It’s been a tough couple of months with our little one taking up a lot of time through illness. The chance to ‘escape’ for a day was offered by the missus and searching for an interesting cooking course at the last minute, (my way of completely relaxing) was proving a challenge in itself. My usual haunt was fully booked so an alternative was needed, a creature of habit, looking at the various descriptions and options available I finally remembered ‘Season’, The Exclusive Cookery School at Lainston House Hotel in Hampshire. I was in luck, a full day Chocolate Masterclass with an ‘expert’. Seconds’ later it was booked, only 4 days to go!I have never worked with Chocolate before as I am more of a savoury person, there are a couple of sweet entries in the blog but my recent (last year) diagnoses of Type I Diabetes means I tend to keep away from such food, but I do like learning new skills and this was to be no exception. We started the day with drinks and pastries, the school can hold up to 24 people from memory but as there were only 5 of us it was quite intimate.
So in 2006 UK Chocolate Master, 2007, 12th in the WORLD Chocolate Master Championship in Paris, 2008, UK Chocolate Master, 2009 7TH in the WORLD Chocolate Masters Final in Paris, if there was a person to learn about the sweet stuff this guy Mark Tilling must know the odd trick and tip!! To top the lot, he and a couple of colleagues also won the 1st BBC Bake of Créme de la creme baking competition in 2016, I remember watching it on TV.You would not believe what goes into producing the ‘callets’, tiny buttons of Chocolate used to make all sorts of sweet delights. Chocolate is very complex to produce and the 1st session introduced us all into where and how it grows, the pollination, harvesting, and each of the many stages it takes to produce a product you can work with.
Mark is a very friendly engaging and excellent tutor, ably assisted on the day by Sylvain, the Manager of the Cookery School, We were shown how to ‘temper’ Chocolate, this is critical and prevents ‘blooming’ where the surface goes white and ensures a really good ‘snap’! Heating, lowering the temperature, adding some magic ingredient and lowering the temperature even more and you are done. Damn, guess who forgot to add the magic ingredient. You have to start all over again !! We used the lovely little Digital Thermometer all day to check as it has to be very precise to get the good and bad crystals ( the result of the process) sorted properly. Oh, and it takes time, you HAVE to be patient.As we went about making bars of flavoured Chocolate, Champagne Ganache, filled moulds to make the shells for the Ganache, learned how to used Chocolate transfers………. we learnt LOADS, and had fun getting covered in the stuff at the same time. Stopping for a really delicious lunch we carried on debating, asking questions and generally chatting about food and …… Chocolate, it was really very good.Making the Shells for the Ganache was really tricky, and messy for those of us that had not done this before, ladling the warm, sweet, sticky delicious liquid into the Mould the right way, inverting the mould, tapping to release enough, and then laying to set before going in the fridge so as to not ‘shock’ the Chocolate, my attempt above was ok, the results came out quite well for a beginner!We used quite a few piping bags during the day too, the Cookery School is VERY well equipped with everything needed, and there was no washing up required, all the clearing and cleaning was done for us as we did use quite a few bowls. Tea’s and Coffees, Water and Soft Drinks were all available as and when you needed a quick respite!Mark is the UK Ambassador for Callebaut Chocolate, we used lots of it during the sessions and my order for 3Kg is just about to be placed. It’s DELICIOUS, says the wife!! We had lots of quality ingredients to play with, one of my bars of Chocolate was Sea Salt and Pistachio, they were the best Pistachio’s I have ever seen and tasted!! I would recommend shopping around if you want to have a go, I found an internet wholesale site that can provide Callebaut White, Milk and Dark a Kilo of each for just under £20, which will last for ages, they sell to non-trade and it has a great shelf life.This is an AMAZING course, I did have my doubts initially as I had never been to this Cookery School before, but we learnt so much during the day it was EXCELLENT value for money. I did pay full price and the comments are my own personal reflection of the experience. The morsels above are the Champagne Ganache filled Chocolate Shells, with a Gold Dust effect on the top and one side, I was well chuffed with them considering how ‘challenging’ they are to make.
If you fancy doing something a bit different and learning from a true champion Mark Tilling at Season Cookery School is more than highly recommended, I am going to be spending some more time with Mark later in the year if diary and wallet allows, it was brilliant.
…………………………………Until next time L8er’s…………………………