Wishing you a bright and shiny 2014, just like melted chocolate.
Ten years ago, my friend Adam Ried offered me a book which tought me alot about the mysteries of Theobroma cocoa (or cacao) The book is The New Taste of Chocolate. By Presilla, Maricel E. Berkeley : Ten Speed Press, 2001.
That same year, at the Salone del Gusto organized by Slow Food in Torino, Italy, I attended a “laboratorio del gusto” (tasting lab) conducted, among others, by Claudio Corallo who owns and runs a plantation in Sao Tome, and a representative of Domori, a boutique italian company. Tasting chocolates with expert guidance and detailed explanations on their high level of requirements changed my approach to selecting and tasting.
This past December I visited “la Cité du Chocolat” recently opened by Valrhona on their historic grounds in Tain l’Hermitage, 45 minutes south of Lyon. To those who have come to my class and made a chocolate dessert, I have been preaching forever the importance of using quality chocolate only. This visit strenghtened my faith in Valrhona and the knowledge I had acquired so far.
– a chocolate bar or pistoles containing only cocoa butter, in addition to cocoa liquor, sugar, a very small amount of GMO free soya lecithin (an emulsifyer which improves blending), and a touch of vanilla to enhance flavor.
– a chocolate indicating a percentage : for example 64% (combined amount of cacao liquor and cacao butter). The remaining 36% is sugar. In Europe we go by percentage, and more and more so elsewhere in the world. It does not indicate intensity.
– a brand which sources its cocoa beans, buys them directly from the planter or the cooperative, and applies a reliable quality control to the beans upon their arrival at the manufacturing plant. It is the care in selecting the beans and know how of the maker which garantees a good product.
About cocoa butter : it is the fat extracted from the nibs during the processing, to obtain cocoa liquor. It is added to the liquor during conching. Quality chocolate makers often add an extra quantity to increase the chocolate’s fluidity and smoothness. The EU authorizes up to 5% replacement with any of 6 other vegetable fats, such as palm oil. Industrial brands take advantage of this “tolerance” to save money : they resell the precious cocoa butter to the pharmaceutical and food industry. In France chocolate makers consider that substituting any quantity of cocoa butter with another fat is not acceptable.
Why do I stick to Valrhona when baking ? Because I am sure of all the above, and beyond (fair trade, technical expertise, creativity). There are other major players on the market, but why not share this brand with the best chocolatiers, pâtissiers and other dessert chefs ? There are some small and remarkable companies, in France and other parts of the world, but with limited supply.
I will not load you with technical aspects, available on many websites. Instead here are answers to a quizz game created by Valrhona which might interest, surprise or amuse you :
Single origin garantees the best tasting chocolate : wrong. A blend (which is what most top chocolatiers in France use) can be just as good, if the balance between the different beans is successful. If a single origin chocolate is made with mediocre beans, the end product will be mediocre.
African cocoa beans are used in industrial chocolate only : wrong. The African continent supplies 70% of the world’s bean production. Some of its terroirs, such as Sao Tomé, Madagascar and certain regions of Ghana yield exceptional beans.
The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the chocolate : wrong. It all depends on the bean’s characteristics
Milk chocolate is richer in calories : wrong. It contains more sugar than dark chocolate but dark chocolate contains more cocoa butter. In the end, calory content is equivalent : 500 to 550 kcal per 100 grams.
Chocolate is fattening : wrong (of course you already knew that) : just make sure to limit your consumption.
Chocolate is aphrodisiac : wrong. The legend still needs to be verified.
Chocolate induces cholesterol : wrong. Studies have demonstrated that darker chocolate, with a high cocoa content helps fight “bad” LDL cholesterol and stabilizes or increases “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
Chocolate is good for the moral (mood) : right. It helps fight fatigue, is rich in iron and magnesium.
Chocolate is good for your health : right. Its nutritional vertues have been demonstrated by dieticians. Moderation is recommended, however.
Chocolate is toxic for cats and dogs : right. Theobromine, one of the substances contained in chocolate, can be nocive for cats and dogs, depending on their age, health condition and the type of chocolate (avoid the darker). For human beings, all good !
Chocolate should be stored like wine : right. Ideal temperature is around 17° C (62,6° F). Away from light, wrapped in foil after opening, kept in a dry cool spot. Refrigeration (if there is a heath wave) is acceptable, providing your chocolate is in a hermetic box in the vegetable drawer.
Chocolate is addictive : wrong. Feeling addicted is purely psychological. It is a taste addiction, not a physical addiction.
So … enjoy …. with moderation
My friend Betty Bitton made Death by Chocolate (speaks for itself) here on special occasions.On a lazy day, just fill my Caillat crust, now in Saveur’s January issue, with your favorite chocolate ganache.
Preparation 10 minutescooking time 15 minutes x 2
Two nonstick round cake molds, 10″ (24 cm) diameter each
For the biscuit
For the ganache
For the Décor
Preheat the convexion oven to 320° F (160°C)
Coat molds with butter and dust with flour
Make the biscuit :
1. In a saucepan or in a microwave, slowly melt butter and chocolate combined.
2. Stir well to homogenize the mixture.
3. Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until pale. Add the flour, incorporate and blend.
4. Pour the chocolate and butter into the above mixture, and incorporate thoroughly.
5. Divide the mixture in two equal halves and pour in the molds. Bake for approximately 15 minutes each.
6. Unmold and cool on a wire rack.
Make the Ganache
1. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan without allowing to boil. When hot pour over the chocolate and incorporate. Make sure the ganache is smooth.
2. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken (constancy of a thick mayonnaise).
Lay the first biscuit cake on a serving platter, spread the chocolate ganache up to 1/2 inch from the edge of the cake.
Lay the second biscuit cake over the ganache and cover top and the sides of the cake with the remaining ganache.
With a vegetable peeler, make white chocolate curls and decorate the top of the cake.