When you think of chocolate, what comes to your mind? Hershey’s kisses in your lunchbox? Biting desperately into a hollow chocolate bunny from a decorated basket on Easter morning? A melty birthday cake your mom made on your 7th birthday? Chances are, your memories are deep-seated and concentrated, most likely from childhood. This is one of the flavors you don’t forget if you love it. I remember going to a chocolate shop near my grandmother’s house in Allentown when I was a kid; and I also remember buying delectable chocolate pralines from a Leonidas shop in Belgium in 1997. When the opportunity came around for me to take a vegan chocolate class with legend Fran Costigan at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, I couldn’t think of a better way to continue my love affair with this delectable confection.
To be clear, I’m one of those people who has always loved chocolate candies; it took me years to find a chocolate cake that I really, really liked—and that wasn’t until I tasted a vegan cake. See my previous post about the Death By Chocolate cake at Vegan Treats—one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, period.
Earlier this month, I traveled to NYC with my vegan partner-in-crime, Lydia, for Fran’s class. It was, unfortunately, not the loveliest of days to be hiking from PA to NYC; but we were excited, and since we knew we’d spend the day inside baking fabulousness, the weather didn’t seem to matter much. This is the second class I’d taken at ICE and the first vegan class. What struck me initially was that Fran was excited about teaching us how to bake using vegan ingredients and especially with chocolate. She made it clear that we all needed to be happy with the kind of chocolate we used in each recipe—that there were choices and we needed to satisfy our tastebuds or we would not get the most out of our baking experience.
We were divided up into groups of 3 or 4 people; Lydia and I were placed with a pair of young girls who were clearly not bakers. Nonetheless, the class was fast-paced and the food was so tasty. As with any enthusiastic teacher, Fran moved around the room and helped us all with our recipes, imparting her knowledge and love for baking to us. We made a bittersweet chocolate cake. We were a little disappointed with the other members of our group (I’m not sure they had as much experience in the baking department as we do, plus they were much younger) and we REALLY wanted to make the opera cake (the group that did make it ended up doing a wonderful job)—but we had a great time. We also got to meet Sharon Nazarian of Vegan Pimp (please pay her a visit) and also got to chat with Fran after class, so it couldn’t have been more fun.
You can see by the pictures here that we had a great time that day. If you ever get a chance to take one of Fran’s classes, don’t hesitate.