Mr BT was away for Valentine’s Day, so as a consolation, he sent me to a chocolate workshop at Sarina Chocolates in Ein Vered, one of my favorite villages, which is mere a hop, skip, and a jump from my house. I was already familiar with Sarina’s chocolates because they sold their chocolates for Pesach at my office. Sarina’s chocolates are divine and come in all sorts of interesting flavours, such as anise and honey, passion fruit, rosemary, and chili-orange to name a few.
The Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) in Netanya organised this event, and apart from the pleasure of the event itself, I must say I had a lot of fun meeting new people originally from South Africa, England, USA, and Norway.
The chocolatier behind Sarina Chocolates is Limor Drucker, whose parents were Syrian, is originally from Zaire, now know as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but has lived in Israel since she was 18 years old. When she and her husband moved to Germany for several years due to a temporary relocation for her husband’s business, she taught English, but because of her love of cooking, she started giving cooking workshops to expats. She had a lot of requests to offer a chocolate-related course, which eventually led her to only focusing only on chocolate. She enjoyed it so much that she had an idea to start offering chocolate-making courses when she returned to Israel; so while living in Germany she decided to take professional chocolate-making courses in Belgium at Barry-Callebaut and at Valharona in France. She also apprenticed for two chocolatiers in the USA.
Limor began the course by explaining where chocolate comes from and showing a short film explaining the process from bean to bar. She then asked us if cocoa could be grown in Israel and we all said no because we don’t have a tropical climate, let alone enough rainfall here, like they do in places like South America, Africa, South East Asia, and the South Pacific where most of the world’s cocoa comes from. She said she had a surprise for us and asked us to join her outside.
Lo and behold in the small acclimatised greenhouse were six young Theobroma (which means ‘Food of the Gods’) cacao trees that here husband found at a local nursery. When the agricultural ministry found out she had cacao trees, they decided to give her a grant to build the greenhouse to be used for educational purposes for children and for her chocolate courses. She said that she doesn’t expect the trees to give off any fruit, but if they do, it would be an added bonus. However, six plants will never produce enough fruit to make enough chocolate to warrant buying the equipment to dry, roast and process the beans into cocoa.
What I found interesting about these trees is that the bronze coloured leaves are not dying leaves, but they are new leaves on the tree that eventually turn green. These trees grow to 4–8 m or 15–26 ft tall, so they will have to be trimmed in order to keep them in the greenhouse, but this should only make them stronger. The flowers of the tree grown from the tree trunk and older branches, not the leaf stems. They are pollinated by tiny flies, not bees. I guess that is why we have never seen cocoa honey; too bad.
Before making chocolate, we did a tasting of dark, milk, and white chocolate, which as most of us know is not chocolate at all, but is made only from cocoa butter. She also explained how to temper chocolate, which is a process by which you melt the chocolate to around 46C (115F), cool it to below 28C (84F), and then bring it back up to 31C (89F).
Chocolate that has been tempered is smooth, with a shiny finish and snaps when you break off a piece. Limor offers a chocolate tempering course that I would like to take some time.
Limor then showed us how to make chocolates by filling a mould with chocolate, scraping off the excess, letting it sit for a couple of minutes, and then pouring out the excess chocolate until only the outside shell is left; she then filled the shells with a chocolate and limoncello mixture.
We then put on hats and aprons and started making truffles. She showed us how to make ganache with dark chocolate and cream, and then brought out trays that she had pre-prepared.
She gave us bowls of toasted coconut, ground nuts, icing sugar and coffee mixture, and beautiful dark cocoa to roll our truffles in.
I probably would have brought home more chocolates if Mr BT was with me, but I didn’t want to overdo it.
Here is a plate of goodies that someone brought home to the entire family.
I really had a lot of fun making chocolates and meeting new interesting people. Can’t wait to do it again sometime.