Photos by Ivan Raga
Melissa Coppel has launched her first collection of chocolate bonbons, and we have taken the opportunity, at so good #23, to delve into some aspects of signature bonbonerie that have always characterized the career of this prestigious pastry chef of Colombian origin. In the pages of this issue, Coppel goes into detail about her way of working the spraying method, focusing on the techniques which provide the bonbons with the maximum gloss, and on the steps to achieve the best combinations of colors. And now we offer a fragment of this technical review. The visual impact of the finishes of her pieces is something that has always attracted the attention of others. However, she acknowledges, currently she is also very focused on the evolution of her fillings, because “today, the evolution of my work is also within the bonbons. Hence, I now pay more attention to the formulation, subtracting sugars in the crispy elements, gaining creaminess and flavor in the ganaches. How? Compensating the reduction of chocolate by cocoa butter.”
Based in Las Vegas, the Colombian chef is in charge of her own school, Melissa Coppel School. And in it, beyond having a training offer of varied themes with collaborators from around the world such as Andrés Lara, Ramon Morató and Frank Haasnoot, she pours her extensive experience in the world of chocolate in her courses.
the most important thing is to always work in the same way so that the day you change something, and something goes wrong you know where the error comes from
Melissa Coppel approaches the world of bonbon in a very different way. Although she is very methodical when it comes to obtaining the best gloss in the bonbon spray, she is much more transgressive and imaginative in the design of her pieces. When talking about gloss, Coppel is absolutely clear that “the most important thing is to always work in the same way so that the day you change something, and something goes wrong you know where the error comes from. When there are so many variations, for me personally the number one rule is to be very consistent, very methodical in the process”, she says. There are three very basic rules which one must adhere to in order to achieve the best results: the temperature in the workshop, the cleanliness and temperature of the molds and the tempering of cocoa butter.
it is avoided having color everywhere without rhyme nor reason. The result is bonbons with a ying and a yang, a harmony between a lot of color and very little color
You will find a further explanation of these rules inside the pages of so good #23.
In addition, “I only have one rule that is very clear: whenever I use a brush, sponge, or anything similar, and I want to draw a colored detail, the coloring I’m using has to have a very high color concentration”, she states a little later in the same review. She uses very intense food colorings because she wants the line or detail which she is painting to stand out a lot, but then, when she sprays, she looks for the opposite, that the color is diluted to the maximum. As a principle, she uses food coloring with a transparent cocoa butter base, and the color is given by chocolate. “Working this way, you get a contrast between the intensity of the detail and the color of the rest of the bonbon, obtaining more elegant decorations. Thus, it is avoided having color everywhere without rhyme nor reason. The result is bonbons with a ying and a yang, a harmony between a lot of color and very little color”, she argues. Not surprisingly, “when I’m adding coloring to the cocoa butter, I should always keep in mind what color the shell is going to be”, she says.
“I am extremely visual; I imagine the bonbons before making them. Feelings pass through me and depending on how I feel I design in a different way.”
But it is in obtaining the desired color of the spray where subjectivity begins, beyond the rules. ‘Also, when I mix colors, I don’t weigh the ingredients. I melt the transparent cocoa butter and pour it into a container. I gradually add coloring or melted colored cocoa butter. In doing so in a transparent container, I can see the light as it penetrates through the walls and I can see to what extent the tone is translucent’, she explains. And then she gives some more details about it, which you can find in her so good #23 contribution.
If in the technical part she is very methodical when it comes to achieving a perfect gloss, she is not so much in the design of the bonbons, in the combination of colors. “There has to be a space where creativity and energy flow in a slightly freer way. For this reason, I don’t have such specific guidelines”, she clarifies. “I am extremely visual; I imagine the bonbons before making them. Feelings pass through me and depending on how I feel I design in a different way. As a general rule, I always do things that I should not do. If the rule is that once you’ve sprayed the mold you can’t touch it, touch it to see what happens, and lift it to see how it moves”, she says. “In the process of designing a bonbon, I always try to play a little with ideas and try to be a bit naughty and not follow the rules so standardized on how things should supposedly be done”, she confesses.