What’s in Your Chocolate?

It’s the season for treats and there’s not anything better than great flavourful and creamy chocolate. There are so many options out there but do you really know what goes into making great quality chocolate? Have you ever wondered is all chocolate made the same? Is coco powder real chocolate? Why does only some chocolate melt in your hand?

We recently had the chance to attend a chocolate making class with one of Calgary’s premier chocolatiers, the one and only Bernard Callebaut. From big business to farmers market booths Bernard has covered them all but the most striking thing about him is his love and passion for what he does.

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Anything you ever wanted to know about chocolate you can learn from this master. He answered all of our questions from the beginning right to the end product.

Did you know that you will not see a forest of coco trees? They are actually most often planted near mature banana trees because they need the shade and not the sun to grow in their early years. The coco bean in its raw state is almost tasteless, and once it is dried, roasted and turned into coco nibs the taste is still almost nothing with a touch of bitterness. Once it’s pressed the nibs become the purest form of chocolate which is still not a flavour that most people would enjoy. This pure form of chocolate is referred to as the chocolate liquor and can be pressed out to separate the coco butter (yep the same thing that is fought over by the beauty companies to put in our creams) and coco powder. The content of coco butter in the finished chocolate is actually what gives it that smooth and melty texture.

Bernard’s enthusiasm is contagious and I could go on and on about everything that we learned but lets get to the tasty stuff. We tasted the chocolate in all of its forms while learning all there is to learn and trying hard not to dip our fingers into the huge vats of melted chocolate nestled on the edges of the surprisingly small but intimate work room.

After our chocolate lesson, it was time to get our hands “dirty”, a delicious creamy chocolaty dirty. Bernard generously filled up large bowls of the melted chocolate of our choice (milk or dark) and took us through the proper process of tempering. Tempering chocolate is not actually the process of melting but the cooling down and aligning of the crystals within the chocolate before you start working with it. This process simply boils  down to patience.

After the long process of tempering it was time to start filling moulds. With the hard work done, this is where the fun really kicked up. We filled moulds for solid chocolate bars then chocolate suckers and shapes from hearts to snowflakes.

Next Bernard demonstrated how to make filled chocolates. With the surprisingly easy three step process we all made amazing trays of Bernard’s famous salted caramel filled chocolates.

At the end of a three and a half hour night we un-moulded all of our chocolate creations and the ever generous and patient Bernard gave us boxes to take home all of our amazing creations. It has been a couple of weeks now and we are still enjoying all of those creations and talking about the amazing experience.

So what makes Bernards chocolates worth the extra cost? He puts love and passion into making and selling his craft chocolates (you will often find him manning the booths at the Calgary Farmers Market or one of the other many craft fairs). Each of his chocolate blends are unique since he blends all of his chocolate by hand using years of family recipes to make each blend special. All of the fillings are made from quality locally sourced ingredients and he uses coco from sustainable fair trade practices. All of that combined with his generosity is enough to make me a customer for life and makes what seems like a little bit more expensive product worth every penny. You can find Bernard’s products at Master Chocolate Bernard and Sons (now five generations) and various farmers and craft markets around Calgary.

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Here are a few tips that we learned if you want to do some chocolate work at home:

  • Start with a high quality chocolate
  • Chop your solid chocolate as small as possible before melting it
  • Melt your chocolate in a double boiler, bring the water to a boil but take it off the heat before you put your chocolate bowl on top to melt
  • Don’t melt all of your solid chocolate, save some for the tempering process
  • Once your chocolate is melted ,check the temperature with a digital thermometer you are aiming to bring it back down to about 32 degrees celsius before you start checking to see if its tempered
  • Keep your melted chocolate over a pot of hot tap water (but not touching the bottom of the bowl) while you are tempering it and add in small amounts of your leftover hard chocolate a little at the time then stir till smooth to help bring the temperature down
  • Keep stirring! Patience and lots of it is the key ingredient now
  • Once you hit the right temperature start checking your chocolate by smearing a little bit on a piece of parchment paper, if it doesn’t harden within a minute or so with a consistent shine its not ready so keep going!
  • A properly tempered chocolate will harden quickly and have a beautiful consistent shine, it will shrink up to 9% when it cools making it easy to get out of the moulds and will have  a crisp snap to it

Happy chocolating!

Highly addicted to the art of chocolate making using high quality local products, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

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