McCall’s Pure Chocolate Workshop review

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This week I attended the Pure Chocolate Workshop at McCall’s School of Cake Decoration with Boyfriend Unit. I was hoping to learn more about making good creamy fillings for my chocolates. I rank my knowledge level close to intermediate, I know how to temper by hand, I dabble in recipe crafting, but so far my creations lack a certain “oomph”. I was really excited to learn from a professional. And what I made after I got home, well… you’ll see.

Cost: $75 per person

Course length: 3 hours

What did we learn:

  • introduction to couverture chocolate and how to handle it
  • melting and tempering
  • working chocolate (tabling) on a marble slab
  • dipping chocolate
  • types of fillings and shelf life
  • storage and temperature
  • moulding and filling

If you’re in the GTA, McCall’s is on Bloor St West between Kipling and Islington, we walked up from Kipling Station. This course is offered once per season. I’ve never been to McCall’s before, and the inside is a lot bigger than you can tell from the street view. There is a retail shop in the front and a teaching kitchen in the back. It was filled with all sorts of glorious machines and tools that I wanted to cart home.

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Our instructor was Kay, who has 30+ years industry experience. She was very knowledgable, and funny. She spent some time talking about different brands of fine chocolate, the conching and tempering process. I have tempered on stove top via double boiler, and in the microwave, and with a professional tempering machine. I have never tabled chocolate on a marble slab before and that is the method we learned.

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^ the box of everything we made in the course

I’m glad I got to try tabling chocolate, but never again! We screwed up the milk chocolate twice before she intervened. How embarrassing. We got to work with polycarbonate moulds, and learned some different techniques to get pretty designs on the chocolate.

I learned a lot, and had a great time. I’d recommend this course to anybody who wants to learn more about working with chocolate.

What I made when I got home:

When she showed us how to coat a mould, everybody said “Ooooh” at the same time, and I decided to try it out on my silicone moulds.

After you temper some chocolate, pour it into your mould until it overflows. Don’t worry about being neat or even. Now whack it on the counter to remove air bubbles and ensure the entire cavity is filled.

You turn it upside down so all the chocolate drips out onto the parchment paper (see top right) and use a palette scrape to pull the excess away.Turn it and shake it a bit to get an even coating, and don’t throw the excess away, once it sets, it is easily peeled off the parchment paper and you save it to re-temper.) You end up with moulds coated in chocolate with hollow centres.

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This will set in under 20 minutes, and then IT IS TIME.
Pipe in the homemade caramel sauce!

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Tap to settle it, and top up with more tempered chocolate. Again scrape away the excess.

And in about half an hour, you have this!

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Tah-dah!

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I mean, just look at it!

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Glorious! This is so much better than the hard caramels I’ve made before. I am so excited to send this to my family in December.

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Faux Louis

After I wound up with very malleable chocolate buttercream, I wondered if I could make a homemade Jos Louis. For the uninitiated, a Jos Louis is a Canadian pastry sold by Vachon; two layers of red velvet cake, filled with vanilla cream, covered in a milk chocolate coating. I’m not sure why they are so good, but: they are.

(Spoiler alert: yes, I can make them.)

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I didn’t realize until I was writing this up that they’re made with red velvet, so I made another batch of devil’s food cupcakes. Oh well.

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Was careful to avoid overfilling this time. ^^

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After slicing horizontally, a thin layer of chocolate buttercream was applied. A real Jos Louis uses vanilla creme but I had no plans for this icing and the consistency was right so I went for it.

I melted more Callebaut Belgian chocolate and dropped one in. Whee!

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Used dipping prongs to turn it around and set it on parchment paper for an hour.

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I was lazy and didn’t temper the chocolate, so just stuck them in the fridge. And voila!

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Verdict:

Definitely good. Not exactly a Jos Louis but not bad. Until reading up on Vachon’s website, I didn’t actually realize it was red velvet with a milk chocolate coating, I just knew I liked them. Now I’m curious how close I can get to a real Jos Louis.

After I get over this chocolate fatigue I’ll try this again and see what I can do. But not for awhile, I’m so over chocolate for August.

Playlist:

Nelly – Shake Ya Tail Feathers

Dessert at Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

Finally! I have been to Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie, and it’s totally worth a flight to Moncton. My sister has been raving about it for months. After sampling the goods I completely understand. Let this sink in for a minute.

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Tony’s is located at 137 McLaughlin Drive, Moncton, NB, E1A 4P4. It opened in 2013 and the owner/chef is Tony Holden, who has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and Emperor Akihito. He has almost 30 years of experience and trained under French pastry chefs. Tony’s is a licensed bistro, with a varied menu, and a pastry display cabinet that will halt you in your tracks.

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We had just eaten dinner with my family, so we ordered dessert; carrot cake, raspberry cheesecake, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, lemon tart, and coffee. Yes I know. Totally sinful. It all looked so good and I couldn’t decide on just one thing.

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What was it like? Firstly, the presentation was gorgeous. Someone takes pride in their work.

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And everything was delicious. The mousse (paradise in a cup) was so creamy!  The meringue is covering the lemon tart, which was exquisite. And the crème brûlée was impressive!

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How do they get the sugar to glass like that? When I make it, my sugar topping does not look like that! It was like stained glass and you could hear the snap when you broke it with the spoon. I was intrigued to see a tray of the custards in the display fridge, as every recipe I’ve read for this dessert says don’t caramelize the sugar ahead of time or it will sink into the custard. Clearly there is a way to make this work! I must learn this.

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The carrot cake and the cheesecake were both excellent as well. Oh, yum, so glad we went!

Review:

From the street, you really cannot tell what’s inside. I grew up 30 minutes from Moncton and Tony’s is not located in a neighbourhood that screams “delicious high-end food here”. The decor inside was pretty and spacious and bright. It’s a nice shock to find a place like Tony’s in that part of Moncton.

We visited around 6:30pm on a Wednesday. The server was pleasant and efficient.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety and quantity of desserts in the pastry cabinet. Some restaurants are pretty bare at that time of day, so it was really nice to see such a gorgeous display, and to get to try whatever I wanted.

The food was sublime, and reasonably priced.

I’ve decided on two new personal goals for myself. The first is that I shall visit Tony’s more often when I am in the area, just once was not enough! The second is that I shall become a person of international acclaim so perhaps Tony will cook for me. God, can you imagine?

Born to dye

Experiments with natural dyes have run amok. Using spinach, turmeric, and beets, I was able to produce pots of bright dye, but adding them to the fillings did not accomplish much.

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Have you ever had an idea that seemed really great in your head? When I was little, I decided I would carve a wooden deer for my dad on Father’s Day. I had no source of income, ergo my consumer purchasing power was nil. So I decided to carve! Mind you I had no experience with carving, but I did have a stack of firewood and Dad’s set of carving tools. Several hours later, I had a mangled piece of wood and some splinters for my pain, no deer; that’s what homemade dye brings to mind.

The concept of dying my chocolate fillings seemed solid.  Making a pot of dye is fairly simple, simmer about 4 cups of water with ½ C of puréed vegetable or spice, and voila! But after the dye is made, adding it to the filling did not change the colour. Oh, woe.

Notes from the drawing board:

This base yields enough filling for 30 centres x 4 flavours, 120 pieces total.

Combine: 2 C icing sugar, 1½ TBSP unsalted butter, ¼ tsp vanilla, 2 TBSP evaporated milk.  Divide into 4 bowls.

Add flavouring oils to 3 bowls (none for the butter creams)

Peppermint oil = extremely potent, no more than 3 small drops. Several drops of spinach dye, no discernible difference. Cannot taste spinach.

Raspberry cream oil = very potent, 3 small drops quite strong also.  Adding 8 drops of beat juice sweetened it, yields soft pink colour.

Orange cream oil = weak, lost count after 30 drops, flavour is mild and weak bouquet, wtf. Several drops of turmeric dye, no change. Cannot taste spice.

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I like the idea of dying my chocolate fillings for two reasons:

  1. I am a 2-bite chocolate person. I like to look at the centre before it’s gone, so I want to see a pink raspberry cream or an orange filling
  2. It’s difficult to keep 4 bowls of fillings straight, after awhile your sense of smell and taste goes numb and you sit there, “Is this the orange cream or the butter cream??” The different colours would make it easy.

I don’t want to give up and use artificial dye. After all, my chocolate packaging hails them as containing “dairy, nuts, and all-natural vegetable dyes”. It’s either figure it out or give up on dye. It tooks days to get the letter spacing just so, no way in hell am I redrawing the chocolate map.

Boyfriend asked me, “Why do you want to dye peppermint patties green anyway? Aren’t they white??”

I think it was that I wanted 4 distinct colours since we had 4 flavoured cream fillings, and I thought peppermint leaves are green, raspberries are pink, butter is yellow, and orange is orange.

My problem is I don’t experiment before I need the dye, I just assume I will do XZY on Chocolate Shoppe Day and it will work. Clearly I need to try substituting more of the evaporated milk with the dye to balance out the liquid, and add enough to see the colour, yet not taste the base of the dye, perhaps more icing sugar to stiffen it up.

Playlist: Halo 2 – Mjölnir Mix

Chocolate avocado pudding

I know. It sounds weird. But it’s strangely delicious.

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I found this recipe in a book called Healthy Desserts, there is no author listed but the byline says Culinary Notebooks. I got it at Chapters.

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Time required: 1.5 hours

Yields: 3-4 puddings

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $24

Cost per pudding: $6

Kitchen implements I used:

  • food processor
  • ramequins

Ingredients:

  • 3 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • ½ C cocoa
  • ⅔ C honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of coarse sea salt

Instructions:

1. Peel and pit the avocados, and use a butter knife to gently separate the peel from the fruit. I fumbled one and dropped half an avocado on the floor so I didn’t have enough. Curse and scream as desired.

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2. Puree until smooth, and add everything except the salt. Mix well.

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During the taste test it was way too bitter so I doubled the amount of honey from ⅓C to ⅔C which improved things dramatically, however I find it now tastes a bit too honeyed. Foiled again.

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3. Spoon into ramequins and sprinkle with sea salt.

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5. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

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Verdict:

“Here, try it.”

“No thank you.”

“You… don’t want it? Why not??”

“You said it was bitter!”

“That was before I added more honey! Try it. Before my feelings are hurt.”

“Okay… it tastes… like chocolate pudding.”

“But do you like it?”

“It tastes like chocolate pudding.”

“So that’s a yes?”

Playlist: Bat for Lashes – Siren Song

Christmas chocolates ver 2.0

 

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and up in the city,
We made lots of chocolate, but not in a jiffy
The boxes were packed and sent on the train,
In hopes that my peeps would enjoy them again.

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What is better than chocolate? If you guessed “not very much” you would be right, and if you guessed “homemade chocolates” you’re be righter. More right? Whatever.

I have just finished eating a chocolate, which we made last week as Christmas gifts for family and friends. Last year we had lots of pretty boxes. I sort of forgot to order more boxes and we ran out this time. Luckily Boyfriend channeled MacGyver and made me some DIY boxes.

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I was really excited to make chocolates again this year because we got all the extra chocolate moulds I wanted, and had two of each shape, which makes it a lot easier to do.  Here is the map.

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Tried two new flavours this year: milk chocolate and toasted almond, and semi-sweet chocolate caramel chews. Said bye-bye to the dulche de leche and chocolate ganache.

I am so over the idea of Toblerone ganache. It never works out. “Toblerone goo” would be more apt. Never again! I’m just melting solid Toblerone bars from now on.

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I really love making chocolates. Just looking at them fills me with joy. I have a few more boxes to give to some friends. 😉

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I also made my peppermint bark. Le yum.

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What type of chocolate is your favourite?

 

The Devil’s rejects

Sometimes substituting ingredients can lead to rapturous results. Other times, not so much. Like tonight, when I decided to make devil’s chocolate cupcakes, without buttermilk. But looks can be deceiving, will these devil’s wannabes live up to my expectations?

I haven’t baked in … yikes! I hemmed and hawed this afternoon over what I could make, and cupcakes kept coming up. I rummaged through the fridge and found 2% milk and heavy cream. No buttermilk. Think think think. Cupcakes with…heavy cream? This could be a prelude to a heart attack.

I’m game.

I dusted off Nemo and got to work, creaming the butter and sugar together.

Mixed the dry ingredients together.

Added dry and cream to mixing bowl in alternating pours.

Stared at batter in bemused silence. It seems… foamy?

Houston, we don’t have doming. This can’t be good.

Flat tops with two leavening agents? Ugh. Decided to mix up frosting and hope for the best. (Best thing about having two bowls for your mixer is not having to clean the bowl in between stuff. Go Nemo go!)

Sampled frosting and…. woah. That is some sweet, sweet icing. Also much too light in colour. Not quite what I had in mind.

Verdict:

No wonder the devil rejected them, back to the drawing board on this one. It turns out that the only acceptable substitute for buttermilk is milk and vinegar, but even then it’s not nearly as good.

Well, I tried. It didn’t really work out but they were still palatable, just not my best. They were slightly overdone, oddly dense, and with overly sweet frosting. Boyfriend enjoyed them despite those flaws, bless him!

The search for the perfect chocolate buttercream continues. Stay tuned!

Playlist: various Final Fantasy tracks