“When I am making a chocolate dessert
that includes many other flavors, I tend to
choose a more neutral-tasting chocolate
that acts as a background for the other
flavors in the dessert.”
his chocolates for interesting flavor, and
not necessarily to be the least viscous and
easiest to work with. “I always tell chefs that
if they want to mold thin chocolate shells,
they might want to look elsewhere,” he says.
For the pastry chef, using chocolates
with complex flavor profiles presents both
opportunities and challenges—opportunities
to imbue desserts with a multidimensional
personality and challenges to find the right
combination of ingredients that play well
with the chocolate’s own flavor profile.
Although its overall large production capacity may not place it squarely in the realm of artisanal bean-to-bar producers, Felchlin in Schwyz, Switzerland, produces Cru Sauvage (68% total cocoa solids and cocoa butter content) from the cacao beans of wild plants in Bolivia in small enough quantities that it qualifies to be in that rarefied company. Without any sourness or bitterness, these rare beans make quite a journey from their origin to the dessert plate. Beginning deep in the Amazon region of Bolivia, they travel 1,000 miles to La Paz, then over a high pass to the Andes and eventually to the Chilean port of Arica, from which they are shipped to Panama and then across the Atlantic Ocean to Rotterdam, Netherlands. From EUROPEAN STYLE, LATIN AMERICAN ORIGIN there, they go up the Rhine to Basel, Switzerland, and eventually reach the Felchlin plant not far from Lucerne. Stephan Iten, the company’s executive pastry chef, notes that Felchlin usually processes larger batches, using machinery designed for cacao beans twice the size of the Bolivian variety. The machinery was tweaked slightly, by installing finer-meshed screens, to accommodate the smaller size of the deeply chocolatey wild beans. “The chocolate has a citrus, almost grapefruit personality, which blends well with tart fruits,” Iten says. For example, in one of his recipes, passion fruit flavors a cremeux, which is placed inside a Cru Sauvage chocolate mousseline, offering a visual and gustatory surprise.
Although all but two of Amano's
chocolates contain a combination of cocoa
solids and cocoa butter equaling 70%,
Pollard points out that this measurement
in any given chocolate may not be an
indication of quality. “What’s important is
sourcing high-quality cacao beans and
then roasting them properly to bring out
their inherent flavor complexity,” he says.
Rebecca Millican, pastry chef-instructor
at The Institute of Culinary Education in
New York, who works closely with Amano,
admits that “sometimes what you think
will work doesn’t turn out as expected.
Sometimes, using a fruity-tasting chocolate,
such as the Ocumare from Venezuela, in a
fruit-centered dessert will yield a dessert
that works, but not always. Sometimes this
ripe-fruit quality in the chocolate is at odds
with the fruits in the dessert. So I let my
palate be my guide, tasting the elements of
the dessert separately and together as I go.
Alan McClure, owner/founder of Patric
Chocolate, Columbia, Mo., a micro-batch
chocolate producer, says he formulates
Stephan Iten, executive pastry chef at
Felchlin, uses Cru Sauvage wild cacao
chocolate to fashion the Piemonte, a
hazelnut chocolate mousse set over a
flourless chocolate sponge with a crunchy
His chocolates range from 67% to 75%
cocoa butter/cocoa solids. “You can’t make
good-quality chocolate out of poor-quality
cacao,” McClure says. “My chocolate is not
created for every pastry chef who is used
to using chocolates with a more neutral
flavor profile. Balance and character are
what I focus on when making my chocolate.
Chocolate, above all, should be delicious. That
is the reason for a food like chocolate to exist.
“Chefs look for complex, interesting flavors
in the foods they cook with, but when it
comes to chocolate, these very qualities
can often seem to be a liability.”
Not to Rhonda Ruckman, pastry chef at
Herbsaint in New Orleans, who created the
Patric Cake, a signature chocolate cake
designed to allow the characteristic flavor