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Callebaut Chocolate Academy

A Course at the Callebaut Chocolate Academy

Callebaut Chocolate Academy Belgium Belgium is not only the home of the world’s best chocolate, it is also one of the premiere places to learn the craft of chocolate making. I recently took a 2-day seminar at the Callebaut Chocolate Academy on pralines. The Academy is part of the giant Callebaut Chocolate factory campus in Wieze, Belgium and offers courses in all aspects of the chocolate arts: from confections to pastries to desserts. The course I took was an exploration into the flavor dimensions of savory and sweet fillings for pralines.

The class was held on one of those rare warm and sunny weeks September in Belgium. I took the train up and indulged in a big American-style cup of coffee at the new Starbucks in the Brussels Central Train Station: Starbucks is just now making its way into Brussels. Good thing I took the train because it was the only time I had to sit and relax for the next two days.

Callebaut Chocolate Factory

Once at Callebaut, we assembled in a lounge/coffee bar area outside of the kitchen workshop to wait for everyone to arrive. Even though the course was taught in English (one of 4 languages they offer at the Wieze location: French, Dutch, German, and English), I was one of only two native speakers of English. Chocolate is loved the world over and everyone wants to come to Belgium to learn the craft. My colleagues came from Brazil, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Norway, and Canada. When I asked one of the women from Brazil why she came all the way to Belgium to take the course rather than at one of the 12 other Chocolate Academy campuses around the world, she replied that she wanted to study Belgium chocolate in Belgium. In addition to manufacturing some of the best chocolate in the world, Belgium is also home to many of the world’s best chocolate industry manufacturers. My new friends from Brazil spent their free day at Chocolate World. Chocolate World is an industry and Belgian treasure as probably the largest manufacturer of chocolate moulds in the world with a cash and carry showroom in Antwerp that is a must see for anyone serious about the chocolate industry. They admitted to happily spending almost the entire day there–something I have done many times. Chocolate World is my favorite store in Belgium.

Our instructor was Philippe Vancayseele, a longtime Callebaut Technical Adviser whose skill with languages (I think he speaks a half dozen) is only matched by his skill as a chocolatier. Vancayseele brings humor and fun to his teaching style so that everyone feels comfortable asking questions and practicing new techniques.

Rena and Carolina gathering ingredients

Using a tempering machine to prepare a mould

We started the course by going through the recipes and discussing which would be made in moulds and which would be slabs. Then we went to work gathering the ingredients for each recipe. Once the ingredients for each recipe were sorted and measured we were ready to begin. For the molded pralines, we needed to prepare the moulds. This meant putting down a base layer of chocolate. The recipes included milk, dark, and white chocolate pralines.

One of the great things about a course like this is that you get to try out different machines and techniques. In terms of machines, we filled the base layer using the tempering machines. There was a separate machine for each chocolate: one for milk, one for dark, and one for white. Each machine was a different model so we were able to practice with each kind. Using the different tempering did take some getting use to, but it was well worth the practice.

Airbrushing the chocolate molds

decorating technique we used before we put the base coat on some moulds was airbrushing the moulds. I was very excited to try my hand at airbrushing. I love beautifully decorated and designed moulds and airbrushing was high on my list of techniques to learn.

Once the moulds were prepared, we went to work on the fillings. No typical ganache ingredients here, this class was all about using unusual ingredients such as Roquefort cheese, wine, and tomato concentrate. Although I had my doubts about some of the ingredients early in the day, I quickly converted. Roquefort cheese and white chocolate – yummy. Tomato and milk chocolate – exquisite. All that was missing was a lovely glass of French wine.

We also made a series of slab pralines that we dipped in chocolate. These flavor sensations included banana and beer for one and olive oil and cardamom for another.

Whereas Day 1 was devoted to starting the chocolates, Day 2 was all about finishing: making the recipes we did not get to on the first day and closing or enrobing the rest. Since it was unseasonably hot, we used the enrobing machines rather than hand dipping the chocolates. This was a wonderful opportunity for all us to practice using an enrobing machine, (think the I Love Lucy episode where she is at a chocolate factory and the chocolates are rushing down a conveyer belt).

At the end of the course when I asked my colleagues what were their favorite chocolates, I discovered that there was a fan for almost every recipe. Rena from Azerbaijan liked the Roquefort and goose liver pralines. Carolina from Germany favored the Kalamansi (lime) and also the pomodoro (tomato). Mae from Belgium found the reglisse (licorice) surprisingly memorable. And Gislaine from Brazil stood firmly behind the yogurt and the banana and beer. We all discovered that when chocolates are made with top quality Belgian chocolate and the freshest ingredients, there is a place for both salty and sweet pralines.

The finished chocolates arranged on a display platter

The finished chocolates

the end of day 2 we had a dozen big containers full of savory and sweet chocolates. We divided up the chocolates and everyone left with several ballotins of our creations.

This was my second class at the Callebaut Chocolate Academy. If you seriously want to learn how to make Belgian Chocolate, there is no better place to go. I highly recommend it.

Getting the course diploma from our instructor Philippe Vancayseele

I took the course several months ago and have been experimenting with savory chocolates ever since. As a person who loves pairing wine and champagne with chocolates, savory pralines hold great possibilities. Check back to see my new recipes inspired by this course.

One Comment

  1. hi there. i read your writing about chocolate so interesting. can you do me a favor? =) im looking a chocolate academy in belgium which learning took months like 1-2 semester in the university, not just like 2-3 days course. do u have any idea which chocolate academy matched for me? please reply, tq. sincerely vila

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