Irishman Gerard Coleman, together with his partner Anne Weyns are the genius behind couture chocolatier Artisan du Chocolat. With stores in London and Toyko and a thriving online presence, they don't just make chocolate - they create chocolate. They conch and refine their own chocolate from cocoa beans (one of the few companies to do so) and then design luxury chocolate products with this exceptional raw material. To Gerard, chocolate is about pushing the boundaries and introducing flavours not normally associated with the sweet end of the spectrum such as tobacco, cardamom and matcha. Artisan du Chocolat is also renowned for presenting their caramels, chocolates, bars and designer creations in exquisite packaging, making it the most perfect gift. I hear on the grapevine that a shop in Dublin 2 will be opening very soon - I can't wait!
London-based Gerard regularly comes to Ireland to conduct Chocolate Masterclasses in the Dublin Cookery School & places on this course are snapped up by eager fans wanting to learn more about the art of chocolate making. Last November, I was the lucky winner of an Easy Food magazine competition and won a place on this course. Here's how I got on.
Hidden on a quiet side street in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, the DCS is tardis-like with a simple entrance and magnificent kitchens and demonstration areas emerging as you walk through the building. Lynda Booth is the driving force behind the cookery school & acted as Gerard’s able assistant throughout the day. After some excellent coffee and brioche, it was time to sit down, stop talking and watch the master at work. The overhead mirrors in the demonstration kitchen meant that everybody could see what Gerard was doing, no matter where they were seated. He kicked off proceedings by showing us how to make Ginger Nougatine. It’s a mix of almonds, candied ginger sugar & butter which is baked and then enrobed in chocolate when cool – the perfect petit fours.
Gerard & Lynda in action
Then it was Caramel time. Gerard showed us the various stages of making a sea salted caramel and how to get the perfect colour. This was the base for two recipes : Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart, and Sea Salted Caramel Chocolates. As we were on a chocolate roll, we were shown how to make truffles from scratch. It’s much easier than you think and Gerard had plenty of willing volunteers to help melt, stir, pipe and enrobe the truffles. I was quite surprised at my new found piping skills – almost as good as the Master! More volunteers popped up to help Gerard make Chocolate Mousse which was to form part of our delicious lunch.
After a well-deserved break and a beautifully cooked lunch, it was time to go back to the kitchen where Gerard showed us how to temper chocolate. Now this is where the science part began… there is a distinct formula to tempering and it’s all about the temperature of the chocolate and how you treat it. It looked very scary as
Gerard whizzed around the marble countertop with a scraper and palette knife with a supersonic bain marie at his side, but he really took time to show us that we could do this at home. Then it was time to make some chocolates.
Out come the chocolates...
Sets of sturdy polycarbonate moulds appeared on the countertop, volunteers raised their hands to help and it was full steam ahead… moulds were filled with molten chocolate, scraped with a palette knife to remove the excess and allowed to set. Then they were filled with the sea salted caramel, covered with more chocolate to seal, scraped again to make them neat and tidy, and allowed to set. Once the chocolate had hardened, a swift tap released them from the moulds and a pile of shiny chocolates emerged, ready to be devoured by us hungry helpers. We also helped to transform our messy truffle centres into cocoa dusted morsels with the aid of a huge vat of cocoa powder and a three pronged dipping fork.
Finally, we were rewarded for our labours with tastings of everything we helped to create during the day. It was all utterly delicious and we left with a folder of precious recipes and a reinforced love of all things chocolate.