Chocolatier is on most people's fantasy career list, right up there with pillow tester and ice cream flavor developer. We're happy that Lindt is sponsoring Serious Chocolate this month, and enjoyed the chance to chat with a real-life chocolatier, Ann Czaja, who answered all of our questions: like how the truffle innards get so melty smooth and ways to detect "good" chocolate.
She's ready to answer anything on your mind too—jump into the comments section and ask away, and we'll do a follow-up post next week with her responses.
What qualifications are needed to pursue a career in chocolate-making? A Lindt Master Chocolatier is an expert in all things chocolate with years of experience and extensive training to oversee research and product development. Every Lindt production site has its own master chocolatier who creates new recipes.
What's the most unusual chocolate you've ever tasted? A chocolate ganache perfumed with tobacco. It had an interesting flavor similar to cracked black pepper.
A chocolate pairing that sounds gross but is surprisingly delicious? White chocolate with gorgonzola. The unusual pairing was served with a salad in a chocolate-centric dinner. Surprisingly, it was really enjoyable.
What was your favorite chocolate treat as a child? A peanut butter cookie topped with a Hershey's chocolate kiss. My great aunt used to bake them for us when we were kids.
How did Switzerland become the global chocolate leader? Are the Swiss cows eating special grass? The Swiss have long been known as a hard-working, entrepreneurial people. When they began working with chocolate in the mid-19th century, the majority of the chocolatiers were in Italy. The first Swiss factory started in Vevey and others soon followed suit.
Then in 1879, Rudolph Lindt revolutionized chocolate-making by developing a unique refinement method called "conching." This involves constant stirring to refine the chocolate, allowing the flavor to fully develop and the texture to become smooth. Today, Lindt premium chocolate is still crafted using the conching process—some is even refined for up to 72 hours.
As far as the grass goes, researchers at a large university in Zurich are currently studying the taste profiles in milk to see how they're affected by mountain grazing.
In your opinion, what's the best way to eat chocolate? There is actually an art of tasting fine chocolate. Lindt calls the process "The Five Senses of Chocolate."
- Sight: Examine the chocolate's appearance—color, structure and sheen. Premium chocolate should have a silky matte sheen and an even texture.
- Touch: Gently feel the surface of the chocolate, to ensure it is silky and smooth. Premium chocolate should never feel rough or grainy.
- Sound: Break the bar and listen for a loud, crisp snap. A clean "snap" is a sign of good quality and texture.
- Smell: Take the time to breathe in the rich fragrances before placing a piece of chocolate into your mouth. You will be able to identify a range of up to 400 pleasant and intense aromas. The aroma of the chocolate will prepare you for an intense chocolate taste.
- Taste: Let the chocolate melt on the tongue and experience an intensely satisfying chocolate flavor coupled with deliciously smooth texture. This is the height of the experience, where your senses work together to produce an overwhelming sensation.
How does the filling in Lindt's Lindor truffles always stay so ridiculously soft and smooth? The original Lindor smooth-melting milk chocolate was created by our Lindt Master Swiss Chocolatiers in 1949, who used a secret recipe and the finest ingredients. This product was introduced to consumers that same year in the form of the Lindor bar, and in 1967, the Lindor Truffle was born.
The round truffle was created as a Christmas tree decoration for the holiday season, using the same Lindor recipe to create a smooth-melting filling surrounded by a delicate chocolate shell. This recipe has remained unchanged for more than 50 years.
Any new flavors in the works? Lindt just added a new bar called A Touch of Sea Salt. The Lindt Master Chocolatiers perfected this recipe using a delicious blend of premium dark chocolate and Fleur de Sel sea salt crystals.
What advice would you give to an aspiring chocolatier? Working with chocolate is an art: it requires patience, technique, and respect. With any field, it's always good to research it first. I would recommend working with a chocolatier or pastry chef to get hands-on experience, and then determine if you are ready to pursue this career.
Got any questions for Ann? Leave them as comments here and we'll do a follow-up post next week with her responses!