Hands-On Chocolate Lessons at The Cocoa Belt

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Classes, Danvers, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Learning a new skill is always a pleasure, and if that skill involves chocolate, you’ve pretty much hit the jackpot. And hit it we did, last Friday afternoon at The Cocoa Belt in Danvers. We had set up a private chocolate class with owner Theresa Whitman for ourselves and three enthusiastic youngsters.

The class was held in a large workshop behind the retail store. It started with a brief presentation by Whitman on the origins of chocolate, allowing us to see the stages of chocolate making, including the raw pod, nibs, chocolate liquor, and pure cocoa butter. We also tasted a number of bars with various percentages, starting from 100% chocolate and moving down to dark, semi-sweet, and milk.

Then we each got a parchment-lined tray, cups of almonds and peanuts, and a bowl of warm, tempered milk chocolate from which we made clusters. Next we learned to hand-dip items like caramels, pretzels, and creams (it’s harder than it looks, but oh-so-satisfying). Our final work with milk chocolate was using small funnels and a tray of multi-colored sprinkles to make nonpareils of all sizes and shapes.

We set all our treats to dry in front of a fan and moved onto truffles. First we learned the ratio and technique for making ganache, then dug into ganache that was ready to be formed (the adult bowl was flavored with Chambord), learning to shape it into balls, lightly coat it with semi-sweet chocolate, and roll it in cocoa.

We had requested a lesson in tempering chocolate at home (no machinery involved), and Whitman graciously complied, explaining the science behind this sometimes-tricky process and giving us all manner of tips for success. We then packaged up all the chocolates we had created.

Throughout the class, Whitman was relaxed and patient, making the entire afternoon a joy. She told us how she learned to hand-dip chocolate from her great-aunt (of the well-known Nichols family), encouraged us to eat as much as we wanted as we went along, and happily answered all of our questions.

The 2.5 hour class cost $30 per person, a great value considering the knowledge we gained and the amount of high-end chocolate we each took home. Classes are for a minimum of four people, can be set up for any day but Sunday, and can cover topics such as making caramels and decorating finished chocolates.

The Cocoa Belt
58 Maple Street, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com/The_Cocoa_Belt_Workshops.html

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Home-Town Favorites for Valentine’s Day

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Salem, Sweets and Treats, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Looking to score extra points on Valentine’s Day? Skip that box of prewrapped chocolates from the drugstore and head to one of these North Shore favorites. You’ll get better quality, more interesting choices, and personalized service—all while supporting your local chocolatier.

Harbor Sweets
If your sweetie likes all things nautical, you cannot go wrong with Sweet Sloops, an addicting confection of toffee, pecans, and white and dark chocolate. There are many other sea-themed chocolates available from the tiny Harbor Sweets factory in Salem, and they can be purchased in almost every North Shore town, including Shubie’s in Marblehead, Henry’s in Beverly, The Partridge Tree Gift Shop in Danvers, Connolly’s Pharmacy in Hamilton, Bruni’s in Ipswich, LuLa’s Pantry in Rockport, and Valentine’s in Newburyport.

85 Leavitt St, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

Pride’s Crossing Confections
This converted train station on Route 127 is the place to go if you need gifts for a variety of tastes. The shop is jam-packed with everything from bags of chocolate covered potato chips and pretzels to cases of fudge, truffles, soft-centers, and white chocolate-covered confections. Don’t miss the famous turtles (seven varieties) and buttercrunches, all hand-made on premises.

590 Hale St, Prides Crossing
(978) 927-2185
www.pridescrossingconfections.com

Stowaway Sweets
It doesn’t get much more charming than this tucked-away shop in a former mansion, where the chocolates are extremely high quality and you can select each piece that goes in the box. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the meltaways.

154 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0303
www.stowawaysweets.com

The Cocoa Belt
This elegant shop is a new favorite, both for its selection of delicious truffles in sophisticated flavors like black forest, cappuccino, and champagne and its ability to improve on perennial favorites like peanut butter cups and scotch kisses.

58 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com

Turtle Alley
Known for its luscious turtles, this local maker also stocks an impressive supply of fruit slices, caramels, and fudge. We are especially fond of the kicked-up versions, including spicy peanut butter cups and almond chipotle turtles.

91a Washington St, Gloucester
(978) 281-4000
Museum Place Mall, Salem
(781) 740-0660
www.turtlealley.com

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