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Book review: Casa Cacao

17 October 2019 by

Casa Cacao, By Jordi Roca and Ignacio Medina

Grub Street, £35

Although it seems to have been around forever, ‘bean to bar' is a relatively new concept, with the first single-estate chocolate produced by Cluizel in 1996. That's just one of many fascinating facts in Jordi Roca's deep dive into the world of chocolate, written with food journalist Ignacio Medina and inspired by the launch of the three-Michelin-starred pastry chef's own brand, Casa Cacao, that takes the bean-to-bar ethos one step further.

Roca argues that "chocolate has its beginnings in the tree", placing increased importance on the variety of cacao, the farmer and the environmental conditions. The book tells the story of Roca's trips to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, visiting cocoa farmers.

With the help of British chocolatier Damian Allsop (head of chocolate and bon bon production at Roca's restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain), Roca is pushing the conventions of chocolate manufacturing, creating vegetable-based chocolate made, for example, by combining a paste of peas, sugar, isomalt, puffed rice and ascorbic acid with melted cocoa butter.

Allsop has also created ‘chocolate' made with just cacao and sugar to intensify the purity of flavour. Recipes for both are included, along with a detailed description of the chocolatemaking process, but you'd need access to a chocolate factory if you wanted to attempt them.

More achievable are classic chocolate dishes such as brownies or sophisticated desserts including milk chocolate, lemon and hazelnut cake, although only the most ambitious pastry chef would attempt the eight-page recipe for Mexican chocolate Anarkia. Also included are some creative savoury recipes, such as cacao pulp and spiced chocolate sauce with langoustines by Roca's brother Joan.

Casa Cacao is a detailed look at a complex and niche subject area and, as such, will mainly be of interest to chocolatiers and pastry chefs working in a fine dining environment, but it's a beautifully produced book that will inform and inspire its intended audience.

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