Results tagged France from David Lebovitz

What is White Chocolate?

Some people love it, and others leave it.

It’s White Chocolate, that controversial melange of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk (more on that later). Often there’s vanilla, or vanillin (a synthetic vanilla-like substance) added as well.

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Many people will say they don’t like white chocolate, citing a preference for the dark side.
“It’s not chocolate!”, you’ll hear.

Well, no, it’s not. It’s different. A different kind of chocolate.

Dark, or bittersweet chocolate, contains cacao mass (the ground beans), sugar, cocoa butter, and sometimes vanilla and lecithin.
White chocolate has none of the cacao mass, hence the delicate, ivory-like color, which it gets from the cocoa butter. Instead it’s rich with cocoa butter, which gives it that suave, subtle taste, that I find compliments dark chocolate desserts and bolder flavors. I make White Chocolate Crème Anglaise and pour the cool custard alongside a dark chocolate cake. Or I steep fragrant fresh mint leaves when making White Chocolate Ice Cream.

Cocoa butter is derived from the chocolate-making process, or more specifically, when cocoa powder is made. To make cocoa powder, roastedcacao beans are ground into a paste, known as chocolate liquor, then the paste is pressed through a powerful hydraulic press, which separates the cocoa mass from the cocoa butter. The cocoa mass comes out as a solid block, which is grated into cocoa powder (which is why cocoa powder is always unsweetened and relatively low-fat) and the soft, rich cocoa butter is extracted. I’ve been to factories and watched the process, and the smell of warm, fat-rich cocoa butter is intoxicating.

The valuable cocoa butter is often sold to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, since it has the perfect melting point for things like lipstick…and why chocolate melts and releases its complex flavors like nothing else when you pop a piece in your mouth. But it’s also that reason that true white chocolate tastes so good and is loved by many pastry chefs.

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Here’s some tips and facts about white chocolate:

  • Both white and dark chocolates are emulsions. Adding small amounts of liquid, like water or milk, will cause the emulsion to break or seize. Therefore, any milk that’s added to white chocolate must be first either dried into a powder or cooked to a paste, removing the water, before it’s used. So you’ll often find the ingredient ‘milkfat’ on the label.
  • In the United States, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa fat.
  • Because white chocolate contains a dairy product, it’s highly perishable. Purchase it in small quantities as needed (unless you’re like me, and use so much you buy it in 5-pound blocks…as shown above.) I make sure to get white chocolate from a reliable source that rotates and checks their stock regularly. Store it in a cool, dark place, but not the refrigerator, since it’s high-fat content makes it a good medium for absorbing other odors…like the stinky camembert in my fridge.
  • White chocolate will keep for up to one year. If you’re unsure if it’s any good, taste it before using (which most of us do when baking with chocolate, right?)
  • Buy only ‘pure’ white chocolate and check to make sure the label reads only ‘cocoa butter’, and no other tropical fats, such as coconut or palm kernel oil.
  • Due to the higher fat and sugar content, white chocolate melts very easily and at a lower temperature than dark chocolate, but more care should be taken when using it. Avoid excessive or direct heat. I like to pour a hot liquid over it and use the heat from that to melt the white chocolate.
  • There’s only a few companies in America that make white chocolate: E. Guittard, Baker’s, and Askinoise. But most of the white chocolate you’ll find is European-made, perhaps since few American bake with white chocolate.
  • White chocolate should never be pure white. Since cocoa butter is ivory-colored, real white chocolate should be off-white as well. Products labeled as ‘white bar’ or ‘white coating’ are often not white chocolate and just tastes plain sugary and should not be used in recipes that call for white chocolate.

Continue Reading What is White Chocolate?…

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.

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Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.

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Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.

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Piping ‘Couronne Noisette’: Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.

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‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.

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A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.

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Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Paris
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

Bernachon
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Lyon
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77
Lyon

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)

An Open Apology

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To Whoever This May Concern:

I apologize for stealing your Sharpie® during my current book tour. As you can see, I couldn’t help it.

It started with the one I borrowed when booksigning in Virginia. But somewhere between there, and San Francisco, my obsession went horribly wrong.

But you see, we don’t get Sharpies® in France. And I just couldn’t resist yours.

Your Sharpie® was so new and so very alluring with that perfectly tapered ink-filled tip.

So round.
So firm.
So plump.

Yes, I kept promising myself, “David…make this the last one!”

But one thing led to another. And another Sharpie® found its way into my pocket.

Then another.

But I will make sure that your Sharpie® has a nice, cozy, and safe place in Paris.
I apologize for an inconvenience this may have caused you.

Thank you for your understanding.

Yours truly,

David Lebovitz

The Worst Cheese in the World

Perhaps it’s wrong to blame the cheese.
But cheese doesn’t have any feelings, it’s just exists for our pleasure.
So for once I don’t have to worry about offending anyone on my blog. Now that’s a relief.

A friend of mine came for dinner the other night who’s on le regime, a diet. While shopping at the supermarket I spotted this reduced-fat cheese, checked out the short list of ingredients on the reverse (which listed no icky ingredients), so I tossed it in my handbasket and headed to the checkout.

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I got home, unwrapped it and immediately my apartment smelled rather, um, funky.
And not like that good-funky that a fabulously-ripe camembert or brie smells like, but a vaguely familiar funky, with a smell that I couldn’t put my finger on it. When my friend arrived a bit later (who’s quite refined and sophisticated, and lives in the swank place des Vosges), she removed her Hermès jacket and scarf, took a whiff then looked at the sorry specimen, screwed up her face, and said, “Ugh. That smells like a fart.”

If you happen to be eating cheese while reading this, sorry about the analogy.

And before you pooh-pooh low-fat, there’s a long list of low- or non-fat items that rock our world: pink marshmallow Peeps, dried sour cherries, gumdrops, Berthillon’s bitter chocolate sorbet, prunes, candy corn, rice, meringue, pasta, cranberry sauce, matzoh, Cracker Jack’s, dark brown sugar, Jewish rye bread, dried-out leftover turkey breast meat, sushi, and orange-flavored Chuckles.)

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But this cheese was indeed the worst cheese I’ve ever come across.
It had absolutely no flavor. But still, I kept it on my kitchen counter for a few days pondering another use for it. Perhaps macaroni and cheese? Melting it for a sandwich?
I hate throwing anything away, especially food…after all, I am my mother’s son.

That was my first and last experience with fromage allegé. Finally after a few aromatic days I suffered in my apartment, I tossed it. I’m sticking with the real thing. If you’re going to live in France, why bother with anything else?

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At the Market in Paris

At my local marché this week…

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Grown in Brittany, one of the weirdest vegetables found in France is Romanesco, a relative of broccoli. It’s cooked the same way, a la vapeur, simply steamed and tossed with a pad of rich French butter.

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Sand-grown carrots are sweeter (and dirtier) than ordinary carrots.

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French (and American) cooks can find lots of thyme at the markets, which is much stronger than the thyme I’m used to. When I moved to France, I’d add big handfuls of thyme to everything I could since it’s so abundant and fragrant. It’s my favorite herb. Eventually a regular dinner guest bluntly told me I put too much thyme in things. (French people believe they’re doing you a favor when they criticize you, and I’ve had to explain to a few of them that Americans are a bit more subtle in our approach.)

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The wonderful, sparkling-fresh seafood at the markets is something I’ve always stop and take a good look at. I’m always fascinated (and sometimes a bit freaked out) by bizarre sea life; slithery eels, shark meat displayed alongside the toothy shark head, bulots or little sea whelks that you pop from the shells with a pin, octopus (which some day I will work up the nerve to try…or perhaps not), and tiny grey shrimp, known as grises that are simply boiled in aromatic fish stock known as court bouillon then eaten cold, like popcorn. I really admire the fish people I shop from at the market, since I think their job is the most difficult and gruesome (although last week I saw an enormous wild boar, larger than I was, hanging upside down at the boucherie, which was soon to be evicerated for Civet de Sanglier, a long-cooked savory stew of wild boar, the sauce thickened with red wine and blood.)

Come Christmas the fish mongers are especially busy folks, since French people are insane for fresh oysters and buy them by the crate. Almost all the oysters come from Brittany, and before motorized transportation, horses would gallop wildly towards Paris from the coastal regions until they collapsed from exhaustion. Then there’d be another horse along the route to take over from there. This ensured that the briny oysters made it to Paris fresh and cold. My favorite oysters are the flat Belons, which I like with a bit of shallot-vinegar sauce wiht a few grinds of black pepper, sauce mignonette, along with a well-chilled glass, or two, of Sancerre and tangy rye bread smeared with lots of salted butter. It makes the cold, grey winter that’s quickly approaching us here in Paris bearable.

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki, in Paris

Parisian macarons

Certainly one of the most stunning pastry shops in Paris is Sadaharu Aoki. It’s so well-regarded that I ran into a famous chocolatier from the neighborhood during my last visit, who was picking up his goûter, or afternoon snack, as they call it in Paris. We recognized each other and he smiled at me while choosing a Thé Vert Napoléan; layers of vivid green tea pastry cream stacked between dark-golden puff pastry. (In French, a Napoléon is called a mille-feuille.) A wise choice since Sadaharu Aoki is considered the Parisian master of puff pastry. After one buttery, crackly bite…you’d agree.

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It was a long and difficult decision, but I chose this perfect Chocolate and Salted Butter-Caramel Tart for my goûter. It was extraordinarily good. Buttery-crisp pâte sucée filled with rich and salty caramel that oozed out when I attacked it with my fork. On top sat a spiral of milk chocolate mousse, so soft and so creamy.

Macaron-lovers will swoon over flavors like caramel and chocolate, but also more creative confections that include yuzu, red bean paste, and green tea.

Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki
35, rue de Vaugirard
and
56, Boulevard Port Royal



Related Links

Paris Pastry App and Guide

Aki boulangerie

Chocolate Macarons from Laduree, in Paris

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After the end of a long week: I renewed my Carte de Sejour, braved the hectic but incredibleMarché St. Pierre at the foot of Montmarte…and tried to get an answer about why after 10 days, I still don’t have internet access or cable tv.

With all that stress, I felt it was an absolute necessity to visit Ladurée twice this week, especially since all my homemade chocolate macarons got wolfed down at a friend’s birthday party and I forgot to stash away a few for myself. I needed to get my fix…and I needed it fast.

But sometimes life tosses the weak a life preserver, namely chocolate-covered macarons – where have they been all my life?

Ladurée
16, rue Royale
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
21, rue Bonaparte



Links

-Coming to Paris? Check out my Paris Pastry App, your guide to the best bakeries and chocolate shops of Paris. It’s also available as an e-book for Kindle, Android, and other devices.

- Check out my recipe to make your own French chocolate macarons at home. Dipping in chocolate is optional…

Patrick Roger Chocolates

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I am often asked the difficult-to-answer question, “Who is the best chocolatier in Paris?”

There are very few parts of Paris where you can’t find something delicious made of chocolate. Luckily from my apartment, I’m just a few blocks from Dalloyau, Gerard Mulot, Lenôtre, and Joséphine Vannier near the Place des Vosges, a small chocolate shop whose window delights the tourists, but belies the more serious chocolates inside.

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Surrounded by all this chocolate, how does one name a favorite?

I was thrilled when Patrick Roger decided to open a boutique in Paris. (His workshop is in Sceaux, in the suburbs of Paris). Instead of setting up in a super-chic arrondissement, his shop is close to the bustling Boulevard St. Michel. Each time I pass by, there’s always people pressed hard against the tinted glass (which is to protect the chocolates from the sun), peering in to catch a glimpse of Roger’s stunning bonbons and whimsical chocolate and marzipan confections.

Patrick Roger Chocolates

When it comes to chocolate, my philosophy is ‘Simple is Best’.
The finest chocolate bonbons allow the flavor of the chocolate to come through without interference from the other flavors and ingredients. The zippy notes of fresh lime juice enlivens a cushion of ganache, a hit of Sichuan pepper, smoky Earl Grey tea, and meltingly tender rum raisin-filled nuggets: all are examples of the masterful balance of flavors that compliment dark chocolate, not compete with it.

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Little flakes of oatmeal embedded in a smooth ganache. Mounds of crispy slivered almonds enrobed in dark chocolate. Oozing caramel with the curious and welcoming addition of with pear juices enclosed within a vividly-colored, glossy half-dome. These are some of Monsieur Roger’s creations that continue to seduce me. They satisfy like classic chocolates do, but with curious new flavors that thankfully aren’t meant to shock, but to simply taste good.

Rochers, square cubes of chocolate, flecked with little crackly-bits then dipped in chocolate couverture are my second favorite chocolates here at the moment. My first love are perfect squares of nougatine, a caramelized melange of crispy nuts and burnt sugar, ground together to a paste, formed into cubes and neatly enclosed in chocolat amer.

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Most of the time I stop by, many of the customers either wandered in off the Boulevard St. Germain, lured by the simple, yet dramatic chocolate displays in the window and seem to walk around the shop in a daze, not sure of where to begin or what to taste.

The other customers I find there are food-savvy Parisians, who’ve stopped in to pick up a little sack of noisettes, wild hazelnuts dipped in crisp caramel and dipped in dark chocolate, a few pure chocolate tablettes, or a selection of chocolate bonbons in the easily recognizable green-blue box, which has become a frequent addition to my chocolate checklist here in Paris.


Check out my video: A Visit to Patrick Roger.


Dalloyau
Locations across Paris

Joséphine Vannier
4, rue du Pas de la Mule
Tel: 01 44 54 03 09

Lenôtre
Locations across Paris

Patrick Roger
108, Boulevard St. Germain
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42

And you can read about my experiences ultimately working at Patrick Roger’s shop in my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.