Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Chocolate Techniques Class with Tilla

When my friend Tilla told me about the Chocolate Techniques Class he planned to attend in November,he asked if I was interested. It took me about 2 minutes to decide, I got on the internet and enrolled immediately. It was being held at The Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. I am a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America but they had only just touched on chocolate, I had always wanted to study the mysteries of chocolate and here was a perfect opportunity. Having heard some good things about ICE and couldn't wait to begin. Our class began at 10 AM, I picked up two coffees from Starbucks and met Tilla in the lobby.
We absolutely adored our instructor, Michelle Tampakis. We both agreed we learned more about chocolate in the first hour of that class than we had learned in our entire lives. I finally understand what the percentages listed on the chocolate bars mean.
After a lecture that began with the cocoa bean to the resulting coverture, Michelle than tempered dark chocolate and made coconut and almond clusters. Here she demonstrates an almond roasted completely thorough. Important because if it isn't completely roasted the moisture left in the nut will spoil the chocolate and cause the nut to become rancid, shortening the life of the confection. Not that anything will last long enough to become rancid around my house.After tempering the chocolate, she mixed in the almonds and coconut and spooned them onto a parchment lined sheet pan.
Left to set up, she explained that hardening in the air will make them dry a looking dull.
Once they had set up, she than drizzled them in milk chocolate. Dull or not, they looked delicious!We went to work at tables that were already set up with everything we could possibly need. They even had someone to wash the pots!
We had decided to make white chocolate clusters with walnuts and dried cherries. Tilla began measuring the chocolate.
We had to melt the chocolate and bring it up to a temperature between 115 degrees and 120 degrees.
Stir to dissolve the lumps.
Cool the melted chocolate down to 84-88 degrees F by adding extra chocolate, or seeding as it's called.Keep checking the temperature. The chocolate needs to be between 84 and 88 degrees for white and milk chocolate, dark has to be within the zone of 87-91 degrees. This is for the ultimate shine and flavor. Sometimes you have to go back to the bain marie to warm it a bit. We spent a lot of time going back and forth between the stove and table. Michelle said the best way to melt chocolate was in a microwave oven. The school had none, so we used a bain marie. A simple metal bowl in a pot of simmering water.Once the chocolate was at the correct temperature, we added 12 ounces total of walnuts and cherries.Working quickly, they were folded into the white chocolate.Tilla, hard at work.
Once the clusters were spooned onto the sheet pan, and cooled, we melted some dark chocolate and piped it on top. They looked gorgeous!About this time another class delivered the dessert they had been making that morning. Layers of chocolate and vanilla mousse topped with meringue. Yummy! We were starting to develop symptoms of sugar shock!
Moving right along, we decided to make a dark chocolate bark of pistachios and dried cherries.
Tilla became an expert at tempering chocolate! He could really work that thermometer.
Can you tell we both adore dried cherries?
To enhance the look of the bark, always top it with more of the same ingredients you used to make it. Here we placed more pistachios and dried cherries on the top. Then we used the white chocolate we had already tempered to drizzle on the top.
The finished product!Michelle than began dipping fruit in chocolate.
We had to follow suite.
We learned to dress our strawberries in tuxedos.My favorite was the dried mango dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with chili pepper flakes.
The white chocolate was just as yummy.
Tilla was really trying hard to get the feel of making a paper coronet for piping. Rest assured he finally got the hang of it.
Michelle then demo-ed transfer paper for decorating chocolate.
Spread your tempered chocolate over the transfer plastic.
Cut angles into the chocolate.
Roll it up and put it in the refrigerator to chill.
When it has set, remove and slowly unwind the plastic. The chocolate will break into triangles which are perfect to decorate a finished dessert or ice cream.
These are the on-line purveyors Michelle recommended.
We were able to bring our unused chocolate home.
Tilla and I knew we couldn't live withou a chocolate thermometer, on Michelle's recommendation we immediately went to JB Price at 60 East 31 st. street, on the 12 th floor. A store to the trade. OK, we loved it. And we both promptly blew 50 bucks each!
Here we are with our new Thermometers. And they even threw in free baseball caps decorated with their logo.
My box of confections before it was attacked by my teenagers! I quickly took a few pieces to my neighbor Natasha.
All photos and text are property of The Gypsy Chef.


  1. Thanks for sharing both info and photos! Wish we had a class like that where I live!

  2. Ooooh what a fun experience and look at all the beauties that have been created!! My partner Cristiano, who is much more of an expert when it comes to dessert than I am, also mastered the art of chocolates, he makes lovely bon bons with semi-sweet chocolates, and he also insists the temperature is the key, and a proper thermometre is a must!! but white chocolates, which is my favourite, is much more tricky as it's consistency is more particular. We would love to attend a course like this and horn the skills!!

  3. Barbara, Everyone should have the opportunity to learn chocolate techniques. It took all the mystery out of tempering. Next week is Truffles and candies. I can't wait! Just in time for Holiday gift giving!
    Licia, It was a terrific experience. We loved every minute. The instructor made it all so simple.
    Ladies, you should both come to New York and join us in the next class! Thanks for visiting! Pam

  4. What an amazing day Pam and I had learning to work with chocolate yesterday. To study under a Master Chef was absolutely brilliant. Pam makes everything she does look beautiful and it was a thrill to work alongside her at one the industry's finest schools. It's incredible what you can produce with the right training.

  5. Your a natural Tilla! Flattery will get you everywhere!

  6. What a wonderful class! Looks like a great time. Um...I'm going to dream about the chocolate and vanilla mousse! Thank you so much for posting this! makes me want to sign up for something similar out here.

  7. Wow!! What a fantastic class!! I loved all the information you shared...thank you!!

    Many blessings-

  8. I started making chocolates about 2 years ago so it was great to read about this class. I had no idea about the nuts but agree that they wouldn't last long enough to turn rancid! Great post. Thanks.

  9. What a wonderful class, and aren't you lucky to get to work with chocolate! I'm drooling over that mango with dark chocolate and pepper flakes!

    Oh, man...

  10. This post is so informative and I can't wait to try my hand at making homemade chocolates. I am working on a batch of caramels right now but chocolates will be next!

  11. too bad i don't like chocolate...

    I LOVE IT!

    ok you are showing in dashboard now, but no updates for 5 months... i will look for you now, i missed mucho!