These days, many chocolatiers spend a fortune on spectacular packaging. There are hand painted Japanese boxes, multi-tiered lunch tins, and lovely colored cardboard fantasies of all shapes and sizes, often festooned with elegant wired ribbon. I like the creativity, and can get practically delirious from all that beauty. However, beauty is as beauty does, as my father used to say. In the end, it’s the product that wows or disappoints; and, no amount of glitz eclipses poor chocolate. Luckily, most of these packages house high-end delectable goods. The downside is you pay dearly for all that glamour.
Some of my most favorite chocolates come in the plainest boxes; so, I was optimistic the moment I laid eyes on the unassuming, clear square box of truffles, adorned with a lovely ribbon, from Dean’s Sweets. Very Feng Shui. I could feel all that chocolate chi flowing, unobstructed, in my direction.
I became interested in Dean’s Sweets after reading about their unusual vegan Allagash Black Stout truffles. Dean, and his wife, Kristin, sent me a sample, as well as samples of seven other signature truffles, and a couple of salt caramels.
There are no artificial ingredients or preservatives. All the truffles are hand-dipped, giving them an artisan look, and have shells of varying thickness. For those of you for whom this matters, Dean’s Sweets is a nut-free facility. And if you’re a Maine locavore, they source many of their ingredients locally from Maine, including the phenomenal maple syrup.
The texture of all the centers was smooth, but not mushy. I like my truffles to have a little bite, so they don’t remind me of a cream center. These were nice and assertive.
The Allagash stout is delicious and complements the chocolate (56% on the interior, and 70% for the couverture). While I am usually not a fan of white chocolate, it is sublime in Dean’s maple truffle. Somehow, the maple stands out while not being overly sweet. That may be because it’s paired with a 70% exterior. Another big surprise, for me, was the scotch truffle. Scotch has never appealed to me, but here, I loved it. Ginger always floats my boat, and I was happy with Dean’s perfectly spicy rendition. The champagne was also infused in white chocolate, and it was my least favorite. Just too delicate. Their cayenne truffle was masterfully executed, the heat perfectly balanced with sweetness. The last on the list was orange. Either you love orange and chocolate or hate it. Luckily, I’m in the former category. This little gem provided a good citrus profile, and was very different from the others. Actually, one of the great pleasures of the entire assortment was the interesting combination of flavors. Each one so different from its neighbor. I also tried the salt caramels: chewy, nicely salted, and satisfying.
One more thing. I know there are purists out there who don’t like their truffles enrobed in chocolate. For them, there is Black Hound, and their own kitchen where they can make uncoated truffles lickety split from their favorite bar. To me, those truffles, as echt as they are, are less satisfying than the ones coated in good, dark chocolate. I miss the contrast of exterior and interior, as it makes for a more complex textural experience. Flavor-wise, the buff versions rolled in cocoa afford me the pleasure of tasting a great single origin chocolate combined with cream. Luckily, there are talented people out there providing a vast array of captivating wares.