The custom chocolate paradise
Oriol Balaguer does not live in a chocolate factory, nor does he have a team of umpa lumpas, nor does he wear a hat, frock coat and a cane. But there is something of Willy Wonka in this Catalan pastry chef, who like the character of Roal Dahl unites fantasy with technology in almost all his projects. In his new place in Barcelona's Born, La Xocolateria, Balaguer raises two simple, attractive and, in some ways, quite wonkianas: let the client intervene in the creation of their own sweets and propose the elaboration at the moment of them as a show.
The most striking thing about the establishment's offer is the customizable chocolate tablets. As a base, milk or black chocolate, and from there, about 40 ingredients to choose from as nuts, fresh and dehydrated fruits, spices, salt, pepper or chopped biscuit. The piece only takes about 10 minutes to make, thanks to a machine that keeps chocolate at work temperature (30 degrees) and a blasting machine that hardens it once it has passed to the mold. The tablet is delivered to the customer first wrapped in fine gold foil, and then in a cardboard box. "Identical to those of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", says Balaguer, 43, with a glutton boy's smile.
This whim, not too cheap - from € 8.90 - is only a small part of the festival of dietary abandonment that you can stick in La Xocolateria. The star is chocolate with churros, for which multiple varieties are also offered: a cup, you can order it from bitter, white or dulce de leche chocolate, and in a less dense plan, such as hot chocolate of 64, 70 or 80% cocoa. The churro itself is not tuneable (why get creative with something that is already perfect?), But the quality of the liquid in which you wet it is several galaxies away from what is served in many chocolate shops.
Balaguer tells me that there are people who find so much intensity of flavor strange, accustomed to chocolate to the cup of cocoa and cornstarch of a lifetime. Maybe the same thing happens with bread or milk: we have been so drowsy by industrial substitutes for so long that when we tasted the real ones we were a little bit stung. But the confectioner is optimistic about the average knowledge about the main raw material of his work: "In the last 15 years there has been a brutal change. There is more training for professionals, more courses for fans, and more restlessness. The client knows more and it tells you about percentages, origins or mixtures. With chocolate it has happened as with wine. "
In parallel to this greater information, the chocolate public demands less and less sweet products. "There is more demand than ever for chocolates with 70% cocoa up. With those percentages you get a magical and round chocolate. Nor do you have to go through the other side: pure cocoa is so bitter that no one takes it ".
The 'toppings' and the chocolate fountain. / THE COMMISSIONER
The Xocolateria is also ice cream shop. Like everything here, customizable: to ice cream you can put the toppings that you want - so much novelty, you will say, they do it in about 100,000 ice cream parlors in Spain - but the ingredients, sauces and the different ice creams are mixed before the client on a cold surface called cold stone -That is not so seen, huh cleats? -, which Balaguer defines as "an iron teppanyaki but freezing. "" The one who does it has a good time, and the client enjoys the visual spectacle. "
Chocolate lollipops made at the moment, stratospheric croissants - winners of the best prize in Spain in 2014 -, crepes and waffles complete the menu of this custom sweet paradise. "In Spain there is no waffle tradition, there will only be three points where you eat well," says Balaguer, who has not stopped until he has achieved the perfect mass for the squared vice. "I am from a town in Tarragona, Calafell (Tarragona), where my aunt had two small stores in her house. In the early eighties, when I was little, I rented one to a Belgian who set up a shop and a waffle maker I have in my memory the smell of the fermenting dough, the taste, the texture, the sugar beads inside ... I ate a lot, even the empacho. "
Teppanyaki ice cream and invention to hold the chocolate with churros with one hand. / THE COMMISSIONER
As has happened in the kitchen, the world of chocolate has benefited from the technical advances and the greater scientific curiosity of its professionals. "For example, we can now do things like chocolate with the texture of the coal of Reyes. In conservation there have been many changes: recently there have been some pills that absorb oxygen and, used in vacuum bags, allow the total stabilization of chocolate ".
Since we talk about conservation, what do you think of a man whose chocolates are sold in the world, and who has stores in Madrid, Barcelona and Reus, about putting tablets and chocolates in the fridge? "It is best to have a wine fridge at about 15 degrees: you have to maintain a stable temperature, without sudden changes that alter fats and sugars. If you do not have it, then in winter at room temperature, and in summer, if not there is air conditioning, in a tightly closed taper inside the fridge, remembering that you have to take it out half an hour before eating it. "
Before leaving the premises, I ask Balaguer what the perfect chocolate tablet would be for him. Against the exuberance of options in your business, confess to prefer the shortage of ingredients. "One of 70% cocoa chocolate and salt flakes. Or maybe I would put some tremendous pieces of butter and almond biscuit, which with chocolate are wonderful. In the end I always go to 'less is more."