A couple of weeks ago, I took a chocolate class. Does school get any better than this? My husband Alex and two other family members joined me on this delightful diversion. Collectively, we were looking for something entertaining to mix up our week. We were hoping for some good recipes to use at family gatherings. And, duh. We love chocolate. The two-hour class was held at New Seasons’ Happy Valley Cooking School, which takes up one whole corner of the store. Cassie Miller, a New Seasons dessert expert, taught the class. She began by introducing herself and her assistant, then asking us if anyone was allergic to chocolate. We chuckled at the irony of her question. Believe me, no one in this class had a chocolate allergy.
Our lessons in chocolate began with some chocolate 101. We learned that when companies list a percentage of cocoa on a label, the percentage refers to the amount of actual chocolate in the bar or chips compared to other ingredients. Most baking chocolate contains about half chocolate, and milk chocolate is about 40% chocolate. In general, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you because you get the antioxidants with less sugar and fat.
As Cassie enlightened us on “the serious business of Chocolate,” she and her assistant passed around small bowls of different chocolate for us to taste and compare. We politely nibbled on small pieces of Oregon’s own Dagoba chocolate, Europe’s Schokinag, and even good old Hershey’s. Cassie gave us the golden rule of baking with chocolate: The better the quality, the better the taste. Within a few minutes, our polite tasting descended into full on gluttony.
Cassie demonstrated, discussed and dished up a shameless chocolate buffet of ganache, mousse, truffles, two different chocolate fondues, cake, and to top it off, drinking chocolate. No, not hot chocolate but something more akin to a melted chocolate bar in a glass. By the time we got to the cake, we were in a chocolate stupor, wired from the caffeine and bursting at the seams.
We loaded up to-go boxes with what we couldn’t finish, and happily indulged in our leftovers the next day and the day after that. Last weekend, we replicated the mousse recipe at a family party, and our relatives were suitably impressed.
In these serious and politically charged times, sometimes we forget to have fun. Chocolate is fun, and one doesn’t need a whole buffet or a class to enjoy it. Find a really great piece of chocolate, savor it, and better yet, share it with someone you love.