Impending chocolate shortage? How to avoid the “crisis”.

Global Cocoa Shortage - Cocoa PodThere have been murmurings of an impending chocolate crisis for some months now but the major press seemed to pick it up this week. As I stood in the airport ready to fly to Milan on Monday I was called by the BBC to see if I could come on BBC Worldwide that evening to discuss the chocolate shortage. Sadly there were no suitable studios in Milan so I had to pass but my brain kept ticking. It’s a topic I’m extremely passionate (read: opinionated) about.

I’m still in Milan but given that I’m here on behalf of the tourism board promoting Milan Expo 2015 (www.wonderfulexpo2015.info) it seems fitting alongside the Expo’s theme of Food and specifically “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” to start this sustainability conversation with chocolate.

Cocoa prices are rising again. In real terms (i.e. accounting for inflation) they’re not the highest they’ve ever been, but they are high. Economics 101 should tell us that prices rise when demand increases or supply decreases. In the case of chocolate (or cocoa, its main, crucial component) we’re seeing both simultaneously.

Countries that have always been big consumers of chocolate are eating more than ever. In the UK we’re now responsible for the largest consumption in Europe. And now the nations that were previously only mildly interested in chocolate are taking to it with the same gusto as the rest of us. Undoubtedly this was instigated by the major confectionery manufacturers and their masterful marketing attempt to extend their reach and boost their revenue. Their success is now our concern.

A lesser contributor to this looming dearth is the “fine chocolate industry” which is gently nudging consumers towards higher percentage cocoa chocolate bars. The more cocoa in the bar the greater the demand amongst the manufacturers for the ingredient, ergo the price goes up. The fine chocolate industry, however, pays cocoa growers between three and ten times the price that they would make by selling their cocoa – via convoluted channels – through the commodities exchange. Not to mention paying them as directly as possible avoids middlemen taking an unnecessary cut.


Most of the world’s cocoa (close to 70%) comes from two main producing countries: Ivory Coast and Ghana. Both have suffered from drought this year and the proximity of Ebola to these and other cocoa producing countries has also caused panic in the markets which always base their price on future expectations of demand and supply rather than the current conditions. Right now there are warehouses of cocoa beans that will last the world a few years still, even at our current rate of consumption. Unfortunately the trend is to a dwindling production which will, quite literally, eat into those reserves.

Cocoa Bean storage and cocoa shortage

The main problem is that actually the price of cocoa is NOT high enough. How can we expect farmers to keep growing cocoa when they can replace it with a crop that is easier to grow, more resistant to disease and pays more than double per hectare than they’re making from cocoa. At the recent Academy of Chocolate Conference the topic was “What price cocoa?”. Corn and rubber can yield a farmer a more financially rewarding life, even if in some cases this is short-termist. Farmers who remove their cocoa trees cannot easily change their minds. It takes 3-5 years from planting a seedling to yield fruit to harvest beans to sell. This is why we might see cocoa become as rare and expensive as caviar. We see each year that at least one of the popular chocolate confectionery lines has shrunk or maybe nudged the price up and the online community goes into uproar. How dare inflation touch our precious treat? Most people can’t comprehend the idea of paying £5 for 100g chocolate bar. Which astounds me when I see the same people buying the house wine – which is invariably quite ordinary – for the same price and finishing it in thirty minutes. Never mind the cost of cigarettes or a daily Starbucks habit. A 100g bar of 70% fine quality chocolate is hard to consume in one evening unless you’re chomping it mindlessly, and even then I’d be surprised.

Cocoa Bean in Grenada - worldwide cocoa shortage

If we’re making an effort to move consumption away from cheap fashion then we should be doing the same for cheap chocolate. The “us and them” mentality needs to stop. Yes, it’s cheaper to live in most cocoa-growing countries, but $1/day per family (and this is what some cocoa farmers earn) is well below the poverty line. We must start paying all cocoa farmers more.

If you want to ensure that there will be cocoa in the future then we all need to accept that it must cost more, but at least choose something that you will get more pleasure from each bite. If you think you don’t like dark chocolate I can almost guarantee you’ve just not tried one of the good ones. I’ve shown thousands of people on chocolate tours in the past ten years and at least a third of them have told me at the beginning they don’t like dark chocolate. By their first taste 99 of every 100 show surprise and have changed their mind. But if you’re the “one” then try some dark milk chocolates, look for percentages between 40 (not strictly dark milk) and 60%. Less sugar and more flavour. The more cocoa in a bar the less your body craves to eat more. And start asking about whether the chocolate manufacturer buys their cocoa direct and what price they pay.

Chocolate Bars Chocolate ShortageTo start you off, here are a list of some brands that I would recommend:
Grenada Chocolate Company (made in country and £1.35 – about 20-30% – of every bar goes to the growers, versus around 2p – about 2-3% – for every bar of Dairy Milk)
Willie’s Cacao (made in Devon and available in Waitrose)
Duffy’s (made in North Lincolnshire)
In fact, any of the bars sold on www.CocoaRunners.com and if you use the code ecstasy1 for a box or ecstasy2 for a subscription you will get a £3 or £5 discount.

May we all continue eating chocolate for many years to come.

 

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Chocolate Yule Log Recipe from Hakkasan’s Executive Pastry Chef

Yauatcha LogThere is a draft post hovering in the background about 12 incredible yule logs created by some of London’s top pastry chefs, that I had a preview of during the summer and some of which are now on sale. That will have to wait until the weekend. For now, if you’re quick, you still have the chance to learn how to make your own in London at the Spirit of Christmas Fair at Kensington Olympia. Or, you can have a go at making it for yourself from the recipe below. The plus in heading to Olympia is you’ll get to take one away per table! And, importantly, a piece to try while you’re there. UPDATE: There are no more buche demonstrations during the show but there are still demonstrations being lead by chefs from the Savoy (not in the Hakkasan Group) and you can always make the recipe yourself below!

For the remaining days of the Spirit of Christmas (until this Sunday) there will be chef sessions each day, though sadly no more from Graham or his team.  The workshops on Wednesday were surprisingly quiet and unworthily so.  Unlike food shows where the demonstrations and the workshops are the draw, at the Spirit of Christmas it is all for filling your stockings with artisan gifts that are not common on the high street. It definitely makes unique shopping easier, but the workshops offering such a high calibre of hosts are definitely worth attending too. More so if you get to take home a gift from it!

 

Hakkasan was founded by Alan Yau who started his career in restaurants with Wagamama in 1992. Long ahead of its time in casual dining it was a catalyst for change in a then-staid restaurant scene and one of the reasons behind Yau receiving an OBE in 2006 for services to the restaurant industry.  Five of the Hakkasan Group’s restaurants have been awarded Michelin-stars: Hakkasan Hanway, Mayfair and New York, HKK and Yauatcha (London). These are all high-end Chinese restaurants, with the latter also offering a beautiful-looking, ever-changing and boundary-pushing selection of patisserie to eat in or take away, as well as their own range of chocolates made in-house.  For the past three and a half years Graham Hornigold has headed the sweet stuff for the group as Executive Pastry Chef.

Graham Hornigold, Hakkasan Group

Hornigold earned his stripes at a variety of Michelin restaurants, most notably within the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge and then at The Lanesborough Hotel where he won a host of awards. At Hakkasan he works with the restaurants in the UK and abroad on a variety of styles of desserts. For Christmas at Yauatcha they’re offering slices of the delicious chestnut yule log that we finished off in the Home & Garden Workshop at Spirit of Christmas. I loved this buche, testament to this was the fact I polished off several more slices last night despite judging several rounds of the International Chocolate Awards in the afternoon. If I was going to make it myself I’d sub the milk for more alcohol, but if you’re making it for the first time following the recipe below will deliver you a wonderful Christmas dessert and one you can make in advance and freeze leaving just the final decoration for Christmas morning. Finished Yauatcha Buche at Spirit of Christmas Chocolate and Chesnut Buche de noel

Graham Hornigold, Executive pastry Chef, Hakkasan Group

Makes one, 5 portions

Chocolate genoise – Makes 1 30cm x 40cm tray

88g egg whites

88g caster sugar

70g egg yolks

70g plain flour

18g cocoa powder

42g vegetable oil

Method

  1. Pre heat the oven to 180C
  2. Place the egg whites into a machine bowl and whisk on a medium speed adding the caster sugar gradually until a stiff meringue is formed.
  3. Fold in the egg yolks and then the vegetable oil.
  4. Lastly fold in the flour and the spread out onto a silicon mat.
  5. Place into the pre heated oven and cook for 8-9 minutes

Raisin and Chestnut compote

100g raisins

50g dark rum

50g confit chestnut (marron glace)

Method

  1. Wash the raisins in warm water at least 3 times or until the water runs clear. Place the water into a pan and bring to the boil. Add in the washed raisins and allow to soak for 20 minutes
  2. Strain the excess water and allow the raisins to cool, once cooled add the dark rum and allow to marinate over night
  3. Roughly chop the marinated rasins and mix with the chopped confit chestnut

Chestnut and Vanilla cream

90g chestnut paste (sweetened)

90g chestnut puree (unsweetened)

10g rum

15g milk

½ vanilla pod seeds

Method

  1. Place the chestnut puree, vanilla seeds and chestnut paste into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Gradually mix in the milk and the rum until smooth

Chocolate buttercream

110g egg whites

200g sugar

70g water

220g butter, soft

150g Dark chocolate 80%cocoa solids

Make an Italian meringue with the whites, sugar and water. Whip until cool, mix in the melted chocolate and then slowly add in the softened butter mix well .

Dark chocolate decorations

200g tempered dark chocolate made into 6 x 6 cm squares 1 set chocolate curls

Additional decoration

20g Confit chestnuts Gold leaf

To prepare and assemble

Rolling the Buche Naked Chestnut Yule Log Frosting the Buche

  1. Prepare the raisin and chestnut compote,Store in the fridge until required.
  2. Temper the chocolate and prepare the chocolate decorations, place into a cool dry area and allow to set for at least 4 hours.
  3. Prepare the chocolate genoise, remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool
  4. Once the sponge has cooled, cut into a 30 x 20cm rectangle and place onto a sheet of silicone paper, ensuring that the paper is larger than the cut sponge.
  5. Finish the raisin and chestnut compote
  6. Spread the chestnut and vanilla cream onto the sponge leaving a gap of 2cm at the bottom closest to yourself.
  7. Spread the raisin and chestnut compote over the top of the chestnut and vanilla cream.
  8. Gently fold over the bottom of the sponge and begin to roll up, finish rolling with the edge underneath the roll.
  9. Pipe lines of the chocolate buttercream over the top of the rolled buche, spread evenly with a palette knife or spoon. Make lines in the buttercream with a comb scraper or fork to look like a log.
  10. Place into the fridge to set the buttercream, lightly dust with cocoa powder.
  11. Place the chocolate squares on each end and then decorate the top with the chocolate curls, gold leaf and confit chestnuts.

Yauatcha A piece of the yule log

A slice of the Yauatcha Chestnut Yule Log

Recipe provided by Graham Hornigold of the Hakkasan Group

DISCLOSURE: I was invited to the Spirit of Christmas by Great British Chefs and Graham Hornigold. I was under no obligation to write about this and retained full editorial control.

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Will Torrent’s Chocolate At Home

I buy pretty much every book about chocolate I see. It’s a little silly, I suppose, as many are just theme and variations on the same recipes or stories, but, well, you probably all know by now that I’m a little obsessed. :-) I was delighted when the lovely Will Torrent asked if I’d like to preview his now newly-released book, Chocolate At Home. This is Will’s second recipe book and covers his main love, chocolate. This is just one of the reasons I like Will. He’s also a super guy and incredibly talented.

Chocolate At Home by Will TorrentI’ve had the book for about two weeks now and I’ve had a chance to make three of the recipes from it. Usually I just look to recipe books for inspiration and then twist the recipe a little. I tried not to do this in the spirit of giving the recipes a representative review, but I still couldn’t resist two small tweaks to two of the recipes. Well, three if you count the fact that I split the brioche recipe for the doughnuts in two and continued with one half exactly as instructed and used the other to make a brioche loaf that had an extended life as French toast and bread and butter pudding.

IMG_20140914_173839I digress. What I love most about this book is how beautiful it is. The photography is stunning and every single result looks like something I want to eat. Now. The only drawback to this effect is that there are only one or two recipes in the book that are suitable to relieve that immediate craving. Most of the recipes require some pre-planning (like resting time of some sort) or just some detailed procedures to produce the various components to get the end result. The flipside of a time-consuming recipe means that it should be a small stretch for the home baker. In this book you know you’re not going to get just a rehash of other chocolate books but some truly original recipes.

IMG_20140923_193706

The first chapter dedicated to filled chocolates is an extensive guide to making your own stunning and interesting chocolate box collection. Cognac, caramel and pear domes, anyone? I think I’m going to wait until Christmas break to tackle chocolates with layers, despite how helpful and specific Will’s guidelines and the accompanying images are. I’m just too intimidated by how perfect the end result is in the book’s images. And I’m wary of not having the time to do it properly and wasting precious chocolate if I – as I undoubtedly will – cover my kitchen in it.

Chocolate At Home Sable biscuitsWhat I did make were the Chocolate sables (I left out the orange zest and covered some in dark instead of milk chocolate, but these were still ridiculously moreish), Chocolate brioche doughnuts and the Salted caramel and rum top hat cake. The cake was much easier than the separated components initially made it seem and the overall result was fantastic to look at and stretched to serve quite a few people (even after I got several generous pieces just for me!). I didn’t have rum so made my ganache with chocolate stout instead. The beer ganache was fabulous but I would recommend sticking to the rum for this cake.

The book includes a great guide to the different methods of tempering, a little background to chocolate, a resource guide for where to find what you need to make everything and helpfully includes metric and American measurements.

Next on my to-make list is the Chocolate & chestnut roulade…

If you’ve got the book and tried any recipes, please share with us in the comments below!

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Win tickets to Hotel Chocolat’s Cocoa Bar Cafe party!

Rabot1745 Hotel Chocolat restaurant Last December I had lunch at Hotel Chocolat’s then newly-opened restaurant, Rabot 1745. It’s been on my list of things to write about since then.  Oops.   Now I have a renewed reason to tell you about my wonderful dining experience was, as more casual versions of cocoa savoury meals are popping up across Britain.  These Cocoa Bars and Cafes are also delivered by the Hotel Chocolat brand, whose team this year are celebrating a “Decade of Deliciousness”.   On August 21st Hotel Chocolat are hosting a launch party for their High Street Kensington Cocoa Bar Cafe. And I have three pairs of tickets to give away! To be in with a chance of winning you need to find the post mentioning this on Facebook and share it or find the tweet on @chocolatetours and retweet it and fill in the form below.  You’ll need to also confirm your subscription to the email list (via email that is sent to you) in order for me to get a list of names from which to draw the winners from.

 

You can enter by post if you prefer.  Send the responses from the form below to Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, 3rd Floor, 207 Regent Street, London, W1B 3HH, ensuring you include a phone number or email address to contact you.

 

Why do you want to come?

 

Well, there will be chocolate! If that’s not reason enough, there will also be Prosecco and cocoa canapés.  You’ll get to taste for yourself (if you haven’t already) that cocoa (or cacao, if you will) can be enjoyed within savoury food as well as desserts, truffles and all that other good sweet stuff.   I have tasted savoury cacao treats at Hotel Chocolat’s parties before and I have loved what I tried so I am sure you’ll be in for a treat at this party as well.  After the success of their St Lucia restaurant (within a year it was the top rated restaurant on Tripadvisor and generously praised by food writers as well), the company’s co-founder, Angus Thirwell, was keen to replicate the delicious food in London.  Angus was adamant that the restaurant should not be some novelty dining room, suitable only for the chocolate-obsessed, but to be a genuine contender for restaurant awards, including the coveted Michelin stars.  Finding the right venue plagued Angus for years, leading to rumours of this impending eaterie hanging as temptation for what felt like years to those of us who had the privilege of sampling some of the savouries already.   When Rabot 1745 finally opened last December I was invited me to take a guest to try it out during its soft launch.  I went for lunch on a cold, dry day between Christmas and New Year and we chose a different dish each for our three courses.  Within the two savoury courses, three of the four dishes were equal to anything I’ve tried in a Michelin starred restaurant.  The rib of beef with white chocolate horseradish mash was a glorious, comforting dish with a perfect hit of flavour, not a skerrick of chocolate could actually be detected in its taste.  My fish with cocoa balsamic was perfectly cooked and superbly seasoned.  Again, not especially chocolatey, just using cocoa as you’d use salt, to bring out other flavours rather than be a too-distinct flavour on its own.  To that end the restaurant also provides a third mill on each table: alongside salt and pepper is a grinder for cocoa nibs – pieces of the cocoa bean – just in case you do want to further chocify your dinner. 3-Rabot1745 grinders The menu has completely changed since I went so there’s little point in me describing my dishes in more detail but I am pleased to notice that they have added warm puddings to the menu.  That was my one disappointment, that a chocolate-themed restaurant didn’t have any rich, indulgent hot desserts during the winter. Now I really want to try the sticky toffee and cacao beer pudding with cacao-infused whipped cream.  Or the “chocolate soup, soft meringue floating island, sliced bananas, toasted almonds, caramel drizzle”.  I’ve been meaning to go back since I first went.  They do a great lunch deal, but it seems for now they’ve paused what seemed like a most indulgent breakfast menu that included lobster. 2-Rabot1745 cocktail

Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Martini 

4-Rabot1745 beef starter 5-Rabot1745 scallops 6-Rabot1745 beef

If you aren’t able to make this party I highly recommend getting yourself to a Cocoa Bar Cafe next time you’re near one.  Don’t miss the delicious in-house hot chocolate made with the chocolate conched onsite. Where can I find a Cocoa Bar Café?

  • Kensington - 163 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6SU
  • Edinburgh John Lewis – 7a Frederick Street, EH2 2EY
  • York John Lewis - Vangarde Way, YO32 9AE
  • Edinburgh - 7a Frederick Street, EH2 2EY
  • Liverpool - Unit 10, 2-4 St. Peter’s Arcade, Liverpool One, L1 3DE
  • Copenhagen - Østergade 13, København K, 1100
  • Roast+Conch, Leeds - 55 Boar Lane, LS1 5EL
  • Boston, Mass., USA - 141A Newbury Street
Win tickets to the Cocoa Bar Cafe party!
By entering this competition you agree to sign up for our newsletter which is sent 3-5 times a year and includes chocolate news and sometimes competitions, discounts and recipes.  If you don’t like it you can always unsubscribe at any time.
Competition winners will be drawn at midday Wednesday 13th August 2014.  If no response is received by 9am Thursday 14th August winner(s) will be redrawn.  No further redraws will take place.
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7-Rabot1745 Chocolate Pots

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I scream for ice cream. #realornothing Häagen Dazs official vanilla ice cream recipe!

Ice cream is especially important right now when we are finally getting back to the UK summers I remember from when I first returned to England ten years ago. Thankfully I received an invitation from Great British Chefs to join them at an event with Häagen Dazs last Monday where I was promised to be shown the “secrets to real ice cream”. I took that to mean there’d be samples too. Thankfully, that was true. Thought first – and even more happily – there were cocktails.  This was a Strawberry Rossini. But unlike their ice cream, this prosecco was combined with a strawberry liqueur.  It did come with a real strawberry though.

Cocktails and London with Haagen Dazs 

Haagen Dazs ice cream #realornothingI remember my shock finding out – some years ago now – that Häagen Dazs was not actually a European company, but an American one, where the founders chose a foreign name to give the impression it had a more authentic history.  At the time I was appalled and I’m sure my estimation of the “realness” of their ice cream went down, but now… well, choosing a name is hard and anything is fair game.  Godiva is hardly a Belgian name so why should I criticise Americans doing the same in reverse?

 

Cake is my Achilles heel.  Ice cream I can usually pass up.  Unless it is the incredible Gelupo or La Gelatiera.  My mum makes pretty spectacular ice cream too. OK, so I do like good ice cream.  In my snobbery I had assumed that Häagen Dazs was also full of unnecessary fillers like most of the ice cream brands that have been around for more than ten years.  Maybe if ice cream was something I ever bought for myself from a supermarket I might have bothered to find out.  Regardless, I was intrigued about their #realornothing campaign and especially so when I received this invitation to a Häagen Dazs event where they promised to prove how their ice cream was all natural, made only with real ingredients.


Analysing ice cream with Haagen Dazs #realornothingThe team had rented a beautiful apartment by Waterloo and taken it over – there were empty pints of Häagen Dazs everywhere and fake grass on the terrace which, after being lead up there initially, was hard to be drawn away from into the hot kitchen.  After watching the process of vanilla ice cream being made – in Blue Peter-style stages, of course, where we sampled the ice cream pre-freeze, like a hug of thin, warm custard – we were then guided by one of the company’s product developers through a taste analysis of four ice creams.  They were all vanilla and the last was disgusting.  It was clearly included to show the difference between real ice cream and the watered-down then gummed up and aerated version found in most supermarkets.  Although they wouldn’t reveal to us the brands except which was Häagen Dazs.  The Häagen Dazs Vanilla is a little too strong in vanilla for my personal preference but it’s impressive the recipe hasn’t changed for the last 53 years and as the next stage of our ice cream adventure was to taste through the range of eight ice creams I found plenty to like  Especially the Macadamia Nut Brittle. And the Salted Caramel. And the Mint Leaves and Chocolate.  And the Strawberries and Cream.  OK, I liked them all.  They sent us home with some beautiful Clarence Court Eggs, vanilla pods and caster sugar.  Just need cream and milk and I’m ready to make my own version of Häagen Dazs.  Or I could just go and buy some…

 

#realornothing is definitely how food should be.  It’s my unofficial rule to (almost!) everything I eat and along with rarely drinking anything other than water and herbal teas I think it’s the biggest factor in me staying pretty much the same dress size for the past nine years of running Chocolate Ecstasy Tours.

All about Haagen Dazs #realornothing

If you do want to make ice cream at home, here’s some tips I picked up from our demonstration and the official Häagen Dazs recipe below:

Top Tips

  • dehydrate the used vanilla pods and place in sugar to make lovely vanilla-scented sugar
  • mix sugar with the eggs at the last possible minute or else it starts to “cure” (cook) the eggs
  • stir through the warmed cream and don’t overbeat
  • get an LED thermometer – £10 online to keep an eye temperature

 

Ingredients

600ml double cream

200ml whole milk

2 vanilla pods

6 egg yolks

150g vanilla infused caster sugar

 

Method

Pour the double cream and milk into a saucepan.

Split the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape the seeds out using the back of your knife and add to the pan with the milk/cream and the scraped pods.

On a medium heat warm until nearly biling point then turn off the heat and allow to infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes.  The longer you leave, the more the vanilla infuses.

When infused, reheat to a simmer.

In a mixing bowl whick the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Slowly whisk the infused cream into the bowl with the eggs and sugar.  You must keep whisking otherwise you may end up with scrambled eggs.

Pour back into the saucepan and cook – stirring constantly – until it reaches 80C then remove from the heat.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve so it catches the pods/seeds into a new saucepan.

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled add to your ice cream maker and churn for 35-40 minutes until it reaches ice cream consistency.  Serve straight away.

 

My suggestions

If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can always freeze it in a container in your freezer and after the first 20 minutes give it a good mix.  Depending on your mix and the freezer you might have to do this once or twice more, but if you haven’t overbeaten the mixture there’s a good chance you won’t get too many ice crystals.

 

For extra deliciousness warm some more cream, with a dash of milk and some good quality dark chocolate to pour over the top.  Or melt chocolate alone (in the microwave or in a bowl above simmering water) and then it will freeze hard as you pour it over your ice cream.

 

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