I have been making chocolate truffles for over 10 years. It started one Christmas, when I could not decide what to give our friends as a present and thought, why not try the recipe I saw in the last edition of Eve magazine.
Well, since then I perfected that recipe and developed my own ganache flavours and style of chocolates. You see, I really like chocolate, but some chocolate out there has very little to do with real chocolate. I also, often felt disappointed why something described as orange whiskey did not taste like either orange or whiskey. So, over the years, I have been on a quest for that 'perfectly formed and flavoured chocolate truffle'.
To refresh my skills and add some new ones, I had been planning for a while to do a week long course for professional chocolatiers. Somehow, I did not find the time or the energy to book the course until I left my day job last year. After some research on line, I thought I might as well learn from the very best and booked the 5 days Chocolatiers Course at the Slattery School of Excellence in Manchester.
So, like a little child, I was excited to pack my bags and headed north on one very cold Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning started with a big breakfast and I met the rest of the group - all very interesting people and all fired up to learn more about chocolate and all sharing my passion for good food.
Each day was packed with learning new techniques (from the very basic, such as tempering chocolate to elaborate ruffles on top of the cake). The school was spacious and equipped with the latest technology and tools. We all had plenty of space and time to practise each newly acquired skill. Our tutor - Julie - was very knowledgeable and always at hand to help when we thought we had made a mistake or could not remember something.
One important thing I learnt the first day, is that despite to what my husband said ('you will work in the kitchen, take just T-shirts with short sleeves), working with chocolate is very cold work. The school kitchen was permanently chilled to 18 C - the best temperature for working with chocolate.
The Slattery produces not only chocolate, but also makes wedding cakes and novelty birthday cakes. As students on the course we were allowed to come to the shop and the 'cake and chocolate room' any time we wanted a watch the cakes being made. It was amazing to watch - the skill, effort and attention that went into every single cake was just extraordinary. One cake was turned into a princess castle including horse and a chariot. Another cake was a live size princess with long skirt made out of cake. We found ourselves getting up earlier each day, so that we could check the progress on each cake, which usually takes a week to complete.
The chocolate room had a big poster on the wall anouncing the 'Big Easter Egg Challenge'. A corporate client has placed an order for Easter Egg for each of their employees and the Slattery staff were challenging each other how many they can do in a day. The whole chocolate room and chiller part of the school upstairs looked like a scene from some horror movie, because these eggs were about 40 cm high (!) and had a draggon on them.
Each day was different and the best thing was, we were to keep all our chocolates that we made during the course ! I ended up taking home big chocolate cake, several boxes of chocolate truffles (with some interesting flavours - like chili or beer) and moulded chocolates, all beautifully wrapped.
So on Friday, I said 'goodbye' to my new friends and headed home with car full of chocolate and head full of ideas.