Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate….
I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate? Dawn Fry at Hitchin’s Melting Pot — the place to go for chocolate making workshops — certainly does. And there’s not much she doesn’t know about it either. When she suggested I join her for one of her workshops, well, I thought about it for all of, oh, a milisecond….
Dawn runs her workshops from a gorgeous summer house at the bottom of the garden, or she’ll bring her goodies to wherever you want to party — she was off later to a hen party in a hotel when I talked to her, and she’s worked in schools and all over. Anywhere people like chocolate, really.
When we arrived, some empty chocolates were waiting for us — and we got busy filling them with caramel (piping that in was a bit sticky…), salted or not, and kirsch-soaked boozy cherries. Then we piped gloopy tempered chocolate from the great bit vat to seal up our little balls of deliciousness. I also had a go (or should that be a goo) at piping heart-shaped (almost) lollies for my two smalls. The second one was better than the first, but they didn’t last long once I got them home, anyway! I have to admit, though, not licking my fingers was almost impossibly tempting…
It was quite a select bunch, the morning I went. Me and a lovely couple, Terry and Caroline, who were on their honeymoon. (Me, green and prickly? Never!) Get this — they were having a staycation honeymoon and Terry (perfect chap alert) had organised a different SECRET surprise for him and Caroline to do together every day. Yup, I’d say he’s a keeper.
Dipping the various fillings — fudge, coconut ice, Turkish delight and so on, as well as my filled balls — was a bit tricky at first. Flashbacks to dropping my bread in the fondue! Once I’d managed to figure out how to wield the tiny trident, though, it was good fun. Maybe my chocs weren’t the neatest, but hey ho. They were good and chocolatey.
There were lots of sprinkles and choccie shavings and honeycomb and so on to decorate them all with, and there was something deeply satisfying about watching them set and turn from a selection of bits and pieces into actual chocolates.
Dawn’s been doing her workshops since 2009, and her enthusiasm for what she does — the chocolate, of course, but also the people and the experience — is obvious as soon as you meet her. She’s so encouraging (even when I was fumbling around with the piping bag) and so engaging, and the four of us ending up chatting away like old friends almost as soon as we started.
Of course, the chocolate has to set — so we sat down with a cuppa (and a chocolate biscuit, of course!) and learned all about chocolate. About how it grows, where it comes from, how it’s made, and so on. We tried some cocoa nibs, too, which are apparently very good for you. Dawn loves them — but I thought they were horrid. I was on my own with that one, though.
We also tasted a range of different chocolate — some very fancy indeed, some gourmet single-bean choc, some flavoured buttons — which was amazing. There was a ‘vanilla and smoke’ one that I loved, but Dawn’s not a fan of — but lots of others that we agreed on! It was almost like wine tasting — Dawn guided us through some of the subtleties of the flavours that we might not even have been looking for or known were there. Definitely a step up from a rapidly-scoffed bar of Dairy Milk,
And because we were doing the ‘deluxe‘ course, we topped off the session by making chocolate martinis. I mean, really, if you’ve not had one, you should. I’m not normally a fan of creamy cocktails — but this was lush in the extreme. Hot chocolate for grown-ups. Except not hot. And full of gin.
There was something brilliant about taking home a bag of chocolates that I’d made, all packaged up neatly in little bags tied up with raffia ribbon. And those dark chocolate, kirsch-soaked, cocoa-dusted ones…. Well, they didn’t last long.