"Think Belgium, Think Beer...and Chocolate"
This month column was written by Bob's friend
When I think great beer I think of Belgium. When I think of great
chocolate I also think of Belgium. Put them together and you have
a fantastic combination that will thrill your taste buds. Now there are
several columns here at BeerNexus that will tell you about great
Belgium beers but none that talk about that nation's chocolate. That
is, until now. So Bob, if you don't mind, it's time to understand the
other half of the great Belgium beer and chocolate combination.
Belgian chocolate is considered to be the standard by which all
other chocolate confections are measured. Even the Swiss, known
for their own high quality chocolate acknowledge this.
What makes Belgian chocolate unique is the quality of ingredients
and an almost fanatical adherence to Old World manufacturing
techniques. Even in today's world of automation and mass
production, most Belgian chocolate is still made by hand in small
shops using original equipment. In fact, these small chocolate outlets
are a popular draw for tourists visiting Belgium today.
Belgian chocolate itself has been popular since the 18th century, but
a new process created in 1912 increased its popularity ten-fold. It
was then that William Neuhaus used a special version of chocolate
called "couverteur" as a cold shell for what he called 'pralines'.
(no,not the same as the sugary treats offered in American shops).
Belgian chocolate pralines could be filled with a variety of flavored
nougats or creams, such as coffee, hazelnut, fruit or more
chocolate. Few other chocolatiers in Neuhaus' day could duplicate
the complex flavors of his pralines. Many of the Belgian chocolate
praline companies are still in operation today- Leonidas, Neuhaus,
Godiva and Nirvana are famous for their gourmet pralines.
One technical advantage Belgian chocolate has over other
chocolatiers is the storage of couverteur before use. In the
chocolate making process, the cocoa beans are ground and mixed
with sugar and cocoa butter and then smoothed out through
tempering (careful addition of heat). Most chocolate companies
receive their chocolate in solid form, which means it must be
reheated in order to be usable. Belgian chocolate companies often
receive their couverteur in heated tanker trucks soon after the
tempering process. Because the chocolate has not cooled, it retains
much more of the aroma than the cooled varieties.
I have to admit pairing Belgium chocolate and Belgium can get a bit
expensive but it's well worth the occassional special treat. My
favorite pairings are Orval with Neuhaus dark praline, Westmalle
Bruin with Milka Milk Creme Chocolate and St. Bernardus ABT12
with Leonidas Orangettes. And Bob, please don't ask me about the
Bob - many thanks for the opportunity to write the column. I enjoyed
it. I admit to doing a bit of extra research about the making of
Belgium chocolate but it was made much easier by having few beers
while doing it!
|BeerNexus proudly presents
"the ombudsman of beer"
Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
My thanks to Anthony for this month's
column. See you next time to
"speak about beer".
|Want to be a "friend of Bob" and write a guest
column? Just e-mail your article to Bob HERE.