Monday, May 18, 2009

Pastry Perks

One of the fun things I get to do as a pastry chef is attend demos for new products. Last Monday my friend MJ (our fantastic banquet chef) and I went to see the first presentation in the U.S. of Valrhona's new Coeur de Guanaja, a unique blend of 46% cocoa extract and 34% cocoa butter. I already use their Grand Cru Guanaja 70%, which was the world's first percentage chocolate, as my all-purpose bittersweet chocolate. The new product was developed for use in chocolate recipes that call for cream, milk or butter where using chocolate couverture would add too much additional fat, which can result in ice creams or mousses that freeze too hard or are stiff and crunchy. Cocoa powder is sometimes used instead of chocolate, but that can result in a grainy texture, pale color or undesirable flavor. Using Coeur de Guanaja instead of couverture or cocoa powder gives an end result that is more intense in chocolate flavor and color with no compromise in texture.
It was a fantastic demo, lasting almost 5 hours! Philippe Givre, Pastry Chef at L'ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona, and Derek Poirier, Pastry Chef for Valrhona USA, made 3 plated desserts using the Coeur de Guanaja which were absolutely stunning. They passed out mini versions so we all got to taste them, then they passed around samples of chocolate biscuit (sponge cake), ice cream and pastry cream prepared the traditional way and with the new product so we could see and taste the difference. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon, right?
They also talked about other Valrhona products, including their neutral glaze called Absolu Cristal. It can be used hot or cold, it holds a shine even when fridged, and it can be used to make sauces, which is what the chefs used it for. I just got some and I'm going to make a sauce using the Creme de Violette liquor and see how it comes out.

MJ and I had a great time and we both learned a few things. If you go on my Flicker account you'll see more pictures from the demo. Thanks to Michael Dadisman of European Gourmet for the invitation.