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Guest Chef Demonstration with Erik Van Der Veken

Belgian Chocolatier-Patissier, Erik Van der Veken hosted a guest chef demonstration on 'Understanding Ganache’ at Le Cordon Bleu London.

Since studying Culinary Arts in Antwerp, Erik has held positions as Head Chocolatier at the iconic 5 star Hotel Café Royal and Marc Patisserie in London. Erik then moved to the Middle East, where he held the position of Executive Pastry Chef, tasked to launch the first branch of a chain of chocolate and pastry shops to open throughout the Gulf region. After successfully launching the new chain, Cacao Barry also rewarded him with acceptance into the exclusive Chocolate Ambassadors Club.

Currently, Erik manages his time between global consultancy work and his role as pastry chef and demonstrator for Redmond Fine Foods. He has built a reputation for his extensive technical knowledge and skills which have resulted in companies from London and as far as East Asia constantly seeking him out for recipe development, product demonstrations and staff training.

Erik showcased three vegan bonbons to illustrate that a vegan bonbon can taste the same as the traditional dairy-based bonbon, provided the correct balance of ingredients is used. In this vegan recipe, no dairy is used as he swaps cream for water and butter for olive oil. The great thing about a water-based ganache is that the water always hits your palette first, making it quite interesting to play with. 

In his recipes, Erik plays around with different types of sugar because each has its own benefits. For example, using caster sugar in a syrup will crystalise in just 6 days, but adding glucose will help prevent it from losing its form. For the source of fat that is required so that the ganache has a creamy texture, he mainly uses cocoa butter but it is equally interesting to play around with different fats, such as oil vs butter.

Erik's first dish was a Pecan Volcano bonbon, made with a pecan praline and ganache filling. Erik used a blender as he finds that whisking by hand does not give the mix as good of an emulsion as the friction created by hand can add air to the ganache. At this point, he called two members of the audience to help him with his fillings.

Mexique is used to form the top layer of the bonbon; the mexique spice is Erik's signature ingredient which he discovered while working in Saudi Arabia. He enjoyed the flavours of their cuisine and wanted to capture the taste of the region in his chocolates.

For the tropical vegan ganache, he used a synthetic wax (man-made beeswax). In one pan Erik heated heated coconut puree, coconut milk powder, salt, glucose and sorbitol, while also heating melted chocolate in a separate pan until both were at 40°C. He poured the mixture over the chocolate, inverted sugar, hazelnut oil and coconut oil and emulsified. Crystalised cocoa butter was then added before leaving the whole mix to cool to 30°C.

Lastly, Erik created a coconut crumble ganache using almond flour, roasted desiccated coconut, coconut milk powder, water, sugar, salt and maltose. Adding all ingredients to a blender, he also made a crumble for the coating, which can easily be used as a crumble for other desserts. He then added cocoa butter and cocoa to the mix before spreading out onto a tray and baking it for 30 minutes at 130°C.

To close the evening, all guests were invited to taste all three bonbons. The end result? They could barely tell the difference between vegan and dairy-based bonbons!

You can read more about Erik Van Der Veken on his blog at Arcane Chocolate.

To see other guest chef demonstrations like this one, visit our culinary conferences and cooking demonstrations page. Or to learn skills like those demonstrated by Erik Van Der Veken, why not browse our programmes and courses?