Happiness is finding a new chocolatier that voluntarily sends you their creations to review. Unhappiness is knowing that you've got to spend time writing up your comments and not just enjoying the ganaches without distraction. This is the sort of torture I put myself through for your viewing pleasure and after what seems like a year that I’ve been talking to Geert Vercruysse via email about the chocolate industry and his creations, and after all that cacao-flirting it’s time to see what Geert's got to offer.
With my marketing head in (my day job) I love seeing how chocolatiers present their chocolates and how they talk about them. From what I can see Geert is absolutely passionate about chocolate. When the chocolates arrived they came in a clear plastic box, somewhat like the ones Lauden chocolates are displayed, but here they were in two layers and totalled twenty-four in all. And that's a fair amount when it comes to ganaches. I knew I'd never be able to review all twenty-four in one go so I just chose six at random and decided to save the rest for when I can get away from the computer and other distractions and just enjoy them for their own sake. But what I should have done is carefully selected which ones sounded the most interesting as Geert does actually have a photo gallery with details of which is which. With my mistake made, I continued on to match up the chocolate in front of me with the appropriate description.
I was lucky with the first (I'm not saying there's any bad ones in there) as it was a Peru 85% ganache which, as it’s not adulterated by any flavour, served to cleanse my pallet before I tried the other, more unusual ganaches. And it was utterly delightful. The aroma was intense and which created visions of pain au chocolat as there was a buttery edge that stood out. The texture was as soft and smooth as I've ever witnessed, and the flavour? I'm actually speechless. It was UTTERLY FANTASTIC! The butteriness comes back which is an achievement given the 85% cacao solids content. Also there's no harsh acidity to it either. Am I allowed to swear? The next was a 40% milk chocolate ganache made with Casa Luker couverture. I've never witnessed the aroma of a ganache with this much of a sweet, flowery characteristic. When I brought it to my nose I exclaimed "Jesus" (I don't mean to blaspheme). But it was the flavour which had the greatest impact - it actually gave me goose-bumps - I kid you not. My body shivered! It was soft, subtle, sophisticated, acute, delicious, and tear-inducing.
I then tried one made using a 41% milk chocolate couverture from Venezuela and a ganache centre incorporating Tonka beans which also had a sensational aroma. The flavour of the Tonka against the sweet milk chocolate was exceptional. The Tonka isn't strong but suitably balanced so it just peaks above the chocolate - much the same way as bubble bath adds an indulgent feel to a hot bath on a cold day. It just 'makes' it even more special.
And then something different. This one was made using 85% Santander Colombian origin couverture, with a lower layer of praline and a matcha infused ganache and was like a miniature chocolate-coated cheesecake. The praline gave it an exceptional crunch whilst the matcha ganache gave it a bitter-sweet upper layer - and all covered in crisp dark chocolate. This may not have given as much of a physical reaction as the others, but it still a wonderful experience.
One with a gorgeous Father Christmas pattern on the top was next this had a 40% milk chocolate coating with a 72% dark chocolate ganache and a spicy almond paste below. This gave it a great Indian flavour which I wasn't expecting. The balance of the sweet almonds, with the milk chocolate, dark chocolate and intoxicating element was intriguing and utterly delicious!
I then had another marzipan style one with a 40% milk chocolate covering and a 34% orange ganache in the centre. And, oh my word! The balance of the orange against the marzipan was utterly indulgent, extreme and a perfect alternative to those horrible chocolate oranges. If you like your ganaches mild then this won't be for you. If you like your taste buds massaged and excited then dive in. It seems wrong to finish the review here, but as I've mentioned, I'd like to enjoy the others with no keyboard or camera accompaniment. All I can say is that reviewing these was certainly one of my chocolate highlights of 2010! And, for the first time this year I've not thought at all if they were worth the money whilst reviewing chocolate. And also, because I can't find out!