A new ‘pure’ collection from master of the water-based ganache – London chocolatier Damian Allsop, featuring origin chocolate from Valrhona. No flavoured filled chocolates here, just a pure expression of the flavour notes to be found in fine chocolate from various origins or plantations.
‘The Pure Collection’ – Valrhona
Rather than cream, Damian’s ganache (truffle) centres are made with water. This changes the way flavours are experienced in the chocolate filling. The idea is that you get a much more pure and clean version of the flavour notes than you would with a traditional cream based ganache.
Taking things a step further, the ganaches are also enrobed in the same chocolate as the origin chocolate used in the filling.
This takes extra time and care – most chocolatiers will use a standard chocolate to coat most of their filled chocolates – otherwise they have to clean out their tempering machines, etc, each time they use a different coating chocolate.
For these kind of chocolates though, you’d get a confusion of flavours with two different chocolates mingling in the mouth, so enrobing with the same chocolate is pretty essential.
Damian has chosen Valrhona as his source chocolate for the first ‘pure collection’, exploring the fine chocolate stalwarts country and plantation origins.
So onto the tasting and an assessment of what ‘the pure collection’ offers.
This is strengthened up Valrhona Manjari – Damian has added in some 100% Manjari paste (fully finished, unsweetened chocolate) to the usual 64% Manjari couverture to create a 70% strength chocolate. A good move, since Valrhona’s percentages often seem too sweet these days – the world has moved on since they were first invented (in Manjari’s case, this was about twenty years ago) and we are now more used to stronger recipes.
Sweet, creamy, delicate citrus, chocolate fruit dessert finish.The usual Manjari fruit is actually mellowed in the water ganache, moving more towards cream and toffee, without being too sweet. After eating, the flavour just carries on, as you’d expect from Manjari. Could easily eat a pile of these over a good HD movie.
Domincan Republic 68%
This beautiful, beauiful looking red dashed ganache is made with Valrhona’s Tainori -Valrhon’s second Dominican Republic based chocolate, after their original, Caraïbe.
The water-based ganache really brings out the best notes of the chocolate cheese, stilton, apricot, red currants, muesli, ginger at the end, leaving behind the slight mustiness found in the straight chocolate.
The surprise of the pack – the cacao genetics suggest this should be the least interesting of the collection, but this ganache is actually very light and creamy.
The aroma is leather-cheese, almost stilton with hints of apricot. On the mouth the effect is quite different, with ginger, light spice and while not exactly fruity, a pleasant top. (What you’d expect with Valrhona’s fruity style applied to not-too fruity beans.) Texture is creamy, ginger biscuits towards the end.
Only in the after-taste is the origin given away – dry and tannic with a quick end. An enjoyably pleasant surprise though.
Palmira single plantation – 68%
The gold-splashed star of the collection. From Valrhona’s vintage range, but at a higher strength than the bar. Valrhona make Palmirae couverture at 68%, compared to the bar at 64%. So no strengthening by Damian, in case you were wondering.
Aroma is clean and fruity, floral perfumed and travels quite some distance (I could pick up the smell from the table, without even lifting it to the nose). Cut, the aroma has much more fruit – towards passion fruit and mango.
The flavour in the nouth carries on with fruit, adding cream and nut – a much fruitier expression than the plane Palmira bar. Towards the end there’s chocolate and nut (as we’d expect – these beans are Porcelana from Venezuela). The length is clean chocolate, though a little light, but does gently linger.
The cacao variety shows its quality, though 2010 was not Palmira’s best year – that’s the nature of single estate chocolate though.
Light aroma of dried fruit, raisins and tobacco, liquorice. On cutting, this is much more towards apricot and some fresh nut
On biting we have salt, liquorice, biscuit, going towards apricot toffee apple near the end with a little pleasant savoury flavour and a creamy chocolatey note, but then some bitterness clicks in.
After-taste is very dry-biscuit tannins. A real tongue scraper, which is down to the cacao origin. (Brazillian genetics are mostly forastero. Although a lot of work has been done on quality, this can’t make up for the varieties currently in Brazil.)
The cut aroma is very light and clean, with distinct red fruits. On the mouth, instant cream and toffee, with raspberries following, then more toffee, sinking into dark cooked sugar and chocolate. Very Venezuelan. Toffee nut at the end. The end is powdery, full dark fruits, light tannins and hangs well.
The length has a slight ‘fizz’ and ‘wafer’ biscuit notes, as well as dried fruit, but carries on quite happily for some time, without turning ‘off’.
This could be strengthened Araguani, but my batch of that seems to have strong bitter almonds and a scrappy, earthy after-taste. Possibly the water ganache ameliorates that, but this seems much more towards toffee and cream (which are more genuine notes of the Aragua region in Venezuela – the state that includes the Choroni region and the Chuao valley.) If it is Araguani, then it’s another example of how Damian’s water-based ganaches often taste better than the original chocolate.
Better than a bar?
All-in-all ‘the pure collection’ is fantastic introduction to, and expression of, the flavour notes of Valrhona’s origin chocolate. The ‘pure’ idea takes chocolate tasting a step further, and many of these (and other examples of Damian’s) actually taste better in the water ganache form than on their own as chocolate.
As an experience, this is a must if you want to get to know Valrhona better, and enjoy some great chocolates in the process. Hopefully though, this is only the beginning. The idea can easily be applied to other brands, or for example, featuring chocolate one country origin. (Venezuela would work particularly well). So, what chocolate brands would we like to see Damian feature next?
Price: £18.95 – buy online direct from Damian here.