Small, indulgent desserts, single-origin chocolate and unusual new savoury flavours are all part of the fast-moving category of chocolate and pâtisserie over the next few months. Lisa Jenkins rounds up the latest delicious developments
As a rule, society seems to be paying more attention to healthy eating, a fact borne out by recent figures from business intelligence and consultancy provider CGA Food, which reported that chocolate sales are in a -5.6% year-on-year value decline.
In addition, 48% of consumers questioned stated that sugar content was important to them when choosing a meal, and 37% of diners were also concerned about the amount of calories. So how to address these concerns? Mini desserts might be the answer, says Jon Turonnet, foodservice sales manager for Brioche Pasquier.
“Two trends made a big impression in 2016 and are set to grow further this year,” says Turonnet. “These are mini desserts and indulgence. And although they appear to be contradictory, they are, in fact, complementary. After all, if you are only going to eat a mouthful or two of a sweet treat, it is even more important that those mouthfuls are perfect in every way. It needs to be beautiful to look at, made from the best ingredients, completely delicious and served with style.”
Continental pâtisserie seems to fit this trend perfectly, and pastries can be served as a tempting mouthful alongside coffee or tea or as part of a sharing platter or afternoon tea. “Pâtisserie is also lighter than cake or pudding,” adds Turonnet.
Food company Tipiak specialises in desserts, and its international project manager, Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, says she has seen growing demand for its eclairs and gluten-free macarons.
“Eclairs are a dessert trend caterers will be seeing more of,” she says. “But not just any eclairs – premium eclairs with flavoured crème pâtissière and exciting icing designs that will get the tills ringing.”
Tipiak has a range of frozen French Pop Eclairs, a mini version of the choux classic, that come in a variety of flavours, including crème brûlée, chocolate orange, and raspberry and blackcurrant.
Chef James Tanner’s new ‘Inspired By’ chocolate pavé, launched in partnership with Aryzta Food Solutions and chocolate manufacturer Callebaut, is a frozen dessert that can be defrosted and served from a 36 pre-portioned box or “pimped and paired”, says Tanner.
The pavé is made with Callebaut’s 70% Ecuadorian Origin chocolate and it has a rich chocolate brownie base topped with a milk chocolate praline feuilletine and chocolate truffle, decorated with chocolate mirror glaze and cacao nibs. Although it makes a generous dessert on its own, Tanner suggests serving it with other flavours such as gingerbread, berries, coffee, passion fruit, rum, whisky or nuts.
“The portion size was probably my biggest challenge,” admits Tanner. “It is an indulgent dessert, so the portions had to be smaller, but the 98g-sized portion is still a special treat.”
Helen Vass, head pastry chef of Number 16 restaurant in Glasgow and part of the winning team on 2016’s Bake Off: Crème de la Crème, also recognises the importance of an indulgent dessert on a menu. She combines the very best local and seasonal Scottish produce with modern cooking techniques, but her speciality is chocolate.
“When we send out the special occasion desserts to our guests – whether it’s a chocolate entremet or a piped message on a plate – it creates a really special moment for the customer. They are more likely to remember their visit to the restaurant and, hopefully, they will return,” she says.
Vass’s teammate on Bake Off, Mark Tilling, master chocolatier and resident tutor at Squires Kitchen in Farnham, Surrey, says that savoury flavours are becoming more popular in desserts, with soy sauce, chilli and bacon being used in traditionally sweet creations.
“Herbs such as rosemary and basil work particularly well to enhance certain flavour notes in chocolate, so I’m expecting to see more of them on dessert menus,” says Tilling.
Tilling’s latest book, Mastering Chocolate, covers the chocolate story from bean to bar, offers tips on tempering chocolate, and includes 20 recipes, from hot chocolate and whisky truffles to a show-stopping chocolate croquembouche.
To blend or not to blend?
Julie Sharp, Callebaut UK’s development chef, says single-origin chocolate is the new superstar product for chefs. “Single-origin chocolate has a unique taste profile that reflects the soil, the climate and the environment in which the cocoa is grown – similar to the production of wine. Not only does single-origin chocolate give flavour characteristics essential to menu development, it also offers a heritage and story that chefs appreciate.
“On the other hand, blended chocolates are more flexible when it comes to flavour and allow for wider use. Chocolatiers may add full-cream milk powder to a recipe for a creamy, indulgent product, similar to a Swiss chocolate; or add skimmed milk powder to allow the cocoa notes to come through for a more mature taste. They may even blend beans from several countries to give the most suitable taste profile for the product’s use. Both blended and single-origin chocolates are equally important – it just depends on how the final product is intended to be used.”
Tilling suggests a single-origin chocolate may be most suitable when it comes to pairing chocolate with other components in a recipe to create a unique finish. “Peruvian chocolate, for example, contains hints of berry, so will perfectly enhance a dessert based around red fruits,” says Tilling.
Guittard Chocolate Company, founded in the San Francisco Bay area in 1868, is run by fourth- and fifth-generation family members and is known for making couverture based on traditional French methods, such as its 38% Soleil d’Or milk, which has a bold, rich chocolate flavour accented with subtle caramel notes and a hint of cinnamon.
Its couverture is now available in the UK and is championed by celebrated chocolatier Paul A Young. He did extensive research into his new chocolate supplier, and says that making the change refreshed his approach and generated new creative ideas. “Every chocolate has its own character and every one needs its own style of tempering,” he says.
Young uses Guittard’s 65% Machu Picchu Peru for his muscovado truffles, which gives them a delicate balanced sweetness, and for his cocoa nib cupcakes, he prefers Guittard Cocoa Rouge, an unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder.
Guittard works directly with cocoa growers and pays a premium for its cacao. It is a founding member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), a public-private member group for stakeholders in cocoa. Through WCF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, Guittard has helped set up the Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP) in West Africa, delivering essential support to ensure quality of life for farmers through sustainable cocoa growing.
Divine Chocolate, an international Fairtrade company owned by cocoa farmers, recently launched a report on empowering the women cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, a review of 20 years of learning and progress in addressing gender equality in the cocoa supply chain.
“Smallholder farmers are at the mercy of markets, conflict and climate – and women, though they are often key to the quality, and therefore the value of crops, fare particularly badly,” says Sophie Tranchell, chief executive of Divine Chocolate. The report also highlights how changed practices, such as quotas, have increased the number of female members.
Robert Harrison, sales director – gourmet Northern Europe at Callebaut, adds that Callebaut is passionate about sustainability and responsible sourcing. “We support local farmers in West Africa, helping them turn cocoa cultivation into a sustainable source of income, and believe that improving their livelihoods will secure the future of cocoa farming,” he says.
For every block or pack of Callebaut product purchased, Callebaut reinvests in farmer training and community projects in partnership with the Cocoa Horizons Foundation.
Juan Alberto Correa Marin is aiming to grow cocoa sustainably on a small scale. A recent international pastry student at Westminster Kingsway College London, Marin is planning to set up two hectares of his own land near his home town of Anserma-Caldas in Colombia, donated to him by his uncle Octavio. There, he will grow his own Criollo beans and work alongside the farmers to produce his own couverture to make his own chocolates. Marin is working a stage at Zotter Chocolate in Austria before returning to his artisan chocolate company Choconuva in Germany.
Harvey & Brockless asked the Balthazar Boulangerie in Covent Garden, London, to bake pain au chocolat for its latest brochure. The chefs used Valrhona chocolate batons, Lescure pâtisserie butter and Viron’s La Gruau de Beauce flour. The Valrhona Chocolate Batons are 55% dark chocolate sticks, designed to retain their shape and form during baking, and provide an intense, deep chocolate flavour.
Valrhona has also launched a White Solstice Bowl, a ready-to-fill domed shell made from its Ivoire 35% chocolate. Award-winning pastry chef Claire Clark has created a mango and passion fruit cheesecake using the mould, using Ponthier purées and gels and Fresh As freeze-dried lychees and passion fruit powder.
Bean & Pod, a new chocolate brand from the team behind Ten Acre Snacks, has launched a range of artisan chocolates. The chocolates are handmade in the UK, with flavoured centres including salted caramel, nougatine and strawberry cream, and come in a variety of box sizes.
Truede has launched an authentic, chocolate-coated Turkish Delight that is approved by the Vegetarian Society, as well as being GM- and gluten-free.
Flavour trends for 2017
The second series of Bake Off: Crème de la Crème on BBC2 has seen the competitors creating fraisiers, verrines and perfectly baked bi-colour Viennoiseries, but it’s the flavour combinations that have stood out. For example, matcha tea and black sesame; Earl Grey tea, apple and Calvados; and lemon and yogurt pastries.
The first wave of results for the 2017 Academy of Chocolate awards includes a gold winner from Chocolat Grace in the alcohol ganache category. It consists of dark Maracaibo (Venezuelan), whisky cream and coffee coulis. And in the fruit, floral, spice or infusion ganache category, three gold winners have showcased a cacophony of flavours: Lauden chocolate with yuzu ganache; Ottar chocolate with blackcurrant, bay and clementine ganache; and Rococo Chocolates with its yuzu and saké ganache. Visit www.academyofchocolate.org.uk for the full list of 2017 results.
A recent report from Grub Street suggests new ice-cream flavours for the summer months that could be converted to pâtisserie and chocolate, such as ube (purple sweet potato) purée with coconut jam custard; blueberries with pie crust pieces and a blueberry balsamic swirl; or something more savoury – salted lemon with sea kelp.
Suppliers and contacts
Aryzta Food Solutions
Squires Kitchen International School