We spent yesterday snacking our way through a sea of goodies at the All Candy Expo in Chicago. As if that weren't enough of a treat, we also had the chance to hear legendary pastry chef Jaques Torres speak at the show. At the end of a chocolate-themed lunch (more on that later), Torres guided us through a tasting of some of his signature chocolates.
Chocolate tasting, we learned, is an art. Here are some of Torres' tasting tips:
1. First, look at the chocolate to see how it has been treated. Is it still shiny? If you rub it slighty with your finger, does it still feel smooth? It should. If it's grainy, that's evidence of sugar bloom, and lesser quality product.
2. Smell the chocolate. This is especially important with dark chocolate, and you should be able to tell the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolates. This will likely come with practice, as Torres says the distinguishing factor is hard to describe, but he compared it to acidity.
(And now, the best part...)
3. Bite into the chocolate, chew a couple of times and let it melt down your throat. Try to identify the flavors. One we tasted was milk chocolate with a passion fruit ganache filling. As Torres predicted, we tasted the tartness of the passion fruit first and then the milk chocolate mellowed it out.
4. Now that you've eaten the chocolate, what tastes are left in your mouth? If it's a high-quality chocolate, there should be none. If the flavor of a ganache or filling lingers, it was most likely made with artificial flavorings or essential oils, Torres says. If it's made from something like real fruit puree, the flavor will be gone with the chocolate. If the chocolate wasn't made with real cocoa butter, it may also leave some flavors in your mouth.
If you've got some chocolates left over, Torres has one tip for storing them - Don't!
Unlike wine, he says, chocolate is not meant to be aged. "The best storage is your stomach," he says. "I recommend to eat it fast and buy more."
We don't think we'll have much trouble following that advice.
Hungry for more of Jacques Torres? You may be in luck. He announced tentative plans to launch a new show on PBS later this year.
Related: Food Science: Why Chocolate Seizes
(Images: Jacques Torres Chocolate and Joanna Miller)