24 February 2014

MyChocolate: a lesson in truffles

Growing up, I always loved chocolate. From those little treat sized bars my mum used to pick me up from school with, the classic Terry's chocolate oranges at Christmas, right up to my nine-a-day Creme Egg habit in Sixth Form (yes, seriously, that many). As a slightly more mature adult, I've discovered a love for the deep dark chocolate that's so rich and bitter you can only manage a couple of squares at a go, rather than the entire bar, especially when it's spiked with salt or ginger or something equally as tasty.

So when I was invited to attend a MyChocolate workshop, I jumped at the chance. MyChocolate's the brainchild of Hannah Saxton, a chocolatier who combined her love of chocolate (my kind of girl) with the last of her student loan and began hosting chocolate making parties in her little London flat. Eight years later, she employs a team of 20 and has three kitchens in Farringdon that play host to corporate events, hen parties, and birthday workshops.


Our night was to be spent truffle-making. With a glass of prosecco each, aprons firmly tied and a whole table of ingredients to try and not be distracted with, it was time to begin. Our first task was a taste-test. We had to try two seemingly similar pieces of dark chocolate and work out which was the high quality stuff and which was the less so. We all correctly identified which was which, and our chocolatier Sophie explained why.

Good quality chocolate depends on the amount/percentage of cocoa solid and/or cocoa butter it contains. And good dark chocolate should melt in the mouth (at body temperature) with a rich, bitter taste. Waxy, flavourless chocolate? Blame Hershey's. During the second World War, the US Army needed chocolate that would last in their GIs ration packs and that wouldn't melt too soon (particularly in the tropics), so Hershey's substituted the expensive cocoa solid for cheaper vegetable/palm oil and a terrible habit was born.

It was easy to identify the good from the bad, and as we tried the rest on the table, Sophie asked us if we could identify any of the flavours and origins of the chocolate. The caramel/butterscotch flavours originated from Ghana, while the aniseed tastes come from Tanzania. The closer to the coast, the creamier the cocoa will be and in Jamaica, the cocoa has a slightly pineapple-y taste. (I came away with a goody bag and was very pleased to find samples of all these inside to eat greedily later.)

Then, we got to truffle-making. Sophie talked us through making a quick chocolate ganache (heat double cream to scorching point, then just before boiling take it off the heat and add chopped chocolate, stirring quickly). You're then left with silky, creamy chocolate that's practically impossible to resist. (You can add flavoured oils and alcohol in at this point if you choose for that extra bite).


Sophie then showed us how to get things done. Mix two parts chocolate to one part cream and stir vigorously to get a thick chocolatey paste. Spoon it into a piping bag, warm up the mixture with your hands, cut a nozzle the size of a 5p piece (you don't have to worry about finding a proper piping nozzle) and you're ready to go. It doesn't really matter on the shape of what you pipe as you'll be rolling the truffles by hand soon anyway, but try to make them a uniform size.

Then comes to messy (but fun) part. Roll your truffles with a little cocoa powder before simply dropping them into your gorgeous vat of chocolate. Coat them a little and then, using your dipping fork, scoop out, knock off any excess chocolate and leave them to set on your paper before decorating however you like. Chopped hazelnuts? Of course! Freeze dried raspberries? Hell yes. Milk chocolate expertly drizzled using the other end of the dipping fork? Why not? Go mad. If a little manic.


As you can see, I'm not about to make a grand chocolatier just yet but it was great fun trying. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course, which I eagerly did as soon as I got home. Deeply rich and slightly bitter dark chocolate with a milk chocolate casing, these truffles were divine and making them really is simple. Having previously made no bake cheesecake truffles, I'm pretty pleased that these slightly trickier truffles turned out so well.

I'd thoroughly recommend MyChocolate whether for a corporate event or even a hen-do, their friendly hands-on workshops are a great way of getting stuck in - and having something to eat at the end of it. They've recently branched out into cocktails and cupcakes, and can now bring the chocolate to you wherever you are in the UK. Excellent.
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