Chocolate Treats and Truffles: A Chocolate Lover’s Delight

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Chocolate Treats and Truffles, held at the world renowned International Culinary Center in lower Manhattan, a four hour intensive that focuses on the fine art of creating mouth watering, indulging, sinfully delicious chocolate confectionary treats!

The International Culinary Center, (ICC), situated on the edge of the Soho Section of Manhattan, houses both the French Culinary Center and the Italian Culinary Academy. The corner block building, on Broadway and Grand Streets, is also home to the ICC's restaurant L'Ecole, where student chefs turn their training into truth all under the supervision of internationally celebrated master chefs.


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The class began at 10:00 a.m., in the same industrial kitchens used for the students enrolled in the professional culinary program, with a formal introduction to the art of chocolate making. All student are given a blue ICC Chef's apron and a French style beret or skull cap to wear during the course of the class.

Chocolate Treats and Truffles taught by Chef Tom Jones and Chef Rebecca Kaiser, the Master Pastry Arts Chef's at ICC, began with an overview of the origins of Chocolate, the geographical location cocoa beans are found, hand harvesting and the process of extracting the white cocoa seed from the pod which becomes "nib" or the real chocolate, the fermenting process and roasted beans. The couveratur or the fat content in cocoa butter is the key to making really beautiful chocolate candy. It gives the chocolate the snap, shine, smooth flavor and mouth watering appearance.


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The course, Chocolate Treats and Truffles, is designed to instill the knowledge of and create ease and comfort with the process of exquisite chocolate creations.  Culinary industry terms become very important as one progresses through the class; introducing, agitating and enrobing the chocolate are important terms used throughout the class. Simply stated, introducing is to add; agitating is to stir and enrobing; to coat.

The full emersion method of instruction utilized by the school in both the professional program and recreational classes includes a walk-through process that had the class of twenty-three, circled around the "bench" watching as Chef Tom explained, through demonstration, tempering cooling methods.  The combined extensive experience and dedication to the traditions of chocolate creations making were skillfully exhibited in the teaching style.

The class was divided into a morning and afternoon session. The morning class consisted of the lecture on chocolate origins; tempering and molding. Taking the mystery out of mold making releases the creativity of the chef and begins the experimentation process the limits of which is ones imagination.

The Art of Mold Making

Chef Tom chose to teach us the art of mold making and creating Truffles ′A L′Orange or Orange Truffles, Rochees, and Amandes Enrobees De Chocolat or Chocolate Nuts.  It's difficult to believe that in a four-hour time frame, without any culinary experience, one can leave with the expertise necessary to impress friends, family and even oneself!


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After the in-depth explanation on chocolate origins Chef Tom moved onto the process of tempering chocolate; the means necessary to create the optimum structure in which the chocolate can be used for the confectionary creations.   

An analogy of tempered chocolate would be snow. In order to have snow the temperature must drop to a certain level and in order to pack snow into snow balls or other creations it has to be even colder and in a certain temperature range; too cold and the snow doesn't pack; too warm and the snow melts.  

It is the same process, in reverse, for tempering chocolate. The chocolate must be within an optimum temperature to create the delicious and mouth-watering treats that we love or desire to love.  In order to form the ideal structure the chocolate must at 81 degrees and can never exceed 90 degrees. This window of temperature creates two challenges for the chef: The first is maintaining the temperature and the second is expediently creating the necessary molds or enrobing the desired treats in the optimum temperature range.


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According to Chef Tom, "Chocolate is unforgiving. It doesn't allow you to break the rules to much. "The tempering process calls for heating the chocolate beyond the temper stage to melt the fat crystals; At this point when the mixture is to warm, like a fever with a child, the chocolate must be cooled. There are multiple options either an cool water bath which literally equates to sitting the chocolate bowl atop a second bowl with ice water; also introducing additional nibs to the chocolate or tabling, another method of cooling, consists of pouring the chocolate onto a marble surface and it immediately draws the heat from the chocolate. The Tabling method is not used in most shops or home preparation due to space constraints, risk of contamination and the mess.

Expecting the molding process to be intricate, exasperating and difficult, I was surprised when Chef Tom introduced the latex balloon method. Handing each student a small latex balloon, the kind bought at the five and dime, we watched as he dipped the balloon into the chocolate covering the bottom of the balloon and inching midway to create a large round bowl of chocolate at the bottom so the balloon had become a black and white.

My classmates were creating larger scalloped edged bowls by dipping the side of the balloon into the chocolate. Deciding to create the same design by laying my balloon down, into the chocolate, on its side and rotating it until the balloon had been dipped four times creating a scallop edged large bowl. The balloons were collected as the chocolate needed to harden in order to be filled with the other candies we would be making.

Enrobing Chocolates

During the class break our stations were stocked with Truffle centers that had been made earlier. We would enrobe them and move on to creating Rochees and Amandes Enrobees De Chocolat. The technique used to create the Truffle center would be demonstrated as we continued. 

There are several methods utilized for enrobing chocolate. The prong method; simply drop a set truffle center into the chocolate, enrobe and scoop the truffle out with a wide set tine prong that allows the excess chocolate to drip through the tines. Or the hand dipped method; which is simply dropping the truffle center into the chocolate and in your latex gloved hand swirl large amounts of the tempered chocolate around the truffle center, enrobe and place for setting. We used the hand dipped method.

The next demonstration was Rochees. This is simpler than it sounds. Rochees are a no bake chocolate candy with almond slivers and orange zest. Orange Zest is candied orange peel. Combining small amounts of the ingredients in a slightly warm bowl, to extend the working time, pour the tempered chocolate over the ingredients and using ones hand enrobe the ingredients until they are coated; set in small amounts, a parchment, allowing the candy to take it own "rock" formation. This was very easy.

Amandes Enrobes De Chocolat or Chocolate Nuts involves some prep time for the almonds or the nut of choice. In this case the almonds needed to be crystallized or sugar coated. Sugar and water are added together and heated, agitating frequently, adding the nuts to the mixture, continuing stirring. The mixture goes through various grades of crystallization passing through a sandy and graining appearance until the nuts become coated and the sugar is white and, clings fully or, enrobes the nuts.

The nuts are cooled; remembering that any temperature variation to the chocolate could take it out of temper or remove it from its optimum working temperature, the cooled nuts are placed in a working bowl and enrobed with the chocolate. Then, before the chocolate is set the nuts are tossed into a bowl of powdered sugar or other top coat.

Truffles

To create the center for the Orange Truffle, Chef Tom, used a standard recipe for Orange Truffles. Truffles are made with heavy cream which is heated with the orange juice. After the ingredients were combined they were poured over the tempered chocolate which is then out of temper which then becomes "ganache." The process includes smoothing the grainy ganache until it appears blended, keeping the mixer no higher than mixture level so not to introduce air into the ganache.  The mixture is then spread on parchment paper to set. After setting, the mixture is prepared for piping. Using a Number 5 tip the ganache is piped into small round mounds then refrigerated to set.


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It is important to remember that any of these recipes are easily manipulated to include a personal twist. Orange Truffles can become Raspberry Truffles simply by substituting zest of raspberry or a simple juice press of fresh raspberries. Also the Truffles can be enrobed in a finely chopped Hazelnut Rochee or the same mixture can be the center filling. The same with Chocolate Nuts; this can be the nut of your choice.

Then, it was time to get the molds we began with and see just exactly what our latex balloon bowls had become. The balloon does not peel off the sides; it is popped and contracts off the chocolate into busted balloon pieces at the bottom. The edible chocolate bowl has texture, firmness and shine. We then filled them to the top with all the mouth water, indulging, sinfully delicious chocolate treats we had created!

Chocolate Treats and Truffles is an intensive, entertaining, informative and sinfully delicious look into the art of creating grand chocolate masterpieces. The beginner, novice and expert all can enjoy the four hour session. The International Culinary Center has trained some of the most highly skilled culinary talents that have brought many Manhattan restaurants the coveted stars and elevated already lauded eateries into the stratosphere.

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