Report on the Joint Meeting with the BSF, Cranfield University, 27th January 2010
The group of perfumers and flavourists who ventured out one misty night in January for the joint meeting, were rewarded with a feast of flavours for the senses!
Damian Allsop, pastry chef turned chocolatier, described to us how he was introduced to a new type of chocolate, and how this changed his perception of flavour. He explained how adding other ingredients to the chocolate, such as cream, butter, etc, to make truffles, mousses, etc, actually masks the true flavours of the chocolate, and that most of the “chocolate” we can buy actually lacks the complex flavours it should naturally have. Following this discovery, Damian had to rewrite all his chocolate recipes, which took about eight years, using only the natural fats present in the chocolate, and without adding any animal fats. Three years ago, he set up Damian Allsop Chocolates, serving Michelin starred restaurants, and he is now starting to move into retail. Damian has invented the “water ganache” as a filling for his chocolates, the only ones of their kind. Damian’s way of looking at flavour is as a logical process.
Damian began by describing how the flavour of chocolate evolves, through the various natural and man-made processes the chocolate undergoes. This, to the perfumers and flavourists, was a fascinating journey in itself. Chocolate needs a certain temperature and humidity, so it is only grown in certain places, close to the Equator. Chocolate was indigenous to America. It was the Aztecs in Middle America who started to discover chocolate. The “Forastero” bean was one of the first. There is no “best place” to grow chocolate. It is more how it has been grown and treated and harvested.
Cocoa fruits grow on the trunk – they are quite heavy, 1-2 kilos in weight! The fruits are all sorts of colours you might not expect, reds, yellows and greens. They are processing the seeds of the cocoa pod. They scoop the seeds out with fruit pulp attached, allow it to ferment, dry and then transport it to the country where it will be processed. Astringency and bitterness are produced by polyphenols – these are there to protect the bean, to stop animals from eating it. When it ferments, yeasts and micro-organisms work on the fruit pulp for 3-5 days, oxygen is used up, CO2 is produced and sugars turn to alcohol. Lactic acid is created. If this process is wrong, there are over-lactic notes. The farmer aerates the beans again, some of the beans get etched on the surface, and the fruit pulp acidity gets into the holes in the beans. This process then needs to be stopped and the moisture taken out. In reality, one farmer may be responsible for 12 or 15 trees, with several farmers all around a village. All of the beans, some fermented, some not, are taken down to the river and collected. Then they are taken to the country of production and roasted. These processes could either add “roasted” flavours, or ruin the flavour. Now the flavour is getting quite complex. Most of the chocolate we eat, has none of that complexity. Most chocolate just has bitterness, sweetness and astringency.
Flavour Development – charting how the processes the chocolate goes through, develops the flavours.
|the bean||astringency, bitterness|
|fermented pulp||fruit, dried fruit, wine/sherry vinegar|
|from self-digested bean||almond, dairy, flowery|
|from roasting||nutty, sweet, earthy, caramel, flower, spicy, bitter|
|from additions||sugar, vanilla, sweet and warm|
|milk powder||dairy, caramel, butterscotch|
|unpleasant||rubbery, smokey, burnt|
At last, we were able to taste some samples! Damian had arranged, around the edge of a plate, nine pieces of chocolate or different flavoured chocolate truffles for us to try, and he talked us through the flavours in each one. The first, was an example of chocolate that Damian considered was lacking in flavour. This had just the three properties, bitterness, sweetness and astringency. (This was M&S Finest Swiss chocolate.)
Sample 2: Damian told us this has acidity (it is more “fatty”). This makes it easier to eat. A bitter, darker flavour, a little roasted, nutty. We know they have fermented it. (This was Valrhona 70%.)
Sample 3: This was delicious! An aroma and taste very much like “dried fruit”. It was like raisins, becoming apricot-like then almost a liquorice flavour! This is from the Central region of Madagascar, Amano chocolate, and it is made in small batches.
Damian says he watches people’s faces, looking for their reactions, when tasting his recipes.
Sample 4: White chocolate; Damian told us this contains no cocoa solids, it is just very sweet. To me, it smelled like white chocolate, but the taste was sour, yogurty, a sea salt flavour then a pistachio in the middle. A bit of fun! Damian asked us to think about, at which point does an ingredient touch the taste receptors – he wanted to take us on a journey of flavours – from sour, white chocolate to the nutty, pistachio.
Sample 5: A milk chocolate piece – banana and chocolate, milky, caramel, buttery and then a coffee hint. Damian sells this in a CD format, calling it the “compact bar”. He has used a banana oil/extract from Omega Ingredients to intensify the flavour, some freeze dried banana puree, and finally right in the centre, coffee, to give a crispy texture.
Sample 6: A round chocolate, more like what we would call a “truffle” – this one was completely lactose-free, only containing chocolate, water, sea salt and “love”! And basil. The very fresh, intense basil note was a complete surprise! Now he says, didn’t we notice the green tinge to the top of the chocolate? I am not sure I liked it, but it was really interesting nonetheless. No cream or butter, but a good “mouthfeel”, no “clagginess” at the back of the throat.
Sample 7: Rhubarb & Cardamom: The outside of the shell was still very intense chocolate with freeze dried raspberry and cardamom flavours. It contained drops of rhubarb essence from Omega Ingredients. Damian said he used a rhubarb puree instead of the water in this one.
Sample 8: This one really was a journey! Coffee, then the sweet and sour of passionfruit in the centre, and then you could taste the coffee in the shell again! Damian calls this his “flavour-changing truffle”! The lighter the texture, as with the passionfruit centre, the quicker you receive it. You taste the sauce, or mousse, for example, and then the crisp. You place them all in your mouth at once, but Damian can determine in which order you would taste the flavours. He may do the mousse as peach and the crisp as raspberry, these are the different ways you can create a peach and raspberry combination.
Sample 9: Foam – touches all the taste buds at once and you get the intensity of flavour. Damian calls this one a “cloud” which has evolved from the foam. Coffee and anise flavours make liquorice. It was crunchy, like honeycomb, the liquorice flavour appears part of the way through.
Damian’s website: www.damianallsop.com
This one is good for chocolate lovers and they have a chocolate flavours forum: www.seventypercent.com
Our thanks to Damian for his presentation that was wonderful and very stimulating for the senses – food for thought!
This report is the writer’s interpretation of the event. It is not intended as a verbatim account and should not be read as such.
© Copyright British Society of Perfumers 2010