Every woman likes to get away with girlfriends once in a while. However, when you are planning a hen weekend, it is all too easy to end up with the same old ho-hum options for your get-together. Regardless of what the event is, almost every girl craves chocolate, so why not incorporate the decadent confection into your weekend fun? Chocolate making hen weekends are perfect for wedding parties, showers of all types and just for a weekend of more general girly fun.
Why Chocolate Making Weekends?
Eating chocolate is a sensory experience in itself, so anything involving the creamy confection is sure to be a hit with your group of friends. However, adding the interest and fascination of making chocolate brings this hen weekend option into the category of truly memorable girlfriend getaways. It is likely that few of your friends have ever dug into how chocolate is actually made, despite the delicious appeal. If they do have a clue as to how it works, they might be surprised to find out that their ideas were not quite on the mark. Chocolate making workshops are surprisingly available and most are quite affordable.
What to Expect
The exact price for any particular chocolate making workshop will vary. However, average prices for a workshop that includes chocolate making are around fifty pounds per participant. When checking prices, keep in mind that not all companies state whether their advertised charge is for an entire session or for each individual. However, you can always call and check for specifics before booking your hen weekend. In most cases, however, the price will be for each girlfriend in your group unless otherwise stated.
Most chocolate making workshops last around two hours; some venues stretch your in-class time to around three hours, but few quality workshops that include chocolate making are much shorter. If you see a class that ranges from sixty to ninety minutes, it might just be a tasting party, so always be sure exactly what the venue is offering to avoid disappointment.
When you show up for your chocolate making hen workshop, you can expect to experience a few things. Most workshops spend the first part of each class discussing how chocolate is made and the history of the confection. After your group has a feel for how the process works, there might be a section of the class where you can sample and critique different types and formulations of chocolate. This experience trains your palette to recognize excellence in the confection, somewhat similar to learning to recognize a fine wine. Finally, the main event of any chocolate making workshop is playing with the chocolate itself. Depending on the host chocolatier, you may start from the very beginning, from the tempering process or jump right into making chocolates. Different chocolates are available in different workshops, but some of the most common types to make are truffles, ganache and chocolate lollipops. Your course description should note approximately how many chocolates each participant would get to make and take home; it can be as many as 25 pieces. In addition, decorating, boxing and presenting the assortment is a part of many workshops, so there is a full spectrum of creative expression for your group.
Where Are They Held?
If you live in a larger metropolitan area, or can easily travel to a bigger city, you will have access to a wider variety of chocolate making events for your hen weekend. Many of the best-organized workshops are located in places like London and Essex, for example. However, if you do enough research, you can find workshops in more rural areas, possibly a bit closer to home; most of these events will be smaller, possibly more intimate and hosted by lesser-known, but still skilled, hosts or hostesses. For another option, many companies, including large and well-known chocolatiers, will come to your location. You can book the hotel conference room where your girlfriends are staying, find a nearby location with ambiance or even have the workshop organizers come to your home.
While most people spend just a few hours experiencing chocolate making, there are plenty of locations that are perfect if you have an extensive holiday planned with your girlfriends. Several locations offer complete weekend packages that include chocolate making right into the mix. A 2-day and 3-night trip to Umbria, Italy, for example, costs around 550 pounds per person. You and your friends will get full-day workshops, as well as access to gourmet meals and comfortable lodging. Guests have the opportunity to work in a functioning chocolate factory and visit a museum entirely dedicated to the decadent confection. Italy is a popular destination for these getaways and many feature much more than chocolate; you could book a patisserie paradise for you and your girlfriends if that appeals to your tastes and budget.
Intimate Gathering or Big Event?
Depending on what you have in mind, your hen weekend can include just a few friends or incorporate a large group. Obviously, costs will go up if you have more people involved. If you are all pitching in for your girlfriend getaway, there is no reason that more should not be merrier. Some workshops, for example, can handle as many as fifty to one hundred participants. Others are more geared toward smaller groups and prefer to deal with just a few people at a time. If you are treating your friends, this could be a better option to keep costs down when you are footing the entire bill. Besides, digging into chocolate with just a few girlfriends can be a great bonding experience. Whatever your priorities are for the weekend, there is certainly a chocolatier that can handle your crowd, whether large of small.
In addition to the question of large or small groups, you need to ask yourself whether you want everybody in your workshop to be in your party or if it would work for you to jump into a more public workshop. Larger workshops can often be less expensive per person than smaller events, but you might not have enough girlfriends to get a volume discount. If you don’t mind sharing the experience with others, it could work to participate in an open workshop. Keep in mind that some venues allow children in chocolate making workshops, so if dealing with a younger crowd is not on the agenda, you might want to ask specifically what the expected demographics of the class are. Some chocolatiers separate minors from adults or place minimum age limits on participants; know what the rules of each workshop are before making a final decision. To avoid the possibility altogether of minor annoyances, it can definitely pay to book only private chocolate making sessions.
Bringing a Bit More to the Table
It goes without saying that making chocolates can be a lot of fun for a group of girls. However, confectioners often offer similar events that add a little twist to the chocolate theme. If you want to do something a little more highbrow, for example, many chocolate houses are starting to focus entire workshops on cocktails and cupcakes. Chocolate cocktails pair beautifully with cupcakes and create a weekend filled with feminine sophistication and ambiance. If you are a teetotaller, you can ask for cocktails that leave out the alcohol, but make sure the hosts know ahead of time what your needs are. In many cases, the baking of the cupcakes is done ahead and the hands-on time is devoted to decorating and creativity. It is not uncommon to work with a full variety of decorating mediums, including standard butter-cream frosting, decorating chocolate and fondant. Like other chocolate making workshops, there may be a portion of the class devoted to education or a question-and-answer session. Instead of a box of chocolates, you and your friends will take home an assortment of gourmet cupcakes.
Another way to change up the standard chocolate making workshop is to combine chocolate and wine tasting. This is a perfect pairing and is a great option for groups that want to keep their hands clean. Not only is this a great opportunity to indulge, but it is also a fantastic chance to learn about the sometimes elusive matching of wine and chocolate. Most chocolate and wine classes provide plenty of flavours to titillate the taste buds and are comparable in price to popular chocolate making classes. Expect to spend a bit less time at the event, however, as the hands-on portion is removed from the agenda.
If you want to head in the other direction, chocolate events can incorporate more fun and less of the serious side. Some groups do not want to spend any time learning about history or details, but want to get straight to the heart of the matter and get their hands dirty. If this describes your group of friends, think about a chocolate party. Chocolate parties are geared specifically towards groups and give you a more relaxed atmosphere for playing with chocolate. Many of these events are held right at the factory, so you will probably get more options when it comes to the assortment of confections you can make. In addition, snacks and drinks, often including wine, are part of the package deal. There is probably a limit of how large your group can be, but many venues can accommodate as many as twenty people. Prices are given per person and are often slightly less expensive than a more private or intensive workshop. You still get to take your entire chocolates home with you. If you select this option for your hen weekend, plan on about two hours of chocolate-filled party time.
What About Mess?
Obviously, any chocolate making hen weekend will necessitate you getting your fingernails a bit dirty; these are very hands-on events. You are not just going to be sitting in a pristine room and being handed samples on little white napkins. One of the biggest appeals of this girlfriend getaway is the chance to really experience and understand the chocolate making process. Chocolate is melted and tempered with heat, so expect a kitchen-like environment. It might get a bit warm at some points during the process, so you might want to skip the perfect coif and pick a ponytail instead. In addition, your nicest weekend attire might be better for dinner after your workshop. It does not have to be particularly messy to make chocolate, but you are going to be dealing with liquid chocolates and a mixture of assorted ingredients, depending on exactly what you and your friends are making that day. If you have a lot of other activities planned, give yourself enough time to shower and change after the workshop is complete.
Big Names is Chocolate Workshops
If you have a favourite chocolatier, look specifically for their chocolate making workshops and events. Luckily, many British chocolate stars offer workshops that would be perfect for your hen weekend.
-Green and Blacks
Green and Blacks generally caters to smaller groups. One of their most popular chocolate making workshops, for example, is their hands-on class for two. This event costs 105 pounds and is held in three British locations, including London, Greater Manchester and East Sussex. The workshops last between two and two-and-a-half hours and include an informative section about history and technique. Expect to come home with personalized chocolate creations, as well as a possible prize for competitive categories. Participants can be as young as 14, but your session is completely private and exclusive.
The events that are on Rococo’s regular calendar are mainly chocolate tasting events. They are, however, extremely fun and affordable. For just twenty-five pounds each, you and your friends can sample some of the best chocolate flavours, as well as enjoy wine. At the end of the night, a chocolate goodie bag leaves with you. Rococo does, however, provide plenty of bespoke events, so chocolate making is not out of the question.
William Curley is a British chocolate legend that provides plenty of options for your hen weekend. Pre-scheduled classes are available for making both truffles and sea salt caramels. These classes are geared toward two participants and can be scheduled for 150 pounds. In addition to the open classes, you can choose a more custom time to better suit your schedule. Classes are approximately 2-and-a-half hours long.
-Betty’s Cookery School
Though not a famous British chocolatier, Betty’s Cookery School is becoming wildly popular for all types of cooking classes and workshops. Located in North Yorkshire, classes range from chocolate to pastry to bread making and are often booked months in advance; keep this in mind if you are set on this venue. Classes are more intensive than many chocolate workshops, with most running all day. Hands-on workshops are around 165 pounds per person and are only offered in large, public settings, so only select this choice if you do not mind interacting with strangers.
Add the Fun Factor
As a final note, there is a lot you can add to your weekend to make your chocolate making experience stand out for you and your girlfriends. Some venues allow you to customize your experience enough that you could add these to the mix right during class. Other classes are a bit tighter, however, but you can still keep things how you envision after the class is over. A few fun ideas to consider are:
- Compete with the other participants for the tastiest, prettiest or most creative chocolate.
- Make chocolates with your wedding party and let the take-home assortment serve as the wedding favour or attendant gift.
- Paint the town with chocolate after class, seeing who can find the sexiest recipient with whom to share their chocolates.
- If you are really into the details of the event, have a trivia party after to see who remembers the most about chocolate making. The prize? Chocolate, of course!
Regardless of how you plan your chocolate making hen weekend, remember that this is your chance to get together with your best girlfriends and bond over one thing that connects almost all women- chocolate! Do not be afraid to shop around for the workshop that really suits you and ask a lot of questions. If you feel comfortable with the event, you and your friends will have a lot more fun. If you find a venue or host that seems to meet most of your needs, do not be afraid to discuss your personality, what you hope to get from your hen weekend and how you can customize the schedule to best meet your needs. Most chocolatiers will be happy to accommodate you, but you will have the best luck with private sessions, as these are the easiest to customize. Above all, have fun and enjoy the one confection that can truly be a taste and sensory experience for you and your friends. Getting down and dirty with chocolate is one of the most fun ways to plan a hen weekend; it is likely that your friends will remember this party for a long time to come.