Just sweet desserts

Joseph Mitchell can’t make lead into gold, but the Jefferson State Community College culinary program director, who teaches a course called Chocolate Alchemy, can make chocolate into delicious treats and even pieces of art.

Mitchell helped a group of 30 locals make their own sweet treasure Saturday in a three-hour community class.

At the beginning of the class, he asked attendees to think about the role chocolate plays in their lives.

“If you’re a teenager, it might mean a peanut butter cup,” he said. “If you’re an adult, it might mean going out and having an extravagant dessert.”

He went on to explain that the actual name for cocoa is theobroma cacao, which, translated, means food of the gods.

After giving a short lecture on the history of chocolate and the correct way to work with chocolate, the students moved to the culinary lab, where the real work began.

The chefs-for-a-day donned aprons and chef hats while Jeff State culinary students quickly taught them about water baths and chocolate ganache.

Vestavia resident Debbie Sanders tentatively stirred heavy cream and chocolate over high heat while the other four members of her group looked on.

“I had no idea so much went into making a chocolate dessert,” she said.

Debbie and her daughter, Kimberley, decided to make the day a mother-daughter event, and were joined by other parent-child pairs around the room.

As the class went on, the students made four different kinds of truffles, as well as a box made out of dark chocolate to keep the truffles in. However, lots of the truffles found their way into students’ mouths instead of the boxes.

“This is so good,” Debbie sanders said, with a mouthful of truffle.

Jeff State culinary student Heather Lawrence, a helper for the day, said people enjoy working with chocolate for lots of reasons beyond how good it tastes.

“I think a lot of people like the challenge. It can be challenging to work with chocolate,” she said. “A lot of people have a creative side, and it’s an art.”

Class attendee Lisa Hester said she planned to use the lessons learned at home.

“I love to cook, and I want to be able to do this on my own,” she said. “I love truffles. I love chocolate.”

Mitchell said the class was offered purely because of community demand. The chocolate class will likely be offered again – Jeff State officials are considering offering it once a quarter.

For those interested in other cooking classes Jeff State has to offer, check the Web site at www.jeffstateonline.com.