As a serious chocoholic, I thought I knew a thing or two about chocolate.
As it turns out, I know nothing. Literally nothing. Anything I thought I knew has been cast into a shadow by the incomparable Sarah Barber.
Since Sarah started working at the Hotel Cafe Royal she has completely revolutionised the cafe from what it was even just a few months ago when I visited. The cafe is now the UKs first ever dessert restaurant – I mean, even that description has my mouth watering – what an incredible idea! A restaurant, for desserts!!! I’m moving in right now! 🙂
The cafe has a tasting menu available every evening and having seen some of the incredible work, I know I will be back to try some more very very soon!
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to a chocolate masterclass – literally a masterclass with the master, Sarah Barber.
This week alone, she is preparing for work with Kate Spade and Vogue – and managed to find time to fit 4 bloggers into her chocolate room (yes, that’s an actual place!) to teach us some of her techniques, let us taste some of her mouth-watering creations and take some truffles and other yummy things that we had made ourselves, home.
We started by being introduced to Selmi, the chocolate machine, Selmi literally keeps 20kgs of melted chocolate at exactly the right temperature for working with – for me, I just wanted to dive in face first! 🙂
Our first task was to fill milk chocolate truffle cases with salted caramel yumminess, using a piping bag. Again, I thought I could work a piping bag….apparently not!
Finally, when I’d managed to get enough salted caramel in the truffles as well as all over me and the table, we were given another piping bag, this time filled with melted chocolate, to fill the hole at the top of the truffle….again, a slightly messy affair, but I just about managed it without completely embarrassing myself….just about!
The next task was to roll the truffles in dark chocolate to coat them. We were given plastic gloves and shown exactly what to do…needless to say, Sarah made it look so, so much easier than it actually was and so it was only a matter of time before it all got very messy – helped hugely by Dominic (of Samphire & Salsify) who decided not just to cover his truffles with chocolate but part of my jumper too! (only kidding Dominic, please don’t feel bad – it all came out in the wash! Ha!)
Once the dark chocolate layer was set, it was time to spray the truffles – mine were silver and they came out so beautifully – I’ve actually pinched at a couple whilst writing this post up and YUM!!!
Making delicious salted caramel chocolate truffles, however, was not the limit of our education for the afternoon – when we first arrived, we had poured melted chocolate into handbag shaped moulds and put them in the fridge, but by this point I had pretty much completely forgotten we had done it – I was too wrapped up in salted caramel piping and trying to get as little chocolate on the table and myself as possible! But out of the fridge they came and it was time to get creative!
The moulds we had used have been specially designed and this is the first time they have been shown to the world – us bloggers have, as it were, exclusive first viewing of this fantastic design.
There are two different beautiful designs, one, a clutch bag and one a little handbag, but the INCREDIBLY clever thing was that we hadn’t just created these gorgeous hollow bag shapes out of chocolate, but we were going to fill them with the truffles we had just made and set them like that! Amazing!
It was incredible – it’s such an amazingly complicated procedure to stick these intricate shapes together with these incredible truffles in the middle without leaving gaps, cracks or making a big mess – I would have messed it right up! Sarah showed us how she melted the edges using an extremely hot tray and then stuck the two parts together with the truffles inside and then neatened off the edges etc.
Once practised, I imagine you’d get used to doing it pretty well slowly and carefully, but over easter, Sarah and her team made Easter eggs filled with truffles en mass and with the detail that goes into doing that for each one – they must have been in every hour of the day for months!
Once the bags were filled with truffles and all sealed up, we got to decorate them with edible glitter, little stars, flowers and pretty much whatever else we could lay our hands on to stick on to our bags.
When it came to leaving I was, frankly, weighed down with chocolate. The truffles we had made, a wider variety of truffles Sarah had made for us to try, and our chocolate handbags filled with even more truffles!
I mean, I’m literally going to be the size of a HOUSE but, to be honest – if it tastes this good, and looks this good, I just don’t care!
The thing that struck me about working with Sarah for the afternoon is how creative she is – she has taken chocolate, something people think they know, and pushed it to become something so much more. It is beautiful. It is sentimental. Each piece has so much care and creativity piped into it that it is so much more than just chocolate, it is art. Whether it is a handbag or a tiny chocolate toadstool, each tiny detail has been thought about. This is what real chocolate is about and I can’t wait to spend an evening in the dessert restaurant seeing what else Sarah has created.
Sarah Barber can be found on Twitter and Instagram (serious food porn!) and she has a book out too – check out her website!
The Cafe Royal can also be found on Twitter and Instagram – and online here.
*I was invited along to this workshop as a gift, however all view are my own.