There is a reason chocolate was anciently referred to as food fit for the gods. Whether you like it benevolently dark, sweet and sour, studded with nuts, milky, or deliciously oozing from your dessert plate… chocolate is one of the top sensory indulgences the world of dessert could offer.
On 7th February, Nairobi Serena Hotel had the pleasure of hosting Pastry Chef extraordinaire, Chef Minette Smith- The Head of Chocolate Academy from South Africa. Chef Minette was in town to bring knowledge in the preparation of amazing desserts using the Callebaut brand of chocolate- the preferred brand globally in the industrial preparation of chocolate items.
Chef Minette conducted a one-day training session, hosting 50 pastry chefs from the top hotel chains in Nairobi-Kenya. The chefs had an opportunity to learn more about the different types of chocolate, creative techniques of coming up with desserts and pastries that would entice sweet-tooth and chocolate lovers alike. She also enhanced their knowledge of how to differentiate quality chocolate from its inferior underlings. This also included its origin and tempering techniques in creating fine desserts and pralines, bonbons for turndowns treats, and novelty items especially refined ideas for the upcoming Easter holidays.
Tempering chocolate means pre-crystallizing the cocoa (the raw material in chocolate) to achieve the smooth texture, luster, and a ‘snap’ when you break off a piece and of course, the taste that distinguishes tempered chocolate from raw chocolate. Minette also emphasized the need to have chocolate hand-tempered, an old-school technique not commonly in practice compared to the most commonly used technique which is a machine often machine-tempered.
Chef Minette now works for Callebaut Chocolate Academy in South Africa, the only chocolate academy of its kind in Africa part of the 25 academies in different countries across the world. The academies have been set up to empower pastry chefs’ craft in the art of chocolate making.
“Every time I handle chocolate; I learn different techniques of manipulating chocolate. I am always in the quest of learning and extending my knowledge in the academy,” says, Chef Minette Smith.
The Academy hopes to drive innovation as consumption patterns shift towards premium chocolate, more unique designs, colors, and flavors. Headquartered in Zurich Switzerland, Callebaut produces an average of 2.2 million tons of cocoa and chocolate.
Callebaut deals with couverture chocolate which is has a crisp texture and glossy finish. When you break a bar of couverture chocolate it has a snap compared to the compound chocolate which is pliable and makes no sound while breaking. In terms of quality, the two are different even from a taste and price point perspective, couverture chocolate being more expensive because of its ingredient composition i.e. pure cocoa butter. Additionally, it is also considered to be healthier as it known to maintain cholesterol levels in the body and improve heart health.
Couverture is used for quality desserts and cakes, especially in the coating, dipping, and decorating. It is exclusive and made in Belgium from the best raw cocoa material grown in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Chef Minette left the chefs including the Nairobi Serena Hotel with so much knowledge enough for them to curate new dessert menu for the past Valentine’s Day diners and also look forward to having diners enjoy some Easter treats.