HOT: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12-14 Claremont St, South Yarra

zumboSome days when I’m feeling blue, I thank god for Adriano Zumbo. His eponymous patisserie in South Yarra is a Willy Wonka riot of mirror, neon and cake and the long pastry cabinet never fails to lift my spirits.

When faced with so many fantastical desserts it’s hard to know where to start. But if you go on Tuesday I have a tip for you – for the foreseeable future you can buy one tart get one half price as part of ‘Two Tart Tuesday’.

zumbo

With that in mind I order the precisely swirled lemon meringue tart and the luxurious ‘Me So Nutty’ with gianduja caramel, milk chocolate gianduja soft ganache and topped with golden hazelnutszumbo

I also can’t resist a ‘Zonut’ with flavours that change every week. So popular are Zumbo’s version of the croissant/donut hybrid that customers are limited to only four at a time.

zumbo

As I bite into one I can understand why! The outer crust is so crisp and light I create an explosion of pastry crumbs with every mouthful, and the filling is so smooth and rich with  a Mexican dark chocolate – whipped ganache with hints of cinnamon and chilli. The topping? More chocolate and marshmallows!

For other treats I have also been known to queue for Zumbo’s macarons (Zumbarons) on occasion and they are one of the best I’ve ever tried due to their consistency and precision in texture. There is also hand-crafted ice cream or savoury pies, sausage rolls and quiches.

There are a few small tables and chairs inside the bakery where you can enjoy your coffee and cake on the spot, though during busy period it can get crowded so it’s more of a takeaway place. Taking one of the distinctive orange boxes out on the street will bring a spring to your step, I promise!

Adriano Zumbo Patissier is a joyride for Melbourne sweet tooths and if you enjoy those treats make sure you visit Fancy Nance around the corner, Zumbo’s new high tea salon which turns afternoon tea on its head.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12-14 Claremont St, South Yarra 1800 858 611

Open 7 days 7am – 7pm

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HOT: Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot is a dessert boutique, artisnal paitisserie and gelateria that’s just opened in South Melbourne thanks to the creative team behind Chez Dre.

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot is located next door to its sister cafe, with entry from Coventry Street. From the plain glass outside it’s hard to imagine all the amazing sweet things but once you step inside the room expands out into a Alice in Wonderland/Willy Wonka fantasy of chocolate, cake and ice cream.

I was invited to the preview night and returned on Mother’s Day of my own accord to try their high tea.

bibelot south melbourne

It’s hard to know where to start. On the right there’s a whole wall of artfully presented chocolate bars, packages of enrobed fruit and nuts, buttery biscuits, preserves and coffee and teas.

bibelot south melbourne

On the left is the gelati station, with a changing rotation of house made gelati and sorbets housed in pozzetti tubs – plus TWO chocolate taps.

bibelot south melbourne

I highly recommend the pistachio gelati, which is creamy, flavoursome and studded with real nuts.

bibelot south melbourne

Top it with some dark chocolate sauce that crackles as soon as it hits the cold and you’re onto a winner.

bibelot south melbourne

Head along the patisserie for delicate and beautifully presented jewels of cake, rows of pastel coloured macarons and hand made chocolates.

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

At the back of the store is the ‘high tea salon’ though you’re welcome to sit for a drink and a cake there as well. The plush emerald velvet banquettes and armchairs and matching greenery give it an opulent yet inviting air. If there’s no space left in the salon then you can still enjoy your treats on the outside tables or standing by the narrow bench, European style.

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot’s Mother’s Day high tea offering was a test run for their future high teas, which will start Thursday to Sunday from June. For $95 (kids under 7 are free) I received a platter of gourmet savory treats with a bread basket filled to the brim, a mixture of French and Australian cheeses, Istra charcuterie and Mt Zero olive tapenade.

bibelot south melbourne

Next up was a pretty strawberry pot au creme then a quick roll into a platter of petits gâteaux (miniature versions of what’s available in the cake cabinet) and curiously flat miniature scones.

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

bibelot south melbourne

To end, two handcrafted bonbons plus throughout there was tea, coffee and a glass of champagne.

bibelot south melbourne

I was bowled over by the quantity and quality of the food – but at $95 I thought it was expensive compared to other high teas around town which are equally fancy. Other than the price my only other misgiving is that high tea at Bibelot is not a quiet, restful experience as the salon is at the back of the busy shop.

Bibelot brings the sensibility of a French patisserie to South Melbourne and it’s my new favourite destination for all things sweet. Judging by the roaring trade on Mother’s Day, it may already a favourite for other Melbourne sweet tooths (teeth?).

bibelot south melbourne

Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

Open 7 days, 10am – Late

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HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

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If you enjoyed going on Easter egg hunts as a child then going on a gourmet chocolate tour has got to be the next best thing when you’re an adult!

For the last 20 years Chocoholics have run daily chocolate walking tours through Melbourne’s CBD, winding through laneways and arcades to find the artisan chocolatiers for which Melbourne is famous. I was invited to attend one of their tours, the signature ‘Bittersweet chocolate tour’ which included tastings of milk and dark chocolate at five different chocolate stores.

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The tour started off with a brief spiel by our personable guide about the origins of chocolate and the process of growing, harvesting and processing cacao. We were given some raw cocoa beans and cocoa nibs to try and then the real business of chocolate tasting began.

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First stop was Cacao Lab, a chocolatier opened by Frenchman Laurent Meric  designed to look like a new age laboratory.

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At Cacao Lab we were treated to a decorated milk chocolate with a nut ganache and a small shot of their intense hot chocolates, silently churning behind the counter.

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The bright colours and beautiful packaging of Cacao Lab lured me to purchase a half-dozen carton of their Belgian chocolate eggs. I also snapped one of their hot cross buns, recently crowned one of the best hot cross buns in Melbourne.

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Second stop was Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar, an American company with a few stores in New York, one in Dubai and one in Melbourne’s Emporium since October 2014. The store is very large, with lovely ironwork walls and a pastel and chocolate palette.

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The company is American but all the product is made in Melbourne and I noticed that they were selling Ingrid Tufts’ ceramicware as well.

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The recipes have been tweaked where necessary to accommodate Australian palates and some of the super-sweet American flavours haven’t made it on the menu. They use Callebaut chocolate and the aim of the founder, Alison Nelson, is to introduce American (and Australian) audiences to European style chocolate at a mid-range price.

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We tried some of their iced chocolates with a small slice of red velvet brownie, a cake-like morsel rather than a dense, gooey slab that I usually equate the American style brownies. Then we had a tasting of a very sweet peanut butter and jelly milk chocolate and a lavender milk chocolate.

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I also purchased a chocolate dipped Oreo (kind of like a Tim Tam actually) and my favourite, one of their selection of Asian flavoured chocolates, the bamboo macadamia jasmine dark log.

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Our third stop was Koko Black, a European style chocolatier which is credited with inspiring Melbourne’s love affair with high quality couverture chocolate over a decade ago.

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We watched the chocolatier in action by the window and then tried a strawberry milk chocolate and a silky drop of raspberry ganache inside a dark chocolate cup. Extremely rich without being cloying and so smooth on the tongue.

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The fourth stop was Haigh’s, an Adelaide-based chocolatier which is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

When I first moved to Melbourne I was a bit bemused about how everyone raved about their chocolate frogs, which I thought were ok but not the sort of amazing quality I’d experienced in Europe. While their tour tastings were very generous – a dark chocolate palette, a milk chocolate palette and cinnamon and merlot chocolate – I’m still not a Haigh’s fan.

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Our final stop was Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne. While I like the ambience of Koko Black’s flagship store in Royal Arcade, particularly the big cushy lounge chairs upstairs overlooking the passing crowd in the historic arcade, I think the quality of the product at Ganache is second to none. I have attended a masterclass at their South Yarra chocolate kitchen and seen how their work is done, so I am fully confident in the quality control of their product.

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At Ganache we were offered a hot drink and a full slice of one of their signature cakes, the hazelnut fan slice. I was desperately chocolated-out at that point but could not let such a beautiful cake go to waste.

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I had a wonderfully decadent afternoon with Chocoholics and I think that $49 is a very good price for the tour. A lot of ground is covered in the 2.5 hours, there’s a good selection of specialty chocolatiers to try and compare and you’ll certainly not leave hungry.

With several tastings at every stop there is a lot of chocolate to eat in one continuous sitting, so my tip is to skip lunch, drink a lot of water and bring a plastic bag/box to store away some of the tastings – they’ll be appreciated more later.

Note that one of the benefits of buying chocolate via the tour was that we received a discount at every chocolatier (other than Koko Black) which meant an extra excuse to indulge later!

HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

mork chocolate

It’s about time there’s a dedicated place for non-coffee, chocolate drinkers like me. Hooray for Mork Chocolate Brew House, a specialty cafe in North Melbourne brought to us by a Swedish chocolatier and her Australian partner.

mork chocolate

mork chocolate

Mork Chocolate was previously only sold wholesale and you would have seen their cardboard canisters stocked in cafes and shops all over Melbourne. I’m such a fan that I even own one of their tea towels!

mork chocolate

Mork Chocolate Brew House is a shop and 18-seater brew bar that only serves hot and cold chocolates, with a few house-made sweet nibbles on the side.

mork chocolate

Yes you read right. It’s a cafe with no coffee.

mork chocolate

The beautiful space is a light yet warm haven, with brass and wood finishes and curved benches and taps. Even the water taps for still and sparkling water are beautifully moulded and the carafes are miniature and super cute.

mork chocolate

Mork Chocolate Brew House serves hot chocolates of the likes you’ve never seen before and some of them are only available dining in. The classic chocolate and milk drink is available with 50%, 65%, 70% and 85% cacao ($5). The 70% cacao is their original and signature blend.

Or you can try a water-based chocolate, where the delicate notes of the 100% pure cacao Venezuelan chocolate really stand out ($5.5 for hot, $8 for a chilled chocolate soda).

But I think the drink to try is their selection of signature chocolates ($5.5-$8) where the chocolate is mixed unusual ingredients such as oat milk, warm custard…and smoke.

mork chocolate

For pure theatre you must try the Campfire Chocolate ($8). It’s a porcelain beaker of hot chocolate served with a caged glass of beech wood smoke, a sprinkle of smoked salt and a house-made pillowy marshmallow, also smoked.

mork chocolate

 

mork chocolate

You lift the glass, inhale the fumes then pour your chocolate inside while stirring it with the marshmallow skewer. You then finish it off with a sprinkle of salt.

mork chocolate

The liquid is silky smooth with a hint of smokiness and the ritual lends a tea-ceremony delicacy to the drink, with a little bit of cheekiness thrown in.

mork chocolate

mork chocolate

For little people you can order a chocolate foam, effectively a babycino ($1) or a mini Junior (50% cacao) hot chocolate with a marshmallow ($3). It’s served in the same fragile Japanese porcelain that’s been imported from Arita, Japan, the birthplace of Japanese porcelain – so do be careful with little ones!

mork chocolate

The small sweet delicacies are either made in house or made off-site with Mork’s recipes. The canele ($4) had a egg-shell like crunchy shell on the outside, though not quite airy enough within to count as an absolutely perfect canele specimen.

Instead for $4 I recommend trying one of the delicate and moist financier cakes, either hazelnut or lemon on the day of my visit.

mork chocolate

mork chocolate

The most substantial offering is the brioche with chocolate spread ($6.5) which comes buttery warm and with a generous pot of Mexican chocolate. There’s enough spread to share between two brioche so be prepared to order extras (or you could just eat any leftovers straight with a spoon!).

mork chocolate

Mork Chocolate Brew House is currently open during the day only but they will be shortly introducing some early evening hot chocolate tasting flights for those interested in chocolate education. Keep a lookout on their Facebook page for when those classes launch.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol Street, North Melbourne +61 (03) 9328 1386

Tue-Sat 8am-5pm

Sun 9am-5pm

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HOT: Hot Chocolate Festival, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, 35 Old Healesville Rd, Yarra Glen

yarra valley chocolaterie

This recent icy cold weather is the perfect excuse to indulge in cups of hot chocolate!

yarra valley chocolaterie

Throughout August the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is hosting a Hot Chocolate Festival with 31 limited edition flavours of hot chocolates being served. Every week there will be 8 flavours on rotation and I was invited to try their week 1 menu consisting of a mix of traditional to unexpected flavours.

yarra valley chocolaterie

The hot chocolate tastings cost $8 a head, only 50c more than a standard hot chocolate from the cafe, so it’s a good way to taste different flavours. All the hot chocolates are whisked with callettes of the finest Belgian couverture chocolate and the ingredients and garnishes are made on site, paired with the chocolate considered most suitable for the flavour.

yarra valley chocolaterie

Most of the 8 tasters are made with milk chocolate and I’m not sure whether any substitutions are permitted if you’re more of a dark or white chocolate fan.

My favourite flavours were the nutella (last year’s bestseller), salted caramel and roasted macadamia, while the flavours like Turkish delight and bubblegum were too sweet for me. I’ve voted for my favourite flavour and am now crossing my fingers to win my body weight in couverture chocolate from the Chocolaterie!

yarra valley chocolaterie

To finish off the tastings you can choose a giant handcrafted marshmallow – a wonderfully soft mouthful of vanilla, chocolate or berry and violet.

yarra valley chocolaterie

yarra valley chocolaterie

After trying out the hot chocolates, doing some free chocolate tastings and chocolate shopping, make sure you stay for morning or afternoon tea in their Café. The chefs are all European trained patisserie chefs (who specialise in chocolate) and we tried the chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse gateau and white chocolate and berry parfait.

yarra valley chocolaterie

yarra valley chocolaterie

The brownie was particularly spectacular – a crunchy outer housing an oozy centre. It comes served with ice cream that’s churned from cream and is made fresh on premises. When RM asked T about the best part of his day he said ‘the chocolate brownie!’.

yarra valley chocolaterie

As if you haven’t had enough chocolate the desserts all come with a shot of milk, dark and white chocolate from the chocolate wheels by the counter, so remember to specify what chocolate shot you’d like!

Giveaway! Thanks to Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery I have 1 x hot chocolate tasting for 4 people to give away. To win, just follow the instructions below and the winner will be randomly drawn Friday 8 August 2pm. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, 35 Old Healesville Rd (cnr Melba Hway) Yarra Glen

Hot Chocolate Festival 1 – 31 August 10am and 2pm $8 per person

Open every day, 9-5pm

<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1724552/restaurant/Melbourne/Yarra-Valley-Chocolaterie-Ice-Creamery-Yarra-Glen”><img alt=”Yarra Valley Chocolaterie &amp; Ice Creamery on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/1724552/minilink.gif” /></a>

HOT: Cacao Lab, Driver Lane, Melbourne

cacao lab

Arguably one of the happy consequences of H&M evicting the previous tenants of GPO is that Cacao Fine Chocolate has been transformed into Cacao Lab in Driver Lane.

Cacao Lab, which is down an alleyway from the revamped Strand arcade, is a much bigger space than the previous island stand. It’s pretty hard to miss – all sleekness and bright lights and with custom-made glass domes protecting inviting samples of Cacao’s dessert handiwork. Inside the space is decked out in white subway tiles and tanks of chocolate on the counter.

cacao lab

The focus is on new-age eclairs along with more seating and a more relaxing setting.

Why eclairs?  Because, don’t ya know, eclairs are the new macarons are the new cupcakes are the new whatevers. And Cacao Lab’s eclairs are a work of art – you won’t be able to stop at just one!

cacao lab

I was invited to their opening launch and have been back several times to sample their sweet treats, one by one. It’s pretty hard to pick when you’re faced with a veritable runway of sugary goodness. I quit sugar? I think not.

cacao lab

The eclairs range from classic to kooky and are petite so you could have more than one if you wanted ($7.50 approx each).

cacao lab

The chocolate salted caramel is going to be a best-seller I think, although I have a personal affection for the Audreys. Critically, the choux pastry was just the right balance of buttery lightness, not dry or crunchy in any way.

cacao lab

Of the cakes we tried we found the shortcrust pastry to be more biscuit-y than buttery. This is a personal preference but we found the pastry cases on both the lemon meringue and strawberry tart too dry. They were gorgeous to look at though.

cacao lab

cacao lab

For chocoholics I recommend sharing a taster of chocolate ($10). Four test tubes filled with four different flavours of chocolate! Shoot them down or sip them slowly and then compare notes. My favourite? A rounded, warming, chocolate chilli.

cacao lab

Cacao Lab is a great space for relaxing after some heavy-duty shopping. They offer a breakfast and lunch menu too but make sure you leave room for dessert(s).

Cacao Lab, Driver Lane, Melbourne 03 9662 4777

 Monday – Wednesday: 9am – 6pm

Thursday – Friday: 9am – 9pm

Saturday: 9am – 6pm

Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Cacao Lab on Urbanspoon

HOT: Last Minute Christmas Treats

LuxBite Christmas

If you’ve left it too late to do your Christmas baking then help may be at hand!

For Christmas puddings

RSPCA Christmas Pudding

This year RSPCA are doing some fantastic puddings and cakes for Christmas with proceeds going towards helping animals across Victoria. The puddings are handmade in Australia by Pudding Lane, an award-winning bakery and the team behind Jamie Oliver’s Christmas puddings. They were recently voted as Australia’s No.1 Christmas pudding by Good Food (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age).

These puds use 100% Australian Vine Fruits, fresh butter, fresh local Free Range eggs, fresh bread,  matured Brandy from the famous Barossa Valley, and are combined by hand. A 1kg pudding will feed 6-8 people.

While it is too late to place an order online in time for Christmas you can buy your pudding from RSPCA Victoria who are located at 3 Burwood Highway, Burwood East.

For mince pies / mince tarts

Bakers Delight

Bakers Delight (National) – These are surprisingly good given the price, especially the biscuit-style crumbly pastry. They are made fresh every day and if you’re lucky you can get a warm one straight out of the oven.

Baker D Chirico

Baker d Chirico (Carlton/St Kilda) – One year I did a mince pie tasting and Baker d Chirico‘s version came out on top. These are gourmet – large tarts with a lid with a juicy, flavourful filling and cost $3.50 each. You should also go to Baker d Chirico for the best panettone in Melbourne. The reason? They are made fresh with no preservatives and include housemade candied fruits, free range eggs and organic butter. Many of the Italian/imported panettone can’t compete purely because they are made months ahead with preservatives so that they can last till Christmas.

For chocolates and sweets

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Ganache (South Yarra/CBD) – My favourite chocolate shop, run by a Master Chocolatier. Unlike supermarket chocolate (the horror) or even some of the bigger gourmet chocolatiers, every item is made by hand in their kitchen in South Yarra and turnover is high so you know the products are fresh. Chocolates mass-produced in a factory just aren’t the same.

LuxBite Christmas

LuxBite (South Yarra) – Again, a small patisserie where everything is made on site. Their Christmas range includes an amazing chocolate yule logs and a giant macaron in the shape of Rudolph!

Burch Purchese

Burch and Purchese (South Yarra) – Another small magical patisserie with a droolworthy Christmas range, including ice creams.

Have a wonderful Christmas/New Year break – the blog will be back in 2014!

HOT: Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

One of the downsides of writing a blog that’s heavily focused on food is that I often get hungry as I work on the computer.

Fortunately for this post I have had a stash of excellent chocolate to sustain me – thanks to a chocolate making class at Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne.

For Good Food Month in November Ganache are holding some special events at their South Yarra chocolate lounge, including a special Chocolate High Tea and a chocolate class with a Christmas theme. I was invited to participate in the first session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates class with master chocolatier and owner of Ganache, Arno Backes.

The class started off with a brief tour of Ganache‘s pastry and chocolate kitchens. As you can imagine the whole place smelled buttery and chocolatey and all round delicious. But all the staff (including Arno) are amazingly thin! Maybe if you work with chocolate and pastry all the time you’re less inclined to gorge yourself eating it (though Arno says he eats a KILO of chocolate a week – the key is to eat good quality product).

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then perched up on steel work benches with a couverture hot chocolate in hand and watched and listened to Arno as he talked passionately about his work and chocolate. You’re not just being talked at for 2.5 hours though – the class was very hands-on and you will find yourself licking chocolate off your fingers and arms!

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We learnt about different methods of tempering chocolate, the process which binds the cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar in couverture back together after it has been heated so it can be worked with.

We then moved onto moulding different Christmas-themed chocolate. First up was a very tricky hollow Christmas tree. Aparently Arno wasn’t allowed to make one of these until six months into his apprenticeship and it’s because otherwise you’ll end up with something akin to my creation – a recognisable tree but with blobby and smudgy decorative elements instead of fine detailing.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then moved onto moulding a small solid Christmas tree with ‘snow’ speckled stacked branches and an assortment of cute snowmen filled with creamy ganache of different Christmassy flavours.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Some other tricks we learnt on the day:

  • always polish your moulds before you use them to give your chocolates a high glossy shine and to make de-moulding easier. Coles cotton balls work best!;
  • buy solid plastic chocolate moulds as they will last longer. The flimsy plastic ones you can get normally last about three goes and silicon moulds are usually only good for jellies. Arno buys his chocolate moulds from a Belgium company called Chocolate World and a German company in Rosenheim (can’t remember name). Ganache has a small pantry section where you can buy moulds, chocolate and other chocolate making products used by Ganache‘s kitchen;
  • don’t touch the inside of the moulds as you could damage them. The Christmas tree moulds we used cost $120 each!
  • Ganache should be made a day before and then left to sit overnight on the bench with clingfilm right on top of the mixture so no condensation or skin forms over it. Do not put it in the fridge otherwise the ganache will separate and split;
  • When you melt chocolate you need to get it to 45 degrees to melt all the cocoa butter crystals; and
  • keep vanilla beans individually wrapped in the freezer and defrost for an hour on the bench before use. Freezing helps the oils and fats inside the vanilla pod ‘sleep’ so the pod doesn’t lose flavour over time.

After experiencing the time and effort required to make all the chocolates (and watching the professional kitchen team at work) it’s easy to understand why Ganache‘s chocolates look and taste so different to mass produced stuff and why it’s priced accordingly. You will generally get a fresher product at a small chocolatier – at Ganache the hazelnuts in their chocolate bars are roasted the day before and stock is replenished every 2 weeks. Compare this to a mass produced brand which may use nuts which are up to 2 years old then filled with sugars and oils to prevent spoilage on the shelf. If you’re not convinced about why you should buy chocolates from specialist chocolatiers and not supermarkets, this class will change your mind.

You can join the second and final session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates on November 20. The class costs $100 and is a fun and educational couple of hours – plus you get to take all of your creations home! For more information click here.

HOT: Melt Chocolate Festival preview, Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

If you want to learn about, eat and share chocolate then make sure you don’t miss Melt: Chocolate Festival on next Sunday 26 May 11am – 4pm at the Immigration Museum.

At Melt: Chocolate Festival, you will get to meet members of Victoria’s chocolate-loving Portuguese-speaking, Belgian, and Mexican communities to explore the role of chocolate in cuisine, culture and commerce. There will be exhibitions, talks about topics such as the origins of cacao in ancient Mexico to ethics and sustainability in local and global industries, performances from Mariachi bands and of course lots of chocolate food and drinks to buy and sample. You can even buy a Top Chocs showbag which includes chocolates from festival chocolatier.

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum
I was invited to visit a preview of the festival and to meet with people from these communities. The preview included samples of some of the food that you’ll find at the festival, such as the unmissable Mexican champurrado (thick hot chocolate made with milk, water, chocolate and cornflour) and warm cinnamon-crusted Mexican sweet bread. I went back for seconds :–)

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

Also try the chocolates and truffles made by Belgian chocolatier Stefaan Van Nunen using Callebaut chocolate and a whole variety of super-sweet Brazilian Brigadeiros (chocolate truffles) which were first made to support the political campaign of a brigadier in 1946. Now you can even eat them as a topping on cakes – apparently popular for kids’ birthday parties in Brazil.

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

During the festival you will have the chance to make make Brazilian Brigadeiros or decorate a Mexican chocolate skull like those which are used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. Here’s my attempt…

Melt Chocolate Festival Immigration Museum

I suspect that Melt: Chocolate Festival will be a very popular event, especially in this cold wintery weather we’re having. So I highly recommend you purchase festival entry, workshop and chocolate show bag tickets in advance online to avoid queues and disappointment or book by phone on 13 11 02 or at the Immigration Museum daily from 10am – 5pm. Bon appetit!

Melt: Chocolate FestivalImmigration Museum, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne
Sunday 26 May 2013, 11am – 4pm
Adult $10, children and concession FREE (workshops and chocolate showbags extra)

HOT: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icecreamery, 35 Old Healesville Rd (cnr Melba Highway), Yarra Glen

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icecreamery, 35 Old Healesville Rd (cnr Melba Highway), Yarra Glen

So our bout of 30+ degree days is continuing over the weekend. What better excuse to go for a day trip out to the Yarra Valley and indulge in some chocolate and ice cream!

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icrecreamery is a new foodie destination in the heart of Yarra Glen. The property’s main attraction is a stylish, shaded building housing a chocolate factory, shop and cafe. The cafe spans indoor (air conditioned) and outdoor areas with views overlooking the rolling environs of the valley.

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The first thing you notice as you walk through the glass door is the sign for ‘Free Tastings’. Yes that’s right – a free-for-all of white, milk and dark chocolate to scoop as you wish!

HOT: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icecreamery, 35 Old Healesville Rd (cnr Melba Highway), Yarra Glen

Take your time to peruse the large showroom of chocolate, ice cream and dessert goodies, including  a tempting glass cabinet of handmade chocolates by French and Belgian chocolatiers.

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It was difficult choosing which products to take home but in the end I settled on a giant version of the classic freckle and couldn’t resist carting home a metre long block of dark chocolate just for novelty value.

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I recommend taking the time to sit down at the cafe so that you can enjoy some of the chocolate and ice cream products on site. There are also savoury options if you’re there around lunch time.

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We ordered a mix-your-own hot chocolate ($5.50) which you froth with a miniature whisk, an ice cream sundae of wildberry, peach & mango and creamy vanilla ice cream, topped with berry coulis and summer berries (a bargain at $12 in my view) and a triple layered chocolate mousse ($8.50).

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All of the desserts were decadently rich on their own but the the giant sundae was the highlight. The berry ice cream was made with fresh fruit and the vanilla ice cream was heavily creamy and fragranced with speckles of vanilla beans, providing a rich counterpoint to the berry tartness. I had to fight my daughter to share it and she literally licked the bowl clean!

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Other than eating chocolate and ice cream you can spend some time peeking through the glass windows to watch the factory at work or loll around the lawn enjoying the views.

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If you’re looking for a child-friendly destination in the Yarra Valley you won’t be able to beat the temptations on offer at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icrecreamery. Plus as part of the upcoming Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icrecreamery will be offering hands-on Junior Chocolatier Classes on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March. During the 30 minute class kids will learn how to make their very own chocolate animal and enjoy free tastings. Classes cost $15 and bookings essential as class places are limited to 10 children per session.

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Icrecreamery, 35 Old Healesville Road (cnr Melba Highway), Yarra Glen +61 3 9730 2777

Open every day 9am-5pm (except Christmas Day)