I love experimenting with chocolate at home, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting chocolate making classes where I can pick up a few tips. There are plenty of them about, but most of the classes I’ve seen are more about “experience” than learning. They’re often very basic, and hope you’ll be satisfied just getting your hands dirty making some ganache and rolling some truffles.
If you want to learn a little bit more about the chocolatier’s art, your choices are limited. That’s why I jumped at the chance to try Paul A Young’s new salted caramel class this week. Paul’s caramels have always been his best selling chocolates, and they’re still one of my favourites. The class promised to reveal all the secrets of making this award winning chocolate, and for the first time, Paul was going to share the full recipe and technique.
I, however, am not going to share the recipe. Not because I was asked not to, but purely because this fantastic class is one that you really need to try for yourself. Having a recipe is one thing, but having a master chocolatier guide you through every step of the process is quite another.
The class takes place in the development kitchen below Paul’s flagship store in Soho. It begins with full explanation and demonstration of tempering. Paul doesn’t miss a detail as he talks you through the best kind of chocolate to use, how to melt it, and why tempering is absolutely essential. He then guides you through the (actually quite simple) process of tempering on a granite or marble slab. Other classes give only a very basic introduction to tempering, but Paul manages to explain the process in a way that will make sense for absolute beginners, but doesn’t talk down to those with a little more experience.
Once tempered, you’ll learn hot to mould the chocolates, and this is where you’ll have a chance to get stuck in yourself. Because of space and time limitations, not everyone will get a chance to try it, so you’ll need to be proactive if getting your hands dirty is your thing. But I know that many people are more than happy just to watch the demonstration and ask questions, and in our class of 9, the setup worked very well.
Next, you’ll learn about the caramel. Paul’s salted caramel is incredibly easy to make. It uses muscovado sugar and milk chocolate as a stabiliser, so it’s quite difficult to mess up. Here, the class splits into two groups to make batches of caramel, which you get to take home in jars.
Paul demonstrates how to pipe the cooled caramel into the moulds, how to cap them with chocolate, and his special technique for ensuring perfect bottoms every time. The finished caramels are mini works of art.
I absolutely loved this class, and would recommend it to anyone. If you’re a looking for a “hands on” experience, you should be aware that limited space and time means you might not get to try every stage of the process yourself. But if you want to learn how to make award winning chocolates from a master chocolatier, this is definitely the class for you.