Fall in love with Chocolate
Easter is over, cheers to the all the delicious weight we put on! We hope you enjoyed egg-hunting and spent quality time with your families and friends. Chocolate has that lovely ability to put a smile on kids faces, and to bring grown ups back to childhood in a bite. Simple but complex, sour or sweet, dark or white, plain or seasoned, just like wine, chocolate can be toasty, opulent, buttery and pairs well with different type of food or flavors. We are delighted to share the stories of two Chocolatiers who dedicated their careers to paying respect to the noble bean.
Jafer – Founder of Zam Artisan Chocolates
Tell us about your journey as a Chef and what led you to Chocolate and confections.
I grew up in the Beaujolais region of France in a small village between Lyon and Roanne. As kids, we always popped by the bakery for plain and chocolate croissants, caramels and fruit paste. Although I worked mostly in savory dishes and was trained in it, I always felt an attraction to baking and the sweeter side of the kitchen. I have continued to hone my skills in restaurants, including in San Francisco where I worked with Michel Richard, a renown pastry chef. I also worked as a private chef, which gave me some time to nurture my passion for French confections. The art of chocolate and confections is based on traditional methods but there is always something new to learn so I often go back to France for inspiration and mentoring by the best artisans in the Roanne region.
How do you explain the noble and authentic feeling of your creations?
I love chocolate for its flavor complexity, its temperament and warmth. Chocolate is also a delicate ingredient to work with. You must respect the exact temperature requirements and adjust to the ambient air humidity. It may be volatile, but it offers many creative opportunities with many possible pairings. Some are quite classic – with citrus, red fruits, coconut, coffee, spices – and others a bit more innovative, especially with savory ingredients like bacon, sea salt and even potatoes!
How did you come up with that idea of painting on your chocolate hearts and bonbons?
In a country with vast culinary heritage like France, chocolate tends to be sober. By that I mean that taste matters the most, while design is somehow subdued. I very much respect the tradition and focus on taste and texture, but I also like to take a more playful route, indulging in colors. In the US, consumers tend to be excited about colors and ready to embrace new ideas of what a chocolate can be. I use various techniques, such as splashing with paint brush and airbrushing. This allows me to achieve interesting and unique designs. Each chocolate is unique as the paint is applied in a random fashion. I usually do not see the end result until I turn over the mold. If every temperature is respected during production, the result is a stunning shine and a multilayered one of-a-kind design.
What is a high-quality chocolate bean for you?
To me, it means the beans come from a single origin plantation. Each cocoa has a unique distinctive character depending of where it is grown. A good chocolate made from a quality bean is deep, smoky and has the characteristic of its regional soil, just like wine. I like South American cocoa beans from Venezuela and Ecuador. But as a chocolatier and confectioner, I use mostly French chocolate, such as Valrhona, Cluizel and Pralus. They have been sourcing quality beans for over a century. At Zam, we coat all of our chocolate in a proprietary blend of 72% cocoa content.
Any fun projects for Zam?
Yes! We want to continue expanding our chocolate collections. I also would like to open a retail boutique in San Francisco, perhaps a small shop where hot chocolate drinks can be offered as well as macarons, confections and chocolates. We are also starting a wholesale venture with our confections to share them with even more chocolate lovers.
Linda – Founder of Lindy Pop Chocs
When did you discover your love for chocolate?
I’ve ALWAYS loved chocolate and can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat it!It sometimes gets overwhelming to work with Chocolate all day and I even need a break from time to time, but the need to eat it always comes back!
It all began when I started a kids ‘cake pop decorating business and decided to expand adding chocolate decorating too. Not everyone likes or wants cake, and it gave my customers more options, with combined parties (cake pops and chocolate) becoming most popular.
What made you decide to focus on very unique chocolate creations?
I found over time, that my love of chocolate decorating took over from the other parts of my business. It’s actually very relaxing to paint chocolate, and there are some wonderful chocolate molds available, with so many details finally captured when the chocolate gets painted. Finding unusual chocolate molds became a bit of a hobby, which then developed into something more important, when I got tired of my ‘proper’ job. I took this opportunity to start my Etsy shop and focus on chocolate, this is what I really love doing the most.
Gift sets that target specific interests, jobs, sports, animals, food or hobbies are a favorite of mine. I know how hard it can be to find a gift for someone who enjoys doing something you know nothing about! Most people will always thank you for a gift in chocolate, especially one that features their interest.
Ideas and opportunities…… are there limits to what can be done with chocolate?
There are actually many constraints and limits to working with chocolate, especially in a non-factory atmosphere. As it is sensitive to dampness, light and temperature, I have to work and package quickly, to keep the chocolate at its best. This means I cannot work on orders ahead of time, and there is a shorter shelf life than chocolate that is produced and packaged in a factory. Working, packaging and posting in the summer (even in England) is very challenging. I often work late at night or into the early hours, as it is the only time I can safely paint or handle the chocolate.
I think you always have to be aware that chocolate will react to the way you treat it, or what you mix or put on it. If you don’t temper your chocolate when melting, you will never have a stable chocolate base to work from.
What do you love about Belgian chocolate?
I love the texture and taste of Belgian chocolate, and in Europe, it is probably the best known for these properties. Other countries produce perfectly lovely chocolate too, but from a business point of view, it makes sense to go with an instantly recognizable source, that customers will feel confident in purchasing. It is always consistent in quality, even from different producers within Belgium, who obviously value their country’s leading chocolate reputation.
Remember our Chocolate Truffles recipe? Find recipe and instructions here and treat yourself with an elegant chocolate dessert: https://www.keenobby.com/2017/04/19/easter-special-authentic-french-chocolate-truffles/
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Written by Keenobby