Ah to be a pastry chef! To be surrounded by delicious and decadent ingredients all day ... and to be invited to fantastic chocolate demonstrations and tastings like the one hosted by Valrhona's L'Ecole du Grand Chocolat at Atlanta's Viking Cooking School last Tuesday, May 3rd!
The 3 hour event was conducted by Alex Espiritu, Pastry Chef for Valrhona USA, highlighting some of their newest professional products, Caramelia and Coeur de Guanaja. Some of Atlanta's best known pastry chefs were in attendance, including Heather Hurlbert, who gained national recognition for her stint as a contestant on Season 1 of Bravo's Top Chef Just Desserts. Other A-list pasty chefs in attendance included Joy Jessup from Rathbun's Steakhouse, Carla Tomasko from Bacchanalia, Gary Scarborough from Local Three, Lew Miller from The Piedmont Driving Club, and Dallas Marsteller from The Ritz Carlton Buckhead. They were greeted with an iced chocolate shooter with caramel vanilla espuma, the first of many chocolate courses for the day.
The Valrhona demonstration is a result of what Espiritu notes as "an increased desire among chefs to learn new techniques and to stay ahead of the curve in order to bring new dessert experiences to their customers." And he certainly delivered on that promise.
After a brief introduction to Valrhona's products and esteemed history, Espiritu dove right into the demonstration. It started off with the delightful and multi-layered Apple Toffee, its components including a vanilla cream jelly, translucent Braeburn apples, and Caramelia lactee mousse with a garnish of Caramelia lactee sorbet, Granny Smith apple compote, and caramelized brioche. The Caramelia, with its hint of genuine dairy-based caramel, added a lush creaminess to the delicate dish.
Next was a tasting of the Caramelia PB+J, a unique delicacy consisting of peanut dacquaise, peanut crunch, apricot confiture, smoothed out with a light Caramelia ganache, and topped with a white chocolate spray. Espiritu then demonstrated the Coconut Raspberry Transparence, with a base of light Manjari 64% mousse topped off with a sweet and tart raspberry coulis, coconut Ivoire chocolate whipped ganache, and tiny cubes of soft coconut sponge cake.
After a short palate-cleansing break with drinks and an exotic cheese spread, Espiritu continued with the demonstration. The focus turned to Valrhona's newest product, Coeur de Guanaja. This "secret recipe" creates an elite dark chocolate with less cocoa butter and more sugar than others in its category. The result? More concentrated chocolate taste without needing to add cocoa powder (and thus a grainy texture) in high-fat dishes such as souffles and ice cream. The tastings continued with hand-made chocolate caramels and nougats with almonds and pistachios.
Want to try your hand at some Valrhona inspired desserts of your own? You can purchase locally in the specialty foods section at any of several Whole Foods Markets, Fresh Markets, and Trader Joe's spread throughout the Atlanta Metro area or order directly from the Valrhona e-store.
- 5 1/3 oz (2/3 cup) Heavy Cream
- 6.75 oz Le Noir 61% Baking Bar
- 1 oz Butter, room temperature
- 1 oz Honey
- Cocoa Powder for dusting
Preparation - Dark Chocolate Ganache
- Boil the cream and the honey. Pour 1/3 of this mixture over the chocolate.
- With a spatula, mix rapidly to obtain a smooth and glossy texture. Gradually add the remaining cream, making sure to keep the smooth and glossy emulsion.
- Mix until the chocolate is completely emulsified.
- Stir in softened butter and mix thoroughly. Leave to chill until set.
- Put in piping bag.
- Pipe small balls on the greaseproof paper chill. Roll ball between your hands to make a regular shape.
- Roll in cocoa powder until evenly coated.
- If the truffles are not for children, you can add 1 oz of your preferred alcohol after the addition of butter.
- If you can not find a piping bag at the store, use a large zipper bag and cut a small hole in one of the corners at the bottom of the bag.
- Chef Espiritu recommends finishing off the emulsion with an immersion blender, being careful to keep it submerged so as not to let too much air in the mixture.
Click here to learn more about the Valrhona Chocolate.