Making Our Own Belgian Chocolate in Brussels
Belgium is well known for various foods, but the one I was most excited about trying was chocolate. So on our first day in Brussels, I was happy that one of our first activities was going to Zaabär, a chocolate shop, to make our own goodies.
First we had a few minutes to wander around their store and try dozens of types of chocolate. They had different levels of dark chocolate, but since I’m more of a milk chocolate person, I quickly moved on to the flavored types. Easily my favorite was the chili chocolate, closely followed by salty and cinnamon.
Then Jessica from Zaabär gave us a brief lesson on chocolate. We learned that cacao can only be grown in warm, humid climates, so it’s found near the equator, and it’s only harvested twice a year. Originally grown by the ancient Mayas, it was spread to other parts of the world by Cortez. We also learned that chocolate has health benefits: it’s good for the heart and for depression. I think that explains why most of us reach for chocolate when we’re having a bad day!
Finally the fun part: playing with the chocolate! (My fun was crushed a little when I found out we had to wear hairnets. I really hope no pictures of me wearing the hairnet show up anywhere. But I digress.) After the chocolate is heated, it must be cooled off a bit before you can work with it. They have a machine that does this, but instead they showed us a more traditional way, which was more fun to watch anyway. They poured the chocolate onto a marble counter and spread it around for a few minutes until it cooled to the proper temperature.
We were shown how to make a few different types of chocolates, and then they handed the reins over to us. Aside from the chocolate, we were provided with a bunch of different ingredients to put in the chocolate, such as cinnamon, nuts, dried pineapple, and lavender.
After trying mine, I’m not sure chocolate making is my life’s calling, but it certainly was fun to do. Since Andy and I are traveling for another week before going home, we didn’t buy anything, but Andy and I are set on ordering some chili chocolate and salty chocolate once we get home. And luckily they gave us a goody bag to bring home which we have been snacking on for the past few days. Yum!
Thank you to Belgien Tourismus for hosting us! All opinions are my own.
August 23, 2012 @ 1:05 PM
Sounds like a lot of fun! I think I would have tried to make lavender chocolate. Yum!
August 23, 2012 @ 3:56 PM
I liked their version of lavender chocolate, but when I put lavender in mine it just sort of tasted like I was eating chocolate with a plant. Clearly I don’t have the magic chocolate touch! But yes, it was fun to do!
August 23, 2012 @ 1:49 PM
I never knew that chili and pineapple would work with chocolate. Pineapples like chocolate need to grow in warmer climates too. Most of them in Australia grow in the state of Queensland right up north . There is even a place that I went to as a kid called the Big Pineapple. It’s part tourist attraction part pineapple farm, full of pineapples. So if you ever make it to Queensland and decide to head up north, I recommend it as a place to stop at. Here is the wikipedia page for the Big Pineapple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Pineapple
August 23, 2012 @ 4:06 PM
OMG chili is AMAZING in chocolate! If you ever see it, chili or cayenne pepper, give it a try, it’s so good! The pineapples were dried, and they were good, but probably not my favorite with chocolate. Though I have had fresh pineapples dipped in chocolate (as fondue) and that was good too. Thanks for the link on the pineapple place, I’ll keep that in mind in case I make it to Queensland again!
August 24, 2012 @ 1:52 PM
My favorite was the salt chocolate. I was a bit disappointed that they did not have any out for us to put in our made chocolates. The little ball pralines were the best of the stuff we made ourselves. Well that I have tried anyway, that bag was pretty full.
August 24, 2012 @ 4:15 PM
The salt chocolate was good! I’m looking forward to ordering some!
August 25, 2012 @ 12:39 PM
Looks like fun. I never would have thought of adding lavender to chocolate. How did it taste?
August 25, 2012 @ 5:04 PM
The chocolate they had out to taste that they made was ok, though lavender was not my favorite. I didn’t like the ones I made with lavender, but it wasn’t as baked in or maybe I used too much. I did like the cinnamon though. For the most part, I think I just ended up with weird combinations of ingredients in my chocolates.
August 25, 2012 @ 2:03 PM
The salt chocolate does sound delicious, but, then again, most do!
August 25, 2012 @ 5:05 PM
Very true Erik! Chocolate of almost any kind is so tempting!
August 26, 2012 @ 3:55 PM
Ooooh – fun! I wouldn’t want to wear a hairnet either but would be worth it to get to make these…
August 27, 2012 @ 10:37 AM
It was really fun, and I understand the need for the hairnets, even if I hated wearing mine.
Belgium and Chocolate - Grounded Traveler
September 7, 2012 @ 8:01 AM
[…] nonetheless great. My favorite was the salt. Yes, sea salt in chocolate, and it was awesome. Ali liked the Chili, and that was a close second for […]
November 9, 2012 @ 9:54 AM
I’m wondering what was in the goodie bag:D
November 9, 2012 @ 3:09 PM
Mini chocolate Manneken Pis, plus lots of other fancy chocolates. It was a good mix!