Gail Ambrosius: Chocolate Pralines, Wafers, and Caramels

There are certain chocolates I feel blessed to eat, and Gail Ambrosius’ are on that list. Her Caramels sprinkled with grey salt and Madagascar vanilla are perfectly chewy, and coated in just the right amount of dark couverture. A go-to creation when you are craving something rich and satisfying.

The Parisian Praline Collection, housed in their lovely, unique 80% cacao leaf box (made from the leaves and bean shells of cacao grown on Hugo Hermelink’s plantation in Costa Rica), includes the following: Pecan, Pistachio Bomb, Hazelnut and Orange Almond. Each is finely tempered and encases a truly ambrosial center. Their names are incredibly simplistic, considering the sophistication of their flavors and textures. For example, “orange almond” has crushed candied almond and marzipan with chopped orange peel. In addition to the slight tang of citrus and dual almond presences, Gail adds some warm spices that take the whole thing solidly into chocolate nirvana. Frankly, I would suggest Sanskrit names for each of these pralines. I’m calling this little gem Ananda, for pure bliss.

The next up is simply “hazelnut.” A shell of Columbian dark chocolate enrobes a center of hazelnut butter, milk chocolate, and crushed, lightly sugared, buckwheat crepes that add a wonderful light crunch. My Sanskrit name for this is Mangala. It means luck, fortune, and prosperity, to remind you of your great good fortune at being able to eat such a delicacy.

I am trying to appreciate the beautiful simplicity in Gail’s naming the next divine chocolate exploration, “pecan,” but it does seem as if there’s some serious egoic back-pedaling going on here. This is another stunning ode to chocolate. Pecan butter, candied toasted pecans, applewood smoked sea salt, and a blend of milk and dark chocolates give you a plethora of flavors and textures at once: salt, sweet, nutty, smooth, crunchy, and finished with a soupçon of smokiness. This one I’m naming Mada for rapture or intoxication. It’s no stretch to call this chocolate intoxicating, as it transports you to another realm.

Gail’s “Pistachio Bomb” praline has a creamier center, but it’s a wild ride. Pistachio nut butter, lime zest, white chocolate, chili verde salt, and a whole toasted pistachio party hearty. A heady concoction if there ever was one, with heat, silkiness, crunch, and a fabulous dark chocolate shell. I renamed this one Tattva since it refers to the very essence of something. In this case each bite is the apotheosis of pistachio.

Pecan Smokies are small squares of Ecuadorean dark chocolate topped with toasted pecans that have been dredged in malty Ale Asylum wort, and topped with applewood-smoked sea salt. If, like me, you have no idea what “wort” is, it’s the unfermented or fermenting infusion of malt that after fermentation becomes beer or mash. Everything comes together, as it always does in Gail’s creations, to give you a new taste experience. There is subtilty and in-your-face-crunchiness; quite a feat.

Hazelnut Wafers have crushed, toasted hazelnuts on 70% Columbian dark chocolate. This may sound simple, but the result is pure magic.

Gail Ambrosius is a chocolate artist. She combines tastes, textures, and visuals (all the pralines are lovely to look at) to access all your senses. And, like the fourth movement of a Mozart symphony, everything comes together into a great crescendo of chocolate ecstasy. Brava!

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