One of the downsides of writing a blog that’s heavily focused on food is that I often get hungry as I work on the computer.
Fortunately for this post I have had a stash of excellent chocolate to sustain me – thanks to a chocolate making class at Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne.
For Good Food Month in November Ganache are holding some special events at their South Yarra chocolate lounge, including a special Chocolate High Tea and a chocolate class with a Christmas theme. I was invited to participate in the first session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates class with master chocolatier and owner of Ganache, Arno Backes.
The class started off with a brief tour of Ganache‘s pastry and chocolate kitchens. As you can imagine the whole place smelled buttery and chocolatey and all round delicious. But all the staff (including Arno) are amazingly thin! Maybe if you work with chocolate and pastry all the time you’re less inclined to gorge yourself eating it (though Arno says he eats a KILO of chocolate a week – the key is to eat good quality product).
We then perched up on steel work benches with a couverture hot chocolate in hand and watched and listened to Arno as he talked passionately about his work and chocolate. You’re not just being talked at for 2.5 hours though – the class was very hands-on and you will find yourself licking chocolate off your fingers and arms!
We learnt about different methods of tempering chocolate, the process which binds the cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar in couverture back together after it has been heated so it can be worked with.
We then moved onto moulding different Christmas-themed chocolate. First up was a very tricky hollow Christmas tree. Aparently Arno wasn’t allowed to make one of these until six months into his apprenticeship and it’s because otherwise you’ll end up with something akin to my creation – a recognisable tree but with blobby and smudgy decorative elements instead of fine detailing.
We then moved onto moulding a small solid Christmas tree with ‘snow’ speckled stacked branches and an assortment of cute snowmen filled with creamy ganache of different Christmassy flavours.
- always polish your moulds before you use them to give your chocolates a high glossy shine and to make de-moulding easier. Coles cotton balls work best!;
- buy solid plastic chocolate moulds as they will last longer. The flimsy plastic ones you can get normally last about three goes and silicon moulds are usually only good for jellies. Arno buys his chocolate moulds from a Belgium company called Chocolate World and a German company in Rosenheim (can’t remember name). Ganache has a small pantry section where you can buy moulds, chocolate and other chocolate making products used by Ganache‘s kitchen;
- don’t touch the inside of the moulds as you could damage them. The Christmas tree moulds we used cost $120 each!
- Ganache should be made a day before and then left to sit overnight on the bench with clingfilm right on top of the mixture so no condensation or skin forms over it. Do not put it in the fridge otherwise the ganache will separate and split;
- When you melt chocolate you need to get it to 45 degrees to melt all the cocoa butter crystals; and
- keep vanilla beans individually wrapped in the freezer and defrost for an hour on the bench before use. Freezing helps the oils and fats inside the vanilla pod ‘sleep’ so the pod doesn’t lose flavour over time.
After experiencing the time and effort required to make all the chocolates (and watching the professional kitchen team at work) it’s easy to understand why Ganache‘s chocolates look and taste so different to mass produced stuff and why it’s priced accordingly. You will generally get a fresher product at a small chocolatier – at Ganache the hazelnuts in their chocolate bars are roasted the day before and stock is replenished every 2 weeks. Compare this to a mass produced brand which may use nuts which are up to 2 years old then filled with sugars and oils to prevent spoilage on the shelf. If you’re not convinced about why you should buy chocolates from specialist chocolatiers and not supermarkets, this class will change your mind.
You can join the second and final session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates on November 20. The class costs $100 and is a fun and educational couple of hours – plus you get to take all of your creations home! For more information click here.