Category Archives: HOT CHOCOLATE

Chocolate Naive’s Dark Chocolate Coated Blueberries, Strawberries, and Caramelized Hazelnuts

Chocolate Naive’s new trio of freeze dried blueberries, strawberries, and caramelized hazelnuts in chocolate is a unique addition to the plethora of products vying for your chocolate fund.

Eating even one of the tiny blueberries is like being transported into a fairy tale. Each mini orb an amazing combination of ethereally crunchy, freeze dried blueberries. The texture somehow melts on the tongue, along with 41% Madagascan chocolate, while a little dusting of cocoa provides the perfect hint of intensity. Out of curiosity, I bit into one to discover a shocking burst of magenta, which just added a visual thrill to the whole experience.

The strawberries are Brobdingnagian in comparison to their Lilliputian brethren. With a thicker shell of dark chocolate and a huge berry inside, these confections offer up the essence of strawberry with a super rich dark chocolate. (Can this really be 41% cacao?) These are as different from a fresh strawberry dipped in chocolate as chalk and cheese. I am not a fan of the fresh ones, as they always seem like a mess: fruit juice mingling with broken pieces of chocolate and none of it cohering. Here, you have a seamless marriage of textures, flavors, and the gustatory excitement of something new.

Their chocolate covered caramelized hazelnuts are just divine. Unlike the couverture on the fruits, which tastes like dark chocolate to me, this is a dark milk finished with confectioner’s sugar. The nuts are perfectly roasted and lightly caramelized. Crunchy, creamy textures along with a just sweet enough chocolate shell deliver a supremely satisfying, decadent treat.

One thing that takes all three of these up a notch is the addition of sea salt. It’s the tiniest bit, but it catalyzes the fruit, nuts, chocolate, and sugar into something really remarkable.

Hedonist Artisan Chocolates: Holiday Truffles, Salted Caramels, Candy Cane Bark, and Bittersweet Hot Cocoa

If you are a regular reader of this site, you already know how many incredibly delicious chocolates there are. One of my absolute favorites, especially for the holiday season, is the Egg Nog truffle from Hedonist Artisan Chocolates. In one fell swoop it’s delightfully surprising, familiar, decadent, creamy, and perked up with just the right amount of freshly ground nutmeg. A chocolate tour de force. There are four companion truffles in this holiday assortment. Molasses with Ginger reminds me of gingerbread: spicy, rich, and satisfying. Orange Clove, is an exciting flavor combo of the most perfect amount of spice balanced with a slightly bitter orange—heaven. Fig is elegant, as there are very few, if any seeds, just fig essence blanketed in chocolate and cream. Champagne and Pomegranate is infused with pomegranate liquor, which adds a lovely fruitiness to the champagne and dark chocolate ganache. All of these are encased in a dark chocolate shell that has just enough sugar to make it truly bittersweet.

If that weren’t already an embarrassment of riches, I sampled their Candy Cane Bark. I love the idea of this product, but I typically shy away from the milk chocolate version as it’s simply too sweet for me. Here, the dark chocolate base is your predominant flavor, while the top layer of white chocolate swirled with just enough candy cane bits gives the bark a minty kick. I also like how each piece is a different thickness, some almost paper thin, and others a little thicker. This subtle difference makes each bite a little different from the next, which had me on an intermittent reinforcement schedule, as I kept going back for more.

Salted Caramels come in either milk or dark. The interior is a perfectly chewy, rich caramel with a snowy sprinkle of salt on top.

Last but not least, is their Bittersweet Hot Cocoa. I always forget how much I enjoy cocoa until the weather cools down and I think of making it. This is a very adult rendition of hot chocolate. When they say bittersweet they mean it. Ground cocoa and chunks of chocolate are whisked into hot milk, or your favorite milk alternative, for a supremely satisfying elixir.

While the packaging is a fairly minimalist brown box, or a silver tin for the cocoa, I do like their colored raffia ties. The bark, in all its holiday glory of pink and white and chocolate, comes in a clear cellophane bag with a red raffia bow.

Taza organic chocolate discs: Salt & Pepper, Cinnamon, Coffee

Taza’s organic chocolate discs are earthy, grainy with sugar crystals, and have a high AQ (addiction quotient). There are two 1/4″ thick discs, scored into eight pie-shaped pieces, in each lovely package. The thing about Taza is it’s eminently chewable. Many chocolates lend themselves to slowly melting in your mouth, while Taza’s flavors and textures seem to blend best when chewed. I am simply unable to let a piece melt. The sugar crystals and stone ground beans seem to benefit from a bit more grinding—this time by one’s teeth.

I tried three versions and liked them all. The most unusual combination, Salt & Pepper, was a bit of a surprise. At first, I thought the salt was predominating, but that impression flew away as I bit into a tiny piece of peppercorn. Exciting, different, and tantalizing; each bit made me hanker for another. When a flavor profile keeps changing, and you never know which taste will be next, the element of surprise and unpredictability keep you reaching for another taste. Which will it be now? More salt, more pepper, more chocolate?

The cinnamon is a lovely combination, since the spice is perfectly calibrated: not too subtle, and not in your face. Goldilocks would have no trouble with this, as it’s just right.

The Counter Culture Coffee infused discs were a bit milder than I anticipated, with the coffee a beautiful subtext to the chocolate. Both flavors lingered well. It may sound strange to use this word when referring to a Taza disc, but the the flavors were smooth. Actually, all three discs were well balanced.

If you haven’t tried Taza I would encourage you to. Their products are definitely different from many others I have reviewed, and they satisfy in a unique way. Almost like a food, rather than a sweet.

All three discs may be used for hot chocolate. In that case, the sugar crystals would melt. Since I liked the crunchy texture, I didn’t experiment with making a hot version.

Equal Exchange Organic & Fair Trade Drinking Chocolate, Hot Cocoa, and Spicy Hot Cocoa

I generally don’t think of making hot chocolate, as I prefer to eat my food rather than drink it; however, the people at Equal Exchange wanted me to review their three hot cocoas and I couldn’t resist.

It’s a bit cool, windy, and lugubrious outside. A perfect day for sampling soothing drinks. First up was the 57% Drinking Chocolate. As a rule, I try not to rave about something unless it’s really exquisite. This is simply fabulous. They claim it’s like sipping a melted chocolate bar and they are right. I made mine with organic, plain soy milk from Aldi (if you have an Aldi market near you their soy milk is a great bargain and yummy). Not one to adhere to directions, I used the microwave.  Frankly, if I loved it and it really required heating milk on the stove, as well as washing another pot (I already feel like a scullery maid with all the cooking I do), I’d probably never make it again. So, I disobeyed their orders and heated the milk in the nuker. Perhaps, it’s better on the stove, but I don’t see how that’s possible.  It was rich, decadent, and incredibly satisfying. I thought I would just have a sip or two to write the review, but I drank it all. On a really blustery night a bit of Kahlua would be nice, too.

Their Hot Cocoa that only requires adding water was good, but more like other drinks of that ilk.  Of course, the difference, and it is a salient one, is theirs uses organic milk. It had a much lighter taste and consistency than the Drinking Chocolate. A great choice when there’s no milk in the house, and children clamoring for an after school snack. 

I felt like a new age Mayan from the first taste of EQ’s Spicy Hot Cocoa. In many ways, this was my favorite of the three.  You make it with milk (I used the aforementioned soy) and the texture is silky smooth. Not quite as thick as the Drinking Chocolate; but, a perfect canvas for the additional flavors of chili and cinnamon. Chilis ramp up your endorphin level, enhancing one’s mood. I could feel mine improve with every sip. If you are partial to the combination of chocolate and cayenne, this is a no-brainer. Beware, though, it’s highly addictive. (I was a bit reluctant to try it as I thought it might pack too much heat, but the balance of chocolate, sweetness, peppers, and spice was sublime.) 

If you need a present for that chocophile in your life, the Spicy Hot Cocoa would be just great. Think of it for that 23rd hour mad rush on Christmas Eve since it’s on most supermarket and natural food store shelves.