Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Element of Surprise: Palette de Bine makes two chocolate bars that begin one way and end another

Palettte de Bine's two-ingredient chocolate is getting better and better every year. This Mont-Tremblant chocolate maker started small, with just a few bars. Now, chocolate maker Christine Blais offers a variety of new single origin chocolate bars. She truly focuses on the pure origin flavour of the cacao used to make the chocolate, which is clear from the International Chocolate Awards she has won (plus a finalist in this year's competition!). The Palette brand can now be found at many retailers, not only in Quebec, but also in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and in a few locations in the United States.  Learn where you can purchase Palette de Bine chocolate here: http://www.palettedebine.com/shop/.

I was recently gifted two new origin chocolate bars made by Palette de Bine: a Belize 72% dark chocolate and a Guatemala 70% dark bar. I excitedly dug in, and discovered that these two origins were full of surprises; the chocolates started off with one flavour profile and finished with another! And in both cases, the surprises were pleasant ones.

Palette de Bine's Belize origin chocolate bar is made with 'Mayan Mountain' cacao. Although it starts a little flat and stiff, it opens up to a full and pleasant array of fruit flavours, with a slight hint of lemon-lime. With 72% cocoa solids, it has a nice sweetness that complements the fruity taste. It is quite a lovely chocolate bar.

Palette de Bine's Guatemala origin dark chocolate with 70% cacao solids begins with a bold, in-your-face harsh woody acidic flavour that might be off-putting if it weren't for the lovely fruit flavour that quickly takes over your mouth. The melt leaves behind a nice, earthy organic fruit, plum and raisin flavour. After a few tastings, it becomes quite a memorable and enjoyable chocolate. It reminds me a bit of Izard's Guatemala bar, which I tasted and wrote about last week, although it is not exactly the same.

***
These two chocolate bars were purchased at JoJo CoCo in Ottawa. Learn more about this specialty chocolate retailer here: http://www.jojococo.ca/.

The Element of Surprise: Palette de Bine makes two chocolate bars that begin one way and end another

Palettte de Bine's two-ingredient chocolate is getting better and better every year. This Mont Tremblant chocolate maker started small, with just a few bars. Now, chocolate maker Christine Blais offers a variety of new single origin chocolate bars. She truly focuses on the pure origin flavour of the cacao used to make the chocolate, which is clear from the International Chocolate Awards she has won. The Palette brand can now be found at many retailers, not only in Quebec, but also in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and in a few locations in the United States.  Learn where you can purchase Palette de Bine chocolate here: http://www.palettedebine.com/shop/.

I was recently gifted two new origin chocolate bars made by Palette de Bine: a Belize 72% dark chocolate and a Guatemala 70% dark bar. I excitedly dug in, and discovered that thee two origins were full of surprises; both chocolates started off with one flavour profile and finished with another! And in both cases, the surprises were pleasant ones.

Palette de Bine's Belize origin chocolate bar is made with 'Mayan Mountain' cacao. Although it starts a little flat and stiff, it opens up to a full and pleasant array of fruit flavours, with a slight hint of lemon-lime. With 72% cocoa solids, it has a nice sweetness that complements the fruity taste. It is quite a lovely chocolate bar.

Palette de Bine's Guatemala origin dark chocolate with 70% cacao solids begins with a bold, in-your-face harsh woody acidic flavour that might be off-putting if it weren't for the lovely fruit flavour that quickly takes over your mouth. The melt leaves behind a nice, earthy organic fruit, plum and raisin flavour. After a few tastings, it becomes quite a memorable and enjoyable chocolate. It reminds me a bit of Izard's Guatemala bar, which I tasted and wrote about last week, although it is not exactly the same.

***
These two chocolate bars were purchased at JoJo CoCo in Ottawa. Learn more about this specialty chocolate retailer here: http://www.jojococo.ca/.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Izard Chocolate and the game of which wine is it?


While tasting a line-up of Izard Chocolate recently, I found myself relating each single origin chocolate bar to different wines. Often, most of us chocolate 'aficionados' think of chocolate tasting as similar to wine tasting.  But in this case, I was actually relating each chocolate bar to a specific type of wine. I don't quite know why, but that's just what came to mind.

For instance, Izard's Belize 70% dark chocolate bar was sweetly fruity, with a little cocoa-flavoured bitterness. It had that sort of rounded, fill-your-mouth-purple-grape-juice fruit flavour, that made me think of a Merlot.  Of course, there was some cherry and other fruity flavours as well, which overall made me think of a kids' juice box full of bold grape-cherry flavours. It was fruity and sweet and likable in that general way that a Merlot attracts a sweet-tooth wine lover. So suddenly, that was all I could see when I looked at Izard's Belize bar: it is the Merlot of chocolate.

Then when I tasted Izard's 70% Dominican Republic chocolate bar, it was so enjoyable that it made me think of a slightly bitter and bold Shiraz. Every dark chocolate lover could enjoy this chocolate bar. That's what Shiraz is: the wine that you pull out for a mixed group of people who are planning to drink a lot of wine that evening. Everyone will have a good time drinking it.  No one will be disappointed. The lovely notes of plum in this chocolate are complemented by a bitter and lightly acidic overtone that states: this was made from truly flavourful cacao. I quite liked this chocolate bar.

Finally, Izard's 'Chimelb Microlot' 72% dark Guatemala-origin chocolate was harshly acidic, and yet slightly fruity. The chocolate maker's tasting notes mentioned pineapple, but I'd say it was more like that strong acidity of under-ripened pineapple that was nearly a turn-off, but I just kept going back for more and don't know why.  The hint of vanilla bean that Izard has added to it certainly tamed it, but yet it was still wild, and bold, and somewhat shocking. So perhaps the shock to my taste buds is just so unlike anything else experienced all week, is why I need more tastings to figure it out. 

Before I knew it, I'd eaten the whole bar and still not understood quite what the flavour was. So naturally, I'll need another one someday, because maybe then I'll fully understand it.  This reminded me of some bitter and slightly harsh Tempranillo, or perhaps an acidic Old Vine Zinfandel.  I always need to try it again, to truly understand it (certainly that is my only reason for wanting more wine, right?).

When all was said and done, I suppose it was that first taste of Izard's fruity Belize chocolate, which made me think of a Merlot, and got the wheels in my mind turning about wine and chocolate. Or perhaps Izard's chocolate is just a great line-up for the wine-and-chocolate-lover's of the world. Next time that I taste Izard Chocolate, I plan to do some wine pairing with it.

And as for the chocolate (in case you couldn't tell when I related it to my favourite drink), I really liked it. All of it.  :-)

***
I learned about Izard Craft Chocolate thanks to a conversation with the owner of Montreal-based Chocexchange, an online marketplace for bean-to-bar, artisan-made chocolate. You can find Izard in Little Rock, Arkansas, or buy the chocolate online through Chocexchange.com. Learn more about Izard Chocolate and other locations where you can buy their bean-to-bar chocolate at: www.izardchocolate.com.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Cane Sugar Chocolate Gets Better and Better

Hummingbird, Akesson's and Chaleur B Introducing New Chocolates Made with Alternate Sugars

I had the privilege of tasting a few new chocolates made with alternate sugars (i.e. no cane sugar chocolate) last week, and I was quite impressed with the taste and the quality. More and more, chocolate makers are testing out chocolate made with different types of sugars to appeal to chocolate lovers who are following new diet trends that reduce or eliminate cane sugar. In the beginning, these chocolate bars had a 'healthy' flavour, usually a taste that only a true health-addict could palate.  But nowadays, with dried and ground alternate sugars (like coconut blossom sugar and maple sugar) being made readily available, it has become easier for a chocolate maker to choose a great-tasting sugar that suits their chocolate-making philosophy.

http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2012/06/feeling-all-fluttery-thanks-to.htmlHummingbird Chocolate of Almonte, Ontario, is using maple sugar to make a 70% dark chocolate bar, with flavourful organic Trinitario cacao and maple sugar.  The chocolate is bitter and sweet all at once, with a nice, sharp maple flavour, and some fruity notes and high cocoa flavour.  It really is quite delicious.

I purchased this particular chocolate bar online at Chocexchange.com. You can find Hummingbird's chocolate at a variety of retailers.  Click here for a list.

Akesson's Single Plantation Chocolate, headquartered in London, U.K., has chosen a Bali-origin cacao paired with coconut blossom sugar and fleur de sel, also from Bali, to make a truly single origin chocolate bar. Together with the milk and mild flavour of the coconut sugar (some coconut sugars can be very strong, like a very rustic dark brown sugar, but not in this chocolate), and the addition of a little salt, a real Dulce de Leche-style caramel flavour is at the forefront. Sweet and tasty with a low glycemic index!

This chocolate bar was purchased for me at JoJo Coco in Ottawa on Hazeldean Road. Learn more about Akesson's on their website: http://www.akessons-organic.com/.


Quebec's Chaleur B Chocolat is now experimenting with beets (known in French as 'betteraves') to make white chocolate that is both sweetened and coloured with the root vegetable. Although the chocolate maker is still in the experimental stages, I have tasted a chocolate from one of the test batches and can say that the texture is super soft and silky, with a clear high content of cocoa butter. There is a strong fruit flavour in this chocolate, that seems like a combination of red berries and beets. It is certainly different than the norm, but enjoyable for a curious chocolate eater. So keep an eye out for this chocolate from Chaleur B Chocolat possibly to be launched in the coming months.


Interested in more chocolate made with no cane sugar?

You can find a full list of chocolate made with no cane sugar here. If you know of other great tasting cane-sugar-free chocolate bars, please share with us in the comments below.

Happy chocolate eating!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ontario Boasts its Eleventh Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Maker - just launched in Kingston!

CóCó Chocolate Company is Ontario's newest start-up chocolate maker, hand-crafting chocolate from bean-to-bar, and selling it at local farmer's markets in Kingston.  Owner, and chocolate maker, Brendan McAleer is using a fine flavour cocoa bean from the Dominican Republic to make tasty organic chocolate.

Over the last few week's, I've been tasting a few of Cócó's chocolate bars, including a delicious 'Fleur de Sel' dark chocolate bar, an almond, a coconut, and a Pistachio chocolate bar.  The inclusions were gently sprinkled on the back of each chocolate bar, and each nut and coconut piece was large, so I could break the bar up and enjoy a piece of just the chocolate on its own, or a piece of chocolate with an inclusion, like a whole almond or coconut flake.

My favourite was the coconut, because the flakes were large and toasted, adding a lovely crispy/crunchy texture with a perfect toasted coconut flavour.
 

Overall, the chocolate was smooth and very flavourful in that Hispaniola Dominican cacao sort of way. Albeit still a little rustic in style, the overall experience was quite enjoyable and an awesome find at the farmer's market!  This is a great start for Cócó, and so I am excited to see how this little chocolate company flourishes.

According to McAleer's posts on Facebook, Cócó is also now making maple-sweetened chocolate, white chocolate and 45% dark-milk chocolate!


Learn more about the chocolate and the business here: https://www.facebook.com/cocochocolateco/info/?tab=page_info

You can find Cócó Chocolate Company at the Memorial Centre Farmer's Market in Kingston on Sunday's from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Learn more about the market and location here:
www.memorialcentrefarmersmarket.com .

I loved the taste of the Dominican-origin chocolate in this Pistachio chocolate bar. Bright, beautiful chocolate flavour with a perfect balance of sweet and bitter.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dark Chocolate Honey Fudge Squares Recipe, Plus Chocolate Chunks for Granola Bars!

When I discovered that Duffy's 'idea for baking' Ecuadorian 100% dark chocolate paired well with honey, I began to wonder what sorts of things I could make out of it. I didn't really want to bake anything from it, because I still wanted that chocolaty taste (and because it cost an arm and a leg to buy and have shipped from the U.K., so I couldn't bear to see it completely disappear into brownies or some such cake). So I simply added a few tablespoons of honey, heated the mix up and made lovely fudge squares out of it. 

Since then, I've made dark chocolate honey fudge every day, with all kinds of dark chocolate.  I've used other unsweetened chocolate, like a Vintage Plantations 100% chocolate, Lindt's 90% dark chocolate, and the Equal Exchange 88% Extreme Dark Chocolate Bar. I've enjoyed some as fudge squares and others as ice cream chunks (because they remain slightly chewy while frozen). I also chopped the fudge into small chunks and put them in healthy granola bars, and I spread it thin for chocolate bark, and as a topping for granola squares.

So grab whatever extra dark chocolate you have on hand (like Duffy's 100% dark chocolate, or Lindt's 90% or 99% dark chocolate bar), and let's get started! Here is the recipe...

Dark Chocolate Honey Fudge Recipe (no cane sugar fudge, 4 ingredients)

You need:
  • 3.5 tbsp. honey
  • 1 100 gram unsweetened dark chocolate bar (with cocoa solids of 99% or 100% or as low as 85% dark chocolate), broken or chopped into 1/2" pieces.
  • 1 tbsp. room temperature butter (salted or unsalted, it's your choice)
  • ground vanilla bean or the scrapings from 1/2 vanilla bean (optional)

Instructions:
  1. Melt the honey and the chocolate together in a bowl over a double boiler, or in the microwave for 40 seconds.
  2. Remove from microwave (or from heat) and stir until smooth.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. room temperature or lightly warmed butter and vanilla (if using), and stir again until smooth.
  4. Pour into a small square box or a container lined with plastic wrap and let set overnight. 
  5. Once set, cut into squares.  Roll in cocoa powder (or dip in a tempered 70% dark chocolate).

Tip: Let sit out on counter for a few hours to crisp up the sides, adding a crispy outer texture, but smooth centre, for a lovely textural experience.


Fudge Pieces for Granola Bars or Ice Cream:

Omit the butter from the fudge recipe above. When your mixture is hot and stirred until smooth, as outlined in steps 1 and 2 above, pour out onto waxed paper and spread around.

Let set in the fridge for 1 hour, then cut into pieces with a long, straight-edged knife.

Seal in an airtight container until ready to use in granola or ice cream.


Honey-Almond Chocolate Bark:
Omit the butter from the fudge recipe above, then once your honey/chocolate mixture is hot and stirred until smooth, as outlined in steps 1 and 2 above, you can pour out onto a long piece of waxed paper and spread thin with a spatula, then immediately sprinkled roasted almond pieces and sea salt on top.

Let set in fridge for 1 hour, then slice into 1" to 2" squares or triangles for a lovely honey-almond bark.

Seal in an airtight container, in fridge or at room temperature (not above 21º C).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

With only 5% difference in cocoa solids between three chocolate bars, can I choose a favourite? My SPAGnVOLA chocolate dilemma...

The 75% chocolate is my favourite.  Oh wait, but I liked the 80% quite a lot.  Then again, the 70% really highlighted the flavours. Ugh. I can't decide.



That was my line of thinking when I was trying to decide which of SPAGnVOLA's dark chocolate bars I preferred. I had precisely three to choose from, an 80% chocolate, a 75% dark chocolate and a 70% dark chocolate, all made with the same single estate Dominican Republic origin cocoa beans.


The thing was: I liked them all.  I first tried the 75% bar, and enjoyed it's light cream taste so much thought I could not possibly like the other two.  And I was almost correct when I discovered that the 80% chocolate had been exposed to heat during transport, but with a quick melt and re-tempering job, that chocolate too became a new favourite with its cream taste, but beautifully bitter melt.  I then moved on to the 70%, which did taste sweeter with nearly no acidity, but also tasted like cream with a bit of spice, and some earthy organic flavours.

I put the question to my almost-five-year-old son, who diligently tasted each one (with only one request to taste them again), and he also could not choose a favourite.  He said, and I quote: "This one is my favourite. And this one is my favourite. And that other one is my favourite too." Even with some additional questioning (and tasting), he was sticking to his final decision: all three were his 'favourite'.

I finally made a decision that, if I were to find myself in Gaithersburg, Maryland at SPAGnVOLA's factory and shop, and I only had just enough money to buy one chocolate bar to enjoy a second time, I would likely choose the 75%.  Well, maybe the 80%. Sigh.

So what is 'Single Estate' chocolate anyway?

One cacao farm (a single estate) owned by one family or business. This is origin flavour at its finest.  the acidity in the soil, the other plants, fruit and foods growing around the cacao, and even the animals and other farming that is close to the cacao trees and drying facilities. Cocoa beans and chocolate takes on the flavours of the smells that are in the same vicinity (this is why I  am very careful about where I store my chocolate and where I make my chocolate!). 

I have tasted industrial smells, gasoline and the flavour of animal aroma (like wet dog smell) in chocolate. I often wonder if that is the result of the plantation's location (close to a highway, trucks, or perhaps animals) or where the drying of the beans were done, or perhaps there were intense industrial odours during storage and transport.

But that was not the case with SPAGnVOLA's chocolate.  The aroma, and the taste, was perfectly delicious.

Learn more about SPAGnVOLA


To learn more about SPAGnVOLA's single plantation, bean-to-bar chocolate, and to see if YOU can choose which bar you like best, visit the website at http://spagnvola.com.

Oh and watch SPAGnVOLA's website for future updates because they are planning to introduce a new single estate chocolate from Ondo State, Nigeria!  I can't wait, can you?