When passion is tested…

Something happened recently that really pushed my passion to the limit.

My practical chocolate skills are very very rusty having not worked professionally with chocolate for almost a year, and it shows, it really really shows. You can have all the knowledge and passion in the world,  even if I do say so myself,  chocolate knowledge is something I have a lot of, some of it kinda useless, like my knowledge of Henry Isaac Rowntree’s pets and some of it kinda useful, like the science of cocoa butter, but passion and knowledge can’t carry you through everything. Especially when practical skills are very important when one wants to become a chocolatier.

After a day spent crying and questioning everything, ie, my career choice, passion, this blog, life, I scraped up the Ellie sized mess that was crumpled on my bedroom floor and tried to sort myself out. I’ve not come out of this unscathed, not at all, my confidence is in tatters, and my pride a little bit bruised. For the first time, my passion was pushed to the limit, it was bound to happen at some point, and it has probably only taken so long because i’ve been in the sheltered uni bubble for as long as I’ve had this obsession with Chocolate.

Now i’ve *somewhat* stopped ripping myself to shreds, I am ready to start again. Sometimes, having your passion, friendships, relationships or whatever pushed to the limits can illustrate how genuine and real they are. As much as I am worried and scared now, because real life is about to hit me in the face and I have no plan, I am more determined than ever to achieve what I want; skills can be learnt and perfected with practice. Passion is something that can’t be learnt, or perfected with practice. Passion is special and sadly, I feel somewhat rare in todays society and as long as that is still intact (which it is, very much so), it’ll take me to where I want to be, just not as soon as I would have liked.

Apologies for the vagueness, but I thought this was worth writing about, incase anyone else can relate, and needs a little bit of comfort and encouragement.

x

 

It’s nearly Easter!

In the chocolate world, Easter is almost, if not as big as Christmas (trust me, I’d know). This time last year, I was helping create Easter Eggs to be sold in the shop and preparing to run events at York’s annual chocolate festival. It’s a massively busy time for anyone working in the chocolate industry, but from experience, I always found it quite enjoyable.

However, this year is seemingly different for me. I quit my job working in chocolate in January (yes, I’m still sad about it) in order to focus on my degree a little bit more. It can be fair to say that my life has been a lot less chocolate filled since (which makes me even sadder). I’m really missing being able to talk to people about chocolate on a weekly basis, something I evidently took for granted whilst working.

Instead, I’m spending my Easter Holidays (which start NEXT WEEK) writing essays and transcribing my dissertation focus groups.  For the majority of the holidays, I will be alone in York, living off the remainder of student loan which has been stretched as far as it can possibly go! BUT I am going home for Easter Weekend this year which I haven’t done for two years, which I’m sure will consist of chocolate, a roast dinner and cuddles with English Mastiff Mabel.

To get to the point of this blog though, I wanted to write a little bit about what I’ve been doing dissertation wise recently. Last time I wrote, which was quite a long time ago, was about chocolate as a luxury or necessity and individual tastes in chocolate. Since then, I have almost completed a module on Art, Taste and Stratification, which has been a massive help where my dissertation was concerned. Though very hard to understand, my lecturer soon learned that if you explain anything to me in terms of chocolate, the chances are I’ll probably start to understand it. Though heavily theory based, it gave me a really good theoretical grounding for parts of my dissertation, as long as I got what I needed from the focus groups in order to make, mostly Bourdieu’s, work on taste relevant.

I’ve also completed all three of the focus groups I needed to conduct for my dissertation research. Completing these was quite a big thing for me, as they were a massive source of anxiety going to conduct them but honestly, it was a really enjoyable experience. It was so great to hear other peoples views on chocolate and chocolate advertising. I got some really interesting results, which I can’t divulge at the moment! All in good time. What I can say is that the dissertation is now shaping up to be a really interesting piece of research and I am very excited to start analysing and writing up.  Now I’m lucky enough to have the job of transcribing aforementioned focus groups, I’ve done one already, it took me four and a half hours and I’m still sick of the sound of my own voice.

Conducting the focus groups really brought home how much I’m missing chocolate at the moment. A few people had their reservations when I told them I was going to do a dissertation on chocolate (to be fair, I thought I was going to get laughed out of the sociology department) but at the moment, I’m really glad that I did. Doing a dissertation is hard and stressful enough as it is without doing one on a subject that you’re not really that  interested in.

I was worried when I quit my job that I’d lose the passion for chocolate and decide that I wanted to work in a different field, but if anything it’s strengthened it. I’m so excited to finish this dissertation and getting myself back into the field that means most to me. I am ready to learn more and establish a career for myself.

For now though, with the help of a kilo of pineapple gummy bears (thankyou to my wonderful sister for those) transcribing will be started this week!

Massive thanks also to everyone who took part in my focus groups :).

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter!

x

 

 

 

Luxury or Necessity?

Sometimes, the biggest breakthroughs can come at 3am.  It’s fairly apparent that I’ve neglected my blog a little bit recently. This is mostly because of University, who knew I’d actually have to do some work in third year?! So, I’ve been busy panicking about a) essays and dissertation b) that thing called life thats 6 months away from hitting me in the face. So this breakthrough in question, is the inspiration that I’ve needed for a blog!

ANYWAY, It’s 3am and I can’t sleep so of course I’m lay in bed reading (I say reading, when I totally mean struggling but pretending to understand) Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu. He’s been one of my favourite sociologists ever since I heard of him and now I’m attempting to *read* his book for the benefit of my dissertation. Bourdieu’s book is focussed around tastes (so what we like, and don’t like) and how taste classifies us as humans and puts us into the social classes we see today (obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that but thats kind of the gist if i’ve interpreted this right, which I probably haven’t). Bourdieu talks briefly about food, which is handy for me and it got me thinking.

Apparently, cultural differences can be seen in the food we consume and the distances from luxury and necessity. Determined by income, we can judge someones social class position by the food they consume and whether the (in this sense, literal) tastes of these translate into tastes of necessity or luxury. This is where I want to begin to try and *hopefully accurately* apply Bourdieu’s work, to chocolate.  When chocolate first came to England, it was most definitely considered a luxury, and only consumed in Cocoa Houses, reserved for only the elite in society, until chocolate became more accessible. Interestingly though, with the accessibility of cocoa, also became the necessity of cocoa, with advertisements from both Rowntree and Cadbury emphasising the importance of health benefits of their Cocoa products. This caused a shift in the judgement of taste, yet Rowntree and Cadbury would still try to divide their products into classes, with things such as ‘Rowntree’s High Class Cocoa’, or the ‘Purest Cocoa, Pure and therefore Best’. Products with only the best products (and probably more expensive) Different tastes but for the same product.

But what I want to know is, what do you see chocolate as? A luxury or a necessity? I asked two of my housemates, one said luxury, the other said necessity. I would agree, and say necessity. I think a distinction between luxury and necessity could provide some interesting research material  for my dissertation, so please if you could let me know your standpoint on this, I would be most grateful.

Another interesting point is on Pleasure. I’m getting into the territory of Kant now, but expanded on by Bourdieu. There are two types of pleasure, Facile and Pure. Facile pleasure, otherwise known as pleasure of the senses, is what I would imagine to be immediate gratification, something we eat and get immediate sensation from (i.e. chocolate). Sugary tastes are also seen to be facile, and apparently, facile pleasure is something to be disgusted about… Pure pleasure, I’m going to be honest, I’m still trying to get my head around the definition, but I imagine to be the opposite, the kind of pleasure one would get from art, or classical music, or going to the opera, because apparently, that shows you have very good taste.

My thinking is that these two types of pleasures could relate to chocolate in some way. Facile pleasure, the sort of pleasure we would get from a Milk Chocolate, if anyone is anything like me, Milk Chocolate isn’t savoured, it’s devoured, usually when I’m sad or stressed. Pure Pleasure, the sort of pleasure we’d get from a very good quality Dark Chocolate, the chocolate is savoured and tasted, talked about even. Am I right in thinking that distinctions of taste can be illustrated from ones chocolate consumption? This is obviously a work in progress, but it’s an idea. I’m not quite sure how Pierre Bourdieu would feel if he knew how I was interpreting his wonderful theories. I’m still trying to get my head around pleasure, so these ideas will need refining a lot, but it could be a somewhat interesting start.

I hope this made some sort of sense, I’m more glad that I finally managed to write a blog.

Also, does this count as something I could give my dissertation supervisor? I promised her she’d have something to read in the new year and I don’t think 100 words of a lit review will count…

Bourdieu

An example of the kind of notes I’ve been taking. I’m hoping a pleasure and gender difference will emerge, but I think this is far too hopeful.

 

 

Hotel Indigo York Launch.

I got the opportunity to go to the launch of Hotel Indigo York last night. Despite being a little bit nervous and anxious, I was very pleased to be at an important event, I even drank red wine (and enjoyed it), so I am definitely an adult now.

Anyway, how has this got anything to do with chocolate? Well, Hotel Indigo pride themselves on being a boutique hotel chain, with not one hotel looking the same. They also try to incorporate local culture and history into each individual hotel.

As York is pretty much the birth place of chocolate in the UK, it was a very good place to develop a chocolate themed hotel. And let me tell you, Hotel Indigo have pulled this off perfectly. The decor is absolutely beautiful and the thought and effort that has gone into the way the hotel has been designed is incredible. The attention to detail is like nothing I’ve seen before. I’ve wanted to visit the hotel ever since finding out it was being built, so it was fantastic to have a look around last night. The hotel is based on Walmgate, which i feel is perfectly situated given the theme of the hotel. Walmgate is famous in York Chocolate History. Mary Tuke set up business on this very street in 1725 and later apprenticed Henry Isaac Rowntree who eventually bought the cocoa side of the business to create Rowntrees. This is again just one of the details Hotel Indigo have thought about in order to create the perfect themed hotel.
I like how the theme is subtle but obvious at the same time, if that makes sense. It’s incredibly tasteful and sophisticated and so rich in history, which is what I love.

Firstly, we took advantage of the amazing canapés on offer! They were most delicious and we made a chocolate lollipop with the fantastic York Chocolate Story (who very effectively bring York Chocolate History to life at their premises in Kings Square), who are working in partnership with the hotel. We then did a bit of chocolate tasting with them too… very strange however, as it’s normally me that is conducting the chocolate tastings! We wandered round and had a chat with a few people about the hotel and such!

After listening to the speeches, we wanted to go and have a look around the rooms. I was so excited. The night manager of the hotel (I’m so sorry, I can’t remember his name) kindly showed us around each type of room they offer. Each room is absolutely beautiful, with little bits of York history and culture in each. Most things featured in the rooms have been sourced locally and made in Yorkshire. There were the most beautiful cushions which looked like they had Smarties stuck all over them, they were amazing.  Oh and don’t let me forget about the beds. The beds were amazing and absolutely massive, especially in comparison to someone tiny like me, the super kingsize bed could have fit at least three Ellie’s in there!! Some of the rooms had beautiful pictures of historic York, and lists of old businesses printed on lampshades and lampshades in the shape of jelly moulds! The thought and attention to history that has gone into creating these absolutely beautiful rooms is astounding. Each room also comes with complimentary KitKat (of course).  Did you know that 6 million KitKats are produced in York every day!
Something I really noticed throughout the night was the sense of pride the staff had about the hotel. It was so lovely to see, especially the lovely gentleman who showed us round the bedrooms. It’s so lovely to see how proud they are of where they work and are really passionate themselves about the vision they have all worked so hard in creating for the hotel.

So a massive thankyou to Hotel Indigo, and congratulations.

I must stop buying shoes and chocolate and treat myself to a stay in one of the rooms instead, because obviously, a passionate chocolate lover like me can’t not stay in a chocolate themed room… and I definitely need to fully experience one of those incredible beds!

Here, are a few pictures of a very big Easter Egg created by York Cocoa House earlier this year, which I got very messy with helping to make! I was very proud of it in the end.

Links to Hotel Indigo, York Chocolate Story and York Cocoa House at the end of this blog!

So now, you all know the place to stay and two places to visit when on a chocolatey adventure in York!

A more in depth blog about York’s chocolate attractions will be published soon!

x

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http://www.hotelindigoyork.co.uk

http://yorkschocolatestory.com

http://www.yorkcocoahouse.co.uk

Can Chocolate make third year more interesting?

It’s been a while since I’ve actually posted anything. To be completely truthful, the last 6 weeks or so haven’t been the easiest and I’ve definitely been doing a lot more consuming  of chocolate than thinking and writing about it. Guilty!

Somehow, September has happened. September means the beginning of another academic year. This year, I will be embarking on my third and final year at University. It’s actually going to be my fourth year, so after putting third year off for a year, it’s about time I tackled it!

Third year is close and I’m already feeling overwhelmed and trying to get out of York at any opportunity to try (and fail) at running from the inevitable. I get worried when I don’t feel particularly in control, so today I went out and bought stationary, because new stationary always makes you feel that you have your life in order! I bought a notepad that is dedicated to my dissertation work and planning.

After re-sitting second year, and much thought, I changed my idea of what I wanted to specialise on for my dissertation. 10,000 words and a whole year is a lot of time and work, so I thought it best to try and write about something I’m really, really interested in. of course, this would be Chocolate! One of my early blogs highlights the links there can be between Sociology and Chocolate, so I’m really hoping to expand on this and be able to make it into a full blown academic essay.

I wanted to use this blog post really as a sounding board of the sorts of ideas I’ve got at the moment. Advertising in the chocolate industry throughout history up until the modern day is something that really interests me. Chocolate consumption in general interests me.

When chocolate consumption was largely consumed in the way of Cocoa, advertising took on very strong gender and class connotations. Class first, I would imagine, as before cocoa became a lot more accessible, it was something consumed by the high class. Once cocoa became a bit more accessible though, the way it was marketed was interesting. Cocoa companies boasted of health properties in their cocoa and often marketed it towards women and mothers, as if to say ‘buy this cocoa and you will keep you family healthy’. However, when we start to see the emergence of a Chocolate Bar, advertising changed, and it became marketed at more of a male audience. This is something that hasn’t really changed and we still see masses of gendered advertisement. For example, the famous Yorkie ‘IT’S NOT FOR GIRLS’ campaign and Snickers, also largely advertised at a male audience, often depicting an effeminate man, showing traits of subordinate masculinity, until someone throws a snickers at him and he changes  because ‘YOU’RE NOT YOU WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY’

Then we see advertising for products such as Galaxy. Now advertising of this chocolate usually focuses on things like indulgence. A woman on the sofa, covered in blankets, with a hot drink, letting galaxy melt in her mouth, and that kind of scene.

Malteser’s are always interesting too, advertising based on couples and families, as they’re good for ‘sharing’ (but seriously, WHO shares chocolate?!) but ALSO capitalising on how they’re ‘a lighter way to enjoy chocolate’, as if a woman can enjoy these, even if she’s watching her figure.

Obviously, this is only a very brief version of what I want to look at, but if gives you an idea of what I’m trying to justify as a good dissertation topic.

What I want to try and find out is, does the chocolate advertising of the modern day influence our consumption practices? Can chocolate be used as a signifier of *perceived* social mobility? Do we consume different chocolate depending on our gender and social status? And hopefully, I’ll find out much more!

Well, this is the idea anyway… I don’t quite know how UoY sociology will take it. I’m unsure whether they have ever encountered a Chocolate based dissertation before. It’s a topic area not really explored in Sociological literature, which could be a risk, but a risk I think is worth taking. Let’s hope it pays off.

Any feedback/comments are appreciated!

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x

Tempering and GBBO.

So I think everyone knows that it’s that time of year again, Great British Bake Off is back. I am definitely a lover of GBBO, apart from it making me want to eat all the cake.

I watched the first episode last night (after Twitter had ruined who had got sent home for me). I was surprised to see that they had the contestants doing chocolate work so early on. Now, for someone who’s very, very into chocolate, I can probably be unfairly critical…

I got the initial ‘WHY ARE YOU TEMPERING IN A GLASS BOWL?’ ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’ ‘WHY DO YOU NOT SEEM TO CARE ABOUT YOUR TEMPERATURES’ ‘IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW OR WHY YOU ARE TEMPERING THEN WHY’ out of the way and realised that yes, I was probably being pretty harsh because not everyone has the kind of knowledge I do (i’m not bigging myself up here at all, but I probably do know a bit more than the average person) and it’s probably quite hard to temper in that tent!

I found that when faced with tempering, a lot of the contestants kinda knew what they were doing, others had no idea and were doing it ‘because that’s what everyone else is doing’. They all seemed to pull it off (though the judges really should have checked for a snap in my opinion, but obviously they focus on the bake more, thats just me being chocolate Ellie).

So; here’s a very simple and condensed version of how and why we temper chocolate!

Tempering is a process ‘chocolatiers’ (anyone can temper, just a lot of people don’t know how to do it properly) use to ensure a nice gloss and shine on their chocolate. Tempering is all to do with the crystal structure we find in cocoa butter, it’s the crystals in cocoa butter that give our chocolate a nice shine, or dull texture, a nice snap or no snap. Cocoa Butter is so interesting, but I won’t bore you with the details!

So tempering is really quite important. To temper chocolate, it’s all about a temperature structure to follow. Depending on your chocolate, each will have different temperatures they need to hit.

Milk- Heat up to about 45/46 degrees and then cool down to about 27/28 degrees, then heat up again to about 30/31 degrees.

Dark- Heat upto about 47 degrees then cool down to about 28/29 degrees and then heat up slightly to about 31/32 degrees.

White chocolate is slightly different to work with. White chocolate does not contain any Cocoa Powder, only Cocoa Butter, which makes it a little harder to work with and the temperatures will be lower.

This is why you shouldn’t use glass or metal. Both are conductors of heat, so if you’re trying  to cool your chocolate down and the bowl is still hot, your chocolate is still cooking. If you really want to temper in a glass/metal bowl, transfer it to a plastic one once off the hob.

If chocolate is not tempered properly, it won’t be shiny and won’t have a nice snap to it or, worse, it can bloom. This is where chocolate goes white or has white streaks in it. This means the chocolate was too hot and the cocoa butter has settled on top of the chocolate. There are two types of bloom, a fat bloom, this is to do with the cocoa butter and a sugar blooms (sugar blooms are kinda pretty and fascinating)

Most professional chocolatiers will temper on a marble table, as its always cold and is good for cooling chocolate down rapidly.

You can do it at home by doing what they did on GBBO, which is seeding, this is adding cold solid chocolate to hot chocolate in order to cool it down. This will also encourage crystal growth, giving you a really nice, thick chocolate.

This is where chocolate can get really complicated, because sometimes (like on GBBO) you can’t control the environment, so if you’re somewhere thats too hot, it’s going to make tempering really quite difficult. Chocolate is so temperamental!

I think I’ve covered everything or most things…  tempering in a nutshell. Any questions, do ask!

Do note that I am insanely jealous of how these people can bake! How incredible?!

I hope it wasn’t too complicated and a bit of an easy guide on something thats always made to sound so complicated!

x

‘Why Chocolate?’

This may seem like a bit of an odd title for a blog post but it’s a question I get asked quite a lot. It’s a question that crops up when I mention my chosen career path of becoming a chocolatier. Now, it’s not that I feel I have to justify my choice because I don’t (Even though I know of people who aren’t exactly convinced about my career choice), it’s what I want to do and I know it but I think it’s sometimes curiosity, which is totally fine, because a chocolatier is a bit of a different job to want!  but I thought it’d be something a bit different and slightly more personal to write about.

So, Why Chocolate?

Chocolate wasn’t always the plan. I wanted to work in student welfare in schools! But then I got a job in Chocolate and fell in love and who knows, I may be able to combine the two one day.

I realised that chocolate is all sorts of things, it’s sociological, it has amazing history, it’s scientific! There’s much more to chocolate than people realise and I find it absolutely fascinating. There’s always something new to learn and discover and there is nothing I love more than learning all sorts of new things, whether its about the science of tempering, or the ins and outs of the Terry’s family, which is most confusing and I still haven’t wrapped my head around it fully.
I learnt some incredible stuff about Cocoa Butter the other day, but I won’t bore you with the details because it’s probably not as interesting and exciting to everyone else as it is to me! So firstly, that is why I chose chocolate. It’s a passion, it’s something I love to learn (and if any of you reading this have met me will know) and talk about.

Secondly, Chocolate can be incredibly challenging. As I was saying earlier, chocolate is really quite scientific and there’s lots about crystal structure and ideal temperatures in order to have a good ‘temper’ to your chocolate. However, as much as you may love and adore chocolate, sometimes, it just does not want to work with you. Chocolate can be very temperamental and it has to be in the right mood for it to work for you, this means that being a chocolatier can require quite a lot of patience! Chocolate doesn’t rush for anyone, not even me. I love the challenges chocolate can pose, as much as it can make me lose my patience (we’re working on that one!) it’s always great to discover the different ways in which chocolate can behave and how it can set differently (or annoyingly, not at all) depending on how you’ve tempered it. I find bloomed chocolate (when chocolate goes white because the cocoa butter has settled on the surface rather than where it’s meant to) absolutely incredible… but a nightmare too!

Thirdly, I LOVE GETTING MESSY! So it’s a pretty perfect job really because there is nothing better than having an apron absolutely covered in chocolate… washing it however, that’s not so great. I’m yet to find someone willing enough to wash my aprons for me. I am happiest when I am absolutely covered in the stuff, although, no-one else at work seems to be very happy when I’m covered in chocolate, I’m yet to figure out why…

And finally and to me, most importantly, chocolate is my escape. We all have challenges and difficulties we face and everyone has a different way of dealing with things.  Some people dance, or draw, or sing! Me? I do chocolate work.
I’ve been having a really quite tough time of it recently and today, I got a chance to make some chocolate buttons. It took my mind away from everything bothering me for a couple of hours. For me, chocolatiering is amazing therapy and it was just what I needed to lift my mood a little bit. Being able to concentrate on getting my chocolate to the right consistency and temperature and focussing on piping, decorating and spinning was so therapeutic and calming and it is something I genuinely enjoy and love doing and it’s even better that is has such positive affects on my mental wellbeing.

Someone once told me ‘Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. This is ‘why chocolate?’. I love learning about, talking about and making things with chocolate and I couldn’t think of anything I would want to do more for the rest of my life than professionally making chocolates and getting that amazing feeling when you finally complete a huge order or have a really successful day.  It’s really quite hard to put a passion into words and hard to communicate over a blog or any written format really quite how much you want something.

It’s a dream like job to many but it’s also challenging and can be stressful but that’s all part of it and nothing worth having is ever easy, is it!  But I hope to anyone who’s ever wondered, this answers the question of ‘Why Chocolate?’.

x