In case you’re wondering what 100 lbs of chocolate looks like, it’s much like this:
I should maybe add that it’s not just 100 lbs of chocolate, but 100 lbs of Valrhona chocolate – generally considered among the best (often considered the best) in the world. It’s excellent stuff.
I now have 33 kg of dark chocolate, 6 kg of milk chocolate (Equatoriale Lait), and 9 kg of Valrhona Ivoire, which is their white chocolate. Normally I despise white chocolate, but this one is well worth eating – I love it! It is not too sweet (usually the deadly flaw in white chocolate), has a very smooth, floral vanilla flavor, and is packed with cocoa butter for a luscious mouthfeel. I use it for flavors that are too delicate to stand up to dark chocolate – so fig and cognac, for example, or white guava, or strawberry and balsamic vinegar.
And the 33 kg of dark chocolate is not simply a single flavor of dark chocolate. Chocolate has complex and subtle flavor notes, just like coffee, and two dark chocolates can taste drastically different and still be identifiably chocolate. So in this year’s collection of chocolate, I have four varietals:
- Alpaco (floral and citrus-y notes, good with my vanilla-orange blossom honey – jasmine caramels and generally with anything floral or fragrant)
- Extra Bitter (a good, smooth, well-rounded flavor that I consider my “all-purpose” chocolate)
- Manjari (fruity notes, almost like raspberry, and a definite acidic tang, good for fruit fillings)
- Caraibe (rich, earthy, overtones of red fruit)
Valrhona produces many more varietals and blends than that, but over the years I’ve tried nearly all of them and have always come back to these four. Extra Bitter is my all-purpose workhorse – if it doesn’t have a flavor that calls for a particular chocolate overtone, it gets dipped or molded in Extra Bitter. (Despite its name, Extra Bitter really isn’t. It’s a darkly roasted bean, which I think is where the name comes from, but it’s a good dark chocolate. At 61% cocoa solids, you might expect it to be a little light in cocoa flavor compared to the 65 or 70% cocoa solid blends, but cocoa solid percentages are extremely deceptive – this one has excellent chocolate flavor.) Manjari for fruit, Alpaco for flowers, Caraibe for a more intense and fruity chocolate flavor – those four pretty much cover it for me.
In the realm of sweets, I managed to “score” three citrons at the farmer’s market last week, and am happily candying the peels. I was also delighted to find out that my favorite exotic citrus farmers have started shipping for the season! While I wasn’t quite willing to fork out $11/lb for yuzu (a Japanese lemon with an intriguingly scented rind) – the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmer’s market will have them for only $3/lb next month – they did have kaffir limes at very reasonable prices, and I immediately ordered some, so I can try candying the peel. (I don’t know if it will be any good, but there’s only one way to find out!) I do have a kaffir lime tree (courtesy of my friend Blossom) but it’s not fruiting for this year yet, and I want to try kaffir lime peel before chocolate season really begins. I have visions of including it in the chocolate boxes…
Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to know what 20 lbs of cocoa powder looks like, here you go:
One box is going to a friend, and Mike will use up most of the rest in (I’m somewhat horrified to say) his daily protein shake. But I have some friends in India who will be receiving a kilo bag or two as well. (It’s too hot in their part of India to store “real” chocolate during the summer, but cocoa powder does just fine.) It’s also great for “spiking” a fudge recipe, if you think the stuff made with just a few bits of chocolate isn’t intense enough. I add a very large amount of cocoa powder – up to 10% the weight of the batch – to my fudges, so they will be intensely chocolaty.)
I also bought some interesting stuff for experiments – I want to try making fruit patés this year, just to see if it can be done, so I have 1 kg of frozen Pear Williams puree, 1 kg of frozen lingonberries, 1 kg of passionfruit puree, and 1 kg of frozen boysenberries. Some of that will go into truffles – but I only need a relatively small amount for that, leaving me plenty to experiment with. This weekend and next I think I will do test recipes, including the fruit patés. The weekend after next (the 13th) will be fudges, caramels, and chocolate covered fruits, the weekend after that (the 20th) I will cast chocolate shells in the chocolate molds and set up for Thanksgiving, and then Thanksgiving week I’ll do all the bonbons.
That’s the plan, anyway!
In other news, my painting instructor says she thinks I may be a “natural” for painting. I don’t know about that, but the painting is coming along very nicely, in large part because I understand color (all that dyeing paid off!) and because I’ve been studying drawing, so I understand shapes and forms. For a first-ever attempt at painting, it’s not at all bad. So far, anyway. We’ll see what happens when the painting gets further along.
Off to chocolaty-sweet dreamland….!