Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ritter Sport: Crunchy Stuff

Ritter Sport is evidently quite proud of their milk chocolate given the number of milk chocolate based bars that went into their mini chocolate bar sampler pack. At least they weren’t all boring or standard. I mean, sure, plain milk chocolate and milk chocolate with nuts are both great. Just not anything original.

Now milk chocolate with cornflakes? Say what? Let me take a look at that.

The bar has a nutty and creamy aroma, and the sweet chocolate features cream and powdered sugar flavors. The cornflakes, which were visible on the backside of the bar, were kind of different.

The flakes were quite crisp and offered a satisfying crunch, the chocolate was soft but just a bit dry; nonetheless, the texture contrast was pleasing. The overall effect is much like that of a dressed-up, high quality Kit-Kat bar, and I was generally impressed and enjoyed the bar.

Was I sad to see that crunchy little bar go? A little. But the milk chocolate with butter biscuit was there to console me.

The bar had a creamy aroma, but the chocolate was just a bit grainy despite the clear addition of cream to the mix. It was certainly a step above Hershey’s and the like, but not as outstanding as other Ritter Sport chocolates.

The biscuit, as you can see, was a bit sparse, but was crisp. It added very little flavor, but did offer some texture contrast. Overall, the effect is similar to that of a chocolate covered graham cracker.

And who can’t get behind that?

Have you had chocolate covered cereal before? What kind?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ritter Sport: Nutty Bars

The Ritter Sport mini chocolate bar box I received from one of my swimmers had two nutty bars in it. I love nuts in chocolate – except walnuts, which I sometimes like but usually don’t – and was excited to start with the 30% cocoa milk chocolate with chopped hazelnuts.

The aroma of this bar is, fittingly, nutty. The melt, unfortunately, is not as smooth as that of the plain milk chocolate, which was very creamy.

In this case, the melt is a bit grainy, meaning that the crunch nicely toasted nuts is the texture highlight here. They aren’t very flavorful, and the dairy flavor of the chocolate dominates. The chocolate is alright, but not wonderful. I’d stick with the plain milk chocolate.

How about a praline? I do rather love that sugary paste, but generally prefer it with strong dark chocolate to balance the flavor. Still, the 30% cocoa milk chocolate with praline looked promising.

The aroma was nutty and creamy, and the interior and exterior melded together exceptionally well, to the point that it was difficult to tell where the couverture ended and the praline began. No flaking here.

The couverture was just a bit grainy, and was fairly sweet with nutty and caramel flavors. The interior was buttery in texture with a strong nutty flavor, and was the highlight of the bar.

It’s a very nice praline. Not as nice as what you can pick up at Teuscher, but it isn’t $80+ per pound, and you can find this bar at Target.

Have you had a praline-filled chocolate bar before?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ritter Sport: Plain Milk Chocolate

I spent last weekend in Seattle for a synchronized swimming meet, and though I didn’t get to do another chocolate crawl of the city, I did get to coach one very awesome young lady. Not just awesome because she made it to this NATIONAL meet after placing first in the free and technical categories at our regional meet, but also because she frequently gives me chocolate.

Including this variety pack of Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

My swimmers love me.

And do you know what I love about this chocolate? It’s accessible. Sure, I love writing about Domori and the like, but not everybody can get that. But Ritter Sport? You can get most of their bars at Target, so my review is probably useful to more people. Especially a review of this 30% cocoa milk chocolate, which is a standard offering at stores that carry Ritter Sport.

The bar has an aroma of dairy and caramel, and a creamy, smooth melt to go along with the dairy.

And of course, there’s a dairy flavor, along with a vanilla after taste that trends just a bit artificial. The texture is superb, but the flavor could use some work.

There are better milk chocolates out there. Sure. But better milk chocolate at Target or CVS? I doubt it.

Have you tried Ritter Sport chocolate? Where did you get it?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers June 2011 Challenge: Chocolate-Orange-Hazelnut Baklava


This month, we got to make baklava.

Oh, and we had to make our own phyllo dough to avoid the wrath of the Daring Bakers police. It’s because Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Of course, I made it with chocolate. And other not-so-normal baklava ingredients, like orange zest and hazelnuts.

Really, I shouldn’t say “I” because really, Beth did almost all the work after we dragged ourselves through a 5000 meter swim workout.

But I swear, I did the beginning of the phyllo dough by myself. Incorporating chocolate in the dough itself as well.

Chocolate Phyllo Dough

1 cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder (Scharffen Berger)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour, cocoa butter, and salt. Mix with paddle attachment. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for two more minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil.Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest two hours.

Once you have this beautiful dough, roll it out nice and thin (or invite Beth over and have her do it). Cover with a wet paper towel to prevent drying.

Now onto the filling, which I had a blast throwing together.

Chocolate-Orange-Hazelnut Baklava

One batch of chocolate phyllo dough

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup toasted hazelnuts

Zest of two oranges

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70%)

Juice from one orange

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

Mix together orange zest, hazelnuts, and chocolate. Take an 8”x4” loaf pan, line with phyllo dough. Brush with butter. Put down another layer. Brush with butter again. One more layer of phyllo(!). More butter. Spread half of the zest-hazelnut-chocolate mixture on top.

Repeat the process.

Slice baklava diagonally and horizontally.

Prepare syrup by mixing juice, water, and sugar over medium heat until it boils; pour over baklava.

Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes, until top is crispy.

Enjoy the buttery, chocolaty goodness. It may not be traditional baklava, but it IS delicious.

Have you ever made baklava with non-traditional ingredients?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Domori Peurtomar: It's Smaller Than It Looks

While flavored bars are all well and good, sometimes it’s best to get a good look at just how good a chocolatier is by checking out their plain bars. Since I was fairly impressed by the Domori fusion bars, both white and milk chocolate based, I wanted to see how well they could construct a plain dark chocolate bar.

And what better way to examine this than to check out their Peurtomar, a 75% cocoa bar created using the highly-regarded Criollo beans exclusively.

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Check out how small the bar inside is.

Not cool on the overpackaging, Domori. Not cool. Be honest with us about what we’re paying for.

When I opened the puny little package, I was greeted with an aroma of almond and cherry, with a hint of smoke and cream as well.

This chocolate is immediately intense, with a bit of a coffee flavor building into a more intense cherry flavor with a bit of sitrus at the end. The strong, pleasing flavor is enhanced by a superbly smooth melt, and it’s difficult to find any fault with this bar.

Except the trickery in packaging.

Have you ever had over-packaged chocolate that was smaller than you thought? Were you mad?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Domori Lattesal: More Salted Chocolate

Since I was so impressed by the work that Domori did with the more Biancomenta bar, I was eager to try more of their fusion bars. And, given my quest to find, and stockpile, the best salted chocolate bar on the planet, the Lattesal was an obvious bar to move along to.

The Arriba cacao-based milk chocolate is accented with Guérande salt, and has a weak caramel aroma.

The chocolate is quite soft, and there is no coarse salt apparent; rather, the salt is evenly distributed and notable in every stage of the creamy melt. The salt teases out some fruity flavors, and a creamy flavor is also evident. A caramel-like taste results from the blend of these flavors, and the bar is (perhaps too) easy to snack on.

It’s an enjoyable snack. But, I do not think it’s the perfect salted chocolate. Not yet. Not quite enough salt.

The quest continues.

In salted chocolate, should salt be evident, or should it just enhance the flavor of the chocolate?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Domori Biancomenta: White Chocolate with Mint Leaves

You know all those chocolate tastings that I go to at Biagio? Do I go there just for the free chocolate? No, of course not. I go there to see what kinds of chocolate I need to add to my hit parade. While some tastings only feature one chocolate that piques my interest, some feature several.

As if I need more chocolates in my addiction que. I suppose variety is key to a healthy diet, no? With that in mind, after one tasting event at Biagio, I introduced the Domori Biancomenta into my well-balanced chocolate diet.

This bar has a white chocolate base, and features Moroccan mint leaves to enhance the flavor of the white chocolate. While some turn their noses up at white chocolate, I find that when combined with the right flavors at the right strength, the smooth cocoa butter and sugar that is the signature of higher quality white chocolate can be just what you need.

And if other people disagree, well, more Biancomenta for me.

The bar has an aroma that, with God as my witness, resembles a strong, hard cheese. Don’t believe me? Go find a bar. Then you’ll believe me. After that initial cheese-like kick, the aroma shifts to a more minty character.

However, there is no cheese taste in this bar, just a soft, sweet white chocolate with refreshing mint leaves that are well chopped and distributed. The uniform distribution of the mint makes the bar consisten throughout, as does the smooth white chocolate without a bit of waxy or dry character.

The bar is superb, and after sampling it, I was convinced that I needed to try other Domori fusion bars.

Have you ever had chocolate with mint leaves in it? How was it?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberry Goat Cheese Brownies: You Need These

Remember that bake sale that Jaryn and I put together to help her raise money to kick the &^%$^ out of cancer? The result: we raised over $350! And what was the top-grossing item?

My strawberry goat cheese brownies.

Now, I won’t make you pay me $100 or something for the recipe. I’m just that generous. How could I not be, after experiencing some goat cheese, chocolate, and strawberry melded together into a dense, delicious dessert?

Just the sight of that combination should warm your heart. And inspire you to make these yourself.

As a bonus, the "We Should Cocoa" challenge, hosted by Chocolette this month, dared us to mix chocolate and strawberries in a recipe this month. Check.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Brownies (adapted from Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies) - Ingredients

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% cocoa)

8 ounces butter

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup flour

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

8 oz goat cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves

Melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat until just melted, set aside and allow to cool.

Blend the goat cheese and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth, add one egg, ½ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Beat four eggs until fluffy, then add 1 cup of sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy again. Add salt, vanilla, and chocolate butter mixture, blend until uniform. Fold in flour, then pour 2/3 of batter into a 9”x13” pan buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper. Drop spoonfuls of goat cheese mixture onto batter so that it is evenly spread atop the batter.

Drop tablespoon-size chunks of strawberry preserves onto goat cheese, keeping chunks evenly dispersed.

Drop remaining brownie batter in tablespoon quantities in between chunks of strawberry preserves.

With a knife, carefully draw horizontal and then vertical lines through the top of the pan to mix the batter, goat cheese mixture, and preserves.

Bake at 350° F for 45-50 minutes, or until brownies are firm when the pan is shaken.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate before cutting.

If you don’t refrigerate them first, your knife will be covered in soft strawberry goat cheese brownie remains, and you’ll have to eat it off the knife.


Have you had goat cheese in chocolate baked goods before? How did you like it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: Raspberry and Plain Dark Chocolate Pieces

Since my main issue with the pieces I tried from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has been lack of flavor complexity and excessive sweetness, I suppose I need to talk about two more dark chocolate pieces before drawing a final verdict on the quality of their creations. The dark raspberry truffle in particular sounded intriguing.

The dark chocolate coating was earthy with a coffee undertone, and very smooth. It was quite thick, which cut back on the space available for the raspberry filling.

The filling flavor was dominated by raspberry, and there was barely any chocolate flavor noticeable. That said, it was more tart than sweet, and the flavor balanced nicely with the chocolate flavor in the couverture. The piece is nice, but needs to be heavier on the ganache.

One more dark chocolate piece remained: this one, a plain dark chocolate truffle.

The coating had a good melt alongside a bitter flavor with strong earthy notes.

The ganache is buttery in texture, and somewhat sweet, which balances nicely with the bitter couverture. Again, the ganache is sparse and the shell is too thick, but each component is satisfactory.

It might be one of the best pieces from the box.

If you go to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – which you very well might, given their proliferation throughout airports in the U.S. – stick to the dark pieces. They aren’t spectacular, but they are far better than the milk chocolate based pieces.

Have you ever seen a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store at an airport?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: Peanut Butter and Aspen Cream

A reasonable person would be scared of a box of chocolate after encountering some caramels so bad that they required a visit to the trash can.

I am not a reasonable person.

On to the milk chocolate peanut butter piece from my Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory box.

The couverture was soft but a bit waxy, and featured very faint aromas of nuts and dairy. It had a slight burnt edge, but was quite sweet – to the point that it was reminiscent of white chocolate.

Inside that sweet shell was a mousse-like creamy filling with a strong peanut flavor, which tasted a bit like slightly burnt or over-roasted peanuts. As it was not very sweet, it paired nicely with the sweet milk chocolate. Overall, it’s better than a drugstore peanut butter cup, but was still a little plain.

At least I didn’t have to throw it out.

On to another filled chocolate: the Aspen cream.

The couverture is very similar to that of the peanut butter piece: soft, a bit of a burnt edge and a distinct vanilla flavor.

The interior has the density of a good caramel that is neither overly chewy nor runny, and the texture matches that of the shell nicely. The cream features a vanilla flavor with a hint of maple, and trends towards too sweet. I like the concept of a mild maple-flavored cream, but a less sweet couverture would work better.

Have you ever had a chocolate filled with maple cream before?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: Caramels

Since the milk chocolate truffle I ate from the box of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolates that I was gifted was plain but non-offensive, I elected to move along to the caramels, as I generally enjoy these. The milk chocolate version was up first.

The couverture is sweet and lacks complexity; it also flakes away from the caramel because of a fatal texture mismatch, with the chocolate being soft and the caramel being hard.

And when I say “hard,” I mean “impossible to eat.” In the small bit that I was able to break off, I tasted a bit of vanilla and butter, but it was little more than a leathery sugar lump. It was so bad that I actually couldn’t finish it. It was disposed of, chocolate and all.

A tragedy.

Perhaps the dark chocolate caramel would be better?

In this case, at least the chocolate was better. It has an earthy flavor with a weak coffee undertone, and features a nice, smooth melt. We’re doing better already.

And then we get to the caramel.

It’s just as bad as the milk chocolate version. Some vanilla and butter to go with the sugary leather. The couverture, of course, broke away. But that was good news, because I was able to salvage and enjoy the chocolate before tossing the caramel.

Have you ever had a chocolate so bad that you had to throw it away?