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vengroff

Artisinal Chocolate Production

29 posts in this topic

I recently got ahold of a copy of Stephen T. Beckett's The Science of Chocolate. This is more or less an overview of his magnum opus Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use, which it seems is now out of print.

After reading the book, I now have a good theoretical understanding of how chocolate is made. Of course, I still have no practical experience whatsoever. What I'm left wondering is, how small a scale is still practical for the end-to-end process, starting with dried fermented beans and ending with edible couverture? How much room would there be for custom production runs in a small shop? I see a lot of talk in this forum about the relative merits of different chocolates from different vendors, but don't recall anyone ever mentioning a supplier willing to work with pastry chefs to custom formulate a product with exactly the desired characteristics for a particular use. Is it simply not economically feasible to try to work in this niche? I'm guessing that the lower limit for a viable production line would be around five hundred pounds a week.

Note, I have no personal interest in entering this line of business; I am just curious whether it exists, and if not, why not.


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I tried to find artisinal chocolate for a seminar as part of a large wine event. Even managed to track down a (former) producer.

Apparently the practical limitation is the exporting/importing process. Theoretically the beans are available but quality control is a nightmare. Infestations of various bugglies are rife in the trade. This means you need quality control prior to export - to ensure the quality is there. But, for a potential small importer this is totally uneconomic. So what we end up with is a few large companies who have their representatives doing quality control at the producer/wholesaler site before export.

Even a 'large run' won't protect against an infested batch of beans that has to be dumped.

So artisinal producers now buy slabs or pellets from a few wholesalers who have partially processed the bean.

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The wholesalers / exporters aren't well liked in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere, either.

The cartel's power to set purchasing prices means the farmer is almost always disadvantaged, if they lack the clout of a big buyer (Nestle, Hershey, Valrhona, etc). Some of the cocoa now on market was plundered from warehouses in the recent disturbances. That won't help quality control.

I believe the threat of violence and anarchy was one reason for the French invasion ("we don't need no steenking UN resolution...") a few months ago. That has brought some order back to the country.


Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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The New York Board of Trade offers a futures contact on cocao for delivery to various east coast ports. Here's a partial description of the contract. Upcoming contracts are trading around $2K for a 10 metric ton contract, enough for several months of small scale production at reasonable yields. Does anyone here know:

Who are the players in this market, particularly the ones taking physical delivery?

What's the quality of the product involved? The contract states it has to meet F.D.A. standards for importation, and mentions that there are standards for defects, bean count, and bean size.

Unless this stuff is bottom of the barrel quality-wise or the standards are unreliable, the exchange seems to limit the need for a small player to have an agent on site in the producing country.

Interesting to note that the U.S. intervenes to secure a stable supply of crude oil, whereas the French do so for chocolate.


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I'm really intrigued by this concept of buying cocoa right off the exchange floor. Do artisanal chocolate makers really do use the futures market to get their raw cocoa supplies?

I'd love to hear more -- apologies for getting a bit off-topic with this.

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There's some good info on cocoa trading and agreements in these two books, both of which I recommend highly:

Chocolate Unwrapped: The Politics of Pleasure (1993) by Cat Cox

and

The Emporers of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars (1999) by Joel Glenn Brenner

Darren--the members of the CMA--the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the big players on the world scene--intervene to ensure price stability and guarantee a supply of cacao--and one of the ways they do that is through multi-commodity traders, brokers and the exchange. The vast majority of the beans are bottom of the barrel bulk stuff--meaning not sold at a premium--not considered flavor grade. Manufacturers usually try to develop their own sources for flavor grade stuff but if you dig into the reports and analysis you'll find flavor grade lots coming through the exchange system.

As an aside, I'd like to know the name of a single chocolatier, artisinal or otherwise, in the United States who makes their own chocolate from beans.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Thanks, Steve. I'll try to track those books down, perhaps at the public library.

I don't have any names for you, but somebody has to be making chocolate from these beans. There may not be many of them, but somebody is taking physical delivery on the premium Group A contracts. Who are they?


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I think Scharffen Berger makes their chocolate from beans, or is that not what you meant?


Jennie

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Good point--I meant chocolatier in the sense of producing a line bon bons and assorted chocolate candies, a la Jacques Torres, LA Burdick, Fran's Chocolates, Payard, etc. You'd be amazed at the number of people who think chocolatiers "make" their own chocolate from bean to bar to bon bon.

SharffenBerger is a chocolate manufacturer--of packaged blocks and bars but not individual chocolates--and yes, they're way way smaller than the big boys of the CMA. But "artisinal" is one of those descriptions that can mean different things to different people, depending on how you try to define it. Michel Cluizel for instance is dwarfed by the CMA member manufacturers like Barry Callebaut--and on that scale could be considered "artisinal," yet their factory complex is quite large, impeccably clean and modern, with a blend of old world, labor-intensive, new and cutting edge technologies. Their wonderful praline pastes are still ground by these huge stone rollers that seem centuries old. A lot of the labor still done by hand. Yet Cluizel most assuredly dwarfs the production of Sharffen Berger.

Years ago when I first started consulting for chocolate companies, and evaluating different chocolates, I said much the same thing as Darren earlier on this thread--wouldn't it be smart to be the first artisinal manufacturer to "work with pastry chefs to custom formulate a product with exactly the desired characteristics for a particular use." That's because chocolatiers can't do it themselves--they can just take a variety--say Valrhona Manjari--and blend it with another variety to get a different performance or taste or price point. I also said the same thing to Jacques years ago, while he was still at Le Cirque--and he replied that that is exactly what Callebaut would do for him--that he visited one of their factories and they had a hundred blends and formulations which could be combined according to any flavor and performance profile a pastry chef or chocolatier wanted. I think, though, that your production or your reputation has to be sufficiently high to get that kind of treatment and to make it cost effective.

I still think this might become a more popular marketing point on the high end, but to date chocolatiers haven't been all that willing to discuss specifically which chocolate varieties they are using because more often than not it is less expensive run-of-the-mill stuff, and disclosure of that might diminish the prestige nature they are trying to project for their product.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I think Torres uses Barry/Callebaut no?

I find this talk so finicky. I really think there are enough couvertures on the markets. I recently met a pastry chef (who is really second rate) who was bitching about all kinds of couvertures. When I hear someone complain about the taste of Valrhona I can only roll my eyes.

We have enough great chocolate out there but we don't have enough great chocolatiers. Give me less variety and more technique.

When I worked in France I never heard any chef complain about the taste of the chocolate. I can appreciate the difference between Callebaut and Valrhona. But custom blending couvertures for chefs seems like a stretch.

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Here's the thing though--for some, there are vital and dynamic aspects to chocolate that aren't as often discussed as even the trading/futures aspect Darren/estufarian and Rail Paul brought up--and that has to do with the marketing and cultivation of a brand and an image. I wish this was discussed more--along with where chocolate actually comes from, who grows it, how they grow it, what deals are made, who gains, who loses, etc. I'm not against talking about technique and how to taste and evaluate the end result of fine chocolate work. I wish more channels were open to more creative chocolate work and more variety. Hopefully we'll be able to get our hands on more interesting Spanish chocolate work more reliably, which is already outside the self-imposed boundaries of French chocolate. But there are also reasons why so much of the chocolate around underwhelms that has nothing to do with technique.

In addition to the two books above--I'd also recommend "Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate" (2000) by Susan J. Terrio. There's a lot in there about how the French marketed the cultural cachet of French chocolate. Even without reading that book it's pretty easy to speculate about who receives media coverage and how that coverage is shaped. I do think chocolatiers themselves manipulate consumers' knowledge of chocolate and they introduce this artisinal buzzword whenever they can because the smarter European chocolatiers have created a mystique around appearing "artisinal" and have built very nice careers around it--despite the presence of large automatic temperers, conveyor belts and enrobing machines.

If you can only read one chapter of Terrio in the bookstore--read Chapter 3 "Reeducating French Palates." And Lesley--do you realize Manjari has been around since 1986? That surprised me.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Is this whole concept being generated by false impressions of accessibility created by the movie Chocolat? Before I saw the movie several friends were telling me how the woman 'makes' chocolate. I think that they actually did have a scene or two where it appeared she was doing something that was intended to indicate she was actually making the chocolate.

Steve, I am not saying that I think its a particularly good idea or that this concept is even valid, but...

Instead of looking for cocoa beans to pursue artisanal chocolate making, could a woud-be chocolate maker procure large quantities of good nibs and go thrugh the conching process using those? I imagine it would be an incredibly expensive undertaking that would make your probably inferior chocolate incredibly expensive. Note that Sharffenberger is very pricey. I am not saying it's bad, but given its quality, it is at a relatively high price point and takes advantage of the absence of readily available couverture for the home chocolate hobbyist.

But, if you somehow were able to get conching equipment, how feasible do you think it would be to make chocolate from nibs?

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Interesting. Someone would first have to convince me there is such a thing as reasonably priced conching equipment but the answer theoretically is yes. I think scale and volume augur against this, but we need to uncover someone trying to do this. More likely I think the closest anyone gets is what estufarian mentioned previously. That, or they're making an equally crude version of the gritty Mexican and Latin American chocolate.

We might not be ready for it yet, and it might be too finicky Lesley, but I really do think we're going to see "private label" chocolate arrangements in the US--where a chocolate authority approaches a multinational manufacturer, supplies the product, and has a run produced for his use or resale. It's a variation of what OCP does--they entered into an agreement with a local multinational chocolate producer--and instead of running its regular chocolate crap through--they run organic beans procured by OCP--which OCP then sells through sympathetic channels like Whole Foods. The OCP chocolate isn't very good but it could be.

Besides stepping strategically into a distribution channel gap and marketing their couverture retail, Sharffen Berger also markets that they're small, artisinal and American. They spin to their advantage that they are using "vintage" equipment--I read that as old or antiquated--as if antiquated equipment had some impact on quality of the end product. But they are very smart, very shrewd and increasing production.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Of course no one has even touched on the issue posed in the initial question of where is the breal even point. Even if it was more readily accessible, how much chocolate would you need to be able to manufacture each day in order to justify the expense of doing it in the first place. Since there really aren't too many people out there manufacturing it on a small scale I would assume that you really have to be able to make a lot of chocolate to justify it by price.

So maybe the question we should be talking about is what does it cost to produce/manufacture chocolate?

What are the cost items even?

Beans, fermenter, roasters, crackers, sifters, cleaners, concher, heater, mixer, temperer, people, location, operations & maintenance, sugar, packaging, sales, distribution...

I'm guessing that if it isn't cost effective to make artisanal wines, chocolate is WAY WAY WAY outta sight in terms of cost.

Anyone here qualified to help figure the breakeven point - how much chocolate, produced at what rate, assuming $6 per pound price point to break even? How much to make a profit of 10%?

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To address the point that you and Lesley are discussing about private labels, I heard that in Japan they are taking this to new levels creating really amazing products based on mixes of other finished couvertures. I thought I heard this from the Valrhona rep, but I might be wrong about that.

I wonder why we do not see more Japanese product in this area - or maybe the question is I wonder when we will start seeing it ?

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As an aside, I'd like to know the name of a single chocolatier, artisinal or otherwise, in the United States who makes their own chocolate from beans.

Rumor has it that by year end - or early 2004, there will be a chocolate maker in Seattle, from beans to bar to bon bons. It's more than rumor - but not sure if they will make the schedule. Stay tuned.

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tsquare--is this some eGullet scoop? Has it been "more than rumored" in print somewhere else we could/should know about? or is this the equivalent of awbrig breaking the Charlie Trotter/foie gras story here--except without the Trotter part?

And Chefette--sounds like you want to place a call to Robert Steinberg.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I guess it's a scoop. I'm not at liberty to reveal the whole story (or as much as I know.) I thought it would be in the paper by now, but haven't seen it.

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When you're ready, we're ready.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I think cheffette is onto something there. Some of the equipment, e.g. conching machines, may not even be manufactured in the small sizes that would be required. I wonder if this isn't part of the reason Sharfenberger had to go with antique equipment.


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Here is an interesting article from http://www.chocophile.com which describes a ball mill constructed at the CIA. It's not overly detailed, but it gives the basic idea of what was done. There's also no mention of the quality of the final product.


Edited by vengroff (log)

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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This is a very interesting thread and one that is near and dear to my heart. There are lots of different questions, and I'll try to respond to many of them.

vengroff, the ball mill you mention that you read about on my site was actually designed by Terry Richardson of Richardson Research (www.richres.com). I corresponded with him and he says that he'll reveal more about the details of construction to people who take his classes. Using the techniques described, grinding roasted and winnowed cocoa beans to a paste in a Robot Coupe and then simultaneously refining/conching in the ball mill will give better results than a metate but not nearly as good results as larger scale equipment in part because of the challenge associated with grinding the sugar (which is much harder than the cocoa bean). Uniformly small particle sizes are difficult to achieve. Plus, if you've read Steven Beckett's "The Science of Chocolate" you know that it's imperative to have a means of removing metal particles from the chocolate.

From what I last heard, Jacques Torres is using a Belcolade couverture for his own work. Rumors are that he plans to start manufacturing a line of chocolate near his current workshop in Brooklyn.

These days it is very difficult to get any one of the Barry-Callebaut companies to pay attention to you and make a custom formulation. What they will tell you to do (I am told) is to mix and match from existing formulas, which is what several chocolatiers I know of do. Castelanne in Nantes (who makes some astounding pieces) mixes and matches Valrhona, Cluizel, and other couvertures to achieve particular tastes. This has got to make tempering more difficult than it already is, but the results are wonderful. Until recently they were imported by the same folks who imported Cluizel, but there is no importer at the moment.

I took the Scharffen Berger factory tour in January, and it looks like they are making no more than about 500kg of chocolate per day in their Berkeley factory based on the size of their melangeur (about 150kg capacity) and their own description of how long the process takes and the length of their workday. Until recently, they had only one conche, which further limited production. According to my sources, a significant percentage of their production is contracted out, and this would make sense given the size of the operation I saw. (Scharffen Berger is small scale but by no means artisanal. Domori is artisanal.)

As chefette pointed out there are a lot of pieces of equipment needed for commercial production: cleaner, roaster, winnower, melangeur, refiner, conche, temperer, molding line, cooling line, wrapping line. If you think of it in these terms, then production has to be quite substantial -- tonnes per day. Was that $6/lb price point wholesale or retail? Was that 10% profit gross or net? If you want to be in the truly artisanal class, like Domori or Amedei, you have to charge what they do. This reduces the size of the market significantly, as there is still a strong commodity pricing mentality with chocolate. You ready to pay $15/lb wholesale for couverture? $75/lb for 100% porcelana eating chocolate?

As anyone who's read Beckett's book can attest, making chocolate is all about process control, and is at least as much science as art. And from the above, you can see that it is expensive and not all that lucrative in small quantities. This is why there are no US chocolatiers that I know of who are currently making their own chocolate. While it might be interesting, it's not central to what they want to do, and as pointed out elsewhere in this thread, there are already hundreds of couvertures to choose from.

Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate is a must-have book.

Michel Cluizel is currently making the most interesting couverture anywhere (IMO) with their single-estate 67% Hacienda Los Ancones. Very powerful for a 67% with a great deal of complexity and interesting tasting notes including green olive. They are one of the only companies in the world that is both chocolate maker and chocolatier, and have been able to successfully combine large-scale manufacturing techniques with hand-finished attention to detail.

The real interesting question (IMO) is, if I can pay $2000 liter for 75-yr old balsamic why can't I charge $100/lb for truly great (solid eating) chocolate? When we can answer that, a lot of other things will fall into place.

Whew!

Clay


Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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Clay, welcome, as well, a question for you: who gets to decide what's truly artisinal and what's "just" small scale? Where do you (personally) draw the line? Because on your site you said this: "There are actually very few artisanal chocolatiers who make their own chocolate starting with buying and grinding their own beans. Among the best are Michel Cluizel and Bonnat from France, and Domori from Italy. The US has a couple, too; Scharffen Berger and Hawaiian Vintage." The reason I ask is don't you think "artisinal" carries some cachet with consumers--a confusing cachet, something we discuss often on eGullet in other contexts and might as well in chocolate--yet in a blind taste test or when I put a chocolate through its paces performance-wise--artisinal doesn't matter. How it tastes plain and how it performs and tastes once I've transformed it or manipulated it is what matters.

Artisinal isn't necessarily conveying the same kind of feel-good attributes of "organic" or "fair trade" labels either--both of which do, depending on the certifying agency at least, mean something to the consumer. What is it artisinal means to you and who gets to use it by your definition?

Also, maybe you could tell us a little more about what Pureorigin is--how it started out, where it's going under your direction? Some of the chocolates that you mentioned above--Cluizel, Domori--and have reviewed on your site--you also sell or have sold on your site?

And in reference to Cluizel "They are one of the only companies in the world that is both chocolate maker and chocolatier, and have been able to successfully combine large-scale manufacturing techniques with hand-finished attention to detail." The only problem is, at least when I was there a few years ago, they didn't use their higher quality, more flavorful couvertures in their line of bon bons for their packaged products, their stores in Paris or their private label stuff, like for Fauchon--it's just the sweet stuff. Commercial grade for a bulk commercial product. And that hurt their reputation among European pastry chefs--on the one hand pushing this great stuff like the two Haciendas or their 45% milk chocolate and then on the other popping a bulk bon bon in your mouth that anyone who knows chocolate would find too sweet? I haven't tasted anything new on that front either in Paris at the Salon du Chocolat or at the New York Chocolate Show. Do you think they've changed their focus or just found the mass market stuff and big accounts too lucrative? Do you know if they have developed a high end bon bon line? (I can vouch first-hand they have the talent and palate to deliver a superior bon bon.)

By the way you've carefully phrased a few things--like last you heard Jacques was using a Belcolade couverture--and that some "mix and match" to create their own blend, "which is what several chocolatiers I know of do" you also get back to one of my ongoing themes: In your experience--in New York, around the country, do you find that chocolatiers are hesistant to admit publicly which chocolates and blends they actually use? If so, why do you think that is?


Edited by Steve Klc (log)

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Steve:

Lots of very interesting questions.

The differences between what I wrote on chocophile.com and what I wrote in my recent post have to do with a change in attitude over time and I haven't (and probably won't) go back and edit the old writing. For me, artisanal is really an attitude about what is being made that goes beyond simple small-batch production, or labels such as organic or fair trade. Domori is a good example: small batch production to be sure, not adding additional cocoa butter during conching, trying hard to source beans to make true varietals -- all in an attempt to try to recapture the taste of chocolate (insofar as possible) that might have existed a century or more ago before the homogenization (pun intended) of commercial chocolate. In the end, it's the manufacturer's prerogative to call themselves whatever they want. For most, I would venture to guess, artisanal is more a matter of scale than anything else. I would go a little further and say that artisanal is a people-scale issue rather than a tonnage issue, and involves a high percentage of human labor. The factory operation at Scharffen Berger is artisanal in scope and intent, but as I say, it represents only a small part of their total production.

Of course, in the end, in a blind tasting, artisanal is a label with somewhat dubious value for, as you point out, it's the taste and how it performs that are at issue. Making good chocolate consistently is all about process control, which, ironically in the case of chocolate. is easier to achieve using modern computer-controlled machinery -- blowing the artisanal scale argument out of the water. However, I do think there is a market for small batch (~100lb) custom production of eating chocolate in the $75-$100/lb range. I also think that if someone is smart they'll create the equivalent of barrel futures for chocolate to hedge bets against the high price of such an endeavor. But those really are other issues (and anyone interested in working on them/funding them is free to contact me).

Cluizel is an interesting company. True, their truffle line might be a bit sweet for many tastes, but at the price point it represents one of the consistently good values in terms of taste and quality - especially when compared to most of the gourmet Belgian and Swiss brands that are its direct competitors. What is available at retail may confuse some pastry chefs into not using the couverture, but, quite frankly, I think it's more inertia and laziness on two fronts: One is that if you've developed a recipe using a 60% Valrhona, you need to change it to use a Cluizel couverture which is not ean exact match. Plus, because Cluizel couvertures do not have lecithin, they tend to be more difficult to work with than others. The argument for eliminating lecithin is to ensure that the chocolate is GMO-free. For the chef, is that argument worth the effort to change (will the customer care or know the difference?) and - unless the change is from Valrhona - is it worth the extra cost?

As near as I know there are no plans afoot at Cluizel to make a "high-end" truffle line using their single-estate couvertures. But, you may be surprised to know that they do create some classic and palet-style truffles using their 72% and 85% couvertures. For example, their Cyrano and Palet Amer a la Feuille d'Or are two that are imported into the US (there are more that are made, but not imported) that are not at all sweet. Plus there are palet-style truffles using the Hacienda Concepcion and Ilha Toma couvertures, and their Palets aux Cacaos des Pures Origines that use their 72% terroir couvertures. However, these are not necessarily the most popular items in the importer's catalog. There will be Cluizel people in Las Vegas during the Great American Dessert Expo and The World Pastry Forum in July, so I will ask.

I am careful about my phrasing because in some cases I do not have personal knowledge of a fact. Also, I have learned that the there are a lot of personalities in the world of high-end chocolate and pastry and that there are powerful factions that appear to detest each other. As an independent "expert" in the subject (i.e., someone who is not in the employ of a chocolate maker or confectioner) I want to avoid getting caught up in others' battles, perhaps diminishing my access and effectiveness.

Why don't chefs want to let others know what they're actually using? Ego. In the case of Jacques Torres, if it is true that he uses Belcolade, it goes a long way to explaining why I think his chocolates don't taste better than they do at the prices he is charging. Others may see their "custom blend" as their trade secret and don't want to give anything away.

I started pureorigin almost five years ago to pursue what I see as a void in the chocolate industry: an independent voice that combines the educational efforts of Kevin Zraly with the ratings efforts of Robert Parker. I was introduced to the concept of "terroir" in chocolate back in 1994 in Cannes where I "discovered" Bonnat and have been working towards this ever since. chocophile.com is the on-line publishing venue for my work. I do sell chocolate at thechocolateco-op.com in order to help my learning about what works and what doesn't in various aspects of my business. One thing I have learned is that my visitors and customers rely on my impressions of a chocolate to help them with their buying decisions. I've also learned that samplers (collections of bars and brands) sell best, and that milk chocolate and couverture do not sell nearly as well as high octane eating chocolate. Finally, I don't sell anything that I wouldn't rate as "very good" or better on my seven-point rating scale. The way it usually works is that I taste something I really like that also happens to be hard to get and I make a deal with the importer or distributor so that I can sell it at a good price. As a small business, my overhead is low and by operating in a cooperative fashion (I usually don't buy a chocolate until I have orders for it) I further reduce my risk, inventory, and carrying costs. Ultimately, my goal is to get out of the business of selling chocolate and concentrate on the education and ratings as selling chocolate can create the impression of a conflict of interest. For now, I need the income.

I am looking forward to being a valued contributor to the forum,

Clay


Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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      I'm a little pastry chief in France, still learning and really passionate. It's been five months that I did'nt studiy or practise and I miss that so much. I never stop talking about this. I decided to travel in south america to learn everything I can. I'm actually in Central Colombia, and I will travel to Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, Bolivia and maybe a little bit more if I want to. I have time until march, more or less.
       
      My project is to go in the farms and meet the people who grow up the raw material I use for make my pastries, Talk to them and see the plantation would be really helpfull for me to understand how does it works. If people need, I'm volunteer for work in exchange with accomodation and food for a few days. My spanish is not good yet, but I'm learning and sometimes it's more funny to not speak the same language. I'm interested about everything, exotic fruits, citrus, coffee, cacao, sesame, pepper, spices...
       
      If some of you is, knows or works with farmers or pastry chiefs in those countries, I would be glad to meet you/them and learn everthing about the work. We can exchange good recipe too.
       
      Thank you very much,
      Loubna
       
       
    • By Darienne
      Yesterday I made my familiar go-to simple lime/cream cheese pie with one egg, some milk, lime juice & zest, etc, covered with a dark chocolate ganache: heavy cream, a dollop of butter.  It's in the fridge covered with a plastic topper but I can cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

      Today's lunch guest is not coming...onslaught of sleet, freezing rain, and now snow...oh goodie...winter's here...  Now she is slated for next Thursday.  Is there any possibility that the pie can last that long and not poison or at least revolt us?

      Thanks.
    • By LucyInAust
      Hello,
       
      I've been asked to make a cake with an edible film strip style ribbon (NOT made of fondant) and I'm trying to work out a solution given limited time (2 weeks) and limited skills (a lifetime's worth of lack of decorating skills and attention to detail!).
       
      Ideally I'd love to use a chocolate transfer sheet ... but the only ones I can find are in the USA (I'm in Australia) and the shipping time makes that impractical.  I've been googling and not seen a decent alternative that I think I can do (actually I haven't even found something that is edible that I think looks good, even from professionals!!)!  Fondant would be the most obvious solution but I've been given the instructions of no fondant (but maybe they wouldn't notice a strip?!) ... but chocolate seems possible.
       
      Some ideas I've thought of and would love feedback ...
      Could I use old film negatives as a transfer?  Cut out the frames and then use the strips?   (am I going to kill anyone with chemicals?!!) Could I create acetone strips by trying to stamp/cut out something that sort of looks like a film strip?  Use it as a stencil instead? Piping on to acetate using an image behind as a guide?  I can't say I have very steady hands so am thinking it would be very wonky?!!! If I did the outline in dark chocolate would I need a white chocolate layer to make it transfer onto a buttercream cake?  
      I have a chocolate tempering machine, most likely to be using Callebaut 54% but could use Lindt 70%/85%/90%.
       
      I've really only used transfer sheets directly on to dipped chocolate, and acetate to create random curls for decorations ... I'm wondering about the logistics of getting the chocolate on the strips, keeping it shaped for the cake (I think the cake is square ... but maybe it might be round?!) and also transferring them on to the cake?
       
      (back up plan ... plain ribbon!!!)
       
      Would love any advice!  Thanks!!
    • By curls
      Looking for your opinions and experiences... I am planning to put some wire shelving in my chocolate & confections kitchen. The kitchen has a concrete floor. This shelving will hold ingredients, colored cocoa butters, and packaging. Wondering if I should get casters for this shelving... what are your thoughts on this oh so important question?  ;-)
    • By DianaB
      I've used Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate as a base for various ganache recipes for some time after failing to create a good ganache with other white chocolate including Callebaut, a brand I otherwise like.  Valrhona is expensive compared to other brands available here in England but Vente Privée offers it at a good discount several times each year.  There is a Valrhona sale this week: 
      https://secure.uk.vente-privee.com/ns/en-gb/operation/57934/classic/3642874/catalog
       
      That link is to the English site but I know the company operates in other countries. You need to become a member to buy from the site, not sure why but it is free and you aren't obliged to buy anything.  
       
      I've already placed an order, popular products sell out fast.  Since ordering I have read various posts in the Pastry and Baking thread that have left me wondering if I should be using Opalys as my white chocolate rather than Ivoire.
       
      Do any of you have experience of both variants of Valrhona's white chocolate?  I would be grateful for any advice you can provide on using them in baking or chocolate making.
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