A special opportunity for tourists to learn the history of chocolate and try their hand at making treats. Tallinn, Estonia, is a city on the Gulf of Finland that has been a center of trade for centuries. With a location between Western Europe and Russia, and a thriving seaport, it was a natural commercial hub.
The City of Tallinn
Records show that a fortress was first built on the large hill at Estonia as early as 1050. From that fortification, various peoples governed the area. Swedes, Danes, Germans and Russians all dominated the Estonians at one time or another.
The present day city is comprised of what were once two separate towns. The lower city shaped somewhat like a crescent, lies around the harbor. It was home to the commercial interests, merchants, and trades people. The Hanseatic League included Tallinn as a trading partner.
On the hill, known as Toompea or Cathedral Hill, was the aristocratic upper town. This strategic position housed the well to do in their mansions. Large governmental buildings, a cathedral, and fortifications dominate this area.
The History of Candy Making In Tallinn
Tallinn, being a trading center, obtained products from all over the known world. When the Spaniards conquered the New World, they brought back many new items for European palates. Among them was chocolate. First used as a cold drink, the unsweetened chocolate was an unusual addition to the foods enjoyed by the upper class.
Eventually chocolate was turned into a hot drink and then around 1810, the English and the French added sugar and then milk to the concoction. Soon candy was invented and by the mid-19th century, Estonia moved into the candy making business. Several areas claim the discovery of marzipan, an almond paste and powdered confection, and Tallinn is among them. Because of its connection with the Hanseatic League, Tallinn traded goods and services around the Baltic and North seas. It is therefore not surprising that candy-making techniques were exchanged. Marzipan was originally seen as medicine but progressed to be a candy treat. It is simple to mold, decorate, and can be presented artistically. Tallinn became a center of marzipan and chocolate making.
Amateurs Attempt to Make Truffles
For a small fee, it is possible to attend a candy making lecture and workshop in Tallinn at Cafe & Chocolaterie Pierre. A delightful Estonian woman shares the history of chocolate, explains the intricacies of making truffles – those sweet confections whose name probably comes from the expensive mushroom fungus, which the finished product resembles. The candy maker then proceeds to demonstrate the steps needed to create the delectable sweet. Form a center and shape it, add nuts or candied fruit or other selection, dip in chocolate, set on a wax papered covered tray, decorate the top with sprinkles of your choice, drizzle the alternate color chocolate on top and it’s ready to be chilled to set.
Then comes the moment of truth for the group of amateurs. We are set loose with all the makings laid out before us, the words of instruction ringing in our ears, and we begin our task. It is uncomplicated to form the center with either nougat or rich chocolate paste or marzipan. It is even relatively easy to mix in the added ingredients. The hard part is dipping the formed candy into the liquid chocolate and then getting it onto the waxed paper. The overflow of the chocolate begins to fill the tray and what the demonstrator showed as individual pieces, for the amateur looks like one large candy bar. Putting the toppings on is a challenge and we didn’t even try to swirl the opposite color chocolate on top.
Since we were wearing plastic gloves, the chocolate managed to remain on them instead of all over us but we certainly knew it would take a lot more practice to become expert candy makers.
The truffles had to spend about half an hour in the freezer before we could take them home. In the meantime, we were treated to coffee and treats as we anticipated the transformation of our creations into a beautiful work of art. No such luck, however, as when we received our take home trays, the melted chocolate was now solid but showed clearly that it ran together to form a chunk of candy. Ah, but it did taste wonderful. The candy maker has nothing to worry about; we are far from ready to take over her job.
Demonstrator at Candy Making Workshop at Cafe & Chocolaterie Pierre