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Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

See the seashell piece in this Godiva cache? That's the coveted Open Oyster.

Where to begin a tale that could melt even the most hardened heart?

With an email I received, which went out to Godiva Rewards Club members--one of which I am proud to be. It announced the first-ever event in the Godiva School of Chocolat. The hands-on class was meeting tonight in Soho at the Culinary Loft with Godiva Executive Chef Chocolatier Thierry Muret. Space limited, cost $150. I was able to go as a media guest, and loved it.

Rocky Road Start
H. was driving into the city to meet his old friend, Dan, best man at our wedding and friend of H.'s since H. was 4 and Dan was 3. So I caught a ride with him rather than pay $7.25 each way on the bus. But the traffic approaching the Lincoln Tunnel was terrible, at a standstill forever. The two-hour class started at 7, and I didn't leap out of the car until then. Took me a dog's age to hail a cab, and cost $19, counting tip. I arrived near 8 P.M., after the molding part, but in time for the bark and the white chocolate mousse. And Erica Lapidus, Godiva Director of Brand and Internal Communications, was gracious enough to catch me up. Then...the fun began as I put on my chocolate-brown Godiva apron and picked up my spatula in the select group of women [mostly] and men, all looking thrilled to be there, hanging on the chocolate master's every word.

Don't Lose Your Temper 
Tempering chocolate is an art--melting it so that you can then pour it out for bark or into molds, drizzle it over cookies, or fold it into cakes. I've learned the hard way over the years, trying to melt chocolate in a tiny pan on the stovetop, and when that didn't work, stirring in a little water, for disastrous results, or working with white chocolate--only it wasn't real white chocolate, so it kind of just separated into strange yellow components and then scorched.

Tonight, Chef Muret taught us to use a ratio of 1/3 solid chocolate to 2/3 melted to temper. In other words, we started with melted dark chocolate, then stirred in half that amount of dark chocolate pieces. Since I was late, Jennifer*, from Queens [to my left] and Kristin and Ed, a couple from Long Island [to my right], kindly made room for me at their work station. Then we stirred in everything from dried cranberries [At least they're kind of healthy, Chef Muret said] to chopped almonds, macadamias and pecan pieces. We poured it out on parchment paper until it hardened. Amazing bark!

Then we each got a bowlful of luscious white chocolate mousse to leave plain or flavor with strawberry, blackberry or raspberry natural dried fruits that had been ground into bright grainy powders. I chose raspberry. We each scooped the mousse into a disposable pastry bag and learned how to pipe it into the molds made in the part of class I missed. Fortunately, an extra unclaimed tray of them materialized, so I filled those.

Deep, Dark Chocolate Wisdom 
Comments and observations from the master chef, who was born in Belgium, got his chemistry degree and later opened a chocolate shop called Le Caraque in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago [in 1984]. By 1988, Godiva had wooed him away. In his own words:
  • [For the mousse], use a disposable plastic piping bag. Bacteria grows on the fabric ones, and you can never get them completely clean.
  • The mousse is made from 2/3 heavy cream and 1/3 white chocolate. Take 200 grams of heavy cream, divide in two. Bring 100 grams to a boil, pour over chopped chocolate. Whip remaining cream.  [I missed the rest of the recipe, which the chef was sharing with a woman at the next workspace, who pressed him for it, but pretty sure that you cool the melted chocolate mixture to lukewarm, then gently fold the whipped cream into the mixture.]
  • Godiva's popular Open Oyster piece is totally, totally made by hand.
  • It's great to have a more crowded market [when asked about competitors, from Vosges to MarieBelle]. You will always recognize a Godiva piece by its style. The competition pushed us to create Godiva's style. Competition is always good. In New York City, I go to visit my competitors and I'm not shy about it. I leave my business card.
OMG, the evening ended with chocolate martinis served to us from a platter and Godiva Bakery Truffles, passed around. We all went home with our handmade barks, our trays of molded shells filled with white chocolate mousse, and an assortment of Godiva chocolates and bars....even cocoa-colored pens and little Godiva notepads. Some of the more resourceful among us, like Jennifer, Kristin and I, scooped up the leftover chocolate pieces to use at home. God forbid those riches would have been wasted! So far, Godiva doesn't sell them. But we've got our fingers crossed. What amazing treats we could make.
    1. Boot camp in park.
    2. Walked Sug around block once.
    3. Got my hair cut--it felt heavy and long.
    *I hope I've spelled my tablemates' names correctly.


      1. Oh, my. Your profession gets you to such glamorous places! I don't know which sounds more wonderful to me - the spa weekend you did, or this! Something to remember - and you got take homes, as well.

      2. Hi Nan. thank you for the note. Have you been baking with your family lately? i hope your summer is going well. Yes, i do really enjoy these events, I have to say. best, alice