Expert Tips from Master Chocolatier Anjalichocolat on Making Great Chocolate

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A box of 16 handmade bonbons and truffles by Anjalichocolat

When you meet Anjali Gupta of her namesake chocolatier, Anjalichocolat, a ruthless businesswoman is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. There is something warm about the ex-banker turned master chocolatier – perhaps even sweet. Under the pleasant façade, however, Anjali confesses that she is at heart, “a hard-nosed businesswoman”. But taste her handcrafted chocolates and you’ll find anything else forgotten, and revel in every curious burst of flavour, perfection and utter decadence.

I met Anjali at the lush enclave of Loewen by Dempsey Hill, where Anjalichocolat and her newly opened chocolate workshop, Temper, is located. A peek inside the artisanal workshop showed everyone, including Anjali, hard at work before our conversation. The door opens, and serenity drifts out in faint wafts of chocolate in the air.

“You can’t hide imperfection in a piece of chocolate,” she tells me. 

Speaking of perfection, Anjali tells me that the most important trait a good chocolatier should possess is that desire to achieve perfection.

“You can’t hide imperfection in a piece of chocolate,” she tells me. “If that’s not you, you won’t enjoy making chocolates. You can’t unmould a chocolate, find a mark or a crack and hope to slip it into a box. No, you have to re-do it.”

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Stunning belgian couverture chocolate squares

A good chocolatier needs to be patient, she shares. “Chocolate can’t be made in a hurry, and is not like a cake, which can be covered with icing and many camouflages. If your chocolate hasn’t tempered, you have to start from scratch and re-temper it.”

Though you can make chocolate as a beginner, Anjali explains that chocolate making is often considered an intermediate or even advanced skill, unlike cakes and most dessert which can be made simply with a recipe. She advises beginners to start with chocolate truffles and offers a recipe (see end of article).

 “Chocolate can’t be made in a hurry, and is not like a cake, which can be covered with icing and many camouflages."

“Once you gain confidence, you can start playing around with different flavours and pairings,” she encourages. For more advanced chefs, Anjali believes it is worth learning how to temper chocolate. “It takes a bit of confidence and attitude, I think.”

“Don’t let chocolate scare you,” she laughs, sensing the disheartened, amateur non-chocolatier I am. “Once you overcome that initial hesitance, you’ll find that it’s a very fun ingredient to work with. Chocolate is incredibly sensitive to heat and humidity, so watch out for these two things when working with chocolate.”

She also warns that chocolate burns easily and is best treated very gently, from heating gently to melting gently, and then cooled slowly. “It is more of a science-based product – it is mastering the science first, before you start looking at the art.”

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"Chocolate is incredibly sensitive to heat and humidity, so watch out for these two things when working with chocolate.”

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Stunning, artisanal chocolates

On what makes a good chocolate, Anjali stresses the importance of quality ingredients.

“I always recommend using couverture over compound chocolate. As chocolate is a small treat, the quality of all the ingredients that go into your chocolate make a difference. You can’t hide a bad ingredient in a bite-sized dessert,” she tells me.

On its own, compound chocolate might taste rather convincing, but compare it with the luscious, rich couverture and you will find that they are indeed different. 

To put things in perspective, couverture chocolate is an extremely high-quality chocolate with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor as main ingredients. Compound chocolate, on the other hand, substitutes those two main ingredients found in real chocolate with cocoa powder and oil. Especially when making candy, compound chocolate is easily melted down, and can be dipped in.

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Assorted chocolate bars

On its own, compound chocolate might taste rather convincing, but compare it with the luscious, rich couverture and you will find that they are indeed different. Making couverture chocolate is no mean feat either, requiring far more attention and preparation, and must be tempered. The resulting chocolate, if tempered correctly, will set up with a lovely shine, a firmer "snap" when broken and a luxurious flavour.

"I was determined to do a Kaya Toast chocolate, because Kaya Toast is one of my favourite things to eat in Singapore." 

As for the most ambitious chocolate she has ever made, Anjali recalls the recently launched Singapore collection (S$60 for a box of 16) for the National Day celebrations.

“It was something that has been on my mind for a very long time,” Anjali admits, though time proved incredibly tricky, and the team did not have time to work on the entire collection. Finally, after years of postponing, the collection made its debut on August 1 this year.

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 Limited edition FROM SINGAPORE… lah!

“This was our most challenging task. When we developed the chocolates, we worked on a collection that would have more universal appeal. The Kaya Toast chocolate, for example, was a very difficult piece. I was determined to do a Kaya Toast chocolate, because Kaya Toast is one of my favourite things to eat in Singapore,” she says with a smile. “We did pandan with kaya and chocolate tends to mask the flavour of both ingredients. We had to go through a few iterations before we came up with the right balance.”

“We also wanted a chocolate with ginger and pair it with something unexpected, so we did cumin. We went through a few pairings before we came up with ginger cumin. That was quite a bit of work, and so was the Chinese Five Spice because we wanted the spice to be recognizable.”

Anjalichocolat’s limited edition FROM SINGAPORE… lah! is a box of 16 (S$60) with the flavours of Singapore, including the iconic Singapore Sling and the much-loved kaya toast.


RECIPE FOR CLASSIC DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES BY ANJALICHOCOLAT

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INGREDIENTS

120g dark chocolate (minimum 65% cocoa solids)

100g heavy cream (35% fat content)

15g unsalted butter at room temperature

Extra chocolate for coating the truffles

Cocoa powder for dusting

METHOD

1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.

2. Heat the cream in a small pot gently and do not let the cream boil.

3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute, to allow the chocolate to melt.

4. Emulsify the mixture using a spatula, starting from the centre of the bowl. Slowly move outwards until you get a smooth, shiny and glossy mixture. While mixing, do not lift the spatula out to avoid incorporating any air into the ganache.

5. Add softened butter and mix it in well. As the butter melts in, the mixture should get shinier.

6. Allow the ganache to cool slightly in the bowl before pouring it into a piping bag

7. Pipe the ganache in small dollops on a piece of parchment paper laid out on a baking tray.

8. Cool the ganache in the refrigerator for 15 minutes till it is hard but pliable

9. Remove from the refrigerator, roll into balls and place back in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes to cool

10. Melt some dark chocolate gently over a double boiler.

11. Coat your truffles in melted dark chocolate and roll them in cocoa powder.

VARIATIONS:

For LIQUEUR TRUFFLES, add 1 tablespoon of your favourite liqueur to the above recipe after adding the butter. To finish, instead of dusting in cocoa powder, roll in icing sugar.

For ALMOND TRUFFLES, follow the recipe for Classic Dark Chocolate Truffles above. After coating the truffles in melted chocolate, roll them in toasted almond nibs.

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