If you have eaten a dessert in an upscale restaurant, you have surely tasted Valrhona chocolate . The company, based in the Rhone Valley (hence its name), is probably the best large professional chocolate producer in the world.
The majority of Valrhona chocolate is intended for pastry chefs and chocolatiers. In fact, many artisans use Valrhona because the production of chocolate, instead of adding ingredients, requires raw materials of high taste and nutritional quality . It's a bit like sugar in that sense; everyone uses it, but who actually makes it?
For decades after its creation in 1922 , Valrhona chocolate was only sold to pastry chefs and chocolatiers. But two years after being taken over by French agri-conglomerate Bongrain in 1984, the company began selling chocolate bars to consumers . In many cases, these simple chocolate bars, which are not cheap, end up on the shelves of high-end grocery stores, alongside more elaborate bars from other chocolatiers who themselves actually use the same Valrhona chocolate .
Factors in varying flavors, intensities, and cocoa bean selection, combined with a house's signature style (such as roasting time and bean processing) will result in different tastes.
So, for example, a 70% mixed chocolate bar will taste different depending on the style of the house. Even within the same house, chocolate of the same percentage from different regions will taste different due to geographic location, weather, and even surrounding vegetation. And of course, chocolate from different houses, even if the cocoa beans come from the same region - or even the same plantation - will taste different due to the style of each house.
The majority of Valrhona chocolates have a slight fruity or floral tone, a result of the house style of light roasting . Chocolate bars can also have a sour taste due to both roasting and fermentation of the beans. The exception to this house style is the Gran Couva, which has no fruity character due to the nature of the bean.
Of all the prestige chocolate brands, Valrhona 's texture is the epitome of smoothness. For a connoisseur, it calms, relaxes and soothes the palate and the interior of the body in a mixture of chocolate happiness. The fruity and floral tones are flavors of the bean ; the bright, tannic tones are the result of a lighter roast and perhaps a short fermentation. Therefore, the combination will taste fruity and tart.
One thing I've learned is that to enjoy chocolate chunks straight, there's a "sweet spot" (sugar content) defined by the cocoa percentage, and that's about 64 % . Chocolates with less than 60% cocoa are not dark enough for me; chocolates with more than 80% cocoa are good for baking , but for eating they are too brittle, bitter and plain.
I must point out that chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa are much better with coffee, mainly because they are less sweet. Abinao (85% cocoa) works quite well with coffees that taste bitter with other chocolates. However, I prefer to select the most delicious chocolate, and not worry about the pairing with the coffee.
My Valrhona Chocolate Guide
85%Weakened chocolate flavor, more like unsweetened cocoa. Waxy texture. Does not melt easily on the tongue. Not particularly intense, in fact the sweetness is a disappointment. Proof that 85% is too much cocoa. Good at baking , but I don't find that particularly enjoyable on its own.
Guanaja 70%Fruity, stone fruit (nectarine) that intensifies as it melts in your mouth. The chocolate character of the nectarine seems secondary to the fruitiness until the end. A good level of sweetness, with some bitter notes but which come together well. It's not the most "chocolatey"
Alpaca 66%A first creamy quality, then a milky aspect in the middle of the mouth. Smoother than the previous ones. I don't understand the "floral" notes promised on the label. This dark chocolate seems smoother than the Caraibe, which isn't a bad thing, but also lighter in body. A lighter and slightly fruity finish.
Palmira Finca Criollo 64%It is a unique plantation chocolate, which is interesting because it allows us to taste its terroir . It is complex: intense chocolate notes as well as caramel, coffee, floral notes, lime peel, a hint of fresh herbs and lavender. It melts easily and regularly in the mouth. Finish of chocolate mixed with Provençal herbs. Bitter notes that add early interest don't linger in the aftertaste. It is the most interesting of the range, but not the richest nor the sweetest. This is the coffee lover's chocolate and overall my favorite in the range.
Taiori 64%Notes of red apple and cherry, then dark chocolate and cocoa. The aftertaste is clearly marked by cherry. It sounds simple after the Palmira, but it's like having a nice chocolate with a nice finish. People who don't like sourness - including most children - will like it more than Manjari.
Manjari 64%Strong acidity in flavor. The quality of the cocoa seems moderate until the end. It's the one that would be the easiest to eat as a whole bar, because the acidity makes me want another bite right away. There's a hint of curry leaves at first, but I don't get the citrusy flavor you'd expect with as much spiciness; it's more of a pineapple/tropical fruit acidity. The following bites are getting better and better. An ideal chocolate for amateurs.
Jivara 40%Milk chocolate with strong notes of caramel and creaminess. The caramel note takes over in the mid-palate and the finish is not particularly chocolatey. It's not a bad chocolate confection, but it's not chocolatey enough for the dark chocolate lover.
Tanarive 33%Milk, cream, sugar, with hints of orange and coffee bean. After tasting the others, you really notice the low level of cocoa , but I quite like it. That said, it's too sweet but if I had to choose a milk chocolate, it would be this one. I like it more than the Jivara.
Valrhona Expert Unequaled
Luxurious might be a bold word for a dessert, but it's the best word to describe Valrhona chocolate. When milk chocolate alone is enough to send your taste buds to seventh heaven, you know they're not having fun.
Valrhona is a past master in the art of enhancing the flavors of rare cocoa beans. Chocolate is complex and balanced, yet it has consistently bold flavors that pastry chefs, chocolatiers and cooks around the world hold to be the gold standard .
Valrhona's expertise is on a level all its own, so much so that there is a pastry school in France, L' École Valrhona, which teaches chocolate lovers everything they need to know about the industry. and the bar-to-bean process.
The company has built its own cocoa plantations in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and it has a team of suppliers who travel the world to source the best beans from cocoa growers .
Valrhona has made its way onto dessert menus around the world. From cakes and pies to mousses, pastries, truffles and beverages, you can easily whip up the highest restaurant quality chocolate desserts in your own kitchen.
Valrhona tasting tablets are available in different percentages based on the proportion of cocoa. If you are looking for simplicity and decadence, the Bahibé tasting bar is pure origin from the Dominican Republic with 46% cocoa. You can buy all types of couverture chocolate ranging from 35% to 72% cocoa. As you have understood, the higher the percentage, the stronger the taste.
The easiest way to add Valrhona chocolate to your life is to mix some cocoa powder and the chocolate bar of your choice with whole milk. You will quickly be addicted!
It's not always a question of skill level when it comes to creating professional quality desserts, but rather of ingredients. If you have the right chocolate in hand, you are ready to make masterpieces.