Melting moments for a chocoholic
Our writer puts her willpower to the test at a truffle-making session.
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!