David Ralph and his partner Jin Sun Kim run Kakawa, one of Sydney’s best chocolate shops. Like any good chocolatier, the one ingredient Ralph fundamentally relies on is cacao. There’s a few different suppliers he rates but his number one pick for both home cooking and for the kitchen at Kakawa has always been Valrhona. “The quality of the bean is the number one thing.”
A good cacao will also fundamentally change the texture and length of flavour in the chocolate, this will also translate to whatever cake, tart, truffle or ganache you’re using it in, he says. “Valrhona generally is really smooth, it's got such a good finish on the palate. You never have the grainy texture.”
Ralph and Kim use a lot of single-origin cacao at Kakawa. “We use a lot of stuff from the Caribbean, Madagascar and Venezuela. We find the Madagascan Valrhona among the top in the world,” Ralph says. He warns against using it at home as single origins can add a lot of floral, fruit or even sour flavours and aromas not usually associated with chocolate. “If you're already adding really strong flavours I wouldn't recommend single origins. It's about balance. You want to bring out the flavour of your ingredient but also the chocolate. You don't want it to fight for attention.”
The exception to the rule is if you’re making a purely chocolate dessert like a ganache, bon bon, mousse or truffle, something where the distinct flavours of the bean will come through.