Future of Belgian chocolate is assured
At the end of September 2017, Belgian chocolate and chocolate makers were again in the spotlight at the Belgium Chocolate Awards. Bruno Van Vaerenbergh was there as a member of the jury and saw that it was good. What’s more, not only did it look good, but it tasted delicious, despite some technical imperfections here and there. Read his report here.
The Belgium Chocolate Awards. Where better to stage this event than in Bruges, the ultimate ‘chocolate city’? This ever-growing competition, held this year for the sixth time, is now part of a three-day Chocolate Summit, an international seminar with guest speakers and demonstrations. During this chocolate summit, Jurgen Koens and Ramon Morató shared new techniques and insights, factory visits were organised and Bruges chocolate makers opened up their workshops. In short, there was lots to see.
2017 Belgium Chocolate Awards: the assignment
For the Belgium Chocolate Awards competition, fifty-one submissions in three categories were weighed up and above all tasted by an international jury of specialists from the sweet world of chocolate makers and pastry chefs. The assignment was to design a commercial praline with Belgian chocolate. For some this was perhaps a commonplace task. That was noticeable in some instances when the proper technique was not always used to carry out the assignment: carelessly sealed bottoms, fillings not fully crystallized, forms moulded or coated overly thick. Jury members are extremely sensitive to such things, which often cost valuable points. One striking finding was that the average standard of trainee chocolate makers comes perilously close to that of the professional submissions. One can only conclude that the future for the Belgian chocolate culture is assured!
“One striking finding was that the average standard of trainee chocolate makers comes perilously close to that of the professional submissions”
Belgium Chocolate Awards: the competition
Above all, a praline should taste delicious, proof of pure craftsmanship. The correct balance between exterior and filling, the right taste combinations and textures make the difference between an excellent praline and a competition praline.
Combinations with tea, beer, herbs and exotic fruit always do well. No tastes that raised eyebrows or flashy colours this year. Proof that this competition has grown up. The new category, 'filled chocolate bars' was created to embrace the snacking trend.
Chocolate is hip. By embracing this trend, as a chocolate maker you can stand out from the supermarkets and pick up a share of the commercial market.
Belgium Chocolate Awards: the winners
The best praline 2017
- Fien Oosthuyse with 'Fassion’. A combination of home-grown basil (from her grandfather) with a mango, passion fruit and orange jelly. Along with a ganache of homemade praliné using pecan nuts, cocoa nibs and sea salt. Fien graduated from the Ter Groene Poorte bakery college (Bruges) last year and now works at Marc Ducobu in Waterloo (Relais&Desserts).
- Pol Deschepper with ‘Choculation’. Comprising a balsamic jelly, a crunchy base of chia seeds and a spicy ganache. Coated with 40% milk chocolate.
- Olivier Willems with 'Poppolou Rocks'. A praline with North Sea beer, caramel with red berries and acai juice, roasted and caramelised cocoa nibs and a ganache of Poppolou beer. With a hint of fleur de sel.
Best student / training
Alex Verelst (PIVA Antwerp) with ‘Pisco Sour'. Comprising three fillings: marshmallow with lime zest, mango jelly with lime, banana ganache with Pisco. Vintage decor.
Best filled chocolate bar
We were enticed by chocolate workshop Vyverman's energy bar coated with milk chocolate, filled with slightly salted, crunchy peanut praliné, a layer of dark chocolate with caramelized popcorn and caramel. The striking look and finish made this energy bar into a luxury product.
Chocolate wizard Ramon Morató shared a few techniques during this Chocolate Summit. Get to know him better in this interview.