Every so often a special type of person comes along, a visionary you might say, a dreamer, who sees the world not for what it is, but for what it could be. Whose vision for the world, while it isn’t heaven, nudges us just a little closer to it. One of those people is French food scientist Hervé This (pronounced TEECE). His vision? Making just about everything we eat a chocolate of one kind or another.
His idea is spelled out in a chapter on laminated doughs in his legendary book Molecular Gastronomy. Chocoholic that he is, he looks at the laminating process and wonders: what if I could substitute chocolate for the butter? Then I could add cocoa to the flour dough and have a chocolate-on-chocolate laminated masterpiece!
A nice dream, but there’s a problem: chocolate doesn’t spread at room temperature. Unlike butter, which is composed of a semi-firm combination of fat crystals, fat globules and “free” fats, chocolate’s fat (cocoa butter) is almost entirely made up of hard, crystalline molecules. That makes chocolate a tough customer from the standpoint of spreadability, since the substance as a whole tends to stay quite firm up until about 85 or 90 degrees.
But what if we got rid of the cocoa butter and blended the chocolate solids with some kind of semi-firm neutral oil? Then we’d have a spreadable chocolate that could be used in place of butter in every single type of pastry application: puff pastry, croissants, pie crusts, short crusts, cakes, brioche, cream puff dough (paté choux), the sky’s the limit!
But then why stop there? Why not do the same thing with cream? We could have deep, all-chocolate (not just chocolate flavored) Bavarian cream, ice creams, creme Anglaise, even “whipped cream” on coffee made entirely of chocolate! Exactly why this hasn’t happened yet, Mr. This did not explain in his book. I presume it’s because he passed out before he could finish the paragraph.