Co­coa loco

Marie- Claire Digby talks to master choco­latier Ste­fan Brud­erer about how to make choco­late and, most im­por­tantly, how to en­joy it

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

‘ Ilike chal­lenges. My nick­name is Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble.” Master choco­latier Ste­fan Brud­erer is talk­ing about one of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing his in­dus­try at the mo­ment: fac­ing up to the sugar back­lash. Work­ing on ways of ad­dress­ing that, as well as de­vel­op­ing new choco­lates for the world mar­ket, is part of his role at Lindt & Sprüngli, the Swiss con­fec­tionary com­pany.

“My work space is 500 me­tres from here, in a hid­den build­ing, the re­search and de­vel­op­ment depart­ment,” he says. And he is not jok­ing, choco­late pro­duc­tion is a highly com­pet­i­tive process, and it wouldn’t do for me to stum­ble upon the next big thing dur­ing my visit to the fac­tory in Kilch­berg, a pic­turesque lake­side sub­urb of Zurich.

The darker the choco­late, the lower the sugar con­tent, and at this fac­tory they pro­duce a bar in the Ex­cel­lence range that has 99 per cent co­coa solids – leav­ing only 1 per cent for other in­gre­di­ents. “So we ac­tu­ally have sugar- re­duced choco­late,” Brud­erer says, a trifle tri­umphantly.

It is true. But that 99 per cent co­coa bar does not have uni­ver­sal ap­peal. It is dry and does not melt eas­ily in the mouth, a con­nois­seur’s choco­late. But there is a way to broaden its ap­peal, Brud­erer tells me – pair it with whiskey, but not any old whiskey.

“If you have such a strong in­tense choco­late, then you need a whiskey with honey [ flavours] and some sweet­ness.”

The for­mer pas­try chef, who leads a team of 16 master choco­latiers at Lindt, is an ex­pert at match­ing choco­late with other flavours, in food and drinks.

“I try al­ways to keep in mind that op­po­sites at­tract. So if I have a very strong choco­late with a lot of polyphe­nols and tan­nins, I do not have a smokey whiskey, be­cause the only sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence would be dry­ness in your mouth and you don’t want that.

“An­other ex­am­ple is Ex­cel­lence orange choco­late. This is a medium dark choco­late and it is quite sweet. There is a very ripe aroma pro­file of sun­dried or­anges. For that I go for a dry white wine with some acid­ity and fruit notes, not ripe fruit notes, but notes like green ap­ple, pineap­ple and grape­fruit.”

This pair­ing, he says, works be­cause it is in bal­ance. “So you can taste two dif­fer­ent things, and to­gether you cre­ate a third taste, some­thing com­pletely new.”

What­ever choco­late it is you are in­dulging in, there are some rules Brud­erer sug­gests to max­imise your en­joy­ment.

“Peo­ple who eat choco­late straight out of the fridge don’t re­ally like choco­late, be­cause the choco­late does not get time to melt and set the flavours free.

“Choco­late out of the fridge is less in­tense be­cause you have swal­lowed it be­fore it is com­pletely melted.”

How we eat it also mat­ters, it seems. “Put a piece in you mouth and let it melt slowly, and of course i t i s very i mpor­tant to breathe the right way – in through your mouth and out through the nose, be­cause if you do, you can trans­port the flavours of the melted choco­late to the taste buds be­hind the nose [ retronasal].”

Science bit done, it is time to dress up and get to play choco­latier, an ac­tiv­ity that is open to visi­tors to the fac­tory, who can book a va­ri­ety of two- hour classes (¤ 65) in the com­pany’s purpose- built Cho­co­la­te­ria.

In 2020 the Cho­co­la­te­ria will move to a Choco­late Com­pe­tence Cen­tre that is un­der con­struc­tion at the fac­tory site, which will in­clude an interactive choco­late mu­seum, as well as a cafe and shop. There is cur­rently a spa­cious shop, with fac­tory sec­onds as well as a vast range of in­ter­na­tional prod­uct lines, a few mo­ments’ walk from the fac­tory.

Be­fore re­port­ing to the master choco­latier as­signed to your class, get some as­sis­tance ad­just­ing your toque, or chef’s hat, is the first ad­vice I can share – it’s not straight­for­ward, and a floppy toque is not a good look.

The work­shop might be­gin with an in­sight into the three dif­fer­ent types of co­coa beans – criollo, trini­tario and foras­tero – to­gether with in­for­ma­tion on where Lindt sources them from and how they use them. The three main stages of choco­late pro­duc­tion – fer­men­ta­tion, roast­ing and conch­ing – are also cov­ered be­fore you get to dip into the gi­ant pots of tem­pered choco­late on each work­bench.

The most pop­u­lar classes cover the mak­ing of filled choco­lates or pra­line, but I am tasked with a sim­pler job, fill­ing moulds with just enough of the liq­uid choco­late ( with­out mak­ing a mess), be­fore top­ping the bars with my choice of ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents.

“Less is more,” Brud­erer cau­tions, as I as­sid­u­ously try to cover ev­ery inch of my bars with cran­ber­ries, hazel­nuts and caramel pieces. Not all to­gether, but sep­a­rately, the caramel bar topped with the mer­est hint of fleur de sel.

It’s not un­com­mon for class par­tic­i­pants to try to use all seven ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents – two types of caramel ( light and dark), freeze dried rasp­ber­ries, fleur de sel, cran­ber­ries, hazel­nuts and can­died al­mond sliv­ers – in one bar. But I get the feel­ing that while this is in­dulged, it’s not the smartest choice.

Just 30 minutes later, my first hand­crafted cus­tomised Lindt choco­late bar is ready to be wrapped and sealed – and then eaten, with a re­sound­ing snap, like Brud­erer tells me well- tem­pered choco­late should.

Lindt master choco­latier Ernst Flury will be at the Lindt dis­play stand at Taste of Dublin ( June 14th- 17th), demon­strat­ing how to make and fill Lin­dor truf­fles. There will also be the big­gest va­ri­ety of prod­ucts the com­pany has ever show­cased in Ire­land, avail­able for tast­ing and pur­chase

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ON­DREJ KOLACEK

Ste­fan Brud­erer ex­plain­ing the art of the master choco­latier at Lindt, in Zurich.

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