Attending a chocolate masterclass with Gerard Coleman at the Dublin Cookery School is really one of the nicer Saturday things to do.
Irish-born Gerard is the founder of the London-based and highly regarded Artisan du Chocolat. He’s one of the very few chocolatiers in Ireland and the UK who produces chocolate from bean to bar, and his wares have won the praises of such cheffing luminaries as Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. I also happen to think that his chocs are rather good, so you don’t just have to take their word for it.
The masterclass was not only an opportunity to see Gerard at work, but was also a window into the world of quality versus not-so-quality chocolate. Gerard observed that while Irish consumption of chocolate is one of the highest in Europe, we don’t necessarily have a palate for the high quality stuff. Much of what is sold here, even at the fancier end of the market, actually uses the same base chocolate from a very high volume industrial production house. So most of the chocolates we buy essentially taste the same. We are not tuned into the fact that different chocolates can actually taste different, not because they have been flavoured differently, but because they taste different in and of themselves. It was food, and chocolate, for thought.
Of course, the class was not just about what kinds of chocolate we might or might not eat, but also about what other delights could be made once you had some good chocolate to work with. We watched (and occasionally pitched in to help) as Gerard, assisted by the cookery school’s ever-capable Lynda Booth, made a host of chocolate treats, from chocolate-coated ginger nougatine, dark chocolate truffles and mousse-topped chocolate cake to salted caramel and chocolate tart. We also helped to eat the results (which seemed only fair).
Gerard and Lynda also demonstrated the process of tempering, which ensures that finished chocolate has a lovely snap and sheen. Tempering does require careful temperature management during a sequence of melting, rapid cooling, and warming of the chocolate to a point where proper crystallisation of its cocoa butter is achieved. It also involves making a big, satisfying, chocolatey mess in your kitchen.
Once we had a batch of tempered chocolate at our disposal, a further sequence of pouring and scraping ensued as the chocolate was used to line individual sweet moulds which, once hardened, were filled with some of Gerard’s justifiably famous liquid salted caramel.
When you added it all up, it was rather a great deal of effort to go to in order to produce your own filled chocolates, and I did wonder vaguely if I would ever attempt it myself. That was until I saw the shiny finished chocolates drop cleanly from their mould. It was, as Lynda said, “the magic moment that makes it all worth it.”
I could have chosen to present you with liquid salted caramel or chocolate mousse or truffles or chocolate tart or any number of other sweet treats which were made during the masterclass, but this bread appealled to me as a mode of chocolate delivery that didn’t also involve adding lots of sugar.
It works very nicely (I think) toasted, buttered and eaten with your morning coffee, particularly if you have a fondness (as I do) for eating darker chocolate. The bread actually feels like a mature and sophisticated way to enjoy a chocolate hit.
For the chocolate, I used a bar with 70% cocoa solids, along with a small amount having 100% cocoa solids, which is what I happened to have.
- 20g fresh yeast or 2.5 tsp active dry yeast
- 325ml warm water
- pinch of sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 600g strong white flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- 1.5 tsp fine salt
- 125g caster sugar
- 25g butter, softened
- 250g dark chocolate, min. 60% cocoa solids, roughly chopped
- an additional egg yolk for glazing
You’ll also need:
- One large or two smaller baking sheets to accommodate the loaves in the oven.
- Combine the yeast, water and a generous pinch of sugar in a bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes until bubbly, then add in the egg yolk.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and caster sugar in a large, warm mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour mixture.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix to form a soft dough with your hands and then incorporate the chocolate pieces. If it feels too wet and sticky, sprinkle with some more flour.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, or go ahead and knead using your mixer and dough hook for about 4-5 minutes.
- Now place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free area until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch back. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into rounds or ovals as you prefer. Place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 220C
- Beat the second egg yolk with a fork and brush over the surface of the loaves. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190C and continue to bake for another 25 minutes or so, watching carefully so that the loaves don’t get scorched at the end.
- Cool on a wire rack, then slice and enjoy.
- The most obvious way to vary this is by varying the chocolate you add – always, of course, using a chocolate that you’d be perfectly happy to eat on its own.
- Makes 2 small loaves
Oh, and by the way…
While Gerard does not currently have an outlet in Dublin, you’ll be able to sample some of his chocolates if you’re attending next weekend’s Taste of Dublin. I’d highly recommend paying a visit to the Artisan du Chocolat stand at the event.