January 5th, 2014

10 hours to explore Paris

Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Trocadéro Plaza

(Pose~!)

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The day after teaching the chocolate workshop, I woke up early & checked out of the hotel. My Eurostar train back to London was at 18:15 that evening, which meant that I had something like 10 hours to explore Paris.

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The early morning métro was super busy with commuters walking super fast, especially at Gare Saint-Lazare (large terminus railway station) where I changed lines. – Is it my imagination or does the Parisians walk much faster than the Brits? Is that the secret to maintaining their trim figure I wonder…?

– Anyway, getting on the métro was a doddle. The system is similar to the tube in London – colour coded lines (also numbered) with the name of the final stop displaying which direction it goes to. And as for buying the fare tickets, Mrs C’s husband had kindly walked me to the nearest station to show me how to use the ticket machine. (Thank you!) :-)

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My first destination was Pâtisserie Carette by Trocadéro in the 16th arrondissement. I decided to go there prior to this trip by doing my research on Trip Advisor on where best to go for breakfast, & I read that the scrambled eggs at Carette was very good. That information coupled with the photograph of ‘French-style’ scrambled eggs… – had me. Because, though I knew of this ‘French-style’ egg cooking method from before, I had never sampled it. And what better way to introduce yourself to a new food than to eat the best from the very beginning? ;-)

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And it certainly did not disappoint my high expectations. It was sublime. French-style scrambled eggs (Oeufs brouillés), as you can see from the picture below, is much moister/ runnier. (And it came in a soup plate!) Oh-my-God, it was so heavenly creamy… Is this probably the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had? Yes… Can I go back to my usual scrambled eggs now that I know better? Er…, no, not anymore. Not now that I have tasted the yummiest way to eat scrambled eggs ever! (… talking of ‘ever’, it was the most expensive scrambled eggs ‘ever’ too…)

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http://www.cocoandme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/cocoandme_carette_paris.jpg

(Carette’s also came with two batons of perfectly flaky puff pastry. Hmm! Only the French…!)

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Another reason why I chose Carette is because it overlooks the iconic Eiffel Tower & I quite liked the idea of starting my Paris trip near it. ~ It seemed fitting! With only a minute’s walk from the pâtisserie to Trocadéro plaza, you get a fantastic view of the Tower that is across the river. A couple asked if I could take their photo, which I did. Then they offered to take mine on my iphone too. Pose~! (the photo is at the top of this article.) Ah, before you mention it, there were several police guards patrolling the plaza which made the place feel safe (& the couple looked like nice people anyway).

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Next stop – Les Halle located in the 1st arrondissement to visit the cluster of  cookware shops. I remember coming here over 7 years ago, visiting the same shops, especially falling in love with MORA. I overspent then & I overspent again this time. Lol… My purse strings loosen when I’m there…

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment

(MORA. Pastry & chocolate work heaven…)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment

(Just look at the extensive stack of polycarbonate chocolate moulds!!!!!)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment - Hard polycarbonate chocolate mould - 3 dog

(Hard polycarbonate chocolate mould.)

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Amongst my purchase of a piping tip, cake tin & chocolate scraper, I bought this 3 doggy polycarbonate chocolate mould for 41 euros. Imagine…, white, milk & dark chocolate dogs… Or even strawberry or caramel colour/ flavour…, lining them up like soldiers. The chocolate figure could be solid or it could be hollow like an Easter egg. I could even stuff it with ganache like a bonbon! Or…, ah! What about shoving a strip of paper with a message in the hollow figure, just like a fortune cookie?! That might be quite cute…! – Possibilities,  possibilities…!!

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - MORA in Les Halles PARIS - cookware shop - chocolate and pastry work equipment - Fèves ceramic ‘beans’ to nestle in the Galette des Rois on Epithany

(My new collection of fèves. The size of each charm is less than 2cms.)

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I also bought 2 assorted bags (9.50 euros a bag) of dinky fèves. – Fèves are ceramic ‘beans’ to nestle in the Galette des Rois on Epithany. The rule goes that the lucky person who finds it in their slice of pie would then become the King for the day! (Check out my Galette des Rois designs from last year!) – – Do I need all these feves? No. But but but… y’know what it’s like, This Girl Can’t Help It…

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After this, I hurried to the Rose Bakery in 9th Arrondissement to meet… guess who?! Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini! Yup, I asked her out for lunch! Yayyy, after all these years, I finally got to meet her! Super exciting! And it was so absolutely lovely chatting with her. There was so much to talk about!! It was non-stop! Lol. In a strange way, it felt like we’ve met before, because we knew so much about each other through our blogs & also through the email exchanges over many years, ever since she mentioned me on her brownie recipe back in 2009. (I also wrote a guest article on her blog last April too) ^^.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Rose Bakery in Paris with Clotilde - mushroom risotto

(Clotilde! ~ Mushroom risotto!)

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After Rose Bakery, my Paris food pilgrimage continued on with my travel bag with chocolate-work equipments from the workshop the day before, & the new purchases from MORA & marrons glacés from G.Detou, plus a signed book from Clotilde that she gave to me (it’s her new French Market one, which now I have two copies of, since I owned one already! By the way, I’ve tried several of her recipes from it & I can vouch for the book! ^^).

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Conveniently on the same street as the Rose Bakery, there is Popelini, a choux à la crème (cream puff) shop. It is a cake shop that was on my list of ‘want to go’ places. Resisting the urge to say: “May I have one of every kind you have, s’il vous plait?”, I picked out the one that is on the left of the picture below. Well, it had the most cream on it didn’t it?! Lol! Happy to report, it was delicious. Wicked in sizing.- Moreishly small, & dainty in a hip sort of way.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Popelini, a choux à la crème (cream puff) shop - Paris

(The choux display in Popelini.)

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Two to three minutes stroll down the same street toward the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette station, is another great cake outlet – Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard -  a mini Le Paris Brest, it's circular shape representative of a wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. - Paris

(Le Paris Brest.)

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I purchased a mini Le Paris Brest, it’s circular shape representative of a wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. It is choux pastry cut horizontally piped with praline cream inside. So pretty… And so perfectly made. Respect. And what is it about these small card plaquettes that make a pastry look so darn special! It sure adds the value-factor don’t cha think?? Although…, from a seller’s point-of-view, I guess it only works when you’re a high-end (& well-known) establishment that people want to parade perhaps? – Like, it’ll totally work to its disadvantage if the establishment were a Lidl (discount supermarket)…, for want of an example. One would be foolish to take around a pack of Lidl branded cakes if in need to up your game to impress.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Sébastien Gaudard -  mendiant tart, tarte - Thin tart shell packed with mixture of dried nuts swimming in good-looking caramel. Very Christmassy. - Paris

(La tarte mendiant. Thin tart shell packed with mixture of dried nuts swimming in good-looking caramel. Very Christmassy.)

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After this, I managed to go to another ‘must-go’ destination on my list. La pâtisserie des rêves par Philippe Conticini near Rue du Bac station in the 7th Arrondissement. I bought the lemon tart that has a ingeniously created meringue top. I knew about it from watching his website video sometime ago! – By the way, I recently heard that La pâtisserie des rêves is opening its London branch this February! Yayyy! Me says I-Can’t-Wait.

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Walking down the same street going south, I found the famous Angelina on the opposite side. It is their new outlet which is take-away only, no tea room. Happily surprised, I, quite naturally, walked in & bought their famous Mont Blanc (6.70 euro) Y’know, to sample ofcourse…, for research… cough cough.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Angelina - famous cake - Paris - Mont Blanc eclair cake window display.

(Window display at Angelina.)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Patisserie Angelina - famous Mont Blanc cake - Paris - sweet meringue base, very flat & small, mountain of lightly sweetened chantilly, & chestnut cream beautifully piped over it.

This Mont Blanc was consumed in the Eurostar, half way inbetween France & England. Yet again, happy to report that this was also amazing. I’m so glad I bought it. I also don’t know of anywhere that sells Mont Blancs here in London, other than in Laduree in Harrods, & I’m never down that end of town. For me, it’s intriguing to sample good cakes, especially those that are their signature ones,  to see what’s so winning about it (or, I sometimes pick out the most obscure item on the menu if it sounded unfamiliar.). – Eating them is like deciphering like a detective, I taste each component separately first, then eat it as a whole to see how it unites. Oh, it’s super fun!

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Angelina’s Mont Blanc is simply a thin sweet-meringue base, mountain of lightly sweetened chantilly, & chestnut cream beautifully piped on it. The chestnut cream was really special. Flavorsome, not too sweet, & also very dense. A lot denser than I thought actually, which by the end, really filled me up. I imagined eating this with their famed hot chocolate in their famed tea room. I reckoned it’ll be too much for me. Though, then again, I guess you’d be spending a long time in the tea room, taking time to eat & drink, soaking in the grand atmosphere…?

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Anyway, back to the story about my trip walking down Rue du Bac. After Angelina, weighed down by even more things to carry – cakes, & then souvenirs for my kids that I bought in Pylones – I walked in to a large Food Hall called La Grande Épicerie de Paris. This again, was only a stones throw away. (The walk down Rue du Bac toward the south is a food dream alley!)

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Thinking ahead to supper-time on the Eurostar heading home, I bought a slice of ‘Le Croque Classic’. An indulgent double-decker sandwich made of bread, turkey, pancetta, cheddar, tomato, cucumber, hard boiled egg, iceberg salad, mayonnaise & worcestershire sauce. 5.90 euros. Not sure why it’s called ‘classic’ (I would’ve thought croque is more like croque monsieur with ham & cheese only? I might be wrong though! ^^), but it was worth every penny & went down well.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Grande Épicerie de Paris - 'Le Croque Classic'. An indulgent looking sandwich made of bread, turkey, pancetta, cheddar, tomato, cucumber, hard boiled egg, iceberg salad, mayonnaise & worcestershire sauce. 5.90 euros. - Paris

(My take-away food to eat aboard the Eurostar.)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - French madam deliberating a panettone loaf in La Grande Épicerie de Paris -  - Paris

(French madam deliberating a panettone loaf in La Grande Épicerie de Paris.)

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I deliberately left pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki for my final destination before boarding the Eurostar as I knew I would be buying the most cakes there. Thinking, oh yeah, I can walk from La Grande Épicerie to his shop on Rue de Vaugirard no problem – wrong. Gah, I was lost. It seemed simple enough on the map, but somehow I walked around a block twice. Not what you want to do when your bag is digging in to the shoulders.

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Nevertheless, I trudged on, only because I’m not in Paris so often am I & if I missed going there now, the next time will probably be way away in the future. Luckily though, after about a troubled 15 minute “Oh dear I’m lost” moment (which felt like at least double its time), I found the pâtisserie. I bought these 3 items: Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, millefeuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(These survived the Eurostar journey!)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(Cross-section picture to just prove to you that I took my time & didn’t wolf it down…!)

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I’m jealous of the perfectly caramelized top on the millefuille. It’s not weeping (wet). Other than the only niggle of the genmai-cha sprinkled on top of the eclair being slightly soggy & had lost it’s crunchy characteristic, all three purchases were ah-mazing. So good. So perfectly balanced. Sadaharu Aoki is my favourite pâtissier… Shame he doesn’t have a London branch… (Or, then again, perhaps that’s a good thing?? My sugar-fueled figure certainly doesn’t need the source of maniacal obsession so close by!)

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Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki - Genmai-cha (Japanese roasted tea) eclair, mille feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière & another of those in green tea version.- Paris

(This was a freebie gift! Sadaharu Aoki’s ‘Chocoron’. Macaron coated in Domori chocolate. Cute transfer on one side like a chocolate bonbon.)

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Anyway, thank you for reading this rather long post! I hope you enjoyed it! ~ Happy New Year everyone! xx

December 3rd, 2013

Coco&Me chocolate workshop in Paris!

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Guess what, guess what, guess what!?  

Something really exciting happened & I just have to tell you!

This time last week I was in Paris! No, not as a holiday, but was there to… (ahem!) teach about chocolates…! Yes! It was all expenses paid (Eurostar, over-night hotel stay, plus lesson fee) & so much more…! I know, tell me about it, it’s totally amazing what happened, & I’m totally over-the-moon & thank my lucky stars! ^^

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It was about two months ago I think, I received a message from Mrs C, a long-time blog-reader of mine, that she would like me to do a chocolate workshop for her. It was her 40th birthday this year, & her friends had gotten together to gift her with having a workshop by me! But that she lives in Paris…, so the question arose as to where it’ll be held. Mine? Well…, I have a firm policy not to teach at my family home – which Mrs C totally understood as she herself has a child. In which case, at hers in Paris? Ooooh, Paris? What? Me go to PARIS?! And to top off my already elated ear to ear grin, Mrs C offered to sort out the expenses for the train & the hotel! Oh.My.God!? Seriously!? So at that point I was on the telephone to my Mr D who was at work, asking him for his opinion/ what he thought. Although, to be frank, regardless of Mr D (who did enthusiastically agree also), my mind was already made up on going anyway! I mean, what an opportunity!

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Planning for the workshop was exciting & actually, pretty easy:

  •  I knew I’d definitely be showing how to temper chocolate on a marble slab, plus another tempering method called ‘seeding’ using the microwave. Although I prefer the marble slab method (as you can control the temperature better ~ which is very important when working with chocolate), the seeding method is rather useful when only a small amount is required, for example for piping a little chocolate decoration.
  • And of course the workshop should naturally delve in to how to adapt the tempering technique to actual products. You can use it to enrobe by dipping, & you can use it to mould for hollow & solid shapes.
  • Ganache & it’s wonderful variations must also be included in to the workshop too. Ganache, as most of you will know is double cream & chocolate combined. Simple to say, but the science behind it very complex, & the success lies with how well you emulsify the two entities: cream (fat suspended in liquid) & the chocolate (liquid suspended in fat). – – There’s various ways of flavouring the ganache too. Like brewing tea like Earl Grey with the double cream first to infuse it! Or what about making caramel with water & sugar, then adding that to the cream?  – – You can also control how soft you’d want your ganache by changing the ratio of cream to chocolate!

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So let me tell you about how the first day went.

My day started as I woke up at 5:30am. Outside was pitch black still & I wondered when the last time was that I woke up in the dead of night like this! But the excitement & the anticipation of traveling & giving a lesson blew away any smidgen of sleep in me no problem. Mr D kindly woke up early as well & drove me to a nearby station at 6:40am.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - station platform outside in the dark

(Here comes the train! And no, that’s not me in the picture. I’m not that stocky…!)

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Boarding the 8:30am Eurostar for the 2 hour+ journey, I arrive at Gare du Nord to meet Mrs C. We notice each other straight away (she sent me pictures of herself prior)! We both can not conceal our smiles & grins. Oh how happily bizarre this is! And how great that we managed to pull it off! There’s so much to say, so much to talk about!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - chez casimir in paris gare du nord - Coquilles St.-Jacques

(Coquilles St.-Jacques. Delicious!)

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We talked & walked to the nearby restaurant called Chez Casimir where Mrs C very kindly bought me lunch. Chez Casimir was a quaint & very French place. When we entered just after 12 noon, it was rather empty except for one couple by the window, but by the time our starters came, the place was heaving with locals. Considering it was only a Monday lunchtime, this place was doing very well indeed! (& that is despite it’s rather worn exterior, I might add! Looks can be deceptive… Surely I should know that lesson by now?? LOL)

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Now, let’s skip forwards to later that afternoon for the actual 3 hour lesson/ workshopI explained to Mrs C that we would be working with several recipes in tandem. The reason simply because there is a lot of waiting-time for the ganache to stiffen enough to pipe-able consistency & again more resting time required to then be able to roll them (or cut them) in to shape. – Working with several recipes all at once like this can sound daunting, but I should at this point mention that Mrs C is a very competent baker. And that this workshop is veering toward the advanced level.

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(We made all of this in just 3 hours!!!)

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I hand over my hand-written recipe for Earl Grey Ganache Truffles. We infused the double cream with Earl Grey. Then re-heat it to pour it over chocolate to make ganache. I explain amongst other things that we exercise creativity & taste preference by deciding how much cream to chocolate ratio you use to determine softness, & how much dark to milk chocolate ratio you use to determine the sweetness.

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Whilst the Earl Grey ganache is cooling to correct consistency, we move on to make Caramel Ganache Bonbons. For this ganache, we first make caramel with water & sugar. Made with simple ingredients but tricky to successfully stir lump-free if you don’t know how. When medium-light amber in colour, we poured in the double cream that’s been warmed in another pot in tandem. It’s always a bit of a wow moment as the cream ‘fiercely erupts’ to threefold all of a sudden. I hold it as one of the little pleasures in the kitchen. This hot cream then gets sieved over the solid chocolate to form the final ganache.

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At this point in the lesson, I was hoping for the Earl Grey ganache to be pipe-able, but oh dear, it’s too soft still… Gah… Okay-okay, er… so yes…, let’s pipe design on the chocolate mould!

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We melted 50 grams of white chocolate by the seeding method, which is the one of the two tempering technique that I wanted to show. We both took turns to pipe a simple design on the heart shaped chocolate mould I brought with me. – At which moment…, I felt a little proud. The very mould was what I purchased in MORA (a professional cookware shop in Paris) over 7 years ago. Who would have thought that I would be bringing it back to Paris, this time to use it to teach with!? :-)

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Leaving the decorated mould aside to dry, we got back to the Earl Grey, now pipe-able. We practiced piping as systematic as possible, spherical & all of equal size/ weight, because the uniformity of shape effects the final beauty of the product. Where as the caramel ganache, we simply cut in to squares.

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Time for tempering dark chocolate on the marble slab. Thermometer probe on the ready, we start with melted chocolate in the bowl. Pour two thirds or so on the slab & I showed how to use two metal spatulas to slosh the chocolate on the surface. Spread wide, then bring in from the edges to form a mound, & then repeat the process to keep the temperature of the chocolate uniform. (the edges cool faster than the middle.) When it cools to 29 degrees, we then put this chocolate back in to the original bowl to combine with the hotter non-marbled lot to bring the overall temperature up to 31 to 32 degrees. Et voila.

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Or so it should have been… My nerves got the better of me it seems, as the chocolate was not tempered perfectly. It wasn’t bad, still had it’s sheen, & it hardened readily, but not super shiny as I’d hoped to show. ~ What a downer. ~ I’m so sorry Mrs C… But being a saintly angel that she is, she told me not to worry, it wouldn’t have happened if I were using my own equipment & was in my own kitchen. Bless her. Really, thank you for being so forgiving…

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We trudged on regardless, & coated the truffles & the bonbons, which has its plentiful set of techniques to master, & of which I am not going to be writing about here in fear of being long-winded. Oh yeah, before all of that, we poured the tempered chocolate in to the heart shape mould & tipped most of it back in the bowl again to to leave a film of chocolate to form a hollow shape. I explained that if you stick both sides together it becomes a case like an Easter egg.

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Also, did I mention that along side all of above, we made Caramelized Chocolate Almonds? It’s a rather moreish & beautiful snack made by coating the whole almonds in caramel until it’s all sugared up, then coating it with tempered chocolate by constantly turning it in the bowl like a cement mixer! Another fascinatingly different way of coating with the chocolate other than dipping like truffles!

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At that…, we finally finished our lesson. And phew, oh boy, on later thought, now that I write about all that we did, I realize it was rather a lot…!

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Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market london E8 - personal chocolate workshop held in Paris 2013 - truffles, bonbons, moulded heart

(By the end the work top was a mess! But Mrs C still smiles!)

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That evening, I was invited back to Mrs C’s & had a lovely supper. Mrs C, her husband E & myself had the most pleasant time, chatting, chatting, chatting! Mostly about food, … of course. Helped by the excellent wine, relaxed & relieved after having had a good workshop, I can tell you that I slept soundly that night in the hotel. And you Mrs C, you must’ve been really knackered too, no?!

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Mrs C, you have been more than accommodating for me. It felt like it was more than ‘just’ a workshop & I can honestly say that this is definitely the highlight of this year by far for me. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Me, bebé & mum Mrs C.)  

cocoandme - Coco&Me - coco and me - www.cocoandme.com - private chocolate lesson in paris.

(Ooh, bebé! I Love~!)

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Ps: In the next post, I’ll write about how the following day went in my Paris trip! ‘Til then! Best, Tamami xoxo