This is a continuation of Chocolate week, which began with a giveaway and continued with a visit to a chocolate shop here. Today we’re going to go behind the scenes in that chocolate shop--La Maison Saive.
When you walk into this chocolate shop, you are immediately struck by the wonderful smell of chocolate. Next is the friendly smile of whoever’s working in the shop that day. Most often it’s Florence, Christophe’s wife. If it’s very busy, it may be his mother. If it’s not busy at all, it may be Christophe who comes from the atelier to help you choose your chocolates.
But if you walk back there you see immediately that it’s not a normal kitchen. You see this, which stands about 4 1/2 feet tall.
This is called a cuve, and Christophe has nine of them. Each one holds from 25 to 40 litres of melted chocolate. There are dark, milk, and white cuves, as well as cuves for sugar-free chocolate. The cuves serve to temper the chocolate and to keep it at the right temperature for working. They provide a vat of chocolate for dipping and a ‘fountain’ for covering things with chocolate. It’s here that a lot of the work of making the pralines takes place.
Before anything can be made, though, the chocolate has to be tempered. If it’s not tempered, it won’t be shiny, and there’s a risk that the cocoa butter will leach out, making the chocolate grey. It may also look greasy or dull. Eww. As long as we’re on this subject, I’ve learned that you should NEVER put chocolate in the fridge, especially if it’s softened by being in a warm place. If you do that, you’ll get chocolate that’s dull and grey. That’s because the cocoa butter starts to separate from the chocolate when it’s warm, and cooling it down just solidifies that white cocoa butter, making the chocolate look nasty. It’s still edible, but not very pretty.
Ok, back to the story. To temper the chocolate, they fill the cuve with chocolate and melt it slowly. They bring it up to a temperature of 42 degrees C (107.6 F). Then they take it out of the cuve and pour it onto the adjacent work surface, where they cool it down. Then they put it back into the cuve and bring it to 32 degrees C (89.6 F). At that point they can work with for 4-5 hours before they have to do it all again.
To make a molded chocolate, they begin with these molds. Christophe estimates that he has around 1500 of them, in different shapes. Each one holds 21 normal pralines. To form the shell you see here that will be filled with a flavored ganache or a cream, the mold is put under the fountain part of the cuve, filled up with chocolate, and then emptied.
Here you see him emptying the mold back into the cuve. Before the mold is emptied, it’s put on that little shelf you see attached to the cuve, and shaken gently to dislodge any air bubbles that may have gotten into the chocolate before it hardens. After it’s emptied, there’s a shell of chocolate that has hardened inside the mold, which is left to cool completely. For large hollow items, they may make two or three layers of chocolate shell before they put them together.
When they’re completely cool, they’re run under the fountain again to seal them, the mold is scraped again, and then set aside to cool. The finished chocolates are then turned out like ice cubes. They’re ready to eat!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million words. To see some short videos of the process I described above, go to Christophe’s website HERE. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s in French--the videos have no sound, and will make this process very clear. To see them, click on the link, wait till the word “Bienvenue” shows up, and click on that. Then at the top click on the piece of chocolate that says “Nos Coulisses”. This will take you to a page with several videos:
Préparation fourrage--making a ganache. This is the basis for many of the fillings and also for the truffles. Basically, it’s a mixture of cream and chocolate and whatever flavors he wants to use.
Fourrage--Filling the molds with the ganache. Behind, a cuve that’s cleaned and shut down. I can’t help but admire the work here with a pastry bag.
Finition--Closing the molded chocolates--you can see the finishing of the molded shapes as well as the cups which are dipped one-by-one into the cuve.
Démoulage--Unmolding the chocolates, which are then stored in a cool store room next to the shop until they’re needed to replace the stock that has been sold.
Massepain--Marzipan cutting. In this video you see Jonathan, the former apprentice. When I asked Sophie, the current apprentice, what was the hardest part of her job, she said working with the marzipan. It has to be kneaded by hand, and it’s apparently very hard to do.
Dressage--Making truffles, later to be dipped in chocolate in the cuve. Another chance to admire his pastry bag work. After the truffles have been left to dry, they’re threaded four at a time onto a fork, dipped into the cuve chocolate, and pushed off the fork into either cocoa or powdered sugar. (dipping truffles) The white spots you see here and on Sophie’s hands are the powdered sugar that these truffles will be rolled in after they get their chocolate shell.
Enrobage--Covering things with chocolate. Here, orange peel. Also marzipan and (sometimes) pâte de fruit.
The day I was taking photos, Sophie was putting candied orange peel into this machine, which has a long conveyer belt at the other end. Christophe was waiting at the other end to put them into a box to send to the shop at the front. They cooled and hardened as they moved down the line. I couldn’t help thinking of that wonderful scene with Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory.
So now you know how artisanale chocolates are made. When I think of the work that goes into each one, I am amazed that they are so affordable!