Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Life in Chocolate by Eagranie Yuh

Today I welcome Chocolate Expert Eagranie Yuh. Eagranie is the author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit (Chronicle Books, 2014). She’s been interviewed on America’s Test Kitchen Radio and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Best Food Writing 2012 and Best Food Writing 2014. She is the senior editor of Edible Vancouver & Wine Country, and lives in Vancouver, Canada.

EAGRANIE YUH: A Life in Chocolate

I have the best job in the world. I taste chocolate professionally, meet with chocolate makers and chocolatiers, and teach people how to appreciate chocolate. Inevitably, people ask me two questions. One: How did you choose chocolate? Two: How do I get your job?

The first one is easy. The truth is, chocolate chose me. The second one…well, that needs a bit more explanation.

I have a master’s degree in chemistry, but my heart was never in it. I loved and still love science, but in grad school, instead of making liquid crystals (yes, the goo inside your high-definition TV), I pored over food science textbooks and conducted highly meticulous experiments in my kitchen. Afterward, instead of enrolling in a Ph.D. program, I applied to culinary school.

I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, in their pastry arts program. I dreamed of sugar and butter, perfect éclairs and multi-tiered cakes. I started working as pastry chef but inevitably found myself working with chocolate: delicate bonbons for fine dining restaurants, elaborate showpieces for hotels, chocolate decorations for bakeries. Finally, I ended up working for some of Canada’s top chocolatiers before hanging up my toque. Kitchen life is best suited for a certain personality, and I don’t have it.

But all was not lost. Since 2008, I’ve been writing and teaching people where chocolate comes from, and how to appreciate it. And it turns out that the combination of science, chocolate, and writing really makes sense—especially as the world of chocolate has exploded. Small-scale chocolate makers (often called bean-to-bar, or craft chocolate makers) are popping up all over the globe. Grocery store shelves are heaving with chocolate bars. You can order drinking chocolate in chic cafes. People are tasting chocolate like they’re tasting wine, beer, and cheese.

I’d go so far as to say there has never been a better time to love chocolate. And that sounds pretty good to me.  

Read on for tips on how to host a chocolate tasting party in this excerpt from The Chocolate Tasting Kit

How to Host a Chocolate Tasting Party 
Picture this: you, your best friends, and a table strewn with chocolate. Throw in a few choice beverages, the flash cards in this kit, and your trusty chocolate tasting notepad, and you have the makings of a kick-ass chocolate tasting party.

Keys to Success 
The ideal chocolate tasting takes about 45 minutes to an hour, with four to six chocolates to sample.

Aim for four to ten people, with 1/5 oz/5 g of chocolate per person, per sample. For reference, that’s a piece slightly bigger than an almond. A 3- to 4-oz/80- to 100-g bar should accommodate eight to ten people with enough left over for second (or third) tastes.

If you shop at a fine chocolate shop, ask the staff to help you put your purchases in a logical order. Otherwise, sample each bar before your guests arrive. Consider it research.

A good rule of thumb is to taste dark chocolates before milk chocolates, and milk before white. Start with the sweetest (lowest-percentage) dark chocolate and work your way to the least sweet (highest-percentage). Then take the same approach with plain milk and plain white bars, followed by any flavored bars. When tasting flavored bars, taste more delicate flavors, such as fruits or flowers, before stronger ones, such as spices, coffee, or, ahem, bacon.

Have ready your palate cleansers and room-temperature water. Or, pair your chocolate samples with carefully selected coffee, tea, wine, beer, or whiskey. Check out The Chocolate Tasting Kit for more on palate cleansers and pairings.

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