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The farmers were the first to launch the alarming prediction: in just a few years the world could run out of cocoa, with reserves already at a worryingly low level. A piece of news whose strong media impact was quickly put into perspective but which will not be totally devoid of consequences for those with a sweet-tooth: while it cannot be said that we are actually facing a “cocoa crisis”, climate change and new consumer patterns are nevertheless affecting the production of many important ingredients used in the preparation of confectionery and cakes.
So, what will tomorrow’s cakes and pastries be like? We have tried to find out by effecting a general overview, from new ingredients to flour, comprising new techniques and, of course, chocolate.
The praline of the future
At London’s latest edition of Future Fest, food futurologist Morgan Gaye and the pluri-awarded mâitre chocolatier Paul A. Young declared that sweets in general are evolving. In what way? To start with, we may witness a more frugal use of chocolate, followed by the appearance of some bizarre combinations such as chocolates filled with tomato, dandelion or burdock.
And that’s not all: the actual composition of the filling could change too… no longer a cream but a powder (turnip and dehydrated mandarin for instance) which, when in contact with the palate, turns into a velvety textured ganache. The Gaye-Young duo has christened these innovative delights Thirst Globes.
Farewell theobroma, or maybe not!
We get the message: cocoa will not disappear but it will certainly change. “ The same process will also involve other fruits we are exploiting excessively, especially the more fragile varieties – explains Gabriele Bozio, Italian pastry chef – in the case of chocolate, some hardier cultivars are emerging which will enable us to go on enjoying cocoa”. In the meantime, pastry-makers have also been busy experimenting.
By using carob flour, for instance, which was indicated by Ernst Knam as a possible substitute for cocoa when, following the reserve scare, he was frequently asked to imagine cocoa-free cakes and pralines. He came up with the innovative idea of a praline like a delicious ingot made of 0% cocoa - 100% carob. Naturally carob differs in many ways from cocoa, starting from the fact that it contains no fats so these must be added to obtain the soft consistency we all love.
And what about flour types?
Alongside the increasingly popular wholemeal flours, the qualities of baobab and coconut fibres are also making themselves known. These are the so-called white fibres which, as well as being gluten-free and retaining an excellent level of fibre content, do not give the end-product that roughness typical of unrefined flour. Another novelty is that of hempseed flour which does however require a few more precautions: since it is highly aromatic with rather strong grassy and plant notes, it has to be dosed with care, by mixing it with ‘sweeter’ flours like that of maize.
Then, there is coffee flour which, in actual fact, contains nothing but the dried and ground pulp of coffee berries. Its flavour is an amazing blend of citrusy, floral and roasted notes. It is agreeable to the palate and gluten-free and has paved the way to many new concoctions. Dominique Ansel, the pastry chef behind the Cronut for instance, has tested its versatility in a Caramel Cardamom Coffee Cake.
Last but not least... fermentation
Well-known as far back as antiquity, it now transpires from the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress that fermentation has made its way into the top 14 trends of 2016, so much so that "Fermentation and pastry have gotten comfortably in bed together".
Some examples? The Juni in New York has presented a leavened concoction of chocolate and fermented oats, at the Cafe Juanita of Kirkland, in Washington state, an innovative shio koji ice-cream is on the menu, while the Little Goat Diner of Chicago has gone as far as presenting a miso-butterscotch pudding.