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Friday, August 14, 2009

Chocolate with Alice Medrich

Oh, I wish it were last Wednesday, I wish it were last Wednesday....sigh, no luck. I suppose I shouldn't try to live in the past, but last Wednesday’s pastry class with Alice Medrich was so amazing, I can't bear to let it go. At least I can write about it, although it’s a shame there will be no tasty samples this time around.

So, “Who is Alice Medrich?” you ask. Or, if you already know who she is, then your mouth is surely watering. Alice Medrich is known in the culinary world as the “First Lady of Chocolate” (I wonder if the “First Lady of Muffins” is up for grabs…). This woman deserves her title. She introduced upscale, European chocolate desserts to America and was the founder/owner of the San Francisco based chocolate shop, Cocolat, for over 15 years. She has written numerous books, received multiple James Beard awards, and has seduced many hungry followers all over the world.

Oh, and the desserts she makes! She started the demo by making a “Celebration Cake” with layers of rum-soaked chocolate Genoise (a light, airy cake), a crunchy chocolate-hazelnut layer, chocolate mousse, mascarpone and raspberries in the final layer. The cake was enveloped in shiny, hard chocolate and was topped with chocolate fans (something she made effortlessly, but have since caused me much anxiety and chocolate dismay trying to replicate).

Alice introduced us to a relatively new technique; caramelizing white chocolate. She caramelized the white chocolate by placing it in a large metal bowl, and then putting it into a low oven (~250 degrees F), stirring every 10 minutes or so. She served the caramelized white chocolate as ice cream, scooped into the daintiest Coconut Tuile cones. On top were a few crystals of smoked sea salt (an idea she gave David Lebovitz credit for). The salt brought out deep caramel and nut flavors in the ice cream that weren't distinguishable without it. Alas, I have no pictures of this dessert…it was a mad rush to eat the ice cream before it turned into soup, I hope you understand.

Other treats of the night included Coconut Macaroons with grated lime zest and cinnamon in them...

Which she topped with a light chocolate mousse and bittersweet chocolate drizzle.

There was also a Sesame and Chocolate Torte glazed with dark, milk and white chocolate.

And of course there were lots of other chocolate goodies, including crusty French bread that was toasted, tossed in olive oil and then covered in dark chocolate. How divine.

And, as is right and good with all things dessert, there’s more! We had a chocolate tasting, which included a variety of chocolates made by different companies. When tasting, Alice recommended starting with darkest, most bitter chocolates (which had the highest percentage of cacao) and working towards the sweetest chocolates (which had the lowest cacao content). After this experience, I recommend using Valrhona, TCHO or Guittard chocolate for all baking and eating pleasures.

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