With chilly winds sweeping the country hot chocolate is always welcome back on the menu. This year Valrhona kicked off the season in mid November with its fifth annual Hot Chocolate Festival, held at the Salon du Chocolat in the Javits Center. A portion of the ticket sales benefitted Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit organization that unites students at colleges and universities to fight food waste and hunger.
Valrhona recruited a dozen prominent pastry chefs and chocolatiers to preview the beverages they will be serving this winter at their establishments, an inspired collection, using a wide range of Valrhona chocolates. For Thea Habjanic, executive pastry chef, Mercado Little Spain, chocolate for churros was an obvious choice. “We use 62 % Satilla”, she explained, “with strong notes of cinnamon and a hint of vanilla. Not too sweet, just thick enough to drink alone or dip your churros in. It is reminiscent of the traditional hot chocolate served at all churro shops around Spain.”(recipe below.)
Eunji Lee, executive pastry chef at Michelin two star Jungsik, and second place winner at the recent Valrhona C 3 competition at Starchefs Congress, referenced her homeland with N Y- Seoul, using Bahibe 46% and Guanaja 70 % and rimmed her cups with toasted brown rice and pecan powder. Chocolatier Christopher Toury, who is working with Francois Payard at Brooklyn’s Estuary, also favored Guanaja, and Almond Inspiration paired with speculoos spice.
Vegan was the lure for 21’s executive pastry chef Ikuma Motoki and Tao Group corporate pastry chef Paola Marocchi. “No sugar, no dairy”, Motoki explained, “just a bit of date syrup and steamy oat milk with Alpaco 66 %.” Marocchi’s brilliant green brew mixed matcha powder, white chocolate, and coconut milk and was crowned with a giant milk chocolate drizzled marshmallow.
Cardamom was the flavor note for several participants. Guillaume Roesz, a Valrhona North American corporate pastry chef, profiled on the Pastry Arts website last June, offered Cardamom Cloud, a foam finish for the hot chocolate he made with Nyango 68 % dark chocolate, Caramelia 36 % milk chocolate, and coffee beans. Chocolatier Christopher Elbow’s Persian Hot Chocolate mixed cardamom with saffron, cinnamon, and cloves topped with orange blossom whipped cream and chopped pistachios. Miro Uskokovic, executive pastry chef, Gramercy Tavern, noted that he tops his hot chocolate with a different meringue every year; his 2019 choice was maple and black cardamom. For patrons who like to mix and match their drinks, Uskokovic adds, “I also serve a hot chocolate Martini with the same base, adding vanilla vodka, served tableside.”
The limited 150 tickets for the festival, made available onsite, sold out within 15 minutes, and the chefs were busy ladling out their concoctions for a hectic hour and a half. Executive pastry chef Jayce Baudry of Epicierie Boulud, who contributed French Toast Chocolate, concluded, “What I liked most about the event was the up-close interaction with the guests and the camaraderie between the chefs.”
Recipe for Thea Habjanic’s Hot Chocolate
- 32 oz heavy cream
- 18 oz milk
- 32 oz water
- 1 gram salt
- 3 grams cinnamon
- 8 grams vanilla extract
- 1400 grams Valrhona 62% Satilia
- 90 g xantham base (recipe below)
Heat water, milk and cream in pot to a simmer. Add vanilla, salt, cinnamon and anthem base. Whisk until dissolved. Add chocolate and whisk to combine, then buzz with the immersion blender to emulsify.
Xantham Base recipe:
- 1000 grams water
- 13 grams xantham gum
Place water and xantham in a large container and blend with hand blender until emulsified. This may take some time. Once all powder is dissolved and mixture is thick, strain and store for future use.
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