Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chocoholic time

"Am I doing this right?"
Chris mixes it up.

The last day of the conference, with the sessions winding down, is traditionally a time for finding interesting things to do with colleagues and friends. Today I excelled myself in this department by suggesting that we participate in a Chocolate Class. Teaming up with a Known Chocoholic from Canada (hi Chris!), we joined Chef Keith Taylor backstage in the kitchens of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort. In fact, our assembly point was the 'Champs Kitchen' - it was specially built for the Pastry Chef Team which recently represented the USA at the World Pastry Team Championships 2010 and was awarded third place. Wow! Didn't even know such Championships existed, and here we were in the Champ's Kitchen!

When I found this video, I recognised the carpet and realised that the Championship 2010 had been held at this very hotel. One of the Team USA chefs in the video is also Chef Keith Taylor who took our class today (a very nice person and a veritable artist with his chocolate 'tempering' tools).

Chef Taylor 'tempering' the chocolate.
Not that we managed to create anything as exotic as the Championship masterpieces. But we did learn all about how chocolate is grown and made, participated in a chocolate tasting (like a wine tasting and equally as complicated), and make three excellent chocolate creations: Milk Chocolate Passionfruit Truffles, Chocolate and Lemon Madeleines and Chocolate Covered Caramelized Almonds. Mmmm-Mmmm!

Milk Chocolate Passionfruit Truffles

14 oz Milk Chocolate
8 Plump Dried Apricots, cut unto tiny dices
2 tbsp water
2/3 cup Passionfruit Puree
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp Heavy Cream
1 tbsp Honey
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter at room temperature
12 oz Milk Chocolate for Dipping

1. Put the Chocolate in a heat proof bowl enough to hold all ingredients.
2. Stir Apricots and Water together in a small pan and place the pan over gentle heat, till it is moist. Drain the water, and pat them dry between paper towels.
3. Bring the Passionfruit Puree, Cream and Honey to full boil in a saucepan, then pour over the chocolate. Stir the Cream into the chocolate with a spatula till the ganache is smooth.
4. Add Butter 2 pieces at a time, stirring gently to blend. Fold in the apricot pieces.
5. Put the ganache in the refrigerator for it to cool.
6. Scoop up a scant teaspoon of the ganache after it has cooled and shape into small balls.
7. Dip it into tempered Milk Chocolate and roll it over nut pieces (optional).

"Ganache" = A rich creamy chocolate filling made of chocolate and cream.

Does your chocolate taste like grass or red fruit or spice?
During the chocolate tasting we learnt that there are 'single source' chocolates (like single vineyard wines) and blends. We tasted examples from Venezuela, Ghana, Ecuador, Madagascar, the Dominican Republic and an African blend. Personally I don't have enough left of my lifetime to train my palate to distinguish all the flavours  on the 'Chocolate Flavour Wheel', but I was able to admit at least that there were noticeable differences in the taste of the samples.

Is White Chocolate really Chocolate?
All chocolate has in it chocolate paste and cocoa butter, both of which come from the bean. Milk Chocolate has added to it scads of sugar and milk solids. White 'Chocolate' has only the cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar - no actual 'chocolate' at all! Since it has cocoa butter, which comes from the bean, it gets away with calling itself 'chocolate', but really.....  Dark Chocolate, on the other hand, though a little bitter to my taste, is full of anti-oxidants and is said to be very healthful.
White 'chocolate', Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate.
The top layer is cocoa butter, the dark layer is chocolate.
The middle white layer in the first two cylinders is milk solids, and
the bottom layer in all three is sugar.

I am sure you can all agree that this was an excellent and informative way to wind up the Conference. Trade Marks attorneys know how to confer to great advantage.

Soon it will be time to leave Phoenix and return to London. I will miss the desert light.

Goodbye Pumpkinville.

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