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Into the dark

Into the dark
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First Published: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 46 AM IST

Temper the liquid chocolate for shine and shelf life. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Temper the liquid chocolate for shine and shelf life. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Updated: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 46 AM IST
Last week, I thought being let loose in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room would be bliss. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve just spent an afternoon in European brand Barry Callebaut’s two-month-old Chocolate Academy in Mumbai, surrounded by chocolate. Inhaling its aroma and working with it left me pretty chocolate-satiated.
Temper the liquid chocolate for shine and shelf life. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
I walked straight into the training kitchen lined with colourful mixers, chocolate melters and glistening steel refrigerators. I was there for a basic lesson in making chocolates.
My first insight brought home the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier. Barry Callebaut is a high-end chocolate maker—one who converts cacao beans into gourmet couverture, the raw, solid form of chocolate that goes into making chocolates and chocolate-based confectionery. And chocolatiers use this couverture to make the chocolates we love eating. The academy trains professional, semi-professional and aspiring chocolate confectioners to make premium confectionery, of course using and promoting Callebaut’s products. These include couverture, fillings, toppings, glazes and more.
Insight two: Chocolate compound blocks (cooking chocolate), available at local grocers for as low as Rs80 per kg, are very different from couverture, which contains real cocoa butter.
Next came the hands-on lesson in making filled chocolates— pouring 2kg of dark chocolate callets (pellets) into the melter to temper it (Callebaut’s basic couverture sells for Rs 600 per kg). Tempering crystallizes the fat into edible form. It requires temperature control, vigorous stirring, cooling, and reheating. Technical Adviser Abhiru Biswas, who conducted the lesson, explained that tempering gives chocolate a shiny look, decent shelf life and snap when you break it.
Two hours later, the tempered chocolate was ready to be poured into moulds to create delicate chocolate shells.
The shells were set to cool in special refrigerators at 11-12 degrees Celsius with 40% humidity. Biswas said good chocolate could be made even without fancy equipment. After that, my lesson turned theoretical, as the shells require 24 hours to cool before being filled.
Heat and humidity spoil chocolate and we’re told never to refrigerate chocolates. So, what does one do in a country like India, where chocolate melts at room temperature? Biswas suggested putting chocolates in an airtight container in a cool, dark place— even an air-conditioned room— and never varying the temperature by more than 10 degrees Celsius at a time. No sticking that melted bar in the freezer! And, while chocolate experts don’t recommend this, you can place your chocolates in an airtight box and move it gradually from an air-conditioned room to a refrigerator. Take out only what you will eat, bring it to room temperature in an airtight container, and then consume.
Through the afternoon, I tasted chocolates and desserts made at the academy, and sampled their single-origin couverture, made from cacao beans from Ecuador, Ghana and elsewhere.
As I came away, I realized it’s a complicated chocolate world out there, with its own band of chocolate connoisseurs and snobs.
The academy offers three courses:
Basic: 1.5-2 days (Rs5,000); intermediate: 2-3 days (about Rs10,000); advanced: 2-3 days (about Rs10,000)
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First Published: Sat, Oct 04 2008. 12 46 AM IST