When combining flavours, less is more. Too many flavours obscure each other, but mutual reinforcement makes them clearer. Add a little salt to caramel to remove the bitterness of the sugar and make the caramel flavour clearer and deeper. Salt also brings out the vanilla taste in ice cream. A little rum, for example, brings much greater strength and taste to coconut. There are a lot of ‘tricks’ and ‘gimmicks’ involving flavours that reinforce each other without being too pronounced in a recipe or product.
Beauty lies in a harmonic balance of taste, but also texture. Soft and crunchy match well, for example. I recently made a pastry with passion fruit, caramel, vanilla, Intense 35 Belgian milk couverture chocolate and pecan nuts. These ingredients support each other, but still allow you to experience individual flavours and structures. My favourite taste combination is Black Forest Gateaux with a 72% cocoa chocolate mousse, white chocolate cream, vanilla and cherry with spices. Mixing hot and cold also adds flavour and stimulates several senses at once.
Experience helps create the best combinations. It’s difficult to get something perfect right away – you need several attempts. Keep this in mind when creating something for the holidays! I work out my creations on paper first, then prepare and taste the dish and immediately have several improvement ideas… The more knowledge about raw materials you have, the better and easier it is to create new products. Knowledge is key.
By using unsweetened ingredients, such as unsweetened cream, it becomes easier to control the level of sweetness. When making a milk chocolate mousse, you can add some dark chocolate to achieve this. Or you could add citrus to boost acidity, thereby reducing sweetness. You can use PH value to determine acidity, but this rarely happens in practice. Start with a standard recipe and play around with it and by tasting you can find the right balance between sweet, sour, bitter and salt. When making ice cream, however, it’s important to know the exact sugar content. The higher the sweetness, the sooner it melts, so the softer the ice. The best way to determine sweetness when making ice cream is to use a refractometer. With this, you can easily measure the amount of sugar in the recipe.
Chocolate combination ideas
I love working with Veliche™ Gourmet Emotion 58 and Sensation 72 Belgian dark couverture chocolates, with their pronounced flavour profiles: not too bitter, but with a very clear cocoa taste.
I like to contrast fresh and tangy fruit with the dark bitter chocolate taste. Although dark chocolate can be combined with anything, including nuts and spices, I prefer combining spices with milk chocolate, as the cocoa flavour is less overwhelming.
Combinations with White Chocolate
Veliche™ Gourmet Obsession 30 is full of flavour. Often in combination with vanilla or yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit – an outspoken combination, that’s been a real hype in the past year. White chocolate is also very tasty in combination with green tea or coffee.