Module 4: Chocolate Creations
We started off the week with an entire morning devoted to the history, manufacture and usage of chocolate.
Chef Didier is an encyclopaedia of knowledge – here he is looking very serious, but he is actually extremely friendly and in this instant deep in thought. It is a genuine pleasure to learn from such an interesting and incredible person.
It was made extremely clear to us that couverture is vastly different from chocolate and that even chocolate has a vast range in terms of quality – some would say many types of chocolate shouldn’t even be considered chocolate at all … cough cough!
Both our chefs were asked “what, if any, chocolate they would eat or cook with from the supermarket?” – firstly they avoided the subject, simply not answering, then they admitted casually that they not only neglect to cook with so called ‘chocolate’ they refuse to eat it at all!
Chocolate was first discovered by Western Society in the context of Cortez invading Central America in 1519 and stealing the greatest riches of the Maya including vanilla and the cacao bean.
At the time it was unroasted and crushed, mixed with water and chilli, and roucou (the red paint from an Anato seed). It was spicy and hard to drink, symbolising blood and the power of the Mayan Kings as gods over the mortals.
It was originally brought back to Spain where it was seen as worthless given its harsh taste and bitter flavour.
Later on priests in Europe added vanilla, milk products and sugar to improve the taste and palatability. It was then spread throughout Europe by the marriages between the Royal Courts and was popularised by Marie Antoinette in France originally as a drink for its reported properties as an aid for sexual enhancement.
Since its discovery it has gone through evolution both as a plant in the tropical forests from the original Criollo bean into the Trinitario bean and finally through man’s cultivation been hybridised into the Forestero bean.
But even more so it has also gone through a revolution in the procedure taken to produce the chocolate we know and love today.
A mere 25km from central Paris 80% of the world’s couverture chocolate is produced, but, this represents only 4.3% of the total production of chocolate in the world.
Chocolate originally was used as money by the Maya; and since then over the last 500 years its commercial value has never been lost!
What makes chocolate so special are the hydrogenated fats contained in the cocoa butter so that the fats will melt and then reharden – it is a unique property that we take to its best advantage in hand-making chocolates.
Chocolate is a drug, one that we all like to indulge in regularly, it is a treat that some would say is a medicine – never forget that 1 piece of dark chocolate a day is shown in studies to be protective for your cardiovascular health and reduce both your blood pressure and your cholesterol – not only that it is delicious and has been shown to make you happier too! And now latest evidence suggests that chocolate adds cerebral blood flow and can help alertness and memory too!
Thanks to its high levels of antioxidants we have yet another excuse to pander to our cravings as the chocolate readily melts once inside our mouths!
At the bargain basement industry discount price of 70 euros for 3kg of Valrhona Chocolate – I hope you realise the cost involved and the extent to which we went to make these chocolates by hand.
When considering the costs of the ingredients, which were astronomical, there is little doubt thought that these will never outweigh the cost of the labour.
To say this was technical would be an understatement; to say this was intensive would be a joke, because, it was so much more. We worked non-stop for two and a half days.
A true artisanal chocolatier has my utmost admiration, but they are few and far between – their work is impeccable and lost in a world of the massive cocoa based product industrial complex.
As we learnt a true chocolatier will select their source very carefully and have a very close relationship with their growers and the plant itself. Like a wine maker they will take follow the bean directly after picking and control the entire process from fermentation, drying, roasting, crushing and extraction to produce individual chocolate products which take the best inherent properties of the bean and highlight them at every level – and so I takes thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours to produce a single chocolate.
We now know the truth that unlike the true artisan chocolatiers most business will buy flash frozen premade chocolates from large factories.
A true chocolatier will follow his product from selecting his source for beans, their quality, and then hand roast and process the beans themselves into couverture and then into your chocolate delicacies.
And so may I introduce two of my new heroes – Pralus and Bonnat!
Bonnat Chocolatier á Voiron
We too learnt about the chemical properties of Chocolate and how to best temper it to get the best qualities of its alpha and beta crystals.
We learnt about the many secret dealings in the chocolate industry and were shocked by all the mislabelling.
We learnt 5 different methods for tempering chocolate but realised that although the best is still tablagé, moving and cooling the chocolate on marble the traditional way, we all just want the 15000 Euro chocolate tempering machine!!
We made in total 101 bags of chocolate and we were exhausted from standing still and dipping about 2000 chocolates!
It was an intense two and a half days.
The course had a dual purpose – we all have begun to learn the art and technique of making artisan chocolates, secondly, we will most likely never go into the chocolate business and we may not want to eat chocolates again for a very long time.
We have been imbedded with a certain distrust in supermarket chocolates and it has hurt my once great love for Lindt 70% and Dark Old Gold 70% in my cakes.
Bringing them home to my cousins’ house for Friday night dinner was like the greatest gift and I felt so proud to give them my chocolates. Although the sheer amount of desserts I brought on that night was beyond ridiculous as I brought an entire shop worth of chocolates as well as yes count them 14 cakes. Excessive was to put it mildly….
The looked beuatiful in a big bowl in their clear packaging – very professional.
Here is just a small selection of the wide variety we produced…
The three sisters on the left are all Caramel Ganache – a dry caramel, with cream and Jivara Milk Chocolate topped with a layer of chocolate glaze!
And the checkerboard on the right consists of … from left to right, top to bottom…
– made with ripe bananas, a splash of rum, cream and white couverture chocolate in a White Chocolate Shell with Coconut
Ginger and Chocolate Ganache
– made with a mixture of majari, tanariva and caramelia chocolates and tonnes of potent ginger.
– roasted slivered almonds, confit orange rind and rice-crispies covered in dark chocolate
– Guanaja and equatorial noire with an excess of ripe Tahitian Vanilla beans
– a Salted Butter Caramel Ganache with extra bitter chocolate in a chocolate case, dipped in yet more chocolate and dusted with cocoa
Lemon and Manjari Dark Chocolate Ganache
– chocolate infused with lemon zest and juice with that tart hit of juice lingering in your mouth with the smooth chocolate
Dark and Milk Chocolate Rocher
– almond and hazelnut praline paste with dark chocolate in a ganache hand rolled in roasted chopped almonds and then dipped in the chocolate of your choosing
– white chocolate ganache with a kirsch soaked sour cherry
Sadly three favourites didn’t make it onto the plate, some not making it out of our kitchens or maybe just into my box!
Muscadine – hazelnut praline and cointrea ganache didn’t work and were too liquid to be eaten at room temperature were left at school under the strict instructions of our chefs
Mint Ganache – made it into my box to my cousins but somehow missed out on the class photo
Pistachio Vendome – a pistachio and almond paste infused with Kirsch made into oval pellets and dipped in dark chocolate
Hundreds of hours of work go into every individual chocolate – so savour every mouthful, respect thy Chocolate!