Mason of Chocolate

Pushing Chocolate Forward sign

Butter, sugar, flour and eggs are the building blocks of dessert. These four simple ingredients can create cakes, cookies and meringues. Now, thanks to restaurants such as New York’s wd-50, locust bean gum and carrageenan are the new staples.wd-50 is a play on words alluding to its owner, location, and the chemical compound, WD-40. Unlike the cleaning product though, everything at wd-50 is edible, all the way down to the fried mayonnaise and chocolate consomme (broth).On Oct. 7, wd-50’s former pastry chef, Sam Mason, made chocolate desserts at the French Culinary Institute’s Pushing Chocolate Forward event. Mason, who will open his own yet unnamed dessert bar at 525 Broome St. in SoHo in November, made his “classic” gelled desserts. Gelatin is typically used to set desserts, but there’s a myriad of other agents.

Agar (most commonly used in Chinese and Japanese custards/jellies), for example, sets at room temperature. However, it can also get crumbly and brittle, as I witnessed when I made vegan cashew cheddar “cheese.” Locust bean gum (derived from carob treas) and carrageenan (from red algae) are creamier. These ingredients sound scary, but they’re no more unnatural than gelatin. (You already eat locust bean gum and carrageenan if you eat commercial ice cream.) The only difference is that gelatin is widely available to home cooks.

It takes an experimental chef like Mason to figure out their applications. He takes into account flavor release, rigidity and tolerance to temperature. He even developed an eggless lemon curd with gellan so the eggs don’t get in the way of flavor.
Now that Mason has conquered gels, the next frontier is starches. Just like with gels, the Asians have already made good use of starches, specifically potato, tapioca, wheat and corn. They’re usually not used in Western desserts though. Mason is also excited about the new vacuum dryers, which allow cooks to fry food at 100 F. This device makes it possible to fry chocolate, which burns at 120F. Also, fried skittles turn into puffs.

Hopefully we’ll see these experiments at Mason’s new dessert bar, which will feature eight savory and eight dessert plates, a la carte. There will also be three or four five-course tasting menus.

During the Pushing Chocolate Forward event, Mason made soft chocolate gel with chocolate soil and bitter chocolate consomme with butternut squash gel. The chocolate was provided by E. Guittard, the artisan division of a family-owned San Francisco chocolate company.

E. Guittard is not to be confused with Guittard. The latter is the mass-market line available as chocolate chips and bulk bars (with cheap butterfat added). See’s Candy in California uses Guittard for their couverture (chocolate covering). It’s a workhorse chocolate but not artisan. E. Guittard, on the other hand, makes single-origin chocolates. My favorite is the Ambanja 65% from Madagascar, which tastes like sour cherries. Suprisingly, I didn’t like the 65% Sur del Lago from Venezuela as much. So much for my chocolate tasting map. E. Guittard makes tasty chocolate (Christopher Norman in New York uses their couverture), but I find the flavor to be one-noted and short, a common problem amongst lower end single-origin chocolates.

Below are the recipes from the demo. They are in grams and mililiters, since they’re more exact than cups. I’ll work on converting the measurements. Check out Foodite’s primer on molecular gastronomy (the innovative method that Mason uses) for more info on the space age-sounding ingredients.

Soft Chocolate Gel with Chocolate Soil

chocolate gel

by Sam Mason

The gel is magically creamy and solid at the same time. A topping that resembles crushed Oreo cookies provides a textural contrast. If you really want to walk on the wild side, sprinkle the top with salted pumpkin seeds. I’m not a fan of salty chocolate, but Mason believes that dessert should border on savory.

For the gel:

530 g cream
500 g 64% chocolate, chopped into small pieces
120 g sugar
600 ml water
1.6 g locust bean gum
1.6 g kappa carrageenan

Scald the cream and pour it over the chocolate and sugar. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In another bowl, add the water, locust bean gum and carrageenan. Use a hand blender to combine thoroughly. Boil the mixture.

Whisk the hot gel and chocolate mixture together. Pour it into an 8″x8″ pan lined with plastic. Refrigerate for at least two hours to set.

For the soil:

250 g sugar
250 g almond flour (very finely ground blanched almonds)
150 g all-purpose flour
102 g cocoa (can substitute coffee or freeze-dried corn powder)
5 g salt
125 g butter, melted

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Then stir in the melted butter and till the mixture looks mealy. Bake in a greased or parchment-lined 12″x8″ pan (also known as a half-sheet size pan) in a preheated 300 F oven for 15 min.

For the chocolate oil:

100 g dark chocolate
100 ml oil
15 g cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and oil over low heat. Stir in the cocoa.

For the garnish:

Deep-fried or toasted pumpkin seeds
Salt to taste

To assemble:

Slice a piece of gel that’s 2 1/2″ x 1″ large and about 1/3″ thick. Sprinkle the top with chocolate soil, pumpkin seeds and a couple grains of salt. Garnish the edges with chocolate oil.

Bitter Chocolate Consomme with Butternut Squash Gel

chocolate consomme with butternut squash jelly

by Sam Mason

Chocolate consomme is chocolate-flavored water that has had its solids removed, resulting in a clear drink. Whisked egg whites draw up the “impurities.” After long simmering, the eggs whites are scooped away and the end product can be sipped like tea or used as a base for translucent sorbet.

clear chocolate consomme

For the consomme:

6 L water
1 kg chocolate
60 g cocoa
650 g egg whites
65 g cacao nibs

In a large pot (allow for at least 2″ of head space, or the mixture will boil over), whisk the water, chocolate and cocoa over low heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cacao nibs till frothy. Temper the whites by pouring a little of the hot chocolate mixture over the egg whites and whisk vigorously. Add the egg white mixture into the pot and heat it so it’s just hot enough to hold your finger in there, and it barely bubbles around the edges.

Sam Mason about to boil over the consomme

simmering chocolate consomme

The egg whites will set and bring impurities to the surface. Continue cooking for 2 hours. Strain through a cheese cloth or coffee filter. Then ladle off any remaining fat.

For the butternut squash gel:

600 g water
200 g rum
3.8 g low acyl gellan
5.7 g high acyl gellan
1620 g squash puree (Roast a squash in the oven and sweeten with maple syrup and cinnamon to taste)

Add all the ingredients except the puree in a pot. Use a handblender to mix thoroughly and boil. It will get really thick and then become more liquidy again. Then add the squash puree. Pour the mixture into an 8″x8″ pan lined with plastic. Refrigerate for at least two hours to set.

For the garnish:

Toasted hazelnuts
Fresh taragon

To assemble:

Invert the squash gel onto a cutting board and cut into 3/4″-cubes.

Sam Mason slicing the jelly

Place in a small bowl and ladle in 1/4 cup of the consomme. Garnish with a hazelnut and sprig of taragon.

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11 Comments »

  1. Yvo said,

    Ooh… chocolate… drool. Looks fantastic!! Thanks for the recipes!

    October 30, 2006 at 4:34 pm

  2. Kelli said,

    All of these were amazing. I’m glad to see someone experimenting and actually coming up with something that tastes good! Thanks for the recipes Jessica. I was trying to follow along and write down each one, but it was all happening too fast.

    November 7, 2006 at 9:24 am

  3. Yummie dummieS said,

    Hello! R those ingredients easily available?

    November 10, 2006 at 2:23 am

  4. Jessica said,

    Hi Yummie Dummies, you can’t get the ingredients in a regular supermarket, but lepicerie.com sells them and foodite.com lists more resources. Agar is cheaper in Chinese and Japanese supermarkets.

    November 10, 2006 at 11:20 am

  5. krisner te said,

    sam mason rocks! ur the newest addition to rockin chef!

    October 28, 2007 at 6:38 pm

  6. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Krisner, yes, he’s a genius. Have you tried Tailor? I’m not a huge fan of the salty-sweet combo, but I’m curious.

    November 2, 2007 at 4:17 pm

  7. Jeffje said,

    old post, i know, but do you recall if the soft chocolate contained kappa carrageenan or iota?

    July 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

  8. krisner te said,

    dessert outstanding! tattooed in our mind! (“,)

    January 26, 2009 at 3:49 am

  9. John said,

    In the Chocolate gel, which type of carageenan is used…iota, kappa, or a mix of both?

    January 6, 2011 at 2:46 pm

  10. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    John, it should be kappa carrageenan, according to Eat Foo and jeffje. I corrected the recipe. Thanks for pointing it out!

    January 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm

  11. John said,

    Thanks so much for your answer!
    Time to get crackin’

    January 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

1 Links to this post

  1. Conceitual: Consommé Chocolate & Infusã de Coco — Prato Fundo

    […] Como nunca havia feito consommé de chocolate, utilizei como base de proporçã a receita descrita por Jessica Su no texto Mason of Chocolate. […]

    September 4, 2009 at 6:25 am

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