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Our Blog: Chocolate Talk

An Intern's Perspective: The Chocolate Ball

Ristra Chocolate Sculpture

The following was written by Nathaniel Mich, Hedonist Intern, about his experience creating a chocolate sculpture for the Chocolate Ball with chocolatier Jennifer Posey during the month of January 2010.

“Ristra” was inspired by the bundles of drying chile peppers that festoon the Southwest and Mexico. I wanted to use this sculpture to explore the range of flavors and heat that chiles provide, resulting in the three ganaches described here. This was our entry for the chocolate competition at the Epilepsy Foundation’s 24th Annual Chocolate Ball.

 Lime zest, guajillo chile peppers and coriander in dark chocolate.The zest pops immediately; even before the chocolate melts, it fills the mouth and nose with lime. Coriander reminds me of nutmeg, but it’s lighter and less overbearing.  The guajillo is subtle and mild: the peppers are fruity and give the ganache an aftertaste of heatless chile and tomato.Taken together, it tastes like Fruit Loops. Seriously. I started out with salsa flavors and got breakfast cereal. Delicious, complex, layered breakfast cereal in chocolate and cream.

Chocolate Ball Truffles

It took me over 100 hours to make “Ristra.” This includes brainstorming, planning, sketching and grocery shopping*; designing, testing and finalizing the ganaches; cutting the peppers out of paper, cardboard and ganache; stacking, shaping, enrobing, decorating and arranging the peppers; making the box, base, a thousand samples and a limited run of truffles. Chocolate consumed my every waking moment and a fair number of my dreams for nearly three weeks. It was awesome.

I interrogated half a dozen different produce departments in Rochester looking for guajillo peppers, and when I found them, I cleared them out. Hope you didn’t want any. Then, once I had the peppers, I realized that they were too light and tough for the food processor, so I took a knife and turned the chiles you see to the left into the red powder you saw above. That part was not so awesome.

 Chipotle, cinnamon and black smoked sea salt in milk chocolate.Crack the couverture, and the first sensation is the smokiness of the sea salt and chipotle pepper (smoked jalapeño).  The ganache is smooth and savory; the cinnamon fills out the middle of the progression and balances the initial saltiness. As the chocolate melts, the heat builds slowly to a lingering finish.This one does not taste like Fruit Loops.

Excited, chocolate-tasting crowd!

The Chocolate Ball was a ton of fun. I really enjoyed interacting with the attendants and guiding and narrating their experience of the chocolate. It’s particularly interesting to watch people’s expressions as the progression of flavors unfolds, especially when the heat develops. The submissions by the other contestants were also very impressive, although we were the only non-cake in the competition. Even though we didn’t win anything, I still had a great time with the whole process and the final event.

 Vanilla bean and habañero in white chocolate.
The vanilla is first: bright and fruity, you can see the seeds of the vanilla beans in the ganache. The Aztecs called vanilla tlixochitl and seasoned their cacao drinks with it and hot peppers. Just as the last vanilla fades and the chocolate melts away, the habañero kicks in with a flash of clean heat and the taste of fresh chiles.


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