Chef Shannon Ginn teaches workshop participants how to make truffles. Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press
Sweet, sweet chocolate — a great unifier and subject of a recent workshop in Johnson City.
Eighteen participants recently took part in an introductory class taught by award-winning chocolatier Chef Shannan Ginn from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, N.C. The class took place at Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City on a Sunday afternoon.
Ginn’s presentation was titled, “Got ganache? Chocolate 101.”
“She’s fun in the kitchen,” Shakti in the Mountains founder and director Kim Bushore-Maki said of Ginn while introducing the chef.
And judging by all the finger-licking and filled goodie containers at the session’s end, Ginn did not disappoint.
“Chocolate, besides its health benefits, is magical in that it touches the soul,” Ginn said of why the substance is a fine subject for a culinary lesson. “It’s both the first thing we reach for when we’re feeling sad and the first thing we want to offer someone to make someone happy.”
Her 90-minute session included a history lesson on chocolate, a chemistry crash course about its composition, and answers to just about any chocolate-related question members of the audience could produce. Samples of four different styles of chocolate, with varying levels of darkness, were offered to guests.
Ginn explained the temperatures needed for optimal chocolate conditions — if you break chocolate and don’t hear a snap, that’s an indicator the temperature is off, for example.
She said the production team at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge works in special air-conditioned rooms so the chocolate can be properly sustained.
“It has notes, just like wine,” one person in attendance said. Ginn agreed, saying different varieties of chocolate can produce a wide array of flavors and tones.
When asked about her chocolate’s shelf life, Ginn joked that they tell customers three weeks, but the tasty chocolate almost never stays around that long.
Some of Ginn’s samples came from Nicaragua and Peru, places with ideal cacao plants to make the variety of chocolate that interests her customers, she said. Saying she wasn’t personally a fan of European-style chocolate, Ginn usually opts for the kinds coming from Hawaii, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Peru or Nicaragua.
Ginn’s hands-on session also taught participants about double-boiling and melting chocolate properly, ratios to achieve the right mixture and how to produce a top-notch ganache and truffle. Participants, many of whom donned their own aprons, got to roll and coat chocolate treats just like Ginn and her colleagues do at the chocolate lounge in Asheville.
Nuts and coconut topped the chocolates that were taken home by each workshop attendee. Participants also each departed with a cup of chocolate that will produce a hot chocolate-like drink called a “liquid truffle.”
One local restaurateur, Jeff Pike, owner of Mid City Grill, 106 S. Commerce St., admitted his self-taught chocolate skills might be above the introductory level, but was elated to experience the class and get a different perspective.
He boasts recipes for chocolates involving Sriracha hot sauce, raspberry and lavender honey, among others. He said he would immediately be taking tips home with him he’d learned at the session and putting them to good use by tackling a batch of milk chocolates that evening.
That level of interest is good news for Ginn and Susan Lachmann, one of the organizers of the event, who hope to build on the 101 class with more advanced courses in the future.