Monday, June 29, 2015

Chocolaterie A. Morin - Traditional French-made bean-to-bar chocolate


French chocolate makers usually come from several generations of craftsmen, much unlike our newbie (and often self-taught) North American chocolate makers. In France, the business is learned by the future chocolate maker at a very young age, then handed down from father to son when the son is an adult or when the father is ready to retire. In fact, there is a fascinating book on the subject called Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate by Susan J. Terrio, which explains how common this practice is among chocolate makers.

Chocolaterie A. Morin is one of these traditional French chocolate makers, proudly announcing "Depuis 3 generations" on their company logo. And they are especially unique because they also grow almonds, hazelnuts and morello cherries on their 15 hectares of orchards first planted by Andre Morin and then his son, Jean-Francois Morin in the south of Rhône-Alpes. With these raw ingredients, they make pralines, nougat and fruit jellies, much like the ones that zChocolat offers in their Provence collection, which I wrote about a few weeks back.

The name Chocolaterie also invokes the idea of those who run France's many boulangeries, charcuteries, patisseries and fromageries - if it has 'erie' on the end, you can be damned sure they are skilled at their craft, certainly an artisan, and they use traditional French methods to make their product. Although I did not need to read beyond the word 'Chocolaterie' to know this, the Morin website states that they work by "old tradition and handmade products".

When Jean-Francois Morin took over the business and worked on improving the manufacturing of the chocolate from the bean, he decided to do it traditionally with low-temperature roasting, five-steel rolls grinding machine and high-performing second hand equipment*. In addition, his son Franck Morin, spent four months on a plantation in Sao Tomé and Principe to learn more about growing cacao, in order to better the family's business.

I had the opportunity to taste two of Morin's many single origin chocolate bars. I tried the Venezuela Carupano Noir 70% and the Perou (Peru) Toumi Noir 70% bars. At first, I found the bars corpulent, making it difficult to break a piece off and too chunky in the mouth to taste and savour. However, the flavours that came through were very exciting.

Both bars reminded me of Soma's recent product releases: the CSB Chama and Porcelana and Soma's award-winning Peru Nacional, with its heavy cocoa flavour, but perhaps with less fruitiness. This is based on memory since I downed both of my recent purchases of Soma`s chocolate already, however I may not be far off.  According to the C-Spot, the bean type used by A. Morin is Nacional, the same bean type as was used in Soma's Peru Nacional chocolate.

In A. Morin's Peruvian Toumi chocolate, there is an upfront bitter cocoa flavour and a fruity undertone (cherry and raspberry), with a smoky roast flavour on the finish that lingers nicely.

The Venezuela is made with cacao grown on a plantation in in Carupano, which is in the Venezuelan state of Sucre on the Venezuelan Caribbean Coast (ref). It also leaves a lingering roast flavour, but upfront you can taste cream and soft fruit, like peaches and a hint of woodiness.

Having only tasted two bars from this chocolate maker, my first impression of A. Morin is that they make chocolate with a focus on the beans, and less on adding a copious amount of cocoa butter to make it creamy.  They make a nice solid piece of chocolate that requires a little time in the mouth to melt. Other French chocolate makers of long tradition, like Bonnat and François Pralus, tend to lead with the cocoa butter and an over-the-top creaminess.

In the end, the taste of both bars had a lovely lingering finish, and I wanted more. I have finished off the two chocolate bars rather quickly, which indicated that I liked them. I am looking forward to tasting more of A. Morin's origin chocolate in the future.

How can you buy A. Morin chocolate?
The chocolate factory is located in Donzère and there, they sell directly to the public. Or you can mail order in France and abroad (yup, that includes us North Americans) from their long list of limited-time-offer origin chocolate bars.

They do have an English pricing section of their website: http://www.chocolaterie-morin.com/tarifs/indexgb.htm and the e-mail is info@chocolaterie-morin.com if you have product questions.  You can also buy their chocolate in the U.K. at Cocoa Runners here.

To learn more about this chocolate, visit the company website: http://www.chocolaterie-morin.com

***
*Ref: "Profil, histoire, philosophie Morin", Chocolaterie A. Morin Informational Package (PDF), 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Homemade Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe with Coconut Sugar & Agave

This summer, I am on a quest to make the best homemade chocolate ice cream possible. I pulled out the ice cream maker that has been in the back of the cupboard for, ahem, seven years and decided it was time to make my own, with simple, natural ingredients.


I first tried a recipe that included egg yolks and a lot of cream, but I wasn't sold on it. I wanted a recipe that had a nice consistency and a little creaminess, but yet required no high-cholesterol egg yolks or worries that the eggs would not be fully cooked. I also found the recipe too creamy.

So I searched through all of my recipe books until I found the Sicilian Chocolate Gelato recipe in Bitter Sweet, a book and life-story written by Alice Medrich*.  The recipe used only milk (not cream) and called for cornstarch as the thickener. It truly was perfect: a bitter dark chocolate taste and a lovely texture. And right out of the ice cream maker, it was soft and absolutely delicious. But me being, well, me, I began to make changes to the recipe.

So if the recipe was so perfect, why would I need to change it? For starters, I have cut back on my sugar intake recently; I often replace cane sugar in recipes with substitutions such as organic coconut sugar and agave. The other reason was, that although I liked the lower-fat version Alice Medrich created, I wanted just a touch more of a creamy taste to balance the bitterness of the cocoa.

So first I tried the recipe with coconut sugar as a replacement for cane sugar.  That was a bit too bitter.  So then I tried the recipe with only agave as the sugar replacement. I found that the syrup burned quickly to the bottom of the pot (I spent 3 days scrubbing the blackened parts off of the inside of the pot!).  Although the resulting ice cream had a lovely burnt caramel flavour, it was a bit too sweet from the agave.

So I decided to split the sugars and use half agave and half coconut sugar. Then I remembered that I always prefer chocolate chips, chunks, or crunch in my ice cream, so I added some homemade 'stone-ground' style chocolate that I ground in the blender (see recipe here) sweetened with only coconut sugar. This added a chocolate and nibby crunch which was nice. I also switched out a half cup of milk for a half cup of cream, to add a bit more creaminess.

The result was still a bitter dark chocolate gelato, with a creamy texture and a wonderful crunch. Here is my recipe so you too can enjoy this 'healthy ice cream' treat! You'll need an ice cream maker, like my simple Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream Maker. But don't worry, they are not pricy.  And stay tuned this summer, as I experiment with more homemade chocolate ice cream recipes (with and without the ice cream maker)!

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Homemade Chocolate Chunks:
For a simple ice cream machine for home use.

You need:
  • 2.5 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 1/4 oz melted stone-ground chocolate or homemade bean-to-bar chocolate sweetened with coconut sugar (see recipe here), chopped
Instructions:
  1. Pour your milk and cream into a pot.
  2. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, or better, use an immersion blender or hand mixer for easier mixing. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer lightly for five minutes.
  3. Pour into a bowl and cover. Let cool in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours (until cold). Be sure to freeze the ice cream maker bowl at this time too!
  4. Just before you start your ice cream maker, place your chocolate in a dry, heat-proof bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Pour the ice cream into the top of the ice cream maker and then let run for about 20 minutes. 
  6. At the 17 minute mark, drizzle your melted chocolate slowly into the top of the ice cream maker.
  7. Once mixed for 1 minute more, turn off the ice cream maker and scrape it out with a silicon spatula or plastic scraper (to prevent scratching of the ice cream maker bowl) into an airtight container.  You can consume the soft ice cream immediately or freeze until hard.

Peanut Butter Option:
For a creamier consistency and smooth texture, add 1/2 cup peanut butter to the ice cream in the last few minutes in the ice cream machine. It has a dark chocolate-and-peanut butter taste, and it is much creamier in texture!

*The original recipe is called Sicilian Chocolate Gelato on page 88 of Alice Medrich's book, published in 2003 by Artisan, A Division of Workman Publishing, Inc.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Ultimate List of Dark Milk Chocolate Bars

Dark Milk Chocolate is a new type of chocolate that has all the antioxidants of dark chocolate, but all the melt-in-your-mouth taste of milk chocolate. If you love it as much as I do, see the list below to find out which brands make it, where you can buy it, and how much you can expect to spend. To learn more about what Dark Milk Chocolate is and why it is currently a trendy chocolate treat, please read my article about Dark Milk Chocolate posted today on the Food Bloggers of Canada site.

When reading this list, keep in mind that the percentage of cocoa solids means the total amount of cocoa butter plus cocoa mass (bean).  So after cocoa %, what’s in the rest of dark milk chocolate? Milk solids and sugar, which can also be played with to create something sweeter or something creamier. In some cases, as you will see from the list below, the ‘milk’ may be goat’s milk or coconut milk. To make your own dark-milk chocolate with coconut milk, get the recipe here.

Before we get into the list, here are a few tips….

How to approach a Dark-Milk chocolate tasting:

1.      Plan ahead. In Canada it is not yet easy to purchase a variety of dark-milk chocolates to taste and compare. But it is possible through the specialty retailers (see list below). Just give yourself a week or two to acquire the chocolate you need.

2.      Stick to chocolates within the 50% to 70% range within one tasting. If you want to compare a lighter milk chocolate, such as Valrhona’s creamy 46% Lait Bahibe, wait until the end of the session to taste it. Otherwise you may set yourself up to dislike the darker varieties.

3.      Find a good mix of bars to taste and stick to four or five at a time. Suggested tasting line-ups are coming to the blog soon. Stay tuned here for the link.
 

The Ultimate List of Dark Milk Chocolate Bars

Castronovo Dark Milk Chocolate, 63% Criollo & Trinitario Cacao, 62.4g (2.2 oz)
Bean type: Columbia, Sierra Nevada, Batch 309
Stuart, Florida
www.CastronovoChocolate.com
Creamy, smooth and creamy texture, has a distinct sour cream truffle flavour.
Ingredients: cocoa beans, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cocoa butter, whole milk powder. Contain no nuts, wheat, gluten, or soy.
I paid $9.99 plus shipping across Canada from: www.latablette.ca.
Won a 2014 International Chocoate Awards Bronze for the Americas.

Taste: Creamy and smooth texture with a taste that is still tart and sour like most dark-milk chocolates over 50%, but milkier and sweeter than some others than that I have tried.  It has a very milky colour. I liked this one a lot.

ERITHAJ Chocolat Mo Cay 58% Trinitario du Vietnam, 100g (3.5oz)
Made by: ERITHAJ Chocolat (Strasbourg, France)
Website: www.erithaj.com
Made in France.
Ingredients: cocoa beans, cocoa butter, whole milk, cane sugar (May contain traces of gluten, peanuts, nuts).
I paid $8.99 for this bar plus shipping across Canada from www.latablette.ca.

Taste: Intense sour cream with a flavour that is closer to a sour cream-and-dark chocolate flavour than milk chocolate. High but nice acidity, with texture that may be from a shorter conche time. 

Fruition’s Dark Milk with Flor de Sal 56%, 60g (12oz)
Made by: Fruition Chocolate (Shokan, NY)
Website: www.tastefruition.com
Batch #: 01
Ingredients: Cocoa beans*, cane sugar*, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, salt, vanilla beans*. Contains milk. May contain traces of nuts. *Organic
Won a Good Foods Awards ‘Gold Seal’ 2013
I paid $9.99 for this bar at La Tablette de Miss Choco (Montreal), plus shipping.

Taste: Tangy sour cream flavour, and seemingly acidic because of the salt, the salt makes it more like a food than a dessert, smooth texture. Interesting but definitely on the savoury side.  

Ambrosia Bean to Bar Ghana 55%, 80g
Ambrosia Pastry Co. (Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA)
Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar, milk powder, vanilla, non GMO soy lecithin.
May contain dairy, soy or nuts.
$8/bar online price

Taste: Delicious, smooth with perhaps a floral and coffee flavour, along with burnt caramel. Very smooth, creamy and sweet, but a dark colour. Made with Forastero beans, it is sweet and creamy and no sour cream flavour like many of the other dark-milk chocolates. I have revisited this chocolate time and time again. It is delectable.

Chocolat au Lait Ouganda, 50% Cacao, 40g
Chaleur B Chocolat (Carleton-sur-Mer, Quebec, CANADA)
Website: www.chaleurb.com
Ingredients: Cane sugar, cacao beans, cacao butter, whole milk powder, vanilla. May contain traces of flour, dairy and nuts.
Online price: $5.75 for a 40g bar

Taste: This bar has a bright and sunny flavour that is sweet, milky and with the taste of vanilla and hints of flower and fruit. Like Ambrosia’s Ghana bar, there is no hint of the tart sour cream flavour common in other dark-milks and it melts away nicely in the mouth. Certainly a favourite!

Milk Series Dark Zurich Milk 55%, 55g
NUANCE Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO)
www.NuanceChocolate.com
Batch #: 3271
Ingredients: organic cacao, cane sugar, whole milk (milk, vitamins A&D3), soy and/or sunflower lecithin, vanilla beans. Manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and soy.
I paid $7 U.S. for the bar, plus shipping.

Taste: Dark and milky hot cocoa flavour. This bar truly says ‘dark-milk’ to me and is one of my favourites. Not overly high in cocoa butter, like Bonnat’s or Michel Cluizel, but instead it is an enjoyable balance of sweet and bitter. The aroma has a hint of sweet berry, and the bar is more tart than sour, which is a nice change from most other dark milks which have a heavy sour cream flavour. Thin pieces, although not delicately thin, offer a full flavour of a dark chocolate milk or properly made, natural hot cocoa with only a touch of sweetness and a vanilla that is detectable but complimentary. To me it also has a ‘chewy caramel’ flavour (not hard caramel, but the dense kind that melt away in your mouth nicely).

Mangaro Madagascar, 50% Milk Chocolate, 70g (2.46 oz)
Michel Cluizel (Damville, France)
www.cluizel.com
Ingredients: whole milk powder, cocoa from origin platation ‘Mangaro’, cocoa butter, sugar, Bourbon vanilla pod. May contain traces of shelled tree nuts and gluten.

Taste: Smooth, soft and buttery as though high in cocoa butter, but no real cocoa butter flavour. Milk is the first ingredient in the list, so the fatty mouthfeel may be from milk fat rather than cocoa butter as in most of the other creamy bars. Rich dark milk chocolate colour, surprisingly has a slight sour cream or sour milk flavour for a 50%, especially when considering that Michel Cluizel’s 40-something % milk chocolate bar does not have that tart flavour. Nice lingering roasted cocoa bean flavour, plus the distinct flavours of Madagascar cacao, although muted, are still there.  The beantobar.co.uk  website says it has a ‘sweet toffee finish’. It is definitely worth a try and if you don’t believe me, believe this: it won a Bronze at the Academy of Chocolate in 2009.

Patric Dark Milk ‘Milk Chocolate Crafted with Extra Cocoa Beans’, 58% Cocoa, 2.3oz (65g)
Patric Chocolate (Columbia, MO)
Ingredients:  cacao, whole milk powder, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, sea salt.
Contains dairy. May contain traces of peanuts and/or tree nuts due to shared equipment. Soy and Gluten free.

Taste: I tasted one older bar (slightly past expiry) and one newer one (expiry Jan 2, 2016). The older one had not gone bad, but it did have that familiar taste of sour cream, although not overly so. The newer one had only a slightly tangy and acidic taste, but less like sour cream. There was a nice snap with a smooth and quick melt (at a cool room temperature), with a lightly creamy texture. Patric’s has a very deep chocolate colour and rich, deep cocoa flavour that truly identifies as a mix between dark and milk chocolate. There is a little sea salt in the ingredients, which is not so noticeable as a ‘salted flavour’, but it certainly makes the chocolate a savoury treat. This would be a delicious hot cocoa flavour.

LatteNero 62%, 100g
Slitti (Tuscany, Italy)
www.slitti.it
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, whole milk power, cocoa butter, natural vanilla. (cocoa minimum 62%). It does not contain soya lecithin.
“Available in 45%, 51%, 62%, 79%.”
Batch #C719

Taste: This bar looks and tastes like a dark chocolate bar and is completely different than all the other dark-milk chocolate bars that  have tasted. The percentage is similar to Bonnat’s, but you could not find two more different chocolate bars. Bonnat’s are milky and creamy and light in colour, Slitti’s bar looks about as dark as an 80%, and has very little milky or creamy flavour. It is certainly bitter and reminds me of dark chocolate made of Forastero beans.  

Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, 69% Goat Milk, 1.75oz (49.61g)
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii (Kailua, HI)
www.manoachocolate.com
Ingredients: cacao nibs, cane sugar, goat milk powder & cocoa butter.

Taste: The aroma is the faint smell of goat’s cheese, and the colour is a beautiful deep, dark and almost red-like brown shade. As you put this chocolate in your mouth, it is quite shocking at the flavour difference from regular chocolate. With 69% cacao solids, this bar does not leave much room for the goat’s milk and sugar, yet the chevre or goat’s cheese flavour is so strong that it almost tastes like you are eating the cheese. It is creamy and the quality of the chocolate is quite good. I think you would need to love the taste of goat cheese, or drink goat’s milk regularly, to truly enjoy this chocolate. Although if you are a curious foodie, this is worth a try simply because it’s flavour is so interesting.

 This is listed as $9 (US) in Hawaii, but cost me $11.50 (CAD) in Canada at JoJo Coco (Ottawa).

Surabaya and Asfarth Dark-Milk Chocolate Bars, 65% cocoa solids, 100 grams each
Bonnat Chocolatier (Grenoble, France)
Surabaya & Asfarth Ingredients*: cocoa*, cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder.
*From the plantation relating to the name of the bar.
 
Taste: Bonnat Surabaya, Asfarth and Java are 65% dark chocolates each made from a different Indonesian plantation. Bonnat’s bars, on the other hand, are extremely high in cocoa butter, which explains the light, milky colour and very buttery texture.

Bonnat’s Surabaya dark-milk chocolate, also with 65% cocoa solids, has a mild tobacco and strong hint of campfire smoke flavour. It is less smoky in flavour and not quite as creamy as the Asfarth (yet still creamier than nearly all the other dark-milk chocolate bars that I’ve tasted). Slightly savoury and slightly less sweet than Asfarth.

Bonnat’s Asfarth chocolate has a brighter flavour than Surabaya, but a heavier smoke and smoked food flavour (as in smoked meat and peppery taste, but with no actual meat taste). This is the creamiest dark-milk chocolate bar of all 12 that I tasted.

Bonnat’s Java chocolate bar is the third in this series of chocolate. I have not had the opportunity to try the Java bar as of yet. However, Julia Moskin, author of the 2008 New York Times article “Dark May Be King, but Milk Makes a Move”says that Bonnat’s Java bar has a strong caramel and bitter flavour, while Eagranie Euh, the author behind the Chocolate Tasting Kit wrote in a 2013 article in Table Matters that the Java bar is smokier than the Surbaya bar(ref).


‘Sittin’ on the Fence’ Dark Milk 50%
Take a Fancy Chocolate (Burnaby, B.C.)
www.takeafancy.ca
Ingredients: Fair Trade organic caco nibs, fair trade organic cane sugar, fair trade organic cocoa butter, organic milk powder.  May contain nut traces.

Taste: This little Canadian chocolate maker got the name of the bar just right with its 50% rich-tasting milk chocolate. Read my review here.

Nihant Melaya Area - Bali Sukrama Brothers' Farm, 55% Cocoa
(62 Hour Conch Trinitario)
Ben & Chocolats SPRL (Belgium)
http://www.benoitnihant.be/
Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic coconut blossom sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter.
I paid $9.99 online price at La Tablette de Miss Choco (www.latablette.ca).

Taste: Described on the package as "Very healthy milk chocolate with coconut blossom sugar." It is also considered 'stone-ground' chocolate.

Initially there is an I-can't-put-my-finger-on-it flavour, which is perhaps a mix between the coconut sugar taste, the acidity, and the origin flavour. Although there is cocoa butter in the chocolate, it is not as detectable as in some other bars. Definitely a browned butter flavour and just a hint of sour cream taste.  The texture is not fully gritty like in a Taza-stone ground way, but rather, seems to have the effect of crumbliness. It is intriguing, and definitely worth a try up against a high-cocoa butter smooth chocolate, such as Chocolat Madagascar or Michel Cluizel, or perhaps Patric, to comprehend the differences. Very tangy and reminds me a little of Fruition's salted dark milk chocolate.

Interestingly they also make a 50% Madagascar dark milk chocolate and a 50% Bali (neither is made with coconut sugar, like this one). I really should have tried these other two dark-milk bars at the same time to understand if that bold tart flavour and interesting texture is from the coconut sugar, or their distinct chocolate-making process, etc.

Chocolat Madagascar 50%, 85g
Chocolaterie Robert (Madagascar)
www.chocolatmadagascar.com
Ingredients: Madagascar Cocoa Beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder. Emulsifier: GMO Free Soy Lecithin, cocoa solids 50% minimum. Milk Solids 25%.
Winner of the International Chocolate Awards 2014 AMERICAS Gold.
I paid $8.99 online price from La Tablette de Miss Choco (www.latablette.ca).

Taste: Very similar to Michel Cluizel's 50% Mangaro in texture and taste. There is a distinct caramel-flavour and a texture that is so creamy, it is quite an enjoyable experience.  It is very creamy, nearly as creamy as the Bonnat dark-milk chocolate bars. The creaminess is overpowering the origin flavours, but the experience is worth the loss. I love how upfront they are about milk solids - with 25% milk solids and 50% cocoa solids, we can calculate that this chocolate has the equivalent in sugar to a 75% dark chocolate (although much higher in fat content!). I love it.


Dark-Milk Chocolate Bars with No Ultimate Chocolate Blog Tasting Notes:

Friis-Holm won the International Chocolate Awards World 2014 Gold prize for their Dark Milk 65% and a Gold – Directly Traded award for the Dark Milk 65% same year, in 2013 won  the World Gold for their Dark Milk 55% bar. Both bars ranked highly in 2012, witht he 55% winnng Silver. Both bars are made from single origin Nicaragua beans (http://www.friis-holm.dk/en/awards/). Interestingly, the website says that the chocolate is made in France by Bonnat, with the ideas generated by Mikkel Fris-Holm in Denmark.  The website says the next step is to have a bean-to-bar operation in Denmark. Two locations in the U.S. carry Friis-Holm’s chocolate, as well as some in the U.K. and throughout the world.  Find out where here: http://www.friis-holm.dk/en/dealers/.

Duffy’s Honduras Mayan Milk Chocolate Bar 61% and Venezuela Ocumare 55% http://duffyschocolate.co.uk/shop/chocolate-bars/honduras-mayan-milk-61.

Hotel Chocolat (UK, several locations) Supermilk 65 collection - comes straight up, in 'puddles' (drops) or in flavours like Popcorn and Earl Grey tea.  Read the whole 'Supermilk' story here: http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/about/supermilk.

Bar au Chocolat (Manhattan Beach, CA) Dominican Republic 60% ($12 U.S. online price)

Chocolate Tree (Edinburgh, Scotland) Peru Marañon 48% and Coconut Milk 55%

Doble & Bignall (UK) 50% Milk Tawny Owl Made with Puerto Cabello Beans.

Original Beans (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) FEMMES DE VIRUNGA 55% Organic Milk Chocolate http://www.originalbeans.com/ .

Pump Street Bakery (Suffolk, UK) Madagascar Milk 58% and Ecuador Dark Milk 60% 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Madagascar and Santo Domingo Origin Chocolate by BC-based Hagensborg


Hagensborg Chocolates, a Canadian chocolatier based in Burnaby, B.C., is known for its fun Truffle Pigs brand, a selection of meltaway truffles with fun pig shapes. More recently, Hagensborg launched the 'Wild Boar' brand of chocolate bars. These are made from chocolate couverture of different origins.

I purchased two Hagensborg origin dark chocolate bars at a national retailer, HomeSense, last week: Madagascar 64% and Santo Domingo 70%.  I really enjoyed the Santo Domingo - an upfront natural vanilla flavor, with a strong cocoa taste and a light earthy fruitiness. 

The Madagascar chocolate was quite tasty too, albeit at 64% a little sweet for my tastebuds. But that said, sweetness truly is a personal thing and depends on what we are accustomed to. Lately I have been eating chocolate made with 80% or more cocoa solids, and so I am now unaccustomed to sweeter dark chocolate.

The Madagascar had some acidic citrus notes and fruitiness, reminiscent of ripe raspberries. However, I found the vanilla in this chocolate was the upfront flavour and slightly muted the natural origin flavours.

Since I had one on hand, I decided to compare the Lindt Excellence Madagascar chocolate bar to Hagensborg's Madagascar bar. Hagensborg's was certainly sweeter with its 64% cocoa solids, versus Lindt's 70%, but the bold acidic citrus and fruit flavours of Madagascar origin cacao stood out more in Hagensborg's chocolate.

The similarity between the chocolate bars was clear though - they both had vanilla in the ingredients which stood out when tasting the chocolate, and which mildly muted the natural origin flavours. This is very different from the approach to single origin chocolate by new-age bean-to-bar producers, like Hexx Chocolate's Madagascar which is made with no vanilla added, or Soma Chocolatemaker's Madagascar bar.

When no vanilla is added, the natural Madagascar origin flavour of the cacao (cocoa beans) used to make the chocolate is much bolder. But for a beginner chocolate taster, who's palette is just getting used to bolder flavoured chocolate, Hagensborg's bar may be a great starting place to discover Madagascar-origin cacao.

The Wild Boar brand of chocolate bars also includes other flavours highlighting different regions of the world. Learn more about them on Hagensborg's website at: http://www.hagensborg.com/shop.

***
If you want to bake with similar origin chocolate and use larger quantities to do so, you can buy Cacao-Barry's Santo Domingo chocolate couverture  or their Madirofolo (Madagascar 65%), or Valrhona's 64% Madagascar origin chocolate from online suppliers like Vanilla Food Company.

Friday, June 12, 2015

WIN a Box of France's finest chocolate and celebrate the flavours of Provence!

When I think of Provence, I think of rocky hillsides nestled with olive trees and rolling hills of vineyards. But I also think of summer sun and the pebbly beach in Nice, where I spent a little time just before I moved back to Canada (10 years ago this month) after a school year spent in France.

Besides studying, much of my year was spent seeking out chocolate, and dreaming of more time to travel and experience all the wonderful regional flavours France had to offer. Provence is one of the most well-known regions for its range of gourmet flavours because of its diverse landscape. And now zChocolat has captured many of those flavours in a new collection for summer 2015.

This Provence 30-piece collection* says it all: 15 decadent French chocolates, PLUS 15 gourmet candies with a full range of Provence flavours, including: sweet almond nougat made with lavender honey, and pâtes de fruit, a candy made from fully ripened fruit like cherry, orange, green apple, raspberry, strawberry, lemon and apricot. There is also the Calisson, a "delicate blend of almond paste, orange zest and candied cantaloupe". Have you ever tasted candied cantaloupe in North America? Likely not. But if you enter to win zChocolat's 30 piece Provence collection, this may be your chance!

I have written about the deliciousness of zChocolat's collections before (click here for a previous article). The chocolates are all numbered and match a unique recipe created by World Champion Chocolatier, Pascal Caffet. They are true decadence. And the signature Z chocolate, which is included in the Provence collection, is the most decadent of all.

You can WIN this Provence 30 piece collection by zChocolat!  Enter below for your chance to win!  This contest runs from 12:00 a.m. on June 13th until 12:00 a.m. on June 20th. The 30-piece collection is valued at approximately $69.10 (CAD) plus shipping and handling - nearly $100 in gourmet chocolate! So get your entries in now!

*zChocolat's 'With Love From Provence' Collection is available for deliver starting June 23rd, but is now on zChocolat's website and available for online pre-order. 

Enter to WIN here:

This contest is now over.  The winner is Twitter Follower Maria ()! Please stay tuned for future chocolate contests by The Ultimate Chocolate Blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Please use the comments section below to ask any question you may have about this contest. I will try to reply in a timely fashion. You can also e-mail me at info @ ultimatelychocolate.com.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Making Chocolate with NO CANE SUGAR From Nib to Bar at Home...and coconut milk chocolate too!

Trying to cut out cane sugar and switch to alternative sugars, but having trouble because you LOVE chocolate?  Make your own chocolate with organic coconut sugar!

More and more, I have been experimenting with making chocolate at home with my blender.  What I have discovered is that the 'smoothie' attachment for my Ninja blender works better than the large blender attachment with a triple blade system (the smoothie attachment makes smoother chocolate, go figure). But that also means making chocolate in very small batches (6 to 10 ounces), although not as small as in a single-blade coffee grinder.

What I also discovered is that slightly gritty chocolate, like stone ground chocolate, can taste wonderful once you get used to it; it actually can turn into a craving quite quickly.

But most importantly, I've learned that making chocolate at home is the best way to enjoy the delicious treat if you have dietary issues or food allergies. I eat traditional chocolate, but I do try to reduce my cane sugar intake in all aspects of my life. So I decided to try making chocolate at home with coconut sugar, instead of cane sugar. It offers a lower glycemic spike, which is a great benefit.

I used roasted organic and fair trade Peruvian cocoa nibs that I bought online from Jedwards International to make my chocolate, and some organic coconut sugar that I bought at the health food store. And I embarked on an adventure in chocolate making - making three different batches of chocolate with coconut sugar.  I also took some advice from a Twitter pal (@CHOCOLATEMARK) who suggested I add coconut powder to my chocolate.  So I did.

Here are the results: I made a large 30 ounce batch of 76% dark chocolate in the blender attachment (a pre-grind of sorts). This tasted wonderful, albeit a little gritty. See below for this recipe.

I then used the Ninja smoothie attachment to grind down the chocolate a bit more.  But more importantly, I added more melted cocoa butter to help smooth things along and coconut cream powder. This chocolate took on a dark-milk chocolate flavour and a milky colour.  Once I poured it into my simple plastic flower molds (I bought these at Bulk Barn), and let them set, I discovered the most wonderful chocolate to have come out of my blender yet!  It had that mouth-watering aspect of milk chocolate, but all the cocoa solids of dark chocolate. This was truly a delectable treat.

In my third batch, I added a little more coconut sugar to the 76.7% chocolate to see what a 70% would taste like.  What I learned was that the chocolate started to taste a bit too much like coconut and lost that true cocoa-y Peruvian bean flavour. So I think in future, I will stick to coconut sugar dark chocolate with over 75% cocoa solids.

If you want to try this at home, here is the recipe:

76.7%* Peruvian Dark Chocolate Recipe
Time: 10 minutes. 
Batch size: 30 ounces of chocolate.
Calories: Who cares, this is good for you in all sorts of ways!

You need:
  • 20 oz of roasted cacao nibs (cocoa beans with shells removed and broken up) Although you can use raw nibs for making raw chocolate, the taste is nicer if they are roasted. For instructions to roast cocoa nibs, click here.
  • 3 oz of cocoa butter
  • 7 oz coconut sugar

*to calculate the percentage of cocoa solids in your chocolate, add the weight of cocoa beans/nibs plus cocoa butter weight, then divide by the total weight of the batch (i.e. (cocoa nibs + cocoa butter) divided by (cocoa nibs + cocoa butter + coconut sugar).

Instructions:

1.  Melt the cocoa butter in the microwave for 1 minute.  Remove and stir until smooth.  Add back to the microwave and microwave for 5 second intervals until fully melted. Set aside.


2. Add the cocoa nibs and coconut sugar to your blender or coffee grinder (only the kind with a blade in the bottom and that you can stir, not the kind where the grounds drop from an upper section to a lower container).

3. Grind until the nibs are a ground coffee consistency. 

4. Then add the melted cocoa butter and stir.  Grind again until the nibs eventually turn into melted chocolate.

5. Pour into a bowl and temper the chocolate. Click here to learn how to temper chocolate properly or try a simple method by warming the chocolate until it reaches 120 degrees F, then drop it down to about 84 degrees F before pouring it into your mold.

6. Pour the tempered chocolate into whatever chocolate mold you like, and if you have none, simply spread it out flat on at large piece of waxed paper and wait about 1 minute or so (until it just starts to set) to cut it into pieces with a long knife.

7. Let set fully in fridge for one hour or less before peeling off the waxed paper or popping it out of the molds.



To make Coconut Milk Chocolate, simply break up 5 ounces of your 76.7% homemade dark chocolate and place back in the blender.  Add about 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of melted cocoa butter and 1 ounce of coconut milk or cream powder (I used the Asian Home Gourmet brand of 'Powder mix for Coconut Cream' imported to Ontario by www.elcofinefoods.com). Grind until it melts into chocolate. Temper again, this time dropping the temperature to about 82 degrees before pouring into molds.

Enjoy your homemade chocolate!

Click here for the ingredients for a small batch of very dark chocolate (82.3% cocoa solids) that I made with cane sugar, and from Costa Rican or Peruvian beans.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Top Five Best Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Brands 2015

Now that the weather is warm, we are thinking about that summer treat that we all love: ICE CREAM.  And for chocolate and peanut butter lovers, like me, there is no better ice cream than the sweet and salty combination of chocolate-peanut butter. I am always on the lookout for a new and great-tasting ice cream brand, and I may have tried them all. So to help you choose, here are my top five Chocolate and Peanut Butter grocery store ice cream brands for this summer:

#5 Häagen Daas®  Chocolate Peanut Butter Single Serve Cups - I love how the ribbons of peanut butter are pure and not sweet in this simple chocolate and PB combination. And with all Häagen Daas® ice creams, it is natural with no weird additives. There is a larger size available, but the single serving cups are perfect for portion control.


#4 Presidents Choice Creamfirst Chocolate Fudge Crackle Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream The giant pieces of chocolate fudge crackle are what makes this ice cream so delicious.  In this one, half the ice cream is peanut butter flavoured and half is chocolate.  There is no swirl of PB in it, but the peanut butter section of ice cream is quite yummy.



#3 Häagen Daas® Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Bar  - this ice cream bar really was #1 for me for a long time. And truthfully, I might decide tomorrow that it is again my favourite. This is rich, and it's delicious, and it's chocolate peanut buttery, and it's all natural and, and, and....there are a million reasons to like it. My only complaint is that it falls apart a little too easily and can get messy. Learn more about it here: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/instead-of-fine-chocolate-how-about.html.


#2 President's Choice 'Ice Cream Shop Flavours' Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream -What makes it so good? Well, for starters, the first ingredient is cream. Then the small flakes of crunchy chocolate throughout add a wonderfully fun texture and the swirls of pure PB make it perfect.  I LOVE this ice cream.


#1 Magnum Double Peanut Butter - This is one of the newest ice cream bars to hit the shelves in my part of Canada and Magnum has really outdone the competition. They have figured out that the peanut butter needs to be right next to the chocolate, so there is a layer of chocolate, then a layer of peanut butter, then another layer of chocolate and finally a thick center of rich peanut butter ice cream.  My only complaint is that there are only three in each box, but it should be ten!


It looks just like the picture on the box!