Friday, December 3, 2010

Salt and chocolate...an appetizer or dessert?

I often find myself liking chocolate that tastes less like dessert and more like an appetizer to a main meal. What kind of chocolate is that, you ask?  Well, in my opinion, it is any chocolate with flavours added that are commonly in our savoury foods, rather than in our sweet foods.  For me, those chocolates include chili-spiced chocolate, chocolate with herbs like basil, and chocolate with sea salt. 

I have been collecting a few salted chocolate bars for the last few months, and waiting for an opportunity to taste them all at once. And today is the day!

I am tasting the following three chocolate bars today:
  • Chocolat NOIR a la Fleur de Sel, 45 gram bar by Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal)
  • Lindt EXCELLENCE Sea Salt Dark (Dark chocolate with a touch of seas salt), 100 gram, 47% cacao
  • Cocoa Camino Fair Trade Organic Milk with sea salt (contains hazelnuts), 100 grams, 38% cocoa

The Suite 88 chocolate bar is VERY salty with big pieces of crunchy salt in it.  It is definitely on my "appetizer" list.  You can taste the chocolate in there somewhere, which adds a nice sweetness to the savoury salt, but it is a lot of salt. The dark chocolate is smooth and sweet, and likely has no more than 55%  or 69% cacao solids.

Lindt on the other hand has a fruity flavour, although I don't think that was intentional and it's predominant texture is the smooth chocolate.  The salt is apparent, but the pieces are not quite as large as the Suite 88 chocolate. In fact, the salt is the aftertaste in the Lindt bar once all the chocolate has melted away. In the Suite 88 bar, the salt is the first thing you taste and the last thing you taste. The downside of Lindt is the "artificial flavour" listed in the ingredient list and the addition of "butter fat" to the chocolate.  Although it tastes like fine chocolate, the butterfat and artificial flavours make it difficult to put it in that category.

Now that I have tasted the Cocoa Camino chocolate bar, I am realizing that I should have followed standard tasting rules and tried the milk chocolate first and worked my way up in cocoa percentages.  I was a little shocked and overwhelmed by the sweetness of the chocolate when I first popped it into my mouth.  However, now that I've had two pieces, it is growing on me and I can see how nice the chocolate it.  The chocolate tastes a lot like their couverture milk chocolate, which I use in a few of my chocolate and pastry products. There is an organic smell and flavour, and the milk chocolate is smooth, but not too sweet in comparison to commercial milk chocolate. The ground hazelnuts add a smoothness and nuttiness to the chocolate.  Cocoa Camino used ground hazelnuts in their standard 100 gram milk chocolate bar as well, which adds an amazing flavour and texture that many people cannot resist. There is also real ground vanilla beans in this chocolate, and the chocolate is fair trade and organic, so a big thumbs up to the Cocoa Camino brand!

Each bar was good in its own way, and really if you are a salt lover, and really like to crunch on the chunky stuff, try the Suite 88 bar.  If you want a milder introduction to seas salt in your chocolate, and affordability, go with the Lindt bar.  If you are a Milk Chocolate person who cares about the environment and your health, go for a Cocoa Camino milk chocolate with sea salt.  And if you are feeling inspired, take any of the bars I tasted today, or any other bar with sea salt, break them up on a platter and put it out with the appetizers at your next party!  After all, holidays are happier with chocolate.

Here are the stats on the bars I tasted today:

Chocolat NOIR a la Fleur de Sel, 45 gram bar by Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, sea salt, soya lecithin, natural vanilla. Contains or may contain traces of milk, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, sulphites, soya or eggs. http://www.suite88.com/

Lindt EXCELLENCE Sea Salt Dark (Dark chocolate with a touch of seas salt), 100 gram, 47% cacao
Manufactured by: Lindt & Spr√ľngli SAS (France).  www.lindt.com
Ingredients:  sugar, cocoa mass, butter, butter fat, soya lecithin, sea salt (fleur de sel), artificial flavour.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Cocoa Camino Fair Trade Organic Milk with sea salt (contains hazelnuts), 100 grams, 38% cacao
La Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, Canada
Chocolate made in Switzerland.  www.tasteofcamino.com
Ingredients: whole milk powder, golden cane sugar, cacao butter, cacao mass, whole cane sugar, ground hazelnuts, seas salt (Guerande), ground vanilla beans. 69.4% Fair Trade Certified ingredients by dry weight. Except for the salt, every other ingredient is certified organic.

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