Chocolate Treats and Truffles: A Chocolate Lover’s Delight

Chocolate Treats and Truffles, held at the world renown International Culinary Center in lower Manhattan, is a four hour intensive that focuses on the fine art of creating mouth watering, indulging, sinfully delicious chocolate confectionary treats!

The International Culinary Center, The French Culinary Institute and the Italian Culinary Academy are housed under the ICC.

The International Culinary Center, (ICC), situated on the edge of the Soho Section of Manhattan, houses both the French Culinary Institute and the Italian Culinary Academy. The corner block building, on Broadway and Grand Streets, is also home to the ICC’s restaurant L’ECole, where student chef’s turn their training into truth all under the supervision of internationally renowned master chefs.

The class began at 10:00 a.m., in the same industrial kitchens used for the students enrolled in the professional culinary program, with a formal introduction to the art of chocolate making. All student are given a blue ICC Chef’s apron and a French style beret or skull cap to wear during the course of the class.

Chef Tom Jones and Chef Rebecca Kaiser heat forty kilos of chocolate as it mixes automatically.

With fall classes beginning, we passed several kitchens full with student chef’s and their projects including dry pasta instruction with Chef Jessica Botta; Pork, that began earlier as we, at 10:00 a.m., passed a gutted and beheaded pig suspended and presumably draining that would, by our noon break, be cut into portions, made into sausage, pork chops and other menu items and additional classes used for Holiday Meal experiments.

Chocolate Treats and Truffles taught by Chef Tom Jones and Chef Rebecca Kaiser, the Master Pastry Arts Chef’s at ICC, began with an overview of the origins of Chocolate, the geographical location cocoa beans are found, hand harvesting and the process of extracting the white cocoa seed from the pod which becomes “nib” or the real chocolate. and the fermenting process, roasted beans. The couveratur or the fat content in cocoa butter is the key to making really beautiful chocolate candy. It gives the chocolate the snap, shine, smooth flavor and mouth watering appearance.

Demonstrating the tabling method of tempering chocolate.

The Pastry Arts kitchen is similar to the industrial Pasta Kitchen with the exception that each station or island is not adjacent to a stove. The Bench for the Pastry Arts is a singular long stainless steel table back-to-back creating a double work area. Table top mixer’s separate the stations.  The course, Chocolate Treats and Truffles, is designed to instill the knowledge of and create ease and comfort with the process of exquisite chocolate creations. 

As in Pasta For Future Chef’s the culinary industry terms become very important as one progresses through the class; introducing, agitating and enrobing the chocolate are important terms used throughout the class. Simply stated, introducing is to add; agitating is to stir and enrobing; to coat.

The full immersion method of instruction which is utilized by the school in the professional program and recreational classes includes a walk-through process that had the class of twenty-three, circled around the “bench” watching as Chef Tom explained, through demonstration, tempering cooling methods.  The combined extensive experience and dedication to the traditions of chocolate creations making were skillfully exhibited in the teaching style.

Elongating the chocolate until it covers the marble.

The class was divided into a morning and afternoon session. The morning class consisted of the lecture on chocolate origins; tempering and molding. Taking the mystery out of mold making releases the creativity of the chef and begins the experimentation process the limits of which is ones imagination.

Chef Tom chose to teach us the art of mold making and creating  Truffles ′A L′Orange or Orange Truffles, Rochees, and Amandes Enrobees De Chocolat or Chocolate Nuts.  It’s difficult to believe that in a four-hour time frame, without any culinary experience, one can leave with the expertise necessary to impress friends, family and even oneself!

Spreading the chocolate on marble for cooling.

After the in-depth explanation on chocolate origins Chef Tom moved onto the process of tempering chocolate; the means necessary to create the optimum structure in which the chocolate can be used for the confectionary creations.  

 An analogy of tempered chocolate would be snow. In order to have snow the temperature must drop to a certain level and in order to pack snow into snow balls or other creations it has to be even colder and in a certain temperature range; too cold and the snow doesn’t pack; too warm and the snow melts. 

Smoothing the chocolate in preparation.

It is the same process, in reverse, for tempering chocolate. The chocolate must be within an optimum temperature to create the delicious and mouth-watering treats that we love or desire to love.  In order to form the ideal structure the chocolate must at 81 degrees and can never exceed 90 degrees. This window of temperature creates two challenges for the chef: The first is maintaining the temperature and the second is expediently creating the necessary molds or enrobing the desired treats in the optimum temperature range.

Tabling the chocolate for tempering.

According to Chef Tom, “Chocolate is unforgiving. It doesn’t allow you to break the rules to much.” The tempering process calls for heating the chococalte beyond the temper stage to melt the fat crystals; At this point when the mixture is to warm, like a fever with a child, the chocolate must be cooled. There are multiple options either an cool water bath which literally equates to sitting the chocolate bowl atop a second bowl with ice water; also introducing additional nibs to the chocolate or tabling, another method of cooling, consists of pouring the chocolate onto a marble surface and it immediately draws the heat from the chocolate. The Tabling method is not used in most shops or home preparation due to space constraints, risk of contamination and the mess.

Chef Rebecca uses a blow-torch as the need for high heat to melt the chocolate for cleaning is one reason tabling is not used.

Expecting the molding process to be intricate, exasperating and difficult, I was surprised when Chef Tom introduced the latex balloon method. Handing each student a small latex balloon, the kind bought at the five and dime, we watched as he dipped the balloon into the chocolate covering the bottom of the balloon and inching midway to create a large round bowl of chocolate at the bottom so the balloon had become a black and white.

The latex balloon in mold and finished!

I noticed other classmates creating a larger scalloped edged bowl by dipping the side of the balloon into the chocolate so I created the same design by laying the balloon down on its side in a rotating manner until it had been dipped four times creating a scallop edged large bowl. The balloons were collected as the chocolate needed to harden in order to be filled with the other candies that we would be making.

Racks of latex balloon molds.

At this point we dismissed for a short break during which we were treated, again by the perfect hosts at the ICC, to a Holiday Meal which is an intensive class all on its own. The Master Chef’s were experimenting with culinary combinations in preparation for the New York Culinary experience this October 3rd & 4th, in which an entire class will be devoted to the art of Holiday Meal preparation. The art of getting along with your relatives and guests is not included in the handout.

Our feast consisted of curry grilled center cut chicken breast, penne pasta baked shrimp and spinach with melted mozzarella cheese, romaine lettuce with homemade French vinaigrette dressing, pressed thin sliced cauliflower with white and purple raisins cooked in a light brown sauce. Served with Brioche muffins. Tres Bon!

During the class break our stations were stocked with Truffle centers that had been made earlier. We would enrobe them and move on to creating Rochees and Amandes Enrobees De Chocolat. The technique used to create the Truffle center or ganache would be demonstrated as we continued. 

Truffles and cocoa powder.

There are several methods utilized for enrobing chocolate. The prong method simply drop a set truffle center into the chocolate, enrobe and scoop the truffle out with a wide set tine prong that allows the excess chocolate to drip through the tines. Or the hand dipped method; which is simply dropping the truffle center into the chocolate and in your latex gloved hand swirl large amounts of the tempered chocolate around the truffle center, enrobe and place for setting. We used the hand dipped method.

The prong method demonstrated. Notice the tines.

The next demonstration was Rochees. This is simpler than it sounds. I found it easier due to years of my mom’s Chow Mein Noodle cookies that follow the same principle. It is a no bake butterscotch candy with enrobed Chow Mein Noodles and Spanish peanuts that must be removed from the double boiler before it goes out of temper. This took on a whole new meaning at many a holiday.

Rochees are a no bake chocolate candy with almond slivers and orange zest. Orange zest is candied orange peel. Combining small amounts of the ingredients in a slightly warm bowl, to extend the working time, pour the tempered chocolate over the ingredients and using ones hand enrobe the ingredients until they are coated; set in small amounts, on parchment, allowing the candy to take it own “rock” formation. This was very easy.

Truffles rolled in cocoa powder.

Amandes Enrobes De Chocolat or Chocolate Nuts involves some prep time for the almonds or the nut of choice. In this case the almonds needed to be crystallized or sugar coated. Sugar and water are added together and heated, agitating frequently, adding the nuts to the mixture, continuing stirring. The mixture goes through various grades of crystallization passing through a sandy and graining appearance until the nuts become coated and the sugar is white and, clings fully or, enrobes the nuts.

Agitating almonds to crystallize.

The nuts are cooled; remembering that any temperature variation to the chocolate could take it out of temper or remove it from its optimum working temperature, then the cooled nuts are placed in a working bowl and enrobed with the chocolate. Then, before the chocolate is set the nuts are tossed into a bowl of powdered sugar or other top coat.

Ganache set for piping.

To create the center for the Orange Truffle, Chef Tom, used a standard recipe for Orange Truffles. Truffles are made with heavy cream which is heated with the orange juice. After the ingredients were combined they were poured over the tempered chocolate which is then out of temper which then becomes "ganache." The process includes smoothing the grainy ganache until it appears blended, keeping the mixer no higher than mixture level so not to introduce air into the ganache.  The mixture is then spread on parchment paper to set. After setting, the mixture is prepared for piping. Using a Number 5 tip the ganache is piped into small round mounds then refrigerated to set.

Chef Tom demonstrating piping ganache.

It is important to remember that any of these recipes are easily manipulated to include a personal twist. Orange Truffles can become raspberry Truffles simply by substituting zest of raspberry or a simple juice press of fresh raspberries. Also the Truffles can be enrobed in a finely chopped hazelnut Rochee or the same mixture can be the center filling. The same with Chocolate Nuts; this can be the nut of your choice.

Piped Ganache, the center of the Truffle, setting.

Then, it was time to get the molds we began with and see just exactly what our latex balloon bowls had become. The balloon does not peel off the sides; it is popped and contracts off the chocolate into busted balloon pieces at the bottom. The edible chocolate bowl  has texture, firmness and shine. We then filled them, overflowing, with the mouth-watering, indulging, sinfully delicious chocolate treats we had created!

Chocolate Treats and Truffles  is an intensive, entertaining,  informative and sinfully delicious look into the art of creating grand chocolate masterpieces. The beginner, novice and expert all can enjoy the four hour session. The International Culinary Center has trained some of the most highly skilled culinary talents that have brought many Manhattan restaurants the coveted stars and elevated already lauded eateries into the stratosphere.

My edible chocolate balloon mold filled with delicious mouth-watering candy treats!

The upcoming New York Culinary Experience, a two day intensive, sponsored by New York Magazine and the ICC will be held on Saturday and Sunday October 3rd and 4th and will feature opportunities for all participants to learn from Master Chef’s, experience their delicious creations and harness the inner chef and create your own culinary masterpiece under the watchful of industry experts.

Confirmed master chef’s include Andre Soltner, former Chef/owner of the four star Lutece and known as the first superstar chef and Dean of the Classic Studies Program. Jacques Torres, the Dean of the Pastry Arts at The French Culinary Institute also known as Mr. Chocolate who spent eleven years as the Executive Pastry Chef at Le Cirque 2000. Also confirmed are Daniel Bouley, trained at the famous Sorbonne and owner of the equally famous Bouley, Upstairs, Succession and Bouley Bakery and Jean-George Vongerichten of the famous Jean-George restaurant as well as many more confirmed chef participants.

The recreational classes are as addicting and delicious as the delicious confectionary chocolate treats we carried home!

For more information on the IAC:
For more information on the New York Culinary Weekend:

All photos by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc.

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