I came across a recipe for Nama Choco in my favorite chocolate book “Cooking with Chocolate” while I was working my way through too much chocolate all in the name of study. (What I was studying were the effects of chocolate on my mood during the long cold winter months. My conclusion; more doctor’s offices should dispense chocolate pills.)
The book is a compilation of information and recipes from many brilliant pastry chefs and goes into great detail about chocolate and the techniques for handling chocolate. Chef Christophe Adam has a interesting section in the book on new trends. (Including a recipe for Cod with a Green tea Bearnaise and Smoked Milk Chocolate Sauce!) One of the things I find so fascinating about about the pastry world is the connection between France and Japan. Many very respected French Pastry chefs have opened boutiques or schools in Japan, an excellent example being Pierre Herme’s 11 boutiques all over Japan, and Valrhona’s Ecole du Grand Chocolat in Tokyo. This liaison works the other way around as well, most notable is Japanese pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki who has been doing amazing work in Paris; just thinking of his matcha opera cake (opéra au thé vert) and tarte citron is causing a Pavlovian response from me. It’s such a natural marriage of two cultures, with the techniques and history of French pastry combined with the delicate meticulous touch of Japanese craftsmanship and delightful produce from the varying regions of Japan to create some very traditional and some Asian inspired pastries.
The original recipe from Christophe Adam is for a Soy Milk Nama Choco dusted with a golden colored sugar. Nama Choco or Nama Chocolate is a meltingly soft chocolate cream infusion or ganache that’s popular in Japan and has been brought to the rest of the world (often as gift items) by a sweet little company called Royce Chocolates. (They also make the most addictive chocolate covered potato chips.) Since Royce has a number of shops around Asia and has opened the first store just recently here in New York, the Nama Chocolate term has become more popular. If you haven’t experienced these chocolates yet don’t worry, they’re fairly easy to make at home. The secret to the beautiful texture is the extreme use of cream, the chocolate is hyper infused with cream until it looks as if it won’t be able to take any more. With this large amount of cream it’s also an amazing medium to first infuse the cream with different flavors of course then the end result is a flavored chocolate.
I played with the idea and recipe until I came up with a few recipes that delight me to no end. Infusing Thai chili and chocolate seems to be a huge trend now and is obviously a winner for this Thai girl. (Ok half Thai, but being from two cultures means I get to choose whenever the situation suits me.) Making a salted caramel with the cream changes the texture and adds a little more bite to the finished chocolate which I adore but requires a little more concentration during the mixing process therefore stepping up the difficulty level to a medium as opposed to the recipe I’ve listed below which if I were to make up a ranking system would be firmly in the ‘child’s play’ level. With the measurements as is, there is no end to the flavor combinations of Nama Choco, think of it more like the interior of a chocolate bonbon or truffle without the complication of tempering the chocolate for the exterior shell; the flavor infusions are endless. The resulting texture is so soft, luscious and fine; the flavors can be tweaked to suit your own needs or palate but I’ve found that the more delicate flavors balance that soft refined texture lends an air of sophistication without giving away a hint at how easy it was to make.
For the recipe below I used Boléro, a beautiful tea from the French company Mariage Frères. It’s a black tea blend with notes of spring and summer fruit like berries and peaches; once I opened the little muslin bags, I was surprised to find cornflower and marigold petals like what I’ve seen in some earl grey blends.
Tea Infused Nama Chocolate
- ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp cream (organic heavy cream)
- 2 Mariage Frères tea bags (opened and used as loose tea)
- ¾ tsp honey
- 80g chocolate
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder for dusting
Heat cream in a pot until small bubbles appear around the edges or under 170˚F if you happen to, like me, be interested in the details.
Add opened tea bags or 1½ tbsp of loose leaf tea to hot cream
Agitate or stir and let sit for ten minutes
While the cream is steeping prepare the mould – line a shallow, flat bottom, heat proof container with plastic wrap, smoothing out any wrinkles.
Next melt chocolate until almost completely melted. (approx 80% melted)
Add honey and salt
Strain cream tea mix through a very fine sieve into a glass pouring jug
With jug in one hand and spatula in the other, pour and mix at the same time. Continue stirring until completely homogenized and no streaks of chocolate remain while being careful not to beat in any air.
Pour into prepared mould and smooth over the top with an offset spatula.
Chill overnight or for 8 hours in the fridge.
Once set remove from the cling film, slice very small rectangles or squares with a very sharp knife and dust with cocoa powder.
*The high cream content makes these bonbons vulnerable to heat, keep refrigerated
* The honey helps with the shelf life of these chocolates but it’s still advised to consume within 24 hours
*I did try steeping the tea in the tea bags but I found the flavor was much more saturated when the tea was let loose to really mingle with the cream