Get Your Dough On

Miami’s Biltmore Hotel has opened its new Culinary Academy, and our editor had a go at making chocolate desserts in its inaugural class.

It’s no secret that Miami is a culinary hot spot. It boasts several James Beard-nominated and awarded local chefs, is home to outposts of celebrity chef restaurants (such as Emeril Lagasse’s acclaimed Emeril’s Miami Beach) and plays host to the increasingly popular South Beach Wine & Food Festival, taking place this week, through Feb. 22.

Now those planning a Miami vacation break can improve their own culinary skills by taking cooking classes at the newly launched Biltmore Culinary Academy, at the Biltmore Hotel in nearby Coral Gables. The academy began offering classes—which last about three hours and range in difficulty in order to accommodate beginners through advanced cooks—earlier this month. I fortunately was able to participate in its first one, Working With Chocolate, led by the hotel’s executive pastry chef Olivier Rodriguez.

Academy Background

The Academy’s newly built classrooms are housed in the conference center at the hotel, and include a custom-designed kitchen lab, with a 12-burner stainless steel Jade Range island. There were six of us in the chocolate class, paired to make things move smoothly, plus Chef Rodriguez and an assistant chef. I have minimal experience in the kitchen, so I was grateful to find out my partner was none other than Biltmore Culinary Academy director, Lourdes Castro, who is excited to see the academy come to life.

“It’s rare to find a program that allows guests to personally interact with chefs, learning directly from them, and now it’s here at the Biltmore,” says Castro, who in addition to being a chef is a culinary consultant, author and instructor. She has two books coming out this year from Ten Speed Press, the cookbook Simply Mexican, and a Spanish-English dictionary of culinary terms, Eat, Drink, Think in Spanish. All ingredients used in the classes are fresh and seasonal, says Castro, and there’s a focus on making sure students learn proper techniques.

Castro works with four chefs from the hotel, and has created a schedule that includes not only cuisine-focused classes, but also techniques and targeted topics, such as Pork 101, knife skills, how to make fresh pasta and pastry, and dinner-party planning.

In the Classroom

Our goal for our Working With Chocolate session was to learn how to make a chocolate tart, chocolate truffles and chocolate mousse with orange tuile (a thin candy-like cookie). Who could resist? We were given an apron and the recipes, and Chef Rodriguez explained everything clearly, and encouraged any and all questions. My fellow classmates’ culinary background ranged from complete amateur (moi), to those who are passionate about food and have taken other culinary classes, to a professional caterer.

Some of the stages were pre-prepared for us, with a few things measured out already, for efficiency. However we definitely got plenty of hands-on experience, whipping cream into a meringue—felt like my arm was going to fall off afterwards, getting a feel for the right consistencies when mixing the pastry dough by hand, rolling out the tart crust, creating the right sized truffle balls and spreading the tuile cookie dough, which reminded me of mixing oil paint on a palette.

The end result? Scrumptious!

You can check out the recipes from Chef Rodriguez on the next page, and try them yourself. I haven’t yet made these goodies at home, but I left the class feeling significantly more confident than when I arrived, and am pretty sure I can at least create tempting truffles for my next dinner party.

Upcoming Classes

Individual classes are currently scheduled through the end of March, and cost $110 per person. There is a three-day Master Chef class available, for $330, and visitors can also arrange for private or custom group classes, which are ideal for wedding weekends or girlfriend getaways. For more information, visit or call 305-913-3131.


Next: Recipes: Chocolate Tart, Mousse, Truffles

All recipes below are from Chef Olivier Rodriguez and are what was made in the Working With Chocolate class at the Biltmore Culinary Academy.

Chocolate Tart

Pate Sucre (Tart Shell)
Makes 1 crust

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
½ cup water, ice cold

  1. Place the flour on your counter top and stir in the sugar and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Using your fingertips or pastry cutter, blend in the chilled butter until the butter is the size of small peas and they are thoroughly blended in the flour. Add the egg and water and mix until the dough comes together. (It’s important to make sure all of the flour is hydrated but do not over mix or your crust will turn out tough.)
  2. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (do not skip this step as the flour needs time to absorb the liquid).
  3. When ready to use, remove from the refrigerator, discard the plastic wrap and roll out.

Chocolate Filling
Makes 1 tart

7 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn syrup
7 ounces heavy cream

  1. Once the tart shell is prepared (see recipe above), prepare the chocolate filling.
  2. Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until you achieve a nice and shiny consistency.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart shell and smooth over the top with a spatula. Place the tart in the refrigerator for about 40 minutes or until it sets. The chocolate needs to harden so that it can be sliced. You can test its readiness when you can insert the tip of a knife and the chocolate feels firm.
  5. Slice and serve.

Orange Scented Chocolate Mousse With Orange Tuile

Serves 8

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (we used 62 percent cacao)
7 egg yolks
7 ounces sugar
7 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

Orange Tuile Cookie
1 ounce all-purpose flour
3 ounces powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted (unsalted)
2 tablespoons orange juice

Chocolate bar, shavings
Whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream with 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Prepare the mousse. Place the chocolate in a medium size mixing bowl and set aside. Place the heavy cream and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Discard the orange zest and pour the hot milk over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is well incorporated. Pour in the Grand Marnier.
  3. Combine 2/3 of the sugar with the egg yolks and beat well. Set aside.
  4. Using a hand-held electric mixer (or by hand), beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until you achieve soft peaks (a meringue).
  5. Combine the egg yolk mixture with the chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Slowly, fold in the meringue. Place the mousse in martini glasses (or serving cups) and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Prepare the tuile. In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, orange juice and melted butter. Combine well. Slowly incorporate the flour.
  7. Spread the tuile mix onto a silpat (it will be one big mass). Bake for 6 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool, then break into small, jagged pieces for garnish.
  8. To serve, top the mousse with chocolate shavings, whipped cream and orange tuile cookies.

Chocolate Truffles

7 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn syrup
7 ounces heavy cream
1 cup cocoa powder, for coating/dusting

  1. Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until you achieve a nice and shiny consistency.
  3. The chocolate mixture must rest at room temperature for 24 hours before it can be shaped.
  4. After the chocolate has been allowed to rest, take about a tablespoon of it and roll the chocolate between the palms of your hands until a round ball forms. Place on a parchment-lined tray and repeat until all the chocolate has been shaped.
  5. Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Working with one truffle at a time, drop it in the bowl and dredge it in the cocoa. Remove the truffle—shaking off any excess cocoa powder—and place it on a serving tray. Repeat with the remaining truffles.

Destinations: Miami

Themes: Culinary

Activities: Cooking Classes

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