Melt­ing mo­ments for a chocoholic

Our writer puts her willpower to the test at a truf­fle-mak­ing ses­sion.

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IT WAS a gift for my mother-in­law – a voucher to at­tend a truf­fle-mak­ing work­shop at a pri­vate choco­late ate­lier.

The sup­posed ic­ing on the cake would be that my hus­band and I would ac­com­pany her, thus giv­ing her the added plea­sure of “our time and com­pany.” At least that was how my bet­ter half sug­ar­coated what I (still) sus­pect was a self-serv­ing gift.

So last Satur­day, a day af­ter Valen­tine’s, the three of us trooped into the quaint Mis­chis Schokoate­lier in one of Frankfurt’s hip­per quar­ters for a three-hour work­shop, dur­ing which we learnt how to make four types of truf­fles namely, white choco­late truf­fles with a rasp­berry liqueur fill­ing, dark choco­late truf­fle with a choco­late ganache fill­ing, dark chilli choco­late sticks coated in co­coa and soft milk choco­late truf­fles.

Hav­ing ar­rived 30 min­utes ear­lier, we drooled over all the tan­ta­lis­ing de­lights dis­played on the shelves lin­ing the shop’s walls. Slabs of choco­late gen­er­ously dot­ted with pis­ta­chios, Brazil nuts or macadamias, ex­otic con­coc­tions of dark and white choco­late spiked with chilli, gin­ger or other spices, and ed­i­ble choco­late ar­tis­ti­cally fash­ioned into stilet­tos or CDs, which would be a pity to con­sume any­way.

My hus­band (who was start­ing to dis­play that crazed, glazed look of Cookie Monster) was as chuffed as a kid in a, well, candy shop. In fact, he an­nounced that he wouldn’t mind be­ing “ac­ci­den­tally” locked up overnight in the shop and plot­ted his imag­i­nary noc­tur­nal tour of tast­ing the tan­ta­lis­ing tit­bits.

My mum-in-law and I were mean­while dis­tracted by the bak­ing tak­ing place fur­ther in and promptly placed our or­ders for slices of moist choco­late cake gen­er­ously dusted with pow­dered co­coa.

Even­tu­ally, all the work­shop par­tic­i­pants ar­rived and we moved on to our work­sta­tions, which were lined with pre-pre­pared white and dark choco­late truf­fle shells, bowls of sprin­kles, coloured su­gar crys­tals and gold and sil­ver ed­i­ble balls as well as the nec­es­sary tools to dec­o­rate the truf­fles.

We were handed flutes of cham­pagne while we took ev­ery­thing in. Af­ter all, noth­ing loosens up a crowd at 10am on a Satur­day morn­ing dur­ing win­ter than bub­bly and bon bons. In fact Michael, the choco­latier who trained us, was con­sid­er­ate enough to place a pile of dark, milk and white choco­late pel­lets on the cor­ner of ev­ery work­sta­tion as Ner­ven­fut­ter (food for the nerves); you know, for steady hands while dec­o­rat­ing our truf­fles.

Michael, who was lean and of slight build, then in­tro­duced him­self to us say­ing that he has been in the busi­ness for close to 10 years, thus prompt­ing some­one to pipe up, “Well, you cer­tainly don’t look it!” While ev­ery­one laughed heartily, he clar­i­fied that it all de­pends on the qual­ity of the choco­late.

A col­lec­tive gasp went round when he claimed that he eats at least 100g of choco­late a day. Clearly what passes his lips, by­passes his hips!

Af­ter that it was time to get cracking. We were shown how to melt and tem­per choco­late, with ev­ery­one get­ting a chance to man­u­ally stir the dif­fer­ent choco­late mix­tures and fill­ings that we’d even­tu­ally be work­ing with.

The fill­ings were then di­vided into lit­tle pip­ing bags with which each of us had to fill our pre-pre­pared truf­fle shells. With brows knit in con­cen­tra­tion, si­lence de­scended upon the group, punc­tu­ated only by groans of ir­ri­ta­tion when­ever a shell was over­filled. How­ever, Michael merely in­toned, “Don’t worry, you can al­ways wipe the ex­cess off with your fin­ger and lick it up.” We didn’t need to be told twice. We were even al­lowed to lick the mix­ing bowls and stir­ring spoons. Bliss.

The filled truf­fles were then set aside for hard­en­ing and we tack­led the soft chilli choco­late sticks in­stead. Each of us had to pipe an un­bro­ken line of the mix­ture onto a bak­ing tin af­ter which they had to be dusted with co­coa pow­der. For the avid bak­ers read­ing this, here’s an in­ter­est­ing tip: if you don’t have a sieve you can also use the foot end of a pan­ty­hose or an an­kle stock­ing (un­used, of course!). Just fill the stock­ing with co­coa and bounce it and voila – per­fectly dusted con­fec­tionery.

Then we had to umm, “hedge­hog”, the re­main­ing soft milk truf­fle. First we had to roll them into balls and then do the “dip, tap and roll.” That is, we dipped the balls into melted choco­late and af­ter they were prop­erly coated, we fished them out with a truf­fle fork.

This has less tines than a tra­di­tional fork and which we then had to tap against the bowl to drain off any ex­cess melted choco­late. And fi­nally we rolled the coated truf­fles on a jagged­edged wire rack, giv­ing it a spiky ap­pear­ance. Hence, the hedge­hog.

And fi­nally it was time to dec­o­rate our hard­ened truf­fles. We were once again handed pip­ing bags filled with melted white choco­late and were told that we had a free hand at how to driz­zle the con­coc­tion over the truf­fles. My artsy hus­band piped a few lopsided smi­leys on some of his, while the less ad­ven­tur­ous me stayed in the safe zone of swirls and squig­gles.

Even­tu­ally we all ended up hav­ing a com­bi­na­tion of 36 truf­fles each, which we were then al­lowed to pack into lit­tle gift boxes to take home. This was in ad­di­tion to the chilli choco­late sticks of which we each also re­ceived a bag, with the added warn­ing from Michael that the sticks had to be con­sumed within seven days. Need­less to say, my hus­band has taken this to heart.

In all, it was a plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially in the com­pany of fel­low chocoholic novices. My mum-in-law has been rav­ing about it since.

Mean­while, we are try­ing to go easy on our com­bined loot of 72 truf­fles. Un­for­tu­nately, in the clash of the win­ter blues and willpower, the truf­fle al­ways wins.

Brenda Bene­dict is a Malaysian liv­ing in Frankfurt. ‘Cho­co­lat’ by Joanne Har­ris is one of her all-time favourite books. Hav­ing Johnny Depp on the cover is the maraschino cherry on top!

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