Category Archives: Fermented foods: chocolate

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.

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Hershey: Better Late Than Never

Here’s a link to some new programs Hershey is initiating in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, areas historically rife with child labor, and other travesties.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/hershey-to-invest-500-million-in-making-more-sustainable-kisses

Double Spiral Chocolate

Stuart & Mhairi Craig, creators of Double Spiral Chocolate, named it after an ancient Celtic symbol resembling the Taoist Yin-Yang. Two opposing spirals emerge from a single line to signify how opposite components can find balance. The opposites they speak of are taste & nutrition. One of the guiding forces behind their company is minimal processing with only 2 or 3 organic ingredients sourced by Direct or Fair Trade: cacao beans (70+%), unrefined cane sugar (non-centrifugal*)and a whole food ingredient like mint leaves, raspberry, ginger, etc.

I sampled the Tanzania 75% Kokoa Kamila and the Haitian 73% with freeze dried banana. While two bars is not a comprehensive review of their wares, it does indicate attention to detail and quality. Their lack of cocoa butter makes for a slightly drier finish. I was quite taken with the banana bar as the character of the chocolate was a great match for the tiny pulverized pieces of freeze dried fruit. The Tanzania bar had a pronounced rustic quality.

Check Double Spiral out if you are a purist who seeks a minimally processed bar that connects you with the bean’s true nature.

*Non-Centifugal Sugar (NCS) – This organic, fair trade, traditional raw sugar is obtained by evaporating water from sugarcane juice. Importantly, there is no centrifugation step to remove the nutrient rich molasses. NCS is produced in sugarcane growing regions around the world, and known by many different names such as panela, rapadura, jaggery, gur, kokuto or muscovado. These have superior nutrient content compared to other ‘brown sugars’, such as turbinado, demerara or refined sugars mixed with molasses.

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.

K’UL Chocolate: 4 New Bars

I was delighted to see K’UL Chocolate has four new bars, and even happier to sample them. Their product development is our collective joy.

The most intriguing of the four is 70% Golden Spice with Turmeric (600mg per 1.45 ounce bar), Ginger, Ginseng, and Goldenberries. As someone who adds turmeric to my vinaigrette, rice, and morning porridge I was already a convert to its health benefits. Here, it adds extra depth to an already great base chocolate. The ginger and ginseng are delivered with a light hand, and the goldenberries add a delightfully chewy texture. Another winner, especially if you have been wondering how to get more turmeric into your diet.

70% Espresso Crunch with nibs is aptly named, as the crunch is evident in every bite. Looking for an afternoon shot of energy with only 9 gams of sugar in 1.23 ounce bar? Well, here’s a great option.

70% Matcha Mint with matcha green tea and peppermint is for those who want a pick-me-up from a little caffeine but aren’t in the market for an espresso buzz. Enlivened by mint, this bar is creamy, dark, and refreshing.

85% Dark is a blend of Caribbean and Latin American beans. With only 5 grams of sugar in a 1.23 ounce bar it has a very silky texture, balanced flavor profile with only a hint of acidity, and plummy/raisin notes. In addition, it offers a nutritional powerhouse of 30% of your iron, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. If you love super dark bars I wouldn’t miss this one.

If, like me, your love of chocolate extends to its manufacture, you might want to check out this great video of the K’UL factory tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uV-Vd3Q-sY

Firefly Organic Bean to Bar Chocolate

I am always in the mood for something different from the chocolate world and Firefly organic bean to bar chocolate provides that new experience. This is an earthy line of bars, all of which, no matter what their cocoa content, speak a chocolate language developed centuries ago before the bean became so intertwined with sugar. More like a food, less like a confection. Because the beans are roasted and coached at the lowest possible temperature this is a perfect choice for someone who loves raw chocolate.

I like the phrase Jonas Ketterle, founder of Firefly Chocolate, uses on his wrapper: “This is not sweet chocolate, nor is it bitter–it is simply high vitality chocolate lovingly made in small batches from the bean…”

I sampled six of his bars, the most unusual of which was a wild harvested Bay Nut bar with 40% cacao, 30% bay nuts and 30% coconut sugar. While never having experienced bay nuts, I found the chocolate quite intriguing with its hickory-like, smokey flavor in a super creamy texture. The lingering taste reminded me of lychee nuts, and it was surprisingly un-sweet for its 40% cocoa content. Apparently, bay nuts were eaten by native people of California. They had a super long shelf life and once dried, stored well for years. The nuts were then roasted in ashes.

Firefly’s 85% dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt had chunks of nuts on the underside of the bar and was made with beans from Tanzania. The chocolate was intense, as you might expect from an 85% bar, and accented well with the roasted almonds.

The 60% Coconut Cream bar, made with Jonas’ stone ground coconut butter, was very creamy and less sweet than you would expect a 60% bar to be.

Maca is known in Peru as a stamina builder and hormone balancer. Firefly’s 77% bar with Maca was similar to the other chocolates in this range from Tanzanian beans: intense, full of terroir, and very earthy.

Last but not least, was the 77% Wildberry with beans from Belize. The berry notes were very light but enough of a presence to add another layer of flavor.

Jonas has a free monthly give-away you can sign up for on his website at the bottom of this page: https://fireflychocolate.com/handcrafted/vision/