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Quick Links: List of American Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers, List of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in Canada, The Raw Chocolate List, Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate List (U.S. & Canada), Soy-Free Chocolate List, Chocolate Recipes.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Spooky Chocolate Bar Just Launched by Seattle Chocolates

Halloween is just around the corner, and what better way to enjoy the spooky season than with a gourmet truffle bar designed for the occasion?   "Devil's Delight" by Seattle Chocolate Company is a dark chocolate truffle bar with a peanut butter and crunchy pretzel centre, and it has a fun packaging design to boot. With all sorts of devilish, Halloween-related words printed all over the package, this chocolate bar makes me wish that Halloween would come sooner.


So besides the packaging, why is this chocolate bar so ghoulishly evil? Well for starters, peanut butter and chocolate is a bit of a 'devilish' combination, don't you think?  Simply because it is so addictive! And 'addictive' is certainly the right word to describe the taste of this particular chocolate bar.

I knew as soon as I took it out of the wrapper and cracked off a piece that my bar would not be long for this world.  It looked delicious inside and out.  Dark chocolate on the outside and a combination of peanut butter and white chocolate on the inside, making the pairing perfectly balanced between sweet, bitter and salty.  I wanted to eat the entire bar in one sitting!


So check out this 'devilish' combination - it will be in stores starting today! It may be just the thing to give to family and friends this Halloween. Or, if you really want to impress your neighbours, go high-end and hand them out at the door on Halloween night!  Everyone will think your house is the 'coolest' one on the block. 


Here are the package details:


Devil's Delight Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Peanut Butter & Pretzels, 2.5 oz (70g)
Seattle Chocolate Company (Seattle, WA)
www.seattlechocolates.com
Ingredients: White chocolate (cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), dark chocolate (chocolate liquor*, cane sugar, cocoa butter*, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), peanut butter (roasted peanuts, salt), pretzels (unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], malt, salt, soybean oil, yeast) salt, natural flavour. Contains milk, soya, wheat, and peanuts, This product is manufactured in a plant that processes milk, soya, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, and wheat products. *Rainforest Alliance Certified (TM) (50% of total cocoa).



Additional Notes:
Seattle Chocolate Company makes a whole range of chocolate truffle bars with all sorts of interesting flavour combinations, such as Lemon Ice - a white chocolate truffle bar with lemon oil and lemon candy pieces, as well as a Birthday Cake Batter Truffle Bar and a Peanut Praline Truffle Bar. And if you like their combination of chocolate and peanut butter that they have come up with for Halloween, they also make a Perfect Peanut Butter Truffle Bar.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The International Chocolate Awards 2014: The Canadian Competition


The International Chocolate Awards are coming to Canada again this Fall. If you are a Canadian chocolatier, get your very best chocolates together and enter by October 1st. Judging takes place from October 5-8th at Vancouver Community College's downtown campus. Winners will be announced on Thursday October 9th at Xoxolat.

Last year, more than 100 products were entered into the competition, and nine companies made it to the U.K. for the World Finals in London. Edmonton's Sweet Lollapalooza, Toronto's MoRoCo Chocolate, Montreal's Christophe Morel and Vancouver's DC Duby and Beta5 Chocolates took home winning medals. Vancouver's Beta5 Chocolates were the first Canadians to win a World gold medal.

So get ready chocolatiers and show your stuff!   Maybe even this year I'll enter....if only my unique chocolates fit into one of the categories (truthfully, I'd rather be a judge, which sounds like the best job in the world!). for more information, visit: www.internationalchocolateawards.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Costco's Tuxedo Cake: Chocolate Mousse Heaven

This combination of chocolate mousse, thick cream, and chocolate fudgy brownie pieces sandwiched between two layers of fluffy moist chocolate cake surprised me with its deliciousness.  Why?  Not because of the combination of flavours - certainly that was well thought through - but because of the type of store that I purchased it from. 

Don`t get me wrong, I love Costco.  It is a store that often carries organic and natural food products at great discount prices (e.g. my great experience with Barkthins chocolate).  But if you have read any of my other articles in the past, you will know that I prefer fine chocolate.  And I also prefer my dark chocolate not to be too sweet (I hate chocolate that is labelled as 'dark' but is actually sickeningly sweet).  And what often happens, is that large grocery retailers sell cakes under their own label or other brands that are made with super sweet chocolate, or chocolate ganache that has had too much icing sugar and artificial vanilla added to it. But that was not the cake with this Kirkland brand cake at Costco. 

There was only the taste of chocolate - no heavy artificial vanilla flavour (although there is some artificial flavour included in the ingredients) - and with just the right level of sweetness. The dark and white chocolate mousses in the centre were rich and not too sweet, and the brownie pieces were not overwhelming and not overly 'chewy', so the experience was completely smooth and enjoyable.

I have looked at this cake on many occasions in the past, but have never made the purchase. I was worried that I would be disappointed, as I have been with many other chocolate cakes sold at retail chain stores in the past. But I am truly glad that I finally found an excuse to buy one.

The cake serves at least 12 people - a great addition to any dessert table at a party, or for a simple birthday celebration. I purchased mine at an Ontario Costco store.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Salty Battle of the Big Chocolate Brands: Godiva vs Lindt vs Wal-Mart

Two of the most competitive chocolate bar brands that can be found on food retailer shelves are Godiva and Lindt. Also, some of the larger retailers sell competitive chocolate under their own store brand, such as Wal-Mart's Our Finest brand. 

What often happens between these competitors is, when one offers a new flavour and it becomes successful, the others quickly follow suit and offer the same flavour. This is precisely what happened with the oh-so-popular 'sea salt (or Fleur de Sel) and dark chocolate' flavour first offered by Lindt, then Godiva and now Walmart came out with their own sea salt chocolate bars.  So if you like your dark chocolate salty, and you just don't know which chocolate to choose, this article is for you!

I started by comparing Lindt and Godiva's chocolate bars. I found that Godiva's 100 gram 50% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar has chunky pieces of sea salt in it, which leaves little bits of savoury salt behind to enjoy once the chocolate has melted away.  Whereas Lindt Excellence's 100 gram Sea Salt Dark chocolate bar offers a smoother experience.  There is slightly more sweetness in taste from the Lindt bar (Lindt's has 47% cocoa solids and Godiva's has 50% cocoa solids). Overall, both bars are on the sweet side.

Walmart's Our Finest SEA SALT SWISS DARK CHOCOLATE is very similar in size (also 100 grams) and in concept, but it was bitter in comparison. So if you prefer your dark chocolate to actually be 'dark', then this one certainly has a higher cacao content (sugar is not the first ingredient).  I certainly must have enjoyed it because the entire thing is gone!

So the verdict?  I compared the taste, the texture and the ingredients lists, and based on that I can give you the following recommendations to help you choose...
  • As for flavour and taste, if you like true dark chocolate (i.e. above 50% cocoa solids), choose the Wal-Mart brand or other brands like Saxon 70% Dark with Sea Salt or Soma's Starry Night or even Montreal's Suite 88 NOIR chocolate.
  • If you prefer a sweeter salty dark chocolate, go for the Godiva or Lindt brands.
  • If you like your salt chunky, choose Godiva, but if you want a very smooth chocolate with no crunchy bits in it, choose Lindt.
  • If you have a peanut allergy, you can choose the Wal-mart or Godiva brands, but NOT Lindt. 
  • If you have a wheat or gluten allergy, you can choose the Lindt brand, but NOT Wal-mart or Godiva.
  • If you have a tree nut or soy allergy, stay away from all three chocolate bars!
  • Lindt's contains 'artificial flavour', whereas Godiva's and Walmart's Our Finest both contain 'natural flavour' - so choose based on your preference.
  • If you choose your chocolate based on where it is made, then I can tell you that Lindt's and Wal-Mart's bars are made in Switzerland (i.e. Swiss chocolate), and Godiva's chocolate is made in Belgium but the salt is from Guérande, a small area in the west of France. Godiva is the only brand that tells us where the sea salt came from. They also tell us that this is one of the purest sea salts in the world and considered the 'caviar of salt'.
I hope that helps!  Here are the package details (so you can compare for yourself) from all three chocolate bars:

GODIVA Chocolatier Dark Chocolate SEA SALT, 50% Cacao, 100g
Distributed by Godiva Chocolatier (New York, N.Y.), but made in Belgium.
www.godiva.com
Ingredients: Bittersweet Chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, butteroil (milk), soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavour). Guérande salt. May contain tree nuts and wheat.

Lindt EXCELLENCE SEA SALT Dark, 47% Cocoa Solids, 100g
Imported by Lindt & Sprüngli (Toronto, ON) but made in Switzerland.
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa buter, milk fat, soya lecithin, sea salt (fleur de sel), artificial flavour. May contain peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Cacao: 47% minimum.

Our Finest SEA SALT Swiss Dark Chocolate, 100g
Imported for Wal-mart Canada Corp. (Mississauga, ON) but Product of Switzerland.
www.walmart.ca
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, butter fat, sea salt, natural flavour. Contains: Milk. May contain: soy, tree, nuts, wheat.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Cookies (Gluten-Free)

These cookies are great for a snack or for breakfast!  They taste fantastic with coffee or tea and they can be dipped in milk, white or any percentage of dark chocolate (dip them in a 70% dark chocolate for a low-glycemic diet or 85% or higher to suit a Paleo diet).

 
To Make the Cookies

You need:
  • 2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 large egg
Instructions:
  1. Melt your butter in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss in the coconut flakes and stir.  Add your sugar and stir.
  3. Finally add the egg and stir until moistened. 
  4. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F until lightly browned (be sure to start watching them at 12 minutes - your oven may be hotter than average).
  5. Let cool completely before dipping.


Chocolate for Dipping:

You need:
  • 12 ounces of either dark (70% or as high as 85%) chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate - whatever you prefer. 
Instructions:
  1. Melt and temper your chocolate. Temper it according to the instructions on this page: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/04/there-is-more-than-one-method-to-temper.html
  2. Dip each cookie half-way or completely in the chocolate. Let cool on a piece of waxed paper until the chocolate is solid. 
Consume at room temperature, or refrigerated.
You can also freeze these in an airtight container for up to two months.

Dip these cookies in a variety of chocolate types
to satisfy every member of your family!





Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting NAKID with chocolate


Zazubean Organic Chocolate has been known for its fun and funky names. And their 73% "Nakid, Bare it ALL" chocolate bar is no different. It seems quite simple, this bar is flavoured with only cocoa nibs and vanilla, which highlights what chocolate is truly made of: roasted cocoa beans, some sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla. There is no soy lecithin in this bar and it is both organic and fair trade certified.  The beans used to make this chocolate are from the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

It has a lot of real vanilla flavour, which makes this 73% bar seem slightly sweeter than it would without the vanilla. However, it was not as sweet as Alter Eco's 63% with Nibs bar or Soma's 67% Cacao Nib Bar. So if you are looking for a crunchy nib bar that is a little dark than what is generally available, this may be just right for you.

The Nakid bar also has a really nice crunch to it. Overall, I liked it quite a lot.

I purchased this bar at an Ontario Bulk Barn for $3.99.


Here are the package details:

Nakid Cocoa Nibs & Vanilla, 100g
Zazubean Organic Chocolate (Vancouver, Canada)
www.zazubean.com
Ingredients: Cocoa mass*+, cane sugar*+, cocoa nibs*+, cocoa butter+*, vanilla*+.
+FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED.
*CERTIFIED ORGANIC.
May contain shell of cacao nib, traces of milk, nuts and peanuts.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What's Your Favourite 85% Chocolate Bar Brand? Maybe it's on this list:


Chocolate. It is not all the same. And certainly no two brands are alike. Each producer uses different ingredients, different processing methods, and cocoa beans from different origins. This means that although a group of chocolate bars, such as 85% dark chocolate, all have the same percentages of cacao and sugar, they will taste completely different from one another.

One cost-conscious chocolate maker might use the less flavourful Forrastero bean to make chocolate, whereas another chocolate maker might use the highly coveted Criollo bean to make fine chocolate.  And that same fine chocolate maker might use a 72-hour conche method to make chocolate with a smooth texture.  But an organic chocolate producer may stone-grind the beans for a rougher, less-processed texture. And yet all these producers make chocolate bars that appear to be the same on the package because they are simply labelled as milk chocolate, 70% dark, or 85% dark.


To find your favourite chocolate bar, it is good to conduct regular 'taste and compare' sessions to sort out the differences and discover your favourite brand.

A few weeks ago, I was craving dark chocolate with 85% cacao solids. When I went to the store, I found several bars on the shelf in that same percentage range. So I bought them all and decided it was a good time to taste and compare. Here is the list of 85% bars with flavour notes, broken down into two categories: Competitive Commercial (i.e. Lindt, Godiva, etc.), and Organic/Fair Trade:

Competitive, Commercial Brands:

The first bar was a Lindt Excellence 85%. It was very smooth (as Lindt's chocolate always is) and perfectly portioned pieces, but the flavour is very bitter and a bit dry. You will need water with this one because it sticks to the tongue. In looking at the ingredients (see below), I could see that cocoa powder was added to the chocolate, which gives it that extra bitter flavour and dry texture.

Walmart's brand, Our Finest 85% Swiss Dark Chocolate, was similar to Lindt but has a brighter, and acidic, yet tangy, flavour.  It was not as crisp to snap and the pieces were a little thicker than Lindt's. Overall, I was surprised to learn that I liked it.

Godiva's 85% chocolate bar was pretty good.  It was smooth for the most part, but had the odd crunchy sugary bit which was not unpleasant. Also, the "natural flavour" (instead of vanilla) was nice and not overwhelming, as it was in the Cote D'Or bar.

Cote D'Or NOIR 86% has 1% more cacao solids, but it is not any more bitter than the others.  However, it does have a strong added flavouring (in replacement of 'vanilla' - see below for ingredients list), in a not-so-good way.

Organic & Fair Trade Brands:


Green & Black's Organic 85% chocolate bar had thick chunks to break off, and it seemed to be softer and maybe more 'melty', if that is the right way to put it. In terms of flavour, it was tangy, acidic and a bit overwhelming, but that may have something to do with the thickness of the pieces.   The vanilla flavour was also strong. And yet, I know that I liked it because I ate the whole bar in a very short time.

Alter Eco 85% was also organic and fair trade.  And it was my favourite.  Bitter but palatable with a nice flavour.

Theo Chocolate's 85% has a lot of vanilla flavour and is very enjoyable, with a  slight sugar crunch. It is also very acidic, so much so that it reminds me of acidic tropical fruit, but without the fruity taste. This is one of my favourite 85% bars.

PC Organics 85% European Extra Dark Chocolate is a Canadian brand that is made in France.  It is very bitter, but I must have liked it because, like the Green & Blacks bar, I ate it all quite quickly.


So what did I learn from this process? For one, Alter Eco was my favourite 85% dark chocolate bar, which surprised me. My second choices were Theo, PC and G&Bs. And I also learned that I like 85% dark chocolate, I just don't like all brands of it. My least favourite was Cote D'Or.

I also learned that although one producer might make an undesirable 85% dark chocolate, I can never discount their other flavoured, white or milk chocolate bars, because they might just make the best bar in another category.

Here are some other 80-something % bars that I have also tried and enjoyed:


Grenada 82% brand was very tropical, citrusy and fruity flavoured. Loved it for its pronounced flavour.

Camino (Canadian brand) Panama Extra Dark 80% is smooth and slightly sweeter than the 85% group.  This chocolate bar is enjoyable in the same way that a black espresso is. www.tasteofcamino.com

GNAW 80% High Cocoa bar from Norfolk U.K. is full of flavour and quite enjoyable. It is also one of the most 'fun' brands out there. www.gnawfolkchocolate.com


So let's compare ingredients!  Here are the package details and ingredients lists for most of the 85% chocolate bars mentioned above, which may help you decide which ones to choose based on your dietary needs (i.e. soy vs no soy, vanilla vs no vanilla, etc.) or preference of where it is made:


Lindt Excellence 'Intense Dark' 85% Cacao, 100g
Lindt & Sprüngli (Canada), Inc. (Toronto, ON)
www.lindt.com
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cocoa butter, Demerara sugar, bourbon vanilla beans. May contain almonds, milk and soy.

Côte D'Or NOIR 86%, 100g
Côte D'Or (Imported by Jacobs Suchard Canada (Don Mills, Ontario)
www.cotedor.com
Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate*, cocoa butter*, cocoa powder, sugar, natural flavours, soy lecithin. *Cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified(TM) Farms. May contain milk and tree nuts.

Godiva Extra Dark Santo Domingo Chocolate, 100g
Distributed by: Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. (New York, NY) - product of Germany.
www.godiva.com
Ingredients: Bittersweet chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavouring). May contain tree nuts, peanuts, milk and wheat.

Our Finest 85% Cocoa Swiss Dark Chocolate, 100g
Imported for: Wal-Mart Canada Corp. (Mississauga, ON)
Product of Switzerland.
www.walmart.ca
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, natural flavour. May contain: Milk, soy, tree nuts, wheat.

Theo 85% Organic and Fair Trade Pure Dark Chocolate, 85g
Theo Chocolate (Seattle, WA)
www.theochocolate.com
Ingredients: Cocoa beans*+, sugar*+, ground vanilla bean*+. Allergy information: Manufactured on shared equipment with products containing milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts. (my side note: no soy!)

PC Organics European Extra Dark 85%, 100g
President's Choice Organics brand by Loblaws, Inc. (Toronto, ON)
Product of France
www.pc.ca
Ingredients: Organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cocoa butter, organic sugar,. May contain tree nuts, milk, egg, soy and wheat.

Alter Eco 'BLACKOUT' 85% Dark Organic Chocolate, 80g
Alter Eco (San Francisco, CA)
www.alterecofoods.ca
Ingredients: Cacao beans*, raw cane sugar*, cocoa butter*, vanilla beans*. *organic and traded in compliance with Fairtrade standards, total 100%.  Made on shared equipment with milk, hazelnuts, almonds and soy.   (Made with Ecuadorian cacao, but made in Switzerland)

Do you have any favourite 85% bars?  Tell us about them in the comments below!  This 85% chocolate list can be added to over time with help from my chocolate-loving friends.