I've been a fan of EHChocolatier since I first tried their chocolate about two years ago. They are my go-to when I want to send gifts (ordering online is so easy) or indulge in some really delicious chocolate.
I got to see the secrets behind their chocolates when I recently took their Beyond the Bar chocolate demo class.
When I arrived at the class, I got to meet Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney, the amazing women behind EHChocolatier. We started right in with sampling some sparkling red wine and tasting chocolate. Elaine and Catharine use mostly dark chocolate, but we began our tasting with white chocolate, caramelized white chocolate, and caramelized milk chocolate from Valrhona. A little later we also tried an array of dark chocolates. It was interesting to really concentrate on the different flavors of the chocolates. And it's amazing how good caramelized white chocolate is compared with plain old white chocolate.
Elaine and Catharine gave us a little background about where cocoa and chocolate come from, showing us cocoa pods and letting us try cacao nibs, both plain and their candied version (clearly the candied version was much better, as cacao nibs are really quite bitter).
After getting a little background on chocolate in general, we learned how chocolate is used at EHChocolatier. Catharine led us through their ganache-making process. Ganache is simply cream and chocolate. Catharine heated the cream, poured the hot cream over the chocolate, and then stirred the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate melted and a luscious ganache formed.
And then she stirred in a heap of butter, making the ganache even more luxurious.
When the ganache is ready, Catharine and Elaine use framing bars to shape a block of chocolate about 1/4-inch thick. This becomes the nice, gooey center of their square chocolates. While Catharine made a plain ganache this time, she explained how you can steep things (like earl grey tea, ginger, or other ingredients) in the cream to flavor the ganache. Catharine spread the ganache between the framing bars and leveled off the top, scooping away extra ganache, which we lucky bystanders got to sample.
Once the ganache is framed, it has to set up. This can be done right at room temperature.
The firm ganache then has to be "backed," which simply means they spread a thin layer of tempered chocolate on the bottom side of the ganache to make it easier to dip.
The firm, backed ganache can then be cut into squares. Elaine and Catharine have an awesome contraption that looks like a giant egg slicer for this purpose. Elaine slid the piece of ganache onto the cutter, lined it up, and then sliced through it. She pulled away the trimmings (again, it's good to be standing by to sample these things), turned the ganache, and then cut it again to make small squares.
Then, with the ganache squares ready to go, we learned how Elaine tempers chocolate and dips the squares. She gave us some great tips that I'm going to try at home, like using bigger blocks of chocolate as the melted chocolate gets close to temperature so that you can just fish the blocks out at the right temperature (as opposed to having to stir chopped chocolate or smaller pieces until they melt and going past the right temperature). As she worked to temper the chocolate, she dipped spoons in the chocolate to show us the different stages. On the last spoon, we could see the chocolate set up and shine, a sign that it was in temper.
Elaine and Catharine have these nice forks that help with dipping the chocolate squares. Once the squares are dipped they get transferred to a parchment-lined baking sheet and then they get a fancy design pressed on top. The designs are made from cocoa butter and are all so pretty. (I really want to get some to use at home.)
After Elaine demonstrated how to dip and decorate the squares, we each got to give it a try. I made one with little pink designs, and then I took some photos while Bianca, from Confessions of a Chocoholic, made a square with a pretty spring design, with Elaine looking on for guidance.
I learned so much in the hour-and-a-half-long class and was so excited to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how some of my favorite chocolates are made and also to sample some old favorites and new-to-me flavors. At the end of the class, we tasted a few chocolates while Catharine had us guess what was in them. We had a plain ganache, a maple-filled chocolate, a ginger chocolate, and the most interesting chile-lemon grass. The chile-lemon grass chocolate is something I never would have chosen to try, but it was so interesting, almost lime-y, with a little heat.
After the taste test, we sampled a bunch of other chocolates: the BeerNut bar, toffee almond, peanut butter crunch bar, CocoNutty bar, chocolate chew, pecan clusters, caramelized white chocolate, and a new chocolate bar that's in development. I could go on and on about how much I love the chocolates and unique flavors at EHChocolatier. Everything is so high quality and so much thought goes into it.
If you haven't tried chocolates from EHChocolatier yet, you really should. And if you'd like to learn more about what goes into the chocolate, sign up for the Beyond the Bar class. And if you want to get your hands dirty and make some chocolate, try the Art of Bonbon Making class.
Have you ever made chocolate before?
This class was complimentary, but as always, all opinions are my own.