Serious Eats: Sweets
More Questions for Lindt Master Chocolatier Ann Czaja
But this time around, we turned to the Serious Eats community to do the question-asking. Thank you to everyone who chimed in with so many great questions! Without further ado, we bring you Ann's answers.
What are your chocolate trend predictions for 2010? —PinkCupcake
I believe dark chocolate will remain popular and we will continue to see interesting savory-and-sweet combinations using salts and spices. Sea salt, for example, comes in many varieties and textures and partners well with chocolate. Chili chocolate is another exciting pairing (provided that the ratio is balanced). Anytime a spice is added to chocolate, it shouldn't overwhelm—it should be a marriage of flavor.
What wines do you recommend drinking with chocolate? —hungrychristel
Red wine and dark chocolate make a great pairing but most recently, I've been pleasantly surprised by more unusual pairings. I tried a very buttery chardonnay with milk chocolate bar which was delicious. The Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt chocolate bar with a Cabernet Franc ice wine is extraordinary as well. If you can't find a Cabernet Franc ice wine, try another ice wine that's more readily available.
Favorite chocolate-based recipe? —yellowrice
There are so many great chocolate recipes! One of my favorites is a classic chocolate mousse because it is simple, elegant and decadent all at the same time. Every now and then I also make a pot de crème au chocolat with chili-infused dark chocolate like Lindt Excellence Chili for my dinner guests.
Favorite ways to use chocolate during the holidays? —PinkCupcake
Chocolate is my favorite holiday shortcut! You can break up chocolate bars on pretty platters for a quick and delicious dessert alternative. Fill a bowl of wrapped pieces, like Lindor Truffles, to use as a centerpiece on your holiday table. Chocolate also makes a great gift. There are so many beautiful boxes of mixed pralines and truffles available this time of year—these are instant gifts.
What new combinations have you personally developed? —Honey Bear
I had the opportunity to help launch a new concept chocolate drink bar in select Lindt Chocolate shops in the United States. Creating the special coffees and chocolate beverages was a rewarding experience. I was also involved in creating a Chocolate Bark line that debuted this year in Lindt Chocolate shops.
How many aromas can a Master Chocolatier actually identify at once? (The original interview mentioned "up to 400 pleasant and intense aromas.") What about sensory overload? —lemonfair
Tasting chocolate is a subjective experience and identifying aromas depends on the palate of the particular Master Chocolatier.
Examples of pleasant and intense aromas include: Dried fruit, red berries, tobacco, earth, spice, roasted nuts, citrus, flowers (like rose and jasmine), caramel, molasses. Chocolate tasting has rules similar to wine tasting and should be slowly savored and enjoyed to avoid sensory overload. You should take time to truly appreciate the experience with all of your senses.
Is it possible to make good chocolates without sugar? —redfish
The Mayans and Aztecs created their chocolate beverages without sugar because it was unknown to them. It was a savory drink reserved for the elite members of society. Chocolates made with less sugar or high cocoa content chocolate are an acquired taste. You should work your way up to them, so to speak.
When tasting chocolate, start with a version that has a lower percentage of cocoa (like one with 50-percent) and gradually work your way up to darker chocolates (such as 90-percent or even 99-percent). Be sure to enjoy small pieces and let them melt in your mouth. See how many aromas you can identify as they reveal themselves.
What are the main differences between European and American chocolate-making? Many people speculate European chocolates tastes much better and smoother because they use a different animal fat, is this true? —ArkyTrojan
European chocolate making has the advantage of time and tradition, but the United States is making great strides and the American palate is maturing and evolving. While studying my craft in Switzerland, the only animal fats we used came from cows, which are milk and butter. Some companies will use other plant derived fats due to their higher melting points and lower cost. Cocoa butter is expensive.
In developing the conching method, how did Rodolphe Lindt come up with the name? —hungrychristel
Rodolphe Lindt called the refining process conching because the mixing machine resembled a conche seashell.
Do you ever get sick of chocolate? —hunrgy
No, I don't. Enjoying chocolate is one of the best parts of my job!