March 14, 2012 Meeting
How Chocolate Gets Its Taste, with Clay Gordon
The March meeting of the Experimental Cuisine Collective will take place on Wednesday, March 14, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Chocolate — one of the most chemically complex foods known to food science — is different from most other foods in many ways, but one of the key differences is that the vast majority of chocolate is made thousands of miles from where the primary raw ingredient is grown.
This geopolitical and cultural disconnect leads (in part) to an enormous gap in awareness and appreciation (especially when compared with wine, for example) of the interplay between terroir, post-harvest processing techniques — which should be considered to be an inextricable part of terroir for many foods, not just chocolate — and manufacturing processes on the flavor of a finished chocolate.
This presentation will cover the key aspects that affect flavor development in cacao and chocolate from the tree to a finished bar and will cover the individual and collective contributions that genetics, agricultural practices, post-harvest processing (including fermentation and drying), and manufacturing (specifically roasting and conching) processes have on the development of flavor in chocolate. Selected pairings of chocolates will be used to highlight how slight differences in terroir, magnified by the choices that chocolate makers make, can yield completely different finished products.
Clay Gordon is a New York-based independent authority on chocolate. His book, Discover Chocolate, was a finalist in the Food Reference and Technical category in the 2008 IACP Cookbook Awards. He created and moderates TheChocolateLife.com, an on-line community devoted to chocolate with more than 5400 members in over 140 countries. In addition to consulting with chocolate makers and confectioners, Clay is heavily involved in chocolate education with an eye to improving the appreciation and awareness of fine chocolate as well as being an increasingly vocal advocate for sustainable production. One of the favorite parts of his “job,” Clay admits, is international travel, especially to places like wild cacao groves in the back of beyond in the Bolivian Amazon. Going to Europe for the chocolate is nice, too, he says, but his heart is on the farm.