Well, this post is a coupe weeks late but I wanted to recap Week 10 separately from Week 11. I just ran out of time last weekend, and now I write to you on the eve of Week 12!
Week 10 was the week before last, and it was a long week full of chocolate and ended with my first stage (pronounced stah-ge). I’ll start with the chocolate and share a bit about my stage later.
We made so many chocolates in the second week of chocolate – so many…. Below is a photo recap of my week in chocolate. But before I get into the photos, I must declare my elevated appreciation for good chocolate now after working with it. I always liked ‘good’ chocolate, but now I think that quality of good is even more refined. No hershey or nestle for me, it is all crap.
I am talking about couverture chocolate, which is what we made in class. Brands you may be familiar with include calebaut, valhrona, lindt, green & blacks, Theo, among many others. Basically chocolate that indicates the percentage of cocoa is generally couverture, and must but at least 31% cocoa.
Chocolate is a very tricky but rewarding product to make. It is challenging because of the tempering process (where chocolate is melted through a specific process to ensure it reforms into a nice shiny chocolate bar with a good snap). It is a TEMPERmental process. Like everything else it takes practice. I certainly felt tempermental a few times as we were going through the process and practicing chocolate. But after a few tries you start to get the hang of it and have a feel for the chocolate. It becomes less about actually meausing temperatures and what it looks like in the bowl as it moves and flows. It can get really messy when you are learning too, so good chocolatier are very clean in their craft. Chocolate stains on white uniforms are not that easy to remove….
The rewards of chocolate making are many: not only does it taste amazing, but it is super rewarding when the chocolate sets nicely and looks shiny. You start to feel like a chocolatier!
I now have a new appreciation for dark chocolate, specifically. We used mostly dark chocolate, we also worked with milk and white chocolate. The latter two have always been my favourites, but now I may be converting to the dark side. Dark chocolate is easier to work with for chocolatiers – or at least for beginners. Milk chocolate is the most tempermental, and white is in the middle. I still like them all, but dark was the easiest to learn the ropes with.
Week 10 began with learning tempering techniques, then we had a chocolate tasting – trying about 14 kinds of chocolate before 10am one morning. Then we visited XOXOLAT later in the week, a chocolate shop in Yaletown, Vancouver, and had a chocolate tasting via Skype with the chocolate maker from Askinosie Chocolate, USA. It was super informative and inspiring – as they are also a social enterprise. Look them up to read more about their story.
Our week closed with learning to mould chocolates, which we have to make on our final practical exam. They are not easy to make. I’ll be practicing these more for sure… There’s that word again: practice! We also made our own ganache filling, and I experimented with using my favourite tea: cream of earl grey. I made a milk chocolate ganache and infused the tea in it. It was delicious.
We also had a day of learning to make marzipan fruit shapes and roses. We then learned how to airbrush the colour onto the fruit, and it was SO fun.
Ok, so that was chocolate, and marzipan. Then, we began stages. Basically they are one-day observations in kitchens around the lower mainland, so we can see what it is like in different kitchens and businesses. Some are small and some of big, locations could range from small bakeries, to chocolate shops, to hotels, to catering companies, to wherever your heart desires and a connection is made. We haver to wear our full uniform and bring our toolkit with us too, which makes for cumbersome travelling (especially on transit).
My first stage was at a little French bakery in Kitsilano and it was really fun. It was super hot in the morning while they are baking off their croissants, and other pastries, then it cooled off a bit more and the night shift team members wrapped up. Then there were just three of us in the kitchen, and it was a super small space. I was impressed with how much they produce in a small space and how efficient they are in using the space.
I helped with a bunch of things including zesting a whole box of lemons, and juicing them. I also helped package up blocks of butter, each pack was about 1.5 lbs and I made 24 of them. That is A LOT OF BUTTER. My hands were well moisturized afterwards (one of the other benefits of pastry life).
Onward to sugar work and alternative baking in week 11!