Friday, October 22, 2004

Chocolate school

I was at a chocolate class the other night. It was held at a small local chocolate shop, called Puss och Kram Choklad. Jozica Obidic is the extremely knowledgeable and very talented and creative owner of the store. Her daughter, Karolina Castillo, held a lesson in chocolate knowledge, explaining to us the various cacao beans that are used in chocolate, and where they grow. She also showed us a cacao bean – wow! It may just be me, but I never realised how large they are! It’s huge! Karolina taught us about how good chocolate is for you. It has tons of nutrients and vitamins, it makes you happy, it can make you calm – hey, you can even lose weight with it. (It’s true! Chocolate, as well as chilli and ginger, can really get your metabolism going. But it has to be good chocolate.)

After learning about chocolate, it was time for the tasting. We got to try three different Vahlrona flavours – Manjari, Caraibe and Gianduja. Manjari is made from a rare bean called Criollo, and has a very fruity taste. Caraibe is darker, more chocolatey and not as sour – I liked it better. Gianduja was, as far as I can recall, a mixture of the two, and sort of had the best of both worlds. I think for praline making that I would pick Caraibe, possibly Gianduja if I wanted to have fruity fillings.

For this is indeed what I want – to be able to make pralines properly. I got a book for Christmas two years ago, Jan Hedh’s (a very well-known Swedish pastry chef) Chokladpassion. It has delicious recipes, and I happily embarked on my chocolate-making journey. But I’m… not that good yet. Not that my truffles aren’t appreciated – they sure are – but I really want to learn how to temper chocolate properly, and I want to get some good molds. Unfortunately, Jozica told me that the best molds are only available to professionals. (But hey – there’s always Ebay.)

Anyway. Jozica then took out a huge plastic bowl of molten chocolate from their industrial-size microwave oven. She then proceeded to freak everyone out by pouring the whole thing out on a marble table. Scary as that thought is, it was SO pretty! She kept moving it around with a palette knife and when it was cold enough – 28 degrees – she poured it back into the bowl, and heated the whole thing up to 32 degrees. And that’s it. That’s tempering. (Which is what you do to ensure that your chocolates turn out nice and glossy and don’t get that nasty white skin.)

After that, it was playtime! We were each given a bit of chocolate dough (chocolate mixed with glucose) and were taught how to make a rose! I’m pretty impressed with my own attempts, and made two that I got to take home - see the picture on top!! (The dough was yummy, too.) Because Per was picking me up, and everyone else took their sweet time agonizing over just which pralines to take home, I decided to skip it for now, and instead go down after my water aerobics (sadly, my gym is almost next door to this store) some day and get some. I’ve had them before – they are VERY good. Especially the little pyramids made out of saffron-scented truffle filling and a white chocolate shell. Yum…

I think I’ll place an order with Simonssons Chokladkompanie that sell Vahlrona and other chocolates in bulk – I really want to make some nice edible gifts for Christmas. Now, if I can just find some decent molds…

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