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Chocolate Techniques

There are not many activities more fulfilling than spending three hours with an extraordinary Chocolatier and six eager students on a Saturday afternoon learning the secrets of crafting artisan chocolates. That’s exactly what we did again recently with Brian McElrath owner of B.T. McElrath Chocolatier.

In the first class, we delved into the scientific aspects of chocolate; its crystallization properties and the art of tempering using various methods.

It was eye-opening to realize that the microwave can be used for more than heating up last night’s pot-roast. And I don’t even use it to make popcorn. But I digress.

The microwave is actually a great appliance for melting chocolate. One does have to be careful, so as not to scorch it, but with this appliance there is no worrying about introducing water to the chocolate accidentally as may occur with the double boiler method. If you think oil and water don’t mix, trying to mix chocolate and water is even worse.Just use 50% power in short intervals with lots of stirring in between.

We also learned that every environment introduces different variables; humidity, temperature of the room, even the number of people working in the space has an affect on the tempering of chocolate.

After mastering the tempering process the first week, this second class allowed us to focus our attention on enrobing techniques, adding designs using a dipping fork and using transfers for adding designs. We also made three different types of ganache: Dark Rum, Chambord with Caramel and Orange; which we used these to fill the molds after having learned how to “shell” them. Shelling is the art of filling a mold with tempered chocolate and pouring it out at just the correct time, to leave a coating or “shell” in the impression which you later fill with ganache and “bottom” with more chocolate.

Each student had a chance to practice each aspect of the process, while enjoying an afternoon of conviviality. At the end of the day everyone was able to take home a bundle of chocolates that were made to share with friends and family.

Bret’s Table hopes to convince Brian to return this Autumn for more chocolate classes both beginning and advanced.