Culinary clinic helps students ‘de-stress’ ahead of finals week

Roger Coda
students making truffles in commissary

Donn Smeragliuolo (second from left) guides students through a lesson in making ganache, which is chilled and rolled into balls and can be topped with sprinkles to make truffles.

Who knew that de-stressing could taste sooooo good. Even decadent?

Lowering stress levels ahead of finals week tasted, well, almost heavenly, for a handful of Honors students during a visit Friday to the Faculty Student Association commissary.

The proof was not in the pudding, in this case, but in the chocolate truffles students learned how to make at a workshop under the culinary expertise of Assistant Commissary Manager Donn Smeragliuolo. The Honors Program collaborated with FSA to “cook up” a de-stress activity that was both fun and delicious – with an emphasis on delicious!

“Students had huge smiles on their faces; they were literally digging into mounds of chocolate to learn how to make truffles,” said Honors Program Director Natalie Gerber. “Donn put a lot of thought into it; it was like you were watching a baking show on television.” Baking shows, she noted, are popular with students.

Mr. Smeragliuolo, who led the truffle workshop in the FSA bake shop, assembled all the ingredients needed to make a firm ganache – a mixture of chocolate and cream – that’s rolled into a ball to make chocolate truffles, to be topped with party sprinkles, crushed pecans, cocoa powder or crushed Oreos.

Each student made the truffles from scratch – beginning to end. “We talked about how to choose the right chocolate, the right heavy cream to use, how to roll it for a perfect ball, things like that,” Smeragliuolo explained.

“They seemed pretty pleased, a happy group, that’s for sure,” Smeragliuolo said. “They all love chocolate and they were eager to learn; they really wanted to make truffles.” Students learned how to measure all the ingredients and the proper way to melt chocolate to actually make the ganache themselves. Everything was hands on, he added, weighing, measuring, melting, scooping, rolling and dipping.

“When making the truffles, you would then put the mixture into a cooler and let it cool and harden for an hour. So, to save the students time, the ganache was made earlier in the day so the students could continue making the truffles without the wait time,” Smeragliuolo said. Students then took those truffles with them to save for finals week.

“Not only did Donn teach us each step, he explained the history of truffles and the different techniques for making them. He really loves what he does, and it shined through,” Gerber said.

“It was so much fun, so stress-relieving, to roll balls of chocolate between your hands,” Gerber recounted. “We also got to take them home in beautiful boxes – they were professional baking boxes that FSA provided for us. The students were just beaming ear to ear!”

The best part, of course, was the eatin’.

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