‘Seventy per cent’ is quite the buzzword in the world of fine chocolate these days — a shorthand for quality, authenticity and discerning taste. But did you know that top chocolate brand Valrhona was the first in the world to introduce 70 per cent chocolate?
Yes, back in 1986 – when a Cabana bar with coconut, caramel and cherries was about as unique as chocolate got – Valrhona unveiled its Guanaja 70 per cent. To celebrate its 30th birthday, Londonist was invited to a chocolate dessert-making class with award-winning French patissier Eric Lanlard.
Eric Lanlard is handsome, charismatic and a bit rock ‘n’ roll. You probably know him from his many TV shows and chocolate- and dessert-centric cookbooks. On our press preview, he was joined by guest tutor Luke Frost whose job includes, among other things, training professional pastry chefs in the technical aspects of baking — so we knew we were in good hands.
Our class was held at Cake Boy, Lanlard’s chic cake emporium, café and cookery school, located in a secluded part of Battersea Reach. During the relaxed, hands-on tutorial, we learnt to stir, mix, fold, beat, whip and bake various mixtures (finger-licking good in their own right) like pros to make five different Guanaja desserts.
We made lava cake — a popular pudding that’s on the menu of many London restaurants — with a sprightly fresh orange compote to cut through its richness. This was followed by milk chocolate financiers bejewelled with berries and perfumed with violet flower cremeux. We learnt the history behind their name; plus why cremeux (literally, chocolate cream) is so hot in the world of patisserie right now.
We also tried our hand at light, fluffy chocolate pannacotta accompanied by rich pecan nut brownies to dip into, and spicy West Indies chocolate tarts fragrant with cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise. Guanaja is the perfect canvas for all these desserts because it’s smooth, light, slightly floral and versatile, and despite its complex flavour, it doesn’t overpower, and has a luxurious mouthfeel.
Luke explained the technical details, such as the emulsification process and the importance of using the correct temperatures. The afternoon was fun and easy-going yet informative, with plenty of opportunities to make notes, take pictures and ask questions. Most importantly, everything looked and tasted fabulous, and we could take home our little masterpieces to share with family and friends.
Tempted to have a go at making your own Guanaja chocolate desserts? Our preview session was four hours, but there are a number of full-day classes, from 9.30am-4.30pm, available between now and October. They take place on 9 and 30 June, 18 August, 29 September and 30 October.
You’ll learn to make different desserts with Lanlard, including arabesque opera gateaux, flourless chocolate gateaux, and hazelnut chocolate croustillant. The cost is £250, which includes the above desserts taught by Lanlard, a Valrhona chocolate gift bag, Cake Boy apron and discount voucher, and lunch with wine.
An Exclusive Valrhona Chocolate Class with Eric Lanlard is at Cake Boy – The Cookery School, Unit B, Kingfisher House, Battersea Reach, Juniper Drive, London SW18 1TX. Tel: 020 7978 5555
Londonist attended the press preview as a guest of Valrhona Chocolates.