Category Archives: chocolate & nuts

Eldora Craft Chocolate

Happily, we live in an age where you can learn anything online. Steve Prickett, founder of Eldora Chocolate, studied online through Ecole Chocolat, a Canadian company. Apparently, he was a star pupil as his chocolates offer an embarrassment of riches.

Steve has a real passion for discovering different beans from around the world. So far, he has made chocolate from 24 countries, comprising 31 different origins; and, he’s always on the look-out for more.

I love his approach of bean to bar chocolate making. Depending on the nature of the beans, he adjusts his process to bring out and enhance its essence. The result is a cornucopia of bars, truffles and energy balls.

As you already know, chocolate has amazing powers. Among them are its ability to change your brain chemistry. This salubrious effect gets amped up when chocolate is paired with chili peppers. Three of Eldora’s 70% bars deliver that potent chemical experience.

All of the following are made with well-tempered Guatemalan Chivite beans.

Chili Blast lives up to its name. Made with 70% dark chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, red chili, pink peppercorns, chipotle, black salt and vanilla, it really packs a punch. Not only did I feel an immediate warmth in my mouth, I also notice the lingering heat. The effect is comfortably intense.

The Zesty Mango Pinon bar, also 70%, is enhanced with mango, Aje chili, tangerine, piñon and five spice powder. Pinon are pine nuts, and they added a wonderful richness and crunch to this heady mix. Not overly spicy, but definitely mysterious and seductive with its undercurrent of flavor and heat.

Mole Mole, 70%, has a generous sprinkling of mole powder on its underside. (Mole is usually made with chiles, tomatillos, dried fruits, spices, and nuts. All are roasted and ground into a fine powder or paste). Not too spicy or hot, its slightly dry finish went well with the creaminess of the chocolate.

70% Dark with Toffee is a great pairing of this complex, earthy Guatemalan Chivite bean with shards of toffee pressed into its base. I love the extra hint of sweetness and and crunchy texture. This toffee is definitely the adult variety and tastes of butterscotch, cream and vanilla.

70% Dark with Tart Cherries brings out the opposite end of the taste spectrum by sashaying its acid/sweet/chewy cherry presence close to its satisfying dark chocolate dance partner. Another winner.

70% Dark wirth Lavender and Lemon doesn’t have any added vanilla which keeps its clean, fresh taste unalloyed. The floral notes from the beautifully fresh purple flowers embedded on the bar match well with the restrained use of lemon. This allows the citrus to enhance, rather than overpower, the chocolate and lavender.

50% Dark Milk with Almond is a tried and true combination of roasted nuts on a slab of dark milk chocolate with a lovely crunch, and just the right amount of creamy sweetness.

85% dark with Macadamia and Coconut is only for those who crave a super dark chocolate experience. Coconut flakes, coconut milk powder and macadamia nuts add a lovely texture but not much sweetness.

I also sampled a few of their truffles, each of which was deeply flavorful and incredibly fresh. Blood Orange, Boubon, Green Chile Biscochito, and 9 other enticing flavors await you, all are large and very deserty. The melt-in-your-mouth caramel has a perfect texture: lightly chewy and creamy…redolent of butterscotch.

Eldora makes 70% single origin one ounce square tablets that I was quite smitten with. All are made with only three ingredients: nibs, organic cocoa butter and organic cane sugar. This lets the bean’s true characteristics shine. I tried three:

Tanzania Kokoa Kamili, 2018, is made with beans from a central fermentary based in Tanzania. They currently work with over 2,000 smallholder farmers, most of whom farm between 0.5-2 acres of cocoa. Kokoa Kamili pays a premium well above the market rate to farmers and conducts its own fermentation and drying. The chocolate evoked citrus, tamarind, molasses, lemon balm and nuts.

Dominican Republic Zorzal, 2019, is a very eatable bar with notes of cherry and apricot.

Guatemala Polochic, 2017, was a 2019 silver award winner from the International Chocolate awards and I can see why. It’s very balanced and satisfying with hints of caramel and roasted nuts. Farmers of this delicious bean live in 35 communities though out the Polochic valley.

A percentage of all profits go to support Kiva, the Heirloom Cacao & Rainforest Project.

Cocoa Parlor

I am happy to report that it’s becoming de riguer for chocolate companies to source their beans ethically, pay cacao farmers a decent wage and improve their living conditions. Cocoa Parlor does all that and uses organic beans from the Dominican Republic.

Their bars weigh in at 2.82 ounces, or 80 grams. there are 28 sections and they break cleanly. The package design is cheerful and inviting. They keep it simple which helps the cost stay lower than you would expect for quality chocolate: $5 a bar. I sampled seven of the 16 they offer. All were well tempered and appealing.

Night Train, a 75% bar with nibs was a very easy-to-eat dark (for those of you who eschew anything over 70%). I happen to love the inclusion of nibs as it really heightens the bar’s intensity. The chocolate itself had a lovely complexity I have come to associate with beans from the Dominican Republic. Its fruitiness makes it a good choice for people who don’t like any bitterness, acidity, leather, or coffee flavor in their chocolate.

Simple Pleasure, a bar with roasted hazelnuts and Himalayan pink salt was perfectly balanced. Its nutty crunch was perked up with just the right amount of salt. (Maybe someone can explain to me why hazelnuts are so much more popular in Europe than the US, except in Nutella, of course. They are so rich and delicious; especially, when roasted.)

Cowboy Up 70% with toasted almonds and Himalayan pink salt was another deliciously textured offering.

Popped Quinoa 70% had a different appeal as the quinoa offers up a gentler, smaller crunch and allows more of the chocolates personality to shine.

Jungle Peanut in 35% milk chocolate had the largest roasted nut pieces. The nuts are sourced from the wilds of Ecuador and accented with that same pink salt. These peanuts definitely tasted different from the ones I typically eat. More rustic, more natural, with a milder peanut taste. You might think this bar would be quite sweet, but it wasn’t, even though it had a fairly light milk chocolate base.

Into Dark 80% was a nice fruity ultra dark bar. It was intense, but not bitter. Very satisfying.

Dark Perfection 70%, with a tiny bit more sugar, was a touch less intense.

In addition to the cocoa mass they use, they add cacao butter and cacao powder, but no vanilla. This allows the bean’s true nature to come through.

They also make a very popular non-chocolate Quinoa Bar that’s made with cacao butter. It’s packed with almonds and gluten free. Great for campers, gym rats and meal skippers.

Mrs. Mason’s Brittles

Holidays are often a time when you give yourself a cosmic permission slip to indulge in something a little sweeter. I may typically gravitate towards darker chocolate when it comes to daily consumption, but there are times when I crave something truly different from my normal fare.

If you’re looking for impressive holiday gifting, the packaging is really lovely. Gold boxes, or bags, with French wired ribbon and a sprig of holly berries.

Mrs. Mason’s Brittle has a cornucopia of treats that are irresistible to anyone who loves the ultra richness of chocolate drenched toffee in a flavor to fit every craving.

I sampled five of their confections, all of which were super fresh.

Apple Crisp is crunchy and sweet with a very slight chewy texture, a compelling mix with its dried apples and walnuts. A light dusting of cinnamon and brown sugar on top of the white chocolate topping make it perfect for the holidays.

Chocolate Covered Cherry is a delicious combination of Michigan cherries, topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate.

Heart and Soul is crammed with whole, roasted and salted peanuts and raisins. It has a double layer of chocolate, first white, then dark. The creaminess of the chocolate against the crunch of the nuts, chewiness of the raisins and crunchy-slightly-chewy brittle is a full orchestra of textures and flavors.

Orang’ You Sweet is that classic combination of dark chocolate and orange with the added twist of cashews and brittle. Another incredibly satisfying experience.

XOX offers all the creamy chocolate, crunchy nuts and brittle with the addition of tartness from the dried cranberries. Here, the nuts are pecans and cashews. The topping is white chocolate and the result is destined to satisfy any sweet craving you might have.

If you’re a baker or a home chocolate temperer you might want to know about their Crumbles, the too-small pieces that get left on the cutting board. These would make an amazing topping for a cake, brownies, cookies or chocolate bark.

TCHO Chocolate

When I was growing up, there were basically two chocolate options: Hershey’s and Nestle’s. Once in a while I would eat some semi-sweet chocolate chips while making cookies. Very occasionally, someone would come home from a trip with Swiss milk or bittersweet chocolate, but that was unusual. Nowadays, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the incredible variety of high-quality chocolate available in grocery stores, food co-ops and online.

One company that makes affordable delicious bars in a wide variety of flavors, cacao contents and textures is TCHO (pronounced CHO, after the first three letters in the word chocolate).

The company assiduously works to create a more delicious product and better conditions for the farmer owned cooperatives that provide the beans, all of which are Fair Trade and organic.

This may surprise you, but most cacao farmers have never even tasted a chocolate bar. TCHO makes sure their suppliers know what the finished product looks and tastes like.

I sampled nine of their bars.

Classic Milk Chocolate is a 39% bar that satisfies any cravings you might have for a milky, caramel-intensive experience.

Their 54% Dark Milk bar is a more complex version with undertones of butterscotch. It’s incredibly easy to like and a definite crowd pleaser for those who love Milk and dark bars.

70% Dark is full of coffee and true rich chocolate flavor.

68% Dark is a fruity Peruvian chocolate that could easily be a daily indulgence. A delicious choice for eating or tempering.

67% Dark from Madagascar is a more earthy experience, with fig, dark fruits, and a drier finish.

Almond Sea Salt 62% has a balanced chocolate-salty-nutty flavor profile with small pieces of almond throughout the bar.

Toffee + Sea Salt 54% is a luscious choice if you like sweeter chocolate. The sea salt perks up the toffee while giving the whole experience another dimension.

Mokaccino 47%, made with Blue Bottle Coffee, has its own devoted following. All I have to do is mention TCHO and people rave about it. With its creamy texture and incredibly satisfying mocha flavor, it’s a great way to perk up your energy and mood when the afternoon slumps hit.

I have also been a big fan of their Snickernoodle bar, made with that dream-worthy 54% chocolate and enhanced with cinnamon and delightfully crunchy sugar crystals. You might not think those small differences make it unique as compared to the plain dark milk 54%, but they do.

If you sign up for their newsletter you can get a discount on your first order. You will also be notified when they have a special limited series bar, or seasonal offerings.

Pascati Chocolate

All of Pascati’s chocolates are organic and made with ethically sourced Idukki beans from India’s Kerala region. Pascati’s mission is to support the local cacao farmers. Through Fair-trade, they pay a premium for the cacao which goes back to the Kerala farming community. This also supports several community initiatives to sustain the ecosystem, and ensures that no child labor is used.

Kerala, a state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast, covers part of the southwest portion of the continent with nearly 600km of Arabian Sea shoreline. It’s known for its palm-lined beaches and backwaters. Inland are the Western Ghats, mountains whose slopes support tea, coffee and spice plantations as well as wildlife.

One of my favorite chemicals in chocolate, anandamide, comes from the Sanskrit ananda, meaning bliss. ˜Pascati” is derived from a Sanskrit word ˜Pascat Parivesya” which translates to a sweet meal.

I sampled eight of their bars. All are 75 grams, have 24 bite-size sections, and boast a snappy temper. Seven of them were 60% and one, the Dark Idukki, was 72%.

The 72% Dark Idukki bar is different from all the other chocolates I have ever sampled. It has a lingering, slightly dry finish, licorice notes, a definite earthy-woodsyness and a silky texture.

The 60% Sea Salt Dark was quite different. The salt perked everything up, as it often does, and played with the extra creaminess of this lower cocoa content bar. Slightly sweeter, it delivered a very rounded cocoa flavor with enough acidity to keep it interesting.

Raspberry and Hibiscus is a delicious combination of fruitiness and floral notes. Subtle, nuanced flavors point up the bean’s depth and making it intriguing.

While we’re on the subject of flowers, Rose Almond Dark is another interesting combination. The almonds are finely sprinkled throughout the bar and the rose gives it that classic Indian culinary rosewater presence.

Saffron Pistachio Dark has a slightly crunchy texture from the nuts, but they don’t dominate. The saffron’s dryness accentuates the bean’s dry finish, all of which is gentled by its creaminess.

Orange Cinnamon Hazelnut Dark is a deft mix of those three warming flavors, not one of which is pronounced. All three work in concert with the chocolate to create another nuanced bar that deeply satisfies.

Lemon Ginger Dark, a classic tea combination at my house, was perfect. Just the right amount of lemon and ginger perked up the chocolate without overpowering it.

Mango dark, with pieces of freeze dried mango embedded on its underside was unique and a bit addictive. Again, in a counter-intuitive way, the dryness of the mango accentuated the dry finish of the bean, which was enhanced by its velvety texture.

Aldi Choceur Dark Hazelnut bar

Another delicious UTZ certified chocolate bar from Aldi at a bargain price.

Actually, I had completely forgotten about this bar, but on a whim bought one the other day. What a delightful surprise! So texturally balanced and satisfying.

Weighing in at 7.05 ounces it has 7 generous servings. The 50% dark chocolate is a little sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, with 10 grams of added sugar per portion.

Not only is this super crunchy and chock full of roasted fresh hazelnuts, it’s very attractive to look at. The velvety texture of the chocolate provides a perfect foil for the nuts.

Over the years, I have found most dark bars, even dark milk bars, last well past their expiration date; however, when it comes to bars with nuts it’s best to adhere to the dates as the nuts can get rancid. Thankfully, most Aldi chocolates have an expiration date that’s, at least, six months into the future.

Not only is this a really yummy treat but it provides 10% of your iron, 4 grams of fiber with 160 calories. Considering it’s a chocolate bar, that’s fairly healthy.

Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee

Everyone has a little child inside them. No matter how mature or sophisticated you become that little child will always crave a certain amount of attention. One delicious way to give your inner child the chocolate attention they so rightly deserve is with Dave’s Toffee. In one fell swoop, it sates your adult cravings for something handmade with real ingredients and your inner child’s desire for a crunchy, slightly sweet, nutty, chocolate treat.

When I was younger, I used to love dessert. Ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, and this amazing peanut butter brownie bombe draped in a dark chocolate ganache. It ticked all the boxes of my sybaritic self. Now, I find architect Mies van der Rohe was right: less really can be more.

It’s amazing how a smaller amount of something truly satisfying can feel so decadent and enough.

Dave’s Toffee is affordable, but it feels incredibly luxurious. It’s visually attractive, super fresh and would appeal to almost anyone of any age. So, not only does it make a beautiful gift, but it is also something you can enjoy on a regular basis.

While I can still appreciate the most amazing handmade passion fruit truffle enrobed in 73% Vietnamese chocolate; luckily, I haven’t lost my ability to enjoy something classic and perfectly executed.

I sampled five of their offerings.

The uber-crunchy coffee toffee infused with little bits of coffee bean was amazing. What a great way to get a bit of extra energy in the afternoon.

The dark chocolate with cherry was a delicious combination enhanced by the lovely counterpoint of tart sweetness from the cherries.

Plain milk and dark versions are anything but plain, as the generous portion of nuts makes them texturally craveable.

The peanut toffee was also delicious, and a great choice for people who can’t get enough of that peanut/chocolate combo.

All Dave’s Toffees have an incredible texture that is perfectly friable in your mouth. In other words, it starts out crunchy and then in the most amazing alchemical way becomes tiny shards…I know that doesn’t sound appealing, but believe me it’s a wonderful experience…as those delicate fragments of toffee somehow melt in your mouth.