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8 Pastry & Baking
North America
Off The Wire
Valrhona’s Exclusive Cercle
des Chefs Class Combines
Innovation and Inspiration
By Michelle Duda
For years, pastry chefs have pushed the limits of innovation,
artistry, visual spectacle, texture and of course, flavor. But there’s
one technical boundary they simply haven’t been able to break.
And that’s the restricted amount of chocolate that can be added
to common recipes without exceeding fat content.
That is, until now.
Valrhona’s Exclusive Cercle des Chefs Class in New York
City provided the forum for introducing the French chocolate
maker’s groundbreaking new chocolate couverture, Cœur de
Guanaja, to some of the nation’s finest pastry professionals.
The class was held September 17 and 18, 2009, at The
Institute of Culinary Education. It was one of the distinguished
courses offered through the school’s Center for Advanced Pastry
Studies (CAPS), directed by veteran Chef-Instructor Michelle
Tampakis. The class gave 12 participants the chance to learn
about, sample and utilize Cœur de Guanaja in guided
applications. And it supplied a unique opportunity to refine
their expertise, gain inspiration and study under the esteemed
Chef Philippe Givre.
Chef Givre is an accomplished artisan, international
instructor and consultant, and Pastry Chef at l’Ecole du Grand
Chocolat Valrhona since 2003. His experience as a pâtissier and
pastry chef includes positions at Fauchon, and Michelin 3-star
restaurants Troisgros in Roanne, and Joël in Atlanta. A
commanding yet winsome presence, Chef Givre addressed the
limitations of chocolate to an audience who were all too familiar.
When it comes to desserts like ice creams, soufflés and custards,
recipes call for fats such as heavy cream, whole milk and butter.
When you add traditional chocolate couvertures to these recipes,
you also add extra fat. Since pastry arts are an exacting science,
the end product is therefore, compromised. You get ice creams
that freeze too hard and mousses that become too stiff. For years,
chefs have substituted cocoa powder to achieve chocolate essence
without the fat. But the intensity of chocolate flavor suffered.
And if the powder wasn’t incorporated properly, a pale color and
grainy texture would result.
The innovators at Valrhona embraced the challenge of creating
a chocolate that could solve the longstanding dilemma. With a
name that nods to its home in France’s Rhone Valley, Valrhona
has been supplying fine chocolates to the world’s discriminating
chefs and chocolatiers since 1922. It only seemed fitting the
company would take on – and conquer – the conundrum.
Chocolate is composed of sugar, cocoa butter and dry cocoa
extract. The higher the percentage of cocoa butter and extract,
the darker the chocolate. In 1987, Valrhona introduced a 70%
chocolate with its Grand Cru Guanaja. The new Cœur de Guanaja
is a whopping 80%. As Chef Givre described, the concentrate
features nearly 10% less cocoa butter than its Grand Cru
counterpart. Cœur de Guanaja supplies an intense chocolate
flavor, enhances suppleness, and even has less fat and calories.
Class Members: (back row L to R) Derek Poirier, Michelle Tampakis, Kayvon Jordan, Yannis Janssens, Baptiste Mardon,
Shannon Black, Tatiana Harris, Philippe Givre, Michelle Duda, Joshua Needleman.
(front row L to R) Chef Tommy, BinMar Leto And Alex Espiritu.