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Chocolate testing for chefs?
April 18, 2004
11:48 pm
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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I had a great dessert at my local restaurant - tiramisu mousse, orange carpaccio and peppermint syrup. I had a chat with the waiter about chocolate who later asked me to see their dessert maker since she wanted me to educate her on different chocolate brands. Both of us where quite interested to give the Valrhona monopoly a challenge. And I met her. She said that for cooking it wasn't necessary to use expensive chocolates like Valrhona. I shared my own amateurish experiences and said I felt it really matter what brand and quality to use in let's say mousse. She informed me that some chefs (allegedly) had made a huge test of approx 100 different chocolates in order to find out which one is best for desserts - and she used the one they had concluded as the winning. She didn't know the name of the chocolates. Have any of you heard of this?

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
May 11, 2004
2:31 am
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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I don't mean to bother you guys, but since no one replied, I reckon you don't know. So, I change my question: Do you know which chocolates chefs are using? I'm talking high quality restaurants of course.

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
May 27, 2004
3:57 pm
elektra
United Kingdom
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Hi LoneLy,

Valrhona seems to be the choc of choice for most top chefs, it's certainly the one which features in my recipe books, eg Nigel Slater, River Cafe. Being of a sceptical turn of mind, it occurs to me there could be an ulterior motive for this, but really I think it's just because it's there...ie it's easy to get hold of in 1k block, and was probably the only one readily obtainable when chefs were training.

I've seen big blocks of Amedei and other excellent brands on the internet, and wonder if they are worth the extra. For myself, I tend to cook with Waitrose 74% continental, which comes in 2 X 200g bars for £2.89, though I buy it when it's on offer, at £2.45. Yes, that's 400g of chocolate for £2.45!

Elektra

May 31, 2004
8:30 pm
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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Thanks for the info, Elektra. Do you work in a restaurant or a café or so?

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
June 1, 2004
2:16 pm
legodude
Norway
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I have been to some restaurants here in Norway, and I guess some of the best and most expensive ones migth use some Valrhona, but the majority probably uses Callebeaut. Where I work, we use Callebeaut. I hope that more restaurants will try to use better quality chocolate in their dessert plates. It will not cost much extra, since they do not use the same amounts like pastry cooks and confectioners, and the restaurants can charge more for a plate of dessert than a similar cake or mousse at a teashop.

"I`ve got lots of friends in San José. Do you know the way to San José?"
June 1, 2004
4:27 pm
elektra
United Kingdom
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No LoneLy, I'm a lawyer. It would be dangerous for me to work in a place making or selling top quality chocolate or ice cream!

I've looked into the costings of chocolate for cooking with, and the comparisons are enlightening. My standard 70% Waitrose Continental is £2.45 for 400g, whereas Valrhona Manjari, 64%, sells for £11.20 for the same weight, plus postage of about £3 as it's not sold anywhere near me. If I bought Amedei Tuscan Black, 70%, via the internet, it would cost me £25, including postage, for a kilo. This pans out at over 4 times the cost of the Waitrose (and you have to buy a whole kilo), and the Valrhona is nearly six times as much.

I'm a great believer in quality rather than quantity, but will probably stick to my current source for every day cooking. It would be fascinating, though, to use three different chocolates to make the same product, probably ice cream for me, and organize a tasting.

Elektra

June 1, 2004
10:48 pm
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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Legodude, I presume you get Callebaut in larger quantas then? What kind of restaurant do you work at? Do you think Callebaut might be the one the other Norwegian dessert chef referred to as "tried out and proved to be the best"? I've checked out Callebaut's web site and have decided that for my hot chocolate, mousse, fondant, cakes I'll try out Callebaut as they've got all these tempting recipes listed. I'm not that big fan of Callebaut as an eating chocolate though.

I guess you're right about Valrhona as I know that several of the most expensive places use Valrhona, but Amedei has been offered to and tried out by some dessert chefs now. I do understand if price matters, but I hope some dare to try out Amedei after their promo-tour.

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
June 4, 2004
2:53 am
Hayley
Auckland, New Zealand
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I have just seen this web site for the first time and read through the discussion about Valrhona versus other chocolates. I think for a person to even consider not using a good quality chocolate for basic dessert preparations is crazy and compromising the quality of the dish right from the start. As with any type of ingredient in cooking, you should use fresh, good quality ingredients. Gone are the days when people could not tell the difference between good quality chocolate and compound! I am a huge fan of Valrhona chocolate. It is the only chocolate I wi;; use and noting else in New Zealand will comapare. This is a fantastic website and I would love to have some feed back and also if anyone can point me in the direction of cocolate work/static dishes for competions. Tips and points to consider etc

June 4, 2004
5:13 pm
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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Welcome to the forum, Hayley! As you may have noticed I'm the one sceptical towards Valrhona's monopoly, but after all I'm not a real chef, only messing things up in my own kitchen. I wonder, how you tried to cook with Cluizel, Domori, Amedei, Slitti etc? I'd love to hear about other's experiences and I'm absolutely open to review my attempts to dethronize Valrhona.

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
June 5, 2004
8:36 pm
blakej
San Francisco, USA
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There was a great discussion about the merits of using varietal chocolate in desserts over on eGullet ([url]http://forums.egullet.com/index.php?showtopic=28359[/url]). Clay Gordon, of chocophile.com, challenged the forum to come up with a dessert that would showcase a varietal chocolate. Steve Klc, an excellent pastry chef at Jaleo in Washington DC, turned the tables by asking people to "invent" their own varietal chocolate, and seeing if people could tell the invented one from a real one. His point was that there are very very few cases where a varietal chocolate is demonstrably better than typical "professional-grade" chocolate (such as Callebaut, Valrhona, El Rey, Guittard, etc.) for making desserts. I found his argument very convincing. It's hard to argue with lots of years as a professional patissier.

I'll probably try making some good hot chocolate and some truffles with my dwindling supply of Amedei Chuao. It's a strong enough chocolate, and they're simple enough recipes, that I expect the extra quality of the raw ingredient to shine through. But anything much fancier than that, or any chocolate much subtler than Chuao, I personally wouldn't hold out much hope for.

June 5, 2004
9:30 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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I suppose it depends on where the chefs are located. In America, for example, Guittard and Scharffen Berger are quite popular, not only for eating but for cooking as well. Guittard's line of couveture is rather extensive and has many applications, just like Valrhona. Callebaut, I believe, is the good old stand by that's not only cheap, but has a good and versatile flavor.

June 8, 2004
11:28 am
Hayley
Auckland, New Zealand
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Great to see such a response! Being in a small country, such as New Zealand, which is so far away from Europe, our choice in chocolate is slightly limited. We do still have a good selection of commercial brands ie; Callebaut, Patis France, Barry Callebaut, DGF, Dobla etc. From my own experince as a chef, I have found that Valrhona is far superior! I think that there is a bit of confusion when people rate chocolate on the cocoa mass percentage. More does not always mean better. The comparision of flavours which you get from the Valrhona Chocolate is quite intriqing and can play a very important part in a dish. The Manjari is my favourite! I also find that if you were to do a blind tasting of a mousse made with Valrhona and a mousse made with a more commercially made chocolate, you can notice the difference. I, myself can tell the difference between the Valrhona Grand Cru chocolate in a blind tasting. I must admit I am a bit of a fan.
There are still alot of chocolates that I am yet to try!![:D]

June 8, 2004
4:05 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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You're right about the cocoa content. Just because a chocolate's cocoa content is higher doesn't mean that it's better. Flavor is the key, and if the flavor is off, then it doesn't matter how much sugar you add to it. All you do is change the sweetness, not the flavor. I've had several 80% chocolates that don't enjoy nearly as much as some 70%s or even some 60%s. It's all about balance.

June 10, 2004
11:42 am
Hayley
Auckland, New Zealand
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Absolutely!! Have you tried the Aragauni from Valrhona. I will be able to try it in a couple of months. It sounds interesting. Not yet released in New Zealand. I am looking forward to trying it!!

June 10, 2004
5:08 pm
choca
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i must whole heartedly agree with you lonely . the hype for Valrhona is often overdone , and while the cheese conglomerate behind them has done a good job at promotion and made some good chocolate , there is a lot of guff spoken .
Callebaut ( owned by Mr . Jacobs ) have the monopoly at the industrial level and produce some good chocolates , as well as bad . They supply most of the trade in the U.K. They are becoming much more cynical though , so lonely could have a go at them too !!!
If you ask your Callebaut rep for details of their whole range you might find a more interesting chocolate , they might import it specially for you . in the U.K. there is only a limited range available to the trade compared to France .

June 15, 2004
2:24 am
Hayley
Auckland, New Zealand
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Lonely - I'm just curious as to why you are against Valrhona. Have you used it much at all in pastry work. I'm a devoted fan and I can not get my head around your dislike for it! Of coarse, we do have our own taste's, I'm just curious. I think their product is far superior to alot of other chocolate makers and believe that it is not all hype that goes behind it. As for Callebaut, it is OK. Depending of coarse, I have used it quite alot in the past, and found it to be fine, and still of better quality than alot of other covertures. I'm not too comfortable naming companies when I'm saying something bad. I'm new to this Forum thing so a little unsure. It looks like most people here are from the UK. I'd be quessing that there is alot more of a variety in chocolate over there! And I would be in heaven to be at a chocolate show! we don't have them in New Zealand.

June 17, 2004
3:49 am
Lone Ly
Oslo, Norway
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Hayley, I'm not against Valrhona as such and I do not dislike it. I am against Valrhona's monopoly. Norway, where I'm from, is a small country, but we have Amedei and some Cluizel available - speaking of brands that are appreciated in this forum. To me it seems like some sort of laziness that Valrhona is the only high quality couverture used if taking one step up from Callebaut. (Legodude was kind enough to inform me that Callebaut probably is the one most common.) I am only an amateur myself, so you might find my opinion unqualified. My point is that there are other brands that are good too. As not all Valrhona bars are suitable for all purposes, I think some of the bars from let's say Amedei and Domori have their mission too. A chocolate mousse based on Valrhona's Guanaja is simply different from one based on Amedei's Chuao. Personally I like to keep things simple, and I often find that Amedei speaks for itself so to say. It has a richness of flavours (also when tempered) that I really enjoy. When using Valrhona I feel I need to add some liqueur to get the dessert interesting enough. On the other hand, sometimes I find a bar of baking chocolate from the supermarket good enough. It depends ... I have not tried Callebaut, except from simply eating the London Chocolate Week 2003 Rococco bar which Martin told me was produced by them.

As for the nationalities of the forum members, there is certainly a European dominance, so I'd love to see all corners of the world covered - and by that I don't mean the Western world only.

"Man cannot live by chocolate alone - but woman can." (Unknown)
June 17, 2004
2:03 pm
legodude
Norway
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Me too would like to hear from people all over the world. Maybe if the chocolate producers payed the growers a little bit more, they could afford a computer, send their kids to school, buy a bar of chocolate. Then we could chat with our brothers and sisters of the world, and not only the "western countries".

Now, who saw that one coming?

"I`ve got lots of friends in San José. Do you know the way to San José?"
June 25, 2004
2:30 am
Hayley
Auckland, New Zealand
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Nice one! I must be the only NZer on this forum.

June 25, 2004
9:34 am
alex_h
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well, let's hope for more then! :-)

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