One Magazine’s Esther Baker and family try their hand at the art of chocolate making…
Tucked away in Exeter’s charming Gandy Street, Choccie Bar has been open for business for a couple of years now. Although initially only running workshops for adults, owner Katie has now expanded her courses to juniors too, offering the chance for children to also get stuck in and enjoy the wonderful world of chocolate making. The children’s courses are aimed at children aged 7 years old and over and give children the chance to explore, taste and unleash their creativity. It’s the perfect all-weather activity and a great way to keep the kids amused during school holidays or at the weekends. With several different courses to try and a variety of different types and styles of chocolate to make, there is plenty of opportunity to go back again and have a different take on the experience.
On entering the shop, we were greeted by the most amazing chocolate designs and of course, there was the smell – chocoholics beware! This instantly fired our creative juices and got our imagination running wild wondering what we may be producing ourselves. What better way to start off the experience than with a spot of tasting. We first sampled one of Choccie Bar’s scrummy hot chocolates which come in a choice of ten tantalising flavours, including mint, orange, coconut, chilli, and gingerbread to name but a few. This was also the first taste of Choccie Bar’s own couverture – a type of chocolate made with extra cocoa butter to give a high gloss that we would be using later in the day as a tasty decorating tool.
Tasting time over – a cunning, but very welcome, way to fill us up and stop us from eating the ingredients on the course I reckon – it was time to begin working on our masterpieces. With hands washed and aprons donned, we were ready to begin. We opted for the Animals and Shapes course – £25 for a 120 minute session that would see our junior chocolatiers creating and decorating hollow shapes plus a mini set of chocolates or truffles to go inside.
Before we started creating, Katie explained where chocolate comes from and gave us the chance to taste a cocoa bean. She then got everyone involved in a blind taste test, giving the children five different types of chocolate buttons and asking them to guess the type of chocolate or flavour. They enjoyed trying to work out what each type was and came away with a new found knowledge of the different types of chocolate available.
Next Katie gave the boys a choice of different moulds that they would decorate and fill with chocolate. The younger boys chose the ever-popular Minion designs and my eldest chose to do a wearable pair of chocolate glasses! Before jumping in and setting to work we sat and had a think about what colours we would use before using coloured pens to design our creations using the paper templates provided. This helped to create a visual plan for when dealing with the chocolate itself and really helped to stimulate the boys’ creativity. With the designs taking shape, our variety of bright coloured couverture was prepared ready for painting the inside layer of the moulds and, of course, creating two minions meant that there was plenty of yellow and blue!
All of the boys wanted their chocolates to look good and so spent a long time concentrating on getting it just right. There were times when they would ask if they were doing their design right but, as Katie kept assuring them, there is no right or wrong way to do it! Personally I think I could’ve spent all afternoon designing every little detail – it really was great fun for both the children and the adults!
Once the outer chocolate painting was done, we were then tasked with filling the moulds with chocolate. The boys were given a piping bag full of melted chocolate that they used to fill each of their moulds which they soon realised wasn’t as easy as it looked! The moulds were then put in a special freezer which set them really quickly and voila!
The boys were chuffed to bits with their creations and the planning and time taken over them in the design stage really paid off. Their chocolate creations were carefully wrapped in attractive bags ready to take home. Needless to say, they lasted long enough to show off but when they were asked if they looked too good to eat the answer was: no chance!
For a full range of courses and to find out more, visit: www.chocciebar.com
Words: Esther Baker
Photos: Amber Balkwill