obsession

A chocolate reverie in Paris

Suddenly my itinerary which included a visit to Musée d’Orsay, a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge, and some Parisian cuisine seemed like an incomplete masterpiece without a day in front of a stove.

Loni Stark
10.23.2010 | View Comments
Chocolate making class in Paris.

Chocolate making class in Paris. Little morsels of rich indulgences.

During my last trip to Paris, I may have caught a dash of the same bug which possessed Julia Child when she lived there with her husband during the late 1940′s to early 50′s. Yes, I am speaking of the culinary variety.

Surrounded by floral blue and white wallpaper and carpets in my beguiling room at the Radisson Blu Champs Elyses, a short saunter from the Arc de Triomphe, I was inspired to enroll in a culinary class. The longer I contemplated this idea, the more I grew fond of it.

Suddenly my itinerary which included a visit to Musée d’Orsay, a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge, and some Parisian cuisine seemed like an incomplete masterpiece without a day in front of a stove.

I phoned several places that morning, seeking such a class that would have me kneading bread or simmering a pot of Burgundy red wine and rooster. Alas, the movie Julie & Julia had inspired many visitors to take a cooking class in this city of lights, romance…and cooking classes. This discouraging news did not dismay me, instead it made me desire the sensory delights of an active kitchen even more.

Finally, I found myself on the other end of a call with a gentleman who offered to guide me through one of the best open air markets on a Saturday morning. The tour would take about 3 hours. After some conferring with my more sensible side, I realized that although this was better than nothing, seeing all the beautiful fresh produce, cheese and meats, yet having no place to braise or saute them would only be more frustrate, not quell my obsession.

Atelier des Sens Paris Chocolate Making Class

The sign outside of an otherwise non-descript building at one of several class locations in Paris. This is a school even the locals frequent.

Just when I was about to convince myself that spending my entire weekend in Paris by the phone was not a sane way to visit the city, I stumbled across the website of L’Atelier des Sens. Unlike many of the places I called earlier, this website was exclusively in French. Thankfully, having grown up in Canada, I was required to take a rudimentary amount of French classes and could stumble my way through the website, smiling with pride when I believed I understood a paragraph of text. Many of the classes were filling, but there was one on Saturday morning which was a chocolate making class that had a few slots opened. I had wanted to learn to make croissants and other pastries, but a class that promised to have me rolling out truffles in the middle of Paris wasn’t too shabby of a way to spend a Saturday.

Atelier des Sens Paris Chocolate Making Class

The kitchen of the chocolate making class.

Atelier des Sens Paris Chocolate Making Class

Two large table occupied the center of the room. This is where we mixed bowls of chocolate and laid out parchment paper where truffles are neatly placed. Overhead, there was translucent covering so that some of the natural light shone through from the outside.

To my delight, when I arrived for the class, the kitchen resembled the one I imagined.

I chuckled a little because how often does something so match the version you have of it in your head? The worn down furniture, the substantial wood tables, the checkered floor tiles, the stacked metal chairs and the translucent ceiling covering that let in the natural light and made you feel like you were in a greenhouse.

Atelier des Sens Paris Chocolate Making Class

At the end of the chocolate making class, everyone shared the spoils. One of the side benefits of taking a culinary class.

We each received an apron which we could take with us after the day was over as a reminder of the adventures of the day. Like the website, the class commenced rapidly once everyone arrived, all in French. To my glee, the entire class, except for me were Paris locals. Yes, I was about to partake in a genuine experience.

I strained my ear to catch the directions from our instructor. I was grateful for the demonstrations along the way. The first thing we learned was how to temper chocolate. There are several ways to do it, the one taught in the class is similar to the seed method described in The Professional Chef. In this method, you start with a bit of chocolate which has already been tempered (almost all chocolate that is sold) as a source of seed crystals.

Tempering Chocolate

Tempering Chocolate

The tempering temperatures vary depending on the cocoa butter content. Here are the general guidelines. Many manufacturers will provide guidelines for the specific chocolates.

Dark – 31-32°C
Milk – 27-31°C
White – 27-28°C

Our first project was to make chocolate boxes. For this, we needed to melt chocolate and work with molds.

Chocolate Box

Choclolate molds for a circular chocolate box.

Chocolate Box Results

Life is a box of chocolates. The results of the box after I popped it out of the mold. Because this was only a 1 day class, we were operating on very tight timelines. The chocolate-covered molds had to be placed in the refrigerator to cool them quickly so they would form.

Designs in Chocolate

Designs in Chocolate. These designs once they harden will be peeled off and used to decorate the box.

Parchment Paper Cone

Parchment paper cone used to pipe out chocolate. It is first filled with melted chocolate, the tip cut and then it is ready to use.

My Chocolate Box

The completed chocolate box.

Cooling Chocolate

The fridge was essential in making sure our chocolate formed for the next steps in the process.

We also made truffles filled with raspberry and nuts and rolled in more toasted nuts, as well as played with molds to make little fishes. In the end, I was a little heady with all the chocolate that surrounded me. Yes, while no one was looking, I did pop a couple into my mouth :-).

Working with molds

When working with molds, it is important to ensure they are clean. Here, a brush is used to brush a white or dark chocolate on the mold and then use another type of chocolate to pour in so the results is a marbled effect.

Chocolate Molds

After the chocolate is poured into the mold, you want to tap the mold to make sure the chocolate settles and there are no air bubbles. Then you take a large scrapper and get rid of all the excess chocolate so that each of the pieces of chocolate that come out will have clean edges. This mold went into the fridge for a quick hardening process.

Fish Chocolates

Some of the chocolate fishes we made. These were just popped out of their molds.

Truffle centers

Here we are popping out some truffle centers made of a chocolate and nut mixture. These will then get dipped in chocolate and covered in toasted nuts.

Raspberry Centers

Raspberry centers that will be cut up into small squares and also dipped in chocolate.

Toasted Nuts

Rolling freshly dipped chocolate truffles in toasted nuts.

Chocolate Buttons

Chocolate Buttons, simple and pure.

White Chocolate

White Chocolate Square.

Handmade chocolates

Perfectly imperfect handmade chocolates.

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Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, adventure travel seeker and passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's also the host of Stark Insider TV. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. As director, product and industry marketing at Adobe, Loni oversees global product positioning, and go-to-market strategy and operations for Adobe’s web experience management business. Loni's story...
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