A Distinct Flavour Combination by two American Chocolate Makers: Theo and Chocolove
In my line of work, I pair a lot of things with chocolate. It is fun to see what flavour combinations work best. For instance, raspberries and dark chocolate are probably the best combination for an intense flavour experience, but sometimes you can offset the bitterness of raspberries with white chocolate. Blueberries, mango and cranberries also pair well with white chocolate. And did you know that a semi-sweet dark chocolate goes well with Guinness, but Guinness pairs terribly with milk chocolate? I recently learned this while making Guinness chocolate ganache.
One of the most common pairings of fruit and chocolate is cherries and dark chocolate. Many chocolate bar makers know that this combination works, so you won't have to look far from home to find a dark chocolate bar with dried cherries in it. I know Green & Blacks offers a cherry-chocolate bar, which I have not only eaten but baked with to make a simple cherry-chocolate pie.
Recently, I found two more chocolate bars containing dried cherries in dark chocolate, with the added inclusion of almonds, making for a distinct and interesting flavour combination. I found these chocolate bars made by Theo and Chocolove, two American chocolate bar producers, at a HomeSense in Northern Ontario.
Theo is a chocolate maker from Seattle, Washington that makes chocolate directly from the bean. Their main focus is on making chocolate that is Fair Trade certified and "Fair for Life", which "goes beyond fair trade" by certifying that the entire supply chain, from the farmer's to the company's business practices, are fair. They also support organic growing practices in order to "promote the health of our planet".
Both Theo and Chocolove stand for very different things when it comes to chocolate, but they both agree that cherries and almonds pair well with dark chocolate. So when I saw their similar chocolate bars on the shelf at HomeSense, I thought it was a great opportunity to taste, compare and review.
Chocolove took the sweeter route by pairing a 55% dark chocolate with large chunks of almonds and dried cherries. Theo's almond and cherry pieces were smaller in a much darker 70% organic chocolate. Overall, Theo's bar offered a much more intense flavour experience. I used to think that a semi-sweet chocolate paired best with cherries, but now I see that a 70% dark chocolate really offers a full-flavoured experience like that of a dry red wine.
Also, Theo uses smaller scale bean-to-bar chocolate making methods because they make the chocolate themselves. So the flavours of the cacao beans are much more prominent. Chocolove uses Belgian chocolate, which offers a milder flavour with vanilla overtones.
Although I preferred Theo's bar for its intensity and bitterness, I know that many people are not as excited by very bitter chocolate as I am. So if you like your cherries and chocolate a little sweeter, you might prefer the Chocolove bar. What I like about both chocolate bars is that no artificial flavours were used - only real vanilla and real cherries were used to create the overall flavour experience!
What I find most interesting is that both companies thought that almonds also paired well with cherries. I never would have thought of that myself. Why not hazelnuts? Walnuts? Cinnamon? Why almonds, I ask myself? I may never have an answer, but I am now a believer that almonds go very well with cherries and dark chocolate.
If you also like cherries and dark chocolate, but are not so fond of the almonds, Chocolove also sells a chilies and cherries bar made with 55% dark chocolate. Lindt also makes a Lindt Creation 70% bar with a fantastic chili/cherry combination.
Here are the package details from the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:
Chocolove Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate, 55% cocoa content, 90g (3.2 oz)
Chocolove (Boulder, CO, USA)
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), dried cherries, almonds. May contain traces of milk and other nuts.
Theo Chocolate Organic Fair Trade Cherry & Almond Dark Chocolate, 70% cacao, 84g (3 oz)
Theo Chocolate (Seattle, WA, USA)
Ingredients: cocoa beans*+, sugar*+, dried cherries*, almonds*, cocoa butter*+, ground vanilla bean*, rice flour*. *Organic +Fair Trade Certified.