The fine art of chocolate

Welcome to chocolate heaven! Out here not only will you find the most beautifully designed pastries – literally like art works with colourful flourishes, but one can only marvel at the sheer exoticness of the chocolates. La Folie Du Chocolat, a tiny patisserie in the bylanes of Kala Ghoda, Mumbai offers chocolate bonbons in flavours like the Japanese inspired ‘Oishi’ with togarashi spice and ‘Bali’ with a vegan coconut caramel to the quintessentially traditional ‘Rochers a la maison’ that are delicately caramelized truffles. Made from the finest grand cru chocolate, the pastries include favourites like the Criollo, the Millefuille and Baba Au Rhum along with a naked tea cake of chocolate avocado ganache for vegans to a pure Spanish Marcona almond cream for those with gluten allergy.

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Drool firmly in check, I caught up with chef Sanjana Patel to find out more about the inspiration and artistry behind these divine creations…

Your desserts are designed like a work of art. How do you go about designing each and deciding how they should look?

I am an ardent fan of design and new art trends. Sometimes the flavours and ingredients talk to me, and I’m always tasting ingredients individually to understand their flavour profile and to use that as a starting point to build on new concoctions and pairings. Post this, I look at ways to represent them in different textures and presentations – something that stems from French savoir faire and also inspirational architectural designs not done before in pastry.

For the current collection a lot of inspiration was taken from freestyle art and lineation. Lines of geometry were a starting point and classic shapes were introduced throughout the products and packaging.

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Which pastry chef/chocolatier has been an inspiration for you?

Oh my God! This is a tricky question…there are so many that inspire me. But the most important person to influence my work has been Christophe Michalak. I worked with him for the longest time in Plaza Athene in Paris and he has a certain artistic quirk in representing his pastries. He has a sense of humor and elegance in his work, and his textures are sublime. He is definitely a pastry god that every young chef looks up to!

For the chocolates, it’s always been Chef Patrick Roger. He is a chocolate wizard and real sculptor of this art form. He talks to his audience through his chocolate installations and his boxes of chocolates and single origin bars will truly satisfy any connoisseur.

Which is your favourite dessert from the lot and which was the hardest to make?

There are two that are actually dear to me – Citron and the Oishi bonbon. The entremet Citron because it’s really difficult to pair chocolate with lemons/olive oil and herbs. It took a lot of experiments for me to make sure that the pronounce notes of lemons/olive oil and herbs come through with white chocolate being the canvas. The citron, for me, needs to be a burst in the mouth and be wow, while the secondary notes of basil and confit yuzu come in and the customer is left with an aftertaste of zesty sweetness and lightness due to olive oil.

Oishi was a tough bonbon to execute as the umame flavours of togarashi japanese spices mostly used in a tempura broth had to be balanced with the acidity of the passion fruit to combine the two worlds of flavours. I used the technique of making a gastrique and caramelizing the same.

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You have a range of sugar-free chocolates. What do you use as a substitute to sugar?

The best part is to use nothing – it’s good by itself. You can use beetroot juice or litchi juice and apple juice or banana puree to flavour cake bases and chocolates alike. The after-taste is a little raw, but I think I like it.

(La Folie Du Chocolat, No. 16, Commerce House, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai; +91 22 22672686/9167762379)

By Farhad J. Dadyburjor, Mumbai

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