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!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Chocolate of the Day (Day 5): Francois Pralus Chuao chocolate

Yesterday was the final day for me to write about my favourite 'chocolate of the day'. I certainly tasted the chocolate during the course of the day, but I had a lot of chocolate work of my own and failed to find the time to write about it. So I am writing now, on a sunny, but cold (-15 degrees Celsius!) Saturday morning.

There was one special bar that I snacked on yesterday, the 75% dark Chuao chocolate bar by French chocolate maker, François Pralus. This chocolate came in such a beautiful package, very different than the packaging for other Pralus chocolate bars, instantly letting the taster know it is special in comparison. It is dark and luxurious looking, and certainly says chocolate with it's deep brown shade. The name Chuao is followed by the coordinates of the region, the small and famous village in Venezuela where the cacao is harvested. This village is only accessible by boat or a hike that spans days, and its cacao is highly coveted.

Upon opening the layers of packaging, instantly there was a sweet, floral and chocolaty aroma. With the first taste, there was a heavy roast flavour, indicating a good strong roast was applied to the beans. On the melt, I found some fruity tones and a citrus lemon taste, mixed with some woody and organic flavours. Overall, the combination is quite unique, intense, and very enjoyable. Although my 'chocolate curiosity' side makes me want to taste this Chuao bar against another chocolate maker's Chuao origin chocolate some day to see how the beans taste with a lower roast profile. But overall, this chocolate was special and unique.

I received the chocolate from Coco Doro Corp., an importer and distributor of Francois Pralus chocolate to retailers in the Toronto area. The business also imports Akessons, and sells gift packages of Pralus and Akesson chocolate online. I am excited that such a business exists in Ontario, because previously these two highly regarded chocolate makers were not easily accessible to Canadian consumers.

So although this is the end of the week, I still have a lot of good chocolate on hand, including some Sirene Chocolate, French Broad Chocolate, and my own Buttermilk chocolate right out of the refiner (of course, that's my favourite one!).  So I will be back next week with more chocolate. But perhaps every other day, since I should probably spend a little time making my own chocolate!

For more information on Pralus, visit www.chocolats-pralus.com. For more information on Coco Doro Corp, and where to find Pralus or Akessons in the Toronto area, visit www.cocodorogiftco.com.

Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Chocolate of the Day (Day 4): Soma's Deep Dark Blend


For Valentine's Day, I received a package of Soma chocolate. With the new online ordering available on the Soma website, it is suddenly easier for my loved ones to buy me chocolate with a simple click. That is exciting stuff.

So this morning I was tasting my lovely line-up of Soma chocolate bars, and picked what I thought was the most interesting bar for discussion today: the Crazy 88. This chocolate bar is called 'crazy' because it is a blend of six different origin cocoa beans, including: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Madagascar, Peru and Venezuela. I am fascinated by the unique flavour combination that has resulted from this blend.

This chocolate bar is very bitter, in fact it seemed nearly too bitter at first, even for a girl like me who regularly eats 100% dark chocolate. But with each piece, its mysterious taste became almost a must-have dietary need. The description of 'green bananas' captivated me when I read it on Soma's package because it instantly articulated the flavour for me, when before I could not conjure a description to save my life. And it is not only the taste of green bananas, but it is the experience of green bananas, where your tongue is almost left with an intense dryness.

As the chocolate melts in the mouth, it seems to move from green bananas to a coffee cream taste and some nuttiness that lingers. And each time it fully melts away, I am left wanting more so I can continue to 'figure it out'. There really does seem to be a mystery surrounding this chocolate flavour. And perhaps because it is the result of blending so many unique-flavoured origin beans.

Why blend origins? Blending origins gives the chocolate maker a chance to master a flavour profile, like tone down some high acidity in one bean by balancing it with a creamy and mild bean, or add a fruity or floral flavour to an otherwise bland or mild-tasting bean. In the case of Crazy 88, Soma's founder, David Castellan, has taken many different 'famous' and highly coveted origin beans, like Venezuela 'Ocumare' and the Peru 'Maranon' beans and created a master mix of sorts.

If you are looking for an example of another blended chocolate bar, and perhaps in a slightly sweeter style, Soma has a very interesting 70% chocolate called Dual Origins, Little Big Man. It takes the fruity tartness of a Madagascar bean, and combines it with the nutty and creaminess of an Ecuador bean. It seems to start with the taste of nuts, then moves to black liquorice, then brings on some red fruit and berry flavours on the finish. Truly an interesting balance of origin flavours (and one that is a little easier to articulate!).

So if you are into super dark chocolate, like the 85% or 90% dark chocolate, or simply want to expand your horizons and explore blended origin chocolates, I recommend you give Soma's Crazy 88 bar a try. After all, you can now buy online! Learn more at: www.somachocolate.com. And while there, don't forget to try the oh-so-creamy CSB Chama, the Raspberry bar (to die for!), the Arcana 100%, and many of Soma's other treats, like the tree branch or their single origin truffles...I could go on and on...

An aside....
I have always respected and admired this chocolate maker for the interesting and delicious combinations, but I just learned during my last trip to Sudbury that I went to the same high school as Soma Chocolate founder, David Castellan! We did not attend at the same time, but it was not far off. Who knew our little Sudbury Secondary School would not only turn out actors, singers and dancers, but chocolate makers as well. :-)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chocolate of the Day (Day 3): Dandelion Chocolate's Trinidad Origin Dark Chocolate Perfectly Pairs with Honey Wine


Today is Day 3 of my Chocolate of the Day reviews (if you read Monday's post, you'll know that this week, I started sharing my favourite picks from my daily chocolate tastings). And today I am talking about a unique chocolate made by San Francisco-based Dandelion Chocolate. It's the San Juan Estate, Trinidad 70% dark chocolate bar. Specifically, this dark chocolate was made from beans harvested in 2014 from San Juan Estate in Gran Couva.


I love how personal this chocolate is. Dandelion tells us on the packaging who specifically has sourced the cacao for the chocolate bar we are tasting. In this case, it is Greg. You may not know who Greg is, but that does not matter. The fact that Dandelion is so forthcoming about every aspect of the chocolate (i.e. sharing the harvest and specific info about the cacao farm, who created the roast profile, etc.) is what makes this small-batch chocolate maker so special.

Upon opening the package, I was amazed at how heavy the wrapping was, like when opening a gift wrapped in very expensive and luxurious wrapping paper.  It's thick, fibrous and natural in both texture and appearance, yet has the look of something both rich (with gold accents) and yet jungle-tribal with the tiny triangles specked all over it. 

But let's get to the taste. This chocolate had a lovely mild chocolaty flavour, with a sweet and creamy side. It was not fruity, nor tart, nor nutty. And the 'sweet', in fact, was very much honey-like in taste.

In fact, I was surprised by how much the chocolate tasted of honey and light liquor, so I immediately went to the wine cooler and pulled out a delicious Honey Wine (mead) by Rosewood Estates Winery that I purchased recently. The pairing was as suspected: perfect. I can see myself serving the two together, and also combining this Trinidad origin chocolate with mead to make a lovely honey liquor-based chocolate truffle.

If you haven't yet tasted this chocolate bar, or any of Dandelion Chocolate's products, I strongly suggest you do. I also quite liked Dandelion's Mantuano, Venezuela 2015 harvest dark chocolate bar for its light nuttiness and rich chocolate taste. Learn more about Dandelion Chocolate on their website: http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/.

Have a great day, and may it be filled with chocolate!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Chocolate of the Day (Day 2): Malagos Chocolate 72%


Today I was sampling the last piece of a chocolate bar that I opened before Christmas. I bought it at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November, and have been carefully wrapping and unwrapping it to sample a few bites ever since. And each time I do this, I have an opportunity to think about how truly sweet and chocolaty this bar is.

The chocolate bar is a 72% Single Origin Dark Chocolate made by Malagos Chocolate, a chocolate maker based in Davao, Philippines. This is a tree-to-bar operation, and is a part of the growing trend of made-at-origin chocolate. The beauty of making chocolate in the country where it is grown, is that the money made from converting the beans to chocolate can stay within the country, the region, and in some cases within the farmers pockets if they are both growing the cacao and making the chocolate. It benefits the people of the origin country, and unlike the chocolate of our past, the people in cacao-growing countries can see, taste and understand what is being made from the cacao beans that they harvest.

When I was at the festival in Seattle, I had a chance to meet one of the farmers - a woman - who produces the cacao for this chocolate. She was a beautiful woman, and certainly changed the image in my mind of what a 'farmer' looks like. And she was an all around delight to chat with over lunch. This may be why I was so excited to later visit the Malagos booth, and to buy some of their chocolate.

I was surprised by the lovely flavour of the chocolate. It was sweet for a 72%, and seemed to lead with cacao and sugar, rather than a creamy cocoa butter taste. The chocolate was mild and low in acidity, and held just hints of raisin or date flavour, coconut, some floral flavours and a little nuttiness. There was no vanilla added to the chocolate, and I found the pure flavour of the beans did not need it, with the sweet profile of the chocolate and easy-on-the-palate taste.

I suppose I should not have been surprised by the sweetness and mildness of the chocolate flavour, having just experienced Davao-grown beans first-hand when I received samples of organic cacao beans from the Philippines, and made a dark chocolate from them (read more about that here). The flavour profile of my chocolate was similar and also on the sweet side, with low acidity, compared to other origin chocolates.

Overall, this chocolate is really enjoyable - a widely like-able flavour, like the Shiraz of chocolate. If you want to taste it too, visit http://malagoschocolate.com to learn more. They also make unsweetened baking chocolate, which has a tasty flavour in chocolate recipes.

For my fellow chocolate makers, Malagos also sells dried, fermented cacao beans. Learn more about the beans here.

Have a great day!