Chocolate Academy, Chicago

Have you ever thought of enrolling in a Chocolate Academy? Seriously, learning about chocolate and it’s many properties and uses?  Barry Callebaut USA LLC is the place for you. Located in Chicago they offer classes for any level of experience.

Of the many courses available there is one specific for the non-professional: This is what their website says “Due to an increasing demand from the general public Barry Callebaut has created a series of short courses designed for none professionals fascinated in the history and the application chocolate. An assortment of courses allow the participant to understand the origin of the cocoa bean and its conversion into chocolate, how to use chocolate in the kitchen and how to delight friends and relations with simple chocolate creations.”

Callabaut chocolate bonbons

Course topics you can enroll in are:

Custom Bonbons: August 23rd-25th. Coming up soon so get signed up! You will be taught how to use the proper tools, techniques, and methods to be able to create your own fun creations.

Advanced Chocolate Showpiece: August 29th -September 1st. Showcasing tips and tricks for creating your own master centerpiece.

Petit Gateaux, Tarts and Entremets: September 20th-22nd. Techniques, finishes and flavours to create your own small pastries.

Playful Chocolate Figurines: September 27th- 28th.  This course will cover everything from how to do molding and casting, to experimenting with colorful cocoa butter, and how to use these skills to build your own creations.

Snack Attack: October 17th – 19th. You’ll learn to make a wide variety of multi-layered bars and tablets using both basic and advanced panning with different textured and flavored centers such as nuts, caramel, praline, dried fruits, and cereals.

Discovering Chocolate: Oct 3-6, Nov 7-10, and Dec 12-15. This course is hands-on  and  will help any beginner master crystallization techniques, dipping and molding, as well as introduce you to ganache and emulsion.

So, if you were wondering what you were going to be doing on those cool fall weekends this is the place to be. Sign up at I am a huge fan of Barry Callaebaut chocolate and would recommend the courses to anyone who loves chocolate!



Become A Convert

Most people have an aversion to dark chocolate. Personally, I prefer the dark chocolate over milk chocolate on any given day. In doing some research there are a few reasons you should convert to dark chocolate. It can be quite scientific, but it may help change your mind:

Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of a phytochemical called flavonols. Flavonol is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in various types of plants, in particularly, the cocoa plant.  The two most prominent flavonols are called catechins (a type of natural phenol and antioxidant) and epicatechins (a nutrient in cocoa).  A 2008 study with 5000 people who ate 2 squares of dark chocolate per day had a lower C-reactive protein, used mainly as a marker of inflammation.  In addition, flavonols can actually relax your blood vessels, which lower blood pressure and, in turn, lower your risk of a heart attack.

Dark chocolate has much less sugar than milk and contains more cocoa butter, which comes naturally from the cacao bean, and is mostly monounsaturated (healthy) fat.  The higher the percent of cacao the better. Eating 2 squares of dark chocolate will raise your blood sugar less than a potato or a slice of bread! This is a treat the body can easily accommodate.

Transitioning to dark chocolate can take time, especially since you are used to the “sweet” threshold.  Each dark chocolate bar has a different taste and feel, much like coffee, so experiment with different brands and bars, especially those made in Europe.,




Chocolate Is Healthy?

I was digging for one source and came up with an article from 2007 that says chocolate can be just as good at fighting cavities as traditional fluoride! Seriously? The article went on to say that research suggests that an extract of cocoa powder that occurs naturally in chocolate and tea might be as effective as the fluoride found in toothpaste.

The extract is a white crystalline powder that has similar makeup to caffeine and helps to harden the teeth, making the user less susceptible to tooth decay. And we always thought cavities were caused by the chocolate!

Can you imagine brushing your teeth with a mix of peppermint and chocolate? It would be like the holidays every day!,

Host Your Own Chocolate Tasting

Have you ever wondered if there was such a thing as a chocolate tasting? You know there are wine tasting and beer tastings galore. Yes, there is such a thing and you can host your own! How fabulous a party would that be for everyone?

There are steps to take to have a successful tasting. They are similar to what wineries do for a tasting. You start with your lighter (milk) chocolates and work your way to the darker. The following information was provided by Chloe Douthre-Roussel in her book “The Chocolate Connoisseur”:

The five-sense test
To taste – be it chocolate, wine, tea, coffee or cheese – you need to engage all five senses.

1. Use your eyes
Look at the piece of chocolate you are about to taste, evaluating its texture before you put it in your mouth. The surface should be smooth and shiny, indicating that the cocoa butter is properly crystallized (tempered). Do not be swayed by the color. There are few rules about what color is best, and the shade of chocolate color is influenced by many factors such as bean type and roasting time as well as milk content.

2. Touch it
Is it soft or hard? Sticky, grainy, sandy or velvety? Crisp or crunchy? Getting to know the feel of a chocolate will help you recognize it again in the future. It will also help you to identify quality. The smoother the texture, the more smooth it will be in the mouth. The finer the chocolate’s particles, the greater the aromas you will find in it.

3. Listen to it
Even your ability to hear affects taste – and loss of hearing can give the impression that a food has a strange taste. Tuning in to the sound that your chocolate makes when you break it is another way of familiarizing yourself with the product, and assessing its quality. Did it break easily? Neatly? Dryly? A chocolate that snaps without too much effort is a sign that the balance between cocoa and butter is right. Dark chocolate snaps more easily than milk because, unlike milk chocolate, it contains no milk powder.

4. Smell it
Taste is ninety per cent smell. Our sensing equipment seems to pick up subtleties in aroma or vapor that we cannot detect in solids and liquids. You will have noticed that food is more tasteless when you have a cold and your nose is blocked up. You may even lose your appetite for it because there is nothing to savor. The vapor given off by food or drink and warmed up in the mouth has two routes to the brain. When we sniff it, with the aim of taking in its odor, the vapor travels up our nose to the olfactory receptors at the top. When we taste, the same vapor takes a back route, from the back
of the mouth, up what’s called the retro-nasal passage, to the same sensory organ. To test the affect that smell has on taste, try holding your nose and chewing a piece of flavorsome food. Then repeat the same exercise with your nose liberated.

Our sense of smell is a bit like a memory bank. It takes practice to describe a chocolate’s ‘nose’, but we do so by relating aromas to those in our past experience. The problem is that, in today’s world, we are so bombarded by artificial smells that many of us have lost our database of natural scents. Sadly, when a lot of people smell a fine chocolate for the first time, they do not recognize it as chocolate. For them, chocolate should smell of sugar and vanilla! But practice makes perfect – to coin a cliché. Good cocoa smells often remind us of natural products – fruit, flowers, woodlands or spice. A chocolate that smells smoky may have been carelessly dried. One that smells moldy has been damaged in storage. You can build up your database of smells by using your nose whenever and wherever you can – not only when you are smelling chocolate. Experience the scents of wet weather. If you’re in the woods, smell the soil and the leaves. Breathe in the odor of a tree trunk. When you go to the market, take a sniff of each basket of mushrooms, herbs, fruit and flowers. Do all this and you will rediscover the potential of your sense of smell. We all have the ability, but many of us have forgotten it.

5. Taste it
When tasting a new chocolate, try just a small, fingernail sized piece. Put it on your tongue and chew for a few seconds to break it into smaller chunks. Then stop and allow it to melt so that all flavors are released. Make sure the chocolate is spread all around your mouth – this way you’ll taste the flavors most intensely.

Checklist for Tasting
Try doing the following exercise with a square of chocolate:
1. Look at it: what do you see? Color? Shine? Texture? Blooming or discoloration?
2. Touch it: what do you feel? How does the broken surface look: smooth or rough and bubbly?
3. Listen to it: what do you hear as you snap a square in half?
4. Smell it: what do you find?
5. Taste it: analyze only the texture. Notice its effect on your tongue. How does it feel in your mouth? The simple approach is a good one to start with, and is what I use in my tasting workshops. If you want to take it further, here is the most traditional tasting method:
1. Put a tiny piece in your mouth, chew it, then stop and allow it to melt.
2. Concentrate on what you feel, and if there is any change in flavor or what your tongue feels
over time.
3. Look for flavors:
a. Do you recognize them?
b. Do they evolve over time?
c. Do they interact with each other, or do they seem to come in separate phases? Is one more
present and clear than the others, or do they combine?
d. Rate their intensity.
4. Do you feel any bitterness, acidity or astringency? Do you find it mild or annoying?
5. A good chocolate has three distinct phases. Try to distinguish them:
a. What you feel in the first seconds
b. What you feel while it slowly melts
c. Now swallow: what do you feel now? This phase is called the ‘end of mouth’.
6. Rate it: How would you score it globally out of ten?

Have a fantastic time with your tasting party!

*The Chocolate Connoisseur, Chloe Doutre-Roussel, Penguin Books, 2006

Passion for Chocolate

Most people love chocolate. There are those who have their favorites and will not venture but there are those who will try anything. I have tried a 100% cocoa bar and it was aweful! You might as well buy a baking bar off the grocery shelf and eat that.  My favorite is a dark chocolate between 72% and 75%.

Chocolate has been in a revolution the past couple of years as more information becomes available about the positive attributes of consuming chocolate. I say it is a food group! High quality dark chocolate has more antioxidents in it than a glass of red wine. Why not have both? There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding chocolate. Cocoa butter: the natural fat of the cocoa bean is a good fat, similar to that of olive oil.

As I write about chocolate, keep in mind that everything good for you must be consumed in moderation. Happy sampling!