When traveling in Belgium, there is one specific activity that everyone should accomplish, eating chocolate until you can’t walk anymore. Belgium is known as the best place in the world for chocolate, so how could you pass up an opportunity like this? The streets of this country’s beautiful towns are lined from top to bottom with chocolate shops, each competing to create the best taste. The smell of chocolate fills the streets while melting chocolate fountains are displayed in windows, tempting you to enter and try more. Truffles, pralines, nuts and chocolate bars galore, this place is a wonderland for anyone with a sweet tooth. As sampling each chocolate shop as you walk by is an adventure in itself, getting your hands dirty with some cacao is an experience you will never forget.
Length: The Belgian chocolate workshop is about 2.5 hours long
Location: Voldersstraat, 30 B-1000 Brussels, about a 10 minute walk from Brussels Grand Palace
Reward: Over indulging in delicious Belgian chocolate
The process of making chocolate may sound simple, but it is very time consuming and must be done with delicacy and care. The reason Belgian chocolates are so good is because of the labor that goes into them. A chocolatier spends time on the process of making his/her chocolate, and is always done by human hands. No machinery and robots here, just the knowledge of cacao and a little bit of love.
In this workshop, you will make pralines, also known as Belgium’s most famous kind of chocolates. Pralines are created with a hard outer layer of chocolate while the interior is filled with ganache, or a creamy substance made with some more chocolate and extra cream. The combination is finished off in your mouth with a bit of a crunch followed by an explosion of delicious cream. You can create many different kinds of ganache based on your ingredients, but in this class you will make a simple chocolate ganache which results in a taste of all out chocolate perfection.
The beginning of the chocolate making adventure is possibly the most important. The type of chocolate is chosen, and must be melted. For this workshop, we use a dark chocolate from South America. The taste was the perfect amount of dark and sweet. Although it is obviously fun to eat the chocolate chips, they need to be melted down to properly make the pralines. The melting of the chocolate is scientific, and must be done with patience and care. The temperature begins at about 49 degrees celsius, but needs to be cooled down to precisely 31 degrees before the next step. The cooling process is done by constantly stirring the chocolate with a spoon until enough air hits it to fully take away the heat. Stirring the chocolate is simple enough, but nearly impossible to not want to stick your head into the mesmerizing, melted perfection.
After cooling the chocolate down to the precise temperature, it is time to make the pralines. Everyone receives a mold with some different shapes and is instructed to take the ladle and pour chocolate into each opening. It is best to completely drench the mold with as much chocolate as possible, not for any reason other than satisfaction.
The next step is key in the process. After your mold is filled to the brim with melted chocolate, you will use your palette knife to beat the edges to knock any air bubbles out of the chocolate. It is very important to make sure that there are no bubbles on the outer layer of your pralines or it will be impossible to fill them with ganache. The sound of everyone hitting their plastic molds can get a little bit loud, but there is something really enjoyable about it.
After hitting each and every air pocket out of your chocolate, you move onto the next and most mouth watering stage, pouring the chocolate back into the pot, leaving only enough for an outer shell of the praline. Watching the chocolate fall slowly back into the melting pot will surely make some drool run down your shirt. It is very important to make sure that you don’t pour too much chocolate out as it makes too thin of a shell. You need to pour just enough out to leave space for a good amount of ganache.
Once each person finishes creating their outer layer of chocolate, the trays will then be transitioned to the fridge where they will have time to harden. In the meantime, you have the opportunity to play around with your melted chocolate. This is the time to get creative by spreading out some chocolate on a baking sheet in different shapes, while adding some dried fruits or nuts for a snack. Make as much as possible as this will be going home with you as well!
After playtime is over, it is time to get back to the main event, creating the ganache for the pralines. Making ganache is simple enough. Add some cream to your melted chocolate and whisk it until it becomes nice and thick. You can add any kind of flavor to your ganache such as honey or caramel, but for this class we stick with a 2 ingredient dark chocolate ganache. It is simple, but the whisking takes time. Once the substance is thick enough and complete, ganache will be handed out amongst the tables in the class so it can be used to fill up the pralines.
You will receive your chocolate trays back from the fridge where the outer shell is ready to be filled with ganache. Filling up the pralines is easy, but cannot be overdone. Each person will squeeze some ganache into their pralines, filling them just enough so they can be covered with more chocolate to complete them. The ganache should be filled until eye level with the rest of the outer layer of the chocolate.
After each praline is filled, you will again cover your chocolate trays with delicious, melted chocolate. This step is done to completely cover the ganache so that the praline will offer that delicious and creamy filling inside of the crunchy, outer layer.
After covering your pralines and ganache with more melted chocolate, you will again hit the sides of the tray with the palette knife as you had done before. Following more shaking and beating the trays, the pralines are ready for the last step. While grabbing your tray with one hand very tightly and tilting it towards the melting pot, you will take the palette knife with a firm grasp in your other hand and simply scrape the tray with one, smooth motion to complete your pralines. Your pralines are now whole and complete, prepped for one more quick trip to the fridge to fully harden!
The best part of this class is of course the box given to you for taking your chocolates home! Each chocolate you have created during this class will be taken home as a souvenir, unless you cant resist eating them in that precise moment! Each chocolate is so delicious that it makes you want to go through the process again and again.
The overall class was fantastic. We had a great time learning about how to make Belgian chocolate and really enjoyed the entire hands on process. There is something about getting dirty with chocolate that is incredibly satisfying. The workshop is a great way to help visitors truly appreciate the chocolate in Belgium. I cannot express enough how incredible the chocolate in this country truly is, while making it in an actual workshop makes it taste even better. If you’re on your way out to Brussels anytime soon, make sure to book this workshop. It is the perfect amount of time spent working on some pralines and an experience you will not soon forget. Not only is the workshop fun and educational, if you work hard enough, you will be taking home some excellent chocolates that you made with your own hands. Don’t think twice about booking the workshop during your next trip to Brussels! Follow the link below