We sign up for the Museum of Chocolate’s two hour workshop. It takes us from an introduction to the cocoa bean to producing our own hot chocolate, and molding and flavoring our own chocolates.
Our very cute and enthusiastic instructor, Malvina, hands us foot- long cocoa pods. When ripe, the beans are embedded in a sweet white gelatin, yummy to the creatures who eat the contents of the pods and spread its seeds. Jungle farmers split the pods and dry them for four days in the sun while the beans absorb the sweet coating. On the forest floor, the thick carpet of cocoa leaves holds in moisture and adds nutrients as the leaves decay.
It’s time for the hard work. Malvina equips us with mortars and pestles and tells us to grind the shelled beans into a paste. Easier said than done. The museum has machines to do the grinding. After sugar is added, other machines stir the paste for 24 hours to produce a glossy finish.
Eventually we produce something that resembles paste and it’s time to make Inca hot chocolate. We mix hot water, our cocoa paste, a bit of honey, chili pepper flakes and a dash of paprika to simulate human blood. (Hot chocolate, was drunk by Inca rulers as part of human sacrifice ceremonies.) We pour the ingredients back and forth to mix them. The result is not delicious.
Our next recipe is much tastier – hot milk, our cocoa paste, sugar, cloves and cinnamon – the way Peruvians drink their hot chocolate today. MUCH better.
It’s time to choose molds from trays and trays of shapes, and decide whether we want to make dark or milk chocolate candies using the museum’s stirred and sweetened chocolate . Our instructor sets out everything from sea salt to gummy bears – 15 possibilities to add to our candies. Emma decides to use them all.
After a little refrigeration our masterpieces are ready. They don’t last long!