Friday, September 30, 2011

A Naked Lady, A Hot Tub and Chocolate...what could be better?

This morning I was listening to my favourite morning radio show called “The Morning Hot Tub” on Hot 89.9, a radio station based in Ottawa, Canada. I have been listening to The Morning Hot Tub every day for at least five years (if not longer), but the funny thing is that I moved away from Ottawa three years ago.  Even though I now live eight hours north-west of Ottawa, on Manitoulin Island, I continue to listen to the show’s hosts (Mauler, Rush, Jenni and Josie) and their often funny, sometimes silly and always terrific antics daily via the Internet.
(If you are wondering what on earth The Morning Hot Tub has to do with this blog, just stay with me, I am getting to the part where it relates to chocolate...)
This morning, during the daily contest called “Crush Rush”, Mauler asked a listener a question that went something like: “which chocolate company uses the image of a lady on a horse in their advertisement?”  The answer was, of course, Godiva.  Then Mauler mentioned that the lady was naked on the horse.  There was some disagreement about this among the other hosts. So I decided, for Mauler’s sake and for my own, to do a little research on Lady Godiva and Godiva chocolate.
As it turns out, there is a lot that I did not know about Godiva chocolates and why, or how, its name came to be.  According to legend (and according to Wikipedia), Lady Godiva was the wife of the Earl of Mercia, a Kingdom next to southern Wales that existed way back in 1043 in the River Trent Valley region1. As the story goes: `Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and, after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation...In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters so that he might see Godiva pass, and is struck blind. In the end, Godiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.`2
So there you go Mauler; you were not imagining things, Lady Godiva is depicted in photographs riding on a horse naked, and we now know why.  As for Lady Godiva and how it came to be the symbol of Godiva, the chocolate company? Well, in 1926 Joseph Draps, a master chocolatier, named his company in honor of the legend of Lady Godiva3.  And I can see why, since the name Godiva is Godgifu in old English, which means `god gift`. To me, that is also an appropriate name for chocolate.  The company uses the image of Lady Godiva riding on a horse with her long hair flowing around her, but since it is just an imprint in chocolate or an outline on their website and packaging, there is just a hint of nudity, as seen in the Godiva images to the right4 and below5.
So I want to send a big thank you to The Morning Hot Tub, partially because they have been entertaining me every morning for more than five years, and partially because they helped me learn a lot today, including: who Lady Godiva is, why she is always depicted in photographs naked and riding on a horse, who the founder of Godiva the chocolate company was, and where the term “Peeping Tom” came from.  What’s more, while I was trying to search for an image of Lady Godiva on the Godiva website, I also found a great cheesecake recipe using Godiva chocolate.  Check it out:
If you want to read more of my blog reviews of Godiva (the chocolates, not the lady), type Godiva into the `Search this Blog`box to the right of this article. 
1.       “Mercia”,
2.       “Legend”,
3.       “History of Godiva”,
4.      Image taken from here.
      5.    Image taken from here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mmmm....sweet milk chocolate!

Okay, seriously, what is up with me lately?  I am in love with milk chocolate.  I think I developed a fierce sweet tooth during my recent pregnancy and I now crave the sweeter stuff more and more.  However, I am still not your average milk chocolate lover, since I tend to crave milk chocolate that is high in cocoa solids and rather low in sugar. But today is a different story.

The two chocolate bars that are sitting in front of me right now are not all that high in cocoa solids and not all that low in sugar, but they are higher quality than your average commercial milk chocolate candy bar. And they do not have much of anything in common, except that they are both considered "milk chocolate".  One is a little 45-gram Cafe-Tasse "Lait" (Milk) chocolate bar with 28 % cocoa solids and the other is an 85 gram Ghirardelli Luxe Milk(R) chocolate bar with an unknown percentage of cocoa solids.  Neither manufacturer specifies the amount of milk solids on the package, which is a bit of a shame because it is a nice-to-know bit of information for the consumer.

The differences in these two chocolate bars outweigh their commonalities. For instance, Cafe-Tasse is made in Belgium by, you guessed it, a Belgium company.  Whereas Ghirardelli is strictly American and made in California. Also, the Ghirardelli chocolate bar includes one extra ingredient that the Cafe-Tasse bar does not have: milk fat.  I wrote about "milk fat" in chocolate a few days ago.  It can cause some people to think of the chocolate as a "candy bar" rather than proper traditional chocolate. But of course, Ghirardelli is marketed in a more commercial way than Cafe-Tasse, with distribution in pharmacies and supermarkets all across the U.S.A., so they must keep their flavour and texture appealing to the general public. I have always found that chocolate with added milk fat tend to be meltier and smoother than other chocolate, so I am sure that is the reason for its inclusion in the ingredients list. I'm not saying that it is right or wrong, and in fact, the definition of fine milk chocolate by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association includes milk fat in the ingredients list (check it out at:

So to compare the taste and texture of these two chocolate bars, the Ghirardelli certainly does melt faster in your mouth than the Cafe-Tasse chocolate.  However, the Cafe-Tasse chocolate bar is a little less sweet and slightly richer in cocoa flavour and in cocoa butter.  The good thing about the Cafe-Tasse bar is the size; I always like a chocolate bar that is small enough to eat in one sitting without any guilt.  On the other hand, the good thing about the larger size of the Ghirardelli Luxe Milk chocolate bar is that there is enough to share.  In fact, I gave half of this bar to my husband.  Either way, both chocolate bars are tasty, but one is a little softer and meltier (Ghirardelli) and the other (Cafe-Tasse) is designed more for the connoisseur with a robust flavour.

So since these two chocolate bars are so very different, you must be wondering why I am comparing them. Well, I happened to have both of them on hand at the exact time that I had a craving for milk chocolate.  And I was craving a sweeter milk chocolate than usual, and these two chocolate bars seemed to be a fit.  The other milk chocolate bars that I had on hand had cocoa solids in the 40% or more range, which just wouldn't do today. So out of mere circumstance, I decided to do a little comparison tasting.

If you are looking for a milk chocolate that is sweet, but not too sweet like in that Cadbury’s or Hershey's candy bar sort of way, either the Ghirardelli Luxe Milk or the Cafe-Tasse Lait chocolate bars just may satisfy your cravings. They both have natural ingredients and no artificial I guess they do have something in common after all.

As always, below are the package details from the chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Ghirardelli Luxe Milk(TM), 3 oz (85g)
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, San Leandro, CA, USA
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, unsweetened chocolate, milk fat, soy lecithin - an emulsifier, vanilla). Manufactured on the same equipment that also makes products containing peanuts and tree nuts.

Cafe-Tasse Lait, 45g (1.58oz)
Ingredients: sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vanilla, emulsifier: lecithin.  May contain traces of nuts and gluten.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chocolate that is out of this world...or at least this continent

It is day #2 of tasting imported British chocolate "candy" bars, and today I am working through a Galaxy Smooth Milk bar. "Smooth Milk" is the right name for it, because it certainly is smooth.  It melts in your mouth and leaves you wanting more chocolate.  I think that is the case with all commercial milk chocolate bars though, isn't it?  Whatever the added ingredients are, they make your mouth water so that you just have to have more.

As for the added ingredients, this chocolate bar includes "milkfat, lactose, whey and vegetable fat", which are what make this a candy bar rather than a chocolate bar. Whatever happened to just the simple ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, milk, cocoa and vanilla? Actually, the Galaxy bar does include real vanilla extract; not the artificial stuff.  So far, I am quite pleased with how these British candy bar manufacturers do not use artificial vanilla (although my sample size only includes a whopping two chocolate bars so far: the Galaxy and the Bournville).

Like the Bournville Classic Dark chocolate bar that I tasted yesterday, the font on the packaging is impossible to read.  The package is brown and reflective and the font colour is super tiny and gold.  So I have to keep angling it away from the light and even then I have trouble reading the ingredients.  It makes me wonder if this was the manufacturer's strategy so that we, the consumers, will give up and not read the ingredients, or if it was just overlooked when they designed a package that was consistent with their brand strategy?

Regardless, the chocolate is tasty in that hey-it's-a-candy-bar-and-kids-love-it kind of way.  Plus, it has real vanilla extract and no artificial colours, so I'd be more inclined to give this to my child to eat when they want a candy bar rather than one with artificial additives. So despite the impossible-to-read packaging, I give this candy bar a thumbs up.  And if you don't value my opinion, I will tell you that my husband and daughter liked it to, and they are certainly the "candy bar" connoisseurs in this household.  

Here are the details that I was able to extract from the package:

Galaxy Smooth Milk, 46g
Mars Chocolate UK Ltd.
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa ingredients (cocoa butter, cocoa mass), skimmed milk powder, milk fat, lactose, whey powder, vegetable fat, emulsifier (soya lecithin), natural vanilla extract. Milk chocolate contains milk solids 14% minimum and cocoa solids 25% minimum.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Bourn" to Eat Chocolate

I picked up a few UK imports the other day at the Bulk Barn just to give them a try. So today I am tasting the Bournville "Classic Dark Chocolate" bar by Cadbury.  Of course, I am not suggesting in any way that this is a high-end gourmet chocolate bar.  It is just your average "Chocolaty Candy Bar" as it says on the sticky label that was added to comply with the Canadian labelling regulations.

Well, what can I say about this chocolate bar?  It tastes like a giant chocolate chip.  So if you really like classic chocolate chips and want to eat more of them in one solid chunk, then buy a Bournville. 

There are only two things missing.  The first is the flavour.  And by that I don't mean that this doesn't taste good.  There is no vanilla or artificial flavour listed in the ingredients, which is unusual.  I am fine with that, actually, because it means that they have left out the artificial flavour ingredients. A commercial candy bar would usually use the unnatural stuff, so I prefer that there is no vanilla rather than artificial vanilla.  Besides, it tastes great without it.

The other thing missing is a larger print size on the label for people with normal, not-so-superhero, eyes.  Seriously, I don't know what the labelling standards are in the UK, but from my packaging experience, I know that this is smaller than our Canadian minimum.  Unfortunately the print on the Bournville packaging is so small that it is nearly unreadable, plus the packaging is shiny and red, so it is really difficult to see if you are not in the correct light or at the correct angle.

After much re-angling of the package and a lot of squinting, I have managed to learn that this chocolate bar was made in France for CadburyTrebor Bassett in Birmingham, U.K.  So there you are, true British chocolate made in France.  I've also learned that you should not always believe the stick-on labels that are added for imported chocolate, because they do not always match what is actually written on the package under the label.  So the original label says the ingredients are: sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, Milk Fat, Emulsifier (soya lecithin). Cocoa solids 39% minimum.  HOWEVER, the Canadian label says the ingredients are: sugar, cocoa mass, palm oil, cocoa butter, soya lecithin., traces of nut, cocoa solids (37%).  Huh?!  What?!  How did the cocoa solids change by 2%?  Did some get lost at sea during transport?  Also, palm oil is extracted from the fruit of palm trees and is NOT milkfat (which, if you care, is also called Butterfat, according to Wikipedia, and is the fatty portion of milk, obviously).  So my question for Cadbury is, which fat is in this chocolate bar?!?  I am assuming it is milkfat since that is what is listed on the original label.  And, this is not Cadbury's fault since they are not the one who imported this chocolate bar to Canada.

Either way, added fat is one of the reasons that this chocolate can be considered a "candy bar" rather than chocolate.  It does add a nice soft melt-in-your-mouth texture to the chocolate, which can lead to eating the whole bar in one minute or less, but it reduces the actual amount of cocoa solids that you are consuming.  Whether it has 37% or 39% cocoa solids, that is hardly "classic dark chocolate".

So my verdict on this chocolate bar?  Tastes great for a sweet treat with your afternoon tea, but don't be fooled by the name on the package...and don't believe what you read on stick-on import labels! Other lessons learned:  #1. Have a magnifying glass handy when reading UK candy bar packaging, and #2. I am still "Bourn" to eat chocolate.

Other details from the package (that are not already listed above):  Oh wait, I can't see them...

Stay tuned because tomorrow I taste another British chocolate candy bar that is "out of this world"... I'd tell you more about it, but I need another 24 hours to decipher the tiny font on the package!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scarfin`a Scharffen

Got a recipe that calls for only the best baking chocolate?  Well, Scharffen Berger has packaged up their 62% dark chocolate just for home bakers like you. There is 275 grams in the package, which will probably only get you through one flourless chocolate cake or cheesecake recipe, but it is better than buying three 100 gram chocolate bars.

The package says it has `soft notes of citrus and honey overtones`.  They also claim to make their chocolate using the best cacao beans in small batches on `vintage European equipment`.  My question is: should vintage equipment make the chocolate better or worse?  Well, whatever the method of making chocolate, they seem to be doing something right because this chocolate tastes great to me. It is smooth and dark, but not too bitter.  So if you don't care to bake with it, I say just eat it!

I tried it out in my usual ganache recipe and it was wonderful.  Bring 2/3 cup of whipping cream to a boil and pour over 9 oz of chopped Scharffen Berger Semisweet 62% (the package has 9.7 oz, so if you don't have a scale just break off one of the scored pieces, which is just under 2oz in size, and use the rest of the package). Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Let set for 8 hours and then form truffle balls or immediately pour over a cake for a lovely chocolatey finishing coat.
Here are the details on this chocolate:
Scharffen Berger(R)  Semisweet Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate, 9.7 oz (225g)
Scharffen Berger(R) Chocolate Maker, Robinsonn, IL, USA
Ingredients: cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, whole vanilla beans.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More Mint and it's Divine!

Looking for some divine mint chocolate?  Well, Divine Chocolate Inc. has just the chocolate bar for you.  I've been trying to work through all the mint-flavoured chocolate in my tasting cabinet lately, and I am so happy that I pulled out this Divine chocolate bar.  On the package, they claim to make "Heavenly Chocolate with a heart", which just means that the chocolate is Fair Trade Certified, and on their website they are more specific in saying that they are 45% farmer owned. 
The Mint Dark Chocolate bar was very easy to eat (or should I say, very easy to eat quickly!).   It is a 70% dark chocolate bar that does not taste as bitter as many 70% bars do.  Plus it has nice little crunchy peppermint crisps in it.  The ingredients are natural, with no artificial flavouring.  It is reminiscent of Camino's Mint Dark Chocolate bar (, which I also like very much, and because it is not only Fair Trade Certified, but also made with Organic ingredients.  If you really like crisps in your peppermint chocolate, you can also try 36 Chocola's Mint Dark Chocolate Thins that are shaped like Pringles and eat like a chip.  They are not organic or Fair Trade, but they are certainly fun to eat.  But watch out, it is also too easy to eat too many of them!

Back to Divine chocolate, it is worth taking some time to visit to their web site. Check out the tasting guide web page - you can learn how to pair Divine chocolate bars with tea, with wine or with beer.  With this information, you can throw one awesome tasting party for your chocolate-loving friends.

Well, another great day satisfying my mint chocolate cravings! 

Here are the pacakge details from the Divine Mint package:

Divine Mint Dark Chocolate, 3.5 oz (100 g)
Imported from Germany & distributed by Divine Chocolate Inc.
Ingredients: cocoa mass*, sugar*, cocoa butter*, peppermint crisp 5% (sugar, peppermint oil), emulsifier: soya lecithin (non GM), peppermint oil, vanilla*. Chocolate contains: Cocoa solids 70% min. *Fair Trade Certified(TM).  Fair Trade Ingredients 94%. Contains Soya.  May contain trces of tree nuts, milk and wheat.

Friday, September 2, 2011

DAGOBA Mint Dark Chocolate with Rosemary: Subtle yet Smooth

Last night I tasted the DAGOBA Organic Chocolate "mint" with dark chocolate, mint & rosemary essence.  It had a nice flavour overall, however the mint was so subtle, I initially had trouble tasting it at all.  The same goes for the rosemary essence - well, I guess that's it, it is just the "essence" of rosemary.  The texture is nice and smooth and a 59% cacao offered a nice balance of sweetness.  Despite the mildness of the flavours, it is a really nice chocolate bar and the perfect size for a snack (2 oz/56 g).

What I also like about this chocolate bar is that it is made from organic ingredients and certified by International Certification Services, Inc. The manufacturers also claim that they "honor" Full Circle Sustainability(TM) principles, which according to them are "quality, ecology, equity and community." If you are curious about what all that means, the next time you buy a Dagoba chocolate bar, open the wrapper and turn it over, you'll learn more about the company than you might care to know. They certainly have found a unique way to fit everything they want to say on one tiny package. 

Here are the details from the package of this chocolate bar:
DAGOBA Organic Chocolate mint (dark chocolate, mint & rosemary essence), 59% cacao, 2 oz/56 g
Dagoba Organic Chocolate (a division of Artisan Confections Company), Ashland, OR, U.S.A.
Ingredients: Organic Dark Chocolate (cacao beans*, cane sugar*, cacao butter*, non-GMO soya lecithin,); peppermint oil*, rosemary oil*, milk* (less than 0.1%).  Allergy Information: Manufactured on the same equipment that processes tree nuts. *Organic.