Monday, January 23, 2012

100% Dark Chocolate Reviews: Extra Fine, Unsweetened and French too!

It is my final week of being A Girl Gone Dark and Bitter and I have gone completely unsweetened this week. So what have I been tasting to pass the time? Well, I started the week with two French chocolate heavy hitters: Bonnat 100% and Pralus 100%.


So here is how it went....
I tried the Bonnat and Pralus bars first on Sunday. I absolutely cringed when I tasted the Bonnat 100% bar.  Two weeks ago, I tried Bonnat's Puerto Cabello 75% chocolate bar and loved it so I was surprised that I did not love Bonnat's 100% bar. Although there is a lot of flavour in it, it is so acidic that it is difficult to eat. On the first tasting, I could not stop myself from cringing every time I put a piece in my mouth. On the second day of tasting (Monday) I found it less acidic and I noticed a different kind of flavour: a roast, almost burnt flavour. Not a burnt flavour in a bad way though, just like the smoke from a campfire, which made it sort of interesting. The texture of it is very nice (smooth and soft), although not as smooth and melty as Bonnat's Puerto Cabello chocolate bar. 

As for Pralus 100%...the first words that came to my mind were “rustic caramel".  It is also so light in colour that it might just be caramel. I never thought that I could like a 100% dark chocolate bar, but I do now thanks to Pralus. In addition to the caramel flavour, it also has a smoky and slight burnt flavour. As opposed to the Bonnat chocolate bar, the 'burnt' flavour in the Pralus bar seemed more like it was roasted slowly to the point of caramelization.

The difference between the Pralus 100% bar and all the other chocolates that I have tasted in the 99% and 100% range clearly has something to do with the roast and a lot to do with the beans.  By the second tasting, I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing.
When I got bored of eating the chocolate directly, I did what I call "The Hot Chocolate Test".  I took out the remaining Lindt 99% bar that I tasted last week. I heated up 1 cup of whole milk (3.25% MF) and put 1/4 oz of each kind of chocolate (Bonnat 100%, Pralus 100%, Lindt 99%) in three espresso cups. I poured 1/3 cup of hot milk over each piece of chocolate.  The milk sweetens the chocolate just enough to make it more palatable and easier to taste.  It also gives me an idea of how the chocolate will taste in another product (baked good, hot cocoa, truffle, etc.).  I stirred each and the results were interesting:   

-As you can see from the picture to the left, the Lindt 99% turned out a very dark coloured hot cocoa compared to the others. It also had the most "cocoa" flavour and tasted much better than the actual chocolate bar did. It would be a good chocolate to use in a recipe as an alternative to Baker's Chocolate.

-The Pralus hot cocoa turned out a drink just as light in colour as the chocolate bar itself.  It had such a nice caramel flavour, but not as cocoa-y as the others.

-The Bonnat bar was not as harsh tasting in the hot cocoa as it had been in the bar, and it also turned out a nice hot cocoa.  I think I would bake with this but not eat it directly.


So that is my "Hot Chocolate Test".  For me, it is a great way to see the chocolate that I have tasted in a new light, and often gives me a completely different view of a chocolate that I had disliked, or liked. It also brings out new flavours in the chocolate that I did not detect when tasting the chocolate directly.

If the chocolate had been sweeter, I might have made water-based truffles, which I often do (I'll try to post my recipe for a water-based truffle soon).  It is a good way to taste the true flavours of the chocolate and lighten the caloric content, while still treating yourself with a wonderfully smooth and creamy way to taste fine chocolate. Check out this great article on someone else who is doing water-based ganache tastings in the U.K.:  http://www.seventypercent.com/2011/12/damian-allsop-water-in-the-equation/.

I may still make some water-based truffles or regular cream-based ones this week with the remaining French-made chocolate bars.  Also, stay tuned, I am waiting for two more 100% dark chocolate bars to arrive in the mail this week!  But for now, here are the package details on the chocolate that I wrote about today:

Le Pralus 100% Criollo, 100g (3.5 oz)
Chocolaterie Pralus s.a.s. (Made in France)
http://www.chocolats-pralus.com/
Ingredients: Cocoa*, cocoa butter*. Cocoa solids 100% GMO free product. *Organic product, certified by ECOCERT. May contain (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soya) and/or all their derivatives.


Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao, 100g (3.5oz)
Chocolaterie Bonnat (Voiron, France)
http://www.bonnat-chocolatier.com/
Made in France
Ingredients: Cocoa, cocoa butter.


Additional Comments:
I like to read other online reviews after I have tasted the chocolate, to gain other insights and see what other people thought of them. I found these two other online reviews interesting because of their opposite reactions to the Bonnat and Pralus bars:

1. The reviewer at Chocablog had the exact same reaction to Pralus 100% (liking it) in 2008 and also to the Bonnat 100% chocolate bar as me: http://www.chocablog.com/reviews/bonnat-100-cacao/ cringing with each bite of Bonnat!
2. The review at http://onegoldenticket.blogspot.com/2011/02/review-michel-cluizel-noir-infini-99.html was just the opposite. These bloggers liked the Bonnat 100% better than the Pralus 100%.

Perhaps you, whoever you are reading this, will have a completely different favourite 100% chocolate bar.  Please feel free to share yours in the Comments area below, I would be interested to hear about others.

5 comments:

  1. I just reviewed the Coppeneur 100% bar. (To be honest I bought it accidentally, by not reading the wrapper carefully.) I don't really care for 100% bars (so maybe I'm not a connoisseur yet ;>)
    Here are my preferences in the few 100% bars I've tasted:

    1) Coppeneur Republica del Ecuador 2011
    2) Pralus Le 100% 2009
    3) Vintage Plantations Dark 100%

    IF you want a 100% bar then the Coppeneur is worth trying, if only for the really elegant box! I haven't had the Bonnat 100% (and don't plan to).

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    Replies
    1. Awesome, now I'll have to try that one and the Vintage Plantations Dark. The Bonnat bar is still sitting in my cupboard half finished, I just can't do it. I kept snacking on the Pralus 100% for long after though, even when I was no longer following my 100% chocolate program. It just became a snack that I liked!

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  2. I am a chocoholic as well and I love trying new chocolates. I am also a French native so when I have chocolate I need a a rich and sweet texture; i want to taste the cocoa, not the sugar. I tried Chocolate le Bonnat, and while i did get this rich flavor from the cocoa, i have to admit that i am more of a milk chocolate kind of girl. I also talk about french chocolates and candies on my site, and as a bonus I sell them too.

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  3. I am a chocoholic as well , I love Pralus 100% the taste is different from batch to batch but in general the best I have ever tried and I just can't stop snacking on them.

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