Category Archives: sugar free chocolate

Georgia Ramon Bean To Bar Chocolate

While Keats once said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” when it comes to chocolate it’s all about the ephemerality of the experience. Perhaps, the beauty that fades quickly is precious because of its fleetingness. When I eat a piece of amazing chocolate and know the flavor, texture, and aroma are with me for only the briefest moment, I can savor them with a different kind of attention. Chocolate from Georgia Ramon reminds me how great chocolate can bring me fully into the moment. The visual joy of their packaging, the tactile and auditory pleasure of the reclosable interior cellophane sleeve, and the quality of their beans all invite a gustatory reverie.

Georg Bernardini and Ramona Gutmann founded Georgia Ramon in 2015, but this is no novice chocolatier. Bernardini has over 27 years experience in chocolate, patisseries & confiserie. His career has taken him from Bonn and Munich to Paris and Toulouse.

In 1992 he and Oliver Coppeneur founded Confiserie Coppeneur et Compagnon. While there, he set up the company’s bean to bar chocolate line. Ramona spent two years working at Confiserie Coppeneur in Bonn as a shop manager.

Georg wrote the definitive book on artisanal chocolate: “Chocolate – The Reference Standard.”

Georg and Ramona value sustainability using many organic ingredients and beans sourced from cooperatives, or plantations Georg has been working with for years.

Before I even tasted any of the eight bars they sent me, I was captivated by the flat, rectangular cardboard envelopes adorned with unique designs that went from an insanely beautiful Dia des Muertos themed painting on their Haitian 80%, to a floral hippie-inspired pattern on the 100%.

Each bar is 50 grams, but the packaging, flavor intensity, and lovely bas relief of Mondrian-like squares made me think it was larger.

Let’s start with the wildest chocolate combo I have ever eaten: Broccoli and Salted Almonds in White Chocolate. This khaki green beautifully thin slab is conched with de-oiled almond flour and air-dried broccoli powder. Then, they add Sicilian roasted and salted almonds. There are 42% cocoa solids. It tastes creamy, green, fresh, and comes studded with tiny bits of crunchy nuts. If you have a curious palate I would highly recommend experiencing this unique vegan bar.

At the opposite end of the cacao spectrum is their 100%, Mountains of the Moon. Made with a combination of Forastero and Trinitario beans from the Congo, it is well-tempered and incredibly intense. The earthy flavor redolent of coffee, spices, and leather.

Georgia Ramon’s 80% made with Haitian Trinitario and Criollo beans is crisply tempered, almost black, rich, and balanced. I am a fan of the 80% range and find products differ greatly. This one is so satisfying that even a small rectangle sated my craving for an exquisitely smooth chocolate with flavors of fig, roasted nuts, and cognac.

Their 70% dark from the TCGA Cooperative in Belize is a gentle, sweeter bar. Like its siblings, it’s beautifully tempered. The flavor is earthy and more straightforward with a slightly dry finish.

If you love the combination of dark chocolate and sea salt, Georgia Ramon offers a 70% with sea salt flakes from the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. It has the same amount of added sugar as the plain 70%, but a vastly different flavor profile. The salt is subtly added, achieving the exact right balance. Enough to perk up the essence of the beans while not overwhelming them.

Super finely ground coffee from the jungles of Ethiopia and cocoa nibs infiltrate every bite of their 55% bar. Unlike many others in this cacao content range, it is not particularly sweet, with 13 grams of sugar in the whole bar. An inventive, perfect combination that once tasted seems as if it should have been ubiquitous for years.

38% white chocolate never dreamed it could embrace beetroot and coconut, but it all deliciously comes together in this bar. The dark ruby-amethyst color looks amazing while the flavor and texture surprise your taste buds. Crunchy-chewy coconut pieces are a perfect counterpoint to the beetroot’s sweetness and ultra creamy texture.

Their 66% Brazilian Trinitarian dark milk bar was delightfully deep, full of terroir, and ground but not conched. Its mildness combined with memories of the bean’s earthy origins, making it another original from Georgia Ramon.

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Dante Confections: 98% Organic Stevia sweetened bars, Turtles, and Truffles

It is unusual to find both traditional and organic high intensity chocolates under one roof, but Dante Confections straddles these two often disparate areas. Their handmade truffles are lovely little domes of shiny, well-tempered white, milk or dark chocolate encasing ultra rich, smooth ganache centers infused with 25 different flavors. From liquors, to fruits, to eggnog, to peanut butter, and mint, there is something for everyone. They come in petite and large sizes. I found the petite version offered up a few bites of snappily textured chocolate against velvety centers. The flavors are on the mild side, so if you are someone who loves a hint of Grand Marnier, for example, and doesn’t want an alcohol wallop, these would be perfect.

In addition, I sampled their milk and dark chocolate Turtles, also available in white chocolate. Every chocolatier seems to have their own rendition of these classic treats. Dante’s are huge 2″ rounds with thick layers of chocolate encasing a super chewy caramel. The very fresh and crunchy nuts, either pecans, cashews, or almonds, are embedded at the edges. The whole experience is quite decadent: über-chocolatey, with a very satisfyingly caramel presence, and enough whole, roasted nuts to keep you coming back for another bite.

On the other end of the spectrum are Dante’s 98% chocolate bars sweetened with stevia. There is the traditional bar, and a Fair Trade, organic variety. Both would surely sate anyone’s craving for the densest chocolate experience this side of a roasted cacao bean. While not for the faint of heart, their flavor profile is almost hard to discern because the intensity just blows your taste buds away. A friend of mine was crazy about them. He loved the thick texture, super slow melt, and lack of sugar. Stevia adds some sweetness, but it definitely doesn’t make these bars sweet. To my surprise, I actually found the original rendition a bit gentler on my palate. It is interesting to note that one bar, 45 grams, gives you 70% of your daily requirement for iron, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. Both of these 98% extreme chocolate bars provide one of the strongest, most concentrated chocolate experiences out there. If you are looking for a wild gustatory ride, this is it.

You can buy the bars from Dante’s website, on the right side of this page, or on Amazon.

Stirs The Soul: Fairly Traded, Raw, Organic Chocolate

If you love raw chocolate you will want to check out Portland Oregon’s Stirs the Soul. Their 82% and 84% chocolates are intensely nutritious and surprisingly gentle on the palate. I even like their motto: Bean to bliss.

Daren Hayes, a culinary school graduate, is the talent behind these treats. His passion for fairly traded, organic, sustainable, and wild-crafted cacao, combined with his choice of in house stone-ground 100% un-roasted Criollo & Trinitario beans infuses his creations with quality. In addition, Daren works in a facility that is nut, tree-nut(except coconut), soy, gluten, egg and dairy free, which makes their chocolate suitable for vegans and people with allergies. If that’s not tempting enough, their lines are gluten free, and offer a low glycemic index.

I sampled three of their products. A sweet little two ounce muslin bag full of chewy, fresh 84% coated dried bananas, figs and currants. I liked this combination of flavors and textures. Raw chocolate always feels super healthy, and a bit more like food than confection; so, I ate these with abandon knowing I was saturating myself with antioxidants.

Their Goji-orange bar, sweetened with raw dates offers up both dark 82% chocolate with chewy goji berries and an undertone of orange that beautifully enhances the whole experience. Gogi berries are known for their high levels of antioxidants, 21 trace minerals, 18 amino acids, and are believed to curb your appetite, promote restful sleep, and create a sense of well being.

Just one rectangle from the 84% plain bar sweetened with coconut palm sugar really satisfied my chocolate craving and offered a great pick-me-up before lunch.

These two bars weigh in at one ounce each, which helps with portion control, and makes them fit a pocket perfectly.

There are a plethora of creative options on their website. The bars are divided into four categories based on which sweetener is used: raw agave, coconut palm sugar, raw honey, and raw dates. I can’t think of any other company offering such an incredible diversity of sweeteners.

In addition to being able to buy these online, you can also find them at a number of co-ops and markets.

Maine Cottage Foods Sugar Free Chocolate

Suddenly, it seems as if it’s raining sugar free chocolates. Maine Cottage Foods has a wide variety sweetened with erythritol, which claims the lowest glycemic index of any other sweetener. They also add oligofructose, a probiotic fiber, enhancing your treats with the same fiber as a bran muffin and adding extra sweetness. I found this a very interesting strategy, as it makes their chocolates more filling.

Maine Cottage Foods’ chocolates are most obviously different from each other in the milk and dark varieties. The milk iterations are much creamier, as you would expect, with a chewier mouth feel, while the darks are very snappy, glossy, and crisp.

I was taken with their colorful foil-wrapped “Teenies,” also available in 1.1-1.5 ounce bars. I sampled 11 flavors. The five darks were: Cherry, Ultra Dark, Mint, Orange, and Raspberry. All were appealing and had good flavor. My favorite was the mint, followed by orange. The milk options were: Butterscotch, Butterscotch and Cinnamon, Crunch, Milk, Mint, and Raspberry. Of these, I liked the crunch best, with both Butterscotches next in line.

Since they sent me some dark chocolate “Jewels,” their larger version of faceted chocolate chips, I had to make some clusters. This batch was enhanced with an organic crunchy maple cereal and some tart dried cherries. A slam dunk with a group of friends who wouldn’t have known the chocolate was sugar free unless I mentioned it. The jewels come in different flavors, including: mint, orange, dark, milk, butterscotch, raspberry, and some seasonal offerings.

They also make big slabs of chocolate bark. I was surprised to see them weigh in at eight ounces, as they look huge. You can order all sorts of combinations from drop down menus, including different flavored chocolates and add-ins, including pistachios, almonds, Kona coffee beans, pecans, peanuts, wild Maine blueberries, and cherries. I am sure they are all delicious, as the three I tried (blueberry, coffee, and peanut) were satisfying, rich, full of flavor and appealing textures, and very generously packed with fruit, coffee, or nuts. The blueberries were dried, but still chewy and very fresh tasting, Kona coffee beans were roasted to their crispy apotheosis with no acidity and a super mocha intensity, and the goobers were wonderfully crunchy and a perfect ad-in for those seeking a snack food more than a confection.

The people at Maine Cottage Foods are so accommodating they will even split a one pound bark order into two different options; so, you could order half a pound of the dark with Kona coffee and half a pound with blueberries. In addition, they offer free shipping, weather permitting.

Coco Polo Stevia Sweetened 70% Chocolate

Even if you don’t have to avoid sugar, these Stevia sweetened bars from Coco Polo are an excellent way to get your chocolate fix. All are 70%, and they come in six tantalizing flavors.

I adored the Tart Cherry, with its chewy dried fruit and crisply tempered glossy chocolate. This chocolate is bittersweet, intense, and has a nice mouth feel. I liked how the cherries added an acidic kick, and great texture.

Their Almond bar is full of whole, crunchy nuts and a perfect counterpart to the cherry. I could happily alternate a square of each all day.

Ginger is a smooth bar with spicy ginger. It gives up that unique ginger kick without adding any sugar encrusted rhizome.

Elderberries, one of my all-time favorites for their nutritional profile, is another smooth treat with lovely berry notes in every bite.

Cocoa Nibs provides a constant crunchy experience that takes this bar up a few notches on the cocoa-meter without adding any bitterness. I don’t know how they managed that feat, but the end result is incredibly satisfying.

Their Pure 70% is just that. Unadulterated chocolate balanced beautifully with some vanilla. (Actually, all the bars have added vanilla which gives them extra body and complexity.)

The gold foil liner is housed in a prettily designed sleeve with lovely artwork, and the bars have 15 easily breakable squares.

Now, you have the perfect gift for someone avoiding sugar who loves dark chocolate.

NOTE:

I just tempered some of their plain chocolate for a lacy bark with sun-dried mulberries, roasted cashews, and brown rice crispies.
My little confections turned out fabulously, and the chocolate tempered perfectly.

Here’s the technique, in case you’d like to try it:

Break one bar into 15 sections.
Set aside four of them.
Chop these four into small shards and divide equally.
Put the remaining 11 into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and nuke on 75%-100% power for one minute.
Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Add one group of the chocolate shards. Stir until melted and repeat with the other one.
Add in whatever appeals to you.
I used about 1/4 cup sun-dried mulberries, 1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews, and 1 1/2 cups organic brown rice crispies.

Stir until everything is coated well.
Turn out onto a piece of aluminum foil or waxed paper, and spread out with the back of a wooden spoon.

Let sit at room temperature until chocolate re-tempers, about 20 minutes.