SO what are 11-year-old girls into these days? For my daughter Ellen it is One Direction. However, for me, many moons ago, it was chocolate and the mysteries surrounding this magical foodstuff.
A course at Thinking Chocolate was just the thing to sate a childhood fascination, so I booked a hedonistic afternoon of cocoa and truffles.
It was exciting to enter this little shop on Edinburgh’s London Road which is packed with chocolate treats in all shapes and sizes. There were four of us on the course. The shop has to be kept at a lowish temperature for obvious reasons, so we kept our coats on for a while.
Owner Nadia Ellingham talks with passion about all the types of sweets she makes. Our course was to teach us how to make truffles. The ganache, or centre of the truffle, is a heady mix of double cream and melted dark chocolate and it is easy to go wrong at the first hurdle by over-heating the chocolate to the point at which it goes hard and becomes unusable. Nadia favours a microwave, blasting the chocolate for a few seconds at a time. She used a plastic spatula rather than a wooden or steel spoon during the process of melting and cooling, or tempering, so that it turns out even and smooth.
Then in true Blue Peter-style she produced slabs of ganache she had prepared earlier and we set to work, rolling them into small balls and dipping them in coverings such as coconut, pistachio nuts or chocolate vermicelli. It transpires that yours truly has sweaty palms – while the others soon had neat little rows of perfect brown mini-spheres I had sweet mush all over my hands and a pile of what looked like it might have emerged from the back end of a sheep. After the helpful suggestion that I wash my hands in icy cold water I soon had something that looked fit for human consumption. Indeed, once they had been rolled in one of the coatings they looked good enough to eat.
When I saw Nadia’s creations of perfect rows of identical truffles I realised that there is an art to this that would take me time to master. However, once we had popped our sweets into little bags and tied them with ribbon, they looked rather good. One Direction? I’d much rather be Thinking Chocolate.
Introduction to Chocolate lasts two hours and costs £80, although there are a range of workshops and tasting packages from £25. Thinking Chocolate, 19 London Road, Edinburgh, tel: 07795 420001, www.anandachocolates.vpweb.co.uk