I was recently invited, by the very lovely and extremely charitable @Con_Barry, to go along to a Chocolate Masterclass with Paul A Young. This is not an invitation that you turn down lightly, especially if you’re a chocoholic like me and most certainly not if you’ve ever been lucky enough to try one of Paul A Young’s chocolates.
Despite the class being in London (where I live) and me being in Bath for the week (on holiday), I threw caution to the wind, gratefully accepted the invitation and booked myself a train ticket back to London for the day.
A crazy decision? Possibly. A good decision? You bet!
my favourite bit – tempering the chocolate
Just look at that chocolate and tell me you don’t want to get naked and roll around in it!
I had an absolutely wonderful time and it was easily the most useful, well structured and enjoyable cooking class I’ve ever done. Not only did I do a comprehensive chocolate tasting with Paul himself but I also learned how to make a chocolate truffle, by hand, from start to finish. The techniques were all easily transferable to a home kitchen and we all made our own chocolates, none of this standing around, waiting for your turn to stir the chocolate nonsense. It was clear that the class had been very well thought out and I can’t think of a single thing that would improve it.
Paul A Young is a multi-award winning master chocolatier. He opened his first shop in 2006, selling only hand made chocolates, most with a shelf life of just seven days, at a time when everyone told him it wasn’t possible. Three shops later and still making absolutely everything by hand in kitchens on site, it turns out ‘everyone’ was wrong. I was amazed to see that there are no tempering machines, no production line and almost no storage for the chocolates. In the Soho shop, where we did our class, there was just a single fridge, not much bigger than the one I have at home. We did our class in the same kitchen that is used for the shop and used all of the same methods.
The shops are run like a bakery. Chocolates are made fresh everyday, what is made depends on what is running low and the vast majority of the chocolates are displayed in the shop. At £2 a chocolate, they are certainly a luxury product but I challenge you to find a nicer chocolate anywhere in the UK.
We started off the class with a glass of fizz and a demonstration of how to make a water ganache. Paul made it look incredibly easy and it turned out that it was. We quickly got stuck into making own batches and flavoured them with essential oils. You simply mix sugar with hot water and then pour this over chocolate (broken into equal sized pieces) and whisk, adding flavour at the end. I went for jasmine and bergamot.
We then popped our ganache in the fridge to cool and pulled up a stool (a very welcome novelty at a cooking class) to have a chocolate tasting.
We tried so much chocolate that I literally couldn’t eat another piece and that is saying a lot for me! Paul expertly explained the process of making chocolate, from the bean to the final product and we tried various different types of milk and dark chocolate from different countries and with different percentages of cocoa solids. The main lesson was that a higher percentage of chocolate solids does not automatically mean a better chocolate. To demonstrate this point we tried a 69% madagascan chocolate that Paul uses in the shop and another 69% madagascan that he was sent as a sample. The difference was astounding. One was rich, zingy and delicious, the other was bland, bitter and burnt tasting. Who knew? It seems the only way to know a good chocolate is to put it in your mouth.
We also tried some of the products that Paul sells in his shop: the award winning, best selling, salted caramel; a fun and remarkably accurate bakewell tart chocolate; an inventive and surprising black pudding, sourdough and rye whisky truffle and his famously decadent brownies. Willy Wonka eat your heart out. They were all outstanding.
Chocolate tasting over, it was time to make our truffles. First Paul showed us how to hand roll the ganache into the classic truffle shape, using cocoa powder. Then it was time to temper the chocolate. Oh the joy!! I could do it all day. In fact, I think I’m in the wrong job.
Finally, we coated our truffles in two layers of the tempered chocolate and then either finished them in a layer of cocoa powder or decorated with various colours of cocoa butter. A time consuming process but incredibly enjoyable and therapeutic.
The best part was that we got to take them all home to eat!
rolled with my fair hands
the finished product
I cannot recommend this class enough. I had a truly wonderful day and came away feeling that I had really learnt something. Have a look at the website to see the various classes that are on offer http://www.paulayoung.co.uk.
Or if you would like to give it a bash at home, here’s how to make your own very basic truffles:
- 300ml water
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 350g good quality dark chocolate
- 50g cocoa powder
1. Bring the water and sugar to a simmer, until all the sugar has melted.
2. Pour on the chopped chocolate and whisk well until very smooth and thick.
3. Pour into a food container and allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least two hours.
4. Once your ganache is set, scoop out nuggets of the ganache to your required size and place on to a parchment-lined baking tray.
5. Using the cocoa powder to dust your finger, so the ganache doesn’t stick, roll the ganache into even balls.
6. Store your truffles in a cool place, but not the fridge. They will last seven days.