What do you learn at a Chocolate Academy?

Recently, I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Chicago to take a Chocolate Technology course at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy. Now, you may be thinking chocolate technology, gosh that’s intense and sounds like super science. It is and it isn’t, so I wanted to hop on the blog to try to share just a brief snippet of what I learned and how it can be applied to your day to day food life.

It’s serious business.

First, we focused on sweeteners and how they differ in terms of flavor. Some are significantly more pronounced in sweetness than others. As a reference, I wanted to share this list in order of sweetness of some common sugars you may use along your cooking journey.

Starting with the lowest sweetness level:
•    Lactose – found in milk products
•    Corn Syrup
•    Maple Syrup – less sweet than white sugar since it is roughly around 33% water
•    White Sugar – brown sugar and sugar in the raw fall pretty much at the same level
•    Honey
•    Agave Syrup

If you’re thinking about sweetening your iced tea with one of the above options, you would use less agave syrup to get the same sweetness level than you would regular old sugar. Also, I find it intriguing to note that when people add milk or cream to their coffee, they’re actually sweetening it a tad too. Next time you add milk to your coffee, try to notice what the lactose does to the taste. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

The class also emphasized the importance of knowing your ingredients and knowing them well. For instance, when making a ganache (the centers of our truffles), it helps to know the fat content of the cream you’re using, whether it’s pasteurized or not, what type of pasteurization it undergoes, etc. The next time you are thinking about substituting one ingredient for another in a recipe, think about the characteristics of that particular component. A higher fat content may separate a ganache recipe that doesn’t have enough water or make the texture creamier and more mouth-coating. An ultra pasteurized heavy cream will have a more cooked milk flavor than a slow pasteurized cream since an ultra pasteurized cream is heated to a much higher temperature. Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference in a recipe, what its flavor will be like, and ultimately how it eats.

I’ve always believed your food can only be as good as the sum of its parts. Next time you’re food shopping I encourage you to think a bit about what you’re picking up. Do some investigating. How will what you have in your hand affect your end meal?

I strive to make sure I’m thinking far in advance about the raw ingredients even before testing a recipe. It’s the quality of the raw ingredients that speaks volumes about a final product. I know that’s always on the forefront of our minds here at Lake Champlain Chocolates, and I hope you notice the little things that make the difference in everything we do.