I always ask, why have we, in India, not yet started appreciating single origin chocolates? AND why is it only restricted to wines? Many studies say that chocolates are as complex as wines (if not more). Cocoatrait, the chocolate tasting club in India, organized India’s 1st hand’s on single origin hands on truffle making workshop. The aim was to introduce the opportunity to sample the distinct flavour profiles of beans from single/specific origins and giving participants an opportunity to put the skills learnt to create a sinful, unique and delicious truffle to good use. Keeping this in mind, Cocoatrait sourced some of the best single origin chocolates (Costa Rica 64% and Ecuador 71%). Before we start, don’t search for these in Chennai (you won’t find them easily!). The Gormei Market in CIT Colony, Chennai hosted the event and Arun Vishwanathan from Genache for da Chocoholics, Combatore was bought in to take the audiances through the journey of truffle making. Participants had to pay a fee of Rs 2500 (25 GBP; 30 USD) while some lucky participants secured an entry to the workshop by winning a contest at the chocolate tasting club. With a local newspaper announcing the event on the day of the workshop, we were a bit disappointed to turn down participation requests from few potential participants.
The 2 hour event started with an introduction to chocolates by L Nitin Chordia from Cocoatrait. The audience discovered how Cocoa, the beautiful looking super fruit, (with possibly the highest antioxidant properties) was grown in Cocoa farms and gets converted into a delicious and healthy chocolate bar. Consciously, most of the discussions revolved around dark chocolates. During the introduction, the audiences were intrigued to know that single origin chocolates actually exists. Some of them who had an exposure to wines, absorbed this concept more easily than the others. Anticipating that many from the audiances may not be aware of the concept of courvetrure, Nitin explained the difference between compound and Courverture chocolates. Nitin further explained how the terroir and other factors would determine the flavor profile of the chocolate. Nitin introduced the Costa Rica 64% and Ecuador 71% single origin chocolates to the audiances and they were clearly in awe of the smell of the same on opening the sealed pack. A presentation that was used to show different pictures, showed the different forms in which chocolates are eventually made into. Truffles was the most exciting form of chocolates and this set the stage for Arun to takeover the session.
Arun started with knowledge sharing about his background and his interests. He further explained the concept of Genache which is used to make a truffle and how certain facts about chocolates evolved. Arun explained the history of the truffle and how it came into being accidently. The audiances cleared some of their basic questions at this stage. This kept the audiences interested and without spending too much more time on the oral part of the workshop, Arun decided to jump into getting his hands filled with chocolate. The 1st method of making the basic ganache was demonstrated using a double boiler technique. This conventional technique would get anyone started quickly even at home. The cream was poured in the handheld boiler and warmed to a certain temperature. While adding the single origin chocolates were stirring it with the cream, the audience was called to participate with the stirring to get a feel of the process. Once this was done, Arun demonstrated ganache making using the machine which would enable the temperatures to be controlled using the thermostat. This method takes a little longer then the 1st one. Nitin in between explained how the courverture/fine chocolates are similar in delicacy to the ghee that we use and how compound could be treated as oil which makes it more resistant to heat. This was done to prove a point of making sure that the participants understood why they should constantly watch the ganache while it is being prepared since it would burn easily. Participants were asked to come in one after the other to get a feel of the mixing process and notice the textural changes as the ganache was being made. With ganache the amount of cream needed would depend on which brand/origin one uses. There is a learning curve with every change one makes in the ingredients. However, there is no right or wrong. Unmistakably, using good quality ingredients ensure a good tasting truffle. No rocket science here either! Nitin pitched in to explain how the magical “Slow Cooking” process is the secret behind getting your recipies right with fine chocolates that contain Cocoa butter. No short cuts here!
Once the ganache reached the right consistency and was ready, the participants got to sample this Sinful treat. The audience were impressed with this and some of them actually thought that they have not tasted anything like this ever before! Sure, no one ever pushes the bar and uses single origin fine courverture chocolates to make truffles AND that’s the reason anything even close to as good as this cannot be found. Simple, really!! Arun demonstrated the handrolling process by dusting his palm with cocoa powder to start with and explained how the temperature at the surface of the hand also plays a role. With his hand covered with cocoa powder, he was able to make a truffle with cocoa dust. This was the signature truffle. Simply put, this was just pure sin. The audience was then called in sets to try their hands and it was a handsome sight to watch the enthusiastic audience be a part of the rolling process. The audience was engaged for a good 15 minutes in the process and got the hang of the right technique quite quickly. Each of participants were given paper cups in which they could take away their own creation. Most of them tried their creation instantly and were simply “wowed” with what had come out of their hands! Certainly a confidence booster for a lot of them. I would personally be surprised, if someone did not like any of the single origins. Every now and then, we laughed about having to walk back home after this workshop and how the dinner can be skipped after this workshop. Clearly this was not a treat for the weight watchers! This simply can only be the best chocolate treat you can make for your loved ones. One of the next things Arun tried was a hazelnut infused ganache. Inserting the hazelnut increases the temptation quotient manifold for someone like me! The other versions of truffles that were made were, Coconut, French Biscuit & Icing Sugar on chocolate ganache. The participants also dipped the ganache in Costa rica 64% dark chocolates and made it suitable for the coconut flakes among others to stick on it. In addition to the chocolate ganache the participants got to handroll menthol and lime orange ganache which were prepared for the workshop.
Nitin then clearly mentioned that there are various courverture chocolate brands like Morde, Cocoacraft, Barry Callebaut, Belcolade, Felchlin and Valhrona available in the Indian market at various price points. The single origins we have tried are among the most exclusive and for the 1st time in India. Participants were told to start experimenting from the lower cost brands and then move to more finer, origin chocolates. What they would notice is that there has to be a variation in each of their recipies due to the change in the chocolates. Ofcourse, compound chocolates are a big NO!
Towards the end, we also distributed 71% dark equidorian chocolate bars to the participants (who had clearly had enough of chocolates already but this was important to let them know how to enjoy chocolates. Nitin explained that fine chocolates in shape of bars should snap well, have a shine and should not be eaten like we usually eat regular chocolates. Nitin explained that It is important to let the chocolate melt using the temperature of ones palette and let the flavors appear slowly. The 2 important reasons why fine chocolates should be enjoyed that way is 1. The chocolates are expensive and 2. By biting away into the chocolate, you would not get the flavours that the chocolate maker has worked very hard for. Hence in a way it is disrespecting/disregarding his work of art to get flavours naturally from the cocoa.
My closing notes and observations from the workshop was that this 1st attempt of introducing single origins to participants even before regular couverture chocolates is a sure shot way to get the audience hooked on to the right product. Giving them the best chance for success, single origins provide for an opportunity for the audiances to suddenly look like professionals. The suggestion would be to take it one step at a time and graduate to fine flavoured courvertures and consume only the best! There has been a sudden interest from baking enthusiasts who would like to have a chance to differentiate and move ahead from using the traditional chocolate products. For people who believe less is more, single origin fits the bill and promises a different level of experience. For anyone who has only thought but never stepped ahead to use the single origin courvertures, this should provide some inspiration. The sun has finally risen! As they say, Its never too late.
Some feedback from the participants:
Deepa Dhawan: A memorable experience for a chocoholic! The first of its kind in Chennai – a truffle making workshop using single origin chocolates organised by Cocoatrait. The process of making pure chocolate from the cacao bean was well explained by Nitin Chordia. Thanks to Chocolatier Arun Viswanathan of Ganache who taught us how to make delectable truffles and introduced us to different flavours infused in truffles. Chennai needs more of these workshops to create an awareness of what chocolate really is as compared to what is commercially available. Looking forward to more exciting and interactive sessions like these.