Monday, February 28, 2011

Milk chocolate without the milk...

"Organic", "Beyond Fair Trade", "Kosher certified", plus "No pesticides, No artificial colors, No preservatives, No hormones, No antibiotics, No GMO's"...that's a lot of statements to make on one chocolate bar package!

However, more important than any of the features listed above, the chocolate that I am tasting today is "milk" chocolate but has no milk! The chocolate is TerraNostra's Ricemilk Choco(TM) - a 100 gram chocolate bar that uses rice powder instead of milk powder to mimic the flavour of milk chocolate. So this blog post is a call-out to anyone who is allergic to milk, or vegan, but still wants the flavour of milk chocolate.

I believe I tasted this same chocolate bar a few years ago and liked it a lot, and today I like it again.  The only problem was that the chocolate was a bit hard, and not in the 'cold room' kind of way. If you taste chocolate often, I think you will know what I mean by that.  Sometimes chocolate has been sitting in a room that is too cold and therefore does not melt quickly in your mouth.  That's not the case with this bar, it's more like it is old or has been affected by sunlight, so it does not melt in your mouth and is just a bit too hard.  Since there is no bloom or powder on the bar, and the expiry date is completely nonsense to me, then I am assuming the chocolate is just a bit too old. I bought it in a small shop in a rural area that does not get a lot of traffic, so it's possible it sat on the shelf for a bit too long. However, all that did not stop me from eating half the bar in one sitting! So clearly the taste was just fine, even if the texture was a bit hard.  Ground hazelnuts have also enhanced the flavour of this chocolate, as they often do when added subtly to milk chocolate bars.

It did not taste differently than a milk chocolate bar, and it did not have any strong organic, earthy flavours to it, so it didn't have a "too-healthy" taste to it either. So for anyone who is allergic to milk or avoiding it, I am happy to recommend this chocolate to you!

As for the Terra Nostra Organic chocolate brand, I like and respect them. They have a whole line-up of flavours, including an intense dark 73% and a dark truffle bar, plus new snack-size ones with interesting flavours that include Pink Himalayan Mineral Salt. What's more, if you are looking for milk-free chocolate, Terra Nostra has two other flavours of their ricemilk chocolate bar: Ricemilk Choco bar with Dark Truffle Centre and Ricemilk Choco bar with Almonds. But just a warning though: there seems to be a lot of "out-of-stock" notices on their website right now.  It seems that all the bars that I wanted to order are out of stock, so I'll have to try back another day.  However, their website has a Store Locator so you can find out where Terra Nostra is sold in your area.  See below for their website and product information, as well as package details from the chocolate bar that I tasted today.

Terra Nostra Organic Ricemillk Choco(TM), 100 g (3.5 oz)
KFM Foods International, Inc.
Vancouver, B.C.
Chocolate is "Product of Switzerland"
Ingredients: organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic rice powder, organic cocoa mass, organic hazelnuts, vanilla, salt. May contain traces of dairy products, peanuts, soy and almonds. Cocoa solids Min 41%.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Swiss chocolate and cocoa nibs and a web site that will transport you to a romantic European village

Today I was in the mood for something dark, bitter and crunchy at the same time.  So I searched through my chocolate cupboard and found a bar that I have not tasted before: Swiss Prestige Supreme Noir Cocoa Nibs.  The name is a bit funny, since half is in French and half in English, but it basically is a 100 gram bittersweet chocolate bar with crunchy cocoa nibs mixed in. 

Upon tasting it, I immediately liked it. They have the crunch just right; the nibs are tiny and easy to chew.  I am not a fan of chocolate bars with cocoa nibs when the nibs are large and hard to chew (and dangerous for my delicate teeth). Also, when a chocolate bar has large chunks of cocoa nibs, the nibs become overpowering and make the overall flavour quite bitter, which is not the case with this Swiss Prestige chocolate bar.

The other thing that I like about this bar is the flavour.  It is sweet and chocolaty, with enough vanilla flavour to lessen its bitterness so it is not nearly as bitter as other 78% chocolate bars can be.  Also, the flavouring is natural, and there are no strange additives on the ingredients list. 

I would buy the Swiss Prestige Supreme Noir Cocoa Nibs chocolate bar again in future.  I guess I know why Wikipedia says that Frey, the manufacturer of this chocolate bar, is the leading  chocolate manufacturer on the Swiss market. Check out the company web site at if for no other reason than to listen to some seriously relaxing music and to be transported to a romantic little European village (to find the English version, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the tiny E).

Here are the package details for this chocolate bar:

SWISS PRESTIGE SUPREME Noir Cocoa Nibs, 70% cacao, 100 g
CHOCOLAT FREY AG, Switzerland, A MIGROS company 
Ingredients: chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs 9%, natural flavour.  May contain tree nuts, peanuts, milk and soy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Sipping Sundays Hot Chocolate...with Green & Blacks Organic 70%

Since it is a leisurely Sunday afternoon and still bitter-cold and windy outside, I am craving hot chocolate. But today I want a very bitter and dark hot chocolate because I have been eating far too much sugar recently.  I would like to get back to my regular style of indulging, which is to simply enjoy a nice bitter treat with minimal sugar added. So I decided to pull out a 100 gram Green & Black's Organic 70% chocolate bar and melt it into some milk to create a very simple hot chocolate.

I  broke up about half of the 100 gram bar and put it in the bottom of my mug, then poured steaming hot milk over it and stirred until it was all melted. Today I used one cup of milk, with half being whole milk and the other half skim milk.  With a toddler in the house, we always have whole milk on hand, but you can just use whatever type that you usually drink. If you only have skim milk, you can always add a little half & half or whipping cream for a richer hot chocolate experience.

The Green & Black's chocolate bar made my hot chocolate bitter but smooth, and until I got to the last ounce, there was no sense of the earthy and organic flavour that is in the Green & Black's chocolate.  At the end of the cup of course, it just tastes like a liquid form of the pure chocolate, so all that earthiness comes out in the last few sips.

As for the taste of the chocolate itself, it is quite bitter, with a slight organic and very earthy taste to it, as mentioned above.  I am quite used to organic chocolate by now, and have come to appreciate the earthy, hearty flavour of most organic dark chocolate bars. Green & Black's offers a nice line of organic chocolate, with some really great flavours.  But I always like to stick to plain chocolate for my hot chocolates and 70% for when I need to get myself out of a severe sugar craving phase. Hopefully, with willpower intact, I will finish this bar tomorrow when I am looking for a sweet treat.

I have only one more note on the Green & Black's 70% chocolate bar: if you are vegan or allergic to milk, be warned that this 70% (unlike most 70% dark chocolate bars) does have whole milk powder in the ingredients list.
Here are the full details from the package of the chocolate bar that I tasted today:

Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate with 70% cocoa solids, 100 g
Green & Black's Ltd., London, England
Ingredients: organic cocoa liquor, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, soya lecithin, organic vanilla extract, whole milk powder. Contains milk and soy ingredients. May contain traces of nuts and cereal.

To read other Sipping Sundays articles and see more hot chocolate recipes, see the following posts:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Need affordable good quality chocolate for your home baking projects? Joe`s Donini or Lindt may be what you need.

I was quickly running out of semi-sweet baking chocolate a few weeks ago and was not sure how long my next order would take to arrive.  Since cake and pastry orders were still coming in, I needed a back-up plan in case I ran out.   I happened to be in the city at the time, so I went to Walmart because I knew there were no high-end baking supply stores nearby. I immediately went to the snack aisle and sought out a Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate 300 gram bar.  I assumed that because it is a part of the Lindt product line, it would be of good quality. But then I saw another kind of semi-sweet chocolate for baking: Joe`s Tasty Travel Donini Dark Chocolate Bar, which said: “excellent for baking, eating & fondue”.  After a quick check of the ingredients, and seeing how wonderfully low the price was ($3 for 250 grams) I bought some of Joe’s too.

Admittedly, this is a terrible product
shot of a very wrinkly Lindt wrapper,
but I forgot to take the picture until
after I opened the package.

The Lindt bar is unbelievably smooth, which of course, it should be since that is the focus of their marketing.  The chocolate is also light, with a sunny, springtime feel to its taste.  It is perfect for use in chocolate ganache, truffle and tarts because it becomes all that much smoother when mixed with cream.   The only thing I didn’t like about it was the overuse of vanilla.  I am happy that Lindt used real flavouring in this bar (they don’t always), but there was just a bit too much vanilla for my liking. The only other downside was that I paid $5.99 for 300 grams – a big difference from the Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate.
What I liked about the Joe’s chocolate is that no vanilla was added at all, which makes it great for flourless chocolate cakes, brownies, and other cakes that require you to add melted dark chocolate and vanilla or other flavourings.  This way, there will not be too much vanilla in your recipe.  Overall, the Joe’s chocolate is not as smooth as Lindt, but it is a good quality for home baking.
In the end, my chocolate order arrived faster than I expected and I haven’t needed to use the Lindt or Joe's chocolate bars for anything other than personal baking.  But my money was not wasted because I had the opportunity to discover a new great chocolate for baking with, and one that comes at a low, affordable price for your home baking projects. So check out the Joe’s Tasty Travel Donini brand at Walmart in Canada or go directly to the manufacturer’s web site at: Joe’s also makes a white chocolate for baking, which is a lot less expensive and just as good as the standard grocery store baking chocolate.
 Here is the info on the chocolate that I tasted today:
Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate, 300 g
Lindt & Sprungli A.G. (Switzerland)
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds and milk.

Joe’s Tasty Travels Donini Dark Chocolate Bar, 250 g
Packed by: Downright Healthy Foods L.P., Toronto, ON Canada
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, alkalized cocoa, soya lecithin. May contain peanuts, tree nuts and milk protein.

Looking for other quality chocolate for your baking projects?  Check out one of my past posts on this subject:

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Nestle NOIR Valentine's Day Treat

For the dark chocolate lover, Valentine's Day is not complete without some kind of dark chocolate truffles.  And for someone like me, who lives very far away from any high end truffle shops, and who's husband never remembers to order gourmet truffles online in advance of Valentine's Day, I rely on commercial chocolate brands to provide me with a special treat on Valentine's Day.

So when I was recently shopping for Valentine's chocolates for my family (they like the commercial stuff), I saw a box of  Nestle NOIR L'Assortiment "Les Favoris des Connoisseurs".  I hadn't tried these yet, so I thought, "why not?" and bought the box.  To justify the purchase, I promptly gave it to my husband and told him to hide it for Valentine's Day, when he could take it out of hiding and give it to me as my present.  I was happy and he was even happier.

After having eaten about eight of these chocolates today, I am compelled to say that I am happy with the flavours that Nestle has chosen for this box of truffles.  I am not, however, completely happy with the ingredients list.  It starts out okay, with "sugar, cacoa paste, hazelnuts, milk powder..." but then it gets into items like vegetable oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil and 'flavour' (listed only in French on the box as "arome".  I am particularly turned off by the use of hydrogenated vegetable oil. I just think that, with all we know nowadays about being healthy, no manufacturer should be using hydrogenated oils in their food products anymore.

That said, in reviewing the taste and flavours, I liked the "Exquise" the best, which is a smooth dark chocolate truffle that has crispy rounds bits on the top, which add a nice textural element.  I ate the crunchy bits off the top first, then indulged in the smooth centre.  The "Coquillage" was also very good, as it was another smooth dark truffle, but with the addition of crunchy carmelized cocoa nibs. 

The one flavour I was not as enamoured with was the "Viennois".  The box said it was a "harmonious blend of creamy mocha and dark chocolate".  The centre was coffee-flavoured but rather light in colour and not very dark chocolaty. It was okay, but sort of bland compared to the other flavours in the box.

So that was my Valentine's Day chocolate indulgence. Since this Valentine's gift to myself was so successful and well-received by my husband, maybe next year I'll order myself some very expensive all-natural gourmet truffles and just charge it to his credit card.

For more information on Nestle NOIR L'Assortiment, go to

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sipping Sunday, Saxon Style - a sweet dark hot chocolate treat

Today I am sipping a Saxon dark hot chocolate.  When melted with milk, it makes a rich, smooth hot chocolate.  If you taste the chocolate pieces before melting them, the dark chocolate is just a little too sweet for eating. It does, however, turn into a nice hot chocolate drink.

In looking at the ingredient list (see below for the list of ingredients), I think to myself: what the heck is anhydrous dextrose? Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question, because the Internet searches I've done have not made it very clear. From what I can tell though, anhydrous dextrose may be a chemical compound and some form of sugar.

Ignoring the strange ingredient in this drinking chocolate, I turned my cup of Saxon hot chocolate into a luxurious treat. I almost always top my hot chocolate with real whipped cream.  I usually eat through the whip cream faster than it can melt into the hot  chocolate, but when some of it does melt, it adds a richness to the hot chocolate that makes it undeniably good.  And do you know how else I like to add decadence to my hot chocolate?  I shave milk or dark chocolate over the whip cream.  What I like about Saxon's hot chocolate is that it is made from real chocolate (the tiniest chocolate chips that I've ever seen, in fact) and so it is easy to just sprinkle a tablespoon on top.  So getting out my peeler or grater is not necessary.  In my opinion, it`s the best way to enjoy hot chocolate, because it becomes a dessert, rather than just a beverage.

Other great ways to add flavour and decadence to your hot chocolate: use shavings from a leftover chocolate bar!  If you have some chocolate left from a chocolate tasting, then use that to shave over your hot chocolate. If it is a flavoured bar, it will add a new flavour element and texture to your hot drink.  For instance, I have used up the remaining Valor banana-flavoured 70% chocolate bar that I tasted a while back to shave over the whip cream on my hot chocolate in the days after I tasted that bar.  It added a hint of yummy banana flavour!
Here are the full details on the Saxon hot chocolate that I tasted today:

Saxon Chocolates Hot Chocolate, Dark, 340 g (12 oz)
Made exclusively for  Indigo Books & Music Inc.
Ingredients: dark chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, anhydrous dextrose, soya lecithin (an emulsifier). May contain tree nuts, peanuts, milk products and gluten proteins.
Made in Canada from imported ingredients.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fine chocolate with bubbles? Nestle Aero 70% Dark Chocolate bar has simple ingredients and natural flavours

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, fine dark chocolate should only contain the following ingredients: "Cacao liquor (or cocoa mass), sugar, cacao butter, lecithin, and vanilla". So when I casually glanced at the ingredients list of a Nestlé 70% Dark Chocolate Aero bar at the grocery store the other day, I was surprised to see that the ingredients for this chocolate bar fit the definition by the FCIA.  So I asked myself a question: Can a commercially sold "candy bar" be considered fine chocolate? 

To find an answer, I started by tasting the 70% Aero bar. The result?  It tastes great. Sure, it is likely made from a mix of forastero cocoa beans (rather than the superior criollo or trinitario beans), and so the flavour is pretty generic. But overall, it has a nice chocolate flavour and no overpowering taste of added flavouring (like some candy bars taste like). I like that the company uses natural flavouring and that the dark chocolate has not been sweetened so much that is tastes like sugar, rather than dark chocolate. 

So if going by the FCIA definition, Nestlé has, in fact, produced a fine dark chocolate bar with bubbles.  Of course, I'm sure many chocolate connoisseurs would argue that the beans should be hand-selected and the chocolate should be bean-to-bar artisan-made in order to be considered "fine" chocolate.  They would probably also argue that the beans should be superior and there should be an abundance of flavour from the environment where the beans were grown, which should come through in the flavour of the chocolate.  That is not the case with Nestlé's 70% Aero bar. 

I too consider artisan-made chocolate from single origin criollo or trinitario beans to be far superior to commercially marketed candy bars.  However, since Nestlé has simplified the Aero dark chocolate bar's ingredients (unlike the use of a multitude of complex and unnatural ingredients in other commercial candy bars), and since they use natural flavouring and it tastes great, why not consider it to be fine accessible chocolate?  In other words, it's fine chocolate for the masses. With bubbles.

I'll leave it up to you as to decide if it can be considered fine chocolate.  As for me, I only know that I will probably eat another one when a craving for dark chocolate hits me again in the grocery store.

Fore more information on the Aero Dark Chocolate bar by Nestlé, go to: Here are some more stats from the package of this chocolate bar:

Licensee: Nestlé Canada Inc., North York, ON
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural flavour). May contain milk.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Camino Snack Bars - portion controlled, nutty and all yummy (wait a second, am I describing me or the chocolate?)

A few days ago, I fell in love with a Michel Cluizel chocolate bar made with Venezuelan cocoa beans.  Today I have a new love: Camino Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate snack bar.  Seriously, this is the bomb. If you love peanut butter and chocolate, this chocolate bar is definitely for you.  If you love portion-controlled chocolaty snacks, this bar is also for you.  And if you also love eating organic and fair trade, try the Camino Peanut Butter snack bar.  Yum.  It's salty, it's peanut buttery, and it has a slight crunch. 

I normally taste solid chocolate bars as often as possible.  But if you read my blog regularly, you'll know that weekends tend to be a free-for-all for me, in terms of chocolate tasting that is.  Like most of us, I feel like indulging on the weekends and I want something that tastes like a real treat.  In other words, I want to taste a chocolate that is sweeter, richer and gooey-er (probably not a word, but who cares). This bar feels just right for today.

At only 170 calories, I feel like I can also indulge myself by tasting the Camino Almond Butter Dark Chocolate snack bar.  Like the Peanut Butter bar, this one was also just launched in November/December of 2010 and I received my first box of it today.  I normally do not like almond butter as much as I like peanut butter, but Camino has somehow done it again with this bar.  It is nearly as yummy as the peanut butter bar.  And since I have been avoiding peanuts during my pregnancy, I know I can snack on this bar and feel satisfied.  The only thing that I do not like, is the almond flavour that has been added to the almond butter centre.  I am not a fan of "almond flavouring".  I prefer almonds straight up and I usually cringe when eating a pastry or dessert with a lot of "almond flavour" added to it.  However, Camino has made this flavour addition rather subtle, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it would taste bland without the added flavour.

Just one more thing on these bars: the filled centres of crunchy nut butter in both snack bars are the perfect texture.  I was worried they would be too much like a nut butter texture (i.e. too gooey), but instead they are dry but with the right amount of moistness to make them melt in your mouth.  The chocolate enrobing the bar is a wonderful 55% semi-sweet that does not taste sickeningly sweet, like some sweet dark chocolate can.  It's just the perfect combination.  La Siembra Co-Operative, the founders of the Camino brand, have once again sold me a product that I would eat over and over again.

Camino snack bars have been launched at grocery and health food stores all across Canada in the last few months.  Check their website to find these bars at a store near you.  And although this sounds like a paid endorsement, La Siembra really had no previous awareness that I am writing about their chocolate bars.  I just really like them and want to tell everyone how great they are!

Here are the full package details on these two great chocolate snack bars:

Camino Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate snack bar, 32 g
La Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, ON Canada
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate  55% Cocoa (cane sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter), roasted peanuts, cane sugar, salt, soy lecithin.  (everything but the salt is certified organic and everything but the peanuts and soy lecithin are fair trade certified). May contain traces of tree nuts, dairy products and wheat. Contains peanuts and soy.

Camino Almond Butter Dark Chocolate snack bar, 32 g
La Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, ON Canada
Dark Chocolate  55% Cocoa (cane sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter), roasted almonds, cane sugar, salt, almond flavour, soy lecithin.  (everything but the salt is certified organic and everything but the almonds, almond flavour and soy lecithin are fair trade certified). May contain traces of tree nuts, dairy products and wheat. Contains almonds and soy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Michel Cluizel makes heavenly chocolate sent from above (well, from Venezuela at least)

If there is anything that I have learned from my years of chocolate tasting, it's this rule: DO NOT WASH YOUR HANDS WITH A FRUITY SMELLING SOAP JUST BEFORE TASTING CHOCOLATE. Because no matter what chocolate you are tasting, you will only taste and smell fruit flavour! The same goes for any strong smelling soap - just don't use it for awhile before tasting chocolate.  I am facing that problem today.  I've re-rinsed my hands so many time now that I've lost count, I can still smell that darn soap as I'm trying to put the chocolate in my mouth! So the best I can do is to just pop a piece into my mouth and then hold my hands behind my back and as far away from my face as possible while I taste. It seems to get the smell out of the way while I taste the chocolate, if not the memory of it.

That aside, the chocolate I am tasting today is a Michel Cluizel Chocolatier Paris chocolate bar called 1er CRU de PLANTATION Concepcion NOIR Venezuela - which basically means it is a "premiere" or "first" plantation chocolate bar, made from cocoa of one specific plantation in Venezuela. According to the package, the cocoa plantation is from the valley of Barlovento and made from Caranero cocoa beans.  There are supposed to be hints of vanilla (duh, they add vanilla to the chocolate so how could one tell there is a hint of it in the beans?), caramel and honey spice cake.  I personally tasted just hints of woodsy, rustic-flavoured chocolate with a sweet, chocolaty taste.

It is also very smooth in the mouth, but there are tiny small crunchy bits of something that resemble sugar crystals in each piece. I don't mind that though, it's a textural element that only adds to the experience. The vanilla is so mild that it just blends right in and there is just a wonderful taste of chocolate when eating this bar.

This chocolate bar is a favourite of mine.  It doesn't matter to me that I spent just over $10 Canadian for a mere 70 grams at La Fromagerie in Sudbury, Ontario, I still ate it faster than most of the other chocolate that I taste.  I also finished the whole thing within two days, unlike nearly all of the other chocolate bars that I taste (most sit in a cupboard, neatly wrapped in Ziplock bags collecting dust until I get the urge to make several small batches of truffle with them). I am also impressed that Michel Cluizel has managed to make such a great chocolate bar while leaving the soy lecithin out of the ingredients. They also have a guarantee on the back of the package that there is no soy in the product. So for all of those people allergic to soy out there, this chocolate bar is for you.

Michel Cluizel is the absolute definition of "fine chocolate". The company pays attention to the detail, the beans, and the regions they come from and they follow a traditional method of treating the beans - a method that has been used since 1902.  And they are based in France, a country where the people know good chocolate and have high standards for it.

I am very pleased with my chocolate tasting today, but very sad that I just ate the last piece of this wonderful chocolate bar.  Here are the full details on the Michel Cluizel bar that I tasted today:

Michel Cluizel Chocolatier Paris 1er CRU de PLANTATION Concepcion NOIR Venezuela, 70 g
Michel Cluizel, Paris, France
Ingredients (Dark Chocolate 66% cocoa minimum): cocoa, cane sugar, cocoa butter, bourbon vanilla pod. May contain traces of shelled tree nuts, milk and gluten.  Product of France.