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I thought making nougat would be really hard. Ecuadorians love nougat, and I thought it might be a good seller, especially around the holidays. But making nougat is not that hard, and selling it may even be easier. I even managed to make it at 9,000 feet and still get a great texture. I adapted this recipe from Greweling´s Chocolates and Confections:

30 g Sugar

70 g Fresh Egg Whites

380 g sugar

120 g Glucose Syrup

100 g Water

230 g Honey

50 g Cocoa Butter Melted

Inclusions

200 g Almonds, Toasted, Chopped

200 g Candied Orange Peels, Chopped

200 g Macadamias, Toasted, Chopped

Equipment:

  • Kitchenaid or other orbital mixer with whisk
  • 2 full size Silpats
  • 1/2″ confectionery rulers
  • Rolling pin (wooden kind with no handles works best)

Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl on a 5-7 qt. planetary mixer (kitchenaid works fine), with a whip attachement. Do not mix.

Prepare all inclusions. Nuts may be left whole or lightly chopped. Use your imagination, you can add dried fruit mix, dried chopped apricots, mango, papaya, pineapple, pistachios, walnuts, whatever you like. Places the inclusions on a sheet pan and keep warm in a 250F degree oven.

    Inclusions for Nougat

Combine the 380 g sugar, glucose syrup, and water. You may add a scraped vanilla bean or vanilla powder as well.

Cook the honey to 226F/108C. Turn the mixer on high speed, and start beating the whites. Add the first 30 g of sugar to begin forming a merengue. Continue cooking the honey to 248F/120C.

When the honey hits 248F/120C, immediately begin cooking the sugar with water, glucose syrup, and vanilla bean, and cook on the highest heat.

Pour the hot honey into the whipping whites. Your whites should look like this once the honey has been incorporated.

Egg Whites and Honey

Try to pour the syrup down the side of the bowl so that it doesn’t hit the whisk as it’s entering.Otherwise you will have the honey flicked off the whisk and much of it will end up stuck to the sides of your mixing bowl.  Continue whipping on high speed as the sugars cook.

When the sugars reach 311F/155C, remove from heat. I use a laser thermometer as shown in the photo. Checking Glucose/Sugar Temp With A Laser Thermometer

Some say these aren’t accurate enough for sugar work since they only measure the surface temperature, but I’ve never had a problem.  Pour the hot sugar mixture into the whites

Adding The Sugar/Glucose Syrup

(again, trying to pour just down the side of the bow so that the mixture does not hit the moving whisk as it’s entering the bowl, not as shown in the photo!) as rapidly as they will accept it without collapsing. Continue whipping on high speed for 3 minutes. (I have broken several whisk wires doing this and making marshmallows, as it’s a pretty heavy mix for the whisk, just a warning).

Add the melted cocoa butter. The nougat will momentarily separate, but it will become smooth again as whipping continues. Adding the Melted Cocoa Butter

Whip until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Remove the tray of inclusions from the oven and scrape the hot nougat onto it. Using a wooden spoon or a gloved hand, mix the inclusions into the nougat. Here’s how your nougat should look before it’s been spread. Finished Unrolled Nougat
It will be sticky and warm, sort of like melted marshmallows, but firmer.

Using a full size Silpat, place the warm nougat onto it between your confectionery rulers, arranged so that they can be adjusted as needed.

Confectionery Frame Setup

Place another Silpat on top of the nougat. First using your hands, then the rolling pin, work the nougat so that it is evenly spread out to fill the space between your confectionery rulers. You should end up with an even rectangle.Rolling Out Nougat Betweent 2 Silpats

Allow to cool at least 30 minutes, remove silpats, and trim the edges if necessary. Finished Nougat
Using a serrated knife or chef’s knife, cut into 1″ strips and then cut each into 4″ bars, or as desired.
To prevent from sticking, you can dust pieces in a mixture of 50% cornstarch and 50% powdered sugar, and wrap in caramel wrappers.
Finished Nougats

Have fun, and don’t burn yourself with the hot sugar mixes!

Arriba Chocolate

In a previous post, I discussed the definition of “Arriba” chocolate and beans-while there’s no legal definition, Arriba can be used to denominate either beans of the Nacional variety from the “Arriba” or upriver area of the Guayas River Basin in the lowlands of southwestern Ecuador, or chocolate made from those beans. So is Arriba a chocolate or a type of bean? It can be both, depending on with whom you are speaking. Growers may call their beans Arriba variety, and chocolate manufacturers may call their finished chocolate Arriba. Many beans in Ecuador are labeled “Arriba” when they may not actually be, due to the blending of different bean varieties which is a common practice in Ecuador. You are probably asking, ok, why does this matter?

The loss of the Arriba flavor profile is happening right now. This is due to the bastardization of the chocolate being produced under the Arriba name, as well as widespread abuse by marketers of the name Arriba. The loss of the Arriba flavor profile would mean increasing homogeneity of fine chocolate, and all chocolates for that matter. The Arriba flavor is an important one, recognized for its unique floral aroma, deep chocolate flavor, and lack of bitterness.

Arriba Vs. CCN-51

The Nacional bean, from which Arriba chocolate originates, is decreasing in production, while production of the more popular CCN-51 variety is increasing. Due to the Nacional variety’s higher vulnerability to disease, particularly Monilla and Witch’s Broom, either of which can severely affect or even destroy an entire cocoa plantation, the cultivation of the Nacional variety of bean is decreasing in Ecuador. The CCN-51 variety is being planted more frequently due to its disease resistance and higher yields, at least double that of the Nacional variety on a per hectare basis.

The CCN-51 variety does not have the same flavor profile as Nacional beans, and while a very good quality chocolate can be made from CCN-51, it requires different fermentation and post-harvest treatment from Nacional beans. However, CCN-51 and Nacional beans are often mixed together either pre or post-fermentation. This common practice in Ecuador debases both the value and flavor of the resulting chocolate. This practice is a major, ongoing controversy in the Ecuadorian chocolate industry.

Growers do not have any financial incentive to separate beans post-harvest, nor to ferment and treat them differently. Nor do most buyers of beans have any incentive to distinguish between Arriba, Nacional, or CCN-51, as most chocolate lovers have had little, if any information, about the industry practices discussed here, and are unaware of these issues until just recently. Furthermore, there is no recognition such as a denomination of origin for the Arriba bean. Thus, beans from the north coast, the Amazon, and other parts of Ecuador not recognized for the Arriba flavor are nonetheless frequently labeled Arriba, as well as the chocolates made from these beans, for marketing purposes.

Support for Nacional and Arriba Beans

Fortunately, ANECACAO and other governmental and non-governmental organizations are, through education, training, and publications, encouraging both small and large producers of cacao to practice and maintain separation of CCN-51 variety and Nacional variety beans. However, these efforts are not enough. Because most commodity brokers, local buyers of beans (aka “patios” in Ecuador-local cacao merchants who buy from local farms, then consolidate large amounts of cacao for brokers, commodity houses, and large muli-nationals such as ADM or Kraft) of cacao in Ecuador’s cocoa growing regions, and cacao traders do not pay a premium for Nacional beans, mixing is still a frequent and common occurrence. The current lack of transparency and standards in Ecuador make preventing the mixing of bean varieties difficult, if not impossible, to stop.

A recently implemented practice by some farms and cacao buyers in Ecuador is helping to preserve the Arriba profile. Some farms are growing only the Nacional variety of bean and selling it as such-though, because of the absence of a price premium, these beans may be ultimately mixed with CCN-51. Other farms grow only CCN-51 and clearly label it as such. Finally, some buyer’s patios and even commodity houses (namely-Transmar) have recently begun to buy beans “en baba”, or freshly harvested and unfermented, or even in the pod, allowing them to know the variety of the bean and control the fermentation process. A newspaper piece was recently done on this practice and is discussed here.

With this knowledge, what can you do to support Arriba chocolate? First, buy chocolate labeled Arriba only if the manufacturer can provide traceability of both the bean variety used in the chocolate and geographical origin for the beans used in that chocolate. For example, a chocolate labeled “Esmeraldas” from Ecuador or “Manabí” from Ecuador is not an Arriba chocolate. Ask your favorite Ecuadorian chocolate companies, or those selling Ecuadorian single origin chocolates if they are aware of the use of CCN-51 beans in the what is commonly labeled Nacional or Arriba chocolate. Now that you know the distinctions, use your wallet to vote for the support of Arriba beans and chocolate. Ultimately, the establishment of a denomination of origin for Arriba beans and chocolates would benefit growers in Ecuador by granting them a premium price for their beans, help chocolate makers by allowing them to certify the origin and quality of their beans, and increase choice and traceability of the final product for consumers.

I arrived in NY Saturday evening, and Sunday was over at the behemoth Fancy Food Show, which was no less than the size of 20 supermarkets in one place, with thousands of food items being displayed. I was lucky enough to be able to squeeze in meetings with all the people I had intended to meet, making for a very productive day.

Monday was an absolutely crazy day running around getting ready for Food Fete. I had to head over across town before ten am with 100 boxes of chocolate for the press bags, which I somehow managed. But when I arrived, I found there had been some minor damage and condensation on the additional chocolates that had been shipped in from the fulfillment center. Fortunately, there was still enough good products to go around.

I headed back across town, only to return again at 3 to set up my table, then back out across town again. I had been waiting for my suit and chef’s jacket to get pressed; they weren’t able to hand it over any earlier than the 5 pm deadline I had been promised, and only managed to do so because I went to the shop at 4:45 and it still wasn’t ready, so they delivered it to my door at 5. I threw everything on, grabbed my stuff, and headed back out again across town to the event, which was full when I arrived, even though I made it at 5:30, when it was supposed to just begin.
Aequare Chocolates Founder Jeff Stern (Me) at Food Fete in YC

We met dozens of friendly, and mostly seeming rushed, editors, who were probably trying to make their way through as many tables as possible in the short time available. I don’t think we spoke with anyone for more than 5 minutes, but having met over 30 writers or editors of some sort, that’s nearly one every four minutes. We got our first mention as one of Food Fete’s favorites here!

Chocolate with Provenance Gaining Importance http://is.gd/1eOF9

Very excited about launching Aequare to the food media next week in NY at FoodFete! http://is.gd/1f1Mu

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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