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  • Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes Recipe

    Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes Recipe
    Sarah Dobson (@sarahschocolatestash) created this amazing recipe for mini chocolate mousse cakes, using the Beyond Good Salted Caramel 73% dark chocolate...

    Ingredients (makes 6)

     

    Base

    - 40 g Super Wine biscuits (4 biscuits)

    - 20 g Beyond Good Salted Caramel chocolate

    - 20 g unsalted butter

    Mousse filling

    - 50 g Beyond Good Salted Caramel chocolate

    - 25 g unsalted butter

    - 3 tbsp cream (45 ml)

    - 1 egg, separated (at room temperature)

    Topping

    - Chocolate shavings (using remaining chocolate)

    - Small handful of chopped roasted peanuts

    - Softly whipped cream (~50 ml)

    Equipment needed

    - Food processor 

    - Electric beater

    - Silicone mini muffin tray (or similar)

    - 5 small bowls or ramekins (with at least two being microwave safe)

     

    Method

     

    Base

    1. Blitz the Super Wine biscuits into a fine crumb. Set aside.

    2. Chop up the chocolate and butter and place in a small, microwave safe bowl.

    3. Use a microwave to melt the chocolate and butter in short 5-10 second bursts (stirring in between).

    4. Once melted, add the biscuit crumb to the chocolate/butter mix and stir thoroughly.

    5. Firmly press teaspoonfuls of mixture into 6 mini muffin spaces. Ensure you have ~1 teaspoon of mixture leftover - this will be used for the topping. Leave this in the bowl.

    6. Place the muffin tray & bowl of leftover base (for the topping) in the fridge, and start on the mousse.

     

    Mousse

    1. Set out 4 bowls with the mousse ingredients. Prep each ingredient as described below...

    Bowl 1 (microwave safe): Chocolate and butter

    Begin by melting the chocolate and butter in the microwave, using 5-10 second bursts. Once melted, set aside to cool.

    Bowl 2: Cream

    Use an electric beater to whip the cream to soft peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.

    Bowl 3: Egg white

    Using a clean beater, whip the egg white to soft peaks. Set aside.

    Bowl 4: Egg yolk

    Lightly whisk the egg yolk using a fork or small whisk.

     

    2. Slowly add the yolk to the chocolate mixture while beating the chocolate/butter mix on low speed. It should thicken slightly. Stop beating once incorporated.

    3. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate/butter/yolk mix until incorporated.

    4. Finally, gently fold in the egg white until fully incorporated.

    5. Remove the muffin tray from the fridge and spoon mixture on top of the 6 cake bases. 

    6. Fill to the top of the muffin spaces and use a scraper to smooth the cake tops.

    7. Place back into the fridge and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours before serving.

     

    Topping

    1. When ready to serve, whip ~50 ml of cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

    2. Finely chop up a small handful of roasted (salted) peanuts and any remaining chocolate.

    3. Add the peanuts and leftover chocolate to the bowl of leftover biscuit topping (from the base). Combine.

    4. Using a hot bread & butter knife, carefully run around the edge of each cake and pop out of the mould. The hot knife can also be used to smooth the sides if required.

    5. Place a teaspoonful of cream on top of each cake.

    6. Finally, sprinkle over the peanut/chocolate/biscuit base mixture of topping. Serve immediately.

     

    Recipe notes

     

    - As this recipe uses raw eggs, make sure your eggs are fresh and have clean shells.

    - For a lighter mousse, you may omit the egg yolk.

    - Unsalted butter is specified because the chocolate is salted.

    - Any high quality, craft dark chocolate would be suitable for this recipe, if you don't have the specified bar on hand.


    chocolate mousse recipe nz

  • Chocolatiers Using Craft Chocolate

    Chocolatiers Using Craft Chocolate

    There’s never been a more exciting time to be a chocolate lover. Whether you’re a fan of confectionery like bonbons and truffles or more of a bar fanatic, there are more options on offer today than ever before, with new chocolate brands popping up every year, new trends and techniques, new cacao origins, and new flavour experiences that previous generations couldn’t even dream about. It’s truly a delicious time to be alive.

    One thing that’s been particularly exciting to see in recent years is the emergence of chocolatiers using bean-to-bar craft chocolate. I decided to take a deep dive into this fascinating new world of collaboration, and to speak with some of the talented individuals who are leading the way...

    fawkes confectionery

    Before the rise of bean-to-bar craft chocolate, the vast majority of people who wanted to work with chocolate on a small, non-industrialised scale had to work with pre-made couverture, usually made by huge chocolate corporations in Europe or North America. Because this handful of megalith chocolate companies was (and still is) producing most of the world’s chocolate, and doing it whilst sacrificing quality and ethics in order to save time and money, the chocolate landscape that most of us grew up in was homogenised, bland and lacking depth of both culture and flavour. Whilst we loved mainstream chocolate at the time, the emergence of the bean-to-bar craft chocolate scene has opened many of our eyes to the vast world of flavours we’ve been missing out on. 

    Small-scale bean-to-bar chocolate makers started emerging around the mid-nineties, with the aim of bringing more diversity and quality to chocolate, whilst also improving the ethics of the industry. They rejected the use of mass-produced couverture and decided instead to make their own chocolate from scratch, using all kinds of innovative methods to replicate large-scale chocolate making equipment. They sourced rarer, higher quality beans than what was being used in mass-produced chocolate, and they made cacao the central focus of chocolate again, rather than masking it with large amounts of sugar, milk and unnecessary additives. 

    Today, there are thousands of bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers all over the world. Whilst it’s still a small segment of the industry, it is growing at a much faster rate than mainstream chocolate, and customers are gaining more and more understanding of the increased level of quality and deliciousness they can find in the craft sector. It’s been amazing to see the growth over the past ten years.

    craft chocolate new zealand

    Until a couple of years ago, it felt like small chocolate companies had two main options - make chocolate from scratch, from bean to bar, or be a chocolatier and use mass-produced couverture to create bonbons, truffles, etc. At times there has been a bit of a divide between the two camps, even though both chocolate making and chocolatier-ing are art forms in their own right, and skills that go hand-in-hand with each other. There are a few craft chocolate makers who are making things like bonbons and truffles from the bean (in New Zealand we have Miann and Lucid Chocolatier), but most companies do one thing or the other.  

    Now that there are so many established bean-to-bar makers, many of them having far outgrown the basements and garages they started out in, there are a lot of options for where to source craft chocolate, and more and more makers who can supply larger quantities. Because of this, an exciting new unity is evolving in the industry, with some of the world’s best chocolatiers using some of the world’s best craft chocolate. 

    nordic chocolatiers

    Peter Svenningsen from Nordic Chocolatiers in Denmark works with exceptional craft chocolate from the likes of Friis-Holm, Zart and Duffy’s. 

    ‘Using high end craft chocolate enhances the ingredients that we use. We work with approximately 12-13 different dark chocolates; different ones are used with the different ingredients/flavours. For example, O’Payo from Friis-Holm compliments our Pure Inland Ice piece and the Olive Oil Bergamot, whereas for our Strawberry Gastrique, the dark chocolate from Zart was a better match.’ 

    Peter also spoke about the importance of using high quality chocolate when it is one of only a few ingredients in a bonbon. 

    ‘Working with primarily water ganaches, there is a big focus on the chocolate. One cannot mask bad chocolate when working with max three to four ingredients, and when water is one of them, you have to be picky with the chocolate you choose.’

    David Crichton from The Careless Collection was also passionate about the use of craft chocolate in ganaches... 

    ‘The depth of flavour in the final product [of craft chocolate] is so strong that it is very difficult to dilute it. Hence I have found using bean-to-bar to make ganaches a bit of a game-changer. You would think putting bean-to-bar in a ganache would mask the chocolate’s flavour profile, but it transforms it into another dimension. I guess because a ganache is more liquid, the pure taste of the craft chocolate hits the palate before the hard chocolate has a chance to melt properly. So you get a double whammy effect.’

    David’s beautiful creations started out as a dessert he created when competing in Master Chef in the UK, but have now gone on to become retail products. He has a big love of Pump Street Chocolate, and uses their couverture for many of his products. 

    ‘I was always aware of Pump Street and loved their chocolate. However, I was tasked with creating a bar based on bread. I discovered the Pump Street Rye Bread chocolate and this proved to be my final eureka moment for my Buttered Toast bar. I sampled most of their couvertures and just knew immediately I needed to build a collection around it.’  

    the careless collection

    Jen Lo from Meltdown Artisan in Sydney has started making her own bean-to-bar chocolate, but she also collaborates with some of the best craft chocolate makers in Australia. Her recent creation ‘Trevor’s Breakfast’ not only credited the chocolate used, but was actually named after the chocolate maker - Trevor Smith from Metiisto Chocolate in Queensland. 

    ‘Funnily enough, it was heavily inspired by Trevor himself. I had been chatting to him about using his Mocha Milk in something, and I was pondering out loud as to what it would be. He jokingly said "breakfast" and I rolled with it.’

    Jen also spoke about the ethical benefits of working with small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate... 

    ‘I think the main benefit is obviously choosing to use chocolate that is traceable and sustainably sourced—you know that most bean-to-bar makers are hell bent on ensuring that their practices are sound from the farmer through to the consumer. It's less about making in 'mass' and more about making something unique, of true quality, with their own signature stamp on it. It means that as a chocolatier you're working with something that not many people would necessarily think to use instinctively. So beyond the ethical choices and benefits, it also becomes a positive point of difference.’

    meltdown artisan

    Hilary Harvey from Fawkes Confectionery in Oregon is also sourcing bean-to-bar chocolate from a local maker... 

    ‘When I discovered that there was a local bean-to-bar chocolate shop where I live (Seahorse Chocolate in Bend, Oregon) creating small-batch single origin chocolate, I was beyond ecstatic and immediately reached out to see if I could source from them. I'm very fortunate to have their support and their chocolate.’

    One thing that all the chocolatiers I spoke with mentioned was the benefit of matching the natural flavour profiles of the chocolate with the added flavour ingredients. Hilary was no exception... 

    ‘Most people think dark chocolate is just dark chocolate. But depending where the cacao is sourced from, and how its roasted and processed, chocolate is comparable to coffee or wine, with all the different flavour profiles and tasting notes. Having the ability to pair bright, citrusy cacao from Trinidad with a tangy lemon ganache, or a warmer, toasty cacao from Vietnam with a cozy cinnamon ganache is a really neat aspect that I love.’

    fawkes confectionery

    Rita Zamoshina from Carambole in Amsterdam uses couverture from a huge range of the world’s best chocolate makers. 

    ‘It is like an artist's palette to me. I can combine so many interesting flavours in just one bonbon! ... The process of making bonbons turned into a hunt for the flavour for me. Bean-to-bar has way more flavour potential, it has a human story behind it, it is sustainable and I love to tell this to my clients.’ 

    Rita also told me about how much she enjoys building relationships with all the different chocolate makers... 

    ‘To get to know their story, to be able to call and to ask for something customised, to know what new things are coming and will be developed. It is a field for collaboration. Most of the makers are very creative and small-scale, they are really generous and inspired people. New ideas get discovered. You have people in front of you, not corporations and telephone operators. Chocolate unites people of the same passion and soul.’

    carambole chocolate

    Speaking of uniting people, Yana Yakhnes from Only Child Chocolate Co. in Portland, Oregon, came up with a really innovative project when the Covid19 pandemic started. The Mixtape Series involved collaborating with four local chocolate makers (Chakralot, Cloudforest, Foxglove and Map Chocolate) to create a chocolate mixtape (literally) and a digital playlist to come with it.

    ‘When the pandemic started, I thought about how this project would be a great way to collaborate with other people while being apart. Additionally, music is such a great communicator of emotion, especially when you can’t find the right words. I loved the idea of people sitting around the country eating the same chocolate, listening to the same music, and having a guided experience that helped them tap into all their senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, sound). So I took this idea and thought more about how I’d love to work with particular makers to make flavours that matched only their chocolate. Just like a mixtape, it would have the right flow and a particular mood.’

    Yana also told me about the vast flavour possibilities with a project like this... 

    ‘Once you taste chocolate that is made by a small-batch maker, one who uses origins they carefully and lovingly coax to tell all of their flavour secrets, you realise that there are a hundred more possibilities to create unique flavour with unique chocolate. It’s like suddenly being able to see in colour, after only seeing in black and white.’

    only child chocolate co.

    When the pandemic hit, Riadh Aine from Bumble & Oak in Cambridge, UK, also created an opportunity to engage in more collaboration, using chocolate as a bridge to help people connect during lockdown. She’s worked with several different British chocolate makers, including NearyNógs, J. Cocoa, York Cocoa House and Anisa & Chocolate. 

    ‘I’ve proudly roped my close friends into doing collaborations, including subscription boxes during lockdown. [We’ve been] highlighting what they do, the difference between making chocolate and making chocolates, and I feature makers in my tastings.  It’s had a knock-on effect of perhaps inspiring other chefs and chocolatiers to consider where they source their chocolate, and following supply chains to their farming origins.’

    When talking about the benefits of working with craft chocolate, Riadh talked about the importance of finding suppliers who share her own values... 

    ‘Most, if not ALL craft makers share the same values. Care for their environment, not just their own immediate, but globally. And ALL those I know and work with have an innate understanding of how climate affects everything, from growing season, to disease control, and distribution. A much bigger picture, that includes families supporting families essentially. Sustainable, regenerative farming, supply chains, even distribution of wealth, small business supporting small business, cooperatives and collaboration over competition.’ 

    bumble & oak chocolate

    With all of these benefits to using craft chocolate, you may be wondering why every chocolatier isn’t jumping at the opportunity. The main reason is cost - as you would expect, small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate costs a lot more than mass-produced couverture. But for higher-end chocolatiers it is undoubtedly possible to make it work financially, and with a more delicious end product, customers are willing to pay more. This can actually result in a chocolatier making more money for the same amount of work and time, so I think fears about using a more expensive chocolate can sometimes be misguided. 

    The other difficulty with using craft chocolate is its technical complexity. Jen Lo told me that ‘It's almost like learning to re-temper chocolate when you start working with craft. In principle it's technically exactly the same, but with a lot of craft chocolate there is either no or very little cocoa butter in the mix—it makes it a lot more viscous and trickier to work with in terms of timing, especially when trying to do things like enrobing or moulding things like bonbons.’ 

    Johnty Tatham of Lucid Chocolatier is both a chocolatier and a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, and when I interviewed him last year he had this to say about the technical aspect of making bonbons with craft chocolate…

    ‘Fluidity is paramount for the chocolatier, as often the flavour of the chocolate being used isn’t the star of the show, however workability is. A classic example of this is a bonbon. We want the shell of the bonbon to be as thin as possible so that when we eat it, the shell cracks and the inside flavour bursts out onto the palate as the chocolate melts away nicely on the finish. If we were using thick, two ingredient bean-to-bar chocolate for this, we simply wouldn’t be able to achieve a technically exemplary bonbon. However if we use a chocolatier-specific chocolate, we are able to achieve extremely thin shells, and the beautifully formulated filling will shine through, reflecting the skill of the chocolatier. 

    Chocolate makers on the other hand, particularly two ingredient [cacao and sugar] makers, generally won’t prioritise the additional fluidity and melt in the mouth components of additional cocoa butter or lecithin, instead opting for potency, viscosity and originality of flavour. This is great for eating chocolate, as we are able to capture the true flavour of origin without offsetting it with cocoa butter. However, if we want to then take this chocolate and make a bonbon or a hand-dipped caramel with it, I can see many chocolatiers, including myself, pulling their hair out at the thought of it.’ 

    lucid chocolatier

    Hilary Harvey also spoke about this technical aspect... 

    ‘The thing that most people like about mainstream chocolate is that it's always the same, and from a production standpoint, reliability is key. But when you work with a smaller scale, bean-to-bar producer things can vary from batch to batch. You notice the nuances more. Which can be both bad and good, but I quite like it. To me, it's like getting a hand painted gift from a friend instead of a mass produced print from an online store. It's not going to be identical or perfect, but that kind of makes the end product even better.’

    Here in New Zealand there have been a couple of brief collaborations between chocolatiers and craft chocolate makers in the past, but currently there are none happening. I would love to see more of these partnerships forming, which is partly why I’ve written this article. It can be so disappointing when you taste a beautifully crafted bonbon that’s been made with average, mass-produced chocolate, and often I find this does a disservice to the talent of the chocolatier. Tasting bean-to-bonbons made by Lucid Chocolatier and Miann made me realise the full flavour potential of this style of confectionery. It can be a financial, technical and logistical challenge for chocolatiers to start using craft chocolate, but it can undoubtedly result in a superior product, both in terms of flavour and ethics. It also has the potential to strengthen personal connections amongst chocolate professionals from all areas of the industry, and to build an enduring sense of community that includes cacao growers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, consumers, and everyone in between. In a world that can often feel fractured and divided, that unity feels more vital now than ever before.

    nordic chocolatiers

    Thank you so much to everybody who took the time to answer my questions, as well as providing the beautiful images. 

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 028: Mike Renfree, Raglan Chocolate

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 028: Mike Renfree, Raglan Chocolate

    For my latest interview I caught up with Mike Renfree from Raglan Chocolate in Raglan, New Zealand. Mike and his partner Simone launched their company back in July 2017, and it's been great getting to know them over the past few years. Mike and Simone really epitomise the craft chocolate ethos - bringing together a perfect blend of art and science, a D.I.Y attitude and a strong passion for ethical and sustainable business practices. I'm so pleased to be stocking Raglan's beautiful bars in our online store, and to be featuring their exceptional Solomon Islands 70% bar in our September subscription boxes. If you'd like to know more about what's been happening behind the scenes, be sure to have a read of this little interview... 

    raglan chocolate 

    What were you doing before you became a chocolate maker and what sparked your interest in chocolate?

    I started my working career as a chef but have worked as a food technologist for most of it, so I’ve always been in food. I first got into chocolate making about ten years ago when I did some chocolate product development work for a smallish traditional (not bean-to-bar) chocolate company. They had a stone grinder sitting unused in the corner and when I asked about it, I was told in incredulous tones that ‘some hippies in California were using them to make ‘bean-to-bar chocolate’. I brought ‘Big Mal’ from them a couple of years later.

    Where are you sourcing your beans from and how do you decide which beans to work with? 

    One of the cornerstones of bean-to-bar chocolate - and very important for me - is the ethics of the supply chain and quality of the raw materials. I’m very proud to be a disruptor; part of a relatively new and small international movement that is raising the quality of chocolate and the quality of farmers’ lives by paying them a fair price for their beans. In an ideal world the big international buyers of cacao like Mondelez (Cadbury), Hercheys and Mars will one day have to pay farmers more as well. We are fortunate in New Zealand that Trade Aid import pallets of cacao beans when they bring in much bigger volumes of coffee beans. They have relationships with the growers at the source and can vouch for the quality of the wonderful Peruvian and Dominican Republic beans we use. The Solomon Islands beans we source from the Cathliro Cooperative are currently my favourite, with beautiful light fruit notes and a heart warming story of enterprise for social good.

    raglan chocolate interview nz

    Is chocolate making more art or science? 

    Definitely both! It’s kind of like making coffee where you have to continuously make adjustments for variation in humidity etc to get the best from it.

    What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since starting Raglan Chocolate? 

    That making chocolate is so much harder than you could ever imagine, also more interesting and varied. But the biggest challenge seems to be educating the public about the difference between bean-to-bar and confectionery chocolate.

    How does your location affect the chocolate you make? 

    Living in Raglan is actually one of the reasons I make chocolate. We moved to Raglan six years ago and were inspired to ‘take the plunge’ by the supportive community that just seemed to make anything possible.

    raglan chocolate

    What are some of the benefits and challenges of making chocolate in micro batches?

    Variability in the raw materials and the process can lead to some surprising results, sometimes stunning and other times disappointing. It goes back to that art and science thing and I’m continually working on getting that balance right.

    What inspires you to do what you do?

    A number of things, but a big part is the desire to do what I couldn’t do when working for ‘Corporate Food’, like selecting ingredients and packaging based on quality, the producers’ ethics and environmental impact.

    We’ve recently started stocking some of your new-look bars. Could you tell us a little about the design process for the new range? 

    It seemed that the stars aligned for us. I bumped into an artist friend in an art gallery six weeks prior to Chocstock. I’d wanted Denise to do something for our little 50g bars years ago, but she had disappeared overseas and this fluke meeting was the first I knew that she was back. I said we only had six weeks and to my surprise she thought we could do it. There were some late nights (not for me - I was asleep), but for Denise and Simone my partner who is the detail person in the team. It was back and forth getting the detail right until 4am one night. Nothing like a deadline to make things happen! I just love the artwork, there are little things (literally) like a cacao bean in a yoga pose and another chilling in the sun, it’s fun and tells a story just as we wanted.

    raglan chocolate new zealand bean-to-bar

    What are some of your favourite chocolate bars that you’ve tasted recently? 

    Most recently I’ve been eating some beautiful bars acquired at the fabulous Chocstock Festival. Such wonderful variety it’s hard to name a favourite….but the Foundry Tanzania, OMG! And prior to that it was one of the Dick Taylor bars -Madagascar. Mind blowing fruitiness!! Wow, Inspiring!

    What’s your favourite thing about being a chocolate maker? 

    It (chocolate) makes everybody smile.

    raglan chocolate

    Thanks so much to Mike for taking time out of his busy chocolate making schedule for this interview. Make sure you checkout Raglan Chocolate in our online store.

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 027: Sharon Terenzi, The Chocolate Journalist

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 027: Sharon Terenzi, The Chocolate Journalist

    For my latest interview I caught up with Sharon Terenzi, aka The Chocolate Journalist. Over the past decade Sharon has become a well known figure in the craft chocolate industry and a leading voice for the bean-to-bar movement. Through her excellent blog and huge social media following, Sharon promotes high quality and ethical craft chocolate, educates producers and consumers alike, and generally helps to spread the word about fine flavour cacao, small-batch chocolate making and chocolate marketing. As she spends so much time promoting the work of other people, I thought it might be interesting to find out more about Sharon's own chocolate story...

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    What is your background and how did you get into the chocolate industry?

    Marketing was my biggest passion before chocolate entered my life. I have a bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from Italy, did one year program in Marketing in New York, and I’ve always loved reading books on consumers’ psychology, how we choose what to buy and why, and how to market a great product at its best. Chocolate entered my life back in 2012 when I used to work for an Italian importer specialty foods in New York.

    Because of the frustrating office job, I would often find myself wandering in the retail store looking for some comfort food. A big wood table in the middle of the store called on me every time. Laying on top of it were the best Italian chocolate brands at that time: Guido Gobino, Domori, DeBondt and others. Bite after bite, I got curious about the simple ingredients lists, the great flavours, and chocolate in general. I started diving into the companies’ websites, buying chocolate books on Amazon and reading any possible article on chocolate I could find online. Soon I became the chocolate expert of the office, and then decided to start collecting all my findings in my blog, The Chocolate Journalist. This is how the story began.

    What are some of the core aims of the work you do as The Chocolate Journalist?

    On top of the list, I feel the visceral need to make consumers understand the difference between industrial and craft chocolate. Most chocolate consumers don’t realise all the work and care that goes on behind artisan chocolate, often judging the price tags as “ridiculously high” when they don’t know that those prices are the bare minimum to keep craft chocolate makers afloat. By highlighting the big differences between these two industries, I hope to open the eyes of unaware chocolate lovers.

    My second biggest goal is to talk about the latest news, trends and issues in the craft chocolate industry. There are some topics that you only see discussed in big conferences, in private professional events, that nobody cares to talk about publicly, or that would be too difficult or too nerdy to explain. I want to be that bridge that in a simple, digestible and entertaining way passes on some crucial info and news to both professionals and consumers.

    Lastly, I want people to discover the endless variety of origins, flavours, and stories enclosed in every craft chocolate bar, so I like to write compelling tasting reviews for everybody to enjoy.

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    Was there a particular bar that opened your eyes to bean-to-bar/craft chocolate?

    Want to know a fun fact? The first craft bean-to-bar chocolate I ever tasted was from Mast Brothers.

    On the weekends when I was off my job, I used to tour all the chocolate stores in New York, and ended up one day at the Mast Brothers factory in Brooklyn. It was 2013, and their chocolate tasted absolutely terrible, even to an unexperienced palate like mine at that time. Thank God that didn’t stop my search and study of fine chocolate, and soon after I tasted many other brands that gave me the opposite experience. I don’t think there was a specific bar that opened my eyes to craft chocolate, but more so the repetition of amazing flavours, bite after bite, that confirmed the colossal differences with the supermarket chocolate I was used to eating before.

    How do you keep up to date with everything that's happening in the chocolate industry?

    I used to rely a lot on Google News, but now all the mainstream articles are filled with paid ads, biased research, vague info, or written by food writers that clearly don’t know a lot about chocolate. So I now draw my own conclusions by observing and listening to the market.

    Primarily, I use Instagram. By being on the platform all day, I get to see the latest products that companies are releasing, which is a great way to spot trends. Also, the comment section under my posts is always filled with experts willing to share their knowledge on every topic I present, something that I highly appreciate. The second tool is joining any possible online conference or workshop organised by professionals in the industry, for example by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association or the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, but also yearly events like Chocoa or the Northwest Chocolate Festival, whether they are online or in person. Thirdly, it’s all about hearing directly from chocolate companies: asking questions here and there, reading their Social Media posts, signing up to their newsletters. Lastly, I have good chocolate friends that send me messages and emails every time they hear about some major news. They are truly precious.

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    Many small-scale chocolate makers don't have a lot of time and money for marketing. What are your top three marketing tips for makers in this situation?

    First, I believe that we MAKE the time for what we care about and believe it’s important. So my first suggestion for small-scale chocolate makers that don’t have a lot of time and money is to have a set schedule for their marketing actions. Even if those actions are limited or sporadic, there should be a specific time of the day and day of the week when those actions are performed. For example, create a Social Media calendar. Even if you only post 3 times a week, choose the specific days and times when you are going to post, and stick to them. Another example is the newsletter. Pick a specific day of the week or the month when you are going to sit down at your desk and spend one hour crafting and sending out the newsletter. Things shouldn’t be left to “when I have the time”, but planned out strategically. Your discipline and consistency cost no money, but will be rewarded big time.

    Second, make loyal customers feel special. It doesn’t cost any money to repost the beautiful picture of somebody enjoying your chocolate on Instagram, like it doesn’t cost any money to send them a private message to say thank you for their purchase. These are simple actions that will stick to a customer’s mind for a long time. Also, how about Loyalty Cards? I have yet to see something like Loyalty Cards for craft chocolate. With all the wide range of choices now in craft chocolate, chocoholics that stick to the same brands should feel rewarded for their loyalty. Loyalty Cards allow to accumulate points at every purchase. Once a specific number of points is reached, the rewards can be unique discounts, free chocolate bars at the next purchase, or special treats. These rewards cost peanuts to the company, but will make loyal customers feel appreciated and will also stimulate sales.

    Third, have a great website. In 2021, there is no need to pay a web designer to create an e-commerce that looks stylish, professional and welcoming, especially with platforms like Squarespace, Winx or Shopify. Big colourful images, compelling product descriptions, easy and intuitive navigation, informative pages, are all things that can be achieved at low costs and that don’t need major modifications for a long time. With all the competition in the craft chocolate industry, the bare minimum is to have a great website where consumers enjoy shopping for your chocolate.

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    How has COVID 19 affected your work?

    I feel blessed that 2020 has been my best year yet, and it’s only getting better. With a lot of craft chocolate companies unfortunately closing down their physical locations during 2020, they put all their efforts and resources online (finally understanding the importance of a user-friendly website and a consistent presence on Social Media). So I gained new clients for my Social Media management and consultancy services, and I also got more opportunities for paid content writing from companies that wanted to drive more traffic to their websites with educational blog posts. I also started paid sponsorships on my Social Media accounts for the promotion of chocolate products, events and courses that align with my value and I believe will be useful to my audience.

    For being a solopreneur, I’ve now reached full capacity, to the point where I have to turn down work that I can’t possibly find the time for, and I am incredibly grateful for that.

    Is there a big following for craft chocolate in Italy?

    Despite Italy being the land of fine food, chocolate is still a tough one to be seen as “specialty”. We have Ferrero here that got us all used to cheap, buttery and sugary chocolate products since a tender age. But things are slowly changing here too. 

    There are a lot of craft chocolate makers around now, from North to South. I’d say at least 10-15, spreading the culture of good quality chocolate first in their local areas, and then nationally thanks to distributors that give them space in their assortment all around Italy. There are also more craft chocolate retailers, importing international brands that definitely catch people’s attention thanks to their fancy designs and intriguing flavours. Consumers here are developing a palate for dark chocolate too. You hear less of “dark chocolate is too bitter for me” around, which is a great relief. So the following for craft chocolate is growing in Italy too.

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    Do you have any predictions for upcoming trends in the craft chocolate industry? Any flavours or styles that are becoming popular?

    I see craft chocolate makers drifting away from “pure” assortments made only of single-origin dark chocolate bars. It seems that, after getting skilled with cocoa origins, craft chocolate makers are now having fun experimenting with intriguing, mouth-watering and exciting inclusions. From instagrammable green, yellow and blue chocolate to the addition of unexpected salty ingredients, craft chocolate lovers can now enjoy a larger variety of flavours that they could only dream of 2 years ago. Fine cocoa is often not the main protagonist, but the great base for delicious inclusions. Honestly, I am happy about this trend, as these fun and delicious creations get new customers closer to craft chocolate than 80% dark chocolate bars ever could.

    Other trends worth mentioning: collaborations between local businesses where the chocolate maker and the coffee roaster, the whisky distiller or the tea curator come together to create a limited-edition chocolate bar that highlight the best of both worlds; chocolate bar sizes that differ from the traditionally rectangular chocolate bar, taking on other shapes that catch the eyes of consumers (like square bars); monthly subscription boxes with chocolate bars not available to all customers, but crafted exclusively for the subscription members.

    This is a tricky one, but could you tell us a few of your all-time favourite chocolate bars? 

    Nothing tricky about that! Some of my all-time favourite origin bars: 70% Piura by Cacaosuyo for an explosion of fruitiness; 70% Uganda by Solstice Chocolate for a complex journey of flavours; 75% Ghana by Francois Pralus for a chocolatey heaven. Some of my all-time favourite inclusion bars: Black Fig by Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate; 68% India with Nibs by Fjak Sjokolade; Gianduia by Hogarth Chocolate; Green Tea Crunch by Raaka Chocolate; Cardamom by Roszavolgyi Csokolade; Filter Kaapi Coffee by Soklet.

    dick taylor black fig dark chocolate

    What is your favourite thing about working with chocolate?

    That craft chocolate is never only about the finished product. In every bite, there is the effort of hundreds of people, there are thousands of miles traveled, there are at least 2 or 3 different cultures involved, there is a long journey of transformation from the seed to the chocolate, and a lot of incredible stories to share in between. As I witnessed in the past 7 years, one bite of craft chocolate can create hours-long conversations between people that never even met before, whereas with supermarket chocolate there isn’t much to talk about. I guess “complexity” is my favourite thing about working with chocolate. You can approach it from so many different points of view that you never run out of things that can fascinate and surprise you.

    the chocolate journalist interview sharon terenzi

    Thanks so much to Sharon for taking the time for this interview. If you haven't already, be sure to check out The Chocolate Journalist blog and give her a follow on Instagram and Facebook

    *All images supplied by Sharon Terenzi.*

  • A Guide to Tasting Chocolate

    A Guide to Tasting Chocolate

    This article was originally published by Good.

    It’s a very exciting time in the world of chocolate and the craft chocolate movement has opened people’s eyes to the vast possibilities held within the simple cacao bean. What most of us grew up eating was not real chocolate - it was confectionery. And chocolate doesn’t actually just taste like chocolate, it can taste like different fruits, nuts, flowers, grains, spices, herbs and more - all of these flavours just coming from the cacao. What a revelation!

    Tasting chocolate is just like tasting fine wine, craft beer or artisan cheese. There are many different factors that affect the flavour of the beans, including the terroir (topography, soil conditions, climate, etc), the varietal of cacao, the fermentation methods, and the process of the chocolate maker (roasting, grinding, conching, etc). Listen to the story each bar has to tell and - most importantly - have fun.

    a guide to tasting chocolate new zealand

    How to taste...

    This might sound strange but there are different techniques for tasting chocolate. If you chew and swallow quickly then you probably won’t get the full experience. Good quality chocolate has several layers and stages of flavour, so you need to take your time and consider each mouthful an adventure, complete with a beginning, middle and end (we call this the ‘flavour journey’).

    A clean palate is essential if you want to do justice to the chocolate - if you can still taste the last thing you ate, try eating a slice of apple or cucumber and have a sip of sparkling water. Also, make sure the chocolate is at room temperature - cold chocolate will not release its flavours properly.

    When we taste new chocolate we are judging it on four main criteria: appearance, aroma, taste and texture. Here are a few pointers of what to look for in each area...

    a guide to tasting chocolate new zealand

    Appearance

    Start by examining the physical nature of the bar - does it have a perfectly smooth surface with consistent colour and texture? Does it have a nice shine? Does it make a nice clean ‘snap’ sound when you break it, rather than a dull thud? All of these things are signs of a good ‘temper’, and the marks of a master craftsman. 

    Aroma

    Be sure to have a good whiff of your chocolate before you taste it. What does it smell like? Do you notice any individual scents or is there a complex mixture? Does the smell evoke any memories? Examining like this helps to prepare your mouth for the tasting.

    Your tastebuds tell you whether things are salty, sweet, sour, bitter or savoury (umami). The rest of what we call flavour (fruity, floral, nutty, etc) is actually the aroma. Our brain combines taste and aroma to create the overall flavour experience.

    Texture

    As we all know, texture is a vital part of our chocolate pleasure. Is the bar smooth and creamy or is their a roughness? Is it mouthwatering or does it leave your mouth dry? Does it melt slowly or quickly? In the highest quality chocolate, we look for a really smooth texture with a slow melt, which allows the flavours to develop over time. Cheap chocolate usually melts very quickly, and offers a basic monotone flavour.

    Taste

    Now it’s time for the main event - how does the chocolate taste? Chew it a few times to get the juices flowing, then move the chocolate slowly around your mouth and let it melt over time. What do you taste at the beginning? Does it change over time? Is there a pleasant aftertaste?

     

    a guide to tasting chocolate new zealand

     

    You can use this flavour map to help you find flavours as you’re tasting, as well as searching your flavour memories. When you’re new to this sort of chocolate tasting, it can be tricky to pick out individual flavour notes, and you might feel like everything just tastes like chocolate. It’s a good idea to start with two single origin 70% bars that only contain cacao and sugar, but offer really different flavour notes. You might like to try comparing the Foundry Chocolate India 70% with their Vanuatu 70% - you won’t believe these bars are made with exactly the same ingredients! The difference in flavour is almost entirely due to the origin of the cacao.

    Over time you’ll build up experiences of trying different chocolates and finding different flavour notes. The more you have to compare, the easier it becomes to discover and understand new flavours, along with developing the vocabulary to describe things. It won’t happen overnight but it’s a fun journey to embark on.

    If you’d like to learn more about tasting chocolate, you might like to check out our Chocolate Tasting Course.

    a guide to tasting chocolate new zealand

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 026: Clayton McErlane, Baron Hasselhoff's

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 026: Clayton McErlane, Baron Hasselhoff's

    For my latest interview I had a chat with my good friend Clayton McErlane, Chief Chocolate Disciple at Baron Hasselhoff's. We're featuring two of Clayton's chocolate bars in our March subscription boxes so I thought it would be a good idea to find out what's been happening behind the scenes...