A Guest Post by Deborah Sax – A Runner Up from the 10 Class Challenge.
Lifelong learning considers their classes to be “personal enrichment classes for inquisitive adults”. Let’s just say that this class aptly fits that description! I was in the company of 16 other students with similarly curious minds. Our interest took us on a journey beyond just chocolate. It was an excursion into flavor profiles, trade secrets, tips, technique and tools for making enchanting and decadent chocolate desserts, considered favorites not just for Valentine’s Day but for any day. Romina shared her passion and enthusiasm for using high quality ingredients, not to mention sharing ample tastings of everything we created (and then some). This class is a must and when it’s offered again, jump in and revel in the depth of the knowledge you will walk away with! Plus, I can’t give away everything here so you have to take a class from Romina yourself to get the full story of what this talented local pastry chef delivers! Read more about Romina and Les Madeleines Patisserie here.
The evening began with a demonstration of her Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) cake. This gluten free , nearly flourless “cake” had a little bit of “crumb” without being overly fudgy. We watched as Romina first made a batter of yolks and sugar. She slowly whisked in Brandy and Amaretto liqueurs. It wasn’t slow like I would normally do, it was S L O W. Slow like pouring molasses in January. It took nearly 3 minutes to add in only 2 oz total of the liqueurs. The demonstration moved to making the French meringue: egg whites and sugar. Once the meringue was at a “medium” (not stiff) peak stage, she passed to bowl around for us to see the shiny light white mixture. It was like a cloud in a bowl! From here she melted chocolate via “Bain-marie” method. This was not just run of the mill chocolate either. This was Valrhona Caraïbe , a 66% cacao (pronounced KA-COW) dark chocolate. The chocolate was then eased into the yolk batter and then the meringue was folded into that. The final step before baking was to sift the gluten free flour (Cup4Cup) directly into this mixture and stir only until it was mixed being careful not to “deflate”.
After the cake was done baking, Romina demonstrated her technique for glazing and then decorating. We learned how to make flowers, spider webs, Christmas trees, hearts, snowflakes.
We spoke a lot about tips and here are a few she shared regarding baking in Utah and baking in general!
– Barometric pressure and altitude affect baking times dramatically! Pay attention.
– Sift directly into the batter – save a dish!
– Try to have all ingredients at the same temperature
– Cut your own parchment circles to line the pan (don’t spend money on them). Think paper snowflakes.
– All ovens have cold spots so rotating is a good idea
– Put the cake pan on a sheet pan – it makes it easier to rotate in the oven
We each got our own beautiful little Reine de Saba! So rich, robust and light.
We moved on from this dessert to the Truffles. Described by another student as being like a “ball of pudding”! These light, creamy, melt – in – your- mouth bites of bliss were AMAZING! The trick with truffles is to let the hot cream do the work of melting the chocolate. Stir enough to mix without adding in a bunch of air. Leave at room temperature to allow the solids in the chocolate, butter and cream to crystalize. Result: Ganache.
The surprise with these was the raspberry puree. A nice but not necessary addition! One could replace the raspberry with passion fruit puree or cream or…the possibilities are really endless. For this recipe we used the Valrhona Manjari, a 64% dark chocolate.
The truffles were then rolled in cocoa or hazelnut flour and boy were they yummy! Unlike any other truffle I have had the smooth soft texture would keep me coming back to that simple and easy favorite! Forget making fussy chocolates, you really can have it all in a truffle.
Romina buys all of her Valrhona chocolate from a local purveyor: Copper Canyon Farms. Apparently they do sell to the public! The rest of us yahoos just have to pay sales tax.
Use dutch process cocoa as that method eliminates the bitterness.
Ganache can be refrigerated and rolled into truffles later
- 500 g bittersweet chocolate (Valrhona Manjari)
- 150 ml heavy cream
- 100 ml raspberry puree
- 1tbsp butter
- cocoa powder or hazelnut flour
- Bring the cream and puree just to a boil
- Pour over the chocolate and let it sit without stirring for about a minute.
- Stir with a spatula trying not to incorporate too much air. Add butter and stir until completely incorporated. [note: air is not the truffle’s friend]
- Let it sit at room temperature to crystalize. If you refrigerate it, it will have a grainy texture.
- When it sets up, either scoop truffles with a small ice cream scoop or pipe out. Wearing gloves, smooth the truffles out slightly. Roll in Dutch processed cocoa powder or nut flour. They will keep for about 3 days.
- Dipping them in tempered chocolate will increase the shelf life to a month.
In between each demonstration, Romina sent a plate of “tasting chocolates” around. The technique for tasting chocolate: simply pop in the pie hole and savor. Don’t bite, just let in melt in your mouth.
Of the four we sampled….the Dulcey was by far the class favorite.
The last adventure of the night: CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
Again, we started with a Valrhona chocolate. This time it was the ALPACO, a 66 % dark chocolate from Ecuador. The process for the chocolate mousse was interesting. Mousse is mousse because it is made with eggs. Bain-marie was employed to melt the chocolate. Cream was whipped. The next step was one I hadn’t even thought of doing since I made hard crack candy as a kid. We combined sugar and water, just enough to make it “sandy”. Not a lot of water, but enough to moisten the granules. This kind of tripped folks up in the class. Think “Sand Castles”. If you add to much water you will just have to cook it longer for the water to evaporate.
In Salt Lake, cooking it to 232 F results in the soft ball stage. What happened next was super cool. We made a pâte à bombe! What is that you ask? Well according to Romina, it is a French term for a mixture used as a base for making mousse, or mousse like desserts. When the soft ball sugar syrup is added to the egg and yolks, a ribbony, almost taffy like lovely mass of beauty results. We mixed a while but didn’t let the mixture develop “stiff peaks”.
She instructed us to whip it until “right above body temperature”. How to do that? Just test with the back of your finger as our finger tips tend to lose sensation and don’t do as good a job. The chocolate is poured into the pâte à bombe and then the whipped cream is folded in. The whole mass was then piped into little dishes for individual servings.
Oh the pleasure! Immeasurable!