Category Archives: white chocolate

Santa Barbara Chocolate

I have just tasted one of the best single origin chocolates, and that’s saying a lot, as there are plenty of excellent options out there. It’s a 73% bulk wafer from Vietnam offered by Santa Barbara Chocolate. The flavor is round, full, fruity, floral, balanced, and complex with a slightly dry finish. Like an edgy criollo. I love criollo beans, but they can sometimes seem a bit too gentle and predictable on the palate. This chocolate, which contains cocoa butter and vanilla, delivers all its fascinating flavors in a velvety texture.

Making this a 73% was inspired as it heightens all the nuances of the cacao with just the right amount of sugar. At $39 for a three pound bag it’s also an incredible bargain. One two ounce bar tempered into an ornate mold in fancy packaging would easily fetch $10, or more. I would suggest transferring some straight from the bag into a pretty glass jar and giving it as gifts…economical, unique, and luxurious.

While I temper chocolate as a moving meditation, I found these Vietnamese wafers almost impossible to adulterate with anything. They’re irresistible right out of the bag; and, their size and shape couldn’t be better for a perfectly timed melt at body temperature. At some point, I will make mendiants with maple glazed pecans or pistachios and thinly sliced dates or dried mango, but not now. Today I want to bask in the glory of this bean. (Two days later…ever the experimenter, I tempered some of this extraordinary chocolate and added dehydrated raspberries. The acidity of the fruit brought out even more floral fruity notes from the chocolate. So, even though it stands alone, it also plays well with others.)

I also sampled their organic Hispaniola 100% chocolate wafers sourced from the Dominican Republic. They have a very robust, intense, super chocolatey flavor noticeably without leather, soil, licorice, or tobacco notes that makes them perfect for baking. I tempered some and added 25% demerara sugar. The slight sweetness and crunch of the crystalized sugar was a fascinating foil for the Hispaniola flavors.

The 60% version of this bean is very versatile with its lush fruity flavor and lends itself to tempering, baking, or just eating out of the bag. A fun fact about this bean: it was the first cacao Christopher Columbus tasted when he arrived in the New World.

Then there were the 70% organic dark chocolate chips without soy lecithin. I can’t remember having mini-chips with such a deep, refined chocolate presence and a sublimely balanced flavor profile. They were a great addition to a batch of maple tahini chocolate chip cookies.

My last treat was their Caribbean 67% which also had a fruity presence and a slightly dry, lingering finish. In my experience, these fruitier beans are just excellent for couverture and desserts as they support a galaxy of flavors, like citrus, berries, nuts, seeds, coffee beans, and spices.

In addition to a great selection of products for the professional or avocational chocolatier, Santa Barbara Chocolate makes beautiful large organic truffles. Mine arrived in a stunning tall red faux leather box adorned with a sumptuous black silk ribbon. The box itself opens up sideways to form four smaller boxes that each contained four truffles. These are incredibly rich, vegan, and infused with organic coconut milk and organic honey. A memorable gift for someone you love or want to impress.

Santa Barbara curates a very special collection of cacao. Each item is handpicked for its unique properties, whether organic, Rainforest alliance certified, or coconut palm sugar sweetened, you can be sure it will be both high quality and a good value.

I focused this review on their dark offerings, but they also have milk, white, and compound chocolates, cocoa, drinking chocolate, and beans.

While I didn’t sample the Belgian Dark Chocolate Grand Aroma, I thought you might enjoy the following recipe from Santa Barbara’s owner and chocolatier Jason Vishnefske.

INGREDIENTS FOR BELGIAN BEER CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Beer Ganache:

8oz. Belgian Beer
3oz. Honey
1lb. 4oz. of our Imported Ever the experimenter, I tempered some of this Vietnamese chocolate and added dehydrated raspberries. The result was just what I had in mind: the acidity of the fruit brought out even more floral fruity notes from the chocolate.
3oz. Butter

Additional Chocolate Ingredient:

Belgian Milk Chocolate Couverture

PREPARATION OF BEER TRUFFLES:

Boil the Belgian beer with honey.
Pour onto the Belgian Dark Chocolate and mix so it is smooth.
When the ganache reaches 87F add butter and mix with a hand mixer.
Pour ganache into a parchment lined sheet pan and let it crystallize for 14 hours at 60F.
Temper the milk chocolate couverture and spread a thin layer of the tempered Belgian Milk Chocolate on the ganache side.
When it’s crystallized, turn the ganache and spread another thin layer of tempered Belgian Milk Chocolate on the other side.
Cut into 1/2″ by 2″ rectangles.
Lastly, dip each ganache rectangle into tempered Belgian Dark Chocolate Grand Aroma.

Thinking Elvish Fantasy Chocolate

The multi-talented husband and wife team of Timothy and Lacy Christ was creating high end fantasy inspired costumes and jewelry before being captivated by the world of bean-to-bar chocolate. One look at their Elf-inspired website will give you a sense of their artistry. They source organic ingredients from Fair Trade purveyors, and their wares are soy-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO.

I sampled three of their bars, starting with the 50% almond milk infused dark milk bar made with Peruvian criollo beans from the Norandino cooperative in the Tumbas region. I have tried and loved many dark milk bars, even one from Dubai made with Camel’s milk, and each is fairly different from the next. By using almond milk, Timothy has created a velvety textured chocolate with caramel and molasses overtones.

Their 70% bar from the Lamas region of Peru transported me into a gustatory reverie with its beautiful, snappy temper, super rich, creamy texture, and multi-layered flavor profile of figs, walnuts, and terroir. The beans are a hybrid of trinitario and criollo. I also loved the slightly dry, tannic finish as a counterpoint to the sweetness and velvety texture preceding it.

Another offering from Peru (Norandino) is their 85% bar. An astonishingly flavorful high cacao content chocolate that, like the 70%, had me from my first morsel. Its crisp temper made an audible crack when I broke off a piece. The beans are just sublime. A deep chocolate flavor that’s earthy, with notes of coffee and plum. This 85% chocolate wakes up whatever nascent chocolate yearnings may be lurking in your unconscious. It would make a fabulous addition to a chocolate tasting, or a gift for your favorite chocophile; especially, one who is just venturing into the 80% and higher cacao stratosphere.

They also offer a quartet of cocoa butter bars with various add-ins: pistachios, cashews, almond milk & vanilla, and coconut.

In addition, they make beautiful small domed pyramids of chocolate that can fit into tiny tins you can take anywhere.

All bars are packaged in 1.4 ounce squares with their logo in bas relief.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Buffalo, take a trip to their Elmwood Village location and where you can taste the actual cacao beans and load up on gifts for all your chocolate loving friends.

NEW! Thinking Elvish just came out with a new bark: Yggdrasil’s Seed with pumpkin and sunflower seeds on 70% dark chocolate. Just fabulous! The bark is very thin so the proportion of toppings is perfectly balanced with the chocolate. Be warned, though, it’s highly addictive.

Interested in the Norandino cacao farmers? You can read more here:
https://thewellingtonchocolatevoyage.wordpress.com/peru-norandino-3/
https://www.theochocolate.com/node/17356

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.

MilkBoy Swiss Chocolate

A few years ago, there was an article about Japanese workers going into the forest for a day of rest and relaxation. The salubrious effects of this outing were obvious to all, especially the researcher investigating what he called Forest Therapy. When he was asked how he de-stesses while working in a windowless lab all day he said he used essential oil of Balsam Fir Needle. I tried it, and it beautifully transports me to a deep glade in an emerald wood.

MilkBoy’s 60% dark bar with essential Pine Tree Oil reminded me of that relaxing experience. I would have thought pine and chocolate might clash, but they are an inspired combination. The citrusy edge of pine with a creamy medium dark chocolate creates a balance of flavors and velvety texture. It’s perfect for the gustatory explorer in you.

As you already know, the Swiss are famous for their super creamy chocolates, especially, the milks. If you love milk chocolate, their velvety Swiss Milk chocolate bar is an indulgent option. They also offer a Lemon and Ginger version and one with Crunchy Caramel and Sea Salt. As you might imagine, the latter is quite sweet; yet, the addition of sea salt perks up the caramel flavors to the point of making the bar interesting and complex. For a dark chocolate lover like me, the Lemon and Ginger was a revelation: tart with just the right amount of acidity and a hint of ginger, it elevated the milk chocolate into adult territory.

85% is more my thing, and their 85% bar is super smooth, low in sugar, and beautifully tempered. The taste is rich, sophisticated, with a slightly dry, lingering finish. The vanilla is applied with a light touch so it gently enhances the bean’s flavor.

MilkBoy also makes a plain milk bar for those who love a pristine version, and a white chocolate rendition with bourbon vanilla.

All the bars are a generous 3.5 ounces and come in a lovely cardboard package adorned with black, paper cut silhouettes evoking an Alpine village, complete with cows.

jcoco

Many years ago, there was an ice cream store in Boston that had huge marble slabs where they mixed in all sorts of various candies, cookies, fruits, nuts, etc. into your choice of ice cream. It was such a great idea that it has since been copied in a big way by Cold Stone Creamery and others. The real skill with adding ingredients to a base, whether ice cream or chocolate, is knowing what works with what and when to leave well enough alone.

Jean Thompson, the owner of jcoco, knows her chocolate; especially, when it comes to add-ins. She has a knack for discerning which textures and flavors enhance each other, all of which is evident in her new line: jcoco.

Before we get to the chocolate, let me say I love a business with a mission statement; especially, one that has a humanitarian bent. Here’s a quote from Jean herself:

“We love tasting chocolate and inventing unique flavors, but what’s most important to us at jcoco is the way that food connects us. Giving back to our community is at the heart of jcoco’s mission. To that end, every time you purchase a jcoco product, we will give a fresh, healthy serving of food to someone who would otherwise go hungry. Your everyday indulgence makes a vital difference to someone in your community! Our current partners are Northwest Harvest, the Food Bank of New York, SF-Marin Food Bank, and The Greater Boston Food Bank. We are looking to establish partnerships wherever our products are sold, from Seattle to Los Angeles, and Chicago to New York.”

Of course, no amount of generosity makes a product good. Luckily, jcoco’s chocolates are really delicious. But, even before you tuck into them, there’s the packaging. They offer two different ways of indulging: the jcoco mini gift set with all their flavors, or larger envelopes housing three one ounce separately wrapped bars. The chocolate is wrapped in a shiny, copper colored foil and then in a glossy cheerful paper. Either would make a great gift.

Here’s a run-down on the flavors:

Peanut strawberry baobab in dark chocolate. This luscious bar has only 10 grams of sugar yet feels very indulgent as your palate goes from crunchy peanuts to little chewy jewels of baobab, strawberry, apple, plum, and black carrot juice. It may sound exotic, but the flavors and textures come together in a crave-worthy way.

Black fig pistachio is loaded with nuts and organic fig pieces in dark chocolate.

Vanuatu coconut pecan offers another lower sugar choice, though this time in milk chocolate. Shaved coconut flakes party with toasted pecans for an indulgent ride. Jean’s milk chocolate hails from the tiny island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific and is terrific.

Edamame sea salt in milk chocolate allows the crunch of roasted edamame to languish in a super creamy chocolate.

Agave quinoa sesame really pops with glazed quinoa and sesame in milk chocolate. I loved the two different textures riding shotgun with that lovely, desserty chocolate.

Cayenne veracruz orange really stopped me in my tracks, as white chocolate is not my go-to choice. Here, though, the orange oil and chili really spice up the chocolate, leaving you with a creamy, citrus, slightly heat-filled experience.

Noble Dark is a 72% Belgian chocolate studded with chocolate covered nibs. Once again, the texture is marvelous.

Omnom Organic Chocolate

Stylized origami-like designs of animals festoon the wrappers of Omnom’s organic chocolate bars in a winsome way. Each 60 gram bar, and there are seven to choose from, is encased in a hard cardboard reclosable envelope. The identifying paper sleeve has a multi-colored modernist drawing of a wolf’s head. I am already thinking of ways to re-purpose the envelopes. Bookmarks? Funky postcards? Or, open them up, connect them to each other and create a small abstract piece of art. As the background colors are subtle and elegant, this would be quite appealing, especially framed.

The company is based in Reykjavík, Iceland. Kjartan Gíslason, a chef-turned-chocolatier, is co-owner of Omnom Chocolate. With his three friends (Óskar Þórðarson, Karl Viggó Vigfússon, André Úlfur Visage) he has been creating beautiful chocolate bars out of a disused gas station. They source their organic chocolate from Madagascar, Papa New Guinea and the Dominican Republic.

If you were wondering about the name, it’s the sound the Cookie Monster makes: om nom nom.

I love the way each bar is scored into 24 small rectangular bites. The plain ones are comprised of only cacao, cacao butter and raw cane sugar, while the milk varieties contain Icelandic milk.

The aroma from the 70% Papua New Guinea bar is a heady concoction of leather, soil, tobacco, and coffee. After that initial fragrant fix I was expecting something a bit tannic, to say the least. Instead, I was met with a very smooth, gentle dark fruit and leather flavor profile whose lingering finish was redolent with what the chocolatier calls “buttery bourbon.” I could eat this well-tempered ebony bar all day.

The 66% Madagascar chocolate is lighter in color and intensity. It has a definite fruity presence enhanced by a slightly dry finish. Just to make matters a tad more complex, it leaves earthy afterimages on your tongue.

The Milk Madagascar, 41%, is quite rich and creamy, almost butterscotch in appearance.

Sea Salted Almonds with Milk, 45%, plays the added tang of salt against a lovely roasted flavor from the nuts. Again, a very smooth chocolate that is noteworthy for its gentleness on the palate.

Dark Milk with Burned Sugar, 55%, takes you on a supremely milky ride. It’s a subtle trip with a stop to Caramel Street. Naturally, Icelandic cows make Icelandic milk, which has a different taste from milk in the US. It’s slightly sweet, with a little less fatty mouth feel.

Lakkris, 38%, is made with 3% raw licorice and sea salt. Of the milk bars it is by far the most interesting and unusual. The combination of super-velvety light milk chocolate with sea salt and licorice is seductive and compelling.

Their Dirty Blonde bar is a 35% white chocolate with a unique almost smokey caramel taste. If you love white chocolate, this would be intriguing.

Do you know a chocophile who craves new tastes from organic bean-to-bar manufacturers? If so, Omnom is a great addition to their chocolate experience.

You can buy the bars individually or as a set of seven from their website.

Hedonist Chocolates: Cinnamon Chiptole Drinking Chocolate, Sesame Bark, and Pecan Cranberry Bark

When I was a child growing up in Manhattan, my mother once took my sister and me to a fantastic dessert emporium called Serendipity 3. They were, and still are, famous for their amazing concoctions all presented in almost Rococo style, as over the top as the decor. It was hard to choose just one thing out of their cornucopia of tantalizing options, but I finally settled on the frozen hot chocolate. It arrived in an enormous wide goblet that immediately entranced me. Upon seeing it I settled into a chocolate reverie. The gargantuan glass housed a choppy sea of crushed ice packed into a thick, creamy, chocolatey, sweet infusion. Heaven.

I was reminded of this gastronomic experience when tasting Hedonist Chocolates’ new Cinnamon Chipotle Drinking Chocolate. Notice they don’t call it cocoa or hot chocolate. This would be sublime as a frozen drink on a summer day. At this time of year, when served hot, it makes for a explosion of flavor and spice that satisfies any cravings for comfort, chocolate, and warmth. If you are an aficionado of spicy hot cocoas, please note this rendition is on the more intense end of the fiery scale. I loved the way the cocoa, heat, spice, and textures worked together. By using their suggested amount of milk and mix, you end up with a very thick, rich desserty drink that could also be served with a shot of dark rum.

If you are in the mood for another taste bud bending experience, I would recommend their Milk Chocolate Sesame Bark. The creative folks at Hedonist Chocolates coax as much sesame flavor as they can out of this bark by sprinkling both white and black seeds on its surface, and adding a smidgen of sesame oil. Vanilla rounds out the flavor, and the milky, smooth chocolate gets little bursts of crunchy intensity from the seeds.

Their Dark Pecan Cranberry Bark is attractively adorned with swirls of white chocolate on a semi-sweet base. Chewy tart berries and crunchy pecans top its surface seducing you with its mix of textures, flavors, and lovely visuals.

If all that isn’t incentive enough, you can use code: PLSR12 for a 20% discount on purchases of $30 or more. They also offer a buy three get one free deal on any of their barks. Just use: HOLIBARK2 at checkout. (The first offer expires on 12/31/12, and the second expires on 12/1/12.)