While not your usual step-by-step instructions, it provides more information than I think 98-99% of the U.S. population has that’s required to know what’s “good” and what’s… not good.
The February 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine has a nice ranked list of chocolate (available in the U.S.) that they tested in a brownie recipe. Valrhona was ranked #1, an relatively unknown at #2 (no one I know has heard of them), and Scharffen-Berger at #3.
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Alasdair – Pour Him Over Ice Cream For A Nice Parfait
If Coleman is to be believed, then I suspect the single most important thing I’ve learned is that the chocolate business is full of lying bastards out to exploit the public and flog inferior crap. This is not how he put it, and it’s not how he comes across (more of that in a minute), but over the course of the anecdotes about other chocolate makers, it’s very hard not to see a picture emerging. Coleman has apparently heard other people in the chocolate business say things like “you don’t have to like what you make”, something I (and he) find incomprehensible. As far as I’m concerned, if a person can’t stand behind their work, then they are a hideous shitehawk, and should be scourged with rusty barbed wire.
Here are a few things I know now that I didn’t know before:
There are three kinds of chocolate beans: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitatio. Criollo is the original kind, the sort that the Spanish nicked off the Aztecs. This is the stuff that produces the all round best-flavoured chocolate. So, of course, most chocolate is made with the inferior Forastero, which is cheaper, and easier to grow in bulk. Trinitario has a variety of strengths, being a hybrid of the two. (Only 5-10% of the world’s cacao is good quality Criollo, or higher grade Trinitario, mostly single estate specialists.)
But let’s talk about what we’re sold as “chocolate” in this country.
Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking about things like “percentage of cacao solids” and such like as the mark of quality. And I have to admit, I’ve tended to do exactly that myself up to now. But what Coleman was at pains to impress on us is that what matters, first and foremost is the quality of the ingredients. That the chocolate be made with top quality beans. There’s a process of natural fermentation involved in preparing the beans before they are roasted (effectively, the seeds are allowed to sit in their own fermenting pulp for up to five days) that stops the beans from germinating, and imparts most of the flavour to the chocolate. Except that most of the beans in the world are not put through this process, because it takes five days, and requires that the stacks of beans be moved and turned regularly, because, like compost, the bottom of the heaps can get bastard hot. It’s slow, and labour intensive, so instead, most beans are just washed in acid, instead, which has much the same effect in terms of stoping them germinating, but imparts much less flavour.