I have a friend named Tiffany who is really fun and excellent at finding the good things of life. She’s the one who lets you know when teens go free to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; she’s the one who, when invited to dinner, finds that Costco has real French cheese that actually tastes like something you’d buy in France, and brings you a huge wedge of it. She’s the one who invites you all to her kid’s birthday party and you all want to go, because either her husband is barbecuing salmon or they’re holding it at a really cool water park. And so, when she told me she’d bought me tickets to a chocolate class put on by her friend Pete, I didn’t hesitate an instant.

There were 4 of us, and we all crowded round his coffee table, which was stacked with books about chocolate. This guy is serious. I don’t know what else he does in life, but the man knows and loves his chocolate. He even has a cocoa tree in his upstairs bedroom. We started with drinking chocolate. Now I don’t really like hot chocolate. It’s too sweet or too rich or something. I’d brought coffee with me, just to cut it. But this chocolate was so good, so perfect in fact, that I drained my cup and asked for more.

We looked at a chocolate bean pod and dried beans, which are fermented. I won’t tell you all about it since I’m sure you could learn a lot more from Wikipedia, and my goal is mostly to make you envious, not informed.

Note the bean with its shell removed.

Then we all trooped into the kitchen, where we learned to make ganache. And then we made truffles that were just excellent, because he had all the right stuff. We made dark chocolate ones coated in cocoa powder, the classics, but we also dipped white chocolate truffles in chocolate and then rolled them in demerara sugar, for example, or dark chocolate dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed smoked salted almonds.

fresh ganache. why yes, I agree, I should be a professional photographer.

I didn’t photograph this part, because my hands were covered in chocolate. And also because I was too busy sneaking samples.

Then we made something called mendicants, which are when you dribble a base of chocolate into a mold and then drop in assorted dried fruits and nuts, like macadamia nuts and dried cherries and blueberries and golden raisins. These are really good. Like really really good. Again, I sampled rather freely

Then we dipped dried fruit in chocolate. Figs, crystallized ginger (my absolute fav), dried apricots, etc. Then it was salted caramel, which was then topped with rock salt (pink, from the Himalayas) or a roasted salted almond.

Told you the man was serious. I mean, how many of you have a ChocoVision in your kitchen? It keeps the chocolate perfectly melted or something; to be honest, my mind was fogging at this point.

Then it was time to sample chocolate. I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong–he meant we were supposed to taste and compare brands. I did this. I loved the chili chocolate from Moonstruck (started by Tiff’s 6th-grade teacher. I don’t think my 6th-grade teacher was ever that cool. Perhaps this was instrumental in making her the person she is today? Pay attention to your kids’ 6th-grade teachers, is the lesson I’m getting from this.) and the ginger chocolate with a poem printed on the inner label. Also the chocolate from Madagascar. I’m pretty much a dark chocolate girl, so I stuck to that, although Tiff likes the toffee/caramel combos so there was a good representation of that.

Then we packaged up the truffles, and the mendicants, and the dipped fruit, and the salted caramels. Because apparently, these were for US TO TAKE HOME. Sorry to shout, but that was amazing to me.

I drove home, already starting the chocolate hangover. I actually adore dark chocolate, but I usually eat one square. I’ve exaggerated a bit–I didn’t actually sample all that freely, except for maybe the crystallized ginger–but between tasting and smelling and drinking chocolate and all, I felt a little overwhelmed. It was totally worth it though. I came home and my family greeted me ecstatically and devoured much of it. There’s still some left though, especially because I hid it where they’ll never think of looking.

Just in case, I’m not telling you where.

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