Chocolate from bean to bar to fantasy with london gastronomy seminars
Friday 27th January 2012
Last week, the Chocolate Week team attended a lecture on chocolate hosted by the London Gastronomy Seminars, an organisation aiming to put the technical back into the understanding of what makes food good and why. Entitled Chocolate: from bean to bar to fantasy, we were treated to talks and tastings from Seventy%’s Martin Christy and founder of Italian chocolate company Baruzzo, Raffaella Baruzzo and chocolatier Paul a Young.
Chocolate connoisseur Martin Christy was first up, expounding his ‘melt don’t munch’ slow chocolate mantra. Through a number of tasting experiments he highlighted how many more flavour notes can be experienced by resisting the urge to munch and letting the chocolate simply melt in your mouth instead, as well as showing how much longer the flavour lasts – sometimes for as long as 20-30 minutes after you’ve finished eating the chocolate. Instead of a brief moment of waxy, acidic, bitter and dry tastes and feelings from munching, we were experiencing berries, coffee, caramel, vanilla, salt… the flavour notes were endless.
Raffaella Baruzzo, the woman and name behind Italian fine chocolate brand, Baruzzo, gave a talk on where chocolate comes from, how it grows, how it is made and how this affects the final taste. And what a fascinating talk it was! Raffaella’s knowledge is extensive. She told us about the different types of cacao trees – Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario and Nacional, conjured up images of a cocoa plantation for those of us not yet lucky enough to have visited one and explained how the fermentation, drying and roasting processes affect the flavour. Did you know that while the different types of beans have different flavour notes, a fruity flavour could be down to the fermentation, or that a dark toffee flavour may denote a longer roasting time? Unfortunately due to time restraints, Raffaella was unable to take us through her own chocolates publicly, but we got to taste her delicious and beautifully decorated selection on our way out, including Rosemary, Orange Blossom and Liquorice.
Paul a Young rounded off proceedings with a tasting of some of his more ‘challenging’ chocolates. It was great to hear Paul talk about his past as a patissier and how that influences him as a chocolatier – he was keen to use his chef side, and not lose his cooking skills once he moved into the chocolate world. In the kitchens of Paul a Young Fine Chocolates when coming up with new chocolates, they spend a long time tasting the different ingredients first, finding the perfect combination and deciding which chocolate will work with the flavours best. We tasted his new Roquefort, roasted walnut and Thames’ honey filled chocolate, in which he used a 50% Madagascan because it had an innate cheesiness to it that worked with the Roquefort; the new Cigar-leaf caramel that left a fantastic warming tingle in the back of your throat from the tobacco; and finally Paul’s most famous creation, the Marmite truffle – you either love it or you hate it.
The evening was a great success and through Martin’s exercises, Raffaella’s explanations and Paul’s examples, it was possible to see the audience’s understanding of and enthusiasm for fine chocolate grow as the seminar progressed.
The next London Gastronomy Seminar is entitled Flavour and the New Nordic Cuisine is a seminar to celebrate the launch of Flavour, a new interdisciplinary journal covering the psychophysical, psychological and chemical aspects of eating food, as mediated through all the senses. The event takes place on March 28th - more information and tickets are available here.