Thursday, December 20, 2007

Notes While Dipping the Whites

I am a hard core, dark, bittersweet chocolate loving man. I have always pooh-poohed the whole white chocolate thing. I only developed this recipe because the people who are into white chocolate are so into it. Usually people who claim milk chocolate can be shamed into trying the real thing and they get hooked right away.

The difference in this batch to all the others is the Tahitian Vanilla. The flavor literally explodes into your mouth. But, listen to this from the man who made the vanilla possible Maheanuu Tane:

The Vanilla comes from the Island of Raiatea, and was grown, harvested, and dried by my daughter's father in law. For those out there who do not know about vanilla, it is the seed pod of an Orchid (V. tahitensis). The work is very intensive as each flower must be married (hand pollenated). Absolutely no insecticides, or chemicals of any kind are used in the growing and care of the plants. When the beans are ripe, they have changed from a dark green to a lighter lime green with black blotches on the skin. At this time the beans are picked and wrapped in muslin to be laid out in the sun during the day and watched constantly. Each evening every bean is massaged to break down the walls of the pod and allow the oil to mix well in the bean pod. They are kept dry and warm during the ripening and drying process and the air is heavy with the wonderful smell of vanilla. When I said that it was work intensive, I mean it. The vines flower over the period of a couple of weeks and during that time they must be hand pollenated individually within the first 5 days or you will not have a set from that flower. All of the older Tahitians where I live are very capable of pollenating several thousand flowers a day, while I kill more flowers than I pollenate.

Here's what happens in your mouth when you eat these. First with the straight whites you simply get a big jump of flavor that will even radiate up into your sinuses with the orchid's redolent and voluptuous aroma. It's the same sensation as when you are eating a perfectly made horseradish sauce, except without the pain. It's a big, huge, beautiful flavor.

Moving to the white gingers, you get the very same explosive vanilla shot, but it is followed by first a hint, then a whisper, then a statement of the ginger. The ginger eases into the flavor experience and then finishes it decisively.

If you thought that both strength and complexity were enough for one mouth to experience, you were wrong. The way that the raspberry whites work is the same but reversed. Here, the first flavor that jumps is the delicate twinge of the raspberry. Softened, as if in a bowl of clotted irish cream. Then, subtly building the vanilla comes on. The vanilla is the final taste, and aftertaste here.




Anonymous constant comment said...

I am a long-time lover of the white chocolate (like the bittersweet stuff, as well!) and look forward to the Tahitian vanilla and ginger varieties. You should be receiving more order soon. Mouth-watering!

2:35 PM  
Anonymous constant comment said...

god, I can't type any more--time to go home. I meant "my order," but then, you knew that...

2:36 PM  
Anonymous tata said...

If you thought that both strength and complexity were enough for one mouth to experience, you were wrong.

Oh great. Where do I get a spare mouth?

6:46 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

my god, you make it sound sensual.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

my god, you make it sound sensual.

To a foody, excellent food is precisely so! :-)

If I recall correctly, this orchid is not native to Tahiti, but Madagascar. That the orchids require hand pollination tends to confirm my recollection. I suspect in Madagascar the orchid is naturally pollinated by an insect (such as a moth), although it's highly possible that commercial plots of vanilla orchids in Madagascar may also require hand pollination to guarantee maximum production.

I love that you call the itty-bitty seeds in the pods "caviar"! That's perfectly apt!

Another one of the interesting things about this orchid (to me) is that it's a vining orchid, with a long, flexible stem that weaves its way among other more rigid plants, helping themselves as all vines do to the efforts other plants make to get up into the sunlight. Most of the orchids a gardener encounters just don't grow this way at all. They either grow in the ground like "normal" low growing flowering plants, or they grow epiphytically (ie., up in the air on tree trunks and branches, using a few, thick roots to hold fast and relying on the rain of the rain forest to wash to them what they need in the way of water and nutrients).

(Oh - from the previous post - "sloppage" is not a word (probably "spillage" is the closest actual word), but I agree with you about how it ought to be one!)

12:10 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...


my god, you make it sound sensual

yep, it is. and oddjob is absolutely correct. the very fine foods are incredibly sensual in the making and the consuming. one of the reasons i love to bake is the way the dough feels in my hands as it's being worked, also the smell of the yeast action is something that i think that all humans are affected by. with the chocolate there is a feel and sight, and smell experience. i love each step of the process. watching them go from raw ingredients to the small works of art is gratifying.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

I used to hate prep work in the kitchen, now I find it soothing. I like making sure that the meal is colorful, that all the flavors complement each other and a really good meal makes you close your eyes when that first taste hits the buds.

If my fork starts conducting music, I know it's really good.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Maheanuu Tane said...

Mine arrived today. Everything was in perfect shape. I cut one of the vanilla ones into quarters and gave a piece to everyone that was here. It was better than any chocolate they had ever tasted. We're gonna wait for Xmas to divvy out more, but they aren't all going to be eaten over the holidays. I am going to savor a few of these puppies later on when I need something worth savoring to keep me from wobbling off the end of the world.

Thanks MB, for all your time, effort, love and patience, that went into the making of these rare treats.

Fair Winds, and Following Seas!

Bravo Zulu

4:17 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

have a wonderful holiday.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

I'm hoping mine get here before Christmas :(

4:26 PM  

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