Among the world of chocolatiers and pastry chefs, French chocolate company Valrhona is both widely used and well-respected. “Valrhona is one of those high-quality brands which you can trust to deliver consistent quality,” says Benoit Blin, Head Pastry chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. “You know as a pastry chef that you will have an interesting ingredient to work with and an easy ingredient to work with.”
Chocolatier and pastry chef Barry Johnson of Rococo, too, is an admirer. “I’ve used Valrhona for a very long time. I strongly believe it’s one of the most consistent and best flavoured chocolates on the market. There are lots of varieties, so as a pastry chef and chocolatier it gives me lots of options to play with.”
One of the characteristics of Valrhona is the range of different chocolates it offers. Biskelia is its newest offering and is, interestingly, a milk chocolate rather than a dark one. “We did a study of European consumers and we discover that 60% of European consumers say that they prefer milk chocolate – which is a big proportion, so the idea was to give the interest back to milk chocolate. We’re working on the milk family because we realise there is much more to do and explore.” explains Marie Van Branteghem, Valrhona’s UK and Ireland Sales Manager. Having first launched Bahibe, an “intense” milk chocolate from the Dominican Republic, Biskelia “is a completely different milk chocolate with notes of caramel and biscuit.” Biskelia, explains Van Branteghem, was challenging to create “because of the balance of different ingredients”, being not only a blend of cocoa from different countries, “but because there are different types of milk powder in this product.” The result she feels is a chocolate which “brings you back to childhood memories.”
Biskelia is a product available only to the catering trade, so aimed at chocolatiers, patissiers and chefs, with the general public experiencing it in desserts and chocolate concoctions. Valrhona’s UK Pastry Chef Andrew Gravett, suggests pairing it with orange, as “it’s good with citrus flavours”. Andrew Blas of Café Royal feels Biskelia “works well with salted caramel and in the Christmas pudding chocolates”. For Barry Johnson of Rococo “it will go well with nuts and with gingerbread. It would work well in a mousse. This is one to use in cooking.”
Valrhona’s ability to offer a range of chocolate varieties to its professional customers went a step further recently with the creation of Profile 66, created exclusively for Chef Patissier Andrew Blas of Café Royal, London. “I started to chat to Valrhona about having a couverture made which would be unique to me with the profile that I wanted it to have,” explains Blas. Valrhona agreed and set about making the chocolate Blas wanted. “It took six months of tests and trials. For their part, it’s incredible that they managed to get the idea of what I wanted out of my head and into a chocolate! When you eat chocolate I want you to think that the whole thing works together, not just that’s the chocolate for enrobing, made for moulds. I want someone to think wow, the whole thing goes together –that’s been really well worked out.”
Part of the process for Valrhona, was working out the flavour profile that Blas was looking for. “I wanted something instantly floral when it went inside your mouth, so you knew you were not tasting the inside of a chocolate, slightly astringent. Then I wanted that to mellow into a nuttiness, so whatever interior I put in – cassis or banana – would go well it.” The idea was to have a chocolate which would be good enough to eat in bar form or to use as couverture. “It was a real challenge to get something very easy to eat as a chocolate as well as a bonbon. The technical team ended up coming over 3 times to see me.” For Blas, working with Valrhona in this way has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. “I’ve always been impressed with Valrhona. I think they make fantastic chocolate. To be given the opportunity to create a chocolate which is so unique and can be used in so many different ways, was an idea I just couldn’t let go. Valrhona are such a great company to work with. They’ve employed the right people to do the right jobs, which is not often you find that. The team they allocated to me they were the right people; they could deal with my personality. I am quite demanding.” Profile 66 is now being used at Café Royal, which is now, in fact, completely Valrhona, and Blas is thrilled to be working with a chocolate made especially for him. Not just Blas, either, his whole pastry team are excited. “We’re using something that no one else in the world is using; there’s a real buzz in the pastry kitchen here,” he says happily.
Profile 66 launch event at Café Royal