The Chef’s Kitchen > Making Fine Chocolates

If you’ve ever wondered how chocolate is transformed from the slightly bitter-tasting nibs of raw cacao into the fabulous delicacies sold by fine chocolatiers, you don’t have to go too far for your answer. According to national food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, who tasted the work of forty of the country’s best chocolatiers (Vogue, February 2007), chocolates from L.A. Burdick are the best.

So when Michael Klug, Burdick’s head chocolatier, decided to share his trade secrets by offering chocolate-making workshops two summers ago, all the classes sold out immediately. “Summer in New England is beautiful, and it’s a good time for people to come here and learn,” Klug says.

This summer, there will be five sessions that run four days each—during the last two weeks of July and the first three weeks of August. Classes are limited to twelve participants and are held in Burdick’s production kitchen. Students stay at nearby inns and bed-and-breakfasts, and enjoy continental breakfasts and dinners at Burdick’s Restaurant, where the French-inspired menu was deemed “outstanding” by Fodor’s guidebook. Each session’s conclusion is marked with a celebratory lunch.

What’s Covered in Class

Klug says he aims to teach his students “all-around fundamentals of working with chocolates,” such as making fillings and chocolate decorations; cutting the chocolates by hand; and tempering the chocolate. “Tempering the chocolate is a crucial step,” Klug says. “The chocolate has to be in the right condition and at the right temperature, or it will not crystallize properly. Instead of being shiny, it will appear gray.”

In the class, students come up with their own recipes for fillings and learn how Klug develops his. “I explain my thinking to the students, and we work on new recipes together,” Klug says.

Although the recipes Klug shares in the class are not available commercially, two of his favorites that are offered for sale are a bonbon filled with figs marinated in port wine with a hint of hazelnut and an orinocho bonbon made with a Venezuelean chocolate that Klug says “tastes very pure.”

Klug’s goal for the class is for everyone to gain basic skills of fine chocolatemaking, as well as an education about the history and preparation of fine chocolate. At the end of class, students take home a forty-page handbook with all the information they covered, plus the results of their work are packed and shipped to their homes.

Klug says the students are a diverse group. “There are those who love to cook, bake and work with chocolate,” he says. “Some are thinking of starting a business, and some already own a chocolate shop and want to refine their fundamentals.” He remembers a chocolatier from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who attended a workshop two years ago, along with another chocolate lover from Paris. Other students have come from all corners of the United States— including California, Texas, Illinois and New England.

Klug came to Burdick’s in 2002 via New York, where he’d purchased chocolate from Burdick’s when he was pastry chef at Lespinasse in the St. Regis Hotel. Before that, Klug trained in high-end French cuisine in Germany, where he grew up.

“What I like about making chocolates is that it is very challenging and you have to pay attention to a lot of details. It is very interesting and never routine,” Klug says. And what sweet results all his creativity and hard work have produced!

L.A. Burdick’s Chocolate Recipes

Chocolate Madeleine
Makes approximately 4 dozen

This batter will last for a month in a covered container in the fridge.

-12 egg whites
-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
-2 tablespoons honey
-Zest of 1 orange
-1 vanilla bean, split
-3 cups brown butter
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 3/4 cup almond flour
-½ cup cocoa powder

1. Place egg whites, 3 cups powdered sugar, honey, orange zest and vanilla bean in a bowl and warm over a double boiler, stirring constantly. After the mixture is warm to the touch, mix it with a kitchen mixer on low speed.

2. In a saucepot, boil butter until it starts to change color. Pour butter into cool metal container to cool.

3. Add the flour, almond flour and cocoa powder to the kitchen mixer; incorporate the brown butter.

4. Mix, transfer to a container and chill for at least 2 hours.

5. Preheat oven to 375°F (400°F for a convection oven). Butter Madeleine molds and fill each three-quarters full. Place the Madeleines in oven and turn temperature down by 25°F. Bake about 12 minutes. Madeleines are done when they puff up in the center and the inside is baked.

6. Immediately remove from molds and garnish with powdered sugar.