Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Skills Swap - Chocolate

When I did the royal icing course in June, I met Negin and we’ve kept in touch on Facebook and email ever since. Not only does Negin work full time at a demanding job, she also makes beautiful cakes at La Torta Divina. She mentioned that she was keen to learn how to make cake pops, while I wanted to learn how to make chocolates. The answer was staring us in the face – a skills swap day where we could stuff our faces with chocolate teach each other a new recipe. I went to her house on Sunday armed with cake crumbs and lollipop sticks and we got cracking.

We started by making a dark chocolate ganache that would be at the centre (literally) of all three chocolate treats.  I’d read that cake pops can be made with ganache instead of buttercream i.e. chocolate cake mixed with double cream & chocolate dipped in chocolate. What’s not to like? The ganache made the cake pops rich and truffle-like. I will definitely be using this method again.

We started work on the chocolates. Negin showed me how to coat a mould with chocolate, fill it with ganache and seal it with more chocolate. We were very pleased with how smooth and glossy they turned out, and were even more pleased with how good they tasted.
The chocolates went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!
It was at this point that Negin’s brother popped round and I learned that he’s a dentist. I had that momentary panic like when someone tells you they’re a hairdresser and you think "oh no, my hair is awful today". Would he be cross with us for eating so much sugar, or pleased that we were ultimately creating more work for his dentist’s chair? It seemed from his pearly white smile that he was cool with it. So long as we floss and brush regularly.

Negin also showed me how to make chocolate truffles by piping and chilling balls of ganache, then rolling them in cocoa or sprinkles. I was amazed to learn that in Holland, where Negin has family, sprinkles are sold in large boxes at very reasonable prices because people put them on hot buttered toast and eat it for breakfast. No wonder the Dutch are so chilled if they start the day with a treat like this. The ones we used are called Kwinkslag, which sounds like an insult bellowed at a rival by a Geordie fishwife.
The truffles tasted fantastic and weren’t too hard to make. Working with chocolate is, however, very messy. Negin’s mum agreed as she wistfully gazed at her previously spotless kitchen.
As an extra bonus, Negin and her mum showed me how to make an Iranian almond biscuit called ghorabiye. The recipe starts with 1 kilo of ground almonds, the kind of en masse baking of which I thoroughly approve and which reminds me of Greek cooking, where you start with the assumption that everyone you ever met is coming for lunch. In fact ghorabiye put me in mind of kourabiedes (say it aloud and you realise it’s the same word), the Greek almond biscuits that I used to eat by the plateful to cover up the fact that I hadn’t a clue what was being said. I did eventually learn Greek, but this in no way diminished my biscuit intake.

Tray after tray of ghorabiye were rolled, sprinkled with sugar and almonds, and baked into delicious light little biscuits. They looked great too.
I rarely acknowledge the existence of savoury food in this blog but I have to mention the aash – a thick soup – which Negin’s mum gave me for tea. It’s made by boiling brown rice, barley, lentils and carrots then adding onion, stock, fresh parsley, coriander and spinach. It’s not often that such healthy food tastes so delicious so I am definitely going to try making this at home.

Huge thanks to Negin and her mum for inviting me into their kitchen and giving me a great day of making and eating treats!

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