Category Archives: Chocolate candy

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.

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SoChatti Chocolate

Jessica Halstead, the chocolate maker behind SoChatti, is truly innovative. I sampled her pourable chocolate this morning and it was an absolute delight to work with. At first, I must confess, I was daunted by the delivery system, an eight ounce pouch of hardened chocolate that I was supposed to soften in water at 110 degrees. The temperature was crucial and it was not to go above that mark. Being a bit of rebel I kept adding warmer water to keep it at 110 which meant it sometimes went a bit above that target. Apparently, there’s more wiggle room than I thought. After about 20 minutes and a few massages of the bag to evenly distribute its contents, I was ready to experiment. Since the chocolate was such high quality I didn’t want to over-adulterate it by adding too many ingredients, so I stuck to making mendiants and decorations.

I played with all sorts of free-form chocolate decorations on a piece of wax paper, just to test how user friendly the pouch delivery system would be. It’s incredibly easy to maneuver. I was able to get thick or thin strands of chocolate, curvilinear lines, and all sorts of shapes…even building up the chocolate for more 3D decorations.

The mendiants were a breeze: I put little dollops of chocolate on the wax paper and pressed either a lightly candied maple pecan on top, or a roasted pistachio with a freeze dried cherry or raspberry. All the chocolate began to harden at room temperature fairly quickly. (I stored it in the fridge as I have come to love the extra crisp temper of refrigerated chocolate.)

The batch from Ecuador and Tanzania (#18002) was a deliciously fruity chocolate with just the right amount of acidity to add complexity. SoChatti offers a variety of chocolates from Tanzania, Peru, and Madagascar. At $19.99 including shipping from Amazon they are also a very good value.

Not only is this a great way to unleash your own inner chocolatier it’s also a great project to do with children as the half pound pouch gives you plenty to play with. Your imagination is the only limitation. Not feeling particularly ambitious? Just empty the melted chocolate into a bowl, add your favorite ingredients, stir, and make a big slab chocolate bark. What could be easier or more fun when those chocolate cravings strike?

SoChatti is unique, delicious and versatile. If you follow the directions (and they will soon offer a warmer to make it even easier) you can create incredible chocolates without having to go through the more traditional and slower tempering process. If you are curious about making high quality, single origin chocolates at home, and don’t want to invest in an expensive tempering machine, try SoChatti and experiment to your heart’s (and palate’s) delight.

Batch PDX Chocolates

The three most striking things about Batch PDX chocolates is their beauty, intensity, and originality. These chocolates wowed me with their explosions of taste and texture. In a world of options, it’s easy to develop a jaded palate. Batch PDX took me into undiscovered chocolate realms, each a little planet of delight.

Jeremy Karp, the mastermind behind Batch PDX, uses organic cream and butter for his unforgettable creations. He believes in “simplicity of design.” This puts the focus where I want it most, on the tastes and textures that hook and maintain my interest.

Think you’ve tasted a passion fruit truffle? Think again. Jeremy’s Spicy Passion is composed of two layers housed in a white chocolate shell whose sculptural top looks like an origami fold. While I am not a fan of white chocolate, it is the perfect foil of creaminess to balance the spicy acidity of ghost pepper and passion fruit. A hint of orangey Cointreau adds a subtle subtext.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee has a dark chocolate exterior containing one of the most deeply flavored coffee ganaches I have ever sampled.

Nutty Crunchy has Paillete Feuilletine (French for crepes dentelles, lovely little shards of nanosphere thin crunchy wafers) with the added super crunch of chopped hazelnuts and almonds. Jeremy’s rendition of the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is blissfully textural but not too sweet.

Almond n Coconut is a dark chocolate carapace enclosing a filling reminiscent of marzipan, but with far more chewy depth from bits of coconut strewn throughout.

Dulce de Leche comes in a lovely marbleized shell. Its creamy caramel colored interior is beautifully balanced between the sweetness of Dulce de Leche and rum.

Yuzu Gimlet is a divine combo of gin, chocolate and yuzu puree. The yuzu stands in for lime and the result is another coup: slightly acidic, juniper berry-ish from the gin, in a lovely dark, velvety ganache.

Earl Grey creates more subtle joy with its bergamot scented tea infused ganache in a dark shell.

Almond Crisp has an interior both creamy and crunchy with ground almonds and crispy rice.

(If you were wondering, as I was, what PDX stands for, it’s the Portland, Oregon airport code.)

Aldi Chocolate Bars: Whole Hazelnuts in either Dark or Milk Chocolate

I recently had a chance to taste two of the newly imported Cailler bars (on Amazon at $27.64 for 13.8 ounces), one with hazelnuts, blueberries and almonds, and the other with cranberries and almonds. Both are beautiful, jewel-like creations with fruits and nuts imbedded into delicious thick slabs of UTZ certified dark chocolate. I bought them on Amazon, but they seem to have sold out. Having become a devotee…a chic way of saying addicted…I tried the Aldi roasted hazelnut bars in milk and dark chocolate, as they were UTZ certified and I thought might be worthy contenders. Of course, the enormous cost saving was also a big draw.

The verdict?

The Aldi bars were worthy contenders, though not as visually arresting as Cailler’s. They weigh in at a smidge over seven ounces each, are are really semi-sweet at 50% cocoa, and for $2.25 a pop they’re an extraordinary bargain. The chocolate is delicious, especially the dark bar, and the roasted whole hazelnuts perfectly crunchy and rich. One portion, a seventh of a bar, is a dessert unto itself. If you like milk chocolate you will probably prefer that version. For me, the dark one is really stellar.

Now, I just wish Aldi would offer their single origin mini bars on a regular basis. They were truly amazing.

BronxGrrl Chocolate

Regina Monaco has a PhD in Chemistry, and her research is in the areas of physical chemistry, thermodynamics, and biochemistry. As a chocolatier, she always tries to use her scientific background to understand every step of chocolate-making process.

Regina likes to study the characteristics of every batch carefully: is the roast dark or light, considering the type of cacao used? Is the body smooth, light, creamy, rich, and flavorful or sticky, heavy, grainy, bitter and thin? She analyzes so she can maximize the positive attributes and minimize any negative notes, textures, or flavors.

Her mission at BronxGrrl chocolate is to make unique, quirkily imperfect chocolate with personality. Each batch is just a little different.

I tried a Maple Pecan Bubble. It was creamy, perfectly sweetened, and, with its crown of crunchy nuts and dusting of maple sugar, very satisfying to eat and look at. The chocolate itself was tempered beautifully. The texture dense, and the flavor profile earthy but still sophisticated. I actually ate it in two installments as I wanted it to last.

You might also try her Bubble with Pecans and Cranberries and the heart shaped truffles with raspberry, sour cherry, maple ganache, made with their family’s maple syrup. Both sound divine to me.

Hexx Chocolate

When I was in high school I had a short period of fascination with witchcraft. Pretty quickly, I discovered it was mostly a mind game. Spells, hexes, and voodoo all seemed to rely on the intended subject knowing what good or evil was being created for them with dolls, potions, or boiling cauldrons. Chocolate is partially a mind game, too, but of a very different nature. Great chocolate casts its spell by creating an altered state of consciousness where your five senses collaborate to take you somewhere captivating, delicious, and new.

Hexx bewitches its customers with their wide array of single origin dark and dark milk bars. All of which are sure to carry you into a chocolate reverie and away from whatever harshes your mellow.

The look of these bars is also entrancing. Each is shaped into many little, flat hexagons with the double X design in bas relief.

All are sweetened with raw palm sugar, made from nectar found in the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that’s naturally brown in color and rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. Palm sugar has a low-glycemic index. It tastes and acts almost exactly like sugar, but it is unrefined.

I sampled four of their eight bars:

47% Camino Verde (Ecuador) dark milk is reminiscent of vanilla, caramel, fruit and cream. Easy to eat, but also very rich and satisfying in small amounts.

47% Sambirano Valley (Madagascar) dark milk is lighter in color and more gentle on the palate. A great choice for people who are afraid to up their cocoa content and want a milky, soothing bar.

70% Kokoa Kamili (Tanzania) is a very assertive offering with coffee, raisin, and a little astringency. It has a lingering, slightly dry finish.

70% Maranon Pue Nacional (Peru) is redolent of fruity biscuits, deep chocolate flavor, and fruity undertones. This is a classic in the chocolate pantheon and deserves attention from anyone who loves cacao.

Dark Forest Chocolate Two New Dark Milk Bars

Dark milk chocolate is the perfect choice for people who say they don’t like dark chocolate but want to eat it for its health benefits. They get a more intense cacao experience without any of the bitterness, acidity, tobacco, coffee, or terroir flavors often associated with a 70% bar. In addition, I have also found friends will try a dark milk and be more open minded about tasting a truly dark chocolate. For me, a lover of dark bars, these dark milks provide a dessert-like interlude with their incredibly creamy texture and slightly higher sugar content.

I just sampled two great dark milk bars from Dark Forest Chocolate, a bean to bar maker in Lancaster, NY. I first reviewed their wares in 2015 and was enraptured by a Goat Milk 50% chocolate. Luckily for those of you who love it, or haven’t tried it yet, it’s still in their repertoire. (See the review here: https://chocolateratings.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/dark-forest-single-origin-bean-to-bar-chocolate/)

It takes great skill to add just the right amount of heat to chocolate so it accentuates the properties of the bean while providing something new and exciting. Dark Forest Chocolate has achieved that elusive balance. Their 50% dark milk Cinnamon Pepper bar has no black pepper, just cocoa beans, sugar, cacao butter, whole milk powder, Ceylon cinnamon, and cayenne. It was delicious and satisfyingly complex. I also love the 24 little rectangles the bar neatly breaks into. Each piece provides the perfect morsel to savor this luscious combination of velvety textured chocolate and heat.

I also sampled their Salted Malted Milk Chocolate bar, another dark milk offering with unique malted milk undertones that triggered memories of malted milk balls…though at a far more adult level. Barley malt (the main component of malted milk powder) adds an retro flavor reminiscent of old fashioned soda fountains where malted milk, egg creams, and ice cream sodas were the coin of the realm.