For my birthday this year I received one of the best birthday presents of my life from my little Hosanna Fuller. When she found a Chocoholics cooking class at Sur la Table, she knew that we had to do it (her chocolate addiction may be as bad as mine). My excitement was quite evident when she told me about it, and the class, as well as the food we produced, certainly lived up to these expectations. I had done a lot of cooking with chocolate before, but this class taught me new methods of tempering chocolate as well as new, delicious ways to use it. Throughout the course of two hours we were able to make balsamic cherry chocolate truffles, sea salt caramels dipped in chocolate, chocolate almond biscotti, and chocolate soufflés!
The chocolate truffles and sea salt caramels were very new to me, so I was excited to learn how to make them. I had never really attempted to make candies because I had always assumed that they were extremely difficult and easy to mess up. However, I soon realized that they are not as terrifying as I had thought, especially if you have a candy thermometer to us. For starters, the balsamic cherries blew me away. They were the perfect amount of savory and sweet. The cherries were simmered in balsamic vinaigrette and absorbed tangy flavor to complement their sweetness nicely. We made the truffle by melting 72% dark chocolate and adding cream to it after it had cooled for a minute or two, so that it didn’t seize. We let this mixture chill in the fridge until it was workable into round balls that we could fill with the cherries and roll in a bit of cocoa powder. It came out to a rich, chocolate truffle with a delectable surprise inside. The mixture of flavors complemented one another so that neither the savory nor the sweet overpowered the other. The chocolate was dark so it wasn’t overly sweet so as to taste like you were eating a Hershey kiss filled with cherries. It truly tasted like a culinary masterpiece, so if you want to impress your friends this is the recipe to use.
The same goes for the sea salt caramels. It takes only a few minutes to mix and heat the corn syrup and sugar to a medium-dark caramel color where it is time to remove it from the flame. Then, we added the butter in little pieces at a time with a whisk to make sure that it was all melted in evenly. Afterwards, this mixture was cooled and cut into bite-size candy pieces, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with sea salt to produce a delicious caramel. Caramel and chocolate is one of my weaknesses. I could probably have eaten this entire brick of caramels if I hadn’t shared them with my suitemates. The caramels were a chewy consistency that didn’t hurt your teeth to bite into and the flavor was out of this world. The butter and sea salt were a bit overpowered by the corn syrup and sugar to give a sweet caramel with a slight hint of salt. Plus, a chocolate coating never hurt any desert. These were Hosanna’s favorite recipe of the day because they “had a balanced taste and were easy to make”. This simple recipe will impress anyone and will be gone in the blink of an eye.
After the two candies we made chocolate almond biscotti which Hosanna and I preferred as an unscotti. The batter was made by creaming the butter and sugar, adding eggs and vanilla, and then adding a flour/baking soda mixture. It is a similar process to making cookies up until that point. But, the dough is a bit thicker than cookie dough so we were able to mold it into a think loaf (about 5×12 in.) and then bake it once. After it was baked the first time and cooled, we cut it into 1 inch slices, sprinkled with a bit of sugar and cocoa powder, and baked a second time. However, we tried this unscotti and were in love, it was gooey and moist with a little almond crunch mixed in. We weren’t loving the idea of baking it a second time to get a dry, crunchy cookie….so we didn’t! We learned that unscottis are a very popular dessert in Italy so we aren’t the only chocolate fanatics who prefer our cookies baked once as opposed to twice. We took home our unscottis enticingly moist and introduced our friends to the delectable unscotti.
Last but certainly not least, we made the chocolate soufflés. This was the only item on the list that I had made prior to this class. I have tried various recipes at home because they are the perfect way to end any dinner party as well as heavenly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. They are all made in a similar fashion by beating the egg whites and sugar until fluffy and then adding in a melted chocolate, butter, and egg yolk mixture. The recipe I use at home uses bittersweet chocolate and a splash of Grand Marnier for extra flavor whereas this one used in class uses only dark chocolate. It produced a creamy, sweeter chocolate taste than I had expected, but it was nevertheless incredible.
All in all, the cooking class was informative, fun, and delicious. The chef running it was highly trained and knowledgeable about all sorts of cooking so we were able to ask a lot of questions during the class. It was a calm atmosphere where everybody wanted to learn to cook but there were all different levels of chefs there so even if you are a beginner you will be able to follow the course. Best of all, we got to take home everything we made in cute little boxes to share with our friends. Although the box of chocolates didn’t last me more than a few hours, the memories from this class will. So if you need a birthday present, an anniversary present, or an “I’m just feeling nice today” present, no girl is ever going to be opposed to attending this chocoholics cooking class.