All About Beta 5 Chocolate’s Addictive Cream Puffs
A dessert that is somehow light and airy yet rich and satisfying at the same time, cream puffs are one of the finest pastries in the world. While the classic version is made with vanilla cream filling, it’s a versatile pastry that can be paired with nearly any flavour filling and topping – sweet or savoury.
When you’re talking about cream puffs in Vancouver, Beta5 Chocolates is THE brand that every person thinks of immediately. Although they started their business with chocolates, their cream puffs have become a crowd favourite for its delicate and sweet taste and inventive flavours.
Can you tell us about yourself and Beta 5 Chocolates?
[Adam]: So my name’s Adam Chandler, I’m the owner and executive pastry chef of Beta 5 Chocolates. Beta 5 is a concept that we developed back in 2011, opened October 2011. Started initially just selling chocolate. My background is sort of in all aspects of the foodservice industry from production bakeries, through to five-star hotels in the pastry kitchen.
The name is derived from the cocoa butter crystal structure, so cocoa butter’s a special fat, it’s considered to be a polymorphic fat that can crystallize in a number of different forms and the form 5 beta crystal structure is the most stable form of crystallization that gives the chocolate its shine and the snap when you break it open.
I kind of connected with chocolate initially through the science of it, that’s how I got comfortable working with it. So wanted to reference some of that science in the name when were conceptualizing the brand.
Creampuffs are now synonymous with Beta 5. How and why did you start making creampuffs?
[Adam]: Chocolate is a very seasonal business. When we first started we were open one day a week. It was just myself and my wife. We needed something that I could do a fair amount of production on my own and supply the store, but in going through one full year of operation we noticed the sort of ebbs and flows of the business and felt like we needed something to stabilize things throughout the year. With my background being much more broad than just chocolate, we figure that there were a lot of other opportunity that we could to, to leverage, to create a product that might have more consistent demand throughout the year.
Cupcakes were sort of a big thing at the time, I’ve never been into cupcakes, never been into macaroons really, wanted to do something a little bit different but we felt the cream puff was … it was a fun approachable dessert but it also gave us a lot of opportunity for creativity. We could do a lot with flavor, do a lot with sort of design and garnish, and so we just thought it was something different that wasn’t really being done anywhere in Vancouver to any great extent. So when we first launched them there were, I think, six flavors. We also were going croissants and cookies and it was just sort of testing a bunch of different things to see what would kind of stick.
Eventually it was the cream puffs that stuck for us, they were easy to manage from a production perspective, really well received by the customers. We managed to stabilize the business a little bit more with them, so we kind of went for it and went all-in on the cream puff.
“Pastry is nice in that it gives you the creative outlet but also it’s a very precise sort of field or craft, kind of different from cooking in that sense where cooking you’re just seasoning to taste, here we can’t add butter or sugar or flour to taste. They’re all very specifically calibrated recipes to make sure that we get the final result that we’re looking for.
So it’s nice in that it gives me the opportunity for creative outlet but also the numbers side of things as well comes into play. ”
— ADAM CHANDLER, BETA 5 CHOCOLATES
How would you describe a GREAT creampuff?
[Adam]: I think it’s got to be fresh. I think it has to be made the same day. It’s such a simple thing but it’s all about the textures, right?
You want to maintain a relatively crisp shell, nice soft creamy fillings. We try to play with two or three different textures, at least, in each cream puff, just makes it a little bit more interesting to eat. So you’re not just having this cream puff shell and then it’s full of cream, it’s sort of a very one dimensional kind of experience.
If we can get something sort of light and airy like a whipped cream, something a little bit more dense like a custard, and then maybe some cake in there as well to go against the crisp texture of the shell, it’s now becoming something that’s a lot more interesting to eat than the more basic version.
Can you tell me about the Variations of Chocolate creampuff?
[Adam]: When we were initially developing the menu, there’s always sort of like key flavors that you want to include to cover all of your bases, right? Vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and then some fruit options.
The chocolate cream puff has been on the menu in some way shape or form since the very beginning, six years ago. The one that we do now, the Variations of Chocolate has kind of evolved over the last three years to what its become. We wanted to do something that was sort of showcasing a variety of different flavours and textures of chocolate.
We have the chocolate shoe that’s flavoured with cocoa powder, we’ve got the cocoa nib custard which is basically just a cream that’s been infused with cocoa nibs so you keep that sort of creamier or ivory coloured custard that tastes really intensely of cocoa. It’s kind of like a bit of a trick in that you’ve got this white cream that tastes like chocolate mould.
Then there’s the chocolate cake, then the chocolate mousse, the chocolate glaze, the pieces of chocolate as a garnish. We really wanted to explore every- all of the different flavours and textures that we could potentially include in referencing the chocolate. So that’s why we call it Variations of Chocolate.
It’s not just, this is our dark chocolate cream puff, this is us playing with a bunch of different types of chocolate and component parts of chocolate, the cocoa and cocoa nibs to create something that we feel is a little bit more unique, a little bit more interesting to eat than something that would just be straight chocolate.
“It’s not just, this is our dark chocolate cream puff, this is us playing with a bunch of different types of chocolate and component parts of chocolate…”
— ADAM CHANDLER, BETA 5 CHOCOLATES
Beta 5 is quite known for your creative flavours. Like the recent Mango Bubble Tea cruffin. Tell me about how you come up with these.
[Adam]: Cream puffs, we’ve always changed flavors seasonally. The mango bubble tea thing started with ice cream socials. I don’t remember how we got to it, but being in Vancouver we’re surrounded by great food from a number of different cultures. A lot of it coming from Asia, so we’re very influenced by that, especially being on the Pacific Coast.
Just seeing what was sort of going on in the city and eating ourselves and those are the sort of flavours that I go for when I’m wanting to eat out. It just seemed like a fun thing to try, making a sundae with a mango sorbet, a milk tea ice cream, a couple of pieces of toasted milk bread that are buttered and covered with condensed milk, and then some bubble tea pearls. It was just sort of like an idea that we had that we thought would be fun.
The first day we sold it we sold out super quick. We had no idea it was gonna be as popular as it was. And it’s just been something that we’ve gone and tried to iterate on in a number of different ways. We’ve done a mango bubble tea cream puff that comes back periodically depending on the season. We did a similar flavour profile for a chocolate, we do the ice cream sundaes.
A lot of it is just playing and trying new things and seeing interesting stuff going on in the city from a food perspective, recognizing the cultural influences that surround us, and then trying to create something that feels very unique to Vancouver.
I guess it’s kind of of fusion sort of idea where we’re taking things from different cultures and blending them together to make them feel like something that’s unique to us here. I guess that’s where a lot of it comes from.
Sometimes we decide that we want to tell a specific story and we’ll go down that path and try to explore all of the different flavour opportunities in telling that story. So there’s a bunch of different ways that we kind of come at it.