You know how parents say that the days are long, but the years are short? I kind of feel the opposite. Each day at school flies by, but the weeks feel so long because of how much is packed into them. By the time I look back on what happened on Monday, it feels like it was about a month ago. This week was all about chocolate, which meant starting with two basic techniques: tempering and emulsifying. But before I get into that, let me tell you about Monday.
We spent Monday doing a taste workshop with Barb Stuckey, a woman who literally wrote the book on understanding taste. We learned about the science behind taste and how our tastebuds work, identified the five different tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami), and how all of our senses play into the flavor of food. My favorite experiment of the day involved a little pear-flavored jelly bean. We all started chewing the jelly bean with our noses plugged tight and found that it didn’t taste like much other than sweet sugar. In the midst of chewing, we unplugged our noses and got hit in the face with pear flavor. Turns out jelly beans don’t taste like anything. We only pick up the flavor through the aroma added to them. We did a similar test with butter where I learned that butter (arguably my favorite ingredient) has no taste. We perceive butter flavor through the mouthfeel and aroma. The point of all of this is to help us compose well balanced dishes and create an experience for our diners and customers going forward.
Once we launched into chocolate making, we started by practicing tempering batches of chocolate – over and over and over. Tempering chocolate is probably one of my least favorite activities so far since it takes forever (and a lot of stirring), and then you have about five seconds to work with it before it hardens up and you have to start the whole process over again. We also worked on emulsifying by making ganaches, which is much more my speed. I decided to infuse one of my chocolate ganaches with coffee and then brought it home to make it into a tart. Ganache is the gift that keeps on giving because you can put together a batch in no time and use it for so many things.
The vast majority of our class time for the week was spent turning the kitchen into a See’s Candy workshop. We made chocolate truffles, chocolate peanut butter cups, mendiants, palet d’or, rochers, and more. We probably made somewhere from fifteen to twenty different types of chocolates and hand dipped them all. Hand dipping the finished chocolates to add the shell on the outside took an entire day, pounds and pounds of tempered chocolate, and a lot of teamwork. It was tedious, but practice makes perfect! I never intended to become a chocolatier, but I do like the idea of playing around with chocolate making on a small scale. But if that happens, I’ll be looking into the pricing for a tempering machine ASAP.
Our typical week in the kitchen was mixed up yet again on Friday with a field trip to Dandelion Chocolate. We got to tour their factory, learn a ton about chocolate making, and of course do some taste testing. From fermenting the beans to playing around with different flavor profiles, chocolate making is a lot like wine making. That means chocolate tasting is also a lot like wine tasting in that when you try a bunch of chocolates side by side, it’s shocking how different they taste. As a pastry chef, there’s a lot to learn in the world of chocolate and I’m more than happy to tour all the chocolate factories to find it out.
Now that we’re masters at chocolate making (kidding!), next week we move onto cakes. We’re actually spending two weeks on cakes between the actual cake baking and the cake decorating, which I’m very excited for. But is there anything that I haven’t said I’m excited for?
p.s. the low point this week was at the end of one day, when I finished bleaching the countertops and accidentally touched the corner of my eye. It burned for hours. So my pro tip for this week is to keep bleach away from your eyes 😊