In less than a week, women throughout the nation will be gifting boxes of chocolate ― homemade or store-bought ― to their men of choice.
Valentine’s Day, an ancient day devoted solely to the pursuit of romance, has a very specific purpose here in South Korea, where it acts as a opportunity for girls to approach boys ― like the Sadie Hawkins dances in the U.S. where girls take the initiative.
Instead of the more standard written Valentine, chocolates are given as a token of love.
In light of the special day, two talented chocolatiers have provided recipes for those who want to craft their gifts by hand. Both also offer classes for the more ambitious and delicious chocolates for those who prefer to leave it up to the professionals.
At her atelier-shop in Hongdae, 44-year-old chocolatier Go Young-joo dips rose-colored pralines in dark chocolate with ease, steadfastly working to keep the glass cases full as a steady stream of customers come in for their chocolate fix.
For over four years, Go has successfully run Cacao Boom, which means “theobroma cacao” in Dutch, serving up delicious pralines and dense hot chocolate to lovers of sweet treats.
Her passion for Belgian chocolate began in 1994, when she moved to Ghent, Belgium, with her husband and children. There she fell in love with the country’s chocolate culture and learned to make pralines ― Belgian chocolates filled with cream or nut pastes ― at the Antwerp Provincial Food Institute.
Within her store ― now expanded and renovated ― patrons can watch her work her expertise in the atelier behind the counter while picking from around 26 varieties of chocolates.
Go specializes in filled chocolates with soft and fragrant centers, combining various ingredients to create a harmonious blend of spices, textures and flavors.
Take the Portuguese chocolate, for example, where a Kirsch-soaked black cherry acts a tart and juicy foil to the melt-in-your-mouth hazelnut cream surrounding it. Earl Grey tea adds a citrus note to her Titicaca chocolate, while the nutmeg truffle conjures up fond memories of winter eggnog.
Among her more recent creations, salted caramel and crispy waffle chocolates from the New Praline series stand out.
Paper-thin layers of buttery waffle add crunch to a nutty silken center. With the salted caramel chocolate, the sweetness of chewy caramel is enhanced by a tinge of salt.
Cacao Boom’s boxed set of 18 pralines include chocolatier Go Young-joo’s delectable Portuguese and Titicaca chocolates along with her luscious nutmeg, coconut and cream truffles. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
For those eager to learn how to make chocolates on their own, Go also offers classes.
Groups of at least six are needed to take a two hour-long private one-day class. Chocolate-making basics and around three varieties of chocolate are taught. Classes cost 50,000 won per person.
Chocolates cost 1,500 won to 2,500 won each. Sets, including a Valentine’s Day Special Edition box, are available for 12,500 won to 99,000 won. Sets need to be reserved in advance and can be picked up at the store or delivered.
To go to Cacao Boom go to Hongik University Station Line 2, Exit 9. Walk up the hill towards the front gate of Hongik University. Turn left at the top of the hill. Walk three blocks. Turn left and walk downhill. The shop is on the right. Opening hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information call (02) 3141-4663 or visit www.cacaoboom.comStrawberry Truffles from Cacao Boom
● 90 g fresh cream
● 210 g white chocolate
● 18 g strawberry powder
● dark chocolate for dipping
● powdered sugar or cacao powderDirections
1) Heat up fresh cream until it reaches a boil. Turn burner off and cool. Add strawberry powder and mix together.
2) Put white chocolate into the mixture and mix in completely until the mixture is shiny.
3) Put mixture into a pastry bag and pipe out 10-gram rounds onto a tray.
4) After letting it solidify for a day, dip rounds in dark chocolate that has been melted in a double boiler or microwave oven and then roll in powdered sugar or cacao powder.
Louis Kang Chocolatier
Head of his own eponymous label, 29-year-old Louis Kang studied chocolate at six overseas institutes, primarily in France and Germany, including L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Lyon.
During his extensive studies, he learned a vast array of styles using an equally wide variety of couverture chocolates. Afterwards, the chocolatier opened his atelier in Nonhyeon-dong approximately a year ago.
Eager students can enroll in his 16-week course or purchase his confections at a variety of outlets.
Chocolatier Louis Kang’s chocolate-dipped strawberries. (Louis Kang Chocolatier)
Among his creations, chocolate-covered caramelized almonds are top notch.
Coated nine times in Valrhona Guanaja 70 percent dark chocolate couverture before being rolled in Valrhona cacao powder, Kang’s morsels are highly addictive.
The crunch of the caramelized shell releases a sweet buttery tang before the rich complexity of the chocolate coating, which exhibits flavors of prune, amps up the nuttiness of the almond.
Louis Kang’s 16-week course costs 3,500,000 won per person (cost of ingredients included). Each class is five hours long. Chocolates cost around 10,000 won to 40,000 won.
For more information on classes or products visit www.louiskang.co.kr
Louis Kang’s chocolates can be purchased at People of Tastes (02-335-4259, www.peopleoftastes.com) in Hongdae and at Cafe 74 (02-542-7412, www.cafe74.co.kr) in Cheongdam-dong. Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries from Louis Kang
● 1 kg strawberries
● 500 g dark chocolate couverture
● 500 g white chocolate couvertureDirections
1) Wash strawberries and dry.
2) Dip strawberries in tempered dark chocolate and place on parchment paper.
3) Put tempered white chocolate into a pastry bag and pipe decorative lines over the chocolate-dipped strawberries.
4) Put in refrigerator to solidify.
By Jean Oh (email@example.com