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  1. The competition was remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is that the US won - again. Remember, this is the second time in two tries that the US won on their home turf and in this case the Belgians and French were regarded as the odds-on favorites for the first two positions with third place up for grabs among perhaps three or four teams. The US team winning - again - against the odds, contributed to the perception by other teams that the judging was rigged. Though how it could have been is a mystery to me for the process of judging is set up to remove biases by one judge for their team's work. As far as I know it is far fairer than the Coupe de Monde. (Speaking of which, the European teams are unbeatable on their home turf. Teams can beef about bad judging, but acting unprofessional is, well, unprofessional. I heard that all of the people involved in creating a disturbance at the awards apologized after the emotional intensity of the moment subsided.) FWIW, I think Carymax was more than a little surprised at the result. For a long time there has been an unquestioned assumption of the superiority of the MOF. Team France had four (including the coach). Belgium had two. The US had only one. Surely a team with four MOFs has the edge? The conventional wisdom was yes -- and even the event organizers thought this way. Notably, the competition will poke some holes in the unquestioned assumption of the "natural" superiority of the MOF. There were some allegations about changing the judges' scores, but as far as I know, these where unsubstantiated (and untrue). However, if there is one part of the process that can be subverted, it is in the transferring of marks from the judges' scorecards to the spreadsheet/program that calculates the final scores. The only way I can see to open up that process would be for the organizers to hire an outside auditor to oversee the process and certify the results. What struck me most about the controversy surrounding the judging process is something I learned talking to judges in another competition where the (to me) obvious winners did not win. The judges said that, simply on taste and talent alone, I was right. However, there were many rules stipulated in the competition that needed to be adhered to. The person who won may not have done the best work, but they made the fewest mistakes and garnered the fewest penalty points. One team in this WPTC was penalized, if I remember correctly, for bringing too many completed products. They were allowed to compete as denying their use would have put them under an extreme handicap (this decision was announced publicly). Another team brought too much equipment. If Team Belgium was penalized for using sugar to glue their pastillage, in violation of a known rule, then the lost points associated with that penalty were a contributing factor in their second place finish. Knowing and following the rules is therefore a key element in competing successfully. While many elements of the judging are subjective, the weighting of taste as the most important factor is key. In the end, who really cares what it looks like if it tastes like s**t? (That's salt for those of you thinking otherwise.) From the reactions on judges' faces, a lot of pieces just didn't make the grade on taste. Consistently good work consistently is the hallmark of a winning team; not spectacular work in one area and average in another. The first inkling I had that things were not going to go as expected was when it was announced that South Korea won for best sugar showpiece. The second was that the US won for degustation. At that point I knew that unless the US blew it bad on some aspect of their work, they'd win overall. What Skwerl's excellent picture of S. Korea's piece does not convey is the tangible physical presence of the sugar and its resemblance to jade. The dragon looked as if it had been carved from stone. I heard that several top sugar people were muttering about how the work could have been done. It was that spectacular. Also, the central element of the Japanese piece looked like blown glass and I know of several top glassblowers (I am an art school grad from an institute with a top glass program) who would have killed to be able to do in glass what the Japanese achieved with sugar. Also, the sugar "marbles" in the Japanese piece had top sugar people muttering about how the effect was achieved. While the technical bar for sugar has been raised, more importantly, it has been moved. The single most important aspect of the South Korean's victory (and Japan's courageous entry) is that the visual language of sugar showpieces has unalterably been changed. Up until now, the visual vocabulary of sugar has been dominated by Western European conventions -- very formal, with limited forms and techniques that were evolutionary not truly innovative. What S. Korea did (I believe) was tap into the rich cultural iconography of their culture in the design of their piece, a decision that was aided by the choice of theme "Earth, Wind, Fire, Water." The ambiguity of the theme (as compared, for example, with the Nationals' theme last year of "Broadway") led to some teams taking chances and S. Korea was rewarded for the risks they took exploring new forms. In future, non-Western cultures will have an advantage unless teams from Western countries can tap into something more emotionally powerful and much less formal. My only disappointment in this regard was the timidity of the Australian team - Aboriginal culture is rich with symbolism and color that could have been mined. Their choice of reef themes was not bad, but was not as well executed as others. Belgium's pastillage was phenomenal, but its contribution to the overall score relative to the amount of work involved was low, and the effort might better have been placed elsewhere. (Easy for me to say as I was not a competitior.) :Clay
  2. With all the interest in mycryo these days, and it being advertised as a substitute for gelatine, does anyone have any idea - or experimented - with using mycro instead of gelatine? Also, for those of us trying this out at home (I may make these plain and then dip them in some fab chocolate for an event I am doing), any replacement ideas for a guitar? Can I refrigerate these, cut them, and let them warm up? TiA, Clay
  3. Sinclair: If you ever read the label on a bar of plain chocolate and see that they use vanilla pod (gousse) they actually do use whole pods. They're chopped down and added (usually) during the refining stage. This is after the initial grinding that results in the cocoa liquor. To the liquor is added the sugar and vanilla pod for refining, before it is conched. There's no real pod taste if the vanilla beans are fresh (besides, chocolate is such an intense flavor at the concentrations we're talking about, nominally less than 1% vanilla that the flavor would have to bea really off/stale before you could taste it). I know, cocoa liquor is more than a little different from grain, but my guess is that because cocoa butter is so good at absorbing odors and flavors that refining the whole pod into the mix is a very efficient way of adding the vanilla. :Clay
  4. I have to agree with Lesley about the texture of Bau's "trio of chocolate gelees" it was awful. I was at the dinner at the Mark Hotel here in NYC a couple of days later, so it's interesting to hear that it was deliberate, not an accident. (I did not really want to believe that that texture was what he was looking for.) CU: There's a restaurant here in NYC called Supper that does a hazelnut panna cotta but they way they serve it is tres cool. The waiter comes by with a copper pot of chocolate sauce and basically asks you to "say when" when enough sauce has been poured. Not exactly what you' asked about, I know, but the presentation is very unusual and will get a lot of notice. I also second McDuff's recommendation to steep nibs in the milk/cream. You can change the flavor by varying the amount of time and/or quantity of nibs used and it won't affect the texture of the finished product; just strain through cheesecloth to catch all the little bits. McD: I use this technique to make many things, and so I am looking for something to do with the nibs after. They are very soft, and I wonder if there's some way to grind them into a paste and use them in a filling between layers of something. Do you do anything other than just toss them? :Clay
  5. Here's the URL of the Nature's Flavor's web site: http://www.naturesflavors.com/default.php?cPath=72 This company claims to make natural food colors, too: http://www.enray.com/products.html When looking for stuff like this, I also tend to rely on business.com. :Clay
  6. Australian Visitors Need Help Finding Ingredients This just in from my sister-in-law near Adelaide, S. Australia. Any help on the minimum number of sources to find these ingredients is greatly appreciated. > I'm in Melbourne with a friend of mine who's the food editor for > the Melbourne Herald Sun. > > She's heading over to the U.S. in mid April to give a presentation with two > other aussies on the impact of ports--in the oceanic sense--on the culinary > scene of Oz. It's part of the IACP (Intl Assoc of Culinary Professionals) and > held in Baltimore. > > One of her cohorts is a chef from Darwin, up in the Northern Territory (Croc > Dundee Land). He's cooking and presenting foods from his repertoire and has a > handful of things that will be impossible to get hold of unless sourced in > NYC, even then I wonder where the hell they'll be found. All are > tropical/hotclimate foods. I was wondering if there is any way you can help > find them, it'll flop unless found. Let me know what you think. > > Here's the list: > 200 g. betel leaves {fresh, I assume} > 2 lbs fresh lotus root > 2 lbs fresh okra > 2 lbs fresh jicama > 2-3 sprays fresh curry leaves {???} > 2-3 sprays fresh kaffir lime leaves > 2 lbs fresh (or frozen) passionfruit pulp Thanks, Clay
  7. Ted: The importer and distributor for Cluizel is a company called Vintage Chocolates located in New Jersey. They also operate a web site called eChocolates.com and you can buy pretty much anything out of the Cluizel catalog (plus Sevarome and PCB) off the web site. If you want, you can set up a wholesale account and get terms. Their 800# is 800 207 7058 so you can call to ask if there is a wholesaler out in your neck of the woods. If not, they'll ship and they've got a very good track record of delivering event in 100+ weather. :Clay
  8. Lesley: The risotto may have been better in Montreal - different sous cooks, different kitchen, maybe less chocolate, maybe better pork. All I can say is that in this case it was like chocolate-flavored rice pudding with al-dente rice with bacon chunks and cheese. You're right, the texture of the gelee was pretty off-putting, crumbly not rich at all ... but at this point you have to wonder if that was what he was looking for given the similarity in experience (though why he would want that texture is beyond me). Using the sauce as the vehicle for the chocolate is very much a classical French approach and is one of the major ways I use it. However, I use it an an interesting accent, not the centerpiece (at least in savories) and that's how I think it works better. All in all I think the impressions we have are pretty much the same: we, as guinea pigs, paid a lot of money for something that was pretty conceptual and dishes that needed to be prepared many more times before they were ready to be served to a paying (and unsuspecting) public. :Clay
  9. Ted: I believe that you're right. I think that if you limit yourself to one product - or the products of a simple company - you limit yourself creatively. You tend to think of dishes in terms of what the product tastes like and how it behaves. The evening was limited because: a: all the chocolate was from one manufacturer, and b: all the wine was from one importer BAU is a lot more comfortable as a pastry chef, I think his instincts there are much more highly developed. It takes a lot of familiarity with ingredients and preparation methods to know "instinctively" what to do to "fix" a dish. Thus, one of the overall creative challenges was to make it work within the limits circumscribed by the ingredients. Harder for the wine guy because he was entirelyl reactive - the recipes were done before he got involved, and his choices were limited. An "independent" sommelier might have made different choices (and an "independent" chocolatier might have made different choices). I know that I base the choice of chocolate I use for my tasting classes and events on the clients' needs -- not the products of one chocolate manufacturer. And that helps a lot in part because it keep me fresh. I used Cluizel cocoa nibs in the salad, Guittard Cocoa Rouge cocoa powder in the balsamic sauce for the soup and the Cluizel Hacienda Tamarina (Sao Tome) single-estate for the reduction on the duck. Amedei, as I said, for the dessert. I am doing a similar menu for a dinner at a private club in a couple of weeks (adding a choice of pan-seared salmon with a pink chocolate beurre blanc for an entree) and an artisan chocolate tasting for dessert - a selection of seven artisan chocolatiers, most of whom will be at the dinner. :Clay
  10. Ted: Thanks for the kind comments. I work hard on the site constantly improving it. I am working over the next few months to move it to a different platform and along with that will come a chance to review everything and make reflect the learning I have done since I first started writing over 2 years ago. I am at a point where the underlying software platform is getting in the way of my ability to do what I need and want to do. One of the things I have been thinking of after writing that article plus a few other things here on eGullet, is that success as a chef in one area does not mean success in another area. It was very clear that Mr BAU was very comfortable as a pastry chef, but less so in his approach to savories. You could say that he approached savories from a pastry perspective, and in this case it meant the ascendence of the chocolate as the most important ingredient in each dish, rather than a supporting player. The Scallops with Bombay curry sauce worked best precisely because the sauce worked in a supporting role and did not take over the dish, as it did in the fish and in the risotto. The next step, and I hope people don't think this is a troll post, is that success as a pastry chef does not necessarily translate into success as a chocolatier. I think they are different skills with different taste sensibilities -- the MOF in Pastry is not the same as the MOF in Chocolate. Some chefs make the transition seem easy, others struggle. My own particular interest, culinarily speaking, is in chocolate in savory recipes -- things that "normal" people don't find too far out. Two nights ago I produced a meal for a group of about a dozen people. Salad course, soup, mains, and then dessert (in a strange kitchen with one assistant who spoke no English - but that's another story). The soup was where I concentrated my efforts this time as the salad (field greens with chopped toasted hazelnuts, dried Morency cherries soaked in red wine, cocoa nibs in a simple balsamic dressing ) and duck (with a red wine/dried cherries/chocolate reduction) -- both of which I had made many time before. The soup was an organic tomato and pureed roasted red pepper with a pan toasted corn and Niman Ranch smoked bacon "hash" in the bottom of the bowl. The garnish was a thin garlic cracker shard with a quenelle of sour cream laid on top and then a chocolate/balasmic/chipotle sauce of my own was squirted in a spiral over the top for decoration and to add sweetness, acidity, and heat flavors to the salt and smoke of the bacon and the sweetness (but a different kind) of the roasted peppers and corn. We served the soup with an Italian white - a Verementino from Sardinia -- and this course was the surprise hit of the evening except for a very special bottle of wine that one of the guests brought for dessert: A 1989 Chateau Latour to go along with the Delaforce 20 yr-old tawny port I brought. Dessert itself was simply a tasting selection of Amedei "named origin" chocolates and a taste of the Amedei Porcelana -- we didn't need anything more elaborate. :Clay
  11. Last week I had the pleasure of going to the Mark Hotel for an evening that can only be described as over the top chocolate decadence. For someone who makes a profession out of eating and rating chocolate I now have the answer to the question, "Is there such a thing as too much chocolate." The answer is "Yes." The evening started with four "course" wine and chocolate tasting using all Valrhona chocolates - naturally as Bau is the Executive Pastry Chef for Valrhona and the Director of l'Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona. The wines were presented by Maison Louis Jadot's Eastern Director of Sales, Olivier Masmondet, a Maitre Somellier de France. This was a great way to start the evening, but Mr Bau's command of English is not really good enough to do justice to the subject. Also, his knowledge of chocolate is limited to Valrhona and that is not a good thing when trying to convey unbiased information about complex topics to people who know a lot about wine and not much about chocolate. Dinner was an 8-course affair, trimmed down from its original 13-course presentation. Overall, the recipes needed to be prepared many more times than they had been to balance out the flavors. The chocolate was far too prevalent in most dishes and the palate was limited to the same four chocolate selections (Jivara, Manjari, Pur Caraibe, Araguani) used for the wine pairing. MENU The best of show were parts of the first two dishes (see MENU items, following) - shrimp and mullet with polenta sticks and red pepper confit tapenade. The chocolate sauce did not work too heavy and too much. The Bombay curry sauce was very good and the caramel mango confit (more like a chutney, actually) was rhapsodical, especially with a few added cocoa nibs. Worst in show were the Risotto (waaaaaaaaay to much milk chocolate and too much of it, though the smoked pork, parmesan, and rice worked pretty well) and the dessert gelees - really weird texture especially after the creaminess of the yogurt.. I know I promised Steve that I would never just post a link, but here is the link for people who want to read what I have to say about each dish: http://www.chocophile.com/stories/storyReader$373 Amuse Bouche: foie gras gelee with milk chocolate sauce Duo of Jumbo Prawns and Red Mullet polenta sticks, red pepper confit tapenade Americaine sauce flavored with Pur Caraibe chocolate grand cru, crisp leeks Pan Seared Sea Scallops Marinated with Passion Fruit Bombay curry sauce with Manjari grand cru chocolate coconut emulsion caramel mango confit Risotto Beijing Style smoked pork belly perfumed with shallots and star anise emulsion of parmesan and Jivara milk chocolate, Araguani and parmesan shavings "Roque" and Roll ganache grand cru araguani, shaved Roquefort, grilled country bread, roasted banana Sweet mise en bouche: Chuao chocolate nectar and cocoa-nibs foam The Milky Way Jivara chocolat and yogurt cream black cherries and cranberries sauteed, flavored with lemon thyme, crisp chocolate tuile Trio of Valrhona's Grands Crus Gelees Araguani, Manjari, and Jivara apple and quince lasagna and apple jus with tonka beans, apple lace Paired wines with each course, PLUS petits fours and coffee rounded out the dinner I can't believe I ate the whole thing. I can't imagine what another five courses might have been like, even with much smaller portions. Clay
  12. Terrarich: Asking what's the best chocolate is like asking what's the best wine. There are clusters of opinion that seem to agree, but ultimately it comes down to personal taste. IN GENERAL, there is a "French" style of chocolate that tends to enrobed bittersweet ganache "palet" style truffles. The flavors are often very subtle - sometimes so subtle that you have trouble figuring out what the flavor is supposed to be. Of the brands you can get in the State, La Maison du Chocolat is hands down the best. The flavors are generally clean and recognizable and they are consistently well made. For my taste, the Zagora (fresh mint) is one of the best mints anywhere. I will be in Paris next month and plan to get some fresh Bernachon, Herme, Hevin, and others and I will report back. Vosges is in the French style using Belgian chocolate. While their flavor combinations are interesting, they are quite subtle. Whether or not you like Vosges will depend a lot on how subtle you like the flavors in your chocolate. They are very good at marketing to their niche - chic chocolate; young, trendy, chocolate as lifestyle accessory. One thing to know however, is that I have been told that they buy their shells and have them filled. Jubilee in Philadelphia is also in the French style (with French chocolate, Valrhona) but caters to socially responsible missions, not fashion. They make a very good mint, and their Cafe Noir - Mexican Coffe with whiskey is extraordinary - the flavors go back and forth between coffee and whiskey in waves in your mouth. Jacques Torres is (obviously) in the French style but Steve, if you're gonna knock John Down/Christopher Norman for using Schokinag I can't believe you didn't point out that Jacques uses Belcolade. Jacques is a great guy and the "Emeril of pastry." However, given his reputation and what he charges - he should be making better pieces than he does, in my opinion. Interestingly, as Steve pointed out, he makes the chocoalte for MarieBelle using her recipes and I prefer MarieBelle to Jacques because the flavor combinations are more interesting and the peices are prettier. IN GENERAL, there is an "American" style of chocolate that we know from Sees and other brands in the $18 and under price point. However, there is a "Nouvelle American" style that is popping up. The Nouvelle American style tends to be less "in your face" with flavors than the regular American style, but definitely more forward than the French style. There also seems to be a lot of experimentation with flavor in caramel with great results and there is a lot of experimentation with decoration. Patrick Coston (formerly of Ilo and now at The Art of Chocolate), and Drew Shotts (of Garrison Confections) are two of the better-known practitioners of this style, but I am surprised that everyone missed Norman Love. For those of you who don't know, Norman was hired by Godiva for their new "G" collection, and while I have to agree with the overall perceptions of the regular Godiva line as being mediocre, "G" is actually very good. The major difference between "G" and what Norman makes for himself is that the "G" ganaches are very "dry." The low water activity level provides for added shelf life without preservatives. {Though TrishCT does not agree. I will say that they are perfect for their intended audience and will bring back to the Godiva fold those who defected for Neuhaus, Leonidas, and Teuscher, et al., and will raise awareness across the board for American artisan chocolatiers -- which is a very good thing.} Kee Ling Tong of Chocolate Garden here in NYC was a student of Jacques' at FCI. Her work is amazing. She makes my personal favorite piece - her creme brulee truffle (not bruleed, actually, but a custard-filled dark shell) and what may be the best passion fruit chocolate heart going. I second Steve's recommendation of Chuao in Encinitas - one of the few chocolatiers of their ilk that are using 100% "New World" chocolate -- El Rey. Several very nice caramels, clean, forward flavors. Zingerman's is a great resource for those in the midwest looking for a chocolate fix. I've tried hard to figure out how to get his stuff here in NY and it's not easy. Out Seattle way, try Fran's Grey Salt and Smoked Salt caramels. Really wonderful. The one true tip I give to people when it comes to buying chocolate (apart from checking for freshness) is to say that the relationship you want to develop with your chocolatier is the one your grandmother wanted to have with her butcher. Over time, your chocolatier will learn to know what you like and will repay your loyalty by making the best recommendations, giving you the freshest stuff, and passing free tastings your way. HTH, Clay
  13. Actually, the percentage of cocoa in a chocolate refers to the combined total of cocoa products -- cocoa solids and cocoa butter, not to the percentage of cocoa mass in a chocolate. This is a pretty common misconception - even Jonathan Reynolds got it wrong in the NY Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago. It is true that the majority of the total percentage comes from the cocoa liquor (or mass), but most companies add extra cocoa butter into the mix during conching. (Take a look at the ingredients and if you see cocoa butter as a separate ingredient then it has been added.) As near as I know, only Guittard, of all the major brands, lists not only the total cocoa percentage but the amount of extra cocoa butter they add. But last I saw, not all their labels had all this information. White chocolate is white because it contains no cocoa solids (powder). The cocoa butter and powder are extracted from the cocoa liquor using a hydraulic press. Because most companies add cocoa butter during conching, and most chocolates are blends, virtually all cocoa butter is deodorized so it has very little flavor of its own. In most white chocolate, therefore, taste is dependent on the quality of the milk/cream that's used. Try the Felchlin Criollait - a combination of milk and cream. El Rey may be the only company that makes white chocolate with undeodorized cocoa butter and it is, in my opinion, the best - hands down. Almost all of the manufacturers I know of make product available in BOTH pistole (or callet or feve) form. Some pastry chefs I know prefer to use blocks because their recipes are based on weight - on the number of sections of a bar to use. They just count sections, break off the amount they want, and melt that down. They'd rather do that than weigh out pistoles. Hope that clears some things up, :Clay
  14. It's great to hear how many of you here hold Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design in such high regard. That's just one of the reasons that I agreed to work with Michael and his team on the creation of a chocolate-specific newsletter that will be inserted into the magazine. In case it hasn't been answered yet. Mark Kammerer is talking over general management duties of the magazines. I also have other plans for the content, and I am very interested to hear from any and all of you - publicly and privately - on the subject of what you think this chocolate newsletter should cover. Those of you who've followed my posts here and at chocophile.com know where I am coming from. The print newsletter will be supported by a new website and a brand new organization I am creating -- The New World Chocolate Society -- whose main missions are to promote chocolate connoisseurship and New World (as in the Americas and Caribbean) practitioners in chocolate. Again - the change is all for the good and I look forward to hearing from all of you about what you'd like to see in this newsletter and on newworldchocolatesociety.com. Thanks, Clay
  15. Mary: Here's a link to La Maison du Chocolat's recipe for making mint ganache -- for their "Zagora" truffle: La Maison Zagora mint ganache The basic technique plus quantities is given. There are a couple of aspects of this recipe you might want to pay attention to: 1) The mint is snipped with scissors crushing the leaves to some extent and extracting some of the volatile oils 2) After infusing and straining, the mint is rubbed against the seive wth a wooden spoon, extracting still more of the volatile oils. This may provide the additional intensity you are looking for. Of course, LMDC uses cream from Gruyere and a custom blend of couverture from Valrhona for their recipes, so you'll never be able to duplicate the taste. What I can tell you is that the technique and quantities above made an intensely flavored ganache that tasted very fresh with the bitterness from the oils providing a complexity to the taste that cannot be matched by essences. Hope this helps, Clay
  16. The best palate cleansers (in my experience) are: 1) Sparkling water. Preferably seltzer (Pellegrino and Perrier work well, too) -- something with no mineral content. The effervescence helps to clean the tongue. Club soda will not work, it has salt in it. 2) If you want to eat something, very thin slices of apple. The acidity, pectin, and fiber do a great job of cleaning the tongue and leave no aftertaste if followed up with ... sparkling water. I prefer Fujis or Galas. Again, VERY THIN slices. Clay
  17. Popcorn: May sound kinda silly, but whose chocolate are you using, what %, and is it relatively fresh? Clay
  18. I don't know if Kee over at Chocolate Garden (80 Thompson just south of Spring) makes one, but MarieBelle (actually Jacques Torres makes them for Maribel; Broome St or Lunette et Chocolat on Prince nr Lafayette) does if I remember correctly. If you go to Dean & Deluca (Broadway, Prince) I am sure that there is something in the case with cardamom in it, maybe a Christopher Norman. While you're in the SoHo neighborhood, stop by at Vosges (132 Spring) and ask. Richart (53rd Street) also has a cardamom truffle, if you can afford it (these are undoubtedly the most expensive in the city other than Ortrud Carstens who only makes to order), and I am pretty sure that La Maison du Chocolat (Madison Ave or Rock Center) has one. Clay
  19. Cardamom is a relatively common flavoring in higher-end truffles as is its more complex cousin, the chai blend. Ginger may currently be the hot new flavor and it complements other flavors quite well. There are a number of people, especially Robert Linxe, using fennel -- this may be my favorite flavor at LMDC. I can personally vouch for rosemary as a flavoring for chocolate; Dagoba uses it in a solid bar with mint that is excellent. I tasted a new Christopher Norman piece last night that combined rosemary with walnuts that was very good with the O'Reilly (Oregon) Pinot Noir I was drinking. I also second the mint/basil combination. They work well together and support each other: 1+1=3 in this case. You might also try various basil varieties (lemon, opal) with different types of mint (spear, pepper, etc). Also, Michael am I correct in assuming that the sugar in the sugar syrup will also act as a mild preservative? I know invert sugar does. Glucose, too? (My specialty is chocolate not necessarily ganache.) Another place to try herbs is on the outside of the piece. My all-time favorite Christopher Norman piece is a chevre truffle (the ganache is white chocolate, chevre, champagne, and black pepper), the piece is double-dipped and then dusted with a roasted heb mixture. HTH, Clay
  20. Steve and Michael: There is a lot to digest in those last two posts and I will try to respond to them both at the same time -- and hopefully make sense. I spent this past Saturday at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY at a wine and food fundraiser that featured about 50 food and wine vendors, a silent and a live auction. I was one of two dessert providers and this is the third year I have attended. The audience is one that already understands the concepts of terroir, varietal, and vintage, so making the extension to chocolate is easy and natural. They get it. For several hours I was busy handing out samples and explaining the finer points of chocolate to an audience that is eager to learn more and is fascinated to find out that the subject of chocolate is at least as complex as wine (it's more complex, actually). (FYI, I was tasting three Guittard couvertures -- the 65% Ecuador Nacional, the 65% Colombian, and the 64% l'Harmonie blend; and three Felchlins, the 66% Dark Maracaibo Classificado, the 49% Milk Creole, and the 33% Milk Criolait.) Yes, there are many obstacles to overcome; some on the consumer side and some on the professional side. What the industry needs is an independent person who sees his or her role as an educator. Chocolate needs its own Robert Parker and Kevin Zraly. Which is what I have chosen to do. I am not a pastry chef and I am not paid to forward any particular manufacturer's agenda. While much of my time is spent talking to the converted, I also choose to work with classes of people who are predisposed to hear what I have to say. The top 10% of the close to $14 billion chocolate industry is growing at 5x the rate of the mass market. That top 10% represents my target audience. I have yet to see a pastry chef try to do a horizontal tasting of chocolate in dessert form and be true to its varietal and/or terroir characteristics in a way that is distinguishable to the customer. You can consider this a challenge and I will start another thread to open it up to the group and it'd be fun to get together at The Chocolate Show and discuss it. Clay
  21. Michael: For inspiration if you haven't already looked there, Albert Adria simply blew me away when I sat in on his talk at the World Pastry Forum. Most importantly, I think, was his ability to articulate his taste impressions. While few people have the impetus to push the edge of the envelope as he does at el Bulli, his inventiveness is inspiring. Another important point I took away from his talk was the importance of acknowledging sources for technique. One other place where I was recently inspired was the opening party for the new Vosges chocolate shop in NY. Katrina Markoff opened Vosges in Chicago after studying at le Cordon Bleu and working in Europe, SE Asia, and Australia. Her flavor combinations in chocolate are fun e.g., wasabi/ginger/dark chocolate; coconut/curry/milk chocolate. At the opening, however, she served items from a salt+sweet tasting menu. One of the combinations was warm chocolate pudding with maple syrup and bacon. Another was white chocolate cups filled with a savory coconut espuma, edamame, fresh lemon julienne, and grey sea salt. (This was amazing.) Interesting but less successful was granny smith apple cups whose bases were dipped in dark chocolate then filled with foir gras foam and topped with crushed corn nuts. Mine had a big Frito in it, which may have been why it didn't work salt/crunch was too compact for the rest of the piece and was out of sync. One piece I did not try because I had dinner reservations at Balthazar (darn!) was gianduja, cumin, and dried carrot "crostini" topped with vanilla oil rubbed langoustines and cilantro. Some of these seem spiritually akin to what you are looking to produce. I for one, am looking forward to learning the final menu, and I've love permission to post it on my web site (assuming, of course, at least one item has chocolate in it) to get people thinking about chocolate in out of the box ways. Thanks for the start of a fascinating conversation, Clay
  22. Michael: Where do I think manufacturers will take the 'vintage' concept? Will it remain a 'boutique' product, or will we begin to see more of them? The concept of terroir chocolate is not new. As near as I can tell, terroir chocolates have been marketed since at least 1903. It is somewhat of a mystery why the chocolate industry ignored the lessons of the wine industry (i.e., you can charge a premium for good vintage and estate apellations - but there is the downside that in bad harvest years you can't command the premium). The answer to that question may possibly be traced (this is my theory, anyway) to the fact that chocolate for the masses is truly a product of the industrial revolution and is closely tied into the invention of the steam engine and the social missions of seminal mass-manufacturers -- Hershey, Cadbury, and Fry -- who were instrumental to chocolate becoming a commodity product. One of the underlying mantras of industrialization was standardize, standardize, standardize, so it is hardly surprising, in retrospect, that chocolate makers looked to create flavors unique to their house and then strove to do everything they could to ensure that the product always tasted the same because they had created a market for a specific flavor. The market for vintaged chocolate (i.e., chocolate that is stamped with the year the beans were picked) is very small and is likely to remain very small for the forseeable picture. The worldwide market for fine flavor cacao, often pegged at about 8% of the annual harvest (3 million tonnes (a tonne is 1000kg or 2200 lb and is often referred to as a metric ton) in 2002) is, in actuality, more like 1.5% of the annual harvest -- which is not very much when you think about it. The real challenge with fine flavor cacao and vintage cacao is providing enough economic incentive to the farmer to take adequare care with post harvest processing, especially fermentation. One of the things I learned at the University of Chocolate in Ecuador a couple of months ago is that middlemen and exporters only rarely pay the farmers a sufficient premium to cover the cost of the additional labor required to ferment and dry. So the farmers don't do it properly. Sadly, virtually none of the Nacional cacao grown in Ecuador (a forastero type with many criollo characteristics) is fermented sufficiently to develop the characteristic "Arriba" flavor that is redolent of orange blossom and jasmine flower. When you combine the relatively small size of the harvest with the fact that there is not enough economic incentive to the farmer to process properly, that vintaged chocolate exists at all is pretty amazing. It takes a vision and the dedication to that vision that very few large companies in the industry have today. Bars of Amedei Porcelana, which are hand-numbered and in limited production and therefore automatically vintaged, are north of $75 per pound -- for solid eating chocolate -- an astounding premium that most people balk at, even people who are not averse to paying $150 for 100ml of AIB-certified balsamic, $1000/lb for fungus (truffles), or $35 for a plate of pasta. There is significant consumer education to be done before the market for terroir and vintage chocolate can become mainstream. This is the mission of my company, and I am in the process of setting up a "society" that focuses on the contributions the new world (after all, chocolate is a new world food and the best cocoa beans are still grown "here") has made to chocolate lovers everywhere. If people are interested, they can contact me privately to learn more. Thanks for the great question, Clay PS. For all those who are coming to the Chocolate Show in NYC in November, I am currently scheduled to give a session on Thursday afternoon on Taste Trends in Chocolate. Of course, I will be handing out samples, including a sauce I developed myself. Steve Klc whom everyone knows from his contributions to this forum will also be presenting during the show I understand.
  23. Steve: I can authoritatively reply to your question about whether or not Cluizel adds extra cocoa butter into their couverture to compensate for eliminating lecithin and the answer is: YES! However, it is not minute amounts -- it is a mulitple of the amount of lecithin that is removed from the chocolate. If I remember a conversation correctly, 1% lecithin can replace 3-5% cocoa butter. Following is a table of cocoa butter percentages from Cluizel from a catalog AFTER they announced their Noble Origin initiative and removed the lecithin: Type -- %Cocoa Butter Ivory 31% -- 31% Milk 33% -- 34% Milk 45% -- 41% Dark 60% -- 34% Dark 72% -- 40% Dark 85% -- 45% Dark 99% -- 48% 72% Single Origins -- 41% Hacienda Concepcion 66% -- 40% Guittard started producing labels that actually list the percentage of additional cocoa butter added during conching. I see this is the start of a good trend and have lobbied with the US importer of Cluizel to get Cluizel to add this information to the label (or make it otherwise generally available). Lecithin is used to assist in keeping the particles of cocoa and sugar in suspension in the cocoa butter. It also serves to coat the particles, making it harder to feel them on the tongue. Because it is comparatively inexpensive, it replaces much more expensive cocoa butter. One way to think about its use is that it is one of several things that manufacturers can do to reduce the cost of manufacture. More lecithin equals less cocoa butter, but it also means shorter conching times are possible. (Similarly, using an alkali to process the cocoa results in a less acidic chocolate, which means that beans that are not as well processed in the post-harvest phase (i.e., cheaper, lower quality beans) can be used.) Cluizel couverture can have as long a shelf life as any other couverture but you need to monitor humidity as well as temperature more closely; I absolutely covet one of the new Irinox holding fridges designed just for chocolate. Monitoring and controlling humidity is also an issue when using the Cluizel, it is much more sensitive to ambient humidity than many other chocolates, especially if you're working in smaller batches (where the proportion of humdity is higher relative to the amount of chocolate). I was speaking with people at the pastry forum in Las Vegas in July who said that from a competition perspective one of the hardest lessons to learn was the lack of humidity caused major problems with things drying out -- sugar pieces and chocolate alike. Finally, technicall, couverture is chocolate that is specially formulated for dipping and enrobing -- the word comes from the French for cover. All couvertures are chocolate, but not all chocolate is couverture. Any chocolate with a significant percentage of replacement or substitute fats is called a compound coating. Because it may not actually contain the legal minimum cocoa content (coco solids+cocoa butter) it cannot legally be called chocolate. HTH Clay
  24. Chocovic is now being imported by Vintage Chocolates (www.echocolates.com). They are importing the following items from Chocovic's Origin Unico line, all in 11kg boxes: Guinea Dark (71%) Caracas Dark (66%) Cameroon Dark (60%) Niagara Dark (58%) Costa Rica Dark (54%) Sumatra Milk (37%) Nepal White (32%) Prices (wholesale FOB New Jersey) range from $2.72/lb for the Sumatra Milk to $3.36 for the Guinea and Caracas to $4.18 for the Nepal. Clay
  25. Brian: Awesome-sounding venture. What do you plan to be using in the way of chocolate to stand out from the crowd? :Clay
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