A few weeks ago on an extremely warm Saturday, I was invited to try out a class with the GETCreative program at the Art Institute of California-San Diego in Mission Valley. I had the pleasure of taking a gourmet chocolate class and brought Stacey along with me as my guest. She might have grumbled a little about the 9AM start time but being rewarded with chocolates at the end seemed to subdue her a bit. Let’s check out the chocolate class!
There were only five students for the chocolate class that morning which made it feel a lot more personable. Chef Kurt Lechner was our instructor for that day. Chef Kurt has been working with chocolates and pastries for 39 years – he really knows a thing or two about the art of chocolate and desserts. He was very personable, friendly, and patient with all of us.
Chef Kurt first went over the process of how chocolate is made and the (many) steps it takes to get it into the form we typically see for chocolates. He had us sample all of the above chocolates – starting from the 100% dark chocolate to less intense dark chocolates down to milk chocolate and coating chocolate. Tasting them all at once, it much easier to discern the difference between the styles of chocolate. Depending on where the chocolate is grown, it can have different tastes and flavor profiles, too.
After our introduction, we went into the kitchen to start making ganache. We used a 55% dark chocolate as well as white chocolate.
Chef Kurt showed us how to flavor different ganaches by infusing the heavy cream that goes into the chocolate. On the far left, the heavy cream is plain because it will have orange liqueur mixed in once it’s taken off the heat. To the right of that is the flavor I chose for the infusion – basil! And in the back right corner is a heavy cream being infused with pink peppercorns.
The heavy creams are strained and poured over the bowls of chocolate then left to sit for a few minutes to start melting the chocolate. Then you stir, stir, stir! And then… you start to temper the chocolate. The chocolate gets poured out onto marble slabs (which are hopefully cold) and you basically just swish it back and forth over the cool marble. This slowly lowers the temperature of the chocolate as well as thickens it up.
Once that process was done, Chef Kurt showed us how to pipe the ganache out. These will be the centers for some truffles later.
I had a little trouble piping out our batch because our ganache wasn’t totally smooth (the chocolate chips hadn’t melted all the way and there were little chunks). Chef Kurt had to help me get the chocolate through the bag!
After the truffle fillings were all piped out, they were set out in the cool hallway to set up. They don’t go into the fridge! Chef Kurt told us chocolate should never go into the fridge since the moisture from the fridge would ruin the chocolate.
We set to work on our next set of desserts – little gourmet chocolates made from chocolate molds. Here Chef Kurt is demonstrating how to temper the chocolate again.
We all got to take turns playing with the chocolate and helping to cool it down.
I have a lot of photos of Stacey with various kitchen implements. Seemed appropriate.
We had to temper the chocolate about 3 times to get it down to the right temperature. The chocolate was being quite temperamental due to the hot weather that was seeping through the building.
Once the chocolate was ready, we were prepared to start filling the molds. Chef Kurt is doing a little extra decoration here by putting a small smear of white chocolate into the mold first.
This will look so pretty later!
Chef Kurt is checking to see if these are filled enough.
And then we got to do it!
Basically you fill the molds…
And then shake out the excess chocolate. You only want to make a shell since these will be filled with ganache later.
I loved this huge bowl of chocolate.
The molds were put into the freezer for a few minutes to help them set since it was so hot out that day. They only went into the freezer for about 3-5 minutes.
And then we got to filling the chocolates! Chef Kurt let us pick the flavors for the filling and we choose rum, amaretto (almond), and chambord (black raspberry). The above chocolates are being filled with chambord flavored chocolate.
Pretty molds with rum flavored filling.
I worked on these little cute heart shaped chocolates filled with rum chocolate.
And Stacey did ones with amaretto.
Chef Kurt did the final step, called “capping”. He would cover the bottoms in chocolate and use a bench scraper to scrape the chocolate off and “cap” off the chocolates.
The dark chocolate was being a bit difficult that day while the white chocolate was behaving nicely.
I can’t remember exactly when we did this part, but after the truffles were set, we dipped and rolled them in plain chocolate. These had to set once more and then they were done!
Some were dipped plain and some we used a fork to do a little design.
Chef Kurt dusted a few in powdered sugar and cocoa powder making the truffles look very striking.
And here are the other chocolates, unmolded! See how pretty that little bit of white is on top of the chocolate?
Each student did one set of molds which made A LOT of chocolates.
The class seemed to go by very quickly and our reward at the end of class was to take home our own box of chocolates.
This was my box.
The chocolates were delicious and oh-so-smooth. The class was great and Chef Kurt was a wonderful instructor, giving us tips and showing us how to do each step. The class is very hands on and you get to do just about every step of the process. Recipes are also given to you so you can re-create these chocolates at home.
This class was wonderful and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about chocolates. I’m sure this class will be offered again in the near future. Tuition cost is $129 for the class. Other classes are available such as cake/dessert making, sushi making, food and beer pairings, cajun & creole cooking, and more! Check out the full schedule of classes on the GETCreative website.
Thanks to GETCreative’s program coordinator, John Sexton, for inviting me to take a class!
Disclaimer: Our admission to this chocolate class was complimentary. I was not further compensated for this post. All opinions posted here are my own.