Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Truffle Love...Belgian Style and Ready to Make Your Christmas Entertaining a Success

Are you looking for just the perfect box of chocolate truffles at just the right price to meet all your entertaining needs this Christmas? My fantastic find last weekend was at Costco in Sudbury, Ontario. Packaged in a lovely large red, brown and gold box is a perfect mix of Gavarny milk and dark chocolate Belgian truffles that will leave your mouth watering for more.

For truffles that are made with oil (rather than cream), I was surprised by how good these were and how I could not taste the distinct flavour of coconut oil, nor could I tell the difference in texture - which I usually can with oil-based truffles. The flakes of real chocolate on the outside also added a chocolaty kick to the flavour.

What I like about the box - and the reason I think this is great for holiday entertaining - is that the truffles are wrapped in six packs of seven truffles.  So you can open one to eat immediately, then save the others as the holiday season approaches to add to dessert trays or to pull out with coffee when those pesky unexpected guests arrive at your door. And do not forget to save one package for Christmas morning to snack on while opening gifts and sipping a latte!

Also, you can choose which package to open depending on who is eating it.  If your household is like mine and split between milk and dark chocoholics, then this box offers the perfect combination.

If you are planning to visit Gavarny's website, you may be surprised to find that the website listed on the chocolate packaging is actually for a company called Gudrun Group who packages, markets and commercializes Belgian chocolates.  From a business perspective, this is a great idea for both the manufacturer and for Gudrun Group because it helps Gavarny increase sales on an international level. 

If you are interested in other products by Gavarny, here is the link to the Gavarny products page on the Gudrun Group web site:

To check out chocolates and whatever else you can buy at Costco in Canada, go to, although you won't find the box that I bought on their web site.  You'll just have to go to the store for yourself!  And if Costco is sold out on the day that you go shopping, do not stress! There is a lot of other chocolate for sale at Costco right now that is just right for Christmas entertaining.

Here are the package details from the chocolate truffles that I tasted and reviewed today:

Gavarny Belgian Truffles, "Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Flaked Truffles Assortment", 1lb, 2.5oz (525g)
Gudrun Commercial N.V. (Made in Belgium)
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, milk, unsweetened chocolate, emulsifier: soybean lecithin, natural vanilla flavour), vegetable oil (coconut, palm kernel), sugar, nonfat milk, lactose, reduced fat cocoa powder, emulsifier: soybean lecithin, natural vanilla flavour.  Contains milk, soy (lecithin). Made in a facility that uses wheat, eggs, pistachio nuts, walnuts and almonds.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dick Taylor Chocolate...for the DARK chocoholic and for those who appreciate single-origin hand-crafted chocolate

A few weeks ago I had placed an order for Dick Taylor chocolate, which is handcrafted chocolate made in California. They make four very dark chocolate bars in the over 70% cacao range. Each chocolate bar is made from different single-origin beans from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Venezuela (Dick Taylor's Fleur de Sel bar is made from the same beans as their Dominican  Republic chocolate bar).
I was so excited when I finally received my package at the post office that I took photos of the packaging as fast as I could because I just wanted to tear into it and taste the chocolate. So unfortunately, my photos do not really do the product packaging any justice. The chocolate bar wrapping really took my breath away. I'm not sure that I've seen many chocolate bars wrapped in white paper before. Usually chocolate is wrapped in brown or tan-coloured paper or other colours, so I was surprised when I opened the package.  The white instantly caused me to think that the chocolate might be sunny-flavoured and refreshing.  It also, for some reason I cannot explain, seemed to be the epitome of craft chocolate.
A wonderfully rustic wrap around four exquisite chocolate bars. 
This extra attention to detail really made me excited
about the chocolate bars inside the package!
Since I did not have my laptop with me while traveling last week, and was too busy to blog the week before, I had a lot of time to taste, savour and enjoy this chocolate before writing about it. This is a good thing because it is the type of very flavourful chocolate that can taste different each time you taste it, so you need to keep coming back to it time and time again to really understand the flavours and determine which is your favourite.

Unfortunately, I tasted all four bars so many times that I could no longer determine which I liked best. And each day I had a new favourite. Finally, I just got so confused, that I brought the remaining chocolate  (except for the Venezuela because I managed to finish the whole thing myself) over to my brother- and sister-in-laws house one evening last week. While the kids played, we tasted and compared chocolate! 

My sister-in-law, "K" as I'll call her, is my go-to person when I need someone to taste some dark chocolate and give me an honest opinion about it. She has a great palate for chocolate tasting, and enjoys it just as much as I do.  And it is always much more fun to taste chocolate with someone who also likes the same kinds as I do!  Her husband, my brother-in-law (we'll call him "C"), has also grown fond of dark chocolate recently so we had a nice small group for a dark chocolate tasting.

Everyone agreed that the Dominican Republic bar was the best. It was full of robust fruity, or more like, bitter berry, flavour.  The Ecuador had a lot of earthy flavour, but also industrial in some way.  We both tasted that "industrial" sort of flavour, like gasoline and automobiles, mixed in with earthiness. K thought the after taste was not great.  I found the flavour strong and a bit off-putting at first, but at the same time I liked all the complex and strong flavours in the Ecuador bar.

K also had the same reaction to the Fleur de Sel Dominican bar as I did.  Initially it seemed like it was too salty, or it did not pair well with the bitterness of the chocolate.  We both thought that it might have been better if the chocolate had been a bit sweeter.  But then we just kept coming back to it over and over again.  So although our initial reaction was not great, we could not stop eating it and it grew on us with each bite. At the end, we both agreed that we liked the Dominican Rep. Fleur de Sel bar by Dick Taylor.

C liked the Dominican chocolate bar the best, and also seemed a bit confused at first about the taste of the Fleur de Sel bar.  Overall, I think C and K (as I like to call them!), both enjoyed the Dick Taylor chocolate that they tasted that evening, just as I did. Even their two-year old daughter stole a piece off the counter and seemed to really enjoy it.

My only regret is that I had not eaten all of the Venezuela chocolate bar, so that the others could have tasted it. However, I liked it the first time I tried it and at subsequent tastings.  I found it milder than the other chocolate bars with a well-rounded flavour that could be enjoyed by anyone who likes dark chocolate.

My recommendation is to definitely buy and try all four of Dick-Taylor's chocolate bars and just taste each individuallly, one day at a time.  Then perhaps, after you have reflected on each flavour, save a piece from each chocolate bar and compare them all at once.  There is so much flavour in the beans used to make each bar that you will surely notice a difference.  This will also give you time to determine which one is your favourite.

The front and back-side of the Fleur de Sel bar.
My  poor photo does not do the beauty
of the chocolate mold used by Dick Taylor
any justice. Just trust me, it's gorgeous chocolate.
 Overall, I liked Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate - the flavour,the texture, the look of the chocolate and most definitely the packaging. If you are curious, check it out at .  And they ship to Canada!

Here are the stats from the pacakging of each of Dick Taylor's chocolate bars:

Dick Taylor Chocolate
Arcata, CA (U.S.A.)

75% Venezuela chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

74% Dominican Republic chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

70% Ecuador chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

74% Dominican Republic & Fleur de Sel chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar, fleur de sel

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas shopping for the chocolate connoisseur in your family? A review of three of Lindt's newest products... and advice on where to shop for the chocolate connoisseur.

Got a chocolate lover in your family and don't know what to buy them?  Are they into dark chocolate, rich truffles or the gourmet stuff and you have no idea where to start?  My general advice would be to look online for Valrhona chocolate, Michel Cluizel chocolate or chocolate made by small bean-to-bar manufacturers (like Potomac, Dick-Taylor, Patric Chocolate or other craft chocolate bar makers).  Alternately, truffles and filled chocolates with all sorts of wonderful ingredients, like Balsamic vinegar, basil, soft cheeses, vintage wine, sea salt or other unique flavours made by true artisan chocolatiers would be appreciated by any true chocolate lover. Try Soma in Toronto for some interesting flavour combinations or look online other for artisan chocolatiers who ship fresh-made filled chocolates to your door. 

What if you don't have time to seek out just the perfect gift online? In that case, look at your local department store, pharmacy or grocer because you likely have a large range of Lindt products nearby and some of them may just satisfy that chocolate lover's cravings. Just the other day, I found three new products by Lindt: the Lindt PASSION chocolate bar with Caramel & Sea Salt, a box of four Lindt Gourmet Truffles and the "new" Lindt Excellence 50% Cacao Smooth Dark 100 gram chocolate bar. I bought all three from Christmas chocolate displays at Sears Canada to taste and to share my review of them here on this blog.

I am not completely sure that the Lindt Gourmet Truffles box is a new product. It was, however, the first time I had seen it in the stores. The four truffles in the box weigh 63 grams (2.2oz) and there was one dark chocolate truffle, two milk chocolate truffles and one white chocolate truffle. I tasted the dark chocolate, and for a truffle with a long shelf life (i.e. made with oils rather than cream), I really liked it.  I generally find dark chocolate commercialized truffles too sweet, like the Lindor dark chocolate truffles, but this one was quite good.  I could taste the distinct flavour and texture of the coconut oil, but it was still good, smooth and melted in my mouth.  I also liked the rough outer edge. The milk chocolate was absolutely mouth-watering.  They even had fork marks on the bottom, showing that they were hand dipped in chocolate. The white chocolate also surprised me - I liked it - it was not overly sweet and had a full rich flavour.

The only real down-side of these Lindt "Gourmet" truffles is that artificial flavour is used instead of real flavour. And although it is very subtle in the flavour of this product, my personal opinion is if you are going to call something "gourmet", just use real flavouring.  I know it costs more from a manufacturing perspective, but customers like me just appreciate the extra effort.

The other Lindt product which is definitely new, according to the Lindt website, is the Lindt PASSION bar with Caramel & Sea Salt.  I think the taste is superb. The salt and caramel pieces pair with the dark chocolate perfectly and one side of the bar is smooth and melts on your tongue, while the other side offers a fun crunchy texture. It is a beautiful chocolate and overall, quite tasty. I highly recommend it as a stocking stuffer for any dark chocolate lover.  Just be aware that it has the same downside as the Gourmet Truffles: artificial flavour. But if your chocolate lover is not too picky about that sort of thing, they may really like this product.

The last product is the Lindt 50% bar. I know this is a new product because of the red "NEW" splashed across the front of the package. It tastes great and the chocolate is just as smooth as all other Lindt Excellence bars are. However, the ingredients list includes additives like butter fat and glucose syrup, so if you are looking for a healthier product, you are best to stick with Lindt Excellence 70% which has less ingredients and is much healthier for you. Unlike the truffles, the 50% cacao bar does have natural flavouring by way of Bourbon vanilla bean.

For me, I would prefer high-end products from craft chocolate makers, as mentioned above, but if one of my family members just does not know where to start shopping for me, I would be happy to see a LINDT PASSION bar or Lindt Gourmet Truffles under my Christmas tree. After all, I still have not tried the Lindt PASSION Orange & Pistachio bar (hint, hint to any family member that may be reading this!). As for the 50% cacao dark chocolate bar, use it for chocolate shavings on a cake or to melt down and enrobe a home-made chocolate truffle, but don't bother buying it for the chocolate connoisseur in your family.

Here are the stats from the packages of the three Lindt products that I tried this week:

Lindt Excellence 50% Cacao Smooth Dark, 100 g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli SAS (France)
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butter fat, soya lecithin, glucose syrup, natural bourbon vanilla bean.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Lindt PASSION Caramel & Sea Salt 'Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt', 97g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli (Shweiz) AG
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butterfat, skim milk powder, soya and rapeseed lecithin, lactose, natural flavour, artificial flavour, sea salt.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Lindt Gourmet Truffles "Assorted Fine Chocolates", 2.2oz (63g)
Lindt & Sprungli AG, Switzerland
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, coconut oil, cocoa mass, soya lecithin, barley malt extract, artificial flavour.  May contain traces of peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Super Simple Chocolate Truffles: Espresso Flavoured and Oh So Good

For a coffee and chocolate lover, there is nothing better than lounging at a quaint little cafe and drinking a strong espresso while savouring a single decadent dark chocolate truffle.  If you don't have an espresso maker at home, nor an espresso café or gourmet chocolate shop nearby, then I have an easy way for you to recreate the experience and the flavours in one delectable home-made truffle.

This is Camino's former packaging. 
To see their new branding and
packaging colours, click here.
The simplest way to make a tasty espresso-flavoured chocolate truffle is by using a similarly flavoured chocolate bar in your recipe.  It saves you from the added steps of soaking espresso beans in cream and from pairing just the right espresso beans with the chocolate you are using. 

My favourite espresso-flavoured chocolate bar is the Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate bar with 55% cacao. And it is great for making decadent chocolate truffles with a real coffee kick.  It comes in 100 gram format and is a solid, smooth dark chocolate that has no crunchy bits of espresso or coffee beans in it, so it is perfect for making a smooth truffle. It is also Fair Trade certified and made with organic ingredients, and its flavour reminds me of a very dark roast coffee from Starbucks (or Bridgehead Coffee House in Ottawa, known for their very dark fair trade and organic coffee - love them!). I am often looking for that strong dark roast coffee experience when I eat flavoured chocolate and Camino`s Espresso bar is the closest thing to it that I have found.  It is the perfect pairing of coffee and chocolate in my view, and with 55% cacao, it has just the right sweetness.

So once you have tasted a piece or two of the chocolate, you can break it all up and make some truffles. Coat the truffles in white chocolate and you'll have a real coffee and cream experience. Here is my super-easy recipe...

Lisabeth's Super Simple 'Café au Lait' Truffles:

  • 3 100 gram Camino Espresso 55% Dark Chocolate bars (approx 10.5 oz) - or your preferred brand of smooth espresso-flavoured 100 gram chocolate bars
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Step 1 Break up all three Espresso chocolate bars in small pieces and place in a stainless steel or glass bowl.

Step 2 Heat cream in a small saucepan on the stove top just until boiling point is reached.  Pour three-quarters over bowl of chocolate and begin to stir.  Once the cream is mixed in and looks smooth (don't worry if there are still some larger chunks of chocolate), add the remaining hot cream and stir until full mixture is smooth (The reason why it is best to pour 3/4 of cream at first is because too much hot cream all at once can cause the chocolate mixture to become grainy and it would take a lot of cooling an reheating to turn it smooth again).

Step 3 Place a lid over the bowl or place cellophane wrap directly on chocolate mixture and let set overnight on the counter (or for 6-8 hours if you are doing Step 1 in the morning and rolling your truffles in the evening). Once set, place in refrigerator and refrigerate for at least one-to-two hours.

Step 4 With a spoon, scoop out truffle and roll in the palm of your hands to create balls.  If your hands are melting the chocolate and it is difficult to create round truffle balls, wear some thin clean kitchen gloves.  The gloves will prevent the heat of your hands from melting the chocolate.  Roll truffles in any size that you prefer, depending how large you want your truffles to be.  Place each ball on wax paper on a pan and put back in the fridge while you prepare your chocolate for dipping.

Step 5  Melt 100 grams (3.5 oz) of white chocolate (see tip below for choosing a white chocolate).  To melt and temper quickly, place chopped or broken white chocolate in a microwave-safe bow and microwave on HALF power (level 5) for TWO minutes. Take out and stir until smooth.  If there are still large chunks, microwave for only 5 seconds at a time and stir each time to check if chocolate is melted (DO NOT OVERHEAT OR CHOCOLATE WILL BURN).  If chocolate becomes grainy, it is burnt or water has gotten into it and you will need to start over.  So ensure that your hands, bowl and spoon are dry and no droplets of water get in.

Step 6  Take truffle balls out of fridge.  Place a new clean sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.  Place one truffle ball in melted chocolate at a time and coat with chocolate.  Spear with a fork or skewer (or chocolate dipping fork if you have one) and lift out carefully and place on wax paper.  For coconut-covered truffle balls, immediately roll the truffle in a dish of sweetened, shredded coconut while the white chocolate coating is still warm and melty.

Step 7 Chill in refrigerator and store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.  If you wish, freeze immediately and pull them out as you need them - they make a great addition to a dessert tray during the holidays.  The coconut-white chocolate covered truffles look like snowballs and make for a perfect winter treat display.

Tips for choosing White Chocolate: I used Camino organic white chocolate couverture, however you could use Valrhona or Callebaut or just white baking chocolate from the grocery store, if you have nothing else.  A 100 gram Green & Black's white chocolate bar would do as well if you want to stick to all organic chocolate.

With seven steps above, it may seem complicated, but it really is a very simple recipe and once you've made truffles a few times, you'll be able to do it with your eyes closed!

Here are the details on the Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate bar that I was sampling today (who doesn't sample the chocolate while making truffles?!?):

Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate, 55% cacao, 100 g
La Siembra Co-operative, Ottawa, Canada
Organic Ingredients: cacao mass*, golden cane sugar*, cacao butter*, whole cane sugar*, ground coffee*, ground vanilla beans*.  *FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED. May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soy and dairy products.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Canadian-Made All Natural Chocolate Truffle Bars

Yesterday it was American chocolate, but today it is distinctly Canadian.

I was at my local IDA on Saturday and spotted a new set of chocolate bars that I had not seen there before: Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bars made in Richmond, British Columbia.  What had caught my eye was the large "All Natural" written on the package.  I am all about "all natural" when it comes to chocolate, so I was excited to see a truffle bar collection claiming to be made of only natural ingredients. You see, it is rare to find all-natural packaged chocolate truffle on store shelves because traditional truffle is made from chocolate mixed with cream and/or butter, two ingredients that have a limited shelf life (my own chocolate TOFFLE is made with real cream, and therefore only has a 10 day shelf life).  So commercial manufacturers will usually replace these ingredients with hydrogenated oils and all sorts of unnatural ingredients in order to recreate the smooth texture of truffle that lasts long enough to sit on store shelves for months.

So I bought all three Barkleys Truffle bars: "Double Dark", "Mint" and "Hazelnut".  I have to say, I liked all three chocolate bars.  The Double Dark Truffle Bar had a smooth centre and melted in your mouth.  It definitely tasted different than a truffle made with cream and butter. Truffle made with coconut oil tends to be a little stiffer, but melts faster when heated, which is why they melt so nicely in our mouths (think Lindt/Lindor Chocolate Truffles which are made with coconut oil and palm kernel oil). The Hazelnut had an added mouth-watering quality, as all chocolate with hazelnut butter tends to have. I found that it was difficult for me not to eat the entire bar in one sitting.

My favourite of the three was the Mint. It is incredibly minty flavoured and just melts in your mouth.  It is similar to the Double Dark, but the sweet mint flavour just makes you keep coming back for more.  It sort of tastes like those little individually wrapped Alpine chocolates with the mint centre, only it is made with all natural ingredients and is much healthier.

So what have I taken away from this tasting experience?  Good tasting chocolate truffle that is both all natural and long-lasting is available, and it is made in Canada!  It is also very accessible to the general population, since I found it at my local I.D.A. pharmacy.  If you are looking for more all-natural chocolate truffle with a long shelf life, check out my review of Truffle Pigs, another all natural chocolate truffle that is made in British Columbia.

Below are the details from the packages of the three chocolate bars that I tasted today. Although the web site was not listed on the package, I found it online:  and is worth a visit if you are into all natural confections; they have a few other products that may be of interest, including a brand of organic chocolate truffle bars.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Double Dark", 50g/1.76oz
Barkleys Canada, Richmond, B.C.
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, coconut oil, butter oil, soy lecithin, natural vanilla. This product contains soy ingredient and may contain milk, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and wheat.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Hazelnut", 50g/1.76oz
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, hazelnuts, cocoa mass, coconut oil, soy lecithin, natural vanilla. This product contains  milk, tree nuts, soy ingredient, and may contain peanuts, eggs, and wheat.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Mint", 50g/1.76oz
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass*, cocoa butter*, coconut oil,butter oil, soy lecithin, natural flavours. *Contains 49% min cocoa solids. This product contains milk and soy ingredients. May contain peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.

Sunday, November 6, 2011's PUH-TOH-MUHK! No matter how you say it, it is good chocolate.

Please forgive me, I am Canadian. I have never heard of Potomac, the river or the city of the same name, until now (despite having visited Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia several times). So when I first saw the POTOMAC CHOCOLATE logo, I could not understand what the name meant, how to pronounce it, or why there was a fish on the chocolate wrapper.  But now that I've researched Potomac a little, I finally get it.

A few days ago I received my first shipment of Potomac chocolate. It was an exciting day. First of all, I was super excited that this American hand-crafted chocolate company was willing to ship their chocolate to Canada (I have been a bit hesitant  lately about ordering from American bean-to-bar manufacturers ever since one company's owner told me that he would not ship to me because the paperwork wasn`t worth it). And not only were they willing, but they were fast about it too. I received the shipment in a few short days.

The second reason for my excitement was because of Potomac's limited product line. They only have three chocolate bars available for purchase on their website: Upala 70%, Upala 70% Nibs and Upala 82%.  Maybe it sounds strange that I like it when a chocolate manufacturer has a limited product offering, but to me, it means that the company is focusing its efforts on its signature products. I am not a fan of those companies that branch out to quickly by introducing a whole bunch of chocolate products in the beginning, without really focusing on the taste and flavour profiles of their key products. So although they have a limited range of products, it is clear to me that Potomac pays attention to the required details, so I can see that they have immense passion for their craft.

After tasting them, both the 70% and the 82% are full of rich flavour and very intense. I might be able to explain flavour notes a little better if I didn't have a cold (I tried to wait out my cold before tasting the Potomac chocolate bars, but this virus seems to be settling in for the long haul and I finally could not resist the chocolate any longer). Potomac's chocolate is made from single-origin beans from Upala, located in northern Costa Rica, so there is a lot of intense flavours in the beans. With my cold, the best I can say is that the 70% is bitter, but has just the right balance of sugar. And the 82% is like drinking a really dry glass of well-aged Cabernet. Hmmm...this is making me want wine with my chocolate.

The Upala 70% Nibs bar is awesome. The nibs are only on the back side of the chocolate bar, as though they were lightly sprinkled over the chocolate just as it began to set. For that reason, this nibs bar has entered my top favourites list.  Since I have issues with my teeth  (yes, admittedly I have too many fillings), chocolate with too many cocao nibs do bother them.  Also, when chocolate has too many nibs mixed in, it is difficult to really taste the chocolate (you are too busy crunching through the darn nibs!). But with this Potomac nibs bar, you can flip it upside down so the nib-free side is on your tongue, and really taste the chocolate before you get to the point of chewing any nibs. That way, you get to taste and savour the chocolate first, then experience a little crunch since the nibs are only lightly sprinkled on the back side of the bar.

Another cool aspect of Potomac's chocolate bars are the lists of ingredients.  Check it out in the package details that I've included below.  You will see that the ingredients are limited and no vanilla or other flavourings have been added to affect the real flavour of the cacao beans.  And you know what?  You don't miss vanilla and other added flavourings when the chocolate is so full of intense flavour.

So overall, my first tasting experience with Potomac handcrafted chocolate was fantastic: flavourful chocolate of a single origin, fast and efficient service and just the right ingredients and attention to detail.

As always, here are the package details from the chocolates that I tasted today:

Potomac Chocolate
Handgcrafted in Woodbridge, VA, U.S.A.

Chocolate Bars:

Upala 82%, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Upala 70%, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Upala 70% Nibs, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Step up your home-made Halloween treats next year by making them with Valrhona chocolate couverture

Have you ever wondered where you can buy Valrhona couverture chocolate in Canada for your home baking or small-scale chocolate making?  Well, thanks to a Google advertisement, I discovered that Vanilla Food Company, based in Markham, Ontario, sells perfect sample pack sizes of Valrhona chocolate couverture.  I think this is the greatest idea ever.  It means that the average home baker, or really anyone who wants to dabble in making truffles and filled chocolates, can buy a considerable amount of very high quality white, milk and dark chocolate couverture for a not-so-bad price.  And you do not have to purchase giant 10 kilo packs of each type of chocolate!  So if you want to make a gourmet white or dark chocolate cheesecake or some gourmet Halloween chocolates for the kids, Vanilla Food Company will help you fill your baking pantry with very high quality chocolate.

I placed my first order with the Vanilla Food Company online last week.  I ordered the Chocolate-licious Valrhona Sample Pack, which had 1 lb (453 g) each of four different types of Valrhona chocolate couverture:  bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk and white and each is made from beans of a different origin. The Vanilla Food Company repacks the chocolate "Fèves" (small oval coin shape, as described on Valrhona’s website) into zipper-sealed bags that they have re-labelled. I received three e-mails to confirm that my order was confirmed, payment was received, and the order was shipped. The package arrived within a few days, so overall, I received fast and excellent service.

Although they do not have an extensive range of chocolate, Vanilla Food Company does sell other chocolate couverture, including a Callebaut couverture sample pack. It is certainly less expensive than the Valrhona, and both are high quality. However, the Valrhona Sample Pack is filled with single origin chocolate with a lot of bean flavour. For instance, the Valrhona 55% Semi-Sweet in the sample pack is of Equadorian origin and made in France. The bittersweet 66% is of Caribbean origin ("Caraibe") and is very strong in flavour.  It is bitter and I think ideal for extra dark chocolate truffles. The chocolate is made from Trinitario beans (a step up from the standard Forrastero beans used in most common chocolate) and it leaves a lasting taste in your mouth.

If you are American, you can also buy Valrhona's own baking chocolate-sized packs from the Valrhona USA site directly in 2.2 lb bags for $39.99 per bag ( There are also a few types of Baking Chocolate Kits that include an apron, cacao powder and chocolate. This would make a great Christmas gift for a budding chocolate connoisseur or pastry chef.

I will soon write a review of the Valrhona milk and white chocolate that I purchased from Vanilla Food Company, once I get around to tasting it. However, today I have some not-so-home-made Halloween treats to dig into. 

Here are the details from the Vanilla Food Company's label on the re-packaged Valrhona bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate couverture:

Valrhona – Dark Bittersweet Chocolate Disc, Caraibe – 66% Cocoa Solids, 453 g (1 lb)
Product of France
Packaged by: Vanilla Food Company Inc., Markham, Ontario CANADA
Ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract.  This product may contain traces of nuts, milk, egg proteins, gluten and peanut.

Valrhona – Dark Semi Sweet Chocolate Disc, Equatoriale Noire – 55% Cocoa Solids, 453 g (1 lb)
Product of France
Packaged by: Vanilla Food Company Inc., Markham, Ontario CANADA
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract.  This product may contain traces of nuts, milk, egg proteins, gluten and peanut.

Looking for other fine chocolate for home baking?  Check out these product reviews:

-E. Guittard anc Cacao Barry Couverture Chocolate Review
-Guittard Chocolate Chips for Home Baking Review