|The International Team w/ the Italian Master Chocolatiers|
|Lecco, Italy, the home of ICAM|
I traveled to Italy in September to take the Ecole Chocolat’s Master Chocolate Training with Italian Chocolatiers at the prestigious ICAM Choco Scuola in Lecco. Our week began in Milan and included tours of top chocolate shops & factories in Turin and a visit to ICAM's state of the art chocolate factory, which produces chocolate from bean-to-bar in its impressive 538,000 sq ft world-class processing facility in Orsenigo near Lake Como. So immaculate it is that visitors and employees alike must wear protective clothing to enter the factory as though stepping into a scientific laboratory. Well, chocolate production is a science at the ICAM's cocoa bean processing plant, one of industry's largest, which includes a three-story roasting, mixing and grinding complex and a sophisticated computerized monitoring system. You would never think that the giant 10 ton steel tanks are filled with liquid chocolate or that chocolate flows through miles of steel pipes connecting various processing units if you weren't intoxicated by the overpowering smell of chocolate and you suddenly understand what makes all the employees there perpetually happy.
|Truffles made at the ICAM laboratory|
At the ICAM Choco Scuola laboratory I learned chocolate making techniques used by Italian Chocolate Masters and made an assortment of truffles using their recipes. It was a fascinating week full of chocolate adventures and culinary exploration in the company of six talented international chocolatiers from US, Canada, Kuwait, Ireland and New Zealand.
It was fashion week in Milan when we returned for our departure, so what better way to end an exciting, informative and oh, so sweet week than to go shopping. When my luggage was finally checked in at the Milan airport I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling no guilt whatsoever for paying the surcharge for the excess weight, part of it from shopping, the other part having made its way from my carry-on to make room for chocolates. Feeling a lot lighter I rolled my carry-on filled to the brim with chocolates towards a cafe for my last macchiatto of Italy. Arrivederci Italia! Grazie per i belli ricordi.
|Lemon Basil Bon-Bon|
We opened our current production season with this trip's inspiration of our new bonbon celebrating Italian flavors - lemon, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil - with a dash of pink salt added for balance, a fine mix of flavors that my father so appropriately called “salad”. Another inspiration? An espresso machine for our kitchen. The professional Chocolate Chefs in Italy couldn’t produce their mouth-watering confections without an espresso maker. It commanded equitable space in the Italian chocolate kitchen next to the high end automatic tempering machines, enrobers and other kitchen equipment and was utilized just as frequently. We believe a good macchiato routine alla italiano (i.e. before the start, half-way and at the end of each production day) will fuel our energy in the kitchen and inspire us to produce our fine confections. Not to mention that it will keep us on our toes and help to soften the effects of sugar, which could get quite substantial when two highly energetic ladies consume chocolate while working…