Guittard Chocolate Tasting

August 25, 2011

Monday morning I started my work day with a chocolate tasting. Good thing I squeezed in an early morning trip to the gym before hand as it was a marathon.

Guittard Chocolate located in Burlingame invited a bunch of pastry chefs for a blind tasting of some of their chocolates to get feedback of the styles and characteristics we like or don’t like in chocolate.

Founded in 1868 Guittard Chocolate has always been a family run company.  Etienne, Gary’s great grandfather, was first at the helm followed by his grandfather Horace, and then his father, Horace A. Under Gary’s stewardship and vision the company developed its E. Guittard line that is used by pastry chefs and home cooks worldwide.

We sampled chocolate made with 60, 70 and 100 percent cacao. For each percentage we tasted three different types. For the 60 and 70 percentages we tried the chocolate as is and also made into a chocolate mousse with a chocolate center. For the 100 percent we tried it plain and in a brownie like cake with a ganache. When tasting chocolate it is important to taste it in something as well as on its own. The characteristics change once you add other ingredients.

The 100 % which is unsweetened was tricky to taste solo as it is so strong. Most of us, myself included, were a little overwhelmed by the straight-up 100%.  You have to be a veteran taster like Gary Guittard, current president and CEO of Guittard Chocolate, or Michael Recchiuti of Recchiuti Chocolates, to pick up nuances through the bitterness.

While we all picked up on similar flavors in the different chocolates- red fruit, coconut, coffee, cocoa, even peanut butter and agreed on whether they were acidic or creamy, the preferences for these were all over the map. Some preferred the chocolates with a deep cocoa taste while others liked softer more subtle ones. There were no wrong or right answers and that’s what makes tasting other pastry chef’s desserts interesting and important. You get to look at things in a whole new light.

Some chocolates have a consistent flavor profile throughout. Others have a first hit of one flavor and then morph into something else entirely. When I get a new chocolate I make it in one of my tried and true recipes. That way I can discern differences. Interestingly, Michele Polzine, pastry chef at Range, tries the chocolate and lets it tell her what to do with it. I am going to try that approach next time.

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