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Coco&Me » About the ingredients

October 29th, 2006

About chocolates (with ganache truffles recipe)

chocolate jars

First, a quick report on last Saturday’s trade:
Broadway Market being outdoor, weather plays an inevitable part in the sales & general foot count. Rain is my enemy & whenever I checked the weather forecast during the week, it had the ‘double raindrop with dark clouds’ symbol for Saturday. So not expecting great number of customers to show up, I made considerably less…

On Saturday morning, it was raining & was piercingly cold when I was loading the car. It was to be expected but the thought of bad prospects of sales gave me a mild depression anyhow… But by the time we were in the market unloading, the rain had stopped & soon as my table was set up, three large fruit tarts got sold to one couple organising a big celebration. That’s my stall rent sorted easy! And no more large fruit tarts to flog. That set my happy mode for the day, & I managed to sell all my stuff except for five truffles which I gave away to my stall neighbour.

– In the end, it didn’t rain again until four o’clock! Damn you, weather forecast…! I could have made more & sold more…

Anyway, for this entry I ought to start writing about my favourite subject; my absolute devotion to chocolate, that is to fine & honest chocolate, not to the usual suspects lining up the shelves in corner shops.

Chocolate is my first love before pastry, & the initial intentions of the Coco&Me stall was to sell just chocolates.

The stall name itself is a play with the word ‘cocoa’, & was the idea that came out with my good friend Ari. It makes me smile when I look back at the list of candidate names we came up with at the time; there was choko, choco, choco&co, cocoa&jo… Coco&co was the major candidate, but the name was already taken by a business some where obscure in England. Hence, a slight variation of it ‘Coco&Me’ was born. We thought ‘Me’ sounded more personal & friendlier anyway.
Now I’m just glad the name is something that doesn’t especially tie me down to solely selling chocolate, because as for the Summer I am a 100% cakes stall (I can not sell chocolates in the Summer because they melt from 19 degrees temperature, & it is virtually impossible to try to temper it in a hot kitchen!).

In very very basic terms there are two types of chocolates in this world:

  • Cheapo chocolates using vegetable fat (a substitute to cocoa butter to reduce costs) & poor percentage of cocoa solid content. It uses artificial flavourings & preservatives to make up for poor quality starting ingredients. It might use a chemical substitute called Vanillin instead of Vanilla, which has a cheap ‘candy’ like metallic after taste.
  • Fine chocolates using cocoa butter (the cacao bean’s natural fat) & high quality natural ingredients. Good chocolate should only contain cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar & sometimes real vanilla & soya lecithin as an emulsifier.

On my stall I have four big jars of fine chocolate buttons. I sell them by weight from 50 grams upwards. I scoop them out on demand in to a transparent satchel bag & tie it with colourful Mulberry paper string.

Currently the jars contains the following:

  • White: El Rey ICOA. The only white made with undeodorized cacao butter (deodorization is a chemical process that strips flavour). It is buttery smooth, & it isn’t cloyingly sweet like any other whites around either (others use more sugar) I truly think it is the best white the industry offers (although based on looks only, I like the Green&Blacks’ white bar with vanilla seeds – black specks on densely cream coloured chocolate looks rather lush). The ICOA is the best seller out of the four, & is very popular with the parents with small children. (By the way did you know that white chocolate is actually not really classified as ‘chocolate’? It is because it contains only cocoa butter & no cocoa solids!)
  • Milk: El Rey Caoba 41%. It is one of the darkest milks around (the usual milk chocolate has around 35% cocoa content).
  • Dark: Organic Noir Selection Belcolade 53%. It has a perfect balance between bitterness & sweetness. It is important to have ‘organic’ on my stall. It attracts so much more interests!
  • Dark: El Rey Gran Saman 70%. For the true chocoholics. Deep & intense chocolate with slight berry flavour.

You’ve probably noticed that I am El Rey-ed out in my selection. It’s plainly because my main chocolate supplier doesn’t sell any other brands that are just as worthy, & I don’t want to buy different brands from different suppliers as it’ll incur additional shipping costs for them. Besides, aesthetically I like it that all the buttons are the same size! It looks good when customers want a mixed bag.

On the subject of selection, I must let you know of the existence of a treasure cove for chocolate lovers called In’t Veld Schokoladen. It stocks chocolate bars from most of the best fine chocolate brands! Probably the best chocolate shop in Germany in terms of the huge selection on offer. That said, my less-chocolate-aware partner had a ‘bitter’ experience in their cafe when he asked the man about the wonderful hot chocolate they served… D asked them “what do you put in your hot chocolate? Is it cocoa powder and milk…” when the cafe man snapped on my poor guy & scoffed at the mere thought of using anything other than real chocolate! Maybe he was having a bad hair day… But what is all this snobbery surrounding fine chocolates about hey?!

If the subject of fine chocolate interests you, there are some specialized websites like seventypercent.com, where I swotted up & gained knowledge on the last two years. Through what they had organized during the National Chocolate Week, I have been to talks & seminars & even a factory tour at L’artisan du Chocolat, which was insightful as to how ‘fine chocolate’ can be made at a huge production like theirs. I also bought two fresh cocoa pods from their shop in Sloane Square for £7 each. One for consumption (the white pulp was sweet, the beans were acrid) & one for drying whole (which I have as a display on my stall).

Working with chocolate is initially all about trials & tribulations. Tempering (a specific method of melting the chocolate so that the end result is shiny with a crisp snap) really is tricky to master. It’s another whole new chapter if I was to write about it, so maybe that’s for future posting.

But instead, maybe I can share a recipe for a basic ganache (‘ganache‘ is a french term referring to the blended mixture of chocolate & cream) & how to make rolled truffles which does not require you to temper if you coat it with cocoa powder. Also from this I can briefly discuss how to easily make varieties of flavoured truffles with it. Please click HERE to view the recipe on another page.

I know, it was a long entry again… But… but, I really can go on forever about chocolates…! Thank you for reading til the end. Please leave a comment if you’d like to, & I’ll be hoping that you’d come back for my next installment next week!

t xx

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