Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cote d'Or: Noir de Noir

Yesterday’s entry in “Bad Chocolate Week” was actually edible. Intriguing. But, given how terrible the plain milk chocolate by Cote d’Or was, I figured the next entry for “Bad Chocolate Week” could be their dark chocolate: Noir de Noir, purportedly 54% cacao.

The bar is vanilla-heavy, with a very, very slight earthy undertone at the end. I suspect that Cote d’Or is using vanilla to mask inferior cacao bean flavor, a hallmark of subpar chocolate making, but they are at least successful in covering up any offensive flavors.

The texture is a bit dry, and the bar is fairly sweet. Put all of that together, and you have a dry dark chocolate bar that tastes like sugar and vanilla. It’s not bad, but it’s not good.

Perhaps this could be “Not Good Chocolate Week.”

Nah. Some of the other stuff has been pretty bad.

Have you had anything by Cote d’Or? Would you say it is “bad” or “not good”?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cote d'Or: Saveur Noisette

Tuesday. Another day in “bad chocolate week,” which we launched with calcium supplements on Sunday and continued yesterday with that milk chocolate from Cote d’Or. Up for today: another milk chocolate by Cote d’Or, this one with hazelnuts.

The hazelnuts aren’t chopped and incorporated in chunks, rather, it is finely ground and incorporated like a ginaduja. The result is a very soft chocolate, with a creamy melt.

The flavor is overwhelmingly sweet and creamy, though not artificially so like the Lait Melk. A faint hint of hazelnut flavor is also evident, but not other chocolate flavors come forward. That all said, this bar is far superior to the Lait Melk and would possibly, possibly be worthy of purchase.

If Hershey’s were the only other option. And that’s a place I hope I never find myself.

Have you had a gianduja bar before? Where?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cote d'Or: Lait Melk

I’m titling this week “not awesome chocolate” week. My life can’t be filled with Amedei and Hotel Chocolat every day. Neither can yours. So it’s important to know what chocolate to not bother with when passing the time between Teuscher champagne truffles. Yesterday’s post discussed chocolate calcium supplements disguised as “premium chocolate.” Nope. Don’t pick those up at the drugstore. Not worth it.

Also not worth it? Evidently, anything by Cote d’Or.

Let’s start with their milk chocolate, or, the “Lait Melk.”

It may have a fancy sounding name, but there is no aroma.

It does, however, have a grainy texture and an artificial creamy flavor with a burnt edge, which is unusual for a milk chocolate. There’s a bit of nuttiness, but overall, the bar is about a quarter of a step above Hershey’s, and is little more than some subpar cocoa butter and an unpleasant artificial flavor.


What chocolate is not worth it for you?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adora Calcium Supplements: It's Healthy (or Something Like That)

You may remember that I mentioned that the goodie bag I got at the Healthy Living Summit included chocolate.

Adora Dark Chocolate Calcium Supplements. According to the packaging, each disc of all natural “premium” chocolate includes 50% of your daily recommended intake of calcium, as well as some Vitamin D3 and magnesium, which optimize absorption.

Or something like that. I always believe labels.


So what does this “healthified” chocolate look like?

It’s purple. I like purple.

The chocolate itself has a caramel aroma with a hint of berry, and is quite light in color for a dark chocolate.

A very sweet taste is immediately evident, and there is a hint of mint with a strong cream flavor. The chocolate is creamy, yet also gritty, and the creamy taste takes on an artificial note at the end as the texture becomes downright chalky. There might be a bit of a banana flavor in there somewhere, but it’s difficult to tease out flavors when you are eating something that resembles chalk.

Now, that said, it's supposed to be a calcium supplement. My mom used to use Tums for that. These are better than that.

Have you had chocolate with a chalky texture before?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers August 2011: Chocolate Candy

I really contemplated not doing Daring Bakers this month. With work trips to Boston and San Francisco, a triathlon to compete in and a conference in Philadelphia, I certainly had reason to skip.

Then I saw the challenge. It involved chocolate.

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

We had to make two things. We were supposed to temper our couverture, but I didn’t bother because 1. I have no spare time and 2. The people who would be eating the result would devour it before looking at it.

So go ahead. Report me to the Daring Bakers Police. But first, check out what I made. The first one is uber-fancy, utilizing exceptionally expensive saffron alongside high-quality chocolate.

Saffron-Maple Truffles - Ingredients

¾ cup cream

25 saffron threads

¼ cup maple syrup

10 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% cacao), divided

Mix cream and saffron over low heat, bring to and hold at a simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat, allow to steep for 15 minutes. Repeat twice; strain out saffron threads. The cream will have a light orange hue from the saffron.

Combine cream and maple syrup, heat to a simmer. Pour over six ounces of the chopped chocolate, stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is uniform to create a ganache. Allow to cool for 1-2 hours, then form the ganache into ½ inch diameter balls.

Melt remaining chocolate over low heat, then remove from heat and dip the ganache balls into the melted chocolate individually, removing with a fork and tapping the fork to remove excess chocolate. Place on wax paper, allow to sit for 1-2 hours or until chocolate is dry.

Then move onto the next recipe. Because Lisa and Mandy apparently don’t realize how much business travel can take out of you. My brain was fried, so I went with a standby combination: lime and salt.

Salted Lime Marzipan Chocolates - Ingredients

10 ounces marzipan

Zest from 3 limes

Juice from 3 limes

1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

3 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% cacao)

Mix the first four ingredients thoroughly, form into ½ inch diameter balls. Freeze.

Melt chocolate over low heat, then remove from heat and dip the marzipan balls into the melted chocolate individually, removing with a fork and tapping the fork to remove excess chocolate. Place on wax paper, allow to sit for 1-2 hours or until chocolate is dry.

And there are my damn chocolate candies. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go try to relocate my life. I’m told that most of it is here in DC. Fascinating.

Have you made chocolate candies before? What kind?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Amedei: Madagascar 70%

After I enjoyed the Amedei Venezuelan 70% bar so much, I had to evaluate Amedei’s work with cacao from other origins. A bar from Madagascar, also 70% cacao, seemed like a good starting point.

A starting point because I intend to sample their entire collection. This bar just happens to be the second. As with the Amedei Venezuelan 70%, the aroma was strong, but in this case, the overwhelming scent was tar with a hint of anise.

The tar and anise are also evident in the flavor, with some earthy and smoky flavor building throughout and a bit of a sour flavor at the end. The texture is exceptionally smooth and the melt is smooth – just like the Venezuelan version. While the bar is high quality, the flavor profile wasn’t appealing to me personally. I’ll likely just stock up on the Venezuelan version and pass on this one in the future.

Have you ever tasted anise in chocolate?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amedei: Venezuelan 70%

I may or may not have previously mentioned that I’m a sucker for chocolate made from Venezuelan cacao. Assuming it’s not poorly done. I’ll almost always pick up a Venezuelan-origin bar when I see one, and after hearing Candice discuss how divine Amedei’s bars are, I had to pick up the Amedei 70% Venezuelan single origin bar when I spied it at Biagio.

The bar features simple packaging, with appreciably more information about Amedei’s other offerings inside.

But for now, let’s focus on the chocolate inside this carefully wrapped package, a light-colored bar – so light that it nearly resembled milk chocolate – with a very strong aroma of bananas and smoke.

The flavor of this bar builds nicely, beginning with citrus and a hint of cherry, giving way to a notable banana flavor later on and a slightly bitter earthy note near the end. This complex, slowly-developing harmony of flavors is made possible by the long, slow melt that is quite smooth. No flavor is overwhelming, and the bar is just sweet enough to prevent the citrus notes from being overly sour.

Balanced and smooth. Divine. Find some of this.

Have you ever had a bar by Amedei? How was it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Max Brenner's: All-Chocolate in Philadelphia

As I noted a couple of days ago, as part of my travel up to Philadelphia for the Healthy Living Summit, I visited yet another branch of Max Brenner's.
Jenny and Carly kindly joined me.
It's really hard to convince people to join you for dinner at a chocolate restaurant.


As with the Boston shop, the decor was heavily chocolate-themed.
To start, we checked out the waffle fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder.
The fries themselves were warm, crispy on the outside, and well-sized to be neither hard nor mushy. The cocoa powder, along with the chili powder, added a bit of kick that was quite enjoyable.

Then, there was the matter of dessert.
This matter was resolved with the chocolate pizza. Which we ordered with "the works" because...I mean, look at this thing. Why would we need a reason?
A non-sweetened crust was the foundation for the sweet toppings, which included a layer of melted chocolate chunks that were creamy with a deep caramel flavor. Atop that chocolate were some banana slices, which were nearly entirely covered with fluffy, toasted marshmallows. And then, some salty peanut butter and toasted hazelnuts to top it all off. The non-sweetened crust and salty peanut butter balanced the sugar from the thick marshmallow layer nicely, and the entire concoction was delicious while warm.

Probably while cold, too.

Next mission: Get to the NYC branch of Max Brenner's. I'll make it happen.

Have you had chocolate pizza? At a restaurant, or homemade?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TCHO Factory Tour: Revenge of the (Nuclear) Nerds

As I mentioned yesterday, while in San Francisco to run a meeting with a bunch of my fellow nuclear folks, we found some time to take TCHO’s factory tour. A utilitarian building along the Embarcadero awaited us.

Once inside, we found a retail shop, complete with chocolate-themed decorations.

We poked around in the shop for a while, waiting for the tour to begin. Once we were all taken back for the tour, we enjoyed a video about TCHO’s founding and mission. First of all…what on earth does TCHO stand for? Well, nothing really, except that it’s a play on words – T(echnology) meets Cho(colate).


They do, in fact, take a very scientific approach to chocolate making, which is unsurprising given that co-founder Timothy Childs worked for NASA before beginning his work with TCHO, and that the current President (Jane Metcalfe) and CEO (Louis Rossetto) previously co-founded Wired magazine. This, of course, appealed to the crowd from our meeting that had assembled for the tour. Our inner (or not so inner) nerds thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the cocoa lab that they use to identify the best cacao and develop the best fermentation, roasting, and production processes.

As part of this scientifically-focused pre-tour video, we got a lesson in the anatomy of the cacao tree, pod, and fruit.

With illustration and hands-on demonstrations, of course.

Then, it was time to enter the factory. With hairnets.

What a group we are.

While in the factory area for about 5-10 minutes, we learned a few additional tidbits about TCHO’s work:

  • TCHO maintains close ties to their cacao farmers, both to ensure that they are fairly paid for their efforts and to maximize the quality of their product. They helped one farm innovate their fermentation process to result in a better and more consistent cacao flavor.
  • Their beans are not roasted or ground at the factory, but instead are generally roasted near the point of origin for the beans.
  • Their equipment is from an abandoned factory in old East Germany, and they had to hire a consultant to read the instructions for them.

After looking at their melangers and tempering machines, we moved onto the best portion: the chocolate tasting. Before the that started, we learned a good deal about their flavor wheel, which identifies six natural flavors of chocolate: chocolatey (?), citrus, fruity, floral, nutty, earthy. TCHO currently has bars tailored to emphasize nutty, fruity, citrus, and chocolatey flavors, and we very much enjoyed each of them.

I picked up a few of their bars in the retail shop afterwards, including this piece of 99% cacao chocolate.

My colleagues were skeptical. I gave them bits of it. We all enjoyed it. Which is a lot to say for something that strong.

Have you ever toured a chocolate factory? Where?