World Chocolate Day 2021: ‘Chocolate a lovely ingredient to work with’, says Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor

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July 07, 2021 4:45 PM

To understand chocolate and its use as an ingredient, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan held an interaction with celebrated Indian Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

There are different ranges of ingredients that go well with cocoa, says Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

World Chocolate Day 2021: World Chocolate Day is a celebration of chocolate, which has over the years become a comfort food. Its use in a variety of products has made it intriguing, and innovations in the world of dessert seem to revolve around this interesting product. The acceptance of chocolate has increased manifold in India in the recent years, as people have been trying more and more new products. To understand chocolate and its use as an ingredient, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan held an interaction with celebrated Indian Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

How varied is chocolate as an ingredient?

When we say chocolate, it is a derived product from cocoa. So, when we talk about the variety in chocolate as an ingredient, it depends on the type of chocolate it is. Broadly, there are three types of chocolates – white, milk and dark. Dark chocolate would be the most versatile, then would be milk and then white. The reason is that dark chocolate has most cocoa content, less milk and less sugar. Milk chocolate has higher milk and sugar content, and white chocolate has the most sugar and milk and it has cocoa butter instead of cocoa powder. This means that cocoa is more versatile as an ingredient.

What are other ingredients go well with chocolate or cocoa?

There are different ranges of ingredients that go well with cocoa. Nuts and seeds, like almonds and macadamia nuts, go well with chocolate. Some fruits like strawberries and mango work really well. On the other hand, melons don’t work with chocolate. Moreover, some fruit flavours work well – like orange as a fruit does not work well with chocolate, but orange flavour works, so does citrus, lime flavour, and lemongrass. Coffee also complements chocolate well. Liquor also goes well with chocolate.

Can cocoa be used in a savoury dish?

As far as chocolate is concerned, then dark chocolate can be used in savoury dishes. And otherwise, cocoa is fairly versatile and can be used. Example, in Mexico, there is a Mole Sauce that makes use of chocolate, but it is eaten mainly with chicken.

Just like how a little bit of salt works in some sweet dishes, so does a little bit of sweetness in savoury dishes.

A few years ago, chocolate samosa became very popular, so that is a combination of sweet and salty and it works. But if you were to try and replace meethi chutney in Chaat with chocolate sauce, that would not work. Dark chocolate is versatile due to its less sugar and milk content, but you cannot put it blindly in any dish and expect it to work. But for anything that is slightly savoury but largely sweet, it is likely to work.

Consciousness regarding fitness and food habits has increased increased among people during the pandemic. Now, over the years, chocolate has transformed into a snack as well, but it is seen as unhealthy by many. Can chocolate play a role in healthy eating?

It is not true that chocolate is seen as unhealthy, but it is the sugary chocolate that is seen as unhealthy. Dark chocolate is actually seen is healthy, because the fat in cocoa butter is healthy. It can also lift the mood and make you happy. So, if consumed in moderation, dark chocolate is healthy and it is, in fact, now referred to as a healthy food.

If people are staying awake and having milk chocolate as midnight snacks, it is more sensible to move to dark chocolate. It is also trendy and seen as a more mature taste. So, yeah, I would advise having chocolate with more cocoa content. But it is important to remember that moderation is the key.

Do you have any tips for people who are exploring chocolate as an ingredient?

It is important to understand how the ingredient behaves. One must see how they are going to use that ingredient. You can use different derivatives while cooking – cocoa powder, chocolate itself, or the normal chocolate bar that you are trying to use. It is important to understand the ingredient you are using. For example, if you are using cocoa powder, you have to understand that it is very bitter, and since it does not have any cocoa butter, it does not have any creaminess in it. It also does not have any sugar. It also does not dissolve in water or milk, and it will settle down, instead. So, if you are trying to make an emulsion or something of that sort, you must understand how the ingredient behaves.

If a lot of heat is applied to the normal chocolate bars that we get, its texture will go bad. Moreover, adding too much moisture or water in the chocolate can alter the behaviour of the chocolate.

I would suggest that it is best to keep on trying and experiment, because it is a lovely ingredient to work with, but one should not expect the best results in the first attempt. There is a need to work with it more, because chocolate is sensitive to heat and moisture. So, understanding it is important and that can only happen once you start working with it.

Could you tell me something about the trends around innovation in chocolate making in India as compared to maybe a decade ago?

There is a systemic shift in the kind of chocolates as compared to a decade ago. Different kinds of cocoa, different kinds of chocolates, the country of origin, more finesse and variety have come in. Understanding and acceptance of chocolates has also increased.

It is also important to remember that there are larger global companies that are responsible for promoting chocolate, because the ads for chocolates are very common as compared to other sweets. This has also played an important role in increasing the acceptance.

Moreover, better chocolates have also found their place in India.

Could you explain what luxury chocolates are?

Luxury comes from many things, be it the quality of the ingredient, the way it is sourced and processed, and the expertise involved in making it. Sometimes, a chocolate that is handmade becomes luxurious, and sometimes, the amount of care that has been put into the product is the reason why it is called a luxury product.

To convert cocoa into chocolates, a lot of precision is needed. The way a chocolatier would make the chocolate would make a difference, especially considering the fact that a solid cocoa is sandy in texture, but in a chocolate, people would want a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth experience. That smoothness comes from a process called conching and it needs to be done with care over a period of time, because it requires the chocolatier to keep on grinding the cocoa, along with caring for the kind of cocoa butter that is involved. Each step requires time and care and added to that the quality of ingredients – all of these play an important role in a chocolate becoming a luxury product.

Another key factor is the packaging. There is an ideal temperature to eat chocolate in. India is a hot and humid country and is not ideal for chocolate. Tempering of chocolate is done at 29.5 degrees Celsius, for instance. Similarly, to eat chocolate, it should be done at body temperature, not more, not less. So, keeping and storing it like that is also a key factor.

What do you expect from the world of chocolate in the near future?

I expect more finesse to enter the world of chocolate. What is happening today in India is that in order to bring the cost down, there are many chocolate brands in India that have very little to no cocoa butter in their product, and that should not be called chocolate, I believe.

Another development that I think could be seen is the way in which chocolate is embraced and smartly added in our Indian sweets while keeping our tradition alive. I think it is important that we do not lose our tradition.

Today, we see that even during Raksha Bandhan, the traditional mithai has been replaced by chocolates, so I think there needs to be a development in the use of chocolate in our traditional sweet industry. This, I think, should in a way help make our traditional Indian sweets better so that both things shine through. Currently, I have not seen chocolate being used much in this aspect and there are very few products where that was done years ago.

I think both can be combined in a way so that we do not lose the traditions we have grown over the years while also giving chocolate the space to grow.

What is your opinion on chocolate sculptures?

I think chocolate is a very versatile product and an artist needs a medium to express themselves and material to work with, and chocolate fits that role well. So, why not? It’s an expression of art.

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