Thursday, July 18, 2019

OWYN - Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar - July 18, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Only What You Need, Inc.
OWYN Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt 10g Protein Bar was distributed by Only What You Need, Inc. (OWYN) (Fairfield, NJ)

This 100% plant-based bar contained 10 grams of protein and was made with the company's own OWYN protein blend that contained pumpkin seeds, pea protein isolate and chia seeds.

The bar had a chewy, substantial texture that was in between a not-too-sweet (thank you) brownie cookie and a conventional protein bar. A generous helping of whole pumpkin seeds provided soft crunchy texture. The chocolate taste (provided by semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa powder) shared the spotlight with the other ingredients. The sea salt added a delicate, uniform savory flavor that helped balance the sweetness (brown rice syrup, cane sugar).

This bar was gluten free and made in a dedicated peanut-free facility.

While the list of ingredients for this bar was short, by traditional protein bar standards, it did contain "natural flavors" and I can't help but wonder what those were and if we really needed them.

Hageland - Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar - July 17, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar
Weight: 2 squares (29 g.) / 10.5 oz. (300 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 2 squares (29 g.) of bar
Cost: $3.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and (Sea) Salt Theme Week.

Today's Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar was from Hageland (Belgium). The large, thick bar would be practical for cooking, sharing, fondue, or even chocolate painting.*

The chocolate had an appealing dark chocolate aroma and flavor with a light touch of sea salt. The sugar and salt levels were relatively well-balanced for a 54% bar, i.e. the chocolate did not taste overly sweet.

*Painting with Chocolate
For those interested in dabbling with painting with melted chocolate, starting with a small piece of chocolate with salt is a good way to start. Watch for a YouTube video on this subject.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Xocolatl de David - Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao bar - July 16, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Xocolatl de David
Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.1 oz. (31 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in total bar
Calories: 165 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: James at Home, San Diego, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao (bar) was made in Portland, OR, by Xocolatl de David—a company specializing in chocolates with savory or umami flavor inclusions. (Confession: I love umami flavors.)

This particular bar with Oregon Sea Salt was a collaboration with Jacobsen Salt Co. (Portland, OR), a company that offers high-end salts, honey and other products to discerning home cooks and chefs.

This 72% dark chocolate (made with Ecuador cacao) had a great, complex but smooth aroma with some subtle nut butter*, fruit, savory, green and balanced, mellow, sauteed mushroom earth and spice (+ a barely-there hint of floral) notes. All good. The melt and texture were smooth and fairly creamy.

The dark chocolate taste was satisfying with the occasional, balanced (there's that word again)* light sparkle of salt. And it was not too sweet (thank you!).

*There were no nuts in this bar. Every batch of cacao can potentially bring with it many flavors that remind us of other foods, flowers and plants, fruits, etc. Chocolate makers also shape what we taste by steps they take to enhance or suppress certain flavor characteristics, as they transform cacao into chocolate.

**Balanced aromas and flavors can be subjective attributes. One person's savory picnic could be another person's umami nightmare. And one person's favorite sweet chocolate could be another's undesirable sugary candy, and so on. However, balanced and layered flavors are key characteristics of great craft chocolate, craft beer and so many other artisan foods and beverages. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Brona Chocolates - Dark Chocolate with Beara Sea Salt bar - July 15, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Brona Chocolates
Beara Sea Salt - Dark Chocolate bar with Beara Sea Salt
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) / 3.52 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 265 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: World Market, North Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Sea salt plays a large role in many cultures and has a rich history. It is with some pride that people identify with single origin salts (as well as chocolates), as salt has its own "terroir" equivalent, based on mineral content, and where waters have passed through on the way to the sea.

Today's Beara Salt - Dark Chocolate bar with Beara Sea Salt was created by Brona Chocolates (Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland), in the southwest of Ireland.

Brona specializes in handmade Irish chocolates. Today's bar had a slight malt and salt aroma and flavor. The Irish Altantic Sea Salt in this bar was from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork (County), Ireland, not that far from Brona Chocolates, and where salt has been harvested for many years.* The salt flakes had a lovely texture, quality and flavor.

The 54% dark bar had a pleasant, uniform fudge brownie, dark chocolate flavor. Its smooth texture was complemented with slightly crunchy, very thin flecks of salt. The result: a well balanced, even-handed blend of chocolate, sugar and sea salt.

*Almost ninety-seven percent of water on our planet is considered saline or salty (vs. fresh) water, and most of that is sea or ocean water. These waters are approximately 3.5 percent salt. Creating salt ponds and evaporating the water in these ponds multiple times (leaving successive layers of salt behind) has been a time-honored way to make salt in coastal regions. Salt was especially valuable for food preservation and seasoning in the pre-industrial era; and the first evidence of humans making salt in Europe dates back to almost 7,000 years ago.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chocolate Sneak Peak - CocoTerra - July 14, 2019

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

(Chocolate Samples)
Dark - 70% (different origins)
Dark Milk - hint of salt
Ruby* chocolate
White chocolate
Coffee (round)

Have you ever wanted to make your own chocolate, but were discouraged by all the steps involved?

What if you could just pour some cocoa nibs and sugar into one machine and let a magic, personal chocolate-making machine do all the work, including grinding the nibs and sugar into chocolate, and tempering and molding?

Well, this might become a reality sooner than you'd think. I spoke to CocoTerra (Palo Alto, CA) Chief Operating Officer, Karen Alter, recently about a new chocolate making machine they've been developing. (Photo of machine at right from CocoTerra website.)

CocoTerra is not a traditional chocolate maker. A small team of Silicon Valley engineers, designers, and others have come up with a promising design for a countertop machine that will make bean-to-bar chocolate in a few hours.

In the true Silicon Valley inventor spirit, influences on this patent-pending design may have included coffee machines/appliances, multi-function culinary devices, and beekeeping.

Sounds almost too good to be true, right?

I was given two small bags of chocolate samples to try. I did not see the CocoTerra machine, or how these samples were made. However, they were better than expected. The pieces were in different shapes (likely made with different molds).

The different single origin dark chocolate pieces tasted like they might have been Ecuador or Peru or DR grown cacao-based chocolates. The dark milk had a slightly savory (salt) aroma and flavor and a thick texture, as did the white chocolate. The white chocolate also contained vanilla, and was better than most commercial white chocolates.

CocoTerra's take on ruby* chocolate was a pretty pink color, and had cacao fermentation and light red berry notes. It was not overly sweet (thank you).

I was also given a small, jumbo pearl-shaped coffee-flavored "ball" to taste (they're experimenting with different molds, forms and shapes), that was a very pleasing sweet coffee confection.

I asked if this machine could make 100% cacao chocolate (1 or 2 ingredient bars). The answer was yes, although initially they'll be providing supply kits and supplies, and providing customers "recipes" to help ensure correct proportions and optimal results.

No formal launch date (or pricing) have been announced yet, but CocoTerra does have a website, where you can go to check out intriguing details.

Who Might Use a Personal Chocolate Making Machine?

This might be particularly interesting for those who want to run smaller test batches of craft chocolate (to validate a certain origin, or fermentation or roast profile), or for chocolatiers wanting to broaden their offerings to customers.

Last but not least, this may be popular (depending on price point) for home hobby chocolate makers.

Thank you to Karen Alter for providing these chocolate samples and for answering questions about how their machine might work. Look forward to hearing more details about their machine soon.

*Ruby chocolate was introduced in 2017 by Belgian-Swiss chocolate company, Barry Callebaut as a new type of chocolate. An attractive deep pink color, the details of how this "new" chocolate type was created were not revealed by Callebaut.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Oodaalolly Chocolate - 70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar - July 13, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oodaalolly Chocolate
70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar (plus shipping)
Purchased from: Oodaalolly Chocolate (online order)

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar was made in small batches, from bean-to-bar, by Oodaalolly Chocolate, using cacao grown in the Philippines.

This bar had an appealing malty, nutty aroma (and ground nut (almond) flavor and texture). A generous helping of almond bits resulted in a milder chocolate flavor. The touch of sea salt was evenly dispersed and nicely balanced. And this bar was not too sweet (thank you!).

Island Nations and Cacao Conclusions

Can island nations featured this past week (The Philippines and Fiji in the Pacific Ocean, and Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Cuba and other islands in the Atlantic Ocean) produce great chocolate? A few chocolate makers in each of these countries are making an admirable go of it. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate making can be a complex technical business, not for the faint of heart. Their future success will depend on many factors.

The good news is that these island nations are located geographically in the cacao growing sweet spot, a belt (20 degrees above or below the Equator). And chocolate makers worldwide are interested in making and selling single origin chocolates from cacao grown in exotic countries covered with temperate rainforests and volcanic soils, with unique terroir-based flavor(s).

Island infrastructure can create challenges for those growing or trying to make chocolate "in country" (power outages, high costs for air conditioned/temperature and humidity controlled facilities). And there are often other hurdles on the growing side of the cacao supply chain: storm damage, disease, droughts, poor harvests, and other factors beyond one's control. There are many steps between cacao fruit (that contains the seeds or beans) and finished chocolate.

If you're a new maker starting out with a limited budget, you might be tempted to stick with established, known sources for beans or nibs, or just become a chocolatier and buy blocks of chocolate from someone else doing the hard work of making it from scratch.

The proper support of local governments can sometimes be helpful. The Philippine government in 2018* set a very ambitious target for cacao production (100,000 metric tons of cacao by 2022). Many farmers and craft chocolate makers, however, seem to want to focus on value (and higher profit margins) rather than volume, which suits us just fine.

No matter who you are, starting with great cacao/beans is a must, and chocolate makers must execute the many steps required make chocolate flawlessly to achieve true critical recognition and success. Hats off to all craft makers for jumping through hoops, reviving traditions, and allowing a new generation to enjoy better food and beverages than we knew were possible.

*The source of this information: a tweet that accompanied a May 30, 2018, Forbes article by Carol Ramoran-Malasig

Friday, July 12, 2019

Oodaalolly Chocolate - 60% Dark Milk Chocolate bar - July 12, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oodaalolly Chocolate
Dark Milk Chocolate bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150  calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar (estimate, plus shipping)
Purchased from: Oodaalolly Chocolate (online order)

Welcome to Day #12 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 60% Dark Milk Chocolate bar was made by Oodaalolly* Chocolate, from bean-to-bar, using cacao grown in the Philippines.

Oodaalolly founder and chocolate maker, Hernan Lauber, a Philadelphia native and engineer, has family roots in the Philippines (and chocolate). Lauber's goal is to produce finely crafted bean-to-bar chocolate with Filipino cacao and Swiss technique. After all, Swiss milk chocolates are prized for their sweet, milky and creamy smooth texture.

Today's bar had an authentic fermented cacao and slightly savory (sea salt) aroma. The combination of whole milk powder and added cocoa butter, gave this chocolate a rich, thick creamy melt and mouthfeel (especially early on a cool morning) and texture, and muted, but still bold chocolate flavor.

*Oodaalolly, the company name connoting joyful expression, was inspired by a song sung in an animated Disney version of Robin Hood that his son liked to watch.
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