Academy of Pastry Arts, Chocolate Making and Asia's Chocolate Prince

They say, there is no better cure for a day gone bad than the sweetness of chocolates. Maybe because of its' melt in your mouth goodness and how it's considered forbidden to health conscious Filipinos, and yet, they say, "what's forbidden is satisfying" right? Scientifically, chocolates contain certain chemicals such as anadamide, which means bliss. It has also been found that chocolates release endorphins to the body, and yes, endorphins make you happy. And so, The Academy of Pasty and Bakery Arts holds true to its' commitment to groom the best, “ready to perform” professionals, entering the industry and related fields by bringing in the best and the brightest in both pastry and chocolate making. I say that because recently, the Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts  brought in twenty-seven year old Chef Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo. From his humble beginnings at a small bakery in Malaysia and 10 years of experience in pastry and baking for various prominent hotels under the mentorship of the industry's Master Chefs, catapulted Chef Lawrence into being Asia's Chocolate Prince. 

His recently won title, Coupe de la du Monde de Patisserie (World Pastry Cup 2015 Lyon) held in France is another feather added to the prince's hat. He will be teaching Filipinos techniques in chocolate-making at Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts. Last September 4th, Chef Lawrence gave some pointers about the nitty gritty of making chocolates. 

Chef Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo

Seeds of Happiness - this is how Chef Lawrence likes to call chocolates. 

Chocolate, he shares, is derived from the humble cacao beans of the Theobroma cacao tree that grows in places near the Equator. These seeds of happiness are covered with white pulp and grow inside a pod-like fruit.

Before the Europeans knew of its existence when the Spanish conquered Mexico in the 16th Century, chocolate was a cold bitter beverage mixed of roasted, ground and foamed cocoa called by South American Aztecs as xocolatl or bitter water.

In the middle of the 19th century, English Joseph Fry produced the first solid chocolate that we know today. In 1875, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter gave the world milk chocolate by adding condensed milk to it.

So how is chocolate made? According to him, chocolate undergoes a complex process before it turns into the heavenly food we are all familiar with. It all begins with cocoa farmers cracking open the pods, scooping out the seeds, and eventually fermenting and drying them.

These beans are shipped to factories, where they undergo cleaning, roasting and grounding into a paste called chocolate liquor.  Through manufacturers chocolate-making pass a lengthy process that include pressing, rolling, mixing with sugar and other ingredients, and heating and cooling to yield a delicious chocolate we’ve come to love.

Hmmm....interesting facts huh? But wait, there's more!

Here are some of the yummy sweetness
 made by Chef Lawrence.

Selecting a chocolate

There are two categories of chocolate: real and compound. Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, an expensive substance extracted from cocoa or cacao beans.  Its distinct nature requires it to undergo a special procedure during the melting process called tempering. Compound chocolate, on the other hand, contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. It’s affordable and easier to use than real chocolate.

According to Chef Lawrence, there are three main types of chocolates: dark chocolate, which mainly contains cocoa bean mass, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin and vanillin to enhance the flavor; milk chocolate, wherein a part of the dry components of the cocoa are substituted with milk components; and white chocolate, which undergoes the same process as dark and milk chocolate but does not make use of cocoa bean mass or powder.

Among the three, he prefers to use dark chocolate, especially during competitions because it has the “taste of real chocolate”. He also prefers to use Belgian chocolate such as the Callebaut. “In choosing a chocolate, what’s important are the taste and the texture,” he explains. Chocolate's taste and texture though are products of a variety of cacao trees, where it was grown, and how it was processed (fermented, dried, roasted, and tempered). 

Although, he said, the type of chocolate that one should serve must depend on the occasion.

On the other, Chef Lawrence shares how to work with real chocolates:

  • When handling chocolate do not let it come in contact with water while melting. Water droplets will cause it to turn hard or lumpy.
  • Keep track of its temperature to avoid over-heating. Otherwise, it will ruin the taste and texture of the final output, which is the reason why he keeps a thermometer while melting the chocolate in indirect heat or in short intervals in a microwave.
  • Understand the relationship between temperature and crystallization.
  • Even a small amount of moisture from steam or a damp spoon can contaminate chocolate and change its thickness.
  • Do not use a wooden spoon to stir chocolate, because it retains odor and moisture, which will destroy the chocolate.
  • A good quality chocolate is dark brown, glossy, and makes a satisfying snap when broken.
  • Poor quality chocolate is lighter in color, matte, and will crumble when broken instead of snapping.
  • Tempering is the most critical part of making chocolate. Mistempered chocolate will exhibit an unsightly white coating called fat bloom.

So, where can we all find happiness that we can create with our own hands? Enroll at the Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts and learn how to make chocolates like the masterpieces made by Chef Lawrence!

Here's more of what Chef Lawrence achieved in his career:

Chef Lawrence is a graduate of Food Science and Technology and Bakery in Taiwan. He has worked in various prominent hotels in Malaysia such as One World Hotel, Renaissance Hotel, Hotel Maya and Impiana KLCC Hotel.

He has an impressive credential that includes gold medals in chocolate showpiece categories in the Culinaire Singapore Food and Hospitality Asia 2012 and Culinaire Singapore Food and Hospitality Asia 2013.

Chef Lawrence is one of the many Master Chefs from across the world, who are teaching at The Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts Philippines. For the schedule of short and full-time courses, visit our website or contact the Academy at 0917-2039089 or 0947-7558979.

Rolled Into One Mom

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