Chocolate class draws big crowd

AMHERST – The magic word “chocolate” has a pull that brought an overflow crowd to the Amherst Town Library recently.

And when the word was linked to the name Liz Barbour, it was almost irresistible.

This was the 12th time Barbour, a professional cook from Hollis, has brought her portable stove and coolers to the Amherst library, and she showed how to make truffles as well as a savory Mexican mole that can be frozen in small batches and served over meat, chicken or vegetables.

Rather than making mole and chili sweet, she said, chocolate enriches them with “a depth of flavor. You can take almost any chili recipe with chocolate and it will make it nice and creamy.”

Barbour talked about the different varieties of chocolate, its health benefits, how to store it and the best brands – she used 1 ounce of bittersweet Ghirardelli for the mole.

She explained cooking techniques, including knife skills, and passed around a properly sharpened knife to show what it should feel like.

Onions are essential for mole, chili and many others dishes, and preparing them correctly “will change your life,” Barbour said, showing how to peal and chop, without tears, and wind up with uniform pieces that should be sauted gently so that none of them brown – that’s a sign that the sweetness has burned away.

She made truffles with unsalted butter and heavy cream – and she was emphatic about the importance of fat.

“You cannot, you cannot, you cannot” use nonfat, she said.

Nonfat products “are making us fat,” Barbour said. “Fat tells you when to stop eating. … And with fake products, you are getting chemicals and sugar to give you the mouth feel you get naturally with heavy cream.”

Adding butter, she said, “is how they make wonderful sauces in great restaurants.”

Barbour has been cooking professionally since 1992, and started Liz Barbour’s Creative Feast (thecreativefeast.com) in 2004. She gives demonstration classes and in-home cooking parties, and arranges boutique-style private catering and garden tours of her eatable Hollis garden.

She also works with the Bedford school system on marketing healthy foods to children, and warned: “Never call anything healthy,” she told her audience.

Barbour laced her demonstrations with funny asides. When the mole was ready, she served it with brown rice, and everyone lined up for a sample and went home with copies of her recipes.

For dessert, there were truffles and ganache-topped little cakes.

The presentation was the final one in the library’s “Field of Dreams: Baseball, Travel, and Anything Chocolate” series of programs for adults.