This morning we met at the Laurent Gerbaud chocolatier premises for a chocolate tasting class. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday morning! This was the sight that greeted us when we stepped off the street; twelve neatly arranged plates of chocolates and a glass of water each for cleaning the palette!
We were guided through the process by the chocolatier himself. It’s important to taste chocolate slowly, give it time to melt. We started off by tasted a very commercial, mass-produced type of chocolate. Dark chocolate. It tasted like dark chocolate, nothing special, but chocolate nonetheless. Gerbaud explained to us that it was made with a blend of cocoas from different countries. Next we tasted a chocolate that was also a blend, but this time we knew more about the origin, we knew which countries the cocoa came from. It tasted slightly richer. Next on the plate was a piece of chocolate made from Criollo cocoa beans specifically. It’s very expensive and, for that reason, only has a place on a tasting plate apparently. It tasted considerably better than the previous two.
We continued our way around the plate, with new flavours being introduced; chocolate-covered apricots, crannberry, orange rind, pistachio, ginger, dried fig, ganache. Oh my goodness—the ganache. It was incredibly smooth and creamy with only a delicate film of chocolate encasing it. Gerbaud is trying to use less sugar in his chocolate now, as there is demand for less sugar and fat now. His ganache is unusual in that respect. Normally a ganache will contain 50% sugar (if I remember correctly), but his contains considerably less. There is a fine line between using the least amount of sugar possible while still retaining a reasonable shelf life, as of course sugar is a preservative.
We completed the tasting with a pièce de résistence, the bestseller in their shop, which resembled a ferrero rocher somewhat. It was divine. Gerbaud explained that you can talk about the marketing of chocolate all you want, but the real test is whether the chocolate makes people want to eat another one! The most interesting part of the tasting for me was when Gerbaud instructed us to again taste the first chocolate we’d had. As you might imagine, the taste of it had changed dramatically! We were now comparing it to the best chocolate they could offer. We’d been treated to complex and subtle tastes and going back to the industrial type of chocolate was an eye-opener. He may have ruined commercial chocolate for us! The commercial one (which was a blend of all different cocoa beans) now tasted bland and dull and had a powdery, almost sandy texture to it. Wow. He then explained that the taste came from the higher heat that the cocoa beans would have been subjected to. The chocolate is burnt effectively, as it turns out. Et voilà.
We popped into the shop and I purchased some pralines (the classic one, and a sesame one) as well as a vegan vanilla ganache to bring back to my housemates who have had to listen to me recount my foodie adventures all week “what did you do today Kirstyn?!”
You can do a workshop here on s Saturday. If you’re interested in learning about chocolate, I would highly recommend the experience. It was a privilege to hear a chocolatier discuss his passion and offer insights into the world, and the future of chocolate!