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Chocolate: A beautiful ode to the Woman

Seasoned culinary hand & Head Product Development, ITC, Chef Harpawan Kapoor talks about how chocolate continues to be the most feminine of ingredients

As told to Madhulika Dash

Think Chocolate and it is obvious to think of a woman. Call it marketing gimmick that has layered our imagination or chocolate's reputation as an "aphrodisiac" and the ultimate gastronomic hedonism, when it comes to describing the AZTEC discovery we see it as an ingredient that personifies feminism – and indulge it too.

In many ways, Chocolate does embody quite a few qualities of the modern-day women.

And no one will be able to tell you this like a chocolatier chef, whose work in a day revolves around understanding and working with the many moods of what has been described as the Food Of Gods. Chocolate, even in its unpalatable (its bitter to coffee) natural state, is one moody ingredient. Much like his other bean cousin (coffee), chocolate too plays to the tunes of nature and can be very different in character. In fact, each bean harvested comes with its defined character and needs a seasoned mind and hand to mould it into objects of absolute pleasure.

But this column isn't about the various nuances of Chocolate, now is a guide into the real world of chocolate that is made of cocoa solid and natural butter; this piece is about my journey as the head of product development with ITC exploring one of the ingredients that taught me much about patience, perseverance and the need to constantly work on to create masterpieces of indulgences.

Unlike most chocolate makers, as a member of the team that created and revolutionised the luxury chocolate space in India, my association with chocolate is one that has been much like the story of Benjamin Button. Yes, in spite an ardent love for desserts, I had to walk the path of first working with compound chocolates before I could graduate to single origin, artisanal bars on one hand, and from simple chocolate to one that had complex layers and textures. It was most of the times a mind-blowing experience, much like one would have while watching Charlie in The Chocolate Factory.

Working with chocolate needs the focus of a horologists –every single step needs a good amount of listening, understanding and cajoling to get the desired result. And yet for a produce that in one moment seems so fragile and temperamental, pairs stunningly with ingredients that are both bold, overpowering and fragile. Who could have thought that it could take the intense cooking of a mole before Mexican nuns created and popularised it. Or even come in a hue different from the signature velvet like brown shade till Barry Callebaut created its fourth chocolate offering called the Ruby Chocolate. Made from naturally-occurring Ruby hued cocoa beans, this new version of chocolate has a distinct berry flavour – and almost redefines everything that we know about chocolates and its nature. As the first Indian chocolate company to have full access to this new artisanal variety, it challenged and showcased different ways chocolate could be played around with and a creation could be nurtured.

The only other experience that perhaps comes close to the experience where first you are stunned then thrown in this vortex of surprises before being bedazzled with the creation has been the making of the historic Gianduja.

After spending nearly two decades in the culinary world and dedicating a lot of those years trying to understand the mysteries of chocolate, I have come to believe that Chocolate is the most feminine of ingredients in many ways. It behaves in the most mysterious ways, it needs tobe carefully nurtured right from the bean (harvesting) to the bar. It is delicate, sensitive and needs careful handling, and yet when you give it all, it is perhaps the best indulgence you have.