Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Chocolate of the Day (Day 2): Malagos Chocolate 72%

Today I was sampling the last piece of a chocolate bar that I opened before Christmas. I bought it at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November, and have been carefully wrapping and unwrapping it to sample a few bites ever since. And each time I do this, I have an opportunity to think about how truly sweet and chocolaty this bar is.

The chocolate bar is a 72% Single Origin Dark Chocolate made by Malagos Chocolate, a chocolate maker based in Davao, Philippines. This is a tree-to-bar operation, and is a part of the growing trend of made-at-origin chocolate. The beauty of making chocolate in the country where it is grown, is that the money made from converting the beans to chocolate can stay within the country, the region, and in some cases within the farmers pockets if they are both growing the cacao and making the chocolate. It benefits the people of the origin country, and unlike the chocolate of our past, the people in cacao-growing countries can see, taste and understand what is being made from the cacao beans that they harvest.

When I was at the festival in Seattle, I had a chance to meet one of the farmers - a woman - who produces the cacao for this chocolate. She was a beautiful woman, and certainly changed the image in my mind of what a 'farmer' looks like. And she was an all around delight to chat with over lunch. This may be why I was so excited to later visit the Malagos booth, and to buy some of their chocolate.

I was surprised by the lovely flavour of the chocolate. It was sweet for a 72%, and seemed to lead with cacao and sugar, rather than a creamy cocoa butter taste. The chocolate was mild and low in acidity, and held just hints of raisin or date flavour, coconut, some floral flavours and a little nuttiness. There was no vanilla added to the chocolate, and I found the pure flavour of the beans did not need it, with the sweet profile of the chocolate and easy-on-the-palate taste.

I suppose I should not have been surprised by the sweetness and mildness of the chocolate flavour, having just experienced Davao-grown beans first-hand when I received samples of organic cacao beans from the Philippines, and made a dark chocolate from them (read more about that here). The flavour profile of my chocolate was similar and also on the sweet side, with low acidity, compared to other origin chocolates.

Overall, this chocolate is really enjoyable - a widely like-able flavour, like the Shiraz of chocolate. If you want to taste it too, visit http://malagoschocolate.com to learn more. They also make unsweetened baking chocolate, which has a tasty flavour in chocolate recipes.

For my fellow chocolate makers, Malagos also sells dried, fermented cacao beans. Learn more about the beans here.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: Just Another One in 300 of Zotter Chocolates

I am trying something new this week. I am planning to tell you about my favourite chocolate from each of my daily tastings. Yup, that's right: I eat chocolate every day. No shocker here. I start every day with a tasting, before eating anything that can affect my palate. I choose the daily tasting by pairing them up into categories, like 70% dark, 85% dark, dark-milk chocolate, same origin, etc. And since I do this every day, I have a lot of chocolate bars piling up that I haven't had the time to write about on the blog. So this week, and possibly next, I am planning to tell you about these chocolate bars each day. Or at least my most beloved chocolate of the morning. 

Today, I've chosen one of Zotter Chocolate's pairing pack of bars. I started out heading for the box of very dark chocolate bars this morning, and then quickly realized that I truly wanted something a little creamier. So I pulled out Zotter's 2-pack of dark-milk chocolate bars with 50% cocoa solids.  Inside was one Nicaragua origin chocolate bar, and one Ecuador origin chocolate bar. These both were made with the same ingredients (raw cane sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, full cream powder, salt, vanilla), except the cocoa beans came from different origins. Because of this, the taste and colour of the chocolate had very different results.

The Nicaragua had a darker shade, much like a 'dark chocolate' might with just a slightly milky, and to me, a taste of light liquor and a little spice, likely from a slightly more acidic bean and perhaps a little fresh fruit flavour. It was very creamy, full of cocoa butter texture. And this morning, I found an aftertaste of lemon liquor.

The Ecuador 50% looked like a milk chocolate and had an upfront creaminess that was heavenly. It also reminded me of the taste of real-cream milk chocolate truffles, like the ones I often make with a 45% dark rich milk chocolate. There was no acidity or spice-like texture, and just a wonderful flavour of cream and chocolate.

So which did I like better? I suppose the Nicaragua was very interesting for its perkier spice and fruit flavours, but the Ecuador dark-milk was absolutely decadent. If I had to go back to just one for more, it would be the Ecuador 50%. But overall, I loved the concept applied by Zotter: two bars in one box, enabling me to choose, to compare, and to learn all at once.

What a treat to start off a cold Monday on Manitoulin Island. Have a great day everyone!

Join me tomorrow to see what chocolate will perk up the Tuesday blues.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Four Venezuelan Cocoa Beans: A Review of the Beans and the Resulting Chocolate

I was recently sent samples of Venezuelan cocoa beans by a supplier: Casa Franceschi. The company is dedicated to the production and commercialization of cacao beans from Venezuela since 1830. They pay careful attention to harvesting and post-harvesting methods in order to "seize the best flavors from the best genetics." Casa Franceschi exports cocoa beans from several regions in Venezuela, and other countries. They sent me four featured origins all from Venezuela, including: Ocumare, Patanemo, Piaora and Sur del Lago.

In order to review these beans, I had to make chocolate! I hand shelled all four batches (I have a winnower now to remove the shells, but hand shelling teaches a lot about the beans), and then I made four different single origin 70% dark chocolate bar batches out of all the beans. The chocolate has now aged by a few weeks and been moulded into bars. So I can spend a little time reflecting on these beans and sharing the results with you and my fellow chocolate makers who are interested in offering Venezuelan origin chocolate, or selling cacao beans for eating or brewing.

Admittedly, I refined for only 24 hours, until the chocolate was smooth and very palatable. I did not conche or extend refining time because I had four origins to deal with, and needed to focus my time on my current line-up of products, but I found little acidity to worry about in all four origins, and thus 24 hours seemed to be enough to get a good idea of how these beans taste in chocolate form.

Overall, I quite liked the results of all four origins. I couldn't pick a favourite, although at first I was leaning towards the Patanemo chocolate for its fruitiness, but then I became quite attached to the bold and complex flavour of the resulting Ocumare origin chocolate, even though the beans were slightly troublesome to sort. I loved the Piaora beans - they were very big, easy to shell (by hand and with the winnower) and quite tasty.  The beans were all similar in some ways, meaning there is a nice low acidity level, some fruitiness to each bean (Ocumare falling more on the nutty side, and having slightly more balance in acidity). There was only slight colour variations with Patanemo having the lightest and most unique colour. Any one would be a good addition to a product line and a great representation of Venezuelan chocolate.

My review on each bean, how it was to work with, and the resulting chocolate that I made from each type of bean is organized into the chart below. I've included some of the information provided to me as well, including bean type, fermentation, etc.

Bean type + fermentation
Review of beans
Review of Taste
Ocumare de la Costa, North Central Region
Trinitario with “light Criollo blood”, Fine Premium F1, Controlled Fermentation
Tough to shell (slightly sticky shells), quite a bit of sorting required.
Makes a very complex and lovely chocolate, but the bean can be a little harsh on the palate to consume directly, compared to the others. Ideal when made into chocolate, but perhaps not ideal to sell as an eating bean.
Balanced-if-slightly-high acidity, unique and interesting flavour, boldest of the four origins in such a good way. Perhaps a little nutty and earthy, a dark caramel taste, and definitely some fruit taste, citrus and orange with some berry - the fruit shows up especially after tasting the Piaora.
Patanemo, North Coastal Region
Trinitario with “light Criollo blood”,  Fine Premium F1, Controlled Fermentation
Easy to work with, most palatable bean if packaging for consumption as is, in whole bean or nib form (for sprinkling on food, etc.). Would also be good as a brewing bean.
Strongest fruit flavour of all four origins. Bright, full of berry and red fruit, while a little astringent. Reminds me a little of that fruity-yet-astringent Guatemala bean that has been making the rounds in craft chocolate recently, but this is much more pleasant on the palate. It is quite enjoyable.

Piaora, Amazonas, North Southern Region, isolated community, can only harvest 6 mo’s a year.
‘Wild Cacao’, Trinitario, F1, Natural Fermentation
Beautiful beans. Large, easy to shell. Palatable, but just a little harsh at first - makes an interesting chocolate though. So perhaps not ideal for selling as nibs or for brewing.
Possibly the most neutral flavour, yet some citrus and cocoa powder flavour, but all creamy in texture. Other than a general citrus/lemon taste from the mild acidity, no other fruit flavours, just earthy, woody and wonderfully powerful.
Sur del Lago, Merida – South Western Region
Trinitario Cacao with “high Criollo blood”, Natural Fermentation, Fine Premium F1 type
Very easy to shell (shells released easily), many large beans, but careful sorting was required.  The remaining beans were quite tasty on their own, very palatable for eating as is.
Bold flavour, perhaps some astringency at first taste, but certainly interesting with lingering fruit and acidity. Creamy chocolate taste on the finish.

If you are interested in any of the Venezuelan cacao beans reviewed above, contact Pedro E. Rojas R. at projas (at) casafranceschi.com or visit www.casafranceschi.com for more information.  Casa Franceschi also supplies beans of other origins, including Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica.
You can also taste chocolate made from some of these beans (Sur del Lago and Ocumare) made by award-winning chocolate makers, Franceschi Chocolate (http://www.franceschichocolate.com/en/).  They make a range of delicate and delicious 60% dark chocolates from a variety of Venezuelan origin beans.
Any questions or comments? Please feel free to add to the Comments below this post.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Brown Butter: The Flavour Taking Over American Chocolate

Brown butter chocolate bars seem to be popping up all over the place in the American craft chocolate industry lately. And I just want to say, after having tasted a few of them, I am all for this trend.

If you work with chocolate, you'll know that you can add a little oil or fat (such as coconut oil or olive oil) and temper it into chocolate to give the chocolate a softer, more melt-in-your-mouth texture. This technique can be used for chocolate chunks in ice cream, so they still melt in your mouth when frozen. With more oil added, you can get the texture of a meltaway truffle - basically the texture a Lindor Truffle centre. The oil also has a fairly long shelf life, which is why it is used instead of cream or fresh butter for store bought truffles.

Butteroil is the same. It has a long shelf life, and can therefore be incorporated into solid chocolate bars. And this is the ingredient used by some chocolate makers who are creating these delicious 'brown butter' bars. Pure butter would have too much cream in it and risk the shelf life (putting it at a month or so).  Another option is 'butter powder', which can be incorporated into chocolate, much like milk powder is to make a milk chocolate bar, which would make it less melty in texture, but still include the taste of real butter.

In the case of the chocolate bar that I tasted recently made by XOCOLATL de David, this 72% Cacao Ecuador origin chocolate bar was soft, and melty, and salty, and delicious. The XOCOLATL website tells us that the butter is cooked to remove the remaining liquids (cream) and also to "caramelize the remaining milk solids". This essentially leaves a butteroil that has a longer shelf life and can be incorporated into chocolate. It contributes the delectable melt-in-your-mouth feature of this chocolate bar, making it pretty much irresistible.

If you want to try other Brown Butter bars, check out Fruition Chocolate's 43% Brown Butter milk chocolate bar. This is the only milk chocolate bar that I have found in the 'brown butter' category. And given how long it has been since I tasted it, I suspect Fruition was the first to launch a brown butter chocolate bar.

Award-winning and California-based Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate just released a new 73% Brown Butter chocolate bar with nibs and sea salt. This bar is so new, in fact, it will start shipping on Monday! You can't go wrong with a Dick Taylor chocolate bar, so I am sure it will be fantastic.

And for those who want something in an affordable price range, while also being organic and fair trade, try the salt-ily delicious Alter Eco 70% Brown Butter chocolate bar. It has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes it sinfully delicious, and takes 70% dark chocolate to a new level.

Brown Butter Truffles Recipe

For a delicious sweet and savoury treat, try these Brown Butter dark chocolate truffles!

You need:
-8 oz semi-sweet chocolate (about 50% to 60% dark chocolate), chopped into 1/2" squares
-1/2 cup butter
-1/3 cup whipping cream
-cocoa powder for dusting (or melted, tempered chocolate for dipping)


  1. Place the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Place your butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat.  Cook, stirring often until it boils and browns. Just when the butter begins to brown, remove from heat.
  3. Add the cream to the cooked butter, then place the pot back on the stovetop. Heat on medium-high until it just reaches the boiling point.
  4. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate.
  5. Stir the chocolate mixture until smooth, slowly and being mindful to keep the spoon on the bottom of the bowl to prevent excess air bubbles.
  6. Once smooth, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 8 hours or overnight to `set`.
  7. Once set, scoop out teaspoonfuls of chocolate truffle and roll between the palm of hands to form balls. Roll in cocoa powder to finish them, or dip in melted, tempered chocolate.
  8. Keep stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze.

If you find other Brown Butter chocolate bars, or have a great recipe for brown butter and chocolate, tell us about it in the comments below! Or connect on Twitter (@ultimatelychoc), on Instagram (@ultimatelychocolate) or on Facebook.