The chocolate gremlins finally caught up with me last night, so I’ve been slaving away in the test kitchen. Yesterday I mixed up thirteen flavors of ganache, mixing batches of white chocolate, dark chocolate, and two types of milk chocolate ganaches and then adding flavorings: orange blossom extract, lychee puree, maple syrup, and sassafras. Plus a lemon-thyme flavor. So, of course, today I started the day right, eating the breakfast of champions: chocolate! (I mean, you gotta test all those flavors, right?)
The results, as I expected, were mixed. The lychee was a total failure; the flavor is so subtle that it vanishes instantly under any form of chocolate – dark, milk, or white. That was more or less expected, but I had to try it, right? It might work as a fruit jelly if I add some lemon juice to kick up the acidity, and I may try that later, but I find fruit jellies less interesting, generally speaking, so they probably won’t make it into the boxes (though they may feed some delighted coworkers).
The sassafras was also a disappointment. I couldn’t get enough sassafras flavor to make the ganaches interesting, even by adding substantial amounts of sassafras powder (which also gave the ganache a grainy texture). That’s too bad, because I was really looking forward to root beer truffles! (A root beer float with vanilla ice cream is one of my favorite confections.)
The orange blossom, however, was wonderful! It tasted heavenly in the dark chocolate, so-so in the milk chocolate, and poorly in the white chocolate, probably because vanilla is a floral fragrance. (People think of white chocolate as mild in flavor, but it’s really not, since it contains a strong dose of vanilla.) In my experience flavors combine best when they have very different “notes” – if they are operating in the same register one dominates and overpowers the other. I’ve never been particularly fond of coffee + dark chocolate for that reason – they are both bitter flavors so it’s much harder to pick out the coffee flavor. I combine coffee with white chocolate when I want to use it, so the flavor is more “visible”. Similarly, the orange blossom doesn’t do well with vanilla because they are both florals, but does well in dark chocolate because dark chocolate is more of an earthy flavor.
The maple syrup results were mixed. It vanished in the dark chocolate (more or less expected since it’s on the same general wavelength in flavor), was barely detectable in the milk chocolate, but came through quite clearly in the white chocolate. That said, if you dipped the resulting chocolate in anything but white chocolate, I think you’d lose the flavor, and because I want to put it on top of a pecan gianduja made with dark chocolate, I need something that will produce a more intense maple-syrup flavor. I’m thinking a soft fudge might be in order. More experimentation needed! Perhaps this weekend I’ll try maple fudge over pecan gianduja.
The lemon thyme was an “eh” sort of thing. It tasted ok (maybe a bit heavy on the thyme) and was definitely out of the ordinary, but nothing really stood out about it. I probably won’t use it , unless I come up with a way to make it more interesting.
So, out of four flavors trialed, I have two flops, one mediocre result, one winner, and one that has potential, but needs further work. That’s about par for the course these days – I used to have more positive results, but that was back in the Good Old Days when I hadn’t been at it for long, so was trying more classic combinations. These days I’m venturing further afield, which means I produce fewer successes but the ones I do create are much more out of the ordinary. I don’t think that’s a Bad Thing!
This weekend is more laboring in the chocolate mines. I plan to trial the following flavors:
- ginger yuzu
- maple ginger pecan
- caramel walnut
- orange cinnamon clove vanilla honey
- lemon thyme
- peanut butter & jelly
- hazelnut gianduja with raspberry-orange pate
- salted caramels
This will be fairly time-consuming, so no work on Phoenix Rising this weekend. I do need to do some examples for the book, though, so that’s my other project for the weekend.