Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Help! My Chocolate Has Melted Part 2: Has my chocolate gone bad?

When you purchase chocolate, you truly want it to be in perfect form. But there are times when you arrive home from the store or your vacation, and your chocolate looks less than perfect when opening it. There are several reasons why your chocolate might look bad, or even moldy, when in fact it is not 'bad' or 'moldy'.

Did you open a new package of chocolate and it looked like this?
This chocolate has not gone bad, it has unfortunately 'bloomed'.
It was made in Trinidad and purchased at the Trinidad airport,
and could have bloomed at the chocolate maker's shop or in transport,
since temperatures are regularly over 30 degrees Celsius in that country.
This chocolate can be re-tempered and 'saved'.

The chocolate has come out of temper, or was never tempered properly in the first place. If the chocolate has a white film on it, this is not mold (or mould as we might say in Canada or the UK) it is 'bloom'; either fat bloom or sugar bloom. This film can have occurred in one of three ways:

1. The chocolate was either not tempered by the manufacturer in the first place, which may be an indication of quality, because it truly is a scientific process of ensuring the correct crystals are formed during melting, tempering and the setting of the chocolate. So the bloom either occurred immediately and was packaged regardless by the manufacturer, or it was seeded with unstable cocoa butter crystals which then transformed to a higher level of crystal over time, so it bloomed some time after it was packaged, which shows on the surface of the chocolate bar.

2. The chocolate is exposed to humidity - either before packaging, with improper packaging, or after it has been opened and exposed to humid air. The bloom in this case is sugar bloom. I have had this problem when trying to make chocolate too late in the summer/Spring season - even when the dehumidifier is running all day!

3. The chocolate has been exposed to heat and fat bloom occurs. This often happens when traveling, or when chocolate is left in the car, even for a few minutes while you are running errands. The temperature in the car can reach 30º Celsius rather quickly once the air conditioning is turned off, and chocolate should be stored in a cool dark place at temperatures of about 18º Celsius to 21º Celsius.

This is a block of cocoa butter or cocoa 'fat', so you can see how the chocolate
would get light-coloured streaks or spots on it when fat bloom occurs.
It is simply the fat rising to the surface of the chocolate.

What to do about bloomed chocolate?

You have two options:

Do nothing: If you are not picky about slight taste differences in your chocolate, you can just eat it as is, or melt it down and put it in brownies, or chop up and use it as chocolate chips in your next batch of cookies.

Temper it: If you paid a lot for your chocolate and really were in it for the natural origin cocoa bean flavours, I recommend you melt and temper the chocolate. It is easy - just follow the instructions at this link: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/04/there-is-more-than-one-method-to-temper.html. Also, read Part 1 of Help! My Chocolate Has Melted by clicking here for a quick microwave method for melting and tempering your chocolate.

Stay Tuned! An 'EZ' way to temper your chocolate, coming soon to the blog...

I want to tell you how I've been tempering chocolate for the last year. I have the perfect tool to temper chocolate quickly and efficiently, so if you are starting a chocolate-making or chocolatier business, you'll want to stay tuned for this article.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer, Spring, Fall, Hello Cocoa has them all!


I eat a lot of basil. It grows in the backyard garden in the summer. I grow it in pots on my veranda. I also grow it indoors the Aerogarden in the winter time. More often than not, I eat it directly from the plant. I add it to my pasta sauce and make salad dressing from it. And although I have thought about it A LOT, I have not yet added it to chocolate.

So my first taste of basil in chocolate was when I tried Hello Cocoa's 'Spring Fever' chocolate bar. This Arkansas-based chocolate maker has combined dried basil, with basil olive oil and apricots and added them to a 57% dark chocolate.



I thought it might be too sweet before I tasted it. I am, after all, quite used to consuming 70% to 100% dark chocolate on a daily basis. But the sweetness seemed to bring out the basil flavour, while not making the chocolate taste like 'garden herbs'. The sweet and chewy apricot also complimented the flavour. The combination was surprising and lovely, especially since the basil is now growing in pots outside and the anticipation of the herbs in the garden is at an all-time high (we have a late growing season here in Northern Ontario, we are still waiting on, well, everything).


Hello Cocoa's Spring Fever chocolate bar has inspired me to create some truffles this summer out of basil. Stay tuned for recipes!

Hello Cocoa also makes a variety of other chocolate bar flavours, including the lightly creamy Mocha bar with dark chocolate tendencies. It has 52% cocoa solids, and a slightly bitter chocolate taste with a lightly sweetened coffee flavour. The Ooh La Lavender chocolate bar was very floral in its aroma and, well, had a strong lavender flavour. Lavender is not a flavour I enjoy, but the flavours and sweetness were well balanced and the honey flavour stood out. There was also a nice cacao nib crunch from small bits of cocoa nibs tossed into the chocolate's mix. I could see how anyone who likes lavender would love this chocolate bar.


As for the single origin dark chocolates, the 70% Dominican Republic origin chocolate has bright fruit flavours and is quite nice as a dark chocolate. I really enjoyed this bar! The Venezuela 74% dark chocolate has little fruit flavour, and is on the cream and nut side of the spectrum when it comes to chocolate origin flavours. It was true to the Venezuela origin: creamy and perfectly balanced in flavour. The Uganda origin chocolate was much sweeter with 57% cocoa solids, and had a nice flavour balance (it tasted much like a good semi-sweet chocolate chip!).

A cool thing about Hello Cocoa is that they cover all three main bean types in their origin chocolate.  Their Uganda chocolate is made from Forastero cacao, their Dominican Republic chocolate is made from Trinitario-type beans and the Venezuela chocolate is from Criollo beans.

Hello Cocoa also sent me some yummy truffles, which is a new product for them, and a new 75% Haiti origin bar. I ate this bar so quickly because it was beyond delicious.



More About Hello Cocoa Chocolate...

The founders of Hello Cocoa are Preston Stewart and Lauren Blanco. They launched in August of 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a passion for single origin chocolate and also seasonal flavours. Their first seasonal chocolate bar was released at that time, called Hello Fall, but has since been renamed to Harvest, and contains toasted pumpkin seeds, dried tart cherries and pumpkin spice and is still their best seller to this day.

Learn more about Hello Cocoa on their website at: www.hellococoachocolate.com or on Instagram: @hellococoachocolate.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Do you like a dark roast, a medium roast or a light? New Montreal-based chocolate maker, Rica Chocolat, brings us choice in our cocoa 'roast'

Do you ever think about chocolate's 'roast profile' in the same way as coffee? If not, you should! When you taste a chocolate and wonder why it has an upfront roast flavour, or perhaps smokiness or a tobacco flavour, consider that it may be because the chocolate maker applied a deep roast to the cocoa beans. Other flavours may come to you as the chocolate melts on your tongue, which can be attributed to the origin of the cocoa bean, but a dark roast can certainly make for an interesting chocolate. On the other hand, if the upfront flavour is very fruity, or perhaps honey-like in taste, or maybe has a raw nuttiness, possibly the chocolate maker chose a light roast for the cocoa beans.
 
Rica Chocolat in Montreal has chosen to showcase - through their chocolate bars - different roasts on the same cocoa beans. This is such a wonderful opportunity for chocolate lovers to taste the difference between roasts, and decide for themselves which way they like their chocolate, much like coffee drinkers do. As with  Calgary-based McGuire Chocolate, which I told you about last week, the chocolate makers at Rica love to experiment with their cocoa beans. However, at Rica they are using just one origin of cocoa beans (Costa Rica), and trying many different recipes on those same beans, including different roasts and refining times. In fact, their first experiments resulted in 17 different chocolate bars! 

 
 
Rica was founded by friends, Philippe Fortier, Renaud Miniaou and Adrien Arnoux. I communicated with Adrien while writing this article, and he shared that the three met while attending business school in Montreal. Philippe was raised in Costa Rica and told the others about his wish to support the cocoa farmers near where he was raised. He had learned about the impact of witches broom on cocoa plantations, and was looking for a way to support the farmers, and have a positive impact on their lives. After considering selling cocoa beans from Costa Rica, they instead decided that making chocolate would have the best impact.

I have tasted two of the chocolate bars made by Philippe, Renaud and Adrien, and based on the quality of their chocolate, I think they will indeed have a positive impact on the farmers in Costa Rica. The texture is quite nice and the flavours are bold, in a good way. Upon opening the package, the Ébène (ebony) N17 chocolate bar, which had a medium roast and 72% cocoa solids, had the aroma of a citrus punch drink. The Sauvage (wild) N15 also had 72% cocoa solids and had a 'Douce et longue' (low roast, but long) roast. It has a smoky aroma with a hint of brown sugar and fruit (like the smell of pie).


The N17 with its 'Moyenne' (medium roast) offers bold fruit flavours that are quite potent. The roast taste is there, but it sits in the background, with a little leather and woody tastes, along with an acidic/citrus punch.

N15, with its 'douce et longue' (long and low) roast, definitely offers a smoke and tobacco flavour profile, with fruitiness as the after-thought.

Because the cocoa bean is so fruity and thereby acidic in nature, this is not a sweet-tasting 72% cocoa bar. This Costa Rica bean, used by Rica reminds me more of the Grenada beans I have been testing: bold, fruity, tropical and definitely best when made at a 70 to 75% dark chocolate. An 85% might be too acidic to bear, but 60% would be like nice fresh fruit with sugar poured over it. All that said, Rica made a good choice with its 72% cocoa solids. The amount of sugar (28%) allows the bean flavour to shine, bringing out those bold fruit flavours, while not covering it up with a sugary-sweet taste.
 
I look forward to tasting the other 15 recipes someday and see what will come from Rica Chocolat!
 
More about Rica Chocolat & Where to Buy
 
Rica's chocolates are currently being made by Adrien, Phil and Renaud in Chocolat Monarque's workshop at 5333 Casgrain in Montreal, Canada. Their chocolate bars are now available at Cœur D'artichaut in Montreal - 1451 avenue Laurier est. Check the website for more information on where you can find their chocolate near you at: https://ricachocolat.com/ or follow on Instagram @ricachocolat.

To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150 series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5: Rica Chocolat in Montreal
Part 6 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast

For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Friday, June 30, 2017

New Canadian Chocolate Maker Sweeping the Competition: Qantu Chocolate takes home two GOLD Awards

Qantu Cacao et Chocolat has just leapt on to the international chocolate scene in an incredible way. They are very new chocolate makers, having done their firsts tests on Peruvian cocoa beans just last August, and now they have just won TWO GOLD Academy of Chocolate Awards.


Qantu owners and chocolate makers, Elfi and Maxime, are passionate about Peruvian cacao (Efi is from Peru) and making great chocolate from those beans. Their goal is to develop a win-win partnership with the cocoa farmers from whom they purchase their beans in Peru. Elfi explained in an e-mail to me that 'Qantu' is "the name of the national flower of Peru and Bolivia as well as being a symbol of unity among peoples", showing their full commitment to Peru, its people, and bettering Peruvian cocoa farmers' lives.

I received three of Qantu's chocolate bars from Karine at Miss Choco while I was in Grenada (yes, the chocolate travelled from Montreal, to Grenada, and then back to Ontario before being tasted by me). The Chuncho 100% bar was a little melted, but I've had enough experience with overheated chocolate that I can see past the cocoa butter bloom and taste its true origins. And for a 100% chocolate - absolutely unsweetened - I can say this chocolate is good. It is a little floral and perhaps fruity, with low acidity and no astringency, and definitely very palatable. There is no 'kick-back' from the bitterness and no shock to the tongue, like many 100% dark chocolates can have. I was impressed immediately with the product.


Even more impressive was the Pérou Gran Blanco 70% dark chocolate bar. This was one of the two Gold winners, and before I learned about their Gold win, I knew it was going to be a chocolate bar that would become famous rather quickly. Really nothing compares to this bean - okay, well a Madagascar chocolate might compare. Qantu's Pérou Gran Blanco is so full of fruity raspberry/blackberry flavours that it almost tastes like raspberries and fruit was added to the chocolate. Plus, the colour is so milk chocolaty (even though no milk chocolate was added) that it makes the entire experience very unique (see the pic below for the light colour). I just loved comparing the shade differences between the two 70% Peru bars made by Qantu. It is such a great example of how cocoa bean origins and types can vary within the same cacao-growing country.


The Pérou Morropón 70% bar was almost equally full of fruit flavours - not quite as strong, but still strong and surprising when tasted. The texture was not quite as creamy as the Gran Blanco, but given the light shade of the Criollo-type beans in the Blanco, there is likely to be more cocoa butter in those beans over the beans used for the Morropón, making the Gran Blanco just a bit creamier.


Where can you buy Qantu Chocolate?

Elfi and Maxime are currently setting up a new workshop (on Rue Notre-Dame Est), which will be ready sometime in August. Visit www.qantuchocolate.com and follow them on Social Media (Instagram: @qantu_chocolat) to stay up-to-date on this opening. In the meantime, you can purchase their chocolate online at:
New packaging will be launched at the Salon of chocolate and cacao in Peru from July 6th to 9th. Stay tuned, I am sure we can expect great things from this chocolate maker!

To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150 series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Aschenti Cocoa: Where Cameroon and Winnipeg cross paths

Aschenti Cocoa is one of two bean-to-bar chocolate makers located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And their focus is clear: make chocolate from cacao (cocoa beans) grown in the central African national of Cameroon, by using the crops from their own farm and support other local cocoa farmers in Cameroon.

According to Aschenti's website, the Netherlands brought cacao trees back to Cameroon from the Maya and Aztec people in 1871, and so the Ashanti people were the first cacao growers in Africa. The chocolate makers at Aschenti want to keep "the Ashanti people’s tradition and values by using natural products. It’s about going back to the roots and preserving that legendary way of life, and the result is a unique chocolate, without additives, a rich and virtuous chocolate."



According to Reuters, Cameroon is the world's sixth biggest cocoa grower, producing nearly 210K tonnes in the 2013/2014 season.  But only about 15% of that cocoa production was processed locally, so the government of Cameroon announced in 2015 plans to double the processing capacity within the country, by adding 10 industrial processing units in cacao growing regions. So what does this mean? More of the money from growing cacao stays within the country. Since Aschenti uses cocoa beans they grow (at their own farm in Cameroon) and buy from local farms that process on site, the beans are a part of the 15% that is already being processed within Cameroon. The cacao is being fermented in wooden boxes and then the beans are dried on site, before being shipped to Winnipeg to be roasted, winnowed, and ground into chocolate.

I purchased a few bars of Aschenti's chocolate, predominantly the plain flavoured bars (a 72% dark, a 64% and a 41% milk chocolate), in order to taste the Cameroon origin flavours in the beans.  This chocolate certainly has a different flavour profile than I am used to. There is a strong taste of molasses, black coffee and caramelized brown sugars in the taste of the 72% dark chocolate. It is certainly has a dryer flavour, and is on the bitter side. I was not keen on this bar (but keep in mind, chocolate is a personal thing, and what I might not like, might be the exact flavour that you like).

On the other hand, the 64% has milk in the ingredients list and was enjoyable, with a creamier texture and still that different and interesting coffee bean (and maybe green coffee bean?) and molasses taste. It was like a coffee with just a little bit of milk in it. The 42% milk chocolate was my favourite. It was creamy and not very sweet, just the way I prefer my milk chocolate.


Aschenti applies a low-temperature roast in order to showcase the bean flavour, which may explain part of the unique flavour profile of these beans (it does have a bit of a 'raw chocolate' taste). Also, the origin of the cocoa beans is likely the biggest contributor to the flavour profile.

Aschenti also offers several flavoured bars, including a variety of milk chocolate bars like 42% Vanilla Beans and Olive Oil (sounds interesting, I'll need to try this one!), and a 'Cacao Coconut Butter'. They also make a mint leaf bar, spiced chocolate and sea salt chocolate. And they sell roasted cocoa nibs and pure cocoa beans.

Follow on Instagram: @aschenti or visit their website at: www.aschenti.com to learn more or buy online. Some retailers in Manitoba and BC carry Aschenti's chocolate; view the retailer list at the bottom of this page: http://aschenti.com/from-bean-to-bar.php#our-retailers to find a retailer near you.

To read about more new Canadian chocolate makers, see the other articles in this series that celebrates new Canadian craft chocolate:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Tomorrow's surprise chocolate maker...come back to find out who it is?
Part 5 and Beyond: Quebec and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Exploring New Canadian Chocolate Makers, Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Calgary

I recently began exploring Canada's newest craft chocolate makers in celebration of the country's 150th birthday (for you non-Canadian readers, it is this coming Saturday!). I started by writing about Kasama in Vancouver last week, and today we'll look at Alberta's chocolate-making newbies. For a long time, Calgary had just one craft chocolate maker (Choklat), but now a few more have been added. Of those, McGuire Chocolate is making single origin chocolate from bean-to-bar.




McGuire Chocolate founders, Mark and Victoria, are definitely bean-obsessed. They love cocoa beans so much, they offer a trillion different chocolate bars made from different beans and different roast profiles. Okay, so a 'trillion' is an exaggeration, but it seems to be the right word for the seemingly endless number of chocolate bars offered by these energetic chocolate makers. I understand their need to try new beans all the time because I feel the same way. Once I started working with cocoa beans, I couldn't get enough. I wanted to taste all different kinds, then discover how those beans taste with different roasts, different percentages of sugar, and varying refining time. And this also seems to be the case with Mark and Victoria.

I also really enjoy the idea behind McGuire Chocolate's gorgeous packaging. The envelope fits three chocolate bars perfectly. This is just the right number for doing a comparison tasting of different cocoa bean origins.



I received a package of three bars, a Nicaragua origin chocolate (O'Payo 70% dark), a Tanzania origin chocolate (Kokoa Kamili 70% dark) and an Ecuador origin (La Buceta). A tasting card was included with each, and the length of refining time, as well as the roast profile was also shared alongside the tasting notes.

The Tanzania chocolate bar was DELICIOUS. It was bold and bright, with citrus fruit plus berry, perhaps cherry and blackberry. I was also a bit tart and just a lovely chocolate overall.


The O'Payo chocolate bar had a lovely acidic citrus and slight fruit taste, with a roast flavour that made the whole combination bold and bright. It had a slightly stiffer texture than, say, a Lindt chocolate, but that usually has something to do with two-ingredient chocolate (which this is, just cacao and cane sugar with no added cocoa butter). I have used this same Nicaraguan cocoa bean and it is quite bold and bitter, has a lovely chocolaty flavour, and also very versatile. McGuire's O'Payo chocolate bar is a great chocolate to compare to other - very fruity or nutty - chocolate bars to showcase the differences between origin chocolates.

As for the La Buceta from Ecuador - it was a bit too spicy and dry for me (and 'soapy' as my tasting friend described it). The tasting notes, which you can see in the picture below (and please do ignore my mixing up of the cards between La Buceta and O'Payo), describe it as have notes of IPA, curry, cinnamon and cashews. It is definitely a dry curry flavour. I didn't know what IPA stood for, but an internet abbreviation search gave me 116 potential abbreviations, with the only taste-related ones being Indian Pale Ale (okay, beer and perhaps Indian spices like curry, this seems reasonable) and 'IsoPropyl Alcohol'. I'm pretty sure 'International Phonetic Alphabet' is not the flavour note they were referring to. But whichever IPA it was, it certainly had a very interesting flavour, although it was not my favourite.



Overall, the experience of McGuire was fun. I like that you can order single bars from the website, or packages of three, like I experienced, and hold a chocolate tasting among friends to truly understand the origins of the bars, or perhaps the differences between roasts.

Learn more about McGuire Chocolate at http://mcguirechocolate.com/ or follow them on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mcguirechocolate/) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mcguirechocolate/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel).

***
To read about other new Canadian Chocolate Makers in this Canada 150th birthday series, click the following links:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Qantu Cacao et Chocolat
Part 5 and Beyond: more of Quebec's newest makers and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday by Exploring the Country's Newest Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers: Starting with Kasama Chocolate

Canada's 150th birthday is fast approaching! So let's celebrate by featuring some new Canadian chocolate makers. I've been stocking up lately on chocolate from all across this great country and I want to tell you about each and every new chocolate maker.

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I try to stay updated on all the newest bean-to-bar chocolate makers around the globe and here at home in North America. I keep lists on the blog (US, UK, CAD), so you can keep up-to-date as well.  And I've been watching the list of Canadian chocolate makers rapidly grow over the last five years. Most recently, many more opened their doors (or kitchens, as the case may be, as not many craft chocolate makers have actual store-fronts). So we'll start from the West and work our way East. Stay tuned each day, I intend to bring you a Canadian chocolate maker feature (along with a few other blog posts thrown into the mix about chocolate makers, equipment, and cocoa beans from around the world).

We'll start today with those super-cool West-coasters at Kasama Chocolate...

Kasama Chocolate (East Vancouver):




A partnership between four people: Dom, Oliver, Vincent and Stefan, which began when Vincent inherited a small piece of land in the Philippines. Vincent found cacao growing on the property, and when he came back to Canada, he told his friends about it. They joked that on the next visit, he should bring some back and they would make chocolate from it. A month later, he did just that. And they have been making chocolate ever since.

Kasama Chocolate and I did a little switch-a-roo this Spring, when we exchanged our bean-to-bar chocolate across the country. They sent me a few of their bars to taste, and at the same time, I sent them a few of mine (check out Kasama's post on Instagram and mine). The fun part was tasting each other's Honduras bar, since we both use the same cocoa beans for that one. And I have to say, I quite like the taste of Kasama's. For obvious reasons since we use the same beans, but also because of that caramelized almond taste and aroma, as well as a fruitiness that is hard to find words to explain. It is truly one of my favourite beans - not only to taste in chocolate form, but also to work with. The bean tastes amazing on its own, and the shells release easily.

The star of Kasama's show was the Costa Rica bar. It was fruity, bold, acidic and bright in flavour. Sort of citrus, sort of orange/tangerine, sort of berry - like a bold smoothie of flavours with some cocoa nibs thrown in for that cacao flavour. I loved this chocolate bar.


Kasama also makes a 55% goat's milk. I shared it with a friend, and was a little sad to let it go without trying it first. So you'll have to taste it for yourself if you are curious.  Kasama Chocolate is sold at farmer's markets throughout the Vancouver area, including Mt. Pleasant Farmer's Market, as well as Riley Park Farmer's Market all summer long.

Kasama is a home-based business for the time being (there is talk of finding an appropriate space for their business). They make bean-to-bar chocolate bars and bean-to-truffle confections. Visit www.kasamachocolate.com for more information.

Next up will be: McGuire Chocolate (Calgary).

After that, watch for Aschenti Cocoa (Winnipeg).

And then a whole slew of chocolate makers from Quebec, as well as a newbie on the East Coast.