Donna Toscana Chocolates

One of the most luscious combinations of flavors and textures I have had the joy of experiencing recently is Donna Toscana’s Lychee Wasabi Truffle with Black Sesame Seeds. Diane Pinder, the creative chocolatier behind these delights, blends lychee (a fruit high in vitamin C and minerals), heavy cream, and real wasabi. This delicate balance of exotic fruit and warmth is mixed with white chocolate to create the soft center, which is then enrobed in 60% Callebaut dark chocolate. A sprinkle of roasted black sesame seeds completes the piece with a naturally nutty finish. Just as in music, where a few strategically placed staccato notes take the whole composition to wonderful unchartered realms, these little roasted sesame seeds, with their tiny crunch, escalate a truffle from great to extraordinary.

Inspired by flavors of Tuscany, Diane creates unusual combinations that work. Her balsamic caramel allows the vinegar’s complexity to enhance the carmel’s light sweetness. Her olive oil and sea salt is an unusual duo that focuses on the oil’s richness cut with just the right amount of salt. The balsamic truffle is different from the balsamic caramel, but has the same flattering juxtaposition of flavors. This time, a dark ganache takes it up a notch with earthy balsamic notes. Lemon basil and espresso lemon are two more examples of her creativity. There are currently 12 flavors in the line including blood orange, banana, and chestnut nutmeg, all of which sound very tempting.

I also sampled a dark bar covered with shards of lovely, super-brittle toffee and candied pistachios. This is unlike anything I have had before. A 1/4″ thick slab of crisply tempered 60% dark Callebaut chocolate is scattered with fairly large chunks of crystalline toffee and toffee-encased whole pistachios. If you like a hearty ratio of chocolate to crunchy topping, this is for you. It’s almost the opposite of your typical chocolate covered nut toffee where chocolate is the supporting actor, and toffee the star.

Diane Pinder is definitely a chocolatier to watch.

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