Usually when I’m on vacation I do my best to avoid classrooms or anything that keeps me inside for too many consecutive hours. I just like to be outside, walking, exploring, playing. But if my visit to a particular city coincides with an opportunity to learn something new from a expert in the field then I’m willing to consider the option. In New York, taking a vegan chocolate truffle class with the incredible, Fran Costigan was an easy decision.
- Can I do this at home? No.
- Will I learn something useful? Yes – truffles make great gifts. Fran knows her ingredients and is extremely precise about technique. That’s what I look for in a teacher. Someone who has already done the trial and error and can save me the trouble.
- Is the instructor incredible? Yes! I have met Fran at a few other events and I simply love being in her presence. She has a passion for life, a commitment to her ethics and a generous spirit.
So, with that 30-second consideration out of the way I signed up with Natural Gourmet Institute and planned to spend an evening in an apron.
After a busy day of exploring and 2 1/2 hours of chocolate making I still look joyous. Being around Fran makes me happy but eating chocolate truffles also helps.
There were 14 students in the class and 5 assistants. We were given our recipes and a quick demo and then assigned our tasks. I’ve worked with chocolate in the past and love finicky food creation – dumplings, truffles, decorating, garnishing etc. Give me something to challenge my eye-hand coordination and I’m content for hours. So, I wasn’t worried at all. However, I think my confidence primed me to learn a lot.
I ended up making 3 different truffle recipes (I was only assigned 1 but I messed up a few times).
But in the end I learned:
- Make sure you strain any infusion through a very fine strainer or cheescloth so the spices do not affect your ganache texture.
- Very hot coconut milk can break (cause to separate) your cocoa powder and cocoa butter causing a big mess. You can try to save it with an immersion blender but…you may just have to walk away and admit defeat.
- Even chocolate mistakes taste like heaven.
Green Tea White Chocolate Truffles (very sweet – both in look and taste)
I haven’t tasted any of the other options yet but they all looked beautiful, including:
Fran also showed us how to use the transfer paper that many specialty shops employ to create beautiful designs on top of their truffles. I see an internet order in my future. They will even print them with personalized notes and patterns. Such fun!
The class was a fantastic experience. All of the students were enthusiastic, kind and friendly. I just wish we were going to spend a week doing vegan baking boot camp with Fran – I didn’t want to leave when the class was over. The assistants were very helpful and supportive. David came to my rescue many times! It was a good lesson that at home when I have dedicated space and time, the experience is quite different then in a busy kitchen with multiple players. I don’t think I’m cut-out for the restaurant scene.
I left with flavours and ideas swirling in my head and a huge container of truffles in my hand.
Next time you’re in New York check to see if Fran’s offering a class, your friends and future taste testers will thank you. If you can’t make it to class check out Fran’s baking book. I have a lot of cookbooks but her careful, precise instructions are unparalleled and of course, so are the results.