From composing bold recipes featuring unexpected ingredients, to constructing giant towers and sculptures of chocolate, the chocolatiers of 2015 are doing all they can to take on confectionary industry's giants
Tasty treats often don’t come in any better form than a delicious gourmet chocolate. But with huge companies like Hershey’s and Nestle dominating the market, it may seem like chocolate-lovers are sticking to what they know.
However, with those kinds of brands offering only 11 per cent (or less) cocoa in each bar, and amid an increasing emphasis on healthy eating, we are seeking more authentic ways to get our chocolate fix. This increase in demand has bolstered artisanal chocolatiers, allowing them to be more creative in producing fresh, bold flavours, culminating in extravagant chocolate statements.
Taking things back to basics can have a huge impact on taste, and the UK-based Duffy’s Red Star Chocolate has created his business on precisely that concept. From “Bean-to-Bar”, Duffy Sheardown handcrafts all of his chocolates under one roof. He buys cocoa beans directly from farmers in Central America.
Amid an increasing emphasis on healthy eating, we are seeking more authentic ways to get our chocolate fix
“I carefully roast, shell, grind and conch (refine) the beans myself,” he says. “Each batch of 300 bars takes over a week to make.”
The chocolatier says his favourite bean is from Honduras and makes his Honduras Indio Rojo 72% dark chocolate and Honduras Mayan Milk 61% bars. Although Duffy’s method leads to high quality, it is also almost impossible to produce large quantities with just one pair of hands. But his chocolate is a prime example of how a combination of traditional methodology and passion can impact the taste and quality of the end product.
Meanwhile, other artisanal chocolatiers are shaking up the industry by infusing unique flavour concoctions into their recipes and making decadent new creations.
UAE-based Coco Jalila is one company hand-designing bespoke chocolates for various occasions and businesses, from weddings and hotels to corporate events.
Chocolatiers are shaking up the industry by infusing unique flavour concoctions into their recipes and making decadent new creations
“We are happy to create tailor-made chocolates and packaging for corporate and special events; this is where we excel. We can make chocolate dreams come true,” founder Najah Al Muntafiq says.
Alongside the personal touch, it’s the interesting combinations inspired by traditional Arabian flavours – such as cardamom discs and ‘coco rosa’ pralines – that make Coco Jalilah chocolates themselves taste unique.
Across the globe, competition is fierce. To stand out, chocolatiers Patrick Roger and Andrew Farrugia market themselves using attention-grabbing styles – and there’s no such thing as too big, too bold or too difficult.
Patrick’s sleek boutiques adorn the streets of Paris, and each shop hosts an ever-changing, window display of giant chocolate sculptures, from head-scratching orang-utans and wallowing hippos, to chaise longues and giant Christmas trees. While the sculptures delight window shoppers, the innovative flavours turn tasters into regulars. Some of the most interesting include lemongrass, Sichuan pepper, and verbena and yuzu; Patrick’s personal favourite is the almond praline cluster, ‘Instinct’, the first chocolate recipe he ever made.
The chocolatiers of Dubai and beyond are doing all they can to take on the big-boys of the industry
Last December, the Maltese chocolatier Andrew Farrugia built something much closer to home – his 44ft tall replica of the Burj Khalifa entered the Guinness World Records for the tallest chocolate tower.
The innovation continues in Dubai with Al Nassma, who have taken the traditional Bedouin diet of camels milk into the 21st century, creating the world’s first camel milk chocolate. With five times more vitamin C, less fat, less lactose and more insulin than cow’s milk, the health benefits of this chocolate do not compromise the taste. Their Arabia bar takes this twist to new heights by adding a mix of cardamom, cinnamon and other spices.
Also in the Emirate, Chocolat and Forrey & Galland bring traditional methods from Switzerland and France respectively, and mix it up with Middle Eastern flavours. Their fresh rose petal infusions and halwa and saffron truffles are an example of such combinations.
Adding more than just a dash of creativity to the usual recipes, the chocolatiers of Dubai and beyond are doing all they can to take on the big-boys of the industry, and win the race for quality to triumph over quantity.