I’ve been meaning to do a chocolate course for some time now. I make my own chocolates on board but felt I needed a few new tips and techniques. I live in Malta so the chances of a chocolate course being held at the catering college were pretty slim. I know there are lots in the UK, but with prices quite high, logistics of getting there and the cost of flights and accommodation, it would have been a lot of money!
But I was lucky to find out that there was a two-day chocolate course being held at the Malta catering college. It was being hosted by Philippe Vancayseele, who is a chocolate master for Barry Callebaut.
The first day started with an introduction to chocolate, how’s it harvested and produced, which I did find very interesting. Little did I realise how much work goes into the process before we have the couverture ready to work with in our kitchens and galleys.
There was a varied set of attendees, from housewives to pastry chefs and even a chef on a yacht (that was me!). Philippe Vancayseele wanted to find out how much we knew about chocolate and what techniques we use. I was taught all these years that tempering was the key to getting good shine on chocolate, but little did I know that crystallisation is the most important factor!
We set about our work benches with a chocolate heater at a temperature of 30 degrees, a heat gun (one for stripping paint) and a large heat-resistant spoon. We were split into groups and each bench either had dark, milk or white chocolate.
“Its all about feeling the viscosity of the chocolate and seeing the change with your eyes". This was a big change for me. Not using temperatures to tell me if the chocolate is ready to work with, I really did feel like being back at college. But I suppose that is the whole point of doing these courses, to learn new methods.
I was taught all these years that tempering was the key to getting good shine on chocolate, but little did I know that crystallisation is the most important factor!
We were then shown various truffles, ganaches and fillings that we had to make before we started on the moulded chocolates. Most of the chocolates I make on board are used with moulds, admittedly with mixed success! Again Philippe Vancayseele showed methods that were not only less time consuming but a lot cleaner in the working process. The first day was coming to a close so we de-moulded our chocolates and placed them overnight in cool and dry conditions.
The second day started with getting our chocolate well crystallised and ready for our large chocolate moulds and dipping lesson. We set about with various moulds from Easter eggs, bunnies and dogs. We were also shown how to use a metallic powder to brush onto the chocolate with great results. Philippe Vancayseele showed us how to make a centre piece with just using the moulds, and even bubble wrap. The day ended with us all attempting our own centre piece and boxing up some of our chocolates for our friends and family to taste at home .
Philippe Vancayseele is obviously very passionate about his job and respects the chocolate from its origin right down to the finished products. I’ve certainly learned a lot and felt inspired by doing this course, and can’t wait to get back into the galley to try out some new chocolate ideas on guests and, of course, the crew!
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