Here are six words guaranteed to bring joy to any child’s heart: ‘Feel free to lick the spoon!’ Especially when that spoon happens to be covered in warm, sweet, freshly melted chocolate made at York Cocoa Works. With Easter fast approaching, we were invited along to the only place in York that makes its own chocolate, from bean to bar, to try one of their chocolate bar making workshops.
Although we’ve popped into York Cocoa Works from time to time for a hot chocolate, to pick up a gift or even make a chocolate lolly in the cafe, it was the first time we’d tried one of the many classes on offer. Aimed at chocolate lovers of almost all ages, the session is recommended for anyone aged 5+. We took along our 7 and 9 year-olds to see how it works as a family experience, and we weren’t disappointed.
Led by friendly chocolatier, Josh, in the purpose-built demo kitchen/workshop area, we found out where cocoa comes from and how chocolate is made, before moving onto sampling and creating. We tried samples of dark, milk and white chocolate and found out about the differences between them before deciding which type of chocolate we’d like to make our bar from. To nobody’s surprise, our children both chose to make their bars from white chocolate (it’s the sweetest), while I went for milk in an attempt to balance it out a bit.
We were each given a mixing bowl filled with chunks of our chosen chocolate, and our mission was then to transform it into our own unique bar. Forget the idea of just microwaving the chocolate for a few minutes and hoping for the best like we do at home; instead we learnt the art of tempering our chocolate like the professionals do. With some guidance, a lot of patience and a hairdryer (yes, really), we all ended up with bowls of beautifully smooth melted chocolate ready to be poured into the moulds (well, takeaway containers actually!).
We had the option of choosing a flavouring for our chocolate, from exotic pineapple to classic orange or mint, and there was an array of toppings to choose from too. The girls chose not to flavour theirs but to add plenty of sprinkles, Smarties and little pieces of fudge. I made a slightly more grown-up one with orange and some crunchy bits on top. Both girls were able to get involved with each part of the process, although the younger one did need a little bit of help with the stirring to begin with. What she lacks in strength, she makes up for with determination, so she managed most of it by herself.
They both really enjoyed the process of making something far jollier than they’d find on the shop shelves, from blowing their hairdryers into each other’s faces to sprinkling the toppings and licking the bowl/spoon/anything else. Older children who can listen, stir hard and follow instructions will get the most out of the experience, but under-fives are welcome to accompany full-paying adults to make a chocolate bar, so they don’t have to miss out.
The chocolate takes a while to set, so we could either wait in the cafe or pop back to collect them. We were thrilled when we picked up our finished bars half an hour later, beautifully wrapped and ready to eat. The workshop was a lovely experience and we even learned where we’ve been going wrong with melting the chocolate for our Easter nests all this time. Once we’ve polished off our bars and the chocolate high wears off, we’ll be giving it a go.