21 Oct. 2019
Among the gourmet marvels that the western world captured around the planet, nutmeg, coffee, tea, vanilla and many other spices, cocoa occupies a very special place. Offering a multitude of aromas that vary from terroir to terroir and according to the way it is produced, chocolate generates passion to the extent that some Relais Desserts members have decided to make the substance their own…
Following four years of travel and of passion, Patrick Gelencser, a third generation chocolate maker in La-Roche-Sur-Yon, became the roaster of his own beans. Some years ago, he launched an assortment of “pure origin” chocolate bars: “the great unknown was: how will clients react? But, right from the beginning, they were enchanted by the new array of flavours that we were offering.” From the ten or so beans of origin that he transforms, he gives in for the lemon notes of Vietnamese cocoa and loves the Ecuador origin, of which “chocolate is very balanced between bitterness and acidity.”
Pure origin chocolates
When it comes to pastry, Pierre Hermé works on cocoa textures and sensations like nobody else. We can name the Carrément chocolat to this respect, a signature cake created in 2001, a melody of chocolate textures and flavours that includes a mellow chocolate biscuit, a creamy chocolate mousse and a crunchy chocolate. His wish to work on chocolate as such came to life with his close cooperation with a pioneer: the French company Valrhona. From his initiation voyages, during which the variety of beans and their natural and historical aspects challenged his mind, Pierre Hermé brought back some supplies, including his latest crush: cocoa from Belize. His creative approach can literally be compared to a “mental formulation of the architecture of taste” when he tastes the raw material. Of Belizean cocoa he remembers the “exceptional aromatic magnitude, tasty notes that lent themselves to my desire to create a cake that would be characterised by a strong alliance between vanilla and chocolate.” Under the guidance of Benjamin Figarede, a sourcing actor for Valrhona, specialists transform the beans of a passionate young woman, Emily Stone, the founder of the Maya Mountain Cocoa cooperative in Belize, into bespoke couverture chocolate. The Ultimate pure origin chocolate entremets was born this way. Thanks to fruitful exchanges through many years and to the discovery of unique and iconoclastic tastes, Pierre Hermé created his first chocolate bonbons collection in 2002.
The origin of cocoa has its importance, says Jean-Paul Hévin, a chocolate master and tamer of the substance for more than thirty five years, but “mastering of fermentation and roasting remains essential for the development of aromas.”
Environment and the work of man give the tempo within the growing farms. As of its fifth year, the cocoa tree develops minute odourless flowers that will give birth to magnificent pods, exuberant rainbows some twenty centimetres in length that grow right off the trunk. They are harvested by hand and stacked on the ground before being split with a machete to extract the beans.
Thierry Mulhaupt has kept a strong souvenir of his several trips on various plantations in Columbia: “to split a pod and to find the beans wrapped into a fruity pulp with aromas of litchi, then to follow the fermentation and the drying process is a true cocoa odyssey.” Indeed, one needs to know that an industrial dryer, which is faster, will not render the same quality and complexity. “The long process that develops the aromas, just as for coffee, is magical“, says the pastry and chocolate chef who creates his own chocolate from cocoa beans selected by him in his Mundolsheim laboratory.
From roasting to chocolate
Once dry, beans begin their journey towards the countries in which they will be transformed. Relais Desserts pastry chefs practicing bean-to-bar (the transformation process from beans to bars) hence receive the beans that were selected six months earlier in plantations.
Within Richard Sève’s manufacture, a gold nugget of industrial design equipped with machines hunted throughout Europe and meticulously restored, crushing, roasting, grinding and conching are a unique sight. The long process of brewing the cocoa at room temperature defines the texture and the aromatic character of the chocolate.
In Verviers, Belgium, Jean-Philippe Darcis has created his own Chocolaterie, with a wish to work the substance from A to Z. He explains: “Each origin, each plantation, as a unique chocolate sensation to offer. The relationship built with growers and traders through many years allow us to discover new plantations, new aromas and to produce exceptional chocolates.”
A know-how that pushes the quality, the creativity and the knowledge of chocolate to another level and creates a new relationship between chocolate masters and the substance, while opening a new page of the History of chocolate.
324, allée des Frênes, Parc du Puy d’Or, Lyon – Limonest
Musée du chocolat Gelencser
38, rue Paul-Émile Victor, La Roche-sur-Yon
Esplanade de la Grâce 1, Verviers, Belgique
Special thanks to the Relais Desserts chocolate makers and Valrhona