Mark Tilling at Squires Kitchen in Farnham shares his top tips

PUBLISHED: 11:24 17 August 2018

Pete with Mark Tilling and the finished product

Pete with Mark Tilling and the finished product

Pete Gardner

We visited Squires Kitchen in Farnham to learn some tips from Surrey’s master chocolatier

There are just too many adjectives to describe chocolate and the word ‘chocoholic’ was coined for a good reason.

I discovered this recently at Squires Kitchen in Farnham, when the lovely editor of Surrey Life decided I should try my hand at making gourmet chocolate bars under the guidance of Master Chocolatier Mark Tilling. I was one of seven students – the only chap by the way – to be introduced to the dark arts of creating the most sumptuous, gorgeous, lavish (I did warn you) chocolate bars imaginable.

Mark has already made a name for himself as an expert pastry chef and winner of TV’s Bake Off Crème de la Crème in 2016. His mastery of chocolate, however, has landed him with a string of awards including UK Chocolate Master, seventh in The World Chocolate Masters Final and the UK Callebaut Chocolate Amabassador in 2009.

So, into battle. I soon realised that this chocolate making business is a strange mixture of chemistry (you have to be SO precise with your temperatures), practical skills and a little bit of magic. We were to make two kinds of bars – an incredible glistening ingot of shining gold and green filled with salted caramel and shortbread and another made from a mixture of dark, milk and white chocolate gently turned together to produce an effect similar to a beautifully polished piece of mahogany.

The kitchen has three huge vats of chocolate, milk, dark and white, at a steady temperature to keep them just melted. The bars themselves are made in moulds of ten and it was here we embarked on the witchcraft. Tiny transfers on sticky back paper were punched out and stuck on the bottom of each mould – these would act as the decoration on each bar. Then, in turn, we spray painted the bottom of the mould with coloured cocoa butter. Now, I had no idea this could be done with chocolate, but it’s similar to spraying the bodywork of a car – fire up the compressor, fill the spray gun with cocoa butter and off you go – it’s all in the technique apparently. Carefully removing the transfer and giving a quick respray with another colour and you then move on to the messy bit – ladles of chocolate from the vats are poured into the mould, scraped flat and then turned over to drain.

This (should) leave you with your empty shell waiting to be filled with the next bit of wizardry... Banana caramel is piped carefully into the mould followed by a tiny strip of chocolate shortbread and finally a piping of heavenly ganache made with chocolate, cream and butter. A final coating of chocolate from one of the vats and the whole thing is popped in the fridge to cool off. Phew!

It’s fascinating work and takes a fair bit of concentration – you need to make sure the temperatures of various ingredients are bang on or things can split, curdle or just generally go wrong but the result is completely spellbinding. Tip over the mould, give a gentle tap and your gourmet bars appear in front of you like beautifully painted canes of bamboo, looking (almost) far too nice to eat.

This is a wonderful course if you are seriously interested in taking your kitchen skills a step further – great results can be had at home with just a couple of moulds and the right ingredients. It may take a while though, until you can create such masterpieces as Mark’s four-foot Viking longboat or full size beehive both made entirely from chocolate.

My other colleagues on the day loved it – “You go away with a sense of achievement”, said Caroline Pennington. Someone asked Mark how long the bars would last – “Until the weekend” was the reply. After which, I suppose, they will have disappeared – just like magic! 


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