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Monday, 22 November 2010

More Baruzzo chocolate - and some complex logistics

A few weeks ago, I went to a chocolate Master Class tasting presentation by Raffaella Baruzzo at the London Fine Wine Fair and came away with a much greater appreciation of what makes one chocolate superior to another - see the original article here.

I got in touch with Raffaella shortly afterwards and she very kindly sent me some more of her delicious chocolates to review. However, we quickly realised that, with small children around, it would take some degree of organisation to be able to sample a selection of chocolates in peace without one or more younger members of the family interfering and scoffing the lot.

However, one evening recently, we finally managed to get them sitting quietly in another room and, with one ear listening out for the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs, set to work tasting.
Raffaella's Master Class had focused on the subtle differences in cocoa beans from different origins - specifically South America (the best), Africa (middling) and Asia (only for mass-market, oversugared junk) - and she had pointed out that origin is far more important than coca percentage.

Since then, I have looked at a number of upmarket chocolates to see if there is any indication of cocoa bean origin - and generally there is not.

The usual chocolate in the CWB household is Lindt from Switzerland's Lindt & Sprüngli; the 70%-cocoa bars have a rich, earthy smell and a smooth, mouthfilling texture.

However, after sampling Raffaella's range, I couldn't help noticing that the Lindt chocolate is not quite as complex, balanced or long as the ones we had tried at the Master Class, whilst some assorted chocolates from a well-known high street clothes-and-food retailer tasted simply of sugar with little discernible actual chocolate flavour.

Raffaella's aim is to make traditional recipes with a contemporary twist, and the selection that she had sent me (all beautifully presented in dark brown boxes wrapped in pale blue tissue paper) was a mixture of pralines, truffles and fruit and nuts covered in her chocolate. With the pralines, the chocolate coating was quite thin, so perceptions were more about the fillings and the overall balance and flavour.

The nuts and berries had a thicker layer of chocolate and we tried what we had been taught was the correct technique of not chewing the chocolate, but simply letting it melt slowly in the mouth.

The first one we tried was a pistachio praline infused with rosemary that we had sampled at the end of the Master Class - it had a nutty, crunchy texture and a wonderful flavour of rosemary.

Next came a three-layered praline that was rich, smooth and mouthfilling with nutty aromas. A coffee praline was rich and dark, whilst a liquorice one was woody with some vanilla; finally there was almond (marzipan aromas, crunchy texture) and lemon cream (rich, citrussy and balanced), a dark truffle (rich, dark, intense and long) and a vanilla and white chocolate truffle (smooth and long).

Moving on to the whole nuts and berries, there was a roasted whole hazelnut dusted in cocoa powder that smelt noticeably of hazelnut even from outside. A gently roasted walnut matched perfectly with its very bitter chocolate coating that was smooth, velvety and balanced, whilst a mocca praline smelt like the inside of a coffee shop or a newly-opened packet of finely ground espresso beans and had a crunch of bitter coffee bean in middle.

However, the revelation for me was a chocolate-coated dried cape gooseberry (or physalis) that was sharp and fruity. I am more familiar with physalis in its un-dried form as a dessert garnish, but dried and coasted in chocolate it was intensely sharp yet balanced.

What stood out with all the chocolates we tried was the deep, intense flavours and the balance achieved between them; whilst they all had a sweetness, they actually tasted of something other than mere sugary sweetness and had bitterness, sharpness and complex aromas.

This depth of flavour can only be achieved by using the best ingredients and Raffella sources many of her ingredients from her homeland, including pistachios and almonds from Sicily, hazelnuts from Piemonte and authentic grappa. It is a typically Italian approach - a small number of extremely high-quality and well-matched ingredients.

A box of Baruzzo chocolates costs between £10.95 (9 pieces) and £22.95 (24 pieces) and can be bought either directly from Baruzzo or at various food and wine fairs - see Where To Buy.

Provided for review.

Barruzzo - http://www.baruzzo.co.uk/index.html

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