Category Archives: marzipan

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.

Endangered Species 48% Milk, 72% Dark with Sea Salt and Almonds, and 72% Dark with Cherries

As much as I adore dark chocolate, I am always on the lookout for great high cacao content milk bars. Endangered Species has a 48% rendition that offers up the same velvety texture you would expect from a high end milk chocolate with an edginess that makes it far more interesting than your typical bar. I only sampled the plain, but you will be happy to know it also comes with almonds or cherries. If you love milk chocolate, but want more dark chocolate health benefits, this is the answer. I must confess, I immediately went out and bought a few more of these, they were so delicious and desserty.

I also tried their other two new bars. The Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt is infused with tiny bits of nut and crunchy salt crystals. The shiny, well tempered dark chocolate has an audible snap, while the tiny crunchy pieces of salt and almonds almost popped with texture. 72% Dark with Cherries was an excellent conflation of dried fruit, with its tangy sweetness and appealing chewy texture, in the same very adult dark base. Here, the coffee undertones in the chocolate danced a lovely pas de deux with the cherries, each enhancing its partner.

Though all three bars are worth trying, the 48% plain milk is truly a stand-out.

Gearhart’s Chocolates

Artists, whatever their medium, have an uncanny ability to take a fairly straightforward material, whether paint, stone, or chocolate, and express its essence in a new way. Tim Gearhart, the mastermind of his eponymously named company, has a knack for elevating chocolate, caramel, toffee, and nuts, into the stratosphere of gustatory pleasure. Eating his Chai Spiced Pecans reminded me of Perigord Walnuts from France, an exquisite sun-dried nut with a thin coating of bittersweet chocolate. Here, super crunchy pecans are infused with Chai Spices that enhance both the chocolate and the nut. I could live on these.

All the chocolate is Venezuelan Criollo, a nuanced, deeply captivating bean that doesn’t compete with the addition of nuts, liquors, spices, or caramelized sugar.

I also sampled some of Tim’s chocolates, which are larger than most artisanal fare. My favorites were Maple Pecan, a maple and milk chocolate ganache studded with nuts and enrobed in dark couverture; Maya, a bittersweet ganache infused with cinnamon, Ancho chili and orange, a divine balance of flavors; Raspberry Zin, an intriguing semi-sweet raspberry ganache with raspberry Zinfandel conserves; and Almond Mocha a truly innovative combination of espresso ganache, marzipan and a whole roasted almond. Other delights in this range I didn’t try include: Apricot Brandy, with cognac soaked fruit; Kauai, a blend of coconut, rum, white chocolate and macadamia nut; Michigan Cherry, enlivened with Kirsch; and, Taj, bittersweet ganache with candied ginger, cardamom, and rose in a dark shell.

If you hanker for a dark chocolate caramel (yes, the actual caramel is dark), heightened with a touch of balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper, dipped in dark chocolate and finished with smoked sea salt, Gearhart’s will sate your craving. Consistency is always the sticking point, so to speak, with caramel. These have a softer, but not runny, texture. Smoked sea salt boosts the flavor profile significantly and marries beautifully with the dark chocolate’s depth.

Tim creates a Pistachio Toffee enrobed in dark chocolate that couldn’t be better. The generously nut-studded toffee is friable. Its alchemy allows for a variety of textural shifts that astound. First, there’s the tender crunch. I know it sounds oxymoronic, but it really is tender and crunchy at the same time. If you are mindful and aware, there are more layers of subtlety awaiting, as it next morphs into a melty-crunch. Like caramel, toffee is a matter of personal taste. I like mine loaded with nuts, not too sweet, and not requiring a dental consult. These were brilliant.

Tim Gearhart achieves a level of sophistication and artistry with his confections that is worth your time and money. Speaking of which, Gearhart’s offers a flat rate two-day shipping of $7.50, with a minimum order of $20. Quite an incentive to succumb to all their chocolate charms.

Michael Mischer Filled Chocolates and Sugar Free

I have been a fan of Michael Mischer’s chocolates for years. He uses single origin Criollo beans, one of my favorites, and has a flair for creating novel combinations. Recently, I learned of Michael’s new line of filled chocolates. At present, there are about 18 different bonbons. Supremely fresh, sporting centers you know and love, and some you never dreamed of, I was absolutely delighted with every piece I sampled.

Espresso was the apotheosis of dark chocolate and coffee.
Chipotle, another dark star, had just the right amount of heat, not so subtle I couldn’t discern it, and not so hot it made my eyes tear.
Kentucky Bourbon was another stellar treat, especially if you love liquor and chocolate, as I do.
Michael’s marzipan is probably the freshest I have ever had. Its silky texture was fantastic against the perfectly tempered dark shell.
Baked Apple was a revelation. I never had a chocolate like this before, and that is saying something. It was as if I were biting into a decadent dark chocolate covered caramel apple with a touch of apple pie spice.
Hazelnut is the densest filling of them all and very satisfying.
Orange Zest was another gem. The intensity of orange flavor almost burst out of its dark carapace.
Lavender and Honey was delicate, but still assertive. Another example of Michael’s ability to keep your taste buds humming.
Cherry was the essence of fruit and dark chocolate.
Root Beer was the most unusual piece. A counter-intuitive combination of heady root beer and caramel in a dark shell that really got my attention.
Salted caramel in milk or dark chocolate hid a soft center with a touch of salt, just enough to perk things up without overwhelming them.
The Peanut Butter Croquant was exquisite. Again, offered in dark and milk. Both, a peanut lover’s dream.
Champagne, a filling I often find bland, was actually exciting and incredibly flavorful.

I also tried a bar of 38% milk with bits of candied orange peel and dusted with Shichimi Togarashi, a spicy powder that amped up the dried fruit and vice-versa. Here are the ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder, cream powder, orange, chile peppers, sesame seeds, seaweed, ginger, soy lecithin, and vanilla. However they look on the page, they are stunning on the palate. (Togarashi, the Japanese word for “chiles,” refers to a group of condiments always including chiles. The blend brings out the clean, simple flavors of Japanese food. Shichimi togarashi is also called seven spice (shichi is “seven” in Japanese), because seven ingredients are generally used. It works well with fatty foods such as unagi (broiled eel), tempuras, shabu shabu (small bits of food cooked in rich broth), noodle dishes, and yakitori (grilled dishes). Apparently, it also goes well with the super rich flavor and texture of 38% milk chocolate.)

Michael has two new sugar free bars, both sweetened with maltitol. The 62% dark is an easy-to-eat smoothly textured, rich chocolate. I have been tasting a lot of sugar free chocolate recently, and this is definitely a contender. The milk is far creamier, as you might imagine, and has more of a nutty flavor profile. I liked them both; and, uncharacteristically, I enjoyed the milk bar a tad more.

I am still a big fan of the 32 little rectangular portions in each of Michael’s bars. Technically, the bars may still be three ounces, but psychologically, it feels as if they are bigger. I wish every chocolate bar company used a similar strategy.

Black River Single Origin Chocolate

What is it about opening a beautiful box of chocolates that is so enticing? When they’re from Black River, the answer is twofold. First, there’s the elegant black fabric box with its magnetic closure just begging to be repurposed as a jewelry box. Then, there’s the tempting array of chocolates made with single origin beans from Jamaica.

I sampled 16 different bonbons, including Black River’s luscious emerald pistachio with almond paste, to a natural hazelnut praline that just melted in my mouth. In between, there was a praline of burned cream reminiscent of the charred exterior of a fiery marshmallow, a praline with coffee that gently nudged the chocolate-nut mixture into mocha, and a praline with roasted whole hazelnuts. I loved the passion fruit ganache, its superbly creamy texture redolent of the tropics, and the little surprise of candied orange peel in the middle of the silky interior of praline with orange confit.

Every chocolate tasted as if it had just been made. The shells were a perfect thickness, not so thin as to have no presence, and not so thick they overwhelmed the fillings. This attention to detail made each morsel a gustatory experience to savor.

Black River Chocolate also offers a 100 gram bar and 5 gram Napolitans all made with the same Jamaican single origin beans. In their purer state, it’s easy to see how seductive this complex chocolate is. The slightly dry edge, beautiful crisp temper, earthy profile, dark fruit notes, hints of charcoal-smokiness, and creamy texture were incredibly satisfying.

Anthon Berg Marzipan

Those of you who regularly read this site know how preoccupied I can be with packaging; so, when I got these Anthon Berg marzipan and fruit chocolates, I was delighted to see how much thought went into keeping them fresh. Each piece is individually wrapped and all ten come in a nice box with a sliding drawer.

There are three different types of marzipan rounds with preserves and liquor. Each weighs in at under an ounce, and is coated in dark chocolate. My favorite was the Apricot in Brandy. Inside is a filling of marzipan (that classic combination of very finely ground almonds and sugar) with a center of brandy infused apricot preserves. The reason this flavor was my first choice is the brandy was a bit stronger than the alcohol in the other two. Mind you, it’s still a very subtle addition to the mix. The ingredients were as fresh as if they had been made yesterday. For a confection this sweet, I found it interesting to see that one 27 gram piece has only ten grams of sugar. I say only ten grams because one of these is a very satisfying treat.

The Plum in Madeira is another delicious combination of flavors and textures, and the Madeira does definitely take the whole experience up a notch.

The Strawberry in Champagne has the mildest alcohol presence but the fruit is the apotheosis of strawberryness.

Anthon Berg’s Marzipan Rounds with Fruit Preserves and liqour would make a great gift for any marzipan and chocolate lover, and a tantalizing addition to any dessert tray.

In my experience, they are typically only available during the Fall and Winter, so don’t wait to satisfy that craving.

Ritter Sport

Ritter Sport’s appealing chunky, square bars are available everywhere, from Target to airports; yet, I have only tried a couple of these ubiquitous classics. Why? Probably because most of their options are based on milk chocolate. After sampling them, I can say their milk bars are excellent examples of some tried and true favorites with a few surprises. I love the look of these 100 gram squares and their 16 mini portions.

Here’s a walk through the 16 flavors I sampled. For simplicity’s sake they will be divided into dark, milk, and white chocolate.

The Darks:

Dark Chocolate with Mousse au Chocolat is a heady bar with a dense, dark chocolate mousse filling. The mousse is very thick, rather than light, and a little is deeply satisfying. I liked the tobacco notes in the couverture.

Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts is chock-ful of crunchy roasted nuts. A classic combination for a good reason.

Dark Chocolate with Peppermint is fantastic. The perfectly sublime dark shell is filled with one of the cleanest minty fondants I have ever tasted.

Dark Chocolate with Marzipan is another excellent duo, as the well tempered dark couverture provides a great textural counterpoint to the soft, super-fresh marzipan.

Their 50% plain dark bar is a very easy-to-eat, sweet chocolate.

The Milks:

Ritter’s milk selection is varied, innovative, and delicious.

Milk Chocolate with Raisins and Hazelnuts is easy to love, and scarf down. The combination of fresh, chewy raisins and crisp roasted nuts has always been a winner in my book.

Milk Chocolate with Neapolitan Wafers is another delight. Hazelnut cream-filled wafers with praline are embedded in a thick coat of chocolate. An excellent choice for coffee or tea.

Milk Chocolate with Butter Biscuit has the wonderful texture of cookie and a smooth layer of milk and cocoa cream.

Milk Chocolate Praline is filled with hazelnut praline. It’s sweet, nutty and super creamy.

Milk Chocolate with Strawberry Cream is a perky, tangy fruit and yogurt cream center in milk chocolate. Little pieces of crisped rice add texture and interest to this pretty strawberry infused bar.

Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes is different from many permutations of this pair, since there is a higher chocolate to cereal ratio. This makes it extra rich, with the cereal playing understudy to the chocolate.

Milk Chocolate with Whole Almonds is packed with roasted nuts and fulfills all your crunch cravings.

Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts is for those who want a rich milk base to offset the roasted nuts that are strewn throughout this bar.

35% Fine Milk Chocolate is exactly that, a sweet, milky bar that is a little less creamy than their 30% Alpine Milk, which was as dairy rich as any chocolate I have ever tasted.

The White:

White Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts is surprisingly less sweet than I would have imagined and actually allows the roasted nuts to shine.

If you love milk chocolate, or dark with peppermint or marzipan, you will be happy to know these bars are easy to find and reasonably priced.