When introducing myself at parties and events, it’s most likely I’ll then be asked, And what do you do?’ And I’ve always wanted to say, ‘I’m a Chocolatier’, because it just sounds so interesting and fabulous and I’m sure I would receive a very animated response compared with saying something like, ‘I’m an Auditor for the tax department’.
Last week I met the very fabulous Rebecca Kerswell who is a Chocolatier and the director of Coco Chocolate in Sydney. She has stores in Kirribilli, Willoughby and Mosman and in 2011 she opened the Sydney Chocolate School which is in a separate location in Mosman.
Rebecca trained as a designer but with a love of chocolate in her heart she left Australia to study at the famous Valrhona Chocolate School in France where she graduated as a Chocolatier. Realising her French wasn’t quite good enough to open a store in France, she moved to Scotland and established a business in Edinburgh, then returned to Sydney and opened her first store in Kirribilli.
The Sydney Chocolate School is located in an enviable position as it is in a very peaceful and tranquil setting looking out over Sydney Harbour. You couldn’t possibly have a more pleasant working environment. The Sydney Chocolate School is open to the public and you can attend high teas. I have previously enjoyed a high tea in this beautiful setting and it has to be the most wonderful high tea I have ever enjoyed.
As the name suggests, The Sydney Chocolate School is where any budding chocolatier can attend a chocolate course that uses the traditional French method of tempering chocolate on marble. During the course you’ll make a chocolate slab from milk chocolate, a chocolate bar from white chocolate and flaked chocolate from dark chocolate. On completion of the three-hour course you’ll receive a certificate and a goody bag.
More advanced courses are available in a variety of specialties including caramels, marshmallows, truffles, creams, crystalised flowers and artwork.
During the school holidays there are also courses for children.
When I booked into the course I was told to bring an apron and some sturdy closed shoes for safety and it was also recommended that they be flat-soled because I’d be on my feet for the entire course.
The course started at 10am on a beautiful winter’s day. When I arrived Rebecca was already in full-swing, bustling around answering phones and ordering products and greeting the attendees as well as tempering chocolate on the marble in readiness to make some salted caramel-centred chocolates. It was a joy and a privilege to watch someone working so passionately, enthusiastically and effortlessly at their craft.
Our course was run by pastry chef, Tahra Camidge. Tahra explained that all the chocolate used at Coco Chocolate is couveture chocolate that is also organic and ethically produced. Because of the quality, it is $70/kg and therefore, because it’s so precious, we wouldn’t be taking everything we made home with us. Some of the chocolates we’d be making were going to be sold in their stores! (I was quite chuffed to hear that).
There were 14 of us in our class and it was a very relaxed and friendly bunch of people who were there for a variety of reasons with the common thread being a love of chocolate. They included three sisters who had bought their mother a gift voucher for Mother’s Day, a university professor from Canberra who had driven for four hours to attend the course, and a husband who had been woken that morning by his wife giving him the course for this birthday. And then there was me!
Tahra gave us a lot of information about the origins of chocolate and how it has been around in a drinkable form for thousands of years but how it’s only been in the past few hundred years that people have been able to enjoy chocolate in any other way. We then got down to the tempering business.
As I understand it, tempering chocolate is all to do with melting the chocolate to a certain temperature, then cooling it by a couple of degrees on a marble slab, then returning the chocolate to the bowl and increasing the temperature by several more degrees. It is then ‘tempered’ and will give that ‘snap’ we all know is most desired.
Realising the emphasis of this course is on marble I did ask if I would be able to temper chocolate on my nasty laminex bench. Tahra explained that marble is used because of its ability to stay very cool and that I could use my laminex but that it would work best in cool conditions and that because tempering the chocolate would warm up the bench, I would only be able to do one temper per day. She said that others who have attended the course and not had a marble bench have gone out and bought a marble slab. She said these can be cooled down in the fridge ahead of tempering however you need to make sure there is no condensation on them ahead of tempering the chocolate – chocolate and water do not mix!
The course is very hands-on and we all had plenty of opportunities to show off our skills or lack there of. Everyone found it absorbing and fascinating and so much fun. We all gained a lot of knowledge and some new skills.
For those of you who do temper chocolate (like Celia), I’d be interested to hear how you work out the temperature of the chocolate. At the chocolate school they use an infra-red gun that you point at the chocolate and it will tell you the temperature. I’m thinking one of these gadgets has to be at the top of my ‘must have’ list. How handy!
We first made a milk chocolate slab. Milk chocolate is made with chocolate, powdered milk, sugar and vanilla. After it was tempered it was mixed with freeze-dried berries then poured onto trays that we spread out into a thin layer, then more freeze-dried berries were scattered to decorate the top of the slab. The berries gave a wonderful sourness to the sweetness of the chocolate.
Next we made blocks of white chocolate. The chocolate was flavoured with spices including cinnamon, ground cloves and star anise and just before the chocolate set, we decorated the bars with scattered cranberries. I thought this chocolate would make excellent Christmas gifts because it definitely had that Yuletide scent and look.
Lastly we made flaked dark chocolate and dark chocolate is the most difficult chocolate to temper. When it was tempered a few drops of organic lavender oil were added then it was poured out onto the marble then spread in a thin layer. Once it had set we scraped it into curls where it was then used to make hot chocolate that we enjoyed at the end of the course.
As the course was now complete we were presented with our certificates and goody bags. I enjoyed the course immensely and found it extremely enjoyable especially as we were encouraged to eat as much chocolate as we liked. How does Rebecca stay so thin!
Courses are available at the Sydney Chocolate School all through the year as are the high teas and the chocolates are there for you to sample and purchase at all four of their stores. If you’d like to attend a course at the Sydney Chocolate School you can apply on-line on their website.
Hotly Spiced attended the tempering course as a guest of The Sydney Chocolate School.
The Sydney Chocolate School
& Coco Chocolate Studio
1110 Middle Head Road
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