Thursday, June 26, 2014

Celebrate the 1st Real Weekend of Summer with this Chocolate Beer!

It is always fun to find something chocolaty at the liquor store, and what I found recently was a beer which claimed to have 'double chocolate' in it: Young's Double Chocolate Stout.  Truthfully, I thought it would be disgusting.  But I actually loved it.  It was the perfect drink for a scorching summer day on the patio, and it paired amazingly well with my chocolate-dipped bacon recipe.

The reason why I thought it would be gross was because I thought it would be too chocolaty and that it would perhaps have artificial chocolate flavouring, like many chocolate-flavoured beverages do. And as we know, chocolate and beer do not always mix (they can, but the pairing needs to be dead-on to be enjoyable). But in fact, this beer was very light on chocolate taste (which was real, bye the way), and instead was just a refreshing, great-flavoured stout. 

The BeerAdvocate gave it an "outstanding" score, but listed it as a milk/sweet stout.  I do not know much about beer, but seemed like a semi-dark ale to me! The LCBO's (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) website describes it as "Full & Malty" and the beer maker's website, Well's and Young's Brewing Company, describes it as a "rich, full-flavoured dark beer." But no matter how it is described, it is still great tasting and fantastically refreshing.

So if you are thinking that you want to mix chocolate and beer for this upcoming summer kick-off celebration weekend (Canada Day is on Tuesday - so isn't everyone taking Monday off? Which means this is a long weekend!), check out Well's and Young's website for more information on Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

I bought this at an LCBO in Toronto, Canada a few weeks back for only $3.50 per bottle.  You can learn more about the supply at the LCBO here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Chocolate-Coated Granola - Super Healthy, Super Crunchy, Super Delicious

I picked up a bag of ANITA`s Organic Mill Breakfast Boost the other day, which is a really fantastic granola mix with spelt, almonds, Kamut flakes, and more with a strong hint of cinnamon. Since I am not a cereal-with-milk-in-the-morning kinda girl, I thought it might be more fun to make healthy morning granola bars, with a lot of protein and a chocolaty twist.

These are definitely bitter, but of course, that is what I like. But if you prefer something sweeter, feel free to use an organic semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate coating to sweeten them up. Or add some organic coconut sugar to the granola mix.

Recipe: Homemade Chocolate-Covered Granola Bars

You need:
  • 1 bag of ANITA's Organic Mill Breakfast Boost - Ancient Grains with Raisins and Cranberries
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 3 tbsp. agave
  • 2 egg whites (or whole eggs if you really want it to stick and do not worry about the yolks)

For the Coating:
  • 100 grams of 70% Dark Organic Chocolate (or for something sweeter, milk or white chocolate)

  1. Grease a parchment paper on front and back and place inside a 9"x 13" pan.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Press into a pan.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until starting to brown.
  5. Remove, let cool one minute cut slices in the size you want (1" x 3" for granola bar strips).

Once cooled, pour melted and tempered chocolate onto the bars and spread around. For tempering instructions, click here.

Freeze what you will not eat within 3 days.

Please Note:
As I have mentioned before, I have not been paid by any organization to write posts like this one.  I really like ANITA's Organic Mill Breakfast Boost granola mix, so I wrote about it (without the knowledge of the company).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gnaw Chocolate: Quality Chocolate with 'Fun' as a Main Ingredient

This week I was lucky enough to try two exceptional chocolate bars made by Gnaw Chocolate, a company based in the United Kingdom. The two bars that I tasted were Gnaw Peanut Butter with "chompy chunks of peanutty deliciousness in milk chocolate".  It was one of those chocolate bars that just melts in the mouth with milk chocolate and peanut butter, and offers a nice little crunch from chunks of peanuts. The other was Gnaw's High Cocoa bar with 80% cocoa solids, which was just the perfect treat for me.

I LOVED the High Cocoa chocolate bar with 80% dark chocolate. It was rich and very delicious, and it had none of the bitterness commonly associated with 80% or darker chocolate bars. It is a single origin Brazilian dark chocolate (chocolate made from Brazilian cacao is my new favourite kind!) and I highly recommend it if you are into the darker stuff.

I shared some e-mails with Matt Legon, one of the directors (and founders) of Gnaw Chocolate and I learned that Gnaw is "a company of passionate people striving for excellence and quality within the chocolate industry."  But what's even better is that their vision is to put "fun" into high quality chocolate. And I can honestly say that they have. The branding, marketing, and packaging of their products certainly gives the feeling of fun and the website is completely unique with its cartoony look.

The products are still hand made in their factory in Norfolk, although they are amazingly making over 800,000 products per year, sold in over 20 countries worldwide. You can see their very large selection of chocolate bars on the website here. GNAW also makes a variety of chocolate buttons and hot chocolate shots (on a stick).

I purchased the Peanut Butter and the High Cocoa chocolate bars at McEwans in Toronto.  Find out where you can get your hands on some here: You can also follow them on Twitter: @GnawChocolate.

As usual, here are the package details for the chocolate that I tasted today:

GNAW Peanut Butter, 100g
Gnaw Chocolate
Norwich, Norfolk (U.K.)
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa paste, ground peanuts, peanut butter (15%, soya lecithin, natural vanilla, salt.

GNAW High Cocoa, 100g
Gnaw Chocolate
Norwich, Norfolk (U.K.)
Ingredients: minimum 80% cacao, sugar, soya lecithin, natural vanilla flavour. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When you get that craving for a dark chocolate truffle....try this: Brockmann's Truffini Double Dark

Brockmann's Truffini Double Dark Rich Chocolate Truffle Bar with 'natural' ingredients is rich, as promised on the packaging, and it has a nice, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth centre.

If you get the occasional craving (like I do) for that smooth, truffle centre, this chocolate bar may be just what you need to satisfy that craving.

Unlike the Godiva milk chocolate truffle bar, this chocolate bar is a full 100 grams, which is great for sharing and for consuming over several days. Since it has a mix of coconut oil and butter oil, the centre is a little softer (as compared to when only coconut oil is used) with a slightly buttery flavour.  It is a little on the sweet side, but I suppose that depends on personal preference.

What I really love about this brand (besides being Canadian) is their focus on natural ingredients - not enough manufacturers of chocolate truffle bars focus on being natural these days (too often I pick up a chocolate bar with a 'truffle' or 'mousse' centre and the ingredients include all sorts of horrid things like hydrogenated oil, glucose and high fructose corn syrup and more).

I purchased this chocolate bar at Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong, ON and I have often purchased the Truffini individually wrapped truffles at Loco Beanz Coffee House in Little Current.  You can find out where it is sold near you here. Or you can purchase it online here.

If you are interested in more chocolate truffle bars, check out this other Canadian chocolatier with the Truffle Pigs brand from the same neck of the woods. Their new "Kiss Me" frogs are both adorable and also offer a tasty truffle centre.

To learn about other Canadian chocolate brands, click here.

Here are the package details from the chocolate that I tasted today:

Chocolates Brockmann's Truffini Double Dark Truffle Bar
Brockmann's Chocolate Inc. (Delta, BC)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut oil, butter oil (milk), soy lecithin, natural vanilla. May contain peanuts, tree nuts, sulfites and eggs.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Battle of the 100s: Italy versus France! Venchi versus Les Chocolats de Pauline

If you are one of the few people who like your chocolate pure and completely unsweetened, then you know that it is not easy to find good quality 100% chocolate bars while casually out shopping. You have to know where to shop and likely live in a large city, or you shop for your 100% chocolate online.

I found two chocolate bars, Venchi 100% and Les Chocolats de Pauline 100%, that seemed to be perfect for comparison for the following reasons:
  • Both chocolate bars have 100% cocoa solids (cacao)
  • Both are certified as Organic
  • Both chocolate bars are in the same size (70 grams or 2.46 oz each)
  • Neither has soy lecithin
So the real difference came down to aroma and taste. And that is where they differed immensely.

The Venchi was very palatable for a 100% chocolate - it had a brightness to it, with a bit of floral and fruit flavours (red grape, blueberries) with a woody and smoky aftertaste. It just melted in my mouth and had the feel of a high cocoa-butter chocolate. The chocolate is organic and the beans are from Ecuador (read more about Venchi's organic project in Ecuador here), and Venchi is a well-known brand in the world of fine chocolate.

The Les Chocolats de Pauline bar was harder to palate. It was strong and bitter with a floral and cocoa smell. It was very smooth and had a woody or smoke aftertaste, but it was also acidic. It was like the darkest of a dark espresso, and it left that sort of lingering taste.

And although I was not thrilled with the taste of this 100% dark chocolate, I have to say that all of Les Chocolats de Pauline other products look amazing, and I am excited to someday try all of them.

Les Chocolats de Pauline is dedicated to chocolate maker's (Jean-Michel Mortreau) daughter. He is dedicated to making 'pure' organic chocolate in small batches with real cocoa butter, no soy lecithin and with no added vegetable fats. You can read more of the story here.

Other comparisons between these two chocolate bars:
  • French (Pauline) vs Italian (Venchi) chocolate
  • Les Chocolats de Pauline advertises the organic & compostable nature of their packaging.
  • Les Chocolats de Pauline lists as having added cocoa butter, Venchi simply lists cacao mass from a specified origin (Ecuador), no origin specified on Les Chocolats de Pauline.

So what is the verdict?  If you are planning to eat your 100% dark chocolate straight up, I'd go for the Venchi bar.  If you want to make a rich hot or cold chocolate drink with an uninfluenced and true chocolaty flavour, use Les Chocolats de Pauline 100% bar for that. I made a real hot chocolate with cream, agave, vanilla beans, milk and about an ounce of melted Les Chocolats de Pauline NOIR 100% chocolate and it was delicious.  I also made an iced drink with the same ingredients, but with an espresso added for a boost of energy. 


I found both bars at McEwans specialty food store in Toronto, Ontario, among a fantastic selection of imported chocolate bars.

To learn about other 100% dark chocolate bars, see the following articles:  Pralus vs Bonnat 100%Soma Arcana 100%, and Soma Arcana 100% versus Chuao Arcana 100%.
For 99% cacao dark chocolate bars, click here.
Venchi Biologico (Organic) 100% Cacao Dark Chocolate, 70g (2.46oz)
Venchi S.p.A. (Made in Italy)
Ingredients: Organic Ecuador Cocoa Mass. May contain traces of nuts and milk.
"Gluten Free", also listed as: Cacao fino aromatic Criollo Blanco e nacional Amendolado (white fine aroma criollo beans)
Certified organic by: CCPB S.r.l.

Les Chocolats de Pauline NOIR 100% Cacao san sucre Organic Chocolate, 70g (2.47oz)
Made in France
Ingredients: Cocoa mass*, Cocoa Butter*. Cocoa solids 100%.
*Prganic product, certified by Qualité-France SAS
May contain: tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, egg, wheat and/or all their derivatives.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle of the Organic 70% Chocolate Bars

There are just so many organic chocolate bars to choose from these days.  So how do you choose? Taste. Taste. And taste some more. 

But if you don't have that much time, don't worry because I have the lowdown on all of them. But of course, what I choose to be my favourite might not be your favourite chocolate bar. For instance, I love chocolate made from bold-flavoured cocoa beans.  I prefer Hawaiian beans for their distinct tropical fruit flavours, and I love Brazilian chocolate for its bold whatever-that-flavour-is taste, nor can I forget the strong flavour of Madagascar chocolate.  And although I like chocolate made from Venezuelan beans and appreciate the fine quality, it is almost too neutral for me. 

Neutral tasting chocolate, with minimal environmental flavour influences, tends to suit the larger population in the same way that Shiraz red wine is appreciated by a larger group of people because it is easier on the palate than say, the interesting and bold flavour of a Tempranillo or an old vine Zinfandel wine, or even a bold and dry Cabernet Sauvignon.

So this week I found a 70% Endangered Species chocolate bar at one health food store, and some mini Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate bars at another.

The Green & Black's 70% Organic has a nice, chocolaty aroma and it is highly acidic, with vanilla flavours, spice and overtones of citrus fruit.  With a melt-in-your-mouth quality, it is quite smooth and I find it to be fairly strong in flavour. I really like it.

The Endangered Species 70% bar has a very sweet aroma with a mix of floral and vanilla, and it has a sweet, fruity and bright flavour with low acidity. It is smooth, but not buttery smooth.  I would buy it again if I needed a chocolate fix, but it is not my favourite.  However, if you are transitioning to darker chocolate from something sweeter, or if you prefer a 70% dark chocolate that is on the sweet side, this may be the bar for you.

Other Pros and Cons to consider:

Green & Black's 'minis' come in 35 grams and contains 190 calories - a good serving size if you are trying to control your eating habits.  The chocolate is both Fair Trade and Organic, and easily accessible (if you like it, you can get the 100 gram chocolate bars at many grocery and health food stores. Also, the company specifies that the chocolate is made from the flavourful Trinitario cocoa beans (as opposed to the Forastero type of beans, which most commercial chocolate is made from).

The Endangered Species chocolate comes in a 40 gram bar - still a good size for portion control, but with more calories (240 calories). It is a little less accessible, but still can be found at many health food stores.  It is Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified, which is similar to Fair Trade. A large pro is: "10% of net profits are donated to help support species, habitat and humanity." In fact, you can learn about some of the species on the inside of the wrapper. It is also certified as Gluten Free.

Both bars include organic soy lecithin (so if you are avoiding soy, you will have to look elsewhere). They also both contain organic vanilla.

So who won the battle?  Hmmm...for me it was Green & Black's on taste, likely because they focus on using Trinitario cocoa beans. But I like the mission of the Endangered Species chocolate bars and their flavour range (the Endangered Species milk chocolate with peanut butter appealed to my sweet side!).

Here are the package details on the two chocolate bars that I compared this week:

Green & Blacks ORGANIC 70% Dark Chocolate 35g
Made in the UK.
Ingredients: Organic cocoa mass, Organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, Emulsifier: Soya lecithin, Organic Vanilla. Manufactured in a facility that handles nut, cereal and dairy ingredients.
Fair Trade Certified (info at

Endangered Species Organic Dark Chocolate 70%, 40g
Product of USA (Indianapolis, IN)
Ingredients: Organic dark chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic dried cane syrup, organic cocoa butter, organic soya lecithin, organic vanilla). Contains: soy. May contain: Almonds, hazelnuts, milk, peanuts, pecans.

Chocolate Battles Rage on for the Month of June

In May, I compared Soma's Arcana Chuao 100%
versus Soma's regular Arcana 100%. This battle can be seen here.
This month, I've been battling it out on the tasting table with several different chocolate bars, to help decide what is the better 'buy' between similar chocolates. So for the remainder of the month, in upcoming posts I will be comparing chocolate bars in different percentage ranges (the first will be 70% organic chocolate bars), as well as chocolates made from beans of different origins and chocolate from different manufacturers. The result will hopefully be a guide to what chocolate to buy for eating versus the chocolate that might be best used for other purposes, like in a recipe or a beverage.

So let's get started!  This morning I'll begin with a post that compares 70% organic dark chocolate bars that are commonly found at your local health or bulk food store, or your grocer.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Flourless 'Café au Lait' Truffle Torte Recipe using 'Chef's Blend' Chocolate

This torte is both gluten-free and delicious, and it has very minimal cane sugar in it. I wanted to highlight the richness of Soma's Chef's Blend chocolate couverture, by not baking it into anything, so a buttery truffle filling seemed like just the right choice. And the best part? It tastes like a good, dark roast, chocolaty café au lait on a plate.

Flourless 'Café au Lait' Chocolate Torte

For the crust, you need:
  • 2.5 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes (or sweetened if you want it a bit sweeter for a mixed group of people).
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter

For the truffle, you need:
  • 8 ounces of Soma's Chef's Blend 70% Dark Chocolate (or, if that is out of your price range, another 70% Dark Chocolate, such as President's Choice 300 gram baking bar, which works well in this recipe too).
  • 1/2 cup of espresso beans
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/3 cup of whipping cream (or heavy cream)
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt

For the Whipped Coffee Cream, you need:

  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1 to 2 tsp of instant coffee (a dark roast, like Starbucks works well) or pulverized espresso beans.
  • 1/4 cup of Dulce de Leche or other caramel sauce (optional)
  • 1 ounce of melted Chef's Blend Chocolate or other dark chocolate.


To make the crust...
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8" baking pan with a round of parchment paper.  Grease under and on top of the parchment paper, as well as up the sides of the pan.
  3. Melt your butter in a medium bowl over a double boiler (or in the microwave if your bowl is microwave-safe), then toss in the coconut flakes and stir. Add the coconut sugar and stir until mixed.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan until firm and flat.  You can press it up the sides if you want it to be more like a 'pie'.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 12 minutes, until the coconut is starting to toast and turn brown.
  6. Take it out of the oven and let cool. Then refrigerate until chilled (about an hour).

To make the truffle filling:
  1. Crush your espresso beans by placing them in a Ziplock bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin or, use a small single-blade coffee grinder to lightly grind the beans (just a few pulses! The espresso must be coarse so that you do not get too many small grounds in your truffles).
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the butter, the crushed espresso beans and the salt.
  3. Heat on medium until the mixture melts and is hot (do not let boil).  Take it off the heat and let sit for 15 minutes until the coffee is steeped.
  4. Chop the chocolate into 1" or slightly smaller pieces and place in a medium mixing bowl (stainless steel or glass bowl is great).
  5. Reheat the cream over medium-high until it is nearly boiling (but not boiling) and immediately pour over the chocolate.  Stir with a wooden (or large plastic) spoon until all the chocolate melts, it is lump-free and completely mixed.
  6. Immediately pour onto the crust inside the 8" baking pan.
  7. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
  8. Once chilled, remove it from the fridge and run a knife around the sides. Carefully remove it from the pan and place on a serving plate. Put it back in fridge while you prepare the whipped topping.

To make the Whipped Coffee Cream:

  1. Chill your mixing bowl and a beater for 15 minutes in the refrigerator (or stick it in the freezer for a few minutes only).
  2. Beat the cream on high until it is thick and has very soft peaks.
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes on medium power and stir until just melted (or over a double boiler - take off heat while still lumpy and stir until just melted).
  4. Pour the chocolate and the instant coffee powder into the cream while whipping on medium high until peaks are stiff, but still smooth.  If it is starting to look lumpy - stop mixing!
  5. Either simply use a spatula to place onto the truffle & coconut torte, swooshing to create pretty peaks OR use a pastry bag to put whatever design you like.  You might find too much cream overwhelming, so you can just use a thin layer (about 1" thick) and freeze the remainder of the cream (it is a great tasting frozen treat!).
  6. Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice and serve it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

CHOCOLATE AMATLLER - Perfectly portioned bars of deliciousness!

After having visited Barcelona, I know that art is a huge part of the every day life in that city. So when I saw the beautiful illustrations displayed on the packaging and website of the Chocolate AMATLLER brand, from Barcelona, I was not surprised.

The two 'single origin' chocolate bars that I tasted were: a 70% Cacao made from Ghana cocoa beans and an 85% dark chocolate made from beans of Ecuador. Both were very smooth (AMATLLER focuses on using the best technologies and techniques to produce fine chocolate) and had a fantastic melt-in-your mouth quality. And at 18 grams (0.63 oz), I found the chocolate bars to be perfectly portioned. What`s more, neither product included soy lecithin or any additives other than cocoa mass and sugar.

The 85% Cacao Ecuador bar is made of Forastero beans (Ecuadorian Arriba), but a fine flavour quality. I felt there was a strong vanilla flavour to it (although there is no vanilla in the chocolate) and I found it to be rich and absolutely delicious, with a bright flavour and no heavy acidity or bitterness.

The 70% Cacao Ghana chocolate bar was fruitier than the 85% Ecuador bar.  I liked it a lot, but I preferred the 85% bar (which is strange because I usually prefer a 70% chocolate over an 85%).

Chocolate AMATLLER also makes a white and milk chocolate, other origin bars, and also other types of chocolates in beautiful tins and packaging. Learn more here.

I purchased these two chocolate bars at McEwan's in Toronto.

Here are the package details:

Chocolates Simon Coll, S.A. (Barcelona, Spain)

Chocolate Negro 70% Cacao Ghana
Ingredients: Cocoa mass and sugar. Cocoa solids: 70% minimum.

Chocolate Negro 85% Cacao Ecuador
Ingredients: cocoa mass and sugar. Cocoa solids: 85% minimum.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Candied Bacon Dipped in Chocolate & Chocolate-Bacon Bark - Two great recipes with the same ingredients!

Making candied bacon is surprisingly easy, and can be made in many different ways. Dipping it in chocolate was my own twist...and it is one of those few 'desserts' that pairs amazingly well with beer!

I found a few recipes for candied bacon online, including Guinness-flavoured and Sweet & Spicy.  I decided to pull from several recipes in order to reduce the heat (for a broader audience). And it worked out well.

Chocolate-Dipped Candied Bacon Recipe

You need:
  • 1 package (lb) of bacon (I used the stuff with 'natural' ingredients)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (I used Camino Organic and Fair Trade Whole Brown Sugar, also called Muscovado - it is less processed and healthier)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (you can increase the heat by using more cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup of water
For dipping & topping...
  • 8 ounces of Milk Chocolate (I used Cacao Barry's Organic Milk Chocolate with 38% cocoa solids, but you could use a President's Choice, Joe's Brand or Lindt milk chocolate available at the grocery store).
  • A pinch of chunky sea salt
Instructions to Make the Candied Bacon:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a pan with foil and then place a metal cooling rack on top.
  3. Mix together the cayenne pepper, water and muscovado brown sugar.
  4. Brush the rack with butter or oil to prevent sticking.
  5. Place as many slices of bacon as you can fit without overlapping on the rack.
  6. Brush the mixture on the top side of the bacon.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Take it out, flip over the bacon with tongs and then brush the top side of the bacon with the mixture. Bake for 10 more minutes - up to 12, but check it to be sure it doesn't burn (the thin pieces might!).
  8. Take out and remove each piece immediately from rack, placing it on waxed paper on a plate (it will stick if you use paper towel).  Let cool completely - dab wet spots from fat with towel if any remain. Follow the same process to candy the remaining bacon. You will have enough mixture to do one more package of bacon if you choose.
Instructions for Dipping:
  1. Melt and temper 8 ounces of milk chocolate (follow the proper tempering method here).
  2. Cut each piece of bacon in half and dip it in the chocolate. Place the dipped pieces on fresh waxed paper and immediately sprinkle lightly with sea salt (optional). Let cool until set.
  3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve!

Milk Chocolate Bacon Bark:
  1. Make the candied bacon as instructed above.
  2. Melt and temper the chocolate as instructed above.
  3. Cut the bacon into small bits and stir about 1 cup into the melted chocolate.
  4. Immediately pour out onto a large piece of waxed paper and quickly spread around with a spatula until you have very thin pieces.  Lightly sprinkle the sea salt on top. Let set on counter or in fridge (if your kitchen is above 21 degrees C). Once set, break up in to pieces. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Here are a few other recipes for candied bacon: