The garage door descends with an air of foreboding, sealing you off from the outside. But there's nothing to fear in Emily McCracken's chocolate-bar-making class, unless messy hands make you nervous.
The hourlong session has quickly become the mainstay of South End Kitchen's educational center. The space has also hosted seminars with cookbook author Molly Stevens, Slow Food Vermont tastings and cheese-making workshops. But the lowest price tag — at $25 — belongs to McCracken's class, and students get to leave with four chocolate bars.
I took the workshop twice in two weeks and was rapt both times. Chocolate sculptor McCracken makes even the scripted spiel about the new space sound interesting, but she especially shines when sharing her cacao wisdom.
Could you make the same bars at home, following McCracken's lead and using Barry Callebaut chocolate? Sure, but you'd have to temper the chocolate yourself, then clean up. And you wouldn't hear McCracken's rap. For example, despite claims to the contrary, she holds firm that white chocolate qualifies as chocolate. It may be missing the chocolate liqueur that makes other chocolates brown, but McCracken says the key factor is its cocoa-butter base.
She shows participants how to fill their molds with softened milk and dark chocolate, the latter of which she collects from a perpetually running chocolate fountain in one corner of the expansive space. Students then don a single rubber glove to scoop fillings such as Rice Krispies, dried cherries and pistachios into their molds. After 10 minutes in the freezer, the bars are ready to wrap and take home.
On my second visit, I brought my own mix-ins of lavender, cumin and salt from the ancient mine in Wieliczka, Poland. My "Taste of Poland" may be my favorite chocolate bar I've ever tasted. And I would have been too lazy to make it at home, where I'd have had to clean up after myself. For anyone who feels like playing Willy Wonka, it's well worth the $25.
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