Learning to roll, seed and temper in New York

May 7th, 2010 · Lisa · restaurant review, Review, Travel · Comments

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.

  1. Can I do this at home? No.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Me and Fran

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:

  1. Make sure you strain any infusion through a very fine strainer or cheescloth so the spices do not affect your ganache texture.
  2. 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.
  3. Even chocolate mistakes taste like heaven.
Here are some of the decadent delights we created:
Chocolate Coconut Truffles (this was my final recipe attempt – the ganache turned out gloriously unctious. I was very happy!)
Spiced Chai Truffles (although the ganache was a little thicker then the other recipes it still created a satisfying, creamy texture once cooled). The flavour of these little bites is incredible. I know this recipe will become a favourite for hostess gifts.

Green Tea White Chocolate Truffles (very sweet – both in look and taste)

We all had fun playing with the garnishes -cacao nibs, cocoa powder, edible flours, shredded coconut.

I haven’t tasted any of the other options yet but they all looked beautiful, including:

Aztec (Chili-Cinnamon) Truffles and 
Espresso Truffles

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!

Extra-Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs
Chocolate Orange Truffles
Chocolate Cherry Truffles

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.


  1. Posted May 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    those truffles look amazing! it's so great to know there are high quality vegan classes out there. thanks for sharing.

  2. Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    First, amaaazing moonies woman! Thank you so much, I just enjoyed them on camera…. and some are now tucked away in the fridge for later 🙂

    The truffle class looked awesome! I would love to have attended that. Enjoy the rest of your time and safe travels home!

  3. Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Yum, they look delicious! Good to hear that you're having a great time in NYC.

  4. Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Oh, how I wish that I were there with you and Fran, playing with chocolate. Can't think of much that would be better.

    I love the photo of the 2 of you.

  5. Posted May 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Sounds like you're having a fabulous time.
    I made the broccoli with tahini-lemon dressing for a family lunch and everyone loved it. Mucho gracias.

  6. Posted May 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Bitt and Heathy, it was a really fun class and I plan to use all the techniques I learned with my fav raw cacao ingredients in the future.

    Thank you Tracy, it really was a wonderful break.

    Jill, looking forward to seeing you in July. I can bring truffles.

    Lovely to hear from you. I'm really glad the salad was a hit.

  7. Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Lisa, Thank you for your interesting and complimentary post on Vegan Truffles class and your NYC experience (following post) too! The photos are a yummy reminder for me. What a super group of students and assistants. Yes, David is a wonder. I thought you'd might like to know the final count: 12lbs of chocolate was used by 14 people! We did use a variety, enabling the chocolate to demonstrate the reality of my words: use lower than a 65% and you are asking to have trouble. Delicious still and there are work arounds as we learned, but trickier. All the chocolate waw organic, fairtraded and of course vegan. On to cupcakes Monday night with a smaller amount of chocolate but in my classes-well, I do eat loads of greens. Right Jill? Take care and keep me posted on your truffle adventures and more!

  8. Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Wow…what fun in the kitchen. Love making truffles!
    Pure2raw twins

  9. Posted May 12, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Darn Lisa. Now I am really not happy that I won't be able to make it to Summerfest this year. Boo hoo.

    I hope that everyone else loves your truffles.

    Come to the SF Bay area and bring some with you. I'd love to see you here.

  10. Posted May 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for sharing your awesome chocolate making experience with us! The truffles look incredible:)

  11. Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Fran – I hope you're loving LA. I loved being in your kitchen.

    Jill- you know I would love to visit you. If the opportunity arises I will be in touch. I will miss you at Summerfest this year.

    Twins-I hope to create some raw truffles based on the flavours that Fran shared.

    evergreen- I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

  12. Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Hi Lisa,

    What a great post! I'm glad to hear you had a great experience at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Coincidentally, I'm heading to NYC to take the Vegan Baking Bootcamp starting on June 1. When I get back, perhaps we should teach each other the techniques we learned through our courses. We've met briefly before (through the TVA)…

    Also, which NYC restaurants were your absolute faves? I'm trying to map out which ones to hit while I'm there.


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