It all started when Masterchef Australia Season 7 aired on screen and I had a massive celebrity crush on Billie Mckay. I closely followed all the episodes, cheering her all the way as she was adjudged the winner.
Recently, she put up a post on social media about her tour to India which presented a window of opportunity for me to meet my celebrity crush. My long-held wish came true when she visited Mumbai to host a chocolate masterclass that traced the journey of cocoa beans, taught the basics of tempering and shared expert plating tricks of one of her signature desserts.
So, what are the stages from bean to bar? Read on for a decadent experience:
1. Harvesting and Splitting the Cocoa Beans
This can be time-consuming, but in the end it’s worth the wait. The pods are harvested, split open in half and then the seeds/beans which are covered in sweet white pulp are removed. Next, they will undergo fermentation and drying.
During fermentation, the cocoa pulp that clings to the beans matures and turns into a liquid, which drains away and the true chocolate flavor starts to develop.
When fermentation is complete, the wet mass of beans is dried. Traditionally, they are sun dried, but special drying equipment can be a good alternative.
The dried beans are cracked open and a stream of air separates the shell from the nib, the small pieces are used to make chocolate.
The nibs are roasted in special ovens at temperatures between 105-120 degrees Celsius. During roasting, the cocoa nibs darken to a rich, brown color and acquire their characteristic chocolate flavor and aroma. This flavor, however, starts to develop during fermentation.
The roasted nibs are grounded in stone mills until the friction and heat reduce them to a thick chocolate-colored liquid, known as 'mass.' It contains cocoa butter and solidifies when cooled. This is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products.
The cocoa mass is pressed in powerful machines to extract the cocoa butter, which is needed to make chocolate.
This is followed by tempering – a process which adds a rich shine and allows you to mould the chocolate.
During the process of tempering, the chocolate is melted till 45 degrees Celsius and then cooled on a marble slab where the temperature is brought to a range of 29 degrees to 32 degrees Celsius. At this stage, one can play around with different shapes and designs.
The best was saved for the last - plating McKay’s signature dessert, the Lamington. We were encouraged to follow her as the ingredients were placed on our table.
To sum it up, it was just the perfect day for me, as I ticked off a significant life experience from my bucket list.
The event was held at ITC Maratha in Mumbai and was organised by Fabelle.
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