It’s the sweetest themed week in the foodie calendar, with an array of chocolatey events taking place across the country. Chocolate Week returns for its 12th year to promote fine chocolate and independent artisan chocolatiers.
The week kicked off with The Chocolate Show London at Olympia National Hall. In light of all this, I attended a truffles and praline workshop led by Zara at Zara’s Chocolates in Bristol to celebrate. (Zara is currently at The Chocolate Show and has just launched an amazing new range of chocolate bars to mark the week).
For those who yearn for magical artisan chocolates or simply want to give them as a gift, Zara’s Chocolates is the place to go. Having come far since its humble beginnings in 2011, the shop can be found along North Street, and since November 2013 local florist Ivory Flowers has shared the space. Happily, as I found out, Zara’s workshops offer hands-on experience and gentle guidance to small groups, giving you the opportunity to shape, flavour and roll your own chocolate truffles, with lots of laughter thrown in for good measure.
On a chilly September evening I joined three other chocolate enthusiasts, having never been overly successful at making my own truffles. The shop itself is charming and the aroma of flowers and sweet chocolates as I stepped inside was irresistible.
After browsing the lovely lollies, chocolate bars, and handmade truffles in vintage teacups, displayed on country-chic furniture, we were greeted with a chocolate espresso and passion fruit and raspberry and caramel truffles, and shown to the open kitchen where Zara and her team make everything sold in the shop.
As we donned our aprons, Zara outlined the evening ahead and first things first, we debated over what to flavour our truffles with. Zara has a real talent for creating delicious combinations that marry beautifully. In front of us were the likes of lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, raspberry, peppermint, gingerbread, cinnamon and cardamom flavouring, to name but a few. After sniffing and discussing which to include, we then made our milk truffle filling – a simple combination of cream and chocolate. We poured warm cream over around 100g of chocolate drops and stirred until it formed a glossy mixture that I already wanted to try.
I flavoured my mixture with a hint of lemon and grapefruit. We then piped this mix into set chocolate shells. I must admit I had never piped chocolate before and it was surprisingly satisfying. We sealed each truffle and plunged them into a bowl of tempered chocolate before carefully rolling them in chopped nuts, raspberry pieces, raspberry sugar and crispies. Then we piped warm white chocolate on a few.
As we allowed our truffles to set, Zara presented us each with a bowl of praline (my favourite) to roll into truffles. I ground coffee and sugar to coat mine – the smell was amazing.
My mind drifted back to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the rumbling temper machine was reminiscent of the dreamy river August Gloop drinks from. One of the participants exclaimed ‘Augustus!’ while gazing at the pouring chocolate.
Last but not least was the decoration. We popped our chocs in a box and tied it with ribbon to be given as gifts or in my case, to be devoured by colleagues. Overall, the workshop was excellent fun and a wonderful way to end a Wednesday evening.