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Oh! Chocolate

Posted by joeabbott on March 1, 2009

For someone as grounded and who takes care of the “basics” as well as my wife does, I’m always tickled when her dynamic side comes out. Sometimes I’m not ready for it and other times I jump on and go along for the ride. In contrast, I’m a planner … love planning for planning sake. Just to have a plan. Execution is great, but perhaps we should go over the plan again.

scan0005With that, before heading to work Friday morning, I found myself circling a small ad in our daily paper that announced chocolate classes at a place in Seattle called Oh! Chocolate. I see they have similar information at their blog, although I didn’t even know they had a blog at the time. It just looked fun and like a little something we could do sometime. So imagine my surprise when she called me later that day to say we had reservations the next evening! So I jumped on and went along for the ride!

We got a bit later start on the evening than we wanted and hadn’t had time for dinner. To avoid showing up at a chocolate tasting event on an empty stomach, we found a little teriyaki place next door and enjoyed a quick meal. The food was fresh and the sauce wasn’t a cloying mess like it can be at some places. Very nice. We had to hurry up and when we finally arrived at Oh! Chocolate’s Madison Park store, we had to share a small corner table with another couple. They were polite but no real connection occurred and they were just another two people at the event.

Margo Masaoka greeted us with small cups of the most delicious hot chocolate imagineable. She said they’d added no sugar but it was splendidly delicious. Just a touch of whip cream and a wonderful, deep chocolate flavor. Fortunately it was a small cup as it was rich as can be. After everyone was seated at their tables, Chris and Nick, Margo’s sons, took over and gave us a tour of chocolate.

They started by giving us each a plate covered with more chocoate than an adult might eat in a week … and that’s even accounting for those with a powerful sweet tooth. They arranged the chocolate on the plate specifically so we could follow along and awaythe “tour” went!

At “noon” on the plate were the “nibs”. Nibs are the center of the cocoa bean the base for all chocolate. They’re  crunchy, a bit crumbly, and taste very deeply complex. The nibs are removed from the bean and roasted then crushed to remove the cocoa liquor from the solids, which are then used in differing amounts to produce the chocolates we eat. Next on the plate were dark chocolate solid wafers. These were “pure” chocolate solids and were dense, crumbly and bitter. That said, they were not intended as eating chocolate and more for use as the base to other confections.

The next stop on the tour was a dark chocolate block, or shards from a larger block. These you could bite into and enjoy a big, bold mouthful of chocolate; delicious and full bodied. Hints or overtones of fruits and nuts were detected by some … I just found it grubalicious. Next to that were smaller “nibs” of chocolate … they looked like over-sized, half-pipes of chocolate. While these tasted differently from the big block chocolate, they were actually made from the same base. The treatment of the chocolate in producing the different sizes led to a different “flavor profile”. I didn’t notice it at that point but probably because I was beginning to fight off a diabetic coma!

Next on our tour of chocolate was a chunk of milk chocolate. While I like milk chocolate, after all the dark chocolate, it seemed cloyingly sweet. While it nearly swooned in the mouth, it was more sweet than I could enjoy just then and so I merely nibbled.

After this was the “white chocolate” … it’s mostly just sugar and cocoa butter\liquor. A dandy treat but, again, after the dark chocolate was just a bit too sweet.

Throughout the night Nick and Chris shared stories, answered questions, and played the role of jovial hosts walking us through a wonderful but sane Wonka world. In addition to the chocolates on the plate we sampled single source\origin (varietal) chocolate, truffles, and after the evening’s main event, all the Oh! Chocolate signature blend we could manage!

And what was the evening’s main event? Why, chocolate tempering and dipping!

Chocolate that’s not tempered will cool in such a way as to allow chocolate butter\fats\liquor to cool on the surface and give a mottled or white splotched look. It doesn’t affect the flavor but looks a bit unkempt. To avoid that one tempers chocolate … or manipulates it in such a way as to cool the chocolate consistently throughout and so the chocolate butter won’t separate and rise to the surface. You do this on a marble slab (it’s a great heat sink) and with your hand. See the picture below:

scan0004

Over the next hour or so we manipulated pools of chocolate with our hands, dipped cookies and fruit, and generally had a wonderful time. Even after washing up my hand smelled of chocoalte and it was fun to sniff as I drifted off to sleep later that night.

But, that was it. We tempered the chocolate, dipped our stuff, let it cool, boxed it up, and with a handshake (after thoroughly washing) we were off into the night. It was a grand adventure and a lot of fun. I recommend both the class and Oh! Chocolate to everyone!

Interested in learning more about Oh! Chocolate? You can read it here in the Seattle Dining website archives.

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