Making fresh chocolates without artificial preservatives

By Tom Grant 18th April 2015

Recipes

The argument for flavour versus shelf life

One of the philosophies we have embraced at Nicky Grant Chocolate is to not use artificial preservatives and additives in our fresh chocolates. Indeed the term fresh chocolate is often used to describe those truffles filled with ganaches, caramels, jellies and pralines that contain just the raw ingredients. So for example when we make our ganaches we will simply use fresh whipping cream (or some other water based liquid such as raspberry puree) with chocolate, perhaps some quality butter and of course whatever flavour combination we decide to bring in. In our lime and chilli cut ganache chocolate we will infuse them both in whipping cream before straining the cream into the chocolate to make the ganache.

It is our strongest belief that by keeping preservatives out of the recipe, the purity and fullness of the fillings flavour and with that the chocolate it is coated in, is truly realised.

By adding man-made preservatives such as invert sugars or many of the manufactured sugars such as glucose syrup or Sorbitol, the flavour of the filling tends to become much sweeter and at times artificial tasting. There is also a case for the texture and mouth feel of the chocolate being compromised too.

There are obvious benefits from a business point of view for adding preservatives and in fact a lot of chocolate producers will use additives to ensure that their products have the longest possible shelf life to optimise their saleability. They might also use UHT cream. The percentages and “recipe” of the preservatives combined will determine its shelf life. If you come across a box of chocolates that has a shelf life of 6 months then the flavour of the filling is likely to as far removed from itself as possible. There is a also a high chance that methods have been used with these chocolates to prevent migration of the filling outwards and into the chocolate coating usually by coating the inside of the outer chocolate shell with a sugar based product.

From our point of view though, as Chocolatiers, one needs to appreciate the chocolate used in the fresh chocolate first. We will only use Origin or Plantation specific chocolates from Peru, Trinidad and Venezuela to name a few. Then, as the flavour of the filling is realised, it should not be overpowering, one flavour should not undermine another, they should work well together.

Overuse of sweeteners and preservatives compromises and interrupts the anticipated flavour and mouth feel of the ganache or filling. Since we tend to use chocolates that are at the higher end of the market it almost seems a shame to excessively sweeten them.

We do use natural preservatives but only if the recipe calls for it. For example, if we are producing a Christmas Pudding Truffle, the use of brandy and rum is essential to produce the same flavourings as the real thing. Alcohol helps to protract the best before of a fresh chocolate. Similarly, honey, which is a natural invert syrup and used to flavour our raspberry truffle and honey and cinnamon truffle, will improve shelf life.

As standard, our assorted fresh chocolate box has a two week shelf life on it. Some of the chocolates in the box do have a much longer use by on them but we have to go with those chocolates which are more likely to spoil sooner and base our best before on them. In any case, we believe that a freshly made chocolate without preservatives is best enjoyed within a few weeks and that we have noticed the flavour and mouth feel degrading thereafter.