Tuesday, August 28, 2018

RAAKA Virgin Chocolate's 1st Nibs Subscription: Double Fermented versus Single Fermented Cacao

If you love to discover new ways to enjoy chocolate, love to learn about chocolate making though sensory analysis, and to compare how chocolate flavours are affected by changes to cacao processing, then I suggest you try Raaka Virgin Chocolate`s 1t Nibs Subscription, August 2018 selection. There are just a few days left in August, so be quick and get to Raaka`s website! You can buy the box here: https://www.raakachocolate.com/collections/first-nibs-monthly-chocolate-subscription .

It comes with ice packs, in an insulated envelope, with the chocolate bars wrapped in a lovely drawstring bag. This would make a wonderful gift for a wannabe chocolate connoisseur, or a wine tasting enthusiast (who talks about 'terrior' and 'flavour notes' and also likes chocolate.

So why is this subscription box so great for me? Well, I loved the learning and discovery aspect to this curated selection of bars. Raaka has taken one of their cacaos (Zorzal Cacao from the Dominican Republic) and conducted an experiment: they made one 75% dark chocolate bar from the cacao. Then they did a "carefully controlled secondary natural fermentation" of a portion of same batch of cacao. Raaka then made one batch of chocolate bars from the single fermented cacao (cacao that is fermented in the Dominican Republic), then made a second batch of chocolate from the cacao that was fermented a second time in Raaka's factory in Brooklyn, New York. They say that the secondary fermentation reduces the sugars in the cacao while "leveling up the maltiness and more pronounced chocolaty notes".  Raaka also threw in a third Guatemala-origin chocolate bar made with cacao from the 2017 Harvest of 40 small farms in San Juan Chivite, a small village in Guatemala that is only accessible by a wooden suspension bridge. Together, these three bars made for a perfect taste comparison package.

So what were the results in taste?
Single Fermented Cacao, 75% Zorzal Cacao Dominican Republic
My day 1 of tasting offered tart lemony notes, and tart un-ripened cherry, yet day 2 produced mild dried fruit, perhaps dried apricot and raw almond. For some reason the texture had a slight grit,  but there had been a little bloom on this bar in comparison to the other two in the package. I hadn't taken note of its position within the package, but being up on an Island in Northern Ontario, it had likely taken a little longer for the package to reach me, and the ice pack was no longer cold inside the package. I also jogged home with the package, when I should have driven it home to prevent further risk of bloom on the bars. But somehow, I get the feeling the textural aspect to this chocolate is not from the slight bloom, because the slight grit seems to linger on the melt.  Overall, it falls flat in comparison to the double fermented cacao bar.

Double Fermented Cacao, 75% Zorzal Cacao Dominican Republic
This chocolate was very different than the first: robust, well-rounded favour, a good level of acidity, and pronounced fruit. Still some lemony flavour on the melt (like watered-down lemonade), but with a lemon tang that lingers long after the flavour is gone. I agree with the tasting notes provided by Nate Hodge, Head Chocolate Maker, that the bar has notes of rich chocolate fudge. A note was provided on the package of this being a "more mellow bar", which doesn't sit quite right with me, since this chocolate seems to have a much fuller, richer flavour.

If Raaka is considering choosing one chocolate over the other, definitely the Double Fermented Cacao is the best choice for a unique, beautiful flavour.

Guatemala (Asochivite, 2017 Harvest, 75%)
On the first day of tasting, this chocolate was so fruity, full of prune and raisin, in fact it reminded me of raisins soaked in rum. This was very enjoyable.

So again, if you want to get in on this subscription box, there are just days left to buy it! Go to https://www.raakachocolate.com/collections/first-nibs-monthly-chocolate-subscription to learn more, and www.raakachocolate.com to see what else this awesome low-roast chocolate maker has to offer.

Bloggers Note:
I purchased this box with my own money, and no encouragement or incentive from Raaka. Just me trying something new (like I always do), trying to learn more about chocolate from a maker that I have always respected.

Friday, August 10, 2018

FOSSA Chocolate, Silkiki Coconut Milk, and Zotter's Dry-Aged 75%: A Chocolate Tasting Round-Up

Summertime is super busy for me, making chocolate and chocolate desserts for the tourists that flock to Manitoulin Island during this season. And because of how much time I spend in my commercial kitchen, I am unable to tell you about all the amazing craft chocolate that I still taste on a weekly basis. But I thought I should etch out a little time this week to give you a round-up before I let these interesting chocolate finds pass into the zone of "um...I think I tasted that once."

So here is what I've been tasting so far this summer...

Solkiki Gran Nativo Coconut Dark Milk 63%, 56g

This was my first time tasting a Solkiki chocolate bar, and I was not disappointed, the coconut flavour was surprisingly subtle (I've tasted many coconut milk bars where the coconut milk flavour was too strong and, well, gross. This was not one of those bars, this was delicious).  The milk chocolate texture was smooth and slightly creamy - not overly creamy, but enough to be quite pleasant. The milk chocolate taste was refreshing and bright, and the bar notes referred to "notes of pina colada". The hint of coconut might contribute to that. Also, the 63% cocoa solids do not make this bar bitter at all, it is still clearly 'milky' in taste, and sweet tasting for a high percentage dark-milk chocolate.

So if you are looking to taste a coconut milk chocolate - or any vegan milk chocolate with no dairy - but are afraid of strong coconut flavours, go ahead and try this one, because it is quite good. And the International Chocolate Awards judges agree, because Solkiki won a 2017 Silver award for this bar.

Solkiki is a British chocolate maker specializing in vegan chocolate. Check this bar out on their website, or buy it online on CocoaRunners: https://cocoarunners.com/shop/solkiki-gran-nativo-63-coconut-dark-mylk/

FOSSA 70% Dark PAK EDDY, Indonesia, 35 g

FOSSA Chocolate, Singapore's first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, seem to be turning up everywhere on Instagram lately, so I was excited to try this bar and enjoy a first taste experience with this chocolate maker. This Indonesian-origin chocolate bar offered a smoky taste with a good, dark chocolate flavour. The flavour was complex and very interesting, with almond, and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. The quality was also good, and no noticeable strange textures. According to the chocolate package, 'PAK EDDY' as the bar is named, stands for 'Uncle Eddy', which is the local term used for the farmer who "personally cultivated, fermented and dried" the beans in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

FOSSA is getting noticed for their interesting flavour combinations, like Salted Egg Cereal (including salted egg yolk, cereal and curry leaves), White Sesame & Seaweed, Sake, and the one that seems to get the most notice: Shrimp & Bonito.

So I definitely look forward to my next FOSSA taste experience. Check them out on Instagram @fossachocolate and online at: https://www.fossachocolate.com/.

Zotter Labooko Vintage 2016 Dry Aged 75%, 70g

Even after reviewing the information provided by Zotter, I am still not sure I understand the "Dry Aged" claim, since both cocoa beans and chocolate need to be dry to age. Their packaging states that the "vintage chocolate" was "dry aged for a year in order to mature the cocoa aroma." However, the website says" a superior cuvĂ©e made of dry-aged fine flavour cocoa". So the packaging makes it sound like the chocolate was dry aged, and the website makes it sound like the cocoa beans were dry aged.

Now, if the beans were dry-aged, (which I am going to assume is the case, because chocolate can't really be wet to age unless a chocolate maker wanted to spend some serious money on electricity to keep it in a constant melted state), then I suppose that is different than larger chocolate makers who might use their beans as soon as they get them in. However, many smaller craft chocolate makers use their supply over time (i.e. order beans once per year), or order from a supplier that stores the beans in a warehouse for as long as a year, so I suppose many chocolate makers are dry-aging the chocolate but not labelling it a such, and rather just placing different batch numbers on the chocolate.

This aging process will cause a taste difference from batch to batch, but how much difference is hard to say. I have bars of my own made from aged cocoa beans, and they do taste different from the bars that I saved that were made from beans of the same harvest, but made closer to the harvest date. It is hard to say how much the flavor is influenced by the length of aging of the bars themselves, and how much is influenced by the age of the beans, or a change in cocoa butter, roast profile, etc.

Either way, and no matter how they spin it, this chocolate is truly tasty. It is rich in chocolate flavour, a complex flavour that comes from a blend of five fine flavour cocoa bean varieties grown in four different cocoa-growing countries. It hits different markers of flavour: fruit, nut, cocoa taste, caramel, and a pronounced-yet-balanced acidity that creates a perfect bitterness level for dark chocolate.

I truly enjoyed this chocolate bar. I recommend you give it a try. This year, they plan to release a 2017 Vintage edition, so watch out for that. Learn more on the European Zotter website at: https://www.zotter.at/en/online-shop/brands/labooko/detail/product/75-vintage-2016-dry-aged.html. If you are in the US, you can order online here. or got to: https://www.zotterusa.com/.

And that's a 'round-up' for this week folks! I am hoping to find a little time next week to post a recipe or two that I've been working on this summer, so stay tuned...