LIFE has taken rather a sweet turn for participants on a Belgian chocolate truffle- making masterclass.
Melted-down chocolate – consisting of 64pc cocoa solids – is being beaten in a bowl with cream to form a silky ganache.
Seeing the mixture take on a glossy consistency, coupled with the heady chocolatey aroma produces contented smiles all round. Chocolate just seems to have that effect.
Chocolatier Red Hughes certainly has a rapt audience as he demonstrates the art of making truffles in a function suite at the Holiday Inn in Jesmond.
Few of us need any more convincing when Red then starts extolling the virtues of good quality chocolate as a superfood, and its reputed healthy benefits ... when eaten in moderation, of course! Red’s right-hand-woman is his partner Chrissie Currie, who buzzes around the room making sure workshop participants know what their doing.
The couple, co-founders of the Darlington-based Red Chocolate Company, have been making bespoke truffles to hand out and sell at various events. Now the company has expanded its service to include workshops, giving private and corporate customers the opportunity to learn how to make their own chocolates.
A chocoholic herself, Chrissie says: “Everyone loves chocolate. The workshops are a great way of bringing people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities together, they get to learn a new skill and have a lot of fun at the same time.”
Chrissie tells me the cocoa butter is also good for your hair.
She says she melts the chocolate and puts it on her hair, then shampoos off with warm water. It feels lovely and conditioned afterwards, she says.
The initial part of our demo over, the fun starts when we attempt to make truffles ourselves, working in pairs.
The ganache takes on a gooey consistency very quickly – and with comical results – and must be quickly turned into a piping bag.
Sausage shapes are then piped onto a tray. Be warned, the chocolate sets fast and muscles are needed for piping. These are then sliced up into disc shapes.
Then we’re all set the task of carefully rolling them into something resembling truffles – between fingers, not in the palms of the hand, as the heat will melt them in no time.
Then it’s demo time again as Red shows how to make tempered chocolate, which will coat the truffles and give them a glossy appearance and also that satisfying snap when bitten into.
From a bowl of warmed chocolate, a portion of the melted contents is removed and cooled on a slab and then returned to the bowl.
Truffles are then coated in the tempered chocolate – cue gooey, claggy fingers – and then dipped in a variety of toppings, including chopped hazelnuts, coconut and cocoa powder.
Truffles – and there’s about 30 to 40 of them – are placed in plastic gift bags and snazzed up with ribbons. Voila.
Groups of 10 or more can hire the Red Chocolate Company who will provide all the necessary equipment and ingredients for them to make the 64% cocoa solids truffles in different flavours – and the service is already proving a hit with chocoholics of all ages.
Chrissie, who was brought up in East Kilbride in Scotland, and Red, who hails from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, met in Majorca when they were both living and working on the island.
Chrissie managed a café bar for seven years while Red worked in construction and design.
The recession hit and the couple returned to Darlington and decided on a new career together.
Red, 47, says: “Construction in Majorca is 90% down. Nobody is spending in Majorca and there is less money to spend in the bars.”
Red re-trained as a chocolatier and he now does the classes while Chrissie assists on the courses and manages all the paperwork.
The pair travel the country offering workshops and demos, which are proving popular with hen parties and corporate customers.
“We try to make it a bit of fun and you go away with bags of truffles. And people don’t feel intimidated if they make a mistake,” says Red.
“I’m particular about using good quality ingredients. We use one of the best quality chocolates, with 64% cocoa solids. Places like the Dorchester use it. If you buy rubbish you are going to get caught out.”
And besides, as Red says, the people attracted to classes will tend to be chocolate lovers who know a thing or two about chocolate anyway.
He adds: “The team-building classes are great fun. I have done a couple for HSBC. We did a launch for Aston Martin. And I’ve just come back from Liverpool where I did a chocolate challenge event for a big pensions conference. We also make chocolates and sell them at events.
“We’ve been approached by a chap in Scotland who wants us to supply his shops.
“The workshops are popular with everybody. We had an eight-year-old who came with her mum. And we had a 72-year-old lady came and absolutely loved it.
“We do hen parties ... the grandma can come and the mum can come, it appeals to all ages.
“With the team-builds you find the guys want to do paintballing and macho games and then argue about it afterwards for weeks, whereas the truffle-making workshops appeal to both men and women.”
Instead of talking about how many paintball splats they took, they get competitive along the lines of, ‘my truffles looked better than yours’!
Chrissie says: “The beauty of it is you really made them. That’s the lovely thing about it. You did it yourself. It’s that fun element.
“We provide absolutely everything for the workshops – even the flooring – so the venue will be as immaculate when we leave as it is when we arrive.
“You go away with everything you make. It’s hands on.”
And there’s even a chocolate fountain running in the background – complete with marshmallows – should you ever feel the need to indulge.
Truffle workshops last about two hours and cost from £40 per person.
For further information call Chrissie on 07896 595269 or visit www.redchocolate.co.uk