Friday, January 23, 2015

Endangered Species - Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar - Jan. 23, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Endangered Species Chocolate
Natural Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.2 oz. (34 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 184 calories in 2/5 bar
Cost: $3.59 for one bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

For those that abhor strong, robust or bitter flavors in dark chocolate, there are several milk chocolate bars that might fill the bill. This Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar from Endangered Species Chocolate (Indianapolis, IN) offers mild, authentic chocolate flavor with a creamy mouthfeel, and a sprinkling of embedded, roasted almond bits.

Made with 48% cocoa (from Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms), Endangered Species Chocolate creates chocolate with a purpose.

This gluten-free bar with almonds features a photograph of a Sandhill Crane on the front. The company has chosen to highlight the plight of dozens of endangered animals and birds on their bars (each flavor features a different animal or bird) as part of their mission to support habitat and species conservation. Ten percent of net proceeds are donated to partner organizations that support this cause.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Charles Chocolates - Tres Cojones bar - Jan. 22, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Charles Chocolates
Tres Cojones Bar (Triple Nut Bar)
Very Good
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 262 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Calafia Cafe and Market A Go-Go, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

The Tres Cojones Bar (Triple Nut Bar) from Charles Chocolates (San Francisco, CA) was chock full of nuts (roasted almonds, hazelnuts and pine nuts) in 65% bittersweet chocolate.

The bar's description on the back label acknowledged the slightly risque name: "While not the most serious name, this is one serious chocolate bar..."

I have to agree, it was seriously good. The nuts were perfectly roasted, adding satisfying, crunchy texture. And a hint of sweet, nutty perfume infused this thick and smooth bittersweet bar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Artisan du Chocolat - Almond Milk bar - Jan. 21, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Artisan du Chocolat
Almond Milk bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .95 oz. (27 g.)/ 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories: 144 calories (estimate) for 3/5 bar
Cost: $8.00 (estimate)
Purchased from: n/a - sample

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week, and I was watching squirrels frolic in the sun and winter greenery in my California backyard this morning. (Winter is when we see green shoots and grass here.) I guiltily admit, I occasionally throw a few left-over almonds outside for these little furry, forest-planters*.

At the same time, I reached into my chocolate vault to pick a bar with almonds, and found this one (packaging adorned with an array of active, green squirrels). Perfect.

Almonds come in many forms: raw, toasted, sliced, and ground into almond butter. However, until today, I had yet to taste a "milk" chocolate bar made from almond milk.

Today's Almond Milk bar from Artisan du Chocolat (London**) is just that, made with almond "milk" -- as a replacement for dairy in this creamy, 40% cocoa chocolate bar with a slight hint of marzipan/almond paste flavor from the holidays.

Speaking of cow's milk alternatives, the company also makes a bar with buffalo milk.

*However surburban dwellers might feel about squirrels in their gardens (digging them up to plant nuts, seeds), it's good to remember that this same annoying habit has resulted in much of the forested land around the globe. 

** Factory moved to Ashford Kent in 2006


Mast Brothers - Almond Chocolate bar - Jan. 20, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mast Brothers
Almond Chocolate bar
Very Good
Weight: 1.25 oz. (35 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 188 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ lost receipt (between $8 - $12)
Purchased from: Oxbow Produce and Grocery, in the Oxbow Public Market, Napa, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

This dark chocolate 73% cacao Almond bar from Mast Brothers (Brooklyn, NY) was adorned with sliced almonds and contained a trace of olive oil and sea salt.  Although the word "adorned" seems out-of-place and a bit fancy for these two chocolate makers who appear to have pruned back their approach to serious, laser-focused basics.

They have a factory in Brooklyn. They make their chocolate from scratch. They craft two-ingredient chocolate bars (cacao beans and sugar). A few of their colorful "wallpaper style" outer wrappers seemed the only element tied to flights of aesthetic fancy.

But the resulting bars pay tribute to their focus. This Almond bar was full of tart, fruit/acidic flavor from the chocolate itself, and a bit of almond help balance this profile and add some texture. All the while the base chocolate was the star. This was not a bar where the inclusions overwhelmed, or helped cover up any shortcomings in, the chocolate. No soy lecithin or vanilla here. Just good, flavorful chocolate with an almond accent.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Notable Bites - Gingerbread, Chocolate Cakes - Jan. 19, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Notable Bites

Gingerbread Glazed Cake Mix
Weight: 4.4 oz. (124.5 g.) in dry mix

Dark Chocolate Glazed Cake Mix
Weight: 4.9 oz. (138.6 g.) in dry mix

Calories: 450 calories (estimate) for 1 large piece + toppings
Cost: $12.00 for 1 cake mix (x 2)
Purchased from: Notable Bites (at Palo Alto Farmers Market)

Today was the last day of Chocolate and Ginger Theme Week. And I chose two gluten-free cake mixes that incorporated these two flavors.

I consulted with Wendy at Notable Bites (Mountain View, CA) on the best way to combine her Gingerbread and Dark Chocolate gluten-free, vegan cake mixes, that are small and easy to make -- perfect for two people to share.

Each mix came with its own small foil pan. I just needed to add two Tablespoons of vegetable oil per cake mix and, if to keep it vegan, my choice of dairy-free milk (chocolate almond milk). No eggs were required.

As far as combining these two mixes to make a chocolate gingerbread cake, Wendy suggested switching (glaze) toppings that come packaged with the mixes -- e.g. giving the gingerbread cake a chocolate glaze. Wendy wisely recommended coconut oil as the vegetable oil of choice to add. I couldn't agree with her more. If you like coconut, I highly recommend using the more aromatic (and less processed) unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil; it smelled and tasted wonderful with this mix.

In the end, I blended the two cake mixes together, and poured the combined mix back into the two pans to bake. And to amp up the ginger flavor a bit, I added my own ginger crumb topping with the dry chocolate glazed mix, finely chopped candied ginger chips and gluten-free ginger snap cookie crumbs. I'd suggest following the instructions the first time through, but I enjoyed experimenting and embellishing a bit.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ethereal - Coriander, Orange, Ginger bar - Jan. 18, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ethereal Confections
66% Cacao Topped with Coriander, Candied Orange Peel and Ginger
Good - Good +
Weight: .75 oz. (23 g.) / 2.25 oz. (64 g.) in total bar
Calories: 112 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $7.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: ordered online from Ethereal Confections

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Ginger Theme Week.

This 66% Cacao bar, Topped with Coriander, Candied Orange Peel and Ginger, from Ethereal Confections (Woodstock, IL), was loaded with a luscious and colorful jumble of Candied Orange Peel and Ginger pieces.

I did not see, or taste, much Coriander, but this lovely spicy seed but may have gotten overshadowed a bit by the generous serving of orange peel and ginger.

This bar was Dairy and Gluten Free, with no added preservatives. All the ingredients that I remember reading about on the label were also organic.

L'Amourette Ginger bar - Jan. 17, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

L'Amourette LLC
Ginger Chocolat Noir bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories (estimate) in 1 oz. of bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Ginger Theme Week. I sampled a piece of the Ginger Chocolat Noir (Dark Chocolate) bar from L'Amourette (San Francisco, CA).

There is something wonderful about eating seven chocolates with ginger, and having them all taste completely different. Part of a larger industry trend, most of these chocolatiers (and chocolate makers) talk about wanting to produce a natural chocolate product with authentic ginger taste.

Today's 72% cacao dark chocolate had dark, slightly fruity/acidic and roasted coffee flavor notes. The pieces of ginger embedded in this glossy, multi-square bar tasted very authentic, and gave the bar a bit of ginger root texture and spicy flavor without being overly sweet as some sugared candied gingers can be.

According to the company's website, this bar is soy-free, gluten-free and vegan -- and the ginger was free of sulfur dioxide. (Also included on the website was printed a rumor about French notable, and mistress of King Louis XV, Madame Du Barry, offering her lovers a concoction with ginger in it.)
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