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getting fresh: Fanatical about flavorWhen I was fielding Candy Industry’s August cover feature, which profiled Gary Guittard -- the 2008 Kettle Award winner and president of Guittard Chocolate Co. -- I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Ed Seguine, vice president of research and development for the company.
In addition to providing me some insights on Gary, whom he has worked with for 25 years, Seguine also shared with me his life-long endeavor -- his PhD, so to speak -- which involves exploring and delineating chocolate taste profiles as scientifically as possible. A daunting task, even for the most accomplished chocolatiers, I admit. Nevertheless, Seguine’s not just your ordinary food scientist. He takes his role in researching chocolate’s complexity seriously.
How seriously? Well, this is a man who samples cocoa liquor on a daily basis, making notes of the chocolate-to-be in the most diligent manner. During the course of a year, he’ll have tasted several thousand samples.
Any of you who have ever tasted cocoa liquor understand that there’s still a bit of processing to go through before the stuff resembles what we all know as chocolate. It’s neither sweet nor smooth.
Seguine actually compared it to one of the less romantic aspects of prize fighting, whereby a beginning fighter becomes a “punching dummy” or sparring partner for the experienced fighter. After a while, the earnest beginner gets used to being hit and slowly learns the art of boxing. So, too, with sampling cocoa liquor. Thus, it takes about three months of sampling cocoa liquor before you understand what the bean is trying to tell you.
Yes, the bean begins to reveal its secrets, essentially “what it wants me to know,” Seguine explained. Because, for Seguine, the essence of chocolate comes from the bean. And to better understand the bean, it’s critical to sample cocoa liquor.
“If it’s not there in the liquor, it’s not going to be there after conching,” he told me. “The liquor is the epitome of what’s there in the bean; it’s the first point where you address the flavor profile.”
And that flavor profile – thanks to Seguine – retains about as many flavor descriptors as that of a sommelier’s presentation of a fine wine. About a year and a half ago, he began working with an international group in mapping and rating cocoa liquors.
In looking at Seguine’s scoring sheet, the attributes on which the cocoa liquor is mapped go well beyond basics such as acidity, bitterness and astringency. Take, for example, the subsections compartmentalized under fruity and floral notes. Under fruity, one can detect taste profiles that are berry-like, citrusy, tropical (as in yellow tropical fruits such as passion fruit and mangoes), dark tree fruit-like (as found in red cherries) or dried fruit-like (as found in dried apricots).
Go into the floral taste profile section, and one will find descriptors such as woodsy, grassy, earthy, herbal, orange blossom, peppery, bark woody, wood resin and the like. What Seguine and several of his colleagues are doing is mapping chocolate as it’s never been done before.
In doing so, the art and science of producing chocolate gets intertwined like a DNA double helix -- you remember, the one that was in our biology books many years ago.
“It’s a tremendous education in the art of what can be,” he said. “By mapping these individual samples, we go far beyond the range of what’s available; we enter the realm of what’s possible.”
Thanks to Seguine and others like him, these scientists are preparing a roadmap for chocolate’s ascendancy onto a level of sophistication that will rival wine. It will enable artisanal chocolatiers to further hone their craft and expose consumers to unimagined taste territories.
As he notes, there’s a cocoa bean from Madagascar that’s “absolutely spectacular” when combined with fruit inclusions. Yet, when fused with burnt caramel, there are no fireworks.
So, for those that create -- and for those of you like me who simply enjoy consuming high-end chocolates – tip your hat to Ed Seguine and others like him for ushering in an even greater epoch in this continuously evolving chocolate renaissance.
Lucky Country recalls black licoriceLincolnton, N.C.–based Lucky Country has recalled its Aussie Style Soft Gourmet Licorice Black (All Natural) from 16 states after recent tests by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed higher than allowable lead levels in the candy.
The high lead levels were found in two lots of 1.5-lb. bags of licorice in a Monterey County Costco Wholesale store. Lucky Country also manufactures the natural black licorice product in 6-oz. and 3-lb. bags as well as a 1-lb. tub. The company is advising consumers to discard the licorice or return it to the store where purchased for a full refund. Lucky Country is fully cooperating with government agencies to recall the product.
For more information about Lucky Country, visit www.lucky-country.com.
Celebrating organic harvest monthSeptember is Organic Harvest Month, and at least one chocolatier is showing its support. In honor of the celebration, Explorer’s Bounty -- maker of the new Organic Artisan Panned Chocolates -- currently is featuring its premium organic and fair trade products in a 15-second ad spot in New York City’s Time Square. The ad is positioned at 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th avenues, on midtown Manhattan’s CSR Super Screen, and will be exposed to more than 1.5 million people each day.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) deemed September Organic Harvest Month 17 years ago. The annual celebration’s objective is to highlight organic agriculture and the growing organic products industry.For a list of events taking place around North America during Organic Harvest Month or to add your own event to the roster, visit www.ota.com.
For information about products from Explorer’s Bounty, visit www.explorersbounty.com.
Sconza delays move to Hershey facilityCiting remodeling work that’s taking longer than initially expected, Janet Sconza-Angers, vice president of customer relations for Sconza Candy Co. in Oakland, confirmed in an East Bay Business Times article that the company will not shut down its present operations and complete the move into the former Oakdale, Calif. Hershey manufacturing facility until after November 1.
Sconza Candy Co. purchased the 330,000-sq.-ft. facility in late March and had looked to move by October 1 from its present 70,000-sq.-ft. plant. Although Sconza-Angers indicated in the article that construction work was progressing well, the existing facility will remain open through early November to meet year-end holiday orders. The company produces a variety of chocolate and non-chocolate panned candy items, including a line of natural and organic products.
For more information about Sconza Candy Co., visit www.sconzacandy.com.
Chocolove to collaborate with USDAChocolove, a Boulder, Colo.-based producer of premium and organic chocolates, has announced that it will support a collaborative project aimed at the identification, acquisition, characterization and preservation of important cacao genetic resources. The project -- led by Brian Irish at the USDA ARS Tropical Agricultural Research Station in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico -- looks to identify and catalogue each cacao plant's DNA fingerprint. The team will work off a collection of plant materials or “accessions” that spans 70 years and concentrate on isolating promising traits such as disease resistance, productivity and unique chocolate flavors.
Chocolove owner and chocolatier Timothy Moley also will participate as a panel expert, tasting the chocolate made from the different cacao accessions being evaluated at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station. Cacao beans will be harvested from each individual plant and made into small batches of single-accession chocolate. In tasting this special chocolate, Moley will look for unique flavor nuances that differentiate the cacao accessions from each other. This aspect of the project aims to provide a flavor and aroma profile for each of the accessions.
"I am excited and proud to give my financial assistance and professional expertise to the USDA ARS Tropical Agriculture Research Station and this project,” Moley said. “I think that a major disease epidemic somewhere in the world cacao crop is inevitable. A genetically diverse collection of cacao plants will be invaluable to re-establishing a hardy, flavorful cacao crop and will prevent great hardship for cacao farmers in the affected region.”
For more information, visit www.chocolove.com.
Sugar-free products offer mass appealToday’s many Splenda-sweetened, sugar-free products attract both diabetics and health-conscious consumers alike. That’s according to a recent article in Confection & Snack Retailing. To read the article, visit www.cs-retailing.com.
sweet of the week: Pamela's Products SimplebitesConsumers looking for gluten-free goodness need look no further than Pamela’s Products, Inc. The Ukiah, Calif.-based company offers a gluten-free line of mini cookies called Simplebites that also are wheat- and dairy-free. Simplebites are available in the following varieties: Extreme Chocolate, Ginger Snapz and Chocolate Chip. They come in re-sealable bags featuring pie crust and cookie sandwich filling recipes. A 7-oz. package retails for $3.67.
For more information about Pamela’s Products, visit www.pamelasproducts.com.