After writing our brief synopsis of Michel Roux Juniors BBC TV program a couple of weeks ago, we have been hearing ripples of discontent from the UK Chocolatier community and UK Chocolate Blogger Community at his program. This discontent seems to stem from him announcing that for the best chocolate in the world, you have to bypass England, and head for France.
After reading such blog posts such as "Why Michel Roux Jr Is Wrong About Chocolate" and "Far From Perfect: Michel Roux Jr’s Chocolate Perfection", we felt compelled to give our views on this debate.
First and foremost we feel that the program lacked direction and a clear objective. What we felt became apparent at the end of the program was that the purpose of the program was for him to find the best chocolate for his restaurant to use in his deserts and pastries. For this reason, we feel Michel might not have been looking for the best chocolatier (otherwise he most certainly have been looking in the UK), he was in more likelihood looking for the best chocolate maker. To understand the difference between 'chocolatier' and 'chocolate maker' we would recommend reading our blog post here.
Unfortunately, the chocolate maker scene in England is still in it's infancy. The current crop of chocolate makers tend to fall within the 'Bean to Bar' chocolate category, and as delicious as their chocolate is, it is far from ideal for a restaurant pastry chef or for use by a chocolatier.
As small batch producers with few ingredients, bean to bar chocolate can often have different caracteristics between different batches of the same chocolate. For a pastry chef or a chocolatier, consistency is of paramount importance and the fluctuations as charming as they are is something a pastry professional would try to avoid.
In addition to this, and more importantly is the make up of the chocolate produced. Bean to Bar chocolate makers, will typically only use Cocoa Beans and Sugar in their chocolate. This means, that a 70% dark bean to bar chocolate will have very different melting property to a 70% dark chocolate made by a larger chocolate maker such as Valrhona in France, Amedei in Italy or even the more mass produced and commonly used Callebaut chocolate made in Belgium who all add additional cocoa butter to their chocolate. The bean to bar chocolate will melt like a syrup, lining your tongue as you let it melt, whereas the chocolate with added cocoa butter will melt with more fluidity and in our opinion feel a little lighter on the tongue.
To illustrate the difference in two 70% chocolates it is best to look at the breakdown of ingredients below:
1. 70% Bean to Bar Chocolate: 70% Cocoa Beans, 30% Sugar
2. 70% Larger Chocolate Makers Chocolate: 63% Cocoa Beans, 7% added Cocoa Butter, 30% Sugar*
With approximately 54% of the cocoa bean made up of cocoa butter, the two recipes look like this is terms of make up in respect to total cocoa butter, cocoa solids and sugar:
1. 38% Cocoa Butter, 32% Cocoa Solids & 30% Sugar
2. 45% Cocoa Butter, 25% Cocoa Solids & 30% Sugar
The additional cocoa butter is there to allow for workability (fluidity), balancing emulsions etc. If you were to use the new bean to bar type chocolate in deserts and pastries, you would have to change all recipes quite dramatically and some recipes would not work using this new type of chocolate.
For this reason, the chocolate being made in the UK is often not suitable for a restaurant or a pastry chef looking for consistent results. This is not to say that Bean to Bar chocolate can't be used in an occaisional desssert recipes, or a specific ganache, it is just to say if you are looking for a base chocolate to be used in the majority of your kitchens needs, the bean to bar chocolate is not suitable.
In conclusion, we feel that Michel Roux Junior is right in respect to the fact that the best commercial scale chocolate is made in France, however we feel that there should have been more distinction between chocolate maker and chocolatier, and there should have been acknowledgement to the bubbling bean to bar chocolate making scene in the UK and the fact that the UK can now boast some of the best chocolatiers in the world.
We hope to see more chocolate scentric programs in the near future, but we really hope they are programs with a clear direction and a clear objective. Something this program clearly missed.
* For ease of comparison, we have omitted including here that the larger chocolate makers will often add a small amount of emulsifer (approx 0.5%) and a small amount of vanilla (approx 0.02%).