Behind the Scenes in a Top Chocolate Kitchen
One of the highlights of the past year was introducing Yankee’s first annual Editor’s Choice Food Awards in our November/December 2013 issue. We love having the opportunity to bring attention to the many wonderful products being made all over New England, from cheeses to jams to chocolates.
One of our winners, EH Chocolatier, wowed us with their bonbons (a catch-all term for any small piece of candy covered in chocolate, as opposed to a truffle, which is technically a soft ball of ganache that’s rolled in cocoa powder or coconut or some other coating). In our writeup for the article, we raved about “all the little details that make their bonbons perfect: using fresh herbs, French fruit purées, and Rishi teas to flavor their ganache and chocolate.”
So when proprietors Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney invited me to their Somerville, Massachusetts workshop for a bonbon-making class, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see how, exactly, all that magic happens.
We gathered around one of the stainless steel tables where Elaine, Catharine, and their team tackle each precise step in the chocolate-making process. We sampled some of the different chocolates bases that they use in their candies: some for the ganache fillings (a mixture of chocolate, cream, and flavorings), some for couverture (the cocoa butter-rich chocolate that covers the bonbons), some for their bars and other confections. Then Catherine demonstrated how they make their ganache.
The process is pretty simple. You take finely shopped chocolate and pour hot cream over it. You can add flavors to the cream by, say, steeping tea leaves into it or adding orange zest. But it’s an easy process. Then you stir.
For extra flavor and better texture, Catherine also adds good quality butter.
But how do you get from that nice, gloppy chocolate to an architecturally sound square of ganache dipped in a micron-thin chocolate shell?
First, you pour some chocolate into a metal frame and spread it around.
Then you smooth it out as much as possible with a knife.
Cover the ganache and let it sit overnight to firm up and the next day, you have a perfect square.
Now it’s time to think about cutting and coating the ganache. Because dipping any filling in chocolate tends to coat the top and sides of the candy more than the bottom, you need to get your bottom layer set up before you cut and dip the candy. Catherine and Elaine spread a thin layer of tempered chocolate on the ganache, which will serve as the bottom layer.
As with the ganache, the square will be covered and allowed to set up at room temperature overnight.
Next, the ganache is cut into perfect squares using a device called a guitar cutter.
Now the chocolate is ready to be dipped and decorated. Elaine and Catharine used to do this work by hand, but as their business has grown, they’ve been able to invest in this wonderful coating and tempering machine, which they named Lucy after the famous chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy. Yes, that is a continuous stream of chocolate coming out of that faucet.
For our class, we did the dipping by hand.
Have you ever wondered how chocolatiers paint those pretty designs on their chocolates? Turns out, they press them on using thin plastic sheets that are printed with colored cocoa butter. Elaine showed us how to lay a square on each chocolate and press it on with a paintbrush.
Once the chocolate sets, you simply peel the plastic off and the image remains. And that’s how you end up with beautiful chocolates like these.
With our lesson completed, we were invited to sample some of Elaine and Catherine’s other confections. If only every class could end so well!
For more information, or to order chocolates, visit ehchocolatier.com.
Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.