Workshop course

A workshop offers a sweet return to events at Tarbell House | News

For the first time since the pandemic, a group got together and had a great time at Tarbell House.

Sticky fingers and sweet teeth came home last Sunday as the Oil Region Alliance, with the help of Titusville Deputy Mayor Sara Jones, hosted a chocolate candy-making workshop in the historic house.

Jones, who was the workshop leader, tried to show the group that working with chocolate isn’t as difficult as they might think, and that making chocolate candy can be indulgent, but not for your hips.

Over a two-hour period, Jones and those who attended the workshop were able to experience the fun of making chocolate candies. The band had a great time struggling at times to recreate the samples Jones had brought along.

A lesson learned – no matter what they look like, they all taste delicious. Some participants may not have brought home as many as others, as the creations were just as delicious to eat while being made as they were when finished.

The class created cookie dough truffles, homemade almond delights and of course the Valentine’s Day special, chocolate covered strawberries.

Just like she does at home, Jones showed the class how to make these sweet treats with no machines, no cooking, and no measuring.

“The goal is to learn how to make them easily,” Jones said. She also said that some people can be afraid of making sweets and this class was a way to break some of those misconceptions.

“Chocolate stays sweeter longer than you think,” Jones said. “Some people think you have to work really fast with chocolate, but you can really take your time.”

It was Jones’ first time trying to make candy with a group, despite being an experienced confectioner. As someone who enjoys giving homemade gifts, Jones spends the year collecting interesting recipes and, on a December weekend, gets to work.

“I give away dozens of types of candy as Christmas gifts, and I do it all in one weekend,” she said. “These types of creations are hard to mess up, it’s not like baking.”

As this was Jones’ first time teaching with chocolate, it was far from his first upbringing at Tarbell House. As a teacher in the Titusville Area School District, she is no stranger to the Tarbell household and all that Tarbell has done in her life.

“This is a beautifully restored historic house. It’s nice to be able to work in these rooms and use a historic place in a modern way,” Jones said.

She also said that through events like this, even those who might not be the biggest history buffs have a way to enjoy space. “It’s a great way for almost anyone to see the beauty of this house,” she said.

It may not have been a day to educate students about the life of Ida Tarbell, but those who attended the workshop learned a lot about chocolate candy and came away with an entirely new skill set.

Jones explained that when it comes to making chocolate candy, the first thing you need is chocolate. Jones showed that she wasn’t trying to be fancy, she just bought the chocolate discs and then tossed them in the microwave. Once you have your bowl of chocolate, you then get the things to dip.

Jones tried to run the workshop through three different ways to create candy. Among the three creations that the participants took home; one involved rolling out cookie dough and dipping it in chocolate, another involving putting chocolate in a mold and then filling it with a filling, and the third simply dipping fruit into chocolate.

Jones explained that rolling, cup filling and dipping are three of the mainstays of candy making.

Once the candies were created, it was time to decorate. By way of introduction, Jones tried to keep it simple and safe. She said she usually garnishes some of her sweets by crushing nuts and sprinkling on them, but for the workshop, decorations involved sprinkles and drizzles.

Drizzling proved to be one of the hardest skills for the class to learn, as heavy hands and lazy wrists lead to decorative white chocolate drops falling on the creations.

Jones gave attendees a cookbook that included the three creations made on Sunday, along with other fun treats the class could try in their own kitchens.

According to Jones, the cookbook includes “interesting ingredients that don’t usually go together,” like peanut butter and potato chip truffles and crunchy caramel buckeyes.

The home’s kitchens and bathrooms were put to good use for the first time in a long time, as bowls and hands needed frequent washing to keep from getting sticky.

ORA’s Abbot Popescu helped Jones organize the event as assistant chef and made frequent trips to fill the slow cookers with more melted chocolate. Popescu said she was happy to see the house being used more, having only made self-guided tours at the house since the start of the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic hit, we had regular teas and almost monthly events,” she said. “This is our first foray into group events.”

She said if the event went well, which attendees would say, there might be other cool events at Tarbell House in the future.

ORA is looking to bring teas to the Tarbell house and add other events to the house calendar. The next scheduled house event is just after Earth Day on April 23 for Earth Day activities. For more information about the event and other work ORA is doing in the region, visit OilRegion.Org.

Dvorkin can be contacted by email at [email protected]