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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Gourmet Secrets by Karen Anand: Star of the chocolate world

Chocolatier Zeba Kohli shares some of the best kept trade secrets...

brunch Updated: Jun 12, 2019 17:16 IST
Karen Anand
Karen Anand
Hindustan Times
Zeba Kohli’s chocolate business called Fantasie offers an amazing array of top quality products
Zeba Kohli’s chocolate business called Fantasie offers an amazing array of top quality products

I met Zeba Kohli over 30 years ago. Unbelievable! I was looking for interesting food stories for my food and travel show for Star TV called the Good Food Guide. Zeba was a breath of fresh air, unlike many of the stuffy self- conscious chefs I had come across. She was warm and welcoming and even let us shoot in her home in addition to her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory store at Good Housekeeping in Charni Road, Mumbai. She had no secrets and nothing up her sleeves.

Sweet gestures

She shared recipes freely and was clearly on the road to becoming a star of the chocolate world. She already had an established chocolate business called Fantasie, started by her grandmother, which she chose to continue. Sometimes a family business can be a hindrance, sometimes they can help. In this case, I think it was a bit of both. She had stores in the best locations all over Mumbai, but the products were stuck in a bit of a time warp with brightly wrapped confection and old fashioned packaging.

Zeba recently did a chocolate workshop at one of our markets and I witnessed a huge transformation from bland to bewildering. Fantasie’s new avatar is international-style artisan products now branded as Fantasie by Zeba Kohli – an amazing array of top quality products that quite frankly stunned me; a 70 per cent chocolate bar, a ruby and white chocolate and the most amazing brownies I have ever tasted. Many of the new chocolates have delicious new fillings like sea salt and caramel, chilli and praline as well as a range of no added sugar and, the most amazing truffles.

WATCH | Gourmet secrets with Karen Anand: Meet Zeba Kohli, star of the chocolate world

I for one am not bringing back chocolates from abroad any more. Absolutely no need! At long last she now also has a successful TV show on Zee Living Foodz called Gimme Chocolate as well as three books under her belt with some easy-to-make chocolate dessert recipes.

(From left) Zeba Kohli, Karen Anand and her mother at the National Portrait Gallery, London for the launch of Zerbanoo Gifford’s book Confessions to a Serial Womaniser where both Zeba and Karen are featured
(From left) Zeba Kohli, Karen Anand and her mother at the National Portrait Gallery, London for the launch of Zerbanoo Gifford’s book Confessions to a Serial Womaniser where both Zeba and Karen are featured

Sugar coated

Here are a few facts on chocolate, which will make a daily bite of chocolate a permitted treat in your diet:

-Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet, more than blueberries and acai berries.

-Studies show that dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease.

- Remember, a lot of the chocolate on the market is not healthy so choose quality – dark chocolate with 70 per cent or higher cocoa content.

-Dark chocolates typically contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate the less sugar it will contain.

Zeba Kohli’s tips for working with chocolate (taken from her book Chocolate)

Be selective about sourcing raw material when working with chocolate
Be selective about sourcing raw material when working with chocolate ( Shutterstock )

1.Be very selective about sourcing raw material. Nuts should be in good condition and covering chocolate should be smooth and aromatic. Economy should not be the only criterion for buying something.

2.Hygiene and temperature control of the environment should be of paramount importance while working with chocolate.

3.The product should be tempered and cooled perfectly in order to ensure a good-looking product.

4.Finished chocolates should be perfectly wrapped and stored in airtight containers to ensure shelf life and avoid contamination.

5.Water and heat are the arch enemies of chocolate. Exposure to water will cause fungus to grow and heat will cause fat or crystallisation on the surface known as sugar and cocoa bloom

6.Since warmth and moisture are its two main enemies, chocolate should always be stored in a dry, cool room , protected from sunlight, maintained at 15° to 18°C with relative humidity at 55 to 64 per cent

7.While making truffles, it is advisable to work in an air conditioned room to avoid the truffle mixture from melting and becoming sticky when hand rolled into balls and dipped in covering chocolate.

8.Covering chocolate is mainly available in three categories – milk, bitter (dark) and white, within which you may get options of extra dark, extra creamy sugar-free, organic and single origin. These can be purchased in bars or in chips from wholesalers or retail stores.

9. Chocolate tempering is an important process to make a shiny smooth chocolate with a good bite. Chocolate can be melted in a melting pan or in a bain-marie, a vessel kept over a basin of hot water at approximately 45 °C to 50°C. Dark chocolate is to be brought down to 27 – 28°C and gently warmed back t 31-32°C. Milk chocolate can be warmed up to 45° C and should be brought down to 26 -27°C and warmed back up to 28-29° C. White chocolate can be warmed up to 45° C and brought down to 25 – 26°C and then warmed back up to 27°C.

This seems laborious but is absolutely necessary for those interested in serious chocolate making.

Zeba’s Brownie Ultimatum

Brownie  Ultimatum
Brownie Ultimatum

Ingredients (makes 25 – 30 )

200g butter
50g cocoa powder
400g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 cup almonds, walnuts and pistachios, shelled
6 eggs
300g brown sugar
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g flour (maida) or for gluten free brownies, 120g of any nut flour (like almond etc.)
150g any toffee chocolate you like, chopped into chunks


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter a rectangular cake pan. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl set over boiling water. In another bowl, mix together with a spatula the melted chocolate, brown sugar, butter, olive oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Toss in the assorted nuts and broken chunks of white chocolate and the chunks of toffee chocolate. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until a firm crust forms but the inside is still meltingly soft and gooey. Cooking time depends on the size of your pan. If your pan is large with a depth of one inch then the cooking time should be around 30 minutes. If your pan is smaller with a depth of two inches or more, your cooking time should be approximately 40 minutes. Cool in the pan and then cut into generous squares.

Culinary expert and explorer Karen Anand has been writing extensively on the subject of food and wine for 30 years. Apart from having her own brand of gourmet food products, she has anchored top rated TV shows, run a successful chain of food stores, founded the hugely successful Farmers Markets, and worked as restaurant consultant for international projects, among other things. Her latest passion is food tours, a totally curated experience which Karen herself accompanies, the first of which was to Italy.

This is a fortnightly column. The next edition will appear on June 23 .

From HT Brunch, June 9, 2019

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First Published: Jun 08, 2019 20:50 IST

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