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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned the world upside down, with daily life for many bearing very little resemblance to what it was just a few weeks ago.
While key workers - NHS staff, childcare staff, supermarket staff, and more - are still out in force, many others are instructed to stay at home in order to help manage the strain on the National Health Service.
The upside of this draconian measure is that there are a lot of people with the gift of time on their hands. The lockdown means they can slow down, reflect, and try their hand at something new. Like learn to work with chocolate. In response, some chocolate makers have been busy creating digital lessons for you to try at home.
Eat Better Chocolate 5 Day Easter Chocolate Challenge
Eat Better Chocolate (Celebrate Cacao) is the brand behind Exeter Chocolate Festival and Torbay Chocolate Festival. For Easter, it's running a short course on Facebook in collaboration with Seed Chocolate and Jim Fisher of Exeter Cookery School.
The purpose of the course is to learn how to identify good chocolate, where to source ethical bean-to-bar chocolate, and learn the skills to make chocolate truffles in your own kitchen without access to fancy gadgets.
Nicola Knight, founder of Celebrate Cacao and a certified chocolate taster with the Institute of Cacao and Chocolate Tasting, will host a 'how to taste chocolate' session, explaining what to look for in good quality chocolate.
James Walter, award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate maker of Seed Chocolate, will host a session on sourcing the best ethical chocolates.
Finally, the founder of Exeter Cookery School, Jim Fisher, will serve up tips and tricks for chocolate making and will explain how to make chocolate truffles at home.
The digital course runs over five days and costs £5 to participate in. It commences on Sunday 12th April 2020. A dedicated Facebook Group will run alongside, where you'll find handouts, recipes, and a list of required equipment.
Sign up on Facebook here. £5 fee via PayPal required.
Prefer eating chocolate to working with it? Celebrate Cocoa has also put together a home chocolate tasting kit here for £6.50. It includes four single-origin dark chocolate samples from 65% to 70%, tasting notes, a chocolate tasting flavour wheel, a tasting guide, and postage to a UK address.
Learning With Experts: The Art of Chocolate Making
Paul A. Young has launched his chocolate mastery course on the Learning with Experts platform.
Across a four-part course, you'll learn about the history of chocolate, the process of chocolate making, and the art of decoration.
The first section deals with tempering and the basics of chocolate. The second part deals with cream- and water-based ganaches and creating hand-rolled truffles. In the third section, Paul walks you through using a polycarbonate chocolate mould to created filled chocolates. The final section discusses layering and artistry. Learn how to add crunch and texture in moulded chocolates, and learn how to make them look irresistible.
Two price points are available. The first, at £29, is peer-based, where you'll participate in four online lessons with videos and notes, and you'll be set four assignments. There'll be a group chat available and you can directly message classmates to share tips and experiences.
The second option costs £129 but includes four weeks tutor access which adds personalised assignment feedback and coaching. That's right, Paul will mark your assignments and will be on hand should you have questions. You'll also receive a certificate of completion from Paul.
With either option, you'll get lifetime access to the videos, notes, and the classroom so you can refer back to these in the future if you need to brush up on a certain aspect. You'll also learn in a virtual classroom with up to 20 participants.
Sign up to the course here. £29/£129 fee required.
There are free alternatives available when learning to work with chocolate. The best I've found so far in my DIY chocolate cookery course is the dizzying array of videos available on YouTube, from a wide range of sources.
The downside of learning from videos is that there isn't a community to bounce ideas and questions around in, nor is there structured learning. So, you'll need to decide what you want to learn and find suitable resources to utilise. If you're somebody who prefers structured learning, you'll likely get a better experience by following a defined chocolate making course.
Where To Find Chocolate Making Equipment
I use the bare minimum of kitchen equipment in my chocolate experimentation, most of which I already owned. So far, all I've needed is:
- A glass bowl for melting / tempering chocolate.
- Plastic tubs for storing chocolate or for placing truffles in while in the fridge.
- A silicone spatula as I like to use as much chocolate as I can as I hate food waste.
- A scraper, which I bought from eBay for a couple of Pounds.
- A second-hand professional polycarbonate mould, which was gifted to me by Al at The Chocolate Society. I bought a couple of cheap ones from AliExpress but the quality of these is significantly worse. If you can, source a high quality professional mould which is thicker, heavier, and by far, more durable.
A digital thermometer, a hairdryer, a microwave, and a fridge are other tools that come in really handy.
In terms of ingredients, I bought three 2.5kg sacks of Casa Luker chocolate (white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate) from Keylink. The bags had between 6 and 12 months life on them, and have covered a multitude of uses so far, from hot chocolate experiments through to gooey chocolate brownie baking, and chocolate truffle making.
You can find a list of chocolate suppliers here.
If you sign up to a course above, please let me know how you got on in the comments below. I'd love to know if you got value for money from the experience.