We've had a week of immense chocolate knowledge conveyed to us at the Notterschool.
It's amazing how much you can learn about this extremely versatile ingredient.
About a year ago; I made truffles. Bought some couverture pieces; melted them into a glossy liquid; stirred it around till it looked thick and cooled a little; went ahead and coated my truffles sticks; and they'd set, glossy, crisp, smooth and just perfect. I sometimes would have issues with the coating setting too slowly; and having little streaks of white of my truffles when I made them in a hurry. I wonder why I never stopped to ask myself; why.... or better yet, ask myself why don't I do something to correct it. Hmm... I never even knew what 'tempering' of chocolate actually meant, or what it was used for! How silly of me. I should have made more of an effort to learn about it myself.
After a whirlwind of chocolate lectures this weekend; I'm proud to finally say; I now finally know what chocolate truly is. I was so intrigued by the many facts and hints I was given by Chef Ewald Notter and Chef Anil Rohira; I'd go home, review my notes, research more about what I've been told... and now.. WoW.. I never imagined there was so much more to find out!
Chef Anil Rohira came by to our class at the NotterSchool to give us a days worth of enlightenment on "Chocolate Methodology". Initially; I was skeptical about enjoying the lecture. 8 hours worth of a dude speaking about chocolate? I was already scheming a plan to hide, doze off in the corner, out of sight. *giggle* Fortunately for me though; there was no need for any of that!
Chef Anil had my full attention throughout the day. He spoke about the origins of chocolate; How it is derived from Cocoa beans; the varieties of beans in different parts of the world; How to determine the appropriate chocolates for different baking/dessert purposes and finally how to create decadent dessert masterpieces by using a sequential format of being creative with flavors and textures. I had lots of fun that day; tasting chocolate niblets all morning wasn't too bad either~ Of course; those were strictly for the purpose of research and learning *sneaky grin*
- cacao: the tree; the pods and the unfermented beans contained in the pods
- cocoa: The fermented beans and the powder made from them which is used to make chocolate
- chocolate: the seeds of the cocoa plant after processing; whether liquid; or solid
- couverture: A professional quality chocolate made with premium beans, ground to a very fine particle size, and rich in cocoa butter. (at least 31% or more cocoa butter content in chocolate)
- tempering: recrystallization of couverture to lower its temperature in a time frame with constant agitation. This allows chocolate to set quick, glossy and smooth.
A popular theory is that the word 'chocolate' is most likely to have originated with the Nahuatl language which is indigenous to central Mexico; 'Xocolatl' was derived from xocolli(bitter) atl(water)Back from our brief lunch break; we were tickled to find little numbered cups filled with clear liquids, shredded carrots, it's juice and a red liquid at our tables. Chef Anil had prepared for us the Frutta Prima Dessert Composition lecture; filled with many tasting and scoring activities. Its objective was to allow us to optimally evaluate our own dessert creations and those of others. He taught us about the importance of interactions between human sensory perceptions and the steps to developing a successful dessert.
Cacao beans were used by the Aztecs to prepare a hot, frothy beverage with stimulant and restorative properties itself was reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. The Aztecs esteemed its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality. Taken fermented as a drink, chocolate was also used in religious ceremonies. The sacred concoction was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Aztec taxation was levied in cacao beans. 100 cacao beans could buy a slave. 12 cacao beans bought the services of courtesan. Aztec emperor Montezuma was the worlds first chocoholic to drink 50 golden goblets of chocolate everyday. It was thick; dyed red and flavoured with chili peppers.
In 1597, English buccaneers burned a shipload full of cocoa beans, thinking they were sheep droppings! Oh no!
The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature which is why it literally melts in your mouth
Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous 45-second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcocks movie Psycho, which actually took seven days to shoot.
A study at Cornell University showed that hot chocolate comprises double the concentration of antioxidants compared to red wine, two to three times more than green tea, and four to five times more than black tea.
The cocoa tree was given the technical name Theobroma cacao, literally transalating to 'food of the gods' by Swedish naturalist and chocolate enthusiast Carolus Linnaeus.(facts from Des Alpes Methodology; Albert Uster Imports 2006)
Just before we were let off; he hurriedly exclaimed, "Who can tell me what berry juice is in the red liquid cup in less than 3 seconds!" Most of us excitedly yelled out; CRAnberry JUICE!" We were so wrong... *laughs* It was apple juice; coloured red. Just because we were told it was a berry; and it was red; we couldn't tell in an instance; the real flavour of the juice. I guess what we see and how we perceive things does affect how we taste our food. I felt a little conned ....*pout* hehe...It was an amazing experience.
The Monday right after; we had the opportunity to dive-in, hands-on into actually tempering and making the chocolates! Chef Ewald Notter took over Chef Mary's teaching for a day and showed us the tricks and secrets of tempering chocolate well. He then showed us the many simple garnishes we could create with just a long knife, some paper and an off-set spatula.
I'm pretty enthusiastic about making Chocolate Easter Eggs for Easter this weekend. I'm still figuring out how I'm going to work that out! I hope they'll let us make some in school tomorrow.