Harvard SEAS lecture, Oct 4, 2010 – full post

Monday October 4, 2010
Heat, Temperature, & Chocolate
Speaker: Enric Rovira (of Enric Rovira chocolate shop in Barcelona)


I swear: trying to get into these lectures is a weird art in itself. I showed up 10 minutes, at least, earlier than I did last week and ended up nearly in the same place in line as last week. (This time, though, I had a lovely time talking to the person in line behind me. So the wait was not so terrible. Plus, I think they let us in a few minutes earlier than last time.) The difference is that I was one of the last people to be issued a ticket. At this point, I’d like to point out that SEAS either has trouble with event planning or with simple math… because there were more tickets than seats this time. Yeah.

I started out sitting on the aisle steps but later took advantage of a reserved seat that said “Sofras” when it became obvious that this person from Sofras was not showing up at all. So, not all was lost.

Mike started up the lecture (last time it was Dave – Mike introduced Joan Roca the night I was there) and the subject for the week was “Heating and Cooling.” Mike proceeded to tell us about cooking a cheesecake with a thermal coupler (I think it was) in it to measure time versus temperature. An equation emerges, and with the same equation you can figure out how long to cook a turkey based on its size or how long to cook a steak.
It’s become tradition now to clap when the equation of the week is revealed. It’s cute and amusing, but I still think that it’s unfair that these students get to bake molten chocolate cake and call it their lab assignment of the week. 😉

Finally, Mike introduced Enric Rovira. My only real issue was that the translator for Enric was the one I’m less fond of. She’s not enough of a food nerd to properly translate certain bits of the lecture. I know that I’m being mean and picky but it just distracts from my enjoyment.

Unlike our previous guest lecturers, Enric’s presentation was more on the artistry and creativity that goes into his chocolate creations. It’s why this son of a pastry chef decided to become a chocolatier.

The first images we saw were pictures of the Barcelona collection. This collection is inspired by the architecture of Barcelona. The tile art frequently found all over the city is recreated in chocolate.

Then came the Gastronomic collection which is inspired by flavor combinations. For example, hazelnuts covered in chocolate, or violets which are caramelized first and then dipped in chocolate.

The audience was tantalized by images of chocolate a la taza (hot chocolate) and crema de chocolate which is a chocolate paste (“Like Nutella… but it’s NOT Nutella” as translated from Enric). Seriously? I wanted that crema de chocolate like it was nobody’s business. It looks that yummy. I’ve already told my jet-setting co-worker that he needs to pick me up some the next time he’s n Barcelona.

The next collection was the Concept collection. In this collection, you can find delights that are inspired by the world. Or are The World. There is a set of chocolates that represent the continents and a set that represent the ocean. If you purchase the whole shebang, the product is labeled as the world. The continents are items found in those continents and covered with chocolate, like chocolate covered almonds or something similar. The oceans was more of conceptual art. The Arctic ocean was represented with white chocolate and sea salt. The Atlantic, which touches three different continents, was (I think) peanut/almond/brazil nuts covered in chocolate. The Indian ocean was pistachio and earl grey while the Antarctic was made with baking soda somehow so that it would fizzle in your mouth. The Pacific ocean was the largest chocolate of all in the collection, and it sounded like it was corn from Mexico, covered in chocolate, and then dusted with aonori (a type of Japanese seaweed).

Also in the Concept collection is the Planetarium, 12 pieces of chocolates of different flavors and colors.
There is Imagine, a white box of chocolates inspired by John Lennon. White box for the white piano. Mixed chocolates for diversity.

There is Prohibition, a box of chocolate bon bons with alcohol in them.

This brought the slideshow to the fourth collection which was the Essential Collection. If I understood correctly, this is Enric’s single-point-of-origin chocolates. All chocolates are from the plantation of Claudio Corallo. This was one of the parts that the translator was having trouble conveying well. I could hear Enric say something in Spanish that still sounded like single-point-of-origin but I suppose that this is a term that would be lost on anyone that hasn’t taken a chocolate tasting class… which is probably most people in the audience.

(Single point of origin chocolate is chocolate made from one plantation only. Most commercial chocolates are made from ingredients procured through several plantations. I know someone who does not appreciate single point of origin chocolates – he is convinced that mixed is best tasting. I can understand that to a degree but I think there should be an appreciation for single point of origin as well.)

A fun collection was the Virtual collection. Enric joked that this was his least popular collection and that no one gets the concept for this. In this collection, there is no actual chocolate. Instead, you have something of a metal egg have carries the aroma of Enric’s chocolates for about a year. Behind this was the idea that a smell can be nostalgic. Certain smells can take you back to a certain time and place in your life. He wanted to bottle that so that you could take the happy memory of Barcelona and his chocolates with you to different parts of the world.

The last collection was my favorite I think, the Artist Collection. For this collection, Enric collaborates with an artist (jewelry maker, fashion designer, etc.) to come up with a concept. For example, there was a chocolate that looked like a giant square with mathematical lines etched into it to draw a pattern of triangles. In reality, this chocolate was not a square – it really was several triangles laid carefully to make a square. And each of the triangles were of equal weight despite the size/angle of the triangle.

Enric did throw a scientific spin to his lecture toward the end. He said that there were 10 problems with chocolate which all stemmed from the properties of cocoa butter. Not all ten were part of the slide show, but he talked about temperature (ie. how can a chocolate egg melt nicely under the sun at a certain time, a certain temperature, and under other various environmental factors but not melt at other times, and sometimes you cannot recreate it). Enric showed a clip of chocolate burning into ashes into a pan, and yes he showed us some sun-melted chocolate eggs.

Friction was another issue. For his chocolate bon bons to get a beautiful shine, the chocolates are placed into a machine not unlike a cement mixer that just turns and turns. The natural heat that is created from the friction/drag creates the shiny coat on the chocolates without any other ingredients.

Another issue was the velvet effect. If a chocolate core at room temperature is sprayed-painted with chocolate, there is no change in the color or texture of the chocolate. However, if a chocolate core at cold temperatures is spray-painted with chocolate, the color is lighted and the coat becomes textured a bit like velvet.

Actual students of the class will get to see the rest of the slide show but that was pretty much the end of the lecture. At that point, Enric announced that if anyone had a sticker on the first page of the Enric Rovira catalog (handed out upon entering the lecture room) that the holder won a box of chocolates. I’d say about 1 in 4 people had a stickered catalog… including me.

It’s night-time now and, as evidenced in pictures in previous entries, the lighting in my apartment is too crappy for taking good photos. I’m hoping to put up photos of my little box of chocolates from Barcelona this weekend. *cough*andeatthemtoo*cough*