Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Chocolate Neophyte...


merlicky
 Share

Recommended Posts

Wow, I’ve been reading through numerous threads here and just have no idea where to begin…I guess the beginning is always a good spot! I’m brand spankin’ new to the world of pastry and baking (outside the occasional chocolate chip oatmeal cookie which ends up mostly gone before I get to the baking part), but totally into learning about it…especially about chocolates.

I’ve tried my hand at making a few different kinds of truffles. I can follow directions pretty well, so they typically turn out tasting pretty good. However, when I try to freelance and make a flavor for which a good recipe is not readily available (French vanilla for instance) it takes the crash and burn approach (then multiple trial runs before it gets to be even remotely palatable).

Books and chocolate…those are the questions I have my mind on right now.

What are the best books for a beginner which contain more than just an overview and recipes? I have read Making Artisan Chocolates which was a nice introduction, but it doesn’t have great depth of detail. Give me some classroom style material that tells me the whys and hows of the way things cook.

I’ve read a lot of threads on the best chocolates to use: Valrhona, E. Guittard, Scharffen Berger, etc… The only problem I have is where to get them. I live in Southwest Michigan, halfway between Chicago and Detroit, and I know of no where that sells these chocolates. I am probably missing some obvious places, but not coming from a food/restaurant background I do not even know where to start. Is the net a good place to buy chocolate?

So far in my experiments I have used Ghirardelli chocolates to make my truffles since it is readily available. I see that may not be the best approach for a few reasons; the flavor and quality does not compare (though I have not yet been able to sample the higher end brands), and the retail cost is more per pound for the Ghirardelli than some of the prices listed here for the higher end chocolates (if you know where to get them).

So there ya go, that’s the beginning, an introduction, and a few questions to boot. Any input would be greatly appreciated for this beginning chocolatier. Thanks.

Mike.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Merlicky,

I would say I have found Peter Greweling's book on Chocolate & Confections the most useful of the ones I have. It has a good range of confections, some good background information and recipes that are easy to work with as you can easily scale the recipes based on the percentage measurements. There is a thread on it here which I am sure you will have seen.

I'm based in the UK so cannot help with suppliers but I buy a lot of my ingredients online and it works fine for me. It is the only way I can get good quality chocolate at reasonable prices.

Good luck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do most of my chocolate order online, I live in Colorado and there isnt much available here .There are a lot of online sources for bulk chocolate.

Books I would suggest something more basic or JeannePierre Wybauw Fine chocolates, Great experience, there are lots more books out there that are more for beginners and are more usefull than more in depth books, I believe Carol Bloom has few?Maybe someone that already have the book can picth in for suggestions.

Another thing about making your own flavors, if you find a good recepie you like, just modify the flavor with one you want to make,Like using vanilla bean in your ganache etc.

Good luck

Vanessa

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You could try Chocosphere.com for online source of chocolate.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would second Peter Greweling's book. Written like a textbook with theory sections (to explain what's going on), techique (so you know what to do and how to do it) and recipes (with great photos which is always a plus for me). JPW book is also great.

Try this link for some other books:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=100007

Edited by gap (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Try www.gourmail.com, they have good prices for what they sell. You have to spend at least $60. Shipping is only $5. Everyone will tell you what is the best chocolate to use is but your taste buds & wallet will have the final say.

Edited by mrose (log)

Mark

www.roseconfections.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Carole Bloom's "Truffles, Candies and Confections" is a good book to start with for centers. Greweling is an excellent book too. See if you can find a copy of Candymaking by Ruth Kendrick too, it's a nice basic book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently posted a chocolate trouble shooting guide on our website that you may find useful as you are starting out. The troubleshooting guide assumes a basic knowledge of working with chocolate but even so, you may find it useful.

Amano Chocolate Trouble Shooting Guide

Good luck with your chocolate endevors!

-Art

Amano Artisan Chocolate

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently posted a chocolate trouble shooting guide on our website that you may find useful as you are starting out.  The troubleshooting guide assumes a basic knowledge of working with chocolate but even so, you may find it useful.

Amano Chocolate Trouble Shooting Guide

Good luck with your chocolate endevors!

-Art

Art, that is an excellent trouble shooting guide!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses everyone. I’ve got the Greweling book on my Christmas list already (I ran across it at Barnes and Nobles), and I’ll take a look at the others.

Vanessa, I do need some very basic books too, but being very analytical about things I always like to also know how/why things work. I am probably getting ahead of myself though (a nasty little habit of mine).

An aside (a long one):

My chocolate adventures really began last night…I will never look at chocolate the same again, never! This is the heartwarming tale of a beginner (and little did you know just how much of a beginner he was) that got his first true taste of the “food of the gods.” It all started with a post and an idea; a post on the eGullet Society forum and an idea inside my head.

It was about 6:30 in the evening; dinner was finished except for my daughter still picking away at her hotdog. Being a fickle two year old, it often took some coaxing to get her to eat. My wife had just left for a tech-week rehearsal with her ballet company and it was just my daughter, the baby, and me. And I was going to get her to eat.

Even at two she’s a typical female :raz: , her favorite things are chocolate and shopping, so I thought I could use this to my advantage. If she ate, I told her, we would go to the store. She got excited but not excited enough; she was on to me. I guess it had been one two many times I had tried that trick; she knew I wanted to go to the store whether she ate or not. So I had to pull out the ace – and my big idea – from the hole. Chocolate…I told her we could go to the store and buy some chocolate. She finished her hotdog with no further complaints.

Earlier in the day I had started this thread and mentioned three chocolates, Valrhona; E. Guittard and Scharffen Berger, none of which I knew where to buy or which I had tasted. Somewhere along the way I had the crazy notion that World Market might just carry at least one of them in their chocolate isle, so I packed the kids in the car and headed out. To my delight they had all three!

I spent more money buying chocolate than I probably should have, but I didn’t really care. My receipt consisted of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate 60% (as a reference point since I have used this chocolate before), E. Guittard Tsaratana 61%, a Scharffen Berger sampler (Semisweet 62%, Bittersweet 70% and Extra Dark 82%), Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71%, and Ghirardelli Evening Dream 60% (to compare the higher end of Ghirardelli). I also bought a little candy for my daughter, she was thrilled. At that point it was just a matter of getting the kids to bed and waiting until my wife got home to break out the chocolates.

Later in the evening my wife and I planned to taste the chocolates and watch a movie; it didn’t take long for the movie to become an after thought. I was not expecting much upon my first tasting good chocolate (really, good is not a strong enough word to describe it), maybe a slightly different flavor or texture. But, what followed was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

I opened the Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate 60% first since we had it before, and we wanted a reference point. Both my wife and I took a piece and let it melt in our mouths while paying attention to the flavors and textures as best we could. We both thought it was good, that it was chocolate. Neither of us had any problems with it and we thought, “Okay, what could a better chocolate possible be like?”

Well, talk about a revelation! I next opened the E. Guittard Tsaratana 61% and broke a piece off for both of us. Upon the first bite a wave of disbelief washed over me; it was like nothing I had ever tasted. My palate may not be advanced enough to have picked up all the flavors on the first bite (I could really taste the vanilla bean though), but the texture jumped out at me instantly. The smallest bite was both crisp and soft, and seemed to wrap itself around my tongue. There was no residue left in my mouth, yet the taste continued to float throughout my senses. I looked at my wife, who was having a similar reaction, and said, “Oh my gosh! This is soooo good, so much better.”

After that we were both anxious to taste the other high end chocolates, so I opened the Scharffen Berger sampler and we each took a Semisweet 62%. Divine! It wasn’t as sweet as the E. Guittard and hit you with more chocolate flavor upon first bite. Then the Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70% which completely lived up to my new chocolate expectations. It was by far the best bittersweet chocolate I had ever had…up to that point.

We opened the Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% next. It smelled earthier than the other chocolates and the taste was wonderful. There was a hint of the flavor you get when cooking over an open wood fire. It was crazy. I have never though of myself as having a discerning taste, but there was so much going on with the flavors in this chocolate. It really surprised me.

Another thing I noticed about the three brands of high end chocolates was three very distinct stages of taste. There was a flavor on the first bite, another as it was melting in your mouth, and another as/after you swallowed. This was something I had not noticed with the Ghirardelli chocolate.

At this point, both my wife and I were in total amazement…where had this stuff been our whole lives! We wanted to make sure we could really tell the difference between these new chocolates and what we had always thought of as good chocolate, so we each took another bite of the Ghirardelli 60%. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what happened next.

As each of us bit into the Ghirardelli chocolate the wonderful sensations that lingered from the other chocolates came crashing down. We had expected the taste to seem bland compared to the others, but it was not. It was strong, and not in a good way, the Ghirardelli chocolate tasted truly bad – putrid really! So shockingly so that I actually gagged on it and spit it out into my hand. Holy cow! I would have never thought I’d ever spit Ghirardelli chocolate out because of the taste.

So we had the Ghirardelli Evening Dream 60% still unopened, and after just spitting out the Dark neither my wife nor I was too kicked in the head about trying it. But, we forced ourselves to give it a shot. The taste seemed a poor imitation of the E. Guittard chocolate – kind of like if I tried painting the fine details of a Rembrandt with a 3” wall brush. And the texture seemed so cold and institutional compared to the others. We both took another bite of the E. Guittard to leave ourselves with a move welcoming flavor.

And, the funny thing is, even this afternoon I can still catch a little hint of that flavor in the back of my throat.

Mike.

Edited by merlicky (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Get ye to a chocolate tasting seminar sir! I taught one last weekend and eyes were opening across the room. All of the less favorites will soon be dumped into brownies for school and church. The one thing I would highlight is the distinction between blends and single origins. To me, a blend is a technique used to lower costs and mute flavor so as to not offend consumers. Single origins - some you'll love and some you'll hate. To me that's what's exciting. Each single origin can be used in a specific and different way. So go out and keep playing. Don't believe anyone else because your tongue is different. And don't avoid the 99% bars and even the milk! I still finish every workshop with the Vosges Barcelona (milk with sea salt), and its always the hit of the most snobbish dark chocolate snob (although Domori's milk/salt is far superior). Also, be sure to check out Pralus who I think has the best range - www.chocosphere.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

merlicky - what a great account! I run chocolate tastings for my business, and I hope I've seen suck revelations in my clients eyes - but you described it so very nicely!

gfron1 - Don't write off blends entirely. Single origin/plantation does not necessarily equal better - I've had some dismal single origin bars and some fabulous blended bars! Single origins are definitely interesting, and tasting them against one another can help reveal the wide range of flavors found in chocolate. But coffee went through a similar single origin craze, and is now turning back to blends as coffee roasters realize that single beans - while interesting - can also be one dimensional. Careful and intelligent blending of chocolate can emphasize strengths and balance weaknesses, and isn't necessarily about low costs and inoffensiveness.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm...thanks for the tempering (pun intended) Tammy. When I wrote the above, I was thinking about Lindt bars, and the like that offer 70% as the only descriptor. Maybe I just haven't seen the - what I would call - named blends. A blend that the company is proud to present. What's an example that you've had? I'm sure they do exist, just none are coming to mind. I can think of bunches of coffee blends as you suggest, so maybe its more a factor of evolution as you suggest.

As a side note, www.seventypercent.com and others consistently rank Lindy70% as one of the top bars in the world, which baffles me since I find it so boring and non-unique.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd just add that blends are also a way to even out the variability from one batch of beans to the next. When you want ValSharfenTtard to taste exactly the same from one year to the next, you get that with blends. My 2¢.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey merlicky,

I saw in your earlier post that you use Ghirardelli to make your chocolates. Have you thought about moving up in quality? Ghirardelli is one of those mid grad chocolate producers. Not terrible but certainly not the best. I saw someone recommend it earlier so I will as well, www.chocosphere.com is where I get almost all of my chocolate. You can get a range of companies bulk chocolate there so it would be a great place to start if wanting to move up the quality chocolate latter...

Hope your search and learning is going great!

Have a great day...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm...thanks for the tempering (pun intended) Tammy.  When I wrote the above, I was thinking about Lindt bars, and the like that offer 70% as the only descriptor.  Maybe I just haven't seen the - what I would call - named blends.  A blend that the company is proud to present.  What's an example that you've had?  I'm sure they do exist, just none are coming to mind.  I can think of bunches of coffee blends as you suggest, so maybe its more a factor of evolution as you suggest.

As a side note, www.seventypercent.com and others consistently rank Lindy70% as one of the top bars in the world, which baffles me since I find it so boring and non-unique.

I attended a chocolate conference with Chloe Doutre-Rouissel a few weeks ago, and we tasted a single origin Papau-New Guinea from Belcolade next to a Valrhona blend, and the quality difference was clear. I think it would be safe to say that any Valrhona or Cluizel blended chocolate is likely to be better in some sort of absolute sense than, say, a single origin from Lindt or Hershey. And better is in the eye of the beholder, of course - some people really like the high acidity and red fruit notes of Madagascar beans (I'm one of them). Some people like the green olive of Michel Cluizel's Sao Tome bars - but most people I've given that single origin bar to think it's absolutely vile.

I don't think there's a lot of examples of specially named or promoted blends right now, but Chloe thinks that will be the next wave of the chocolate revolution once we play out the single origin craze, and I tend to agree.

I'm very surprised at seventypercent.com ranking Lindt 70% highly - it's pretty dismal chocolate as far as I'm concerned...

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm very surprised at seventypercent.com ranking Lindt 70% highly - it's pretty dismal chocolate as far as I'm concerned...

I couldn't agree more - hence my original comment. Here is what they say about the Lindt 85%:

Astonishingly, Lindt has lapped the field here and produced what is simply the best extra bitter chocolate in production.

And they gave it a 9/10 rating. The 70% bar got an 8/10 rating.

I don't remember that site selling chocolate in the past but they are now, so ratings could be similar to many wine magazines that inflate grades for products they want to push.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a feeling this has been discussed on the seventypercent website before. I have a feeling there is something different between the European bar and the US bar - but my memory is very fuzzy on the discussion as it was a while ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rob, I would definitively like to move up the chocolate ladder but I want to keep costs at a minimum for now.

---

I was wondering about the E Guittard “sunrise” and “sunset” chocolate wafers since I can get these for around $7-$8/lb on worldwidechocolate.com.

-As wafers, do you have some of the same problems with tempering and such that you do with chips? Or, do they act more like bar chocolate?

-Also, the “sunrise” 61% bars mention that there is a raisin note. How strong is the raisin taste in this chocolate? Does it taste like raisin or just add some sweetness?

A few others that I have found for relatively low prices on gourmail.com which I don’t know much about:

Cacao Barry - Barry Concord Lenotre Bit-Sweet 66%

Cacao Noel - Noel "Royal" Bittersweet 64% discs

Cacao Noel - Noel "Noir" Extra Bitter 72% discs

Callebaut Bittersweet Chocolate 60% (Belgium) L60-40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rob, I would definitively like to move up the chocolate ladder but I want to keep costs at a minimum for now.

---

I was wondering about the E Guittard “sunrise” and “sunset” chocolate wafers since I can get these for around $7-$8/lb on worldwidechocolate.com.

...

Callebaut Bittersweet Chocolate 60% (Belgium) L60-40

You can get Callebaut dark chocolate for $4/lb from other sources, but you can't use the L60-40 for dipping in any event. The "L" prefix denotes 12% less cocoa butter than the standard formula which makes it extremly thick when melted. I used Gourmail for my very first order but found that it has a very small selection of Callebaut. I'm using my L60-40 up in ganache.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rob, I would definitively like to move up the chocolate ladder but I want to keep costs at a minimum for now.

---

I was wondering about the E Guittard “sunrise” and “sunset” chocolate wafers since I can get these for around $7-$8/lb on worldwidechocolate.com.

-As wafers, do you have some of the same problems with tempering and such that you do with chips?  Or, do they act more like bar chocolate?

-Also, the “sunrise” 61% bars mention that there is a raisin note.  How strong is the raisin taste in this chocolate?  Does it taste like raisin or just add some sweetness?

The E Guittard is good quality couverture, and at competitive price. Check out Assouline and Ting for even better prices if you're willing to buy 5 kilos at a time. The wafers just make for easy portioning, they're not anything like chocolate chips in terms of tempering. It tempers really well, and has good viscosity.

I've not noticed a pronounced raisin flavor in the 61%. It's a pretty neutral chocolate. The 72% is also nice. I ended switching away from E Guittard because I found a cheap source for an even better chocolate, but I used it exclusively for over a year and was very happy with it.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tammy, I checked out Assouline and Ting and their price is better. What is their shipping charge? Is it the $30 FedEx overnight charge that is mentioned on the Caviar Assouline homepage?

worldwidechocolate.com offers shipping options from UPS ground to UPS next day air. The prices range from about $10 to about $40. With UPS ground, the total would come to less than the Assouline and Ting if it ships with FedEx overnight at $30.

How should chocolate be shipped? Is UPS Ground okay, or do you really want it to be shipped priority?

Thanks,

Mike.

P.S. I found some Scharffen Berger on sale at Meijer (regional retailer) for $4.74 per 6oz box. $12.64/lb is more than I want to pay for my normal use, but I picked some up to do some testing until I can place an online order.

Anywho, I used the 70% to make some almond truffles and coated them with the 62% with a few crushed almonds sprinkled on top. They turned out really well.

By the by, does anyone else have issues with the yield numbers in the Shotts book? His dark chocolate truffle recipe says it makes 30 truffles. I made some fairly small truffles and can only get about 20 pcs from his recipe…and that is after adding a little liquor and crushed almonds too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Mark said, the cheapest shipping method is just fine. The $30 they mention on the other page is for caviar, which does need to be shipped overnight. Unless you live somewhere warm, ground shipping will be fine. I think my last shipment for Assouline and Ting cost me $18 for 2 5-kilo boxes.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a similar problem with yield on one recipe in the Schotts book, but that round of truffles turned out bigger than I like mine to be, so I don't blame him.

If you like a bigger truffle, then you'll get fewer from the recipes.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...