A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to Bake With Maria in Swiss Cottage (and I meant to write about this then but life has gotten in the way, it’s all been a bit hectic!). For those that don’t know, Bake With Maria was started by the lovely Maria a number of years ago. She started out by teaching people from her own kitchen how to make delicious bread, before the demand grew too strong and she had to make the move to her own specialised teaching kitchen space, the Baking Lab, which opened in November 2011. Maria and her small team now run a number of different types of class, moving away from just the bread.
They have recently set up Chocolate Savvy (An Introduction to Chocolate Making) which is ran by Annamarie Jones, an American Chocolatier/Pastry Chef and includes a tasting session with Stuart from local chocolate shop Cocoa Bijoux.
We were welcomed with a selection of cheeses (this won me over straight away), and a mound of Maria’s very own flatbreads fresh from the oven along with fresh homemade lemonade. I arrived a little before some of the others and spent some time looking around at the kitchen and chatting to her friendly volunteers (you can apply to be one on the site!). The Chocolate Savvy class started with Annamarie talking through her credentials (from San Francisco through to her time across here) and on to the chocolate making process. During this she had a number of aids including nibs for us to try. Without giving too much away (you should go to this yourselves!) she gave us some interesting information; like 70% of chocolate comes from one type of bean or that the way the beans are dried can affect the taste.
After this we then had a talk & tasting session with Stuart, He allowed us to try a selection of different types, varying in intensity, flavour and region. (Note: % is the percentage of cocoa solids in the bar) My personal favourite was the 72% Venezuelan (described as “what a cocoa bean should taste like”) but we also tried: 55% Milk Chocolate from Congo, 43% Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate from France, 72% dark from the Dominican Republic (tasted very thick in the mouth), 71% Plain from the Philippines (tasted like treacle or liquorice), 77% Plain Criollo (the most expensive cocoa bean in the world) From Peru (a little like tobacco and quite smoky) and then a selection of flavoured chocolates, truffles and nutbutters.
Both Stuart and Annamarie’s love and passion for chocolate really shone through while they were talking.
Annamarie then went on to give us a walk through on making some ultra simple Ganache Truffle Balls. She gaves us a hands-on and we were provided with the recipe, which I’ve stuck below if you want to make them!
So tell me, would you attend a chocolate workshop like this?
- 125ml Double Cream
- 75ml Glucose
- 1 Vanilla Pod, split and beans scraped
- 50g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 75g 65-70% Dark Chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- Pinch of Salt
- Cocoa Powder, for dusting
- Stir the cream and glucose together in a medium saucepan. Scrape the vanilla beans into the pan along with the pod and pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over a medium high heat before removing from the heat and allowing to sit for 1 minute. (For best results, allow to cool, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight to infuse properly).
- Line the bottom sides of an 8 inch square baking tin with plastic wrap.
- In a small/medium heatproof bowl pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and stir in the cream mixture using a spatula in small concentric circles until the chocolate is incorporated fully and emulsifies into a homogenous mixture. Add the butter in small pieces and incorporate.
- Pour ganache into line tin and spread evenly into the tray. Cover tightly with cling film and allow to set in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- In a separate tin add the cocoa powder so it covers the base.
- Transfer the ganache to a chopping board and divide into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Dip the knife into hot water and cut clean between each slice. Wearing plastic gloves, roll the ganache into balls and then toss in the cocoa powder.