Though humans have been enjoying cocoa for thousands of years, there is still so much about it that we have yet to learn. Every time we think we know all there is to know about cocoa, this incredible plant surprises us with a whole new realm of culinary possibility. Sure, new trends push cocoa’s limits and clever confectionery artists find new applications for one of the world’s most beloved ingredients, but it’s not often when there’s an entirely new discovery in the world
The last big chocolate innovation was in 1936 when Swiss chocolatiers at Nestlé developed the world’s first white chocolate. Since then, the world only knew about three types of naturally occurring chocolate; dark chocolate and milk chocolate which are derived from cocoa solids, and white chocolate which is made from cocoa butter. But in 2017, Barry Callebaut introduced a fourth kind of chocolate; ruby chocolate.
“It’s a color occurring in nature,” says chef Martin Diez, Director of Chef Services at Barry Callebaut, Americas. Chocolate researchers at Barry Callebaut have pushed cocoa beyond its previous limits, producing a new chocolate with a unique color and flavor profile. Ruby chocolate has a rich pink hue, smooth, creamy texture, and a fruity acidic taste, and it’s achieved these qualities without any additives. It’s not white chocolate with strawberry aroma mixed in and it’s not dyed with any artificial coloring. “It’s a celebration of nature,” says Diez. “They use a unique process to get the ruby color from the cocoa bean, and then they translate that into a chocolate.” Diez explains that the process to identify the ruby cocoa beans, cultivate those cocoa plants in environments where they thrive, and make the ruby chocolate took more than seven years of research and development.
How Barry Callebaut makes ruby chocolate is a trade secret. According to the New York Times, the cocoa beans they use come from Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory coast. Genetically speaking, the product comes from a cocoa species the world has already been using for the other kinds of known chocolates. It’s the unique process they’ve developed that brings out the bean’s naturally pink color and sweet, tart flavor.
“As a chef, this is a once in a lifetime event where there’s a new ingredient,” says Diez. When Diez was first introduced to the ruby chocolate he said it was like rediscovering an old ingredient you’re familiar with, but you’re presented with the rare opportunity to explore all new possibilities.
“Who doesn’t love a new ingredient,” says pastry chef Charles Niedermyer of Famous 4th Street Cookie, located in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market and on Ridge Avenue. “It’s been over 80 years since there’s been any big breakthrough in chocolate. And then suddenly, you’ve got a fourth chocolate and a fourth flavor profile to work with.”
Niedermyer has over 25 years of experience baking under his belt and two years ago he brought his expertise and creativity to Famous 4th Street Cookie. He and the team work together to develop new and exciting cookies and this year they’ve added ruby chocolate to the mix with their Ruby Chocolate Cherry cookie. Compared to white chocolate, Niedermyer says ruby chocolate is a little bit on the sweeter side, but its natural acidity balances that sweetness, which makes pairing this chocolate with tart cherries a delightful flavor combination. “With ruby chocolate, you can do everything from candy making to decorative work to baking,” says Niedermyer, “so I knew it would be a great offering for Famous 4th Street Cookie.”
Both Niedermyer and Diez say ruby chocolate is a versatile ingredient that not only pairs with a wide range of foods, it can be applied in numerous ways. Barry Callebaut’s rollout of ruby chocolate took Diez to markets throughout Asia and Europe where he got to observe how chefs around the world used the new product. One of Diez’s favorite ruby chocolate applications was inspired by his trip to Japan where he experienced sea salted Sakura blossoms from Japanese cherry trees. “It’s very flowery. It’s very fresh and with the sea salt and a bit of ruby chocolate it’s a symphony of flavor.”
But you don’t have to be a master chocolatier to come up with your own confectionery creations. Diez says ruby chocolate goes perfectly with fruits, berries, nuts and even spices. You can even simply replace other chocolate with ruby chocolate. When Diez gave some ruby chocolates to his friend’s children, they started using ruby chocolate to make s’mores. “Just explore it, experience it for yourself, and make it your way,” says Diez.
To Niedermyer, the best way to enjoy ruby chocolate is to share it with those you care about. “Baking is as much about the experiences going on around you as it is about the product,” says Niedermyer. “That’s what actually makes baked goods so memorable. Food is the canvas, but the paint is the people and the experiences – that’s what brings the food to life.”