Aequare 55% Chocolate Bar

In addition to some delicious dark chocolate cocoa beans, Aequare also sent me an assortment of their handmade single-origin bars for free sampling. Today’s review is of their 55% semi-sweet.

According to their website, the beans that went into this bar came from Aequare’s grower in Quevedo, Ecuador and their summer 2008 harvest. How’s that for precise! I can’t remember if that was stamped on the box or not, but I think it should be. It would be a neat marketing gimmick.

The chocolate bar itself is nicely presegmented into tasting-sized squares. There’s a nice snappiness when the bar is broken apart. The color is a lovely medium brown with a nice, smooth sheen, and while the melt isn’t thick, it is silky soft with just a bit of tongue-coating-ness in the finish.

Flavorwise, it’s brightly sweet with great complexity. There’s a bold fruitiness that lingers in the finish, which also has just a hint of bitter/astringent cocoa notes.

It’s absolutely lovely, thanks to its pleasant texture and intriguing complexity. It blows every other bittersweet/semisweet chocolate that I’ve had in this cacao percentage-range out of the water. A ZOMG!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for friends and family and loved ones. And candy and sweets and having a job with good dental insurance.

I hope you’re having a lovely Thanksgiving, whether you’re gorging yourself on turkey and pies or just enjoying a day off from work. And if you have to work, I’m so sorry! But at least you won’t have to wince at your scale tomorrow!

Image from happytime106’s Webshots Cakes & Cookies album

Vacation time! And The Economist takes on Nestle

Dear Readers,

I’ve taken the week off of work for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I’m taking the week off from writing reviews as well. Instead, you’ll get a news post every day this week. I’ll be back on Nov 30 with more reviews.

To kick of the week in candy news, here’s a long piece from the Economist on the business and ethics of Nestle, which is trying to market itself as a “wellness” brand. It reminds me of a course I took called the Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food, taught by Professor Kelly Brownell. We had a guest lecturer from Pepsi-Co who discussed similar efforts by his company to “healthify” itself.

Milka Joghurt

Today’s review comes courtesy of my roommate, Celeste, who was kind enough to bring me a German chocolate bar that she bought in Boston. I’ve seen the Milka brand in stores, but I’d never tried them before, and I’d definitely never tried their Joghurt flavor.

As best I can tell, the Joghurt bar is not manufactured for U.S. markets (this bar was an import. Note the German on the wrapper), and that’s a huge shame, as it’s ridiculously good. It’s “I’m almost glad it’s hard to find because otherwise I’d eat it all the time, but gosh, I wish I could eat it all the time” good.

Basically, it’s Milka’s “Alpine milk chocolate” surrounding a yogurt-flavored filling. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy, with strong caramel notes. It’s tongue-coatingly thick.

Then POW, the yogurt flavor comes through. It’s bright and sour, like good quality plain yogurt turned up to 11. That sour tinge wipes the palate clean and readies you for more. Texturewise, it’s soft and creamy and pliable, though it doesn’t coat the tongue as well as the chocolate does.

The milk chocolate is a little too sweet for my liking, but in this bar, that actually makes it better. It provides a stronger foil for the sour yogurt taste, and it makes the yogurt effect that much more enjoyable. The two flavors don’t mesh; instead, they play off each other and, to borrow a corporate buzzword, synergize to make something that’s even better than the sum of its parts.

This bar is incredible. And Celeste is incredible to be generous enough to give me a whole bar. If I ever have the good fortune to come across it myself, I’m stocking up. A ZOMG!

Two unusual truffle recipes

The first: rethinking a PB&J, or rethinking what constitutes a truffle? Here’s a so-ridiculously-simple-it’s-a-must-try recipe for PB&J “truffles”. Basically, food process a PB&J sandwich until it turns to dough, shape it into a truffle, coat it in something else that is tasty, and enjoy. It would totally be on my to-try recipe list, except I don’t own a food processor.

The second: a truffle recipe that calls for white chocolate, lemon zest, and pistachios.  Less unusual than a truffle made from sandwich, but still not an all that common recipe.

Derry Church Artisan Chocolates – Part II

Here’s part two of my review of my free sample of Derry Church Artisan Chocolates (continued from Monday). Today, we’ll review the Plymouth, Savannah, Tangier, and Veracruz. [Note: All text in quotes is taken from the website descriptions]

The Plymouth was “a smooth, creamy pumpkin caramel with just a hint of pumpkin pie spice, then piped into an excellent, intense European bittersweet chocolate mould.” The mould itself was a gorgeous swirly square with two-tones of chocolate.

It smelled like pumpkin pie spice. The soft, creamy ganache inside tasted just like pumpkin pie with a strong clove finish. I love all things pumpkin (including pumpkin chili – seriously, it’s delicious!), and I greatly enjoyed this.

The Savannah “starts with fresh, ripe peaches (whenever possible) [that’s] reduced to a thick, sticky-sweet puree and blended into a fine European white chocolate ganache [and piped] into a fine European bittersweet chocolate cup, [all] topped with a brown sugar and toasted oat crumble mixture, and drizzled with… more white chocolate.” Phew!

This tasted just like dessert – a wonderful peach crumble or sweet peach jam. The oat crumble topping was like an oatmeal cookie, and the flavors played off nicely against the cute little chocolate shell. It made me rethink what a truffle could be, and that’s a good thing.

The Tangier had an “African honey and tangerine juice reduction… ground, toasted cumin, and the zippy heat of the cayenne chili.”

If I remember correctly, the inside of this had two layers, a gooey honey/caramel and a creamy chocolate ganache (my tasting notes say caramel plus ganache). It tasted sweet with overtones of orange oil. The chocolate and orange flavors went together nicely, but I didn’t get any cumin or spice notes, which could’ve elevated this to another level.

Last, but not least, the Veracruz: organic cream infused with vanilla beans, which is then turned into a white chocolate ganache that’s piped into a bittersweet base. As the website description brags, “You can actually see the vanilla seeds throughout the ganache!

The ganache had a thick frosting-like texture to it. It tasted strongly of genuine vanilla, but it was also rather cream cheesy. Unexpected, but appreciated (in addition to loving all things pumpkin, I also love all things cheesecake). The chocolate base brought a sweetly fruity finish to the piece.

I’d give the Tangier an O, the Veracruz and the Plymouth an OM, and the Savannah an OMG. Derry Church Artisan Chocolates is doing some nice work. I only reviewed 8 truffles; they’ve got 27 in their line-up!

Chocoblog tasted a wider variety than I did, so be sure to check out their review as well.

Chocolate/hazelnut spread for breakfast?

From the Bitten blog, light outrage about Nutella trying to position itself as a healthy breakfast option. I see the problem with that promotion, but it’s not that far from sugary cereals claiming to be part of a complete breakfast, or the General Mills Goodness Corner claiming that cereals are a good source of energy (aka calories) or calcium (from the milk you pour on it).