A few weeks ago I had a go at ‘tempering’ chocolate; trying to get a professional shine and smoothness of texture … when you break off a piece and it has a satisfyingly crisp ‘snap’ sound. I followed the instructions in Paul A Young‘s book ‘Adventures in Chocolate’, currently the world’s number one chocolate book which has won the Gourmand book award in Paris.
“this way it sets with a nice sheen, no graininess or grittiness”.
“How much was that?”
“Did the client design it?” I asked, looking at the sparkly mini eggs encrusted, fabergé style, into the surface.
“No, he likes and knows my stuff and just said do what you think. The colours are actually in the chocolate, not painted on.”
“Being around sweet stuff so much, we love savoury food,” said Brendan.
“I mostly spend my day off sleeping.”
“Do you ever eat crap chocolate?” I ask Paul.
“I mean,” I push on, investigative reporter’s hat on, determined to get to the bottom of this. “If you were stopping at a petrol station, and you fancied a chocolate bar, what would you choose?”
“I always keep a selection of my own chocolates in the glove compartment. I never eat trashy chocolate, there’s no enjoyment,” answered Paul.
“Why chocolate? and what’s so good about your stuff as opposed to say, Thorntons?” I ask Paul.
“There was no defining moment. It just happened! What I make is 100% handmade, natural, no machinery chocolate. It’s the hardest, purest way to make chocolates. Nothing is made industrially. Thorntons is mass production. You can’t make a decision with a machine. I can make new things everyday. With a machine, you’d have to change the set up, it would take too long, be too difficult.”
“I’m not in this for the money. I only use the best suppliers such as Valrhona or Michel Cluizel which have a high cocoa content, are the most expensive. Most of the chocolate I use is French, not Belgian.”
“Why? Does it taste different?” I ask
“It’s just our style. I also check their ethics, don’t trade unfairly, use child labour… If Valrhona weren’t ethical, I’d stop using them.”
“The important thing is to dream. People say ‘you are a dreamer’ like it’s a bad thing. But we are all grownup children. You have to have dreams.” He pauses while stirring the ganache. “One day I’m going to retire, somewhere pale and calm. But this is a long term project, ten, fifteen years.”
Finally, I ask: “Any advice for people wanting to temper at home?”
“Buy my book. Work as cleanly as possible. Have a cool room. Some of it will always end up on the floor…If you make a mistake, melt it down, do another batch. Practise. Get comfortable with it. It won’t happen overnight.”