A masterclass in chocolate-making
LAURENT COUCHAUX tips a bowl of molten dark chocolate into a perfect O on the marble worktop. Marble, he says, is the only surface to use when tempering chocolate. Granite will do the job, but forget about wood or formica. This is the first thing I learn from Couchaux, the Professeur du Chocolat, in the chocolate masterclass at London’s Rococo Chocolate School.
He fans the liquid out with a palette knife and, in the same action, uses a metal scraper to gather it back into a pool. He inserts the heat probe, looking for a uniform 28 degrees Celsius. We talk thermometers. Instead of revealing the name of the oh-so-expensive chocolate thermometer prized by an elite group of chocolatiers, Couchaux enthuses about Ikea’s probe thermometer. Cost? £6.99.
Once the chocolate has reached the ideal temperature, it can be worked with, moulded and cooled. Tempered chocolate is stable and hard, with a good sheen, and it cracks satisfyingly when broken. Just to test the temper quality, we pour a couple of bars of chocolate into moulds and leave to cool.
The masterclass is the highlight of the Art of Chocolate, a themed stay at the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in Belgravia. On the package, there are chocolate gifts and an apron, promises of chocolate martinis, and, more dubiously, a chocolate brunch at the hotel restaurant. It’s a bit of a lark for the average chocoholic.
The class at Rococo, around the corner, is a lovely introduction for the amateur chocolatier. It helps that Couchaux and owner Chantal Coady know their stuff. She started her chocolate-making business more than 25 years ago, while he’s been a pastry chef and master chocolatier at the Valrhona L’École du Grand Chocolat. Coady part-owns an organic chocolate farm and factory in Grenada. “The idea of the chocolate school is to get people to experience chocolate making first hand. It should be inspiring and fun, and also really practical. Everyone who does these should really take away a huge amount, apart from the chocolate,” she says.
The idea is that after a few exhausting hours of stirring chocolate, one can retire to the hotel, or cruise Belgravia’s finest shops.
** The Art of Chocolate package costs from £445 (€520) per room per night based on two people
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times