Chocolate fans, expect to hear the name Barry Johnson a lot in the future. Barry, previously principal chocolatier at the mould breaking Rococo Chocolate and part of the Michelin Star winning brigade at the upmarket country house hotel Coworth Park in Berkshire, England is a well known name within his industry, and he’s is about to go mainstream. He came to the public’s attention a year or so ago when two of his Rococo products, a Mandarin and Tonka Caramel, and Dark Caramel Bar won gold medals at the International Chocolate Awards. He’s now Chocolate lecturer (what a job title!) at the UK’s National Bakery School, which is now part of London’s South Bank University in London, and this week he and the School hosted the International Chocolate Awards advanced judging rounds.
Here, a group of chefs, writers, critics and enthusiasts with a passion for chocolate and serious palates gathered to judge some of the world’s best chocolates. One of these judges, author of the Great British Bake Off’s ‘Bake it Better’ chocolate book (available from Amazon and all good bookshops) Cat Black is blessed with a serious palate, says Barry, “is one to watch as a future star. He has a great appreciation of how to make a great chocolate and how to use it within his cooking”. Later this year Barry is launching a couple of products onto the market, so expect some interesting new flavours and texture combinations soon.
Anyway, I spent a day as a judge for the awards (the professionals spent seven days tasting and judging) and bumped into Barry during a break between tasting white chocolate bars with ones with ganache.
When I met him, he had just finished teaching a class of students the intricacies of making caramel from scratch, a vital skill for any pastry chef and home cook.
Here, Barry kindly shares some of the secrets of making great caramel without the horrors of over cooking, burning or creating a lumpen mess in the bottom of saucepan. Creating good caramel requires vigilance and patience to avoid the liquid recrystallising or burning, says Barry.
Listen to Barry’s words of caramelised wisdom!