Tag Archives: caramels

Donna Toscana Chocolates

One of the most luscious combinations of flavors and textures I have had the joy of experiencing recently is Donna Toscana’s Lychee Wasabi Truffle with Black Sesame Seeds. Diane Pinder, the creative chocolatier behind these delights, blends lychee (a fruit high in vitamin C and minerals), heavy cream, and real wasabi. This delicate balance of exotic fruit and warmth is mixed with white chocolate to create the soft center, which is then enrobed in 60% Callebaut dark chocolate. A sprinkle of roasted black sesame seeds completes the piece with a naturally nutty finish. Just as in music, where a few strategically placed staccato notes take the whole composition to wonderful unchartered realms, these little roasted sesame seeds, with their tiny crunch, escalate a truffle from great to extraordinary.

Inspired by flavors of Tuscany, Diane creates unusual combinations that work. Her balsamic caramel allows the vinegar’s complexity to enhance the carmel’s light sweetness. Her olive oil and sea salt is an unusual duo that focuses on the oil’s richness cut with just the right amount of salt. The balsamic truffle is different from the balsamic caramel, but has the same flattering juxtaposition of flavors. This time, a dark ganache takes it up a notch with earthy balsamic notes. Lemon basil and espresso lemon are two more examples of her creativity. There are currently 12 flavors in the line including blood orange, banana, and chestnut nutmeg, all of which sound very tempting.

I also sampled a dark bar covered with shards of lovely, super-brittle toffee and candied pistachios. This is unlike anything I have had before. A 1/4″ thick slab of crisply tempered 60% dark Callebaut chocolate is scattered with fairly large chunks of crystalline toffee and toffee-encased whole pistachios. If you like a hearty ratio of chocolate to crunchy topping, this is for you. It’s almost the opposite of your typical chocolate covered nut toffee where chocolate is the supporting actor, and toffee the star.

Diane Pinder is definitely a chocolatier to watch.


Cowgirl Chocolates

As much as I adore the experience of a single origin bar with all its nuances, there are times when it’s fun to taste other flavors and textures.

Cowgirl Chocolates makes a line of truffles and caramels, some with cayenne, to wake up your taste buds.

There are four spicy and four mild truffles. Thankfully, each is identifiable by its wrapper, and they enclose an explanatory card. I was immediately drawn to the extreme flavors: Dark, Dark Raspberry, Hazelnut Milk, and Cappuccino. Each retains its essential flavor, even though cayenne has been added. The intensity of the cayenne is less highlighted in the raspberry, which makes for a well-balanced experience. Cappucino and cayenne is surprisingly complex, as is the Hazelnut. The Dark variety works well, too. I happen to like chili with my chocolate, though not as a steady diet. I’m sure they offer a mixed assortment for that very reason. You can eat one mild truffle (there are four: Double Dar, Milk, Ivory Orange, and Raspberry Lemon) and one spicy one, just to keep things from becoming too fiery.

It takes a deft hand to add the right amount of cayenne. The right amount being one that enahances the sweetness and flavor of your chocolate, as well as the creaminess of the truffle interior. Here, cayenne is a supporting player not the star.

As for the caramel, I sampled the Habanero. Soft, sweet, and hot! Pretty funkacidal, as my sister used to say.

A word about the packaging. All nine pieces snuggled up in this red cardboard box tied with black ribbon and adorned with a silver-colored cowboy hat charm. There’s even a very attractive little gift tag.