Is Willie’s world class cacao really world class?

February 3rd, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

The way Willie talks about his chocolate and the whole enthusiasm around it in his TV show has always left my mouth watering. The problem is that I could only imagine how his “world class” chocolate would taste… and licking the TV screen didn’t help much!

The four samples

And so, being on the other side of Earth from Willie’s chocolate factory, I’ve forgotten about it until David came to visit us at the hotel. We weren’t looking for a change of chocolate, but when I got the phone call, I thought wow! What a great chance to finally try and put to the test the much-talked-about chocolate.

Not alone, but with few of my colleagues, all bathing in chocolate for 20 something years, we first tasted the chocolate samples. There were four types of couvertures including a Javanese 69%, a Madagascan 71%, a Peruvian San Martin 70% and a Venezuelan Rio Caribe Superior 72%. We also received a bloc of 100% Peruvian San Martin cocoa which I was very much looking forward to grate on something just like Willie does on TV! A few sample of flavored chocolate bar were also provided…

I’m not exaggerating, but Willie’s chocolate are indeed world class and they are seriously up to par with the best. The chocolates aren’t as fluid as others, which isn’t a bad thing as you can always add cocoa butter if you want it more fluid. The smoothness is very good. Back in the days, I used to be an addict to El Rey chocolates which are very earthy and rough, but perhaps too rough on the edge. Willie’s chocolate are earthy, they stink of goodness and are superbly fragrant.

So good to the point where I wasn’t really convinced by the chocolate bars… As a matter of fact, when I tried the orange chocolate, I thought it was overpowered in orange essential oil and when I tried the popular hazelnut and raisin bar, I was greeted by a chocolate where fat had already bloomed around the nuts (this happens when fat migrates); nothing wrong in eating it, but it isn’t giving the best impression. Fat bloom can happen when storage isn’t perfect in temperature and humidity, however with nuts, it’s even more delicate. I believe there are coating possible around the nuts to avoid such fat migration.

Fat bloom isn't bad for taste, but definitely makes the eyebrows rise!

Anyhow, back to the pure chocolates. When tasted, we’ve found very different characteristics in each of the kind and were very impressed by the intensity of aromas present in the chocolates. They are smooth in mouth, have a proper snap when breaking it and are superbly fragrant, although they all end in a fairly dry note due to the strength of cocoa – and I loved it!

So, the couvertures were definitely beautiful, but would they work in our recipes?

For testing couvertures, I decided to make one simple ganache to see how stable it was and also a chocolate chantilly to see how the texture works compared to our regular chocolate. I wasn’t going to make the same fuss I did the last time I tested chocolate ganache for tarts, but I was rather going to test for the basics.

I measured four batches of 50 grams of cream (35% fat) and 80 grams of each chocolate to measure how each would work out. Warmed up the cream and melted it together. All where fairly equal in smoothness. The 72% Venezuelan Rio Caribe was definitely a notch above the others in term of terroir – I really liked it! The surprise came with the strength of the Peruvian 70%, acidic and powerful, even more so than the Madagascan 71%. The Javanese 69% was pleasant and the more mellow of the four chocolates. Thus, I decided to use the Indonesian crop to test it in the chantilly cream.

Testing and tasting

The whipped Chantilly in the tube, frozen.

I melted 80 grams of Javanese chocolate in 350 ml of cream (35% fat) and blended it well, I added a leaf of gelatine and left it in the fridge overnight. The next day, I whipped the cream and piped it in a metal tube with a plastic sheet and froze it. Once hard, I took it out of the tube and cut it into pieces. As soon as the cream was defrosted, I tried it and it was really good and intense. There was no need for sugar I thought. Actually, I thought there is always too much sugar in everything! (That might be me being in Asia for too long! ;)

Microplane grater, 100% Peruvian Cacao!

And so, to bring it even a notch higher in cocoa kick I pulled out the secret weapon, the Microplane grater, and loaded it with 100% San Martin Peruvian cocoa, grated it onto the tube of cream and there it was: a mouthful of cocoa like never before! Sensational cocoa flavor, way more sophisticated than any of the big names on the market. (that’s according to me of course!)

It definitely inspired me for our next afternoon tea pastries! And yes, Willie’s cacao are really world class!

Delicious bite of cacao!

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