(This article appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
“It reminds me of being on a cocoa plantation,” says Mexican chocolatier Alan Espinoza, describing Evocao, Cocoa Barry’s heralded WholeFruit chocolate couverture, just made available to dessert artisans after two years of co-development with 30 stellar chefs. Fresh, fruity, Evocao is Barry Callebaut’s most recent application of the brand’s “CacaoFruit Experience,” a range of innovative, sustainable products using the previously discarded pulp, juice and bark of the cocoa pod as well as the bean – an initiative we previewed in the summer issue of Pastry Arts Magazine.
Composed of only three ingredients, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and cacaofruit sugar, Evocao promises consumers a “healthier indulgence.” For chefs, the new chocolate’s zesty, aromatic profile provides the canvas for a broad palette of intriguing flavor pairings. “It represents a new generation of people who are curious and not easily satisfied,” notes Las Vegas Chocolate & Pastry School owner, Melissa Coppel. “Looking delicious is not enough; there has to be nutrition, a clean label, transparency, and belong to an upcycling movement, and that’s what WholeFruit chocolate is about.”
“It will bring you many possibilities in the kitchen,” adds acclaimed flavor consultant Francois Chartier, who designed a colorful chart illustrating Evocao’s myriad aromatic harmonies – from tropical fruits to citrus to spirits like sake and beer. “This chocolate is like pulp fiction,” he puns. “It’s supernatural in the sense that you’re eating mango, lychee, passion fruit, mandarina…it’s a never ending story.”
At the live website launch of Evocao in June, the coterie of Cocoa Barry Ambassadors, Chocolate Academy instructors, and consultants who have been collaborating on the development of WholeFruit chocolate shared their observations and suggestions for a wide variety of pastries, bars, plated desserts, bonbons, and ice cream. For Coppel, Evocao evoked notes of plums and raisins, while Kirsten Tibballs in Australia discovered malt, fruit, vanilla, roasted flavors and a slight bitter aftertaste. San Diego-based pastry chef Lori Sauer recalled: “Tangy right off the bat. Like eating passion fruit. Then it smooths out and my mind can’t decide what’s happening between these flavors: buttery, chestnut, lemon, tangy red fruit, bitter pecan, coffee. Dry like 100 percent chocolate.”
Passion fruit, mango and other tropical fruits were popular pairings for many chefs: Barcelona-based Creative Director Ramon Morato chose guava, pink grapefruit and a splash of Angostura Bitters for his tartlet. In Brussels, Francisco Moreira’s Cocoa Nuances paired Evocao mousse with an aromatic compote of cacao pulp, mango puree and fresh mango cubes, chamomile dried flowers, coriander seeds and lemon balm leaves. Both mango and passion fruit, along with banana, were featured in French chef Philippe Bertrand’s vegan dessert, one of several plant-based concepts, along with Chicago chefs Megan Bell’s blood orange sorbet and Dimitri Fayard’s hazelnut filled sablée. Rose and raspberry also ranked high as flavor combinations: a raspberry, rose lychee compote for Barcelona’s Enric Monzonis, and raspberry pâte de fruit circling a ring of seeds, nuts and fruits in the “E Snack” made by Martin Diez in Chicago. Pairing Evocao with local specialties was another option: xoconostle cactus starred in Alan Espinoza’s Aztec-themed plated dessert, Mictlan; in Japan, Kohei Ogata’s yuzu cheesecake was topped with sake gelée; and Singapore’s Seungyun Lee whipped up an Evocao drink with taro and coconut.
Playing with presentation – simple, sophisticated, fanciful – also preoccupied the chefs. Paring down, keeping things simple, was the goal for Francisco Migoya, Head Chef at Modernist Cuisine in Seattle: “Sometimes we pastry chefs and chocolatiers tend to do too much,” he remarked. “Sometimes you just need a great product, and the less you manipulate it the better,” a vision he achieved with a minimal geometric impression of a cocoa pod. For Dimitri Fayard, a cacao tree leaf recalled the origin of Evocao; Ramon Morato collaborated with designer Andreu Carulla on a set of bonbon molds; and Russ Thayer of Montreal created an ice cream “Podwich.”
“You give me carte blanche, and I’m going to make ice cream,” declared Thayer, the Chocolate Academy’s lead chef online, who has been taste-testing throughout the R&D phase of Evocao. Thayer considered a bar or a popsicle, but settled on an adaptation of a childhood treat, the ice cream sandwich. He topped a cocoa Joconde base with coconut sorbet to represent the white cacao pulp. “I found that coconut and Evocao pair really well; coconut is a little more savory, and as they say, fruits that grow together go together.” Then, he explained, “I wanted to bring in another texture; I found passion fruit a little overpowering, and considered pineapple, but ended up with apricot – a sweet, subtle jelly with apricot liqueur surrounded by the more savory coconut.” The top layer, Evocao ice cream, glazed and sprayed, mimics the exterior of the pod. Thayer’s recipes, and those of the other Chocolate Academy chefs, along with guidelines for working with Evocao, are available on the Cocoa Barry website.
Meanwhile, dessert artisans across the country are coming up with their own Evocao creations. “This is the future of our industry,” reflected Romain Cornu, Corporate Pastry Chef of the Hakkasan Group in Las Vegas. “Clean label and plant based. It’s beneficial for everyone, and has a different flavor profile of any other chocolate on the market.” Cornu selected a chocolate soufflé for his first Evocao foray. “It’s one of my favorite desserts,” he continued. “Simple ingredients, techniques, and powerful flavors – the best way to taste a new chocolate.”
Brielle Fratellone, Executive Pastry Chef at the sprawling Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, oversees 11 outlets and a retail store in a capacious six-room pastry kitchen. She started thinking about Evocao recipes this summer, at first contemplating mango and coconut, “but I found it a bit overpowering to pair with mango,” she recalls, “so I changed up the flavor profile to use blackberry and ginger. The bite from the ginger and sweetness of the blackberries really balanced the strong chocolate tartness coming from Evocao” for ‘Evocao Blackberry Ginger Cubes’ with yogurt citrus mousse, blackberry ginger cremeaux, and chocolate brownie.
While chefs are adding Evocao to their chocolate inventory, other cacao pod products are also gaining attention. A Barry Callebaut affiliate, Cabosse Naturals, offers delicately sweet pulp, fruity juice, and cascara, a flour made from the peel, none of which have a chocolate taste. Other companies are also catching the wave of consumer enthusiasm for sustainability and waste reduction with a variety of wholefruit products. In Europe, Nestlé has introduced pulp-sweetened Incoa, a 70% chocolate bar; the Lindt shop on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue is promoting the company’s own new Excellence Cacao Pur Bar made with cocoa pulp powder. Swiss-Gahanian startup Koa provides the powder for Lindt, and for other cacao derivatives, including juice for a couverture from Swiss Chocolate maker, Felchlin.
In Nashville, Oded Brenner, the exuberant co-founder of Max Brenner’s chocolates, has pivoted from marketing indulgent chocolate fantasies to spreading the gospel of the wellness benefits of cacao. At his shop/café Blue Stripes, Brenner is selling cacao water, dried cacao fruit, cocoa bean powder, and cacao shell flour. In this era of environmental awareness, creating products that use the entire cacao fruit is providing a bonus to farmers who receive extra income, to chefs who have a new chocolate to experience, and to all who applaud the effort to plan for a sustainable future.