“Playing” with chocolate

14 Dec

Sometimes I wonder if I would’ve taken a different career path, had I discovered my love for cooking and baking earlier in my life. Maybe from eating all those candies and pastries as a kid, I would’ve realized that making them is an actual career. But that would not have passed over well with my father, who, for the first 18 years of my life, vehemently pushed for me to purse medicine and become a pediatrician. I ended up in design and media, and my father has since accepted my career path. But my love of sweet foods hasn’t subsided; rather, I’ve turned it into a hobby.

I have utmost respect for those who did decide to pursue careers in the food industry. I look at pastry chefs and chocolatiers as if I’m 5 years old again, in awe of the pretty and delicious things they create, all the while thinking, “I want to do THAT when I grow up.” I’m perfectly happy writing and photographing these people, however. But that doesn’t mean I can’t switch gears every now and then and dabble.

Where the magic happens

When one of my favorite DC restaurants, CoCo Sala, tweeted that they were hosting a chocolate sculpture class, I was on it like fondant on a cake. So on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I walked to the restaurant and was guided to the counter in front of the open kitchen, with stools and little stations of chocolate pieces. In the area that I’ll call the chocolate kitchen (they literally have a small kitchen dedicated to sweet stuff), were trays of chocolates, molded into festive shapes like snowflakes, gingerbread men, multi-colored and white balls of different sizes, sprays, dyes, glitters, etc. We were immediately offered water and a beverage, and I jumped on the opportunity to indulge in their Salted Caramel Hot Coco. YUM.

Sadly, all I can think of is "Chocolate Salty Balls"

Nisha Sidhu, CoCo Sala owner and chocolatier, led us through an informative lesson on working with chocolate. She pointed out the machines that they use to temper chocolate (they get chocolate properly melted to work with). She also explained the basic process of designing and creating a sculpture, from drawing out any ideas on paper (though going straight from your imagination is fine) to piping designs on each chocolate piece before arranging them upright (so liquid chocolate doesn’t drip or run all over your piece).

Nisha helping me with finishing touches

We were handed paper piping bags of white, dark or colored chocolate to draw on the larger pieces. I ended up aiming for something simple, but cute and of course holiday themed. Despite having drawn out an idea of my final product, I ended up straying from it and just went where my mind took me. Nisha helped with difficult tasks, like piping words and attaching shapes to large pieces . She also taught us how to stand pieces upright, by etching a line where the piece goes, piping some dark chocolate on top of that, then waiting a couple seconds for the chocolate to begin hardening before placing the piece on top. They also had compressed air cans to spray at the edges in order to make the chocolate harden faster. I had help with brushing gold dust and edible red spray paint, and then my sculpture was complete.

Ta Daa!

When we were finished, we were treated to a spread of parfaits, chocolates and cupcakes – a total plus since they’re some of the best items on their menu. I don’t know about you, but for me, after looking at and playing with chocolate for two hours, I just have to eat some.

My kind of buffet

Indulgences aside, I really enjoyed the class. As someone who designs and creates digital art on a daily basis, I especially loved being creative with a medium I normally don’t work with. But even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, I would suggest classes like these to just work with your hands and explore something new. It’s also interesting to get a hands-on lesson on the basics of working with chocolate – you come away with some valuable knowledge to use at home, as well as an appreciation for the work that chefs and chocolatiers do.

Plus, a self-made chocolate sculpture makes a great gift – Nisha wrapped and bagged up our sculptures to take home or give away. I’ll be “gifting” mine to whoever wants to come over this weekend and help me eat it. I want to take full advantage of my hard work, so to speak. Maybe that’s why I won’t become a pastry chef – I’d end up eating everything I make!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: