Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Happy Chocolate Day 2016: Bizarre Flavour Combinations for Valentines Week


Happy Chocolate Day 2016: Bizarre Flavour Combinations for Valentines WeekThis Chocolate Day 2016, we bring you flavour combinations beyond the ordinary.

If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I do not have a sweet tooth. And it is partly true, I don’t. However, what they do not know, a secret I guard closely, is that I have a weakness for chocolates. In my attempt to remain fit and control sugar and calories, I have convinced myself over time that I do not like them (especially as I prefer milk chocolate to the dark variety). This farce usually works but my armour cracks in the presence of exceptionally good chocolate.

Benefits of Dark Chocolate

That chocolate is unhealthy, was a notion of the past. The benefits of dark chocolate have been enumerated often enough. Some of these are:

1. Lowers Blood Pressure - An Australian study found that people who eat dark chocolate over a short period of time do see a drop in blood pressure by 2 mm of mercury.

2. Can help Lower Cholesterol - Studies show that moderate amounts of dark chocolate can lower LDL which is bad cholesterol and raise HDL which is good cholesterol. This in turn helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and a stroke.

3. Improves Brain Function - It can help you focus, sharpen your memory and protect your brain from ageing.

4. Improves Heart Health – Multiple studies have found that dark chocolate promotes ahealthy heart and can lower cardiovascular disease and stroke risk.

5. Curbs Cravings - Research proves that dark chocolates have high satiety value and therefore they make you feel full for a longer time.

6. Keeps Your Weight in Check – A study said that if you eat dark chocolate as dessert after your meals, it is likely to curb weight gain.
  

With so many reasons backing you, there is little guilt in allowing yourself to indulge in good quality dark chocolate. The good news is that you no more have to stick to old-school plain chocolate or chocolate with nuts or praline. ‘Experimental’ is the word of the day and it applies to the world of chocolate too. There are so many varied flavours that chocolatiers are experimenting with, that it is impossible to get bored.

Flavours Galore

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you would remember Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, these seemingly plain looking toffees that would burst into a different flavour in your mouth every single time. The world of chocolates is no less magical today. Gone are the days of hazelnut centres or mint chocolate. Gourmet chocolatiers are creating flavours that you may not have ever imagined could have been paired with chocolate. Take for example, the simple combination of chilli and chocolate. This is perhaps the most popular experimental chocolate of recent times. The chilli kick is toned down by the bitterness of the dark chocolate, an interesting bite to finish your meal with. A variation of the same is the combination of wasabi and chocolate. This one, ensure you don’t over-indulge, as it is fairly strong and the wasabi powerful.
  

Another interesting combination is bacon and chocolate. At first, when you think about it, the idea seems bizarre. But if you need any convincing, just pair your pancakes and maple syrup (or chocolate sauce) with crispy bacon and sit back as your taste buds have a little party of their own. The saltiness of the meat cuts through the sweet and adds a delightful dimension. The crisp crunch is marvellous with the soft pancakes too. Though not in Indian markets yet, North American superstores stock bars of chocolate with bacon bites or smoked bacon. Needless to say, this sweet nothing is for non-vegetarians only.

Closer home, Chef Manu Chandra and restauranteur AD Singh’s The Fatty Bao does an interesting take on a chocolate dessert. Named Zen Forest, the dessert plays on the diner’s mind with multiple elements such as green tea moss and chocolate soil at the base, black sesame sponge rocks and chocolate twigs and microgreens. But what gives it the edge is the fact that it is paired with a beetroot and black pepper sorbet, a combination that had me raising my eyebrows when I heard of it first. However, one spoonful of the sorbet with the chocolate soil and you know that the chef knows his art.
  

Homemade chocolates have been gaining popularity for a while, especially when it comes to gifting. Mansi Mahajan who followed her hotel management (IIHM Aurangabad) with a Pastry and Chocolate specialised course in Switzerland and now runs Chocolateriemmm in Gurgaon talks about how corporate gifting is usually inclined towards more traditional flavours. However, one of her best sellers is a Chai Truffle she creates with Earl Grey Tea.

Savoury Notes
The balancing act of sweet and salty also works incredibly well in Dark Chocolates with SaltHimalayan Rock Salt or Sea Salt in particular. This combination takes inspiration from ‘salted caramel’, a topping in various desserts. For those who don’t like their chocolate too sweet, this is as savoury as it gets.
  

When you talk about playing with chocolate and bizarre flavours, the conversation more often than not drifts towards Chef Varun Inamdar. Perhaps the only chef in the country who focuses solely on chocolate, he agrees that though India is a nascent market, there are many who love to experiment and have developed a palate sophisticated enough to appreciate unusual flavour combinations. Case in point is what he recently created in a workshop –his version of the Chinese dish ‘Gan Bian Si Ji’. In his version, however, he combines fried French beans with a glaze of soy and chocolate and sprinkles sesameflavoured chocolate on top.

Nori flavoured chocolate is another of his favourites. When it comes to combining flavours, he suggests that one choose the type of chocolate carefully. Dark chocolate has a distinct flavour of its own and works well with spices and herbs. However, he notes, if you wish to play with wasabi, it is best done with white chocolate as the green colour adds another level of drama.