Discovering the dark arts of chocolate making with Nicky Grant

Have you ever wanted to find out how to make the perfect truffle, or temper chocolate like a pro?

Making perfectly crafted chocolates is a lot harder than it looks, and the tempering process in particular can be especially tricky – getting the chocolate to the right state so that it will set with a beautiful sheen and a crisp snap is something which all amateur chocolate makers aspire to, but all too often fail to achieve.

I’ve certainly had my fair share of problems when attempting to make chocolates, so when I was offered the chance to have a lesson from Cornwall’s top chocolatier, Nicky Grant, I literally jumped at the chance.

Nicky is a phenomenally talented lady, based near Redruth in Cornwall, who as well as making gorgeous handcrafted truffles and chocolates creates amazingly intricate wedding cakes – who on earth would choose a fruitcake with marzipan and sugarpaste when you could have a pure chocolate delight like this?!

On a cold, wet and windy day earlier in the month, I joined five other lovely chocolate loving ladies  – Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, Rachel from Saffron Bunny, Sadie from Cornwall Food and Crash Bang Dollop, blogger and Cornwall Today writer Jessica and local journalist (and my part time colleague) Ellie – at Nicky and her partner Tom’s house for a morning of chocolate education.

It was a good job I’d scoffed down a banana for breakfast on the way, otherwise I might just have dived head first into the huge vat of melted Venezuelan 44% milk chocolate which was sitting on the kitchen table – so tempting!

Tom started by explaining the three things any good quality chocolate must have – a crisp snap, a smooth feel when rubbed on your upper lip, and a satiny sheen finish.

All five senses are involved when tasting chocolate – the sound, feel and look come first, then the aroma and finally the taste, which is what makes eating it such a pleasurable experience. We also learnt that 11am is the optimum time for tasting chocolate, when your taste buds are most active (which is coincidentally around the time most people start to flag while waiting for lunch – perfect!)

Tom then went on to explain the tempering process starting with the science. Chocolate is, using Tom’s favourite word, polymorphic, meaning it can exist in different states, and by its nature it is always trying to reach the next state. Perfectly tempered chocolate must be in Beta 5 state, which is chocolate’s only stable form.

To get it there, first you have to heat the chocolate to it’s melting temperature, which is around 45 degrees for dark but lower for milk and white. You then have to cool it to it’s working temperature, which for the milk chocolate Tom was demonstrating with was 30 degrees. The easiest way to do this is by seeding it with finely chopped, already tempered chocolate, stirring continually to encourage the chocolate crystals to lock together.

To test the temper of the chocolate, Tom showed us a simple method involving dipping a piece of greaseproof paper into the chocolate and laying it out on the work surface to set. If it’s tempered, it will set quickly, in about 3 minutes, and have a nice shine. Untempered, it will take a long time to set, and you will need to reheat the chocolate and start again.

Tom made the whole process look simple, but I will wait until I’ve had a chance to try it for myself before declaring myself a chocolate tempering expert – I will blog the results of my experiments soon!

After going through the tempering process, we moved into Nicky’s working kitchen to learning about making ganache for truffles. I’ve never had too much of a problem making ganache, but it was interesting to find out more about the technical aspects of it – for example I never realised that ganache also needed to be tempered, or that any add-ins such as spirits or liqueurs must be warmed to the same temperature as the ganache.

We had a not entirely planned demonstration of what to do if your ganache splits – either adding more cream or even milk or even just whisking with a balloon whisk can bring it back to a lovely, glossy, chocolatey bowl of heaven. You can see the difference between the smooth milk ganache on the left and the split dark ganache on the right in the photo below, luckily Tom rescued the dark one so it didn’t have to go to waste!

Nicky showed us how to make two different types of truffle – a dark ganache rolled in cocoa powder, and a milk ganache dipped in tempered chocolate and rolled in chocolate flakes. As much as I love dark chocolate, the milk was actually my favourite, and I’m looking forward to recreating it at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning with Nicky and Tom, and left armed with plenty of top tips which I hope will help my chocolate making in the future. We were given recipe sheets for dark truffles and cardamom infused milk truffles, so I can’t wait to give them a go and put everything I learnt into practice.

Huge thanks go to Nicky and Tom for hosting our special bloggers’ lesson – please do take a look at their website, www.nickygrant.com, and if you like fine chocolate I promise you won’t be disappointed with any of their offerings!

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4 thoughts on “Discovering the dark arts of chocolate making with Nicky Grant

  1. Pingback: Devouring the art of Nicky Grant, Patisssiere and Chocolatier | FishWifey

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