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Tuesday, 01 January 2019

Making Chocolate in Belgium

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Streets of Brussels

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Pierre Marcolini, one of the best Chocolatiers in Belgium

Belgium is a chocolate lovers dream. I was astonished at how many chocolatiers were on every block in both Brugge and Brussels. Here-among the hundreds of shops-everyone seems to have their favorite one. After several days of sampling, it was now our turn to decide who's Belgium's best. We used the unscientific method of buying a couple at each shop and letting our taste buds do all the work. Finally, we decided to buy a box at Elisabeth, though Pierre Marcolini and Passion Chocolate were also at the same level of excellence.

In addition to chocolate sampling we had decided to get the most out of our journey by trying to learn some chocolate making skills we could take home. So we signed up for a 2.5 hour workshop where we'd learn the basics.

The Belgian Chocolate Workshop is by 1USUAL and also advertised on Airbnb "experiences". On the agenda was molding chocolate shells for pralines, making the ganache filling, covering the creations with a thin layer of chocolate and unmolding them. Also, while waiting for the chocolates to cool we'd make simpler chocolates - mendiants- covered with nuts and fruits and a Belgian hot chocolate - which is notoriously rich and delicious.

The workshop was informative and fun and I was excited to be making an entire box of chocolates to take home. There were 13 students from all over the world and one instructor. We learned how to temper chocolate and the proper way to hold the molds and tools to create the best product.

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Our handmade pralines

The company advertises that they have a vegan friendly version of the workshop and my husband is allergic to dairy so before booking the experience I had emailed to make sure he'd be able to do the vegan version of the experience while I was doing the regular one and the guy in charge said no worries, just inform the instructor at the beginning of the workshop. So that's what we did, though our instructor (who was friendly and competent in all other ways) seemed completely unsure and unprepared for how to handle a vegan or allergy situation, having to text her colleagues about what to use as a substitute. By the time we got to making the ganache (which is where the cream comes in) she still didn't answer me when I asked if we were taking a little of the melted chocolate base out to make a different variety of ganache for him with coconut cream or some other milk substitute, but she just said "we're making this ganache for the whole class" which didn't address my concern, but I decided to let it go rather than disrupt the class.

Eventually, she mentioned a different filling. Much to our horror she procured a bottle of molasses that they use in their waffle making workshop as syrup! She said he could squeeze some syrup directly into the chocolates, and I thought 'We're not in Belgium anymore'! No chocolatier would ever fill their pralines with molasses! This was after telling one of our fellow students- who was adding a very small amount of honey to our ganache- to be careful not to add too much as it would throw the flavor off. In the end he decided to just make the regular pralines and give the box away rather than ruin them all. We were not happy the best choice was to end up with a whole box of chocolates he couldn't eat and I didn't know why they wouldn't just have a cream alternative and an informed instructor.

I would not recommend the workshop if you're a vegan, but if you're not it was a good way to spend an afternoon with a delicious hot chocolate at the end. Our chocolates began to whiten a few days after class and that's a result of too much moisture or heat. That topic wasn't covered during class so if you attend then make sure to inquire.


 (C)Christina Bolton




Last modified on Friday, 04 January 2019
Christina Bolton

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