“When you feel melancholic, have a bit of chocolate. When you feel a bit under pressure, have a bit of chocolate. When you feel happy, have chocolate. You must always, at all times, have chocolate in the cupboard. That is de rigueur.” - Raymond Blanc
I always plan to spend these last few days leading up to Christmas relaxing at home with a cocktail, wrapping presents to put under the Christmas tree while watching some festive films. The reality is, I’m sat covered head to toe in sellotape after I unwisely requested my young niece and nephew help wrap last minute presents. What I'd hoped would be a cocktail may turn out to be the glass of sherry we've left out for 'Santa'.
This hysteria is a far cry from the chocolate making course I took earlier this month. I received the experience as an early Christmas present off my family.
As a self confessed chocoholic, it's probably the best gift someone could ever buy for me; receiving a voucher to Slattery's Patissier & Chocolatier is somewhat alike finding a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Slattery’s is a 3rd generation Chocolatier located near Manchester. A sweet heaven, housed in a large 3 storey building filled with handmade luxury cakes, ice creams and chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.
The ground floor of the building is the shop where you can buy treats to enjoy at home. On the first floor is The Masons dining room which serves items fresh from the onsite baker and afternoon tea. At the top of the building is where you can master the art chocolate making, Slattery’s school of excellence.
I’m sure all chocaholics will agree, even just the word ‘chocolate’ has a certain magic about it, so to have a whole day working with a professional chocolatier learning about it, making it and, more importantly, tasting it, was a real treat.
I arrived just before the 9.30am start time and met with the rest of the group attending the course. Our tutor for the day, Julie, introduced us to the owner, John Slattery. John’s parents set up the business 44 years ago, he explained the history of Slattery’s and how four members of the family still work in the business today.
Julie then set about teaching us, starting by telling us that chocolate grows in pods on trees (which in my mind makes it healthy) and grows in warm regions close to the equator, in what is nicknamed “the chocolate belt”.
The cocoa beans are roasted and ground before being pressed in a hydraulic press to produce cocoa solid and cocoa butter. The two ingredients are then put back together in the proportions as to how it is to be made, i.e. dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Generally, most of the chocolate we buy in the shops today has had the cocoa butter replaced with vegetable oil, the cocoa butter is then sold on for use elsewhere, for example in beauty products. Chocolate with a high cocoa butter content is shinier and tastes much better (it melts in the mouth a lot quicker as the cocoa butter melts at our body temperature.)
We had a tasting of various types of chocolate. From white, which has no cocoa solids in it just cocoa butter, to dark chocolate with 95% cocoa content. Throughout the day you choose which type to work with. Slattery’s uses authentic couverture from Belgium.
For the workshop, there are three machines which melt and temper the three different types of chocolate, meaning we could set about making our own chocolates straight away.
We were each given an attractive hair net to wear and told to put on an apron. Most of the people on the class were smart enough to bring their own, I on the other hand was far too excited to be working with chocolate to consider such a thing. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright red plastic pinny.
Undeterred, I began by filling the mould trays with my preferred milk chocolate. This coated the mould meaning that I could fill it with my choice of ganache once the chocolate had set. I opted for Champagne as well as salted caramel and plain chocolate fillings.
Once our little chocolates were made, we moved onto making larger chocolate moulds (tortoises for me), delicious truffles, a chocolate bowl made using a balloon to hold all of our chocolates, as well as the pièce de résistance, a ganache covered chocolate cake with swirls on top.
Julie made it all look very easy but us novices had chocolate spewing everywhere.
The downside of working with a professional chocolatier is that hygiene is key so you’re not allowed to lick up any of the spilt chocolate. Consequently we spent most of the day looking wistfully as our creations, desperate to taste them.
The course was very fast paced and we had to work quickly to keep up. Julie was excellent and helped us all along the way. The aim behind the workshop is to equip you with the skills to be able to make the same chocolates at home, so it’s not too technical.
I couldn’t believe how much we made in the one day and left laden with bags full of chocolate delights. Most of the things made on the course can keep for up to 6 weeks, although my family demolished most of mine within seconds of me walking through the door.
You can find further information about the courses on the Slattery’s website: https://slattery.co.uk/courses