Thursday, May 18, 2017

I am at the Grenada Chocolate Fest!


If you are wondering why this blog has been rather 'quiet' for the last week or so, it is because I am traveling...for chocolate! I am in Grenada for the Grenada Chocolate Festival, an annual event organized by the owner of True Blue Bay boutique resort in Grenada. It is a week long adventure of cacao, cocoa farm visits, great food, and wonderful single origin chocolate. I am enjoying this festival thoroughly, which is why I haven't been spending a lot of time writing about it! But don't worry, I'll tell you all about it once I am back. Here are a few highlights to tide you over until then....

On Monday, we took an extensive tour of Belmont Estate, a cacao plantation in Grenada. While there, we learned about different types of cacao, growing cacao, seedlings, grafting, fermentation, drying cocoa beans, and more.





After, we had the most delicious lunch at Belmont Estate restaurant. Beautiful view and chocolate in my food, what more could I ask for?



Belmont then announced their launch of a new craft chocolate factory. Tree to bar chocolate is the way to go! All the ingredients they need to make chocolate are grown and processed right there on the farm (well, except maybe the sugar).





Yesterday we visited the Diamond Chocolate Factory for a short tour. This factory makes the Jouvay Chocolate brand.




Today we are heading to the Grenada Chocolate Factory, and learning all about Mott Green, and his important impact in the world of chocolate, and Grenadian cocoa.






Sunday, May 7, 2017

Double Layer Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake - two recipes in one cake!

My birthday was about a month ago. And since it was a milestone birthday this year, I decided not to rely on anyone else to make my cake because - as I've learned over the years - no one makes cakes for a professional baker. Or so I thought. A cake was dropped off at my door on my big day. But I didn't know this before my birthday, so I went ahead and made an epic one for myself. So there was no need for fancy decoration (as you'll see in the photos), because this cake was just for me.

My cake preference is for something super chocolaty and rich. But to make a cake that is rich enough for my taste buds, I really must combine two cakes. And that is precisely what I did.

I LOVE chocolate cheesecake, and I LOVE chocolate mousse cake. So I decided to mix them together!  And I didn't want to bake, so I chose two no-bake recipes and got started.  I used gluten-free flour in the crust to cut down on guilt and just because I thought I'd mix it up a bit. This changed nothing on the deliciousness scale, but you can decide whether yours will be GF or not.

The end result is a delicious combination that is both rich and chocolaty. As a bonus, it can be pre-sliced and frozen, so you can pull out a piece and thaw it in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds (or an hour just left on the counter) whenever you have a dessert craving!

Let's get to it. Here is the 'how-to' for this delicious cake...


Double Layer Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake Recipe

For the crust:

You need...
  • 1/2 cup butter (set aside more for the flour-based crust)
        plus
  • 1 package (or 2 to 3 cups chocolate wafer cookies, gluten-free or regular)
                      OR
  • 2 cups GF or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or another dry sugar alternative

Crust Instructions:

1. Cover the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper and butter the bottom and up the inside sides. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave in a heat-proof bowl or in a saucepan on the stove.
3. Crumble your cookies (if using) and place in a medium-sized bowl or place flour, sugar, cocoa powder in a medium-sized bowl and stir to disperse ingredients.  Add the melted butter to the mix and stir until mix is moist and crumbly. Add more butter as necessary.
4. Press into the bottom of an 8" or 9" springform pan, until smooth and even and covers the entire bottom.
5. Place your pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for just 10 minutes if using crumbled cookies, and for 15 minutes if using flour/sugar mixture crust.
6. Remove from oven and let cool in the fridge for a half an hour or until it feels cool to the touch.

For the no-bake chocolate cheesecake filling:

You need...
  • 2 packages of cream cheese (2 250 gram packages), softened to room temperature (or packages fully removed and microwaved for 20 to 30 seconds on a plate or paper towel to reach room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (organic raw cane sugar, or coconut sugar are fine)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 7 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (you can also use 70% dark chocolate, but you might want to increase the sugar by a 1/4 cup if you do)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla

Cheesecake filling instructions:

1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave for 1 minute on high, or 2 minutes on half power. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Whip the whipping cream in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, until fluffy and stiff (about 1 minute or less in a stand mixer, 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Transfer to another bowl (to free up your stand mixer bowl) and place in the fridge.
3. Place the cream cheese in your mixing bowl and beat until soft and fluffy, stopping every now and then to carefully stir in the bottom to ensure no lumps form.
4. Add the sugar and beat again until smooth (about 30 to 60 seconds), also stopping to stir in the bottom with a spatula so no lumps form. Beat for 30 seconds more.
5. Add the vanilla and beat in for 10 seconds.
6. Add the chocolate and beat in for 20 seconds or so until fully combined.
7. Gently fold in your whipping cream.
8. Pour the entire mix onto the crust ready in your springform pan. Spread around until the top is smooth and even.
9. Place the crust and bottom layer of the cake in the fridge to chill and set, while making your chocolate mousse.

For the chocolate mousse cake filling:
This recipe is modified, but originally comes from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley/Toronto, 2007

You need...
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips (preferably 55% to 65% dark chocolate - Ghirardelli recommends their 60% chocolate chips)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (organic cane sugar works here)
  • 1/4 cup hot brewed coffee or espresso
Chocolate Mousse Filling Instructions:

1. Whip the whipping cream in a large bowl to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (careful not to let any water drops drip into it or it will turn lumpy) or in the microwave for 2 minutes on half power in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until smooth. 3. If over a double boiler, pull off heat while about 1/8 chocolate remains in lumps, so the chocolate does not overheat. Stir until smooth.
4. Whip the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed for about 10 minutes (less if using a Kitchenaid stand mixer), until very fluffy and thick.
5. Stir the hot coffee into the chocolate chips rapidly but until smooth, and then immediately stir it into the beaten eggs, again rapidly. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
6. Pour the mixture over the cheesecake filling in the pan. Spread around until smooth.
7. Place back in the fridge and let set a least 2 hours (24 hours is good too) until ready to serve or to top the cake.

To serve the cake...

Run a knife around the inside edges of the springform pan. Remove the sides. Carefully transfer to a serving plate. Top the cake with chocolate ganache dizzled over it, chocolate shavings, cookie crumble, hazelnuts, raspberries or strawberries or whatever you prefer. Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Or seal in an airtight container (a box with a plastic bag sealed around it works too!) and freeze until ready to serve. Thaws in about an hour.

It's time to impress your friends! Although you might not want to share. :-)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Day 5 concludes 'A Zotter a Day' theme week with these innovative chocolates

With over 300 chocolate flavours, I could keep writing about Zotter Chocolate flavours every day for a year, but I do need to get some chocolate work of my own done. So I will conclude my 'A Zotter a Day' theme today and move on to chocolate making, recipe developing and some other chocolate makers next week.

Since I couldn't quite choose a favourite for the final day, today I will mention a few bars that I have enjoyed and really think you should try. I believe I have written about these same bars on the blog once before, but they are just so special and innovative that I want to be sure you haven't missed them.

Zotter's Labooko Milk Chocolate "Dark style" 70%, without sugar


You've likely heard of dark-milk chocolate, a whole new category of milk chocolate that has become very popular in recent years, but Zotter takes this category to a new level with its no-sugar milk chocolate. In fact, no sweetener of any kind has been added to the chocolate, making this an amazing treat for anyone who is trying to consume 100% dark chocolate, but just can't get over the bitterness.

Last week, I told you about East Van Roasters Mad Cashew bar, which takes the edge out of unsweetened chocolate by adding cashew butter and salt. This Zotter chocolate bar does the same thing: it takes the edge off the bitterness of plain chocolate with the addition of milk powder and vanilla. The creaminess softens the bitter cacao taste and creates a savoury, melt-in-your mouth treat.  Now, I am not saying this no-sugar chocolate doesn't take a little time to get used to for people who regularly eat 70% dark chocolate, but for someone who usually consumes 80% to 100% dark chocolate, they may even find the vanilla and milk sweet.

You can find this chocolate bar on the Zotter USA website here.

Mitzi Blue Never-Ending Strawberry, Strawberry & Yoghurt


A few weeks ago, I talked about the new trend in chocolate: chocolate makers are creating naturally bright colours of 'white' chocolate by grinding freeze-dried fruit directly into the chocolate. This adds both colour and strong fruit flavours that can't be beat. Zotter is participating in this trend (who knows, perhaps they started it?) with strawberry-chocolate combinations. My favourite though, is Zotter's Mitzi Blue disc, or wheel, which has a strawberry-yogurt flavour. And yes, I know there is a spelling difference between Austrian-based Zotter Chocolate and myself because, well, we spell yogurt differently here.


The reason why I like this even more than Zotter's strawberry Labooko bars is because the disc is so beautiful. It is the perfect way to treat yourself or someone else to chocolate. The design and package size makes it perfect for gifting. In addition, kids love it to. And the yogurt flavour is so distinct - from yogurt powder added to the chocolate ingredients -  that it tastes just like the flavour of strawberry yogurt (and you are less likely to drip this on your shirt at work).

Find out more on the Zotter USA website here about the Never-ending strawberry chocolate or any of the Mitzi Blue chocolates would make lovely gifts. I can't wait to try the Mango-blueberry or the beautiful Sky of Love chocolate disc.

And that ends the week folks! Stay tunes next week because I have a couple of recipes to share for chocolate cakes and chocolate-covered sponge-toffee. And I have a few articles on chocolate making equipment and great reads on bean-to-bar chocolate in the works, as well as some Canadian chocolate maker reviews.

***
Please note that although I wrote about Zotter for an entire week, I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this post. I paid for my chocolate (it was a birthday gift from me...to me :-)) and simply chose to tell you about it. I just like to tell you all about fun and tasty chocolate creations! Thanks to Zotter for making such great chocolate.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Day 4: Zotter Chocolate 'Challenge'; Panama or Belize cacao, Madagascar or Colombia?

Today we are continuing this week's theme of 'A Zotter a Day' with two Zotter products instead of one. I have decided to cover both because they are a part of a 'challenge' Zotter has put to its customers to try to identify different origin chocolates without labelling them directly.

Depending on the cacao used to make the chocolate,
each chocolate will have its own unique 'shade'.
This is one hint in Zotter's Challenge chocolate bars.


This cool line of chocolates by Zotter is in its Labooko collection of bars: the Contests. These are two-packs of chocolate bars, made from two different 'flavours' of chocolate. For instance, the Madagascar 75% versus the Columbia 75% pack offers one bar made from Madagascar origin cocoa beans and one bar from Columbia-origin cocoa beans, each with 75% cocoa solids for a good comparison of the natural origin flavours. The catch in these tasting 'contest' packs is that Zotter does not reveal to customers which bar is which. The package simply contains two chocolate bars, one on the right side and one on the left, unlabelled. And there is no secret answer anywhere on the package, nor on the Zotter website. Yikes, right? So let's take a closer look at some of the packs to see if we can 'win' the contest through taste.

Madagascar versus Colombia 75% dark chocolate challenge



Madagascar 75% vs Colombia 75% 'contest' chocolate bar set - for those who are not familiar with the taste of most Madagascar origin chocolate, this might be a difficult challenge. But if you've been around the chocolate block a few times, you'll instantly recognize it. If not from the lighter and slightly reddish colour, then from the fruitier and acidic taste.

The Colombia chocolate bar, which I am sure was on the right side of my package, was darker in colour (although not extremely dark). It offered deep roast flavours, earthy and some spice, with just a touch of fruit on the finish.  The aroma was sweet vanilla and spice.

This was an excellent pairing of chocolate origins. They were different enough to highlight the affects of origin on chocolate flavour.

You can also purchase just the Madagascar chocolate bar online here. And the Colombia 75% chocolate bar can be purchased on it's own as well here.

Panama Versus Belize 72% dark chocolate challenge


The Panama & Belize 'contest' is a bit more difficult. I actually wondered if the same two chocolate bars had been put in the package by mistake. https://www.zotterusa.com/labooko-pure-chocolate/301-contest-belize-72-panama-72.html

The one tucked into the left side of the package was very delicate, it is creamy and also has the taste of cream, perhaps fruity with some orange blossom, citrus and something I can't quite articulate.

The right-side bar has a roast taste, a little richer or more bitter in cocoa flavour, some fruitiness, and a little spice and definitely some floral flavours.

I had hoped the Zotter website would tell us some flavour notes on each chocolate, but it did not give away any secrets. This drove me a little bit crazy. I think the intention is to have the customer also buy each flavour in its individual packages, such as the Belize 72% (find it by clicking here). However, the Panama only comes in a milk chocolate so you won't be able to compare there, but if you can purchase the Belize and get that figured out, it may be an easy solution.

Since I didn't purchase the Belize bar on its own, I will have to keep guessing for now.

If you are interested in tasting packs like these, but want to know which bar is which, try Sirene Chocolate's duo packs. The Madagascar vs Ecuador really highlights the difference between two origin chocolates, much like Zotter's Madagascar & Colombia package.

I haven't decided which Zotter to feature tomorrow, on the final day of this 'A Zotter a Day' theme week, but I will after some more extensive tasting :-). Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Read the rest of the week....
Day 1: Zotter's Labooko Sheep's Milk Chocolate - great for people who are avoiding cow's milk
Day 2: Zotter's Mitzi Blue 'Dark Secrets' disc - perfect for gifting to a dark chocolate lover
Day 3: Zotter's Labooko Bolivia 90% - a great chocolate for vegans, Paleo diet followers and anyone who loves very bitter chocolate
Day 4: The Zotter Chocolate Challenge packs, Madagascar versus Colombia origin chocolate & Belize versus Panama origin chocolate

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Day 3: Let's go darker with Zotter's Bolivia 90% chocolate bar


Have you been trying to get closer and closer to that taste of pure cacao by going deep into the dark? Dark chocolate, I mean. I recall the times when I would push myself to try (and learn to like) very dark chocolates. And that meant working my way up from 70% dark, to 80% dark, then on to 90% and 100%. And sometimes, just a little sugar is needed. Zotter's Labooko Bolivia 90% bar might just be the thing for you.

The taste is close to lightly sweetened cocoa powder. The aroma is the same. In fact, as I write this post, the open chocolate bar package is right under my nose and it is the same smell as when I opened a tin of baking cocoa powder yesterday.

As with other Zotter chocolates, the texture is purely delicate and super smooth. The chocolate is mild in its flavours, but a little dried apricot caught my attention, and flavours of intense espresso. There may be a little nuttiness on the finish. There is also a pinch of salt in the ingredients list, but I do not taste it. Some chocolate makers believe it brings out the flavours of the bean. Zotter Chocolate seems to include salt in many of their chocolates, although it is never detectable in the taste.

As far as 90% dark chocolates go, I like this one. It is also a great stepping stone chocolate as you work your way to tasting 100% dark chocolate. Buy it online from Zotter U.S.A. at: https://www.zotterusa.com/labooko-pure-chocolate/73-bolivia-90.html.

Tomorrow we will look at Zotter Chocolate's 'contests'. But what is the prize? Find out on Day Four of 'A Zotter a Day...' theme week here on The Ultimate Chocolate Blog.

Read the rest of the week....
Day 1: Zotter's Labooko Sheep's Milk Chocolate - great for people who are avoiding cow's milk
Day 2: Zotter's Mitzi Blue 'Dark Secrets' disc - perfect for gifting to a dark chocolate lover
Day 3: Zotter's Labooko Bolivia 90% - a great chocolate for vegans, Paleo diet followers and anyone who loves very bitter chocolate

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Day 2: Zotter Chocolate's Mitzi Blue has Dark Secrets


On Day 2 of my 'A Zotter a Day Keeps the Doctor Away' theme week, I am focusing on something a little darker than yesterday's post about Zotter's Sheep's Milk Chocolate. Zotter's Mitzi Blue line of chocolates are a work of art. Each and every bar, or should I say 'wheel' is beautifully crafted, and holds a 'Mini-Mitzi', a small wheel of a different flavour of chocolate in the centre. I have tasted Zotter's beautiful Crispy Caramel Mitzi Blue chocolate and the Strawberry Yogurt Mitzi Blue chocolate bar. These were both flavourful and beautiful, and because of that were perfect for gifting. But I was most excited to buy a Mitzi Blue that falls within my first chocolate love: dark chocolate.

The Dark Secrets Mitzi Blue chocolate disc is made of 70% dark chocolate, crafted from a blend of South American beans (although it tastes most similar to Zotter's Peruvian chocolate bars). And the 'Mini-Mitzi' in the centre is also made of a blend, but in 80% dark chocolate. This is perfect for someone like me who waffles between 70% dark and 100% dark on a daily basis.

The 70% dark chocolate had a very sweet flavour profile. It was delicate and super smooth. I find Zotter has a tendency to make very fine, delicate-like chocolate. It truly melted in the mouth, and had a lovely chocolate flavour, with a perfect balance of bitter cocoa and just the slightest touch of floral and fruit flavours, although neither one standing out. The small amount of salt in the ingredient list was not at all noticeable.




If you prefer bold cocoa flavours, like a strongly citrusy Madagascar chocolate, or a smoky origin chocolate, this may not be for you. But if you like a balanced, bitter-free chocolate that is low in acidity, then this might be your jam. And it also makes a perfect gift for a dark chocolate lover - a step-up from Lindt and Godiva, and on par with craft chocolate brands. And it's chocolate beauty and the story behind it (you'll find out the story of the 'wheel' once you open the package), can't be beat.

***
Buy Zotter Chocolates in the USA online at: https://www.zotterusa.com/14-mitzi-blue. You can also buy some of Zotter's chocolate from Miss Choco online out of Montreal at: http://www.misschoco.ca/international/. Google 'Zotter' to buy online near you in other parts of the world.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Zotter a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

For anyone who knows about Austrian-based Zotter Chocolate, you'll know that Zotter is taking over the bean-to-bar chocolate world with its over 300 flavours (or is it now over 400?) of chocolate bars. And truthfully, I haven't found a Zotter chocolate bar yet that I don't like.

So recently, when I was deciding what to buy myself for my birthday, I settled on ordering a large variety of Zotter chocolate bars, including a few that I have tasted before, and a few that I haven't yet sunk my teeth into. But in order to write about all of these Zotter bars on this blog, I realized that I would have to write about one every day for a week or more. Otherwise, the article would be too long for anyone to read. So this week, I plan to tell you about one Zotter chocolate bar a day. There may be a few other chocolate makers and recipes thrown into the mix, but certainly a Zotter a Day must keep the doctor away (or at least keeps 'unhappiness at bay').

Day 1:  Zotter Chocolate's Labooko 'Sheep's Milk' chocolate with 55% cocoa solids


I LOVE this chocolate. And I am not the only one. I've shared it and my friends seem to like it to. I really like that it has 55% cocoa solids, and that the sheep's milk is quite mild in comparison to goat's milk chocolate. I find with goat's milk chocolate, it tends to taste just like goat cheese. That's great, if you want to taste goat cheese in dark brown form. But for me, I prefer the only-slightly-savoury taste of Zotter's Sheep's Milk chocolate, and it doesn't remind me of cheese while I am eating it.

The chocolate is also very creamy, smooth and has a delicate taste and texture. This truly is fine chocolate. The vanilla and pinch of salt listed in the ingredients are very much at the back of the chocolate flavour, and seem to be just the right amount so as not the negatively influence the flavour.



So overall, I think this chocolate would be perfect for anyone with a cow's milk intolerance (See? If you have a cow's milk intolerance, this Zotter Chocolate each day would keep the doctor away!)

Which chocolate shall tomorrow bring? Stay tuned to find out!

***
You can order Zotter Chocolate from anywhere in the world through Zotter USA (I ordered mine from their American headquarters in Florida) and the original Zotter Austria website, or Google Zotter Chocolate to find a retailer near you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

East Van Roasters Offers a Different Approach to Unsweetened Chocolate


Have you been trying to eat 100% dark chocolate, but just can't get used to it? East Van Roasters has the solution for you.

When Shelley Bolton, Managing Director & Chocolate Maker at East Van Roasters in Vancouver, first handed me a piece of this innovative chocolate bar last Fall, I was impressed with the ingenuity. Shelley told me that many customers were looking for unsweetened chocolate, for required dietary reasons or as part of a plan to reduce sugar and be healthier. But some customers found 100% dark chocolate too bitter and acidic to enjoy. Shelley resolved this by adding cashews to the chocolate, to be refined directly in, in the same way that hazelnut butter might be included in chocolate to create a Gianduja.  Not only does this soften the texture of the chocolate and make it a bit creamier, but it takes the bitter edge off of the chocolate, making it palatable.


I've been curious about this extra dark cashew bar and thinking a lot about the conversation with Shelley. So I purchased East Van Roaster's Mad Cashew bar online from La Tablette de Miss Choco, in order to spend some time experiencing the taste and comparing it to other 100% dark chocolate bars. Once in hand, I found it quite tart from the taste of the Madagascar bean, but the bean's natural flavours also shine through with some citrus and berry flavours. The added salt gives the bar a savoury taste. I generally am not a fan of 100% dark chocolate made from Madagascar beans. Although wonderfully fruity when lightly sweetened, I find them too acidic to be palatable in 100% dark chocolate form. But Shelley's addition of the cashew paste, and a hint of salt, has not only made this chocolate palatable, but also enjoyable.

I did compare it to other 100% bars on hand, and found that Shelley's idea was quite genius - cashew butter does take the edge off of 100% dark chocolate. And it also adds a little protein, making this dark chocolate the perfect breakfast, lunch or anytime snack.

East Van Roasters has a store front location in Vancouver. Visit the website for more details:
http://eastvanroasters.com/ . And as I mentioned above, you can purchase the Mad Cashew Bar online from La Tablette de Miss Choco at: http://www.misschoco.ca/marques/.

Looking for other 100% dark chocolates that take the 'bite' out of the bitter?

Another bar that takes the harsh bite out of unsweetened chocolate is Zotter's Labooko dark-milk with 70% cocoa solids. There is no sugar or sweetener of any kind added, but the remaining 30% consists of milk and a touch of vanilla. This chocolate bar - although like East Van Roasters is also without sugar - sits on the sweeter side of the unsweetened chocolate spectrum.

Soma's Arcana chocolate bar is made from a blend of beans, designed to balance both the acidity and bitterness of 100% dark chocolate. Learn more here.

Try different origin bars! If you find one 100% chocolate too bitter or acidic, taste a different one made from beans of another origin. I have been experimenting with different beans to make 100% dark chocolate, and I have found that the palatability is completely dependent on the bean. For instance, the sweet Honduras bean that I use has nearly no acidity, and so a 100% chocolate made from those beans is easy to eat, compared to unsweetened chocolate made from beans that have more acidity. I also found an organic Philippine cocoa bean , which was perfect in an unsweetened chocolate and excellent for tasting. But truly it is all about your taste buds, and what is right for you. So get tasting!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Brighten Up Your Easter Treats with the Best Trend in Chocolate: Natural Food Colouring

The coolest trend in bean-to-bar chocolate is happening RIGHT NOW, and it is perfect for this Easter season: coloured chocolate. This trend started building in the last few years and really exploded in the end of 2016. And I don't mean the use the artificial food colouring of our past, I am talking about natural fruits, teas and even vegetables to colour chocolate bars in the most natural way. Chocolate makers are freeze-drying fruits and veggies to add both colour and flavour to their white chocolate.

https://www.zotterusa.com/Zotter, an Austrian chocolate maker, has been coming on strong with its pink-coloured white chocolate combinations. For Easter, you can buy a perfect strawberry caramel combo pack from Zotter, called 'Hiding & Seeking'. On the left side of the package is a pretty and delicious strawberry white chocolate bar, coloured only with dried strawberries, but also flavoured with a little lemon powder that adds a perfect sweet tartness to the chocolate. I love this chocolate bar!

On the right side of the package is a caramel bar, which gets its beautiful natural caramel colour (and flavour) when Zotter caramelizes the milk sugars. The package overall, with its Easter bunny & Spring flower images drawn on the front, is a perfect gift for any kind of sweet-lover this Easter (whether a chocolate-lover or not).


Zottter also makes a amazing Strawberry Yogurt white chocolate bar, called Never-Ending Strawberry. It is a part of their very artistic Mitzi Blue line of chocolate wheels, and not only is wonderful to taste (it tastes just like strawberry yogurt), but it is wonderful to look at too. It also offers a cool taste sensation with a mini wheel of a slightly different taste and shade in the centre. This is a perfect gift for anyone who loves strawberry at any time of the year.

Zotter also sells a raspberry bar in its Labooko line. It is mildly sweet, and strong in raspberry flavour. It truly is delicious and like the strawberry bar, it pairs nicely with white wine. You can see in the picture below that Zotter's has a light pink colour, in comparison to Soma Chocolate Maker's raspberry bar, which has a deeper shade of raspberry colour.


Soma's new beautiful Raspberry Bar, which has only sugar, raspberries and cocoa butter as the ingredients, also has NO food colouring or flavouring. Yet it's bold, dark colour instantly tells you that you are in for an experience. It is so rich in raspberry flavour that it is almost shocking - definitely in a good way! Because it is so bold, and has no milk content, it pairs nicely with red wine. Believe me when I say that Soma's raspberry chocolate bar is a must-try.

In addition to the pink chocolates for Easter, Soma has launched yellow Mango Chili Bar that looks amazing! I tried to get my hands on one for Easter, but they were sold out. Keep your eye on this link, and perhaps we'll see them back in the near future. They also make a gorgeous Mango pod, but you have to be in Toronto to be able to pick one up.
Picture by Soma Chocolate Maker
Reference: Somachocolate.com
 

Quebec-based Chaleur B Chocolat is making green chocolate, coloured only by Matcha tea. This is a very creamy bar thanks to its high cocoa butter content. I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but then I ate every last piece. It surprised me with its creamy goodness. Learn more about it or buy online by clicking this link.

For more matcha bars, you just need to search #matchachocolate on Instagram for a whole slew of pictures of green chocolate.

There are a few other chocolate makers currently experimenting with freeze dried strawberries, matcha, dried beets and all sorts of other fruit and vegetables to create new shades of chocolate.

Sirene Chocolate just launched a caramelized white chocolate bar, which looks delicious. Learn more and find a retailer near you at: http://sirenechocolate.com/.

I know there are a few other pink strawberry bars floating around social media, in addition to some beet-based chocolate bars, and Zotter's currant bar. If you remember another chocolate maker who is participating in this trend, please share in the Comments below! Let's help promote these all-natural shades of chocolate!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Cacao Market by MarieBelle New York


I recently received a chocolate bar from a traveling friend. It was dark, delectable and full of small pieces of crunchy, caramelized almonds. I loved it.

This chocolate was by Cacao Market, a MarieBelle New York brand.  In the bean-to-bar world, I have not heard much about MarieBelle or Cacao Market bean-to-bar chocolates. Perhaps because they operate in a large city with foot traffic sales and thus, have less need to ship their chocolate worldwide, like so many craft chocolate makers operating in smaller cities and towns in North America.

I admit, I am not a person who gets excited about inclusions in the bean-to-bar chocolate that I buy, including almonds, even though I eat them on a daily basis. I also stay away from any inclusions sprinkled on the back of a chocolate bar, including seeds, dried fruit, salt and other nuts. I know many people love it, but I am just not a fan. But of course, I'm occasionally surprised. The Dick Taylor Black Fig bar certainly turned me, and encouraged me to taste more chocolate with inclusions. That is also th case with this Cacao Market 70% Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar.

The almonds were in small pieces and caramelized, which added a lightly sweet crunch. They were also incorporated directly into the chocolate, rather than sprinkled on the back, which I think offered a fuller flavour experience. The overall effect of the light crunch and the taste of the delicious Honduras Trinitarion cacao was a perfect combination and quite enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I finished eating this bar while writing the first paragraph of this post.

So if you are in New York, or looking to order some delicious chocolate online (in the U.S.), check out MarieBelle's Cacao Market and the delicious 70% Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar: http://mariebelle.com/shop-online/cacao-market-40g-bar-dark-almonds/.

The chocolate was also purchased for me from Xoxolat in Vancouver.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Find my Bean-to-Bar Chocolate on FoodiePages.ca!

As some of you know, I have been making bean-to-bar chocolate for some time now. I started out making stone-ground style chocolate several years ago, and have helped many people use various home equipment to make simple chocolate for personal consumption. You can find a variety of recipes posted to this blog.

I have also been testing different cocoa beans for review for suppliers for quite some time with a more professional refiner, making creamy, smooth chocolate.

Since then, I have been testing cocoa beans for my own chocolate business (Ultimately Chocolate) and began selling my new chocolate bars locally at events, and more recently at a few of my local retailers. I have new packaging in the works and will officially 'launch' when that is ready, but in the meantime, you can now find my chocolate online on the FoodiePages website.

Making chocolate is a labour of love. Sorting, roasting, winnowing, refining, molding and hand-wrapping chocolate takes weeks to complete from start to finish. It has truly been an 'eye-opener' for me to understand the process, and better understand the craft chocolate and chocolate makers that I have been reviewing over the last several years. It has taught me more about cocoa beans than I could ever have learned from research, and improved my palate a great deal when tasting both chocolate and cocoa beans.

In addition, selecting just the right cocoa beans, then deciding which recipe will bring out the best flavour of those beans is a part of the craftsmanship of chocolate making. I have been testing a variety of beans, deciding on roast times and temperatures, deciding on my 'cocoa butter philosophy' and how creamy I like my chocolate to be, and choosing sugar % and cacao % for each bar. I have made test batches using different sugars, and have created tasting kits of different origins.  And now, I've finally settled on a few bars that can be found on FoodiePages (as well as sold locally in Northern Ontario): a Mexico 60% dark chocolate, a Honduras 70% dark chocolate, a Buttermilk 48% dark-milk chocolate, and a 100% Honduras unsweetened chocolate.

In addition, my crunchy, flour-free CacaoCookie is now made entirely from bean-to-bar using my Honduras-origin chocolate.

This has been the most enjoyable-yet-pain-staking process I have every gone through (aside from carrying and delivering my children, of course). I am super excited to introduce these products to you, and to my loyal local customers of the last 8 years here on Manitoulin Island and in the Sudbury region. It is also exciting to be the first bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Northern Ontario!

For more information about my bean-to-bar chocolate, or if you would like to purchase Ultimately Chocolate's products from outside of Canada, please send me an e-mail at info @ ultimatelychocolate.com.

And don't worry, I will still be sampling hundreds of other makers' chocolates, and telling you about them here on the blog! I am a writer, chocolate reviewer, and recipe developer at heart, and this blog is still an outlet for my passion for chocolate makers and their work, chocolatier and artisan chocolate, and chocolate made all around the world.

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

DURCI Chocolate Annihilates Cacao Origin Stereotypes


DURCI chocolate is relatively new in the bean-to-bar chocolate industry, but definitely a fine example of craft chocolate. I have written a little about DURCI chocolate, having just tasted one bar by this chocolate maker. More recently, I picked up a few more of their chocolate bars at the Northwest Chocolate Festival and have been tasting them slowly ever since. So with a few extra bars under my belt, what's the 'big picture' when it comes to this chocolate maker? My opinion so far is: DURCI is good chocolate.

Comparing DURCI's bars directly to a few other bean-to-bar chocolate brands, I noticed the difference in the roast. To me, it seemed a medium roast was applied to DURCI's cocoa beans in the two bars I tasted: the Corona Arriba (Ecuador) and the Empyrean Sabor (Carenero, Venezuela) 70% dark chocolate bars, in comparison to chocolate made with darker roasted beans. And I found this slightly lighter roast truly highlighted the bean flavours, like the very bold floral and spicy flavour in the Ecuadorian chocolate bar, and the fruity cherry notes with a rustic, organic intensity in the Venezuela-origin chocolate.

Both chocolate bars were delicate, yet bold in flavour. They offered a nice balance of just three ingredients (single origin cocoa beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter), not stiff in texture, yet not overwhelmed by creamy cocoa butter. I also found both bars had a sweeter profile than many other 70% chocolates, with some bright acidity showing in the Venezuela chocolate. Overall, these were great chocolates for including in chocolate tasting parties or workshops.


The 70% Ecuador (Coronoa Arriba) surprised me. I have tasted many Ecuador-origin craft chocolate bars over the years, and most are nutty, have limited fruit flavours and usually a straight up chocolate flavour. The very bold floral flavours of this chocolate, a pleasant roast taste, with an aftertaste of spice, and a little fruit, threw all my mental stereotypes of Ecuadorian cacao out the window. It was a refreshing take on single origin chocolate.





The 70% Carenero, Venezuela (Empyrean Sabor) also surprised me. Often, a Venezuela origin chocolate will have the taste of cream, some nuttiness and a cocoa taste (think Porcelana's and Chuao's, and a few other popular Venezuela origins) and occasionally subtle fruit flavours. But not this one - it was bold in its fruity, cherry-like flavours, and held a smoky, organic, rich chocolate taste. I like being surprised.

Thanks DURCI for opening my eyes and tossing out my preconceptions on cacao origins!

To find out where to buy DURCI chocolate, visit the chocolate maker's website at: www.durci.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

French Broad Opens the Book on Chocolates

 

"Once upon a time...." are the words that begin every timeless story. And those are the words found on the inside of French Broad Chocolates` new high-end chocolate packaging. The chocolate bar box is designed to look like a beautiful hardcover book, and when all lined up together, they create a wonderful 'library' of chocolate.

During their Instagram takeover of @ChocolateNoise a while back, French Broad Chocolates founders, Dan and Jael, refer to it as "locally-crafted packaging", and a way of sharing the "stories behind the chocolate", whether it is their "own love story, a special relationship with a cacao farmer, or a brilliant local coffee roaster."

On the package, their story is told from the beginning, starting with falling in love (at a wedding), and on to the farmer's markets where they sold confections, to a stint in Costa Rica running a bakery/café, and then on to their more current accomplishments in chocolate, such as an online web store, a busy dessert lounge in 2008, a Chocolate Factory and tasting room in 2012, and a chocolate shop and café called Chocolate+Milk in 2014. In the last year, they have been winning awards and basking in the glow of a business that has come into its own, gained nation-wide (and International) popularity, and has all the right marketing in place to be one of the 'big guys' in craft chocolate.  You can read more of their 'story' on the chocolate maker's website.


Now let's continue our story by talking about the chocolate...



When it comes to dark chocolate, French Broad Chocolates seems to be a two-ingredient chocolate maker. This can be identified just slightly in the texture of the chocolate, there is always something a little stiffer in the texture of two-ingredient chocolate. But usually, I have found, the natural cocoa bean flavours of two-ingredient chocolate are more intense. Often, when cocoa butter is added, it can change or dilute the flavour (depending if it is deodorized or non-deodorized cocoa butter). So by choosing two-ingredient chocolate, Dan and Jael have chosen a chocolate philosophy (as I call it) of featuring the pure flavours of the bean.

I have tasted a few of French Broad Chocolates over the last few years, and enjoyed each one immensely. In fact, I always vow to share, because I find their chocolate bars so pretty I want other people to see it, but inevitably, I end up eat it all myself.

Most recently, I purchased French Broad's Guatemala 73% chocolate bar and their Nicaragua 68% bar.  I was testing some new Nicaragua beans myself, and I was curious if the flavour was just as citrusy, with some bold acidity as the other Nicaragua beans I had been trying. I found a similar flavour profile, but loved how French Broad Chocolates featured the flavours of this Nicaragua bar. To me, it offered a robust roast flavour, the slightest hint of lingering grape, then a citrus-lemon aftertaste. After looking at the chocolate makers notes, I see they tasted something very different: "buttered toast, black tea, and brown sugar." Of course, upon tasting it again, those flavours also come to mind, but that may be from the memory of reading it. I still taste citrus, and the black tea is a flavour that features a certain measure of acidity, which this chocolate certainly has. I like how the chocolate makers have used the art of chocolate making to tone down the natural acidity with a little more sugar and a good, strong roast.  It is a very good, balanced dark chocolate.

The Guatemala is in-a-good-way intense, with a rich cocoa flavour. It has a slight fruit flavour, with blackberry, and perhaps bitter wild blueberry. It has no hint of the astringency that I have tasted in some recent Guatemala bars. Guatemala seems to be all the rage in terms of cacao origins these days, which is why I chose this bar. I wanted to see how it compared to some others on the market. I found, again, that the chocolate makers did a lovely job with the beans. They chose a perfect sugar level and a roast to feature the best flavours in the bean, making it an enjoyable and interesting chocolate bar for all palates.

French Broad Chocolates offers many other kinds of chocolate bars, so many that you can line your book shelves at home and chuckle every time you trick your friends into thinking you read a lot of books. I suggest you check them out on French Broad`s website: https://frenchbroadchocolates.com/frenchbroad/. They also offer lovely desserts and confections in their store-front locations, so if you are ever in Asheville, North Carolina, you won`t want to miss the experience of visiting.

Have a great day! Hope you discover a new chocolate today!