Do you like chococate...? Silly question!? I'm pretty sure most people like chocolate, and if not all types, then they at least have a favourite type. I'm a dark chocolate person myself - I love the rich, slightly bitter flavour. And while I know what I like, I didn't actually know that much about how it's grown and where it comes from. So spending an evening at Bake with Maria was exactly what I needed to fill in the gaps.

The evening started with homemade bread, cheese and lemonade (a good start) before we settled down to learn more about chocolate.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which are grown throughout the tropical belt, near the equator, with the majority coming from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, but also from Peru, The Phillipines, The Dominican Republic and several other tropical countries. The flowers of the cocoa plant turn into pods of a similar shape to a papaya, the pods are picked and the fruit inside harvested to make chocolate in a process that takes 3-6 weeks. There are 3 main varieties of cocoa beans used in chocolate production - Criollo, the rarest and therefore most expensive bean that makes up only 5% of cocoa beans; Forastero, the most common bean which is less tasty than Criollo; and finally Trinitario, which is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, and is also commonly used in chocolate production.

Once the pods have been picked they're split open and the beans are removed. They're then put in a dark room and covered with banana leaves for the fermentation process which helps them get rid of bacteria and also stops the growing process. The beans die and the banana leaf's enzymes break them down. This takes around 6 days before the beans are moved to the sunshine to dry out. The beans are then churned and delicately roasted at a very low temperature. Once roasted, the shells of the beans are removed in a process called winnowing and they are then coarsely ground to produce cocoa nibs. The nibs are high in flaxanoids and antioxidants and are known for boosting energy levels. To make the actual chocolate the nibs are ground into a paste called cocoa liqueur and the cocoa butter is removed. The cocoa butter is then added back to the liqueur and slowly heat treated to produce a smooth chocolate. This is tempered and poured into molds. If you buy chocolate in this country there is a minimum amount of cocoa solids required to class it as dark or milk chocolate - dark chocolate must have a minimum of 60% cocoa solids, while milk chocolate needs to be at least 25%.

After hearing all about cocoa and chocolate we had a chat from the lovely guy (whose name I've totally forgotten - sorry!) who runs Cocoa Bijoux chocolatiers in West Hampstead, and who's travelled the world sourcing the best chocolate he can find. He bought some samples along for us to try so we had a taste of the chocolates pictured below - my favourite being Peruvian 77% cocoa which tasted smokey, almost like cigars (no wonder I liked that one!!) The Kir Royale truffles in milk chocolate with cassis powder were also pretty special, as were the caramelised Perigaud walnuts with a 65% cocoa coating.


So, why am I telling you all of this, other than the fact I thought that you might like to know?! Well, Bake with Maria have offered me a wonderful prize to give away. One lucky winner will get the chance to join other students on a chocolate desserts class at their school in Hampstead. In this 4 hour class you'll be led through the essentials of baking and cooking with chocolate by way of 3 luxurious chocolate puddings. You'll begin by making a pot de crème - a rich milk chocolate custard. Then it's on to chocolate sea salt pecan brittle tart and finally chocolate fondants. Amazing!! You'll learn about emulsifying, pastry making and caramels, and will take home everything you make! Coffee, tea and treats will be served on arrival. The course normally costs £105 so this is a great prize to win - enter for yourself or for a friend or loved one. All you need to do is follow Bake with Maria via twitter and/or Instagram, and the same for myself, or leave a comment below telling me your favourite chocolate - it can be a brand, a type of chocolate pudding or anything chocolatey that you love!


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  1. At the moment I am loving the sea salt lindt chocolate - amazing!

    Lovely giveaway. Thanks.

  2. Wow this looks amazing! I am an absolute chocaholic so would absolutely LOVE to win such an awesome prize. All of the 3 puddings sound crazy good but I am a fondant girl through and through... although sometimes a chocolate brownie just takes the biscuit. The two of them are my favourite though! (please let me have 2?! haha). Will make sure to follow Bake with Maria now! Thanks both so much for the giveaway. Lots of love, Andrea xxx


  3. I love chocolate, every kind of chocolate! I have always wanted to do one of those chocolate afternoon tea things but this sounds better.. I like milk chocolate the best and I love mousses, brownies and anything that I can dip into melted chocolate! I think my overall favourite chocolate is mini eggs at easter but I think thats just because they remind me of home and my family.

    Thank you for the lovely post. I started following you earlier today and it was nice to read something new so soon!

    Becca x

  4. They look so yummy! I am always impressed with all of the chocolate decorations. Find me at http://www.igaberry.com/ & https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/igaberry-13323143
    Have a lovely day, Iga x

  5. The ultimate chocolate has to be Waitrose's Seriously Nutty milk chocolate with pistachios and almonds - it's incredible! Close second would be Green and Black's butterscotch. In terms of a pud...It has to be the whisky chocolate cake

  6. I've been the #glutensavvy event at Bake With Maria and also taken a French Bread class with them- both excellent and it looks like their chocolate skills are just as good. I love how intimate but functional the Baking Lab is and how the passionate and knowledgeable the team are!

  7. valrhona is my favorite chocolate of all time

  8. Interesting to read about all the different types of bean, as you know Paul is a Swiss so we're both chocolate fans!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

  9. I love all chocolate especially really dark and rich. The class sounds amazing!

  10. Dark chocolate with salted caramel for me, hard to resist the temptation.

  11. I love the silkiness of truffle chocolates, especially when they are dark and rich!

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  13. I love confectionary as I have a sweet tooth but my favourite is a low sugar milk chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. It gives such a hit of chocolate goodness you only need a tiny piece.

  14. Favorite chocolate? That's impossible to answer! Do I choose a salted caramel chocolate tart, or a warm chocolate fondant oozing with a molten chocolate, or a rich chocolate ice-cream.... or anything by Paul A Young... or my favourite guilty pleasures at Christmas, a box of mint Matchmakers or those Elizabeth Shaw mint crisp and then there After 8's. I could go on... xx


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