Category Archives: Artisanal chocolate

Lakrids Licorice with Chocolate

We all have a few strange food combinations we love. I used to adore peanut butter with sliced avocado and Sriracha, for example.

Similarly, the concept of black licorice with chocolate may seem a bit unlikely, but it works. I just sampled three different varieties of this combination from a Denmark confectionary called Lakrids.

Johan Bülow, the founder of Lakrids, always knew he wanted to create something original and delicious. He thought since Scandinavians have traditionally loved licorice, he would start with that. Together with production manager Tage, Johan developed the idea to coat the licorice with chocolate. They were told that it couldn’t be done…always an incentive for creative souls. By 2007 Johan was rolling out chocolate coated licorice.

To me, Johan’s concept of using licorice as a spice, like anise in five spice Chinese dishes, is quite ground breaking. That it works is even more exciting.

My favorite of the three I sampled was the dark with coffee. It was the least sweet and offered a trove of textures: chewy, crunchy, creamy; and flavors: mocha (the classic mix of coffee and chocolate) licorice, and 63% dark milk chocolate. The crunch came from tiny bits of ground coffee. Just fabulous. One orb was incredibly satisfying.

His Milk chocolate flavor is a bit misleading, as Johan uses a 63% dark milk to coat the licorice centers. I think it’s an excellent choice as the addition of milk adds a lovely rich flavor and velvety texture that makes the chewiness of the licorice really dance with the chocolate.

White chocolate infused with passion fruit was the sweetest of the three, though the white chocolate here is a 51% with vanilla, so it’s a much more complex animal. Creamy yet fully capable of awakening my taste buds with the juxtaposition of slightly acidic passion fruit and anise flavors. A very dessert-like treat.

There are many other flavors available, like salt and caramel, red currant, habanero, sea buckthorn, vanilla mango, and strawberry and cream. You can be sure Johan is devising new delights as I write this.

If you know a chocophile who is always looking to try a new rendition of their favorite food, this would make a great gift.

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Potomac Chocolate

Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase used in legal parlance to mean the thing speaks for itself. Potomac’s chocolate bars truly speak for themselves, each in its own chocolate lexicon.

Ben Rasmussen, Potomac’s founder, is a truly gifted chocolatier. I first reviewed his bars in 2011. I loved them then and I’m even more smitten now. Each has its own personality, yet you could do a seamless tasting with any or all of them.

The beans must be in chocolate heaven as Ben has managed to deftly coax them into beautifully tempered, silky textured, bars. Each has a charming little school of fish etched on its surface, with one little straggler trying to catch up from the bottom. So whimsical, poetic and enchanting.

Packaging is important to me and these reclosable envelopes ensure freshness, even after opening, while keeping all the little fishies safe and sound.

The Duarte bar, 70%, made with Dominican Republic beans is luxurious in every way. Its velvety texture releases beautifully balanced fruity flavors with low acidity. This allowed me to concentrate on the more subtle nuances of this eminently addictive chocolate.

The 70% San Martin bar from Peruvian beans melts a bit more slowly, sports a slightly dryer finish and has an edgier vibe of banana, raisin and berries.

Tumaco, 70%, is a limited release from Colombia. I tasted dark fruits with floral notes in a texture of fudgy chocolate.

The above three bars are made with only two ingredients: beans and sugar. No vanilla to distract you from the beans releasing their true nature and personality.

The two milk bars I tried were as different as chalk and cheese. The 65% Dark Milk with Peruvian beans from San Martin has a distinctly caramel presence. The Toasted Milk, 49%, made with beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic, is creamier, even more redolent of caramel, with the added complexity of toasted whole milk powder.

Upala 85%, from Costa Rica is super rich, chocolaty, and earthy. Coffee and roasted nut flavors predominated.

The limited release 70% Peppermint bar is made with Doscher’s Old-Fashioned Peppermint Candy Canes. (Doscher’s has been making these candy canes using the same recipe and equipment since they opened in 1871.) I adored this perfectly balanced bar…a little sweetness, deep chocolate flavor and perky, crunchy bits of peppermint candy. Totally addictive.

70% Dark with Coconut was another favorite. This is a combination of beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic. Crunchy, chewy coconut was balanced by velvety textured chocolate.

The 70% with Sea Salt bar has a piquancy that points up the chocolate in a different way, highlighting the bean’s bright citrus notes. These beans are from the Amazonian highlands of San Martín, Peru.

Spice, 70%, with the same Dominican Republic beans as the Duarte bar, is spiced with cinnamon, sea salt, and aleppo chili pepper. A heady mix that simultaneously gives you warmth, spiciness, and that slightly salty edge. If you love Mexican hot chocolate this is for you.

Bread, 70%, made with those delicious Duarte bar beans, was unique and craveable. Ben uses his homemade, lightly toasted sourdough breadcrumbs to add a wonderful delicate crunch, and perks up the flavors with a hint of sea salt.

These are all the work of a very talented and creative soul. I could taste the love, creativity and attention to detail in each bite.

Cacao Hunters

 

Founded in Popayan, Colombia by Carlos Velasco, Cacao Hunters is a sustainable development project designed to support Colombian farmers and their families. Another part of their mission is finding, preserving and promoting the production of varieties of regional cocoas. Unlike many chocolate companies, the chocolate is made in Colombia, keeping all of the profits in the country of origin.

I sampled three dark bars and one dark milk.

Magdalena 71% had a very marked coffee presence for me with a crisp temper.

Perla Negra 74% had a creamier consistency, woody caramel notes and a slightly dry, yet lingering finish.

Arhuacos 72% , from a 500 year old bean, was my favorite of the three dark bars. Its slight tobacco flavor melded beautifully with velvety texture.

I loved their 2016 gold medal award winning 53% Tumaco Leche dark milk. An incredibly well-rounded mix of rich chocolate flavor with butterscotch undertones made this an incredibly delicious chocolate.

Moka Origins Chocolate

I wanted to share Moka Origins mission statement: “To create employment, heal the environment and reinvent the way consumers shop for chocolate and coffee. We strive for the betterment of farmers and their families around the world. By maintaining and investing into our own farm in Cameroon, and by uniting with farming partners around the world, we generate real social change.” I am 100% behind those values, which seem to be part of a larger trend in the craft chocolate bar community, and a welcome one. Of course, it helps when the chocolate is as delicious as these bars from Moka Origins. If you’re more deeply interested in their social impact you can view a beautiful short description here: https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact.

I sampled eight of their 3.5 ounce bars. New varieties appear regularly and can sell out quickly, like the Strawberry White Chocolate. I’m reviewing it anyway, just in case it comes back into rotation, or they offer another white chocolate bar. Typically, I avoid white chocolate and think of it as an oxymoron. Luckily, I like to be wrong. This pretty pink bar was studded with cocoa nibs adding a surprisingly wonderful and unexpected texture that riffed off the uber-creaminess of the strawberry infused chocolate.

The Toffee Almond Chocolate (70%) made with Camino Verde beans from Equador, was another revelation. I expected something cloyingly sweet. What I got was an extraordinarily complex experience of flavors, textures, and aromas all in a visually enticing bar. The topping was a tad sticky, but it appealed to the three year old inside me. The chocolate was beautifully tempered with a glossy finish and nice snap. This was the most adult rendition of these flavors I could imagine…actually, it was beyond my imaginings and quite crave worthy. Despite that, it’s not addictive. Two squares truly sated my desire.

Another stunner was their Cherry Chocolate (72%) with Zorzal Cacao from the Dominican Republic. The earthy, satisfying almost-heavy tasting chocolate was a perfect partner to sweet, slightly acidic chewy dried cherries. The more I ate this, the more aware I became of the cherry undertones in the chocolate itself.

Lemon Ginger (73%) with Brazilian beans, was an incredible combination of textures, tastes, and visual beauty. Also a tad sticky, like the Toffee Almond bar, it was generously strewn with bits of chewy ginger and lemon. Again, I was thrilled with the overall sweetness level of this bar as it was clearly made for people who don’t want a sugar rush. Both this bar and the Toffee rendition are amazingly desserty and feel like a huge treat.

Their 72% plain dark bar from Brazilian beans is rich, dense with chocolate flavor and has a slightly dry finish. It also comes in a rendition with blueberries adding some extra acidity and chewiness from the fresh tasting dried fruit.

Even though it has the same 72% cacao content as the Brazilian beans, the Sea Salt tastes very different. The salt is imbedded on the surface of the chocolate, which looks lovely, and adds a slight crunch, while making the bar more complex and astringent.

Last but not least, is their 70% Espresso with Camino Verde beans from Ecuador. Finely ground coffee, from Moka Origins, is sprinkled generously across the surface of the bar adding both textural interest and a hint of caffeine.

I enjoyed the whole range, though the standouts were the Toffee, Lemon Ginger, Cherry, and White Chocolate with Strawberry and Nibs.

They offer a chocolate of the month club where you can get two bars for $20 including shipping.

UPDATE:
Looking for a wonderful rendition of Peppermint Bark? Moka Origins has one they only offer before Christmas. It has a slab of their marvelous white chocolate topped with a layer of 70% dark and sprinkled liberally with pieces of peppermint candy. Each piece is a desert unto itself.

Gallette Chocolates

Gallette Chocolates was founded in São Paulo, Brazil by electrical engineer Gislaine Gallette. Her attention to detail, ethical sourcing, and sustainable business practices are all evident in the chocolate bars and truffles she crafts.

Each of the well tempered 100 gram bars are molded into a beautiful modernist design of 21 squares with bas relief edges.

40% Milk with Almonds scattered on the bottom is made with Trinitarian beans from Brazil. The chocolate itself is rich, creamy and velvety. You can also buy this in a plain version.

56% Dark Milk, also made with Trinitarian beans from Brazil, is a more adult version of the 40% Milk bar. A great choice for people who want a smooth dark bar without any acidity and plenty of plummy fruit flavor.

65% Fazenda Catongo is a satisfying deeply flavored bar with a slightly dry finish.

70% Forestero from the Amazon is the most complex of those I sampled. It has an earthy, chocolate flavor with a lovely smooth texture.

Elegant packaging makes this chocolate a wonderful gift.

Askanya Haitian Chocolate

I am going to focus my review of the actual chocolate from Askanya as the following link will take you to an excellent write-up of the company, its founders, their history, and vision: http://kreyolicious.com/askanya-haitian-chocolate-industry/24851.

I sampled four 55 gram bars, all of which had a fairly fudgey consistency. The colorful wrappers are beautifully designed, as is the company logo: a profile of a Haitian woman with a large flower in her hair. The bars themselves sport a beautiful curvilinear design in bas relief with a hibiscus in the center.

I don’t usually gravitate towards milk chocolate, but Askanya’s Paradis 47% dark milk was so redolent of caramel it beckoned me. Unlike many milk bars, a small square left me totally satisfied.

Their other milk offering, 50% Wanga Nègès, was completely different. More rustic texturally (though not like a stone ground bar), it lent itself to the deeper, richer, raisin and plummy notes of the bean.

Next up was their 60% Minuet dark bar. A good choice for people who might not think they like dark chocolate as it had no discernible acidity, tobacco or edgy aspects to it. Easy to eat with a dry finish.

Askanya’s 90%: Perle Rare, brings you right to Haiti’s earthy doorstep. Intense without being bitter, it delivered a chocolate hit with a short finish.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate

I must confess, when I look back on my life and whatever joys I’ve been lucky enough to have savored, chocolate is among them. While it doesn’t compare to motherhood or connecting deeply with a loved one, it’s far more reliable. I know, because I have been eating dark chocolate for decades. It has been with me through thick and thin, a gustatory anchor in a constantly ebbing and flowing world.

These days, you can find very good chocolate pretty easily. Excellent, even exquisite, chocolate is less ubiquitous.

As one’s palate gets increasingly educated it becomes ever more exciting to discover new chocolates with their different flavor profiles and unique characteristics.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate has a range to please all your chocolate proclivities while broadening your discernment of subtle differences between percentages and beans.

I usually don’t quote from people’s websites, but the descriptions by owners Tom and Monica Rogan are so evocative I am going to include some. Let’s start with the farmers who grow the Asochivite bean.

“The remote Guatemalan village of San Juan Chivite is perched on the side of a mountain, reachable only by foot. Part of the journey requires crossing a long, narrow wooden and steel cable footbridge across which all harvested cacao is carried by hand.

At the start of the Guatemalan civil war the village was part of a coffee farm, but when coffee prices declined the owner sold the farm and the land ended up in the hands of 64 indigenous Maya families who had been displaced by the war. They began by growing both coffee and cacao but switched entirely to cacao in 2002.

There are now 125 families living in San Juan Chivite, all of whom are descendants of the original 64 families.

When we first visited the village in 2015 the villagers told us one of their most pressing needs was to replace their old and inadequate fermentation and drying area with a new facility that would allow them to improve their post harvest capabilities. We were impressed with the villagers’ commitment to producing high quality cacao and Goodnow Farms agreed to fund the construction of a new fermentation and drying area. The villagers built the new facility themselves, with technical advice from Cacao Verapaz, and began using it for the 2016 harvest.”

The Asochivite 70% bar with maple sugar has only one more gram of sugar than it’s sibling, Asochivite 77%, yet that extra gram, as well as the slightly lower cacao percentage, gives it a beautifully rounded taste. In contrast, the higher chocolate intensity of the 77% lights up the bean’s fruitiness, slight acidity and long finish. I loved both.

The El Carmen bean hails from a Nicaragua farm just outside the town of Matagalpa in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.

I tasted both bars made with El Carmen beans: the 77% and a 69% with finely ground coffee. The former delivered a real taste of the Nicaraguan terroir without being too earthy. The luxurious, silky texture (something highlighted by the thinness of all their bars) carried notes of dark fruit and raisin to my deliriously happy taste buds. The bar with coffee seamlessly matched the chocolate’s richness with single origin lightly roasted coffee (also sourced from Nicaragua). Sheer delight for those of you who love mocha.

Their Esmeraldas 70% comes from the Salazar farm in Southern Ecuador. The bean is a hybrid of the now-famous Nacional, known for its mellow, fruity flavor. One of the most satisfying chocolate experiences you could ever hope to have. Not surprisingly, it won a Good Food award in 2018.

The 70% Ucayali bar comes from an area at the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru. The beans are sourced from small cocoa farms whose trees line the river’s banks.

I thought this was worth noting: “The Ucayali region is on Peru’s east coast and has long been known for growing coca. While many farmers there once grew coca they have increasingly been turning to fine flavor cacao as an alternative. Part of the reason for this change is the increased price that craft makers like us are paying for premium cacao, and another is an initiative being undertaken by the Peruvian government to eradicate coca crops and thereby reduce the endemic crime it brings.”

The Ocayali bar is beautifully tempered, as are all Goodnow Farms’chocolates I sampled, I was struck by the way its sweeter, fruity presence was punctuated by herbal and slightly acidic notes. Complex and very satisfying.

Almendra Blanca bars, a 60% with almonds and a 77%, look like milk chocolate at first glance, but they aren’t. It’s the lighter color of the “White Almond” beans that threw me off for a second. Tom and Monica give these beans a short, gentle roast which allows the naturally bright, fruity flavor to shine.

The beans are sourced from an 80-year-old family farm in the Mexican state of Tabasco run by Vicente Alberto Gutierrez Cacep. He strongly supports community initiatives and local businesses, including those owned by women.

The Almond bar is creamy, rich, and slightly crunchy as the nuts are finely ground and evenly infiltrate the chocolate. The 77% bar is also velvety, though the intensity of higher cocoa content allows the bean’s natural complexity to sparkle.

If you are seeking a superb chocolate experience, even if you have tasted some of the finest bars out there, I suggest you try Goodnow Farms’ bars. And, while you’re at it, enjoy the beautiful watercolors on their website.

If you sign up for their newsletter you get 10% off your first order.