just popping out of the oven keep wafting about in the atmosphere the entire time.
There is also a bigger cooking area and a sitting area to the back. The whole place is artfully decorated to elicit feelings of homeliness, and the books spread randomly all over the place only adds to the welcoming comfort.
Even though the big shiny metal kitchen platform catches your attention immediately, I somehow got mesmerized by the small sitting room to the back, which is stacked with cooking and traveling books and tiny pieces of memorabilia.
This room just exuded so much solace, that I could just curl up with a book and a steaming hot coffee and not come up for weeks!
This also happens to be the room which would later serve as a dining room for the lovely lunch which our hostess dished up and a video room where we were shown a small documentary about the cycle of the origination of the cocoa beans from Africa till it reaches us in various forms of chocolate.
This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that the three or so hours spent in Chef’s Parade is an experience in itself rather than being just another chocolate-making class.
And then there is the actual chocolate making of course. So what the chef for the day does is, she begins by showing you all the delectable chocolates (or bonbons as they refer to it) currently on display in their shop and explains what goes into the making of each of them.
So there you are, standing in front of rows of champagne truffles, raspberry, praline, lime, balsamic chocolate, mascarpone cream and loads of other varieties of bonbons, just within your reach and images of creating these gourmet chocolates with your own hands playing havoc in your brains!Advertisement
Next, she introduces us to a girl’s best friend… chocolates!
She brings out this tub of dark Belgian chocolate that is being melted. She then shows us the various different types of chocolates which were going to be used for our class — so there is the dark chocolate which will form the outer shell for our finished bonbons, there is a white chocolate which is to be the first filling and lastly some balsamic chocolate which is to be for the second type of filling, and I am in chocolate heaven!
Now let me summarise the chocolate-making process in the most I-know-I-am-not-Nigella-and-so-am-not-going-to-bore-you-with-the-recipes kind of way possible.
So first we melt the dark chocolate till it is absolutely smooth and is not above 550C. And then comes the most fun part of the whole process, tempering the chocolate. In simple terms what this means is basically we need to cool down the melted chocolate quickly to about 280C, without getting any lumps.
But where the fun embarks upon is when there is a big puddle of melted chocolate in front of you (she just pours the tub onto the kitchen platform!) and you can play with it with these two spatula kinds of thingies till you get to the right temperature! It’s like you are suddenly in the middle of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory playing one of the Oompa Loompas!! (In case you don’t know what I am referring to, then I can’t really help it!) And the cherry on top of the cake is you can just dip your finger in the puddle and lick to your heart’s content. Could life be any better!
Sorry, back to the topic of chocolate making. Now we need to get to the fillings. The fillings chosen for us were one of balsamic chocolate (which is basically a dark, slightly bitter and acidic chocolate, but really works well as a center of a chocolate) and the other one of white chocolate with praline.
For the first filling, we just take some ready balsamic chocolate and melt it until smooth. For the next filling, we first melt the white chocolate, and then add it to some whipping cream, honey and praline mixture and voila we have our second filling!
The next thing is to get the shells made out of our dark melted puddle. This is quite simple though. We need to just pour the liquid into chocolate molds and working quickly, drain off any excess, so as to just coat the molds. This then needs to be refrigerated for about 15 minutes and the shells are ready to be filled in. We now pour our fillings into separate piping bags and stuff our shells to about 90 percent of their capacities.
This then goes back to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Once the filling is firm, we pour our dark melted chocolate again so as to seal off the bottoms of the chocolate and cool this for just about 5 minutes in the refrigerator.
The chocolates are now just waiting to jump onto our mouths! We then packed our prized possessions into boxes to take back home, but we were actually taking back much more!