Monday, January 30, 2017

BarkThins - Dark Chocolate Gingerbread - Jan. 30, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Manufactured for Ripple Brand Collective, LLC
barkThins - Dark Chocolate Gingerbread
Good +
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) / 9 oz. (255 g.) in total box
Calories: 220 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $8.99 for 1 box
Purchased from: Whole Foods Market, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of DEFGHIJK Theme Week. Today is "G" day; and fortunately, there were several "g" possibilities, but one stood out. Anything with ginger.

Ginger and/or gingerbread are favorite pairings with dark chocolate here at ChocolateBanquet. If you like ginger and chocolate and haven't yet tried them together, I highly recommend trying this combination.

Today's Dark Chocolate Gingerbread barkThins were manufactured for Ripple Brand Collective, LLC (New York, NY).

These dark chocolate "snackable slivers" had an attractive, chocolate gingerbread aroma and a crunchy texture. The chocolate was made with Fair Trade USA certified (over 65%) and Non-GMO project verified ingredients.
And, the embedded gingerbread cookie bits were gluten free. Thank you!

More photos will be included later.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gertrude's - Black Forest Torte - Jan. 29, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Black Forest Torte
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: unknown
Calories: unknown
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 serving
Purchased from: Gertrude's, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

Paris Rendez-vous
Chocolate Fish - Peanut Butter
Macaron - Murre et Chocolat (a taste of the forest)
Purchased from: Paris Rendez-vous, Phoenix, AZ

Welcome to Day #3 of DEFGHIJK Theme Week. Today was "F" day.

I'm traveling this week and it wasn't practical to bring a container of chocolate fondue with me. So, I packed a chocolate frog mold and some fennel, in case I had to make my own chocolate on the fly. However, I needn't have worried.

I found two "forest"-oriented chocolates, and one "fish" chocolate to enjoy in the Phoenix area. This morning we enjoyed a Black Forest Torte from Gertrude's, a farm-to-table restaurant located at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ. (Photos didn't do this dessert justice. It would've looked a lot lovelier on the original plate, vs. jostled around in the "to go" box. So, my apologies to Gertrude's.) And this modern take on black forest cake with dark chocolate curls was fantastic.

The second "taste of the forest" came in the form of a French macaron (murre et chocolat) from the Paris Rendez-vous, a French-style sweet shop in Phoenix, where I also found a chocolate Fish with a peanut butter filling.

Madelaine - Milk Chocolate Emoticons - Jan. 28, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Madelaine Chocolate Company
Milk Chocolate Emoticons
Good - Good +
Weight: .88 oz. (24.9 g.) (estimate) for 3 pieces
Calories: 132 calories (estimate) in 3 pieces
Cost: $N/A - samples
Purchased from: N/A - samples from show

Welcome to Day #2 of D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K Theme Week.

Yes, that's right; I'm featuring chocolates + items that start with the letters D, E, F, G, H, I, J and/or K this week.

Yesterday ("D" for Dark chocolate) was fun. And, for today ("E") I struggled to find a chocolate elephant, but was unsuccessful. Fortunately, I found a surprise "e" item at last weekend's Fancy Food Show in San Francisco--Milk Chocolate Emoticons.

Emoticons are popular, digital "faces" with simple cartoon expressions used to communicate emotion (see also emojis) and these expressions were wrapped around small, solid, milk chocolate balls.

Individually wrapped in yellow foil, these Emoticons from The Madelaine Chocolate Company (Rockaway Beach, NY) came in several expressions: happy face, surprised face, in love face, and so on.

Happily, these milk chocolates tasted better than I expected. Novelty and seasonal chocolates in the past have not always been known for the high-quality chocolate.

Friday, January 27, 2017

D is for Dark chocolates, Deser - Jan. 27, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

L'Amourette Chocolatier
Extra Smooth Chocolat Noir - 91% Cacao
Weight: .706 oz. (20 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 130 calories in 1/5 bar
Cost: N/A - gift from client
Purchased from: N/A - gift from client

Sweet Paradise Chocolatier
1.) Dark Chocolates (Hawaiian flower pattern)
2.) Salt Caramels - filled chocolates
3.) Solid Milk Chocolates (turtle pattern)

Welcome to another chocolate alphabet week. Last year, I featured chocolates that contained names or items that started with A, B and C. This week, I'm covering D, E, F, G, H, I, J and K.

Today I'm celebrating the letter D with two chocolates.

D stands for Dark Chocolate
Yes, Dark chocolate is an easy choice for the letter D. However, dark chocolates and suppliers range from limited edition craft chocolate bars hand-made by small, bean-to-bar makers to high-volume confections churned out by large chocolatiers.

Dark chocolates are now available in every shape and cacao percentage one can imagine.

Chocolate in the U.S. is considered "dark" (semi-sweet or bittersweet) if it contains more than 35% cocoa solids. However, the percent you see listed on a label of a bar often refers to total cocoa content (cocoa solids and cocoa butter (fat)), so percentages don't tell the whole story.

However, there was no mistaking that today's 91% Extra Smooth Chocolat Noir bar was a dark chocolate bar. This was the perfect chocolate for a noir film screening on a dark January day as it turned out; but it also brightened the day considerably—part of the paradox of dark chocolate.

Handmade by L'Amourette Chocolat LLC (San Francisco, CA), this chocolate was made from Trinitario beans (Carenero Superior) that were "delicately roasted" and were conched (ground to make into a smooth, creamy chocolate) for up to 36 hours.

This complex and interesting 4-ingredient* bar had a dark forest aroma with notes of raspberry fruit and faint licorice spice, and a dark flavor with a range of deep fruit (fig) and spice notes with some very faint cacao funk in one small bite. There was very little cane sugar (a bit less than 9 percent) to distract one from enjoying this dark experience.

D also stands for Deser
Many thanks to Chocolate Banquet donors and supporters, including friends, family, clients (thank you GreenTown Los Altos! for today's 91% dark bar)—and others who bring back or share chocolates from around the world.

Special thanks to Toni Deser, a friend and neighbor who also loves good food and global travel. It's as delicious to hear about her adventures and travels as it is to try chocolates she finds on her trips. And she has been gracious enough to share many chocolates.

Toni brought back today's Sweet Paradise Chocolatier (Hawaii) 6-piece variety box from a recent trip to (Maui) Hawaii—the only state in the U.S. where, at present, enough cacao trees are being grown to make chocolate in commercial quantities.

This box contained 2 solid dark, 2 solid milk and 2 lovely flowing salt caramel chocolates. Sweet Paradise offers chocolates made from Hawaiian-grown cacao and was founded by Melanie Boudar.

*The L'Amourette 91% Extra Smooth Dark Chocolate bar contained cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar and Bourbon vanilla beans. This chocolate was labeled as soy- and gluten-free.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hu Products - Salty Chocolate Bar - Jan. 26, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hu Products LLC
Salty Chocolate Bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ N/A - sample
Purchased from: N/A - sample bar from vendor

Greetings all and welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

I'm fascinated by what it takes to be a successful small business. At the heart of every small business are people who are working to be successful humans and to have their efforts radiate/translate outwards via their products they create.

The opportunity to enjoy today's Salty Chocolate Bar from Hu Products, LLC (New York, NY) gave me a chance to learn about another small business, and the Hu (as in humans) at its center, who are interested in the best that pre-industrial food has to offer. I met some of the team last week at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

The humans at Hu also happen to be very pragmatic. They run restaurants/kitchens, that demand consistent quality and output...great training for any entrepreneur. Their philosophy involves getting back to unprocessed foods. (Think paleo and vegan.)

Today's thick, Hu Salty Chocolate Bar had a rich aroma and a constellation of tiny salt crystals sprinkled on the back of the bar that will more than satisfy that secret salt craving we all occasionally have. And the 72% stone-ground cacao (liquor-to-bar) smooth, dark chocolate was very satisfying.

However, the highlight may have been Hu's choice of sweetener—unrefined organic coconut sugar rather than refined/cane sugar—for this 4-ingredient* bar, that gave the chocolate a back-to-the-land, rich, deep brown sugar-molasses sweetness. I liked this authentic, hearty, unrefined flavor.

Sweet Choices
Cane sugar is often viewed as a "blank" canvas (that doesn't interfere with certain cacao flavor notes) that may even heighten the cacao tasting experience. But, not getting a sugar buzz is also enjoyable and can make for a more enjoyable tasting experience.

I'm delighted we live in a chocolate golden era with so many choices. Sweeteners are raw materials, and blending different gluten-free** ingredients with cacao is at the heart of what I write about.

Thank you to all chocolate makers who continue to experiment with different sweeteners or quantities of same. Artists choose different pigment types and colors, different media, to produce great works of art. Caring about and fussing with materials, edible or otherwise, is part of being a successful, creative human.

*The four ingredients were: organic, fair trade cacao, unrefined organic coconut sugar, organic fair trade cocoa butter, sea salt.
** This bar contained no gluten; dairy; refined sugar, cane sugar or sugar alcohols; GMOs; emulsifiers/soy lecithin. 

HealthSmart ChocoRite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Bar - Jan. 25, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

HealthSmart Foods, Inc.
Sugar Free, Dark Chocolate Bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 5 oz. (141 g.) in total box of 5 bars
Calories: 110 calories per bar
Cost: $ N/A - sample from vendor
Purchased from: N/A - sample from vendor

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

I've found many more sugar-free and sugar-alternative chocolates than I first planned for, so this will be another deluxe/extended "week."

I met the folks behind ChocoRite Dark Chocolate Bars (HealthSmart Foods, Inc., Evansville, IN) at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last weekend. Thank you to this group who shared product samples and told me a little bit about their product line.

This company specializes in sugar-free chocolate items. Today's Dark Chocolate Bar was sweetened with stevia.* I liked their packaging (boxes containing smaller 1 oz. (28 g.) individually wrapped bars), as I frequently share chocolate with others and/or take along chocolate for snacks during the day, at work, or while on a hike.

The stevia sweetener blend* (with erythritol and inulin) tasted fairly natural and didn't completely overwhelm the chocolate; and there was no adverse after-taste. It's nice to have sugar free and gluten free chocolate options.

Ten years ago, if I'd run a theme week like this, the sugar-free alternatives would have been more limited, and likely would have contained more artificial ingredients and sweeteners.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Addictive Wellness - Beauty, Tranquility chocolates - Jan. 24, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Addictive Wellness

1.) Beauty
Good - Good +
Weight: .65 oz. (19 g.) / 1.3 oz. (38 g.) in total package of 4 pieces
Calories: 120 calories in 2 pieces
Cost: $7.73 for 1 box of 4 pieces
Purchased from: Country Sun, Palo Alto, CA

2.) Tranquility
Weight: .65 oz. (19 g.) / 1.3 oz. (38 g.) in total package of 4 pieces
Calories: 120 calories in 2 pieces
Cost: $7.73 for 1 box of 4 pieces
Purchased from: Country Sun, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week. I'm featuring two more raw chocolates from Addictive Wellness (Beverly Hills, CA) that included both alternative plant-based sweeteners as well as somewhat unique plant inclusions (herbs).

Addictive Wellness chocolatiers created both of today's dark (83% cacao) chocolates using fair trade Arriba Nacional Cacao. And both chocolates were sweetened with a combination of birch xylitol and stevia, with lucuma likely providing a small touch of additional sweetness.

One might argue that chocolate by itself includes the ability to pep one up a bit. However, using it as a carrier or medium for additional plant-based substances goes back many centuries.

Today's "Beauty" chocolates contained tremella (mushrooms), chaga (mushrooms) and horsetail (Equisetum arvense). It had a pleasing, subtle chocolate aroma, and nutty, slightly earthy flavor. The texture was firm (like you'd expect from solid chocolate) with a very slight grittiness (like you'd expect from less processed chocolate), while still remaining fairly smooth. It was described as "the perfect balance between sexy, stunning and sweet." And, in fact I think it was the tastiest of the three Addictive Wellness chocolates I tried this week.

The "Tranquility" chocolates contained ashwagandha, reishi (mushrooms) and He Shou Wu.*
It had a similar, subtle, pleasant chocolate aroma and similar solid chocolate texture (as other Addictive Wellness chocolates). It had a very faint sour-bitter plant note, but it was nothing distressing. (I look forward to the implied bliss effect that may kick in later. Just the absence of a sugar buzz may qualify.)

Addictive Wellness chocolates are not only sugar free, but also vegan, gluten free, trans fat free, nut free, soy free, dairy free and GMO free.

Note: The 2-piece serving size for these chocolates seems very benign. However, as with any active substance like chocolate and/or herbs, please research before taking something in larger doses that you're not familiar with, especially if you're already taking medications for an illness. (I myself am sensitive to caffeine and would never have more than 1 cup of coffee. But, all of us are different.)

*He Shou Wu (a plant from China) is also known by several other names, including Fo-ti root, Chinese knotweed, and Tuber fleeceflower.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Addictive Wellness - Love chocolates - Jan. 23, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Addictive Wellness Raw Chocolate
Love (chocolates)
Good - Good +
Weight: .65 oz. (19 g.) / 1.3 oz. (38 g.) in total package of 4 pieces
Calories: 120 calories (per label) in 2 pieces
Cost: $7.73 for 1 package of 4 pieces
Purchased from: Country Sun, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

Addictive Wellness (Beverly Hills, CA) offers a series of raw (83% cacao) chocolates with "superfoods and superherbs" that are sugar free, vegan and gluten free.

Today's Love chocolates (4 pieces to a package) were made with Arriba Nacional Cacao, mesquite, lucuma, maca and reishi mushrooms. Other ingredients included: He Shou Wu, cistanche, mucuna and epimedium*. I can't say I understood the exact benefits these latter four plant items offered, but they didn't cause any ill effects.

Sweetened with birch xylitol, stevia (and the lucuma mentioned above), and seasoned with a bit of Himalayan salt, these round chocolates molded into paper cups had a faint, pleasing and authentic chocolatey aroma, and a very slight coffee and bitter herbs flavor note that added interest.

*Epimedium, native to Asia, is also known as horny goat weed. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Phi Kind - Mylk Chocolate - Jan. 22, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Phi Kind
Mylk Chocolate
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.13 oz. (32 g.) in 1 package of 4 pieces
Calories: 169 calories (estimate) in 4 pieces
Cost: $7.95 for 1 package of 4 pieces
Purchased from: The Seed Bank, Petaluma, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

While it's hard to beat a well-made, two-ingredient bar with cacao and cane sugar, how fortunate we are that so many people are re-engineering chocolate, e.g. exploring thoughtful dairy and sugar alternatives.

Today's "Mylk" chocolates from Phi Kind Chocolate (Santa Rosa, CA) were crafted using raw cacao and non-traditional sweeteners.

The plant-based, mostly organic ingredients list read as follows: "Cacao Nibs, Non-GMO Birch Xylitol*, Coconut, Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) Syrup, Vanilla, Sea Salt and Stevia." No milk in these mylk chocolates.

These confection-style chocolates were relatively creamy with a hint of coconut flavor and a tiny sparkle of sea salt. They had genuine chocolate flavor and were plenty sweet without conventional sugar. I detected no off taste with these sweeteners.

If I had to quibble, I'd say I might have preferred a slightly more intense cacao flavor or slightly less sweetener. But, then again, this was raw, "mylk" chocolate, not roasted, dark chocolate! And many people will enjoy the smoother chocolate flavor and appreciate the lack of common allergens and sugar.

These chocolates were dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, vegan, raw and paleo.

*Birch xylitol, a low glycemic and near-zero caloric sugar substitute, made with fermented birch (tree) bark/pulp. (Think maple syrup, which comes from maple trees or pieces of real sugar cane (before sugar has been extracted). There is sometimes enough sugars in trees/plant fiber to create a viable sweetener.) 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Raaka - Yacon Belize 79% Cacao bar - Jan. 21, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Raaka Chocolate
Yacon Belize 79% Cacao bar
Good +
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.8 oz. (50.9 g.) in total bar
Calories: 146 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

Another company creating alternatives to conventional chocolate bars made with cane sugar is bean-to-bar maker Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY).

Today's cane sugar free Yacon Belize 79% Cacao bar from Raaka was a slightly bitter, creamy, and well-tempered (broke with a hard snap) bar with very smooth and even, dark and slightly earthy flavor. The tasting notes: "beet, oat, raisin" may not attract everyone, but I liked it and would buy this bar again.

Sometimes you just don't want a sugar bomb. And the organic yacon* in this dark bar added a hint of sweetness.

Raaka makes their "virgin" bean-to-bar (kosher, vegan, Non GMO, gluten free) chocolate with un-roasted cacao beans and adds a bit of extra cocoa butter for extra smoothness.

Like many successful chocolate makers, they've also developed close relationships with suppliers in cacao-growing countries. Cacao from this bar came from Belize (likely from Maya Mountain Cacao).

Note: The latest (Jan. 2017) version of the Raaka Yacon 79% Cacao bar (available on the Raaka website) is made with cacao from a different source—from the Oko Caribe Cooperative in the Dominican Republic—so the flavor notes are slightly different: "oats, raisin, honey."

*Yacon is a tuberous root (from Peru and other countries) in South America, that is related to the very large sunflower family of plants.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lakanto - Sugar Free 55% Cacao Chocolate with Almonds bar - Jan. 20, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetened
Sugar Free 55% Cacao Chocolate with Almonds bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 87 calories (per label) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $5.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

Today's Lakanto Sugar Free 55% Cacao Chocolate with Almonds bar (made in the U.S. and distributed by Saraya Canada Co., LTD) was very sweet, and it was sugar free.

For those avoiding sugar, watching glycemic index numbers, or cutting calories, this Lakanto chocolate was sweetened with a blend of monk fruit extract and erythritol (alcohol sugar)—a zero calorie sugar substitute. The company claims their 55 percent bars have 40% fewer calories than other chocolate bars.

The recommended 1/2 bar serving (43 g.) is only 120 calories. I tend to think of calories per oz. and this translates to just 87 calories per 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of chocolate—a low number. Conventional, sugar-sweetened chocolates range from 145 to 175 calories per 1 oz. (This bar also contained some vegetable fiber.)

The Lakanto sweetened chocolate had a very sweet cocoa aroma. Stoneground Arriba Nacional Cacao beans from Ecuador added authentic chocolate flavor to this vegan, dairy free and gluten free bar; but some of the deeper chocolate notes seemed to be muted by the sweetener. The chocolate had a light, lingering sweet finish. And small bits of almonds added some crunchy texture.

Ideally I'd prefer not to give up any of the natural chocolate flavor spectrum so carefully developed in a well-made bar if I didn't have to. However, the Lakanto monk fruit blend represents progress and was a relatively pleasant sweetener and worth trying if you need to be sugar free.

Thoughts on Cane Sugar, Sweeteners and Chocolate
Why do chocolate makers prefer cane sugar for fine chocolate? Cane sugar has been described as a "blank slate" in terms of flavor (or the lack thereof).

Developing a great, unique flavor profile for a bean-to-bar chocolate is a very complex, time-consuming process. And, after all that hard work, sweetener(s) used to make great chocolate need to support the best cacao flavor profile possible and allow the best/most desired features of a given cacao to shine.

Flavor considerations aren't the only reason for sweetener choices. I do get a bit of a rush from the sugar and the theobromine/caffeine in chocolate. I find this is OK in moderation. However, this rocket ride might be undesirable for others; and it's great to know many people are working hard on better tasting, more natural sugar substitutes.*

I notice differences when I eat sugar-free, lower glycemic sweetened, and traditional chocolates. After sampling thousands of different chocolates, I've observed the differences first hand. I feel calmer after eating certain chocolates than others. And sweeteners are part of the reason why.*

*Percentage and type/composition of cacao as well as quantity of chocolate eaten most certainly matter at least as much for most people as the sweetener choice—as do other factors (ranging from how much sleep I've gotten, what my mood is, what other food and drink I've just consumed, etc.) I wouldn't recommend eating an entire high percentage dark chocolate bar with cane sugar before bed-time. I eat my chocolate of the day in the morning, in part for this reason.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lakanto Sugar Free 55% Cacao Chocolate bar - Jan. 19, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetened
Sugar Free 55% Cacao Chocolate bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g. ) in total bar
Calories: 87 calories (per label) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $5.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Week.

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener (distributed by Saraya Canada Co. LTD, Vancouver, BC) is a blend of monk fruit extract and erythritol (sugar alcohol).

Monk fruit (Luohan Guo) is a small green melon containing a natural sweetener that seems to block bitter and sour flavors. For example, after consuming monk fruit, a lemon will taste quite sweet for several minutes.

Sweetening chocolate with monk fruit acts as both a sugar replacement and a gentle counteracting force to any bitter or sour flavors.

This Lakanto bar, made with 55% Arriba Nacional Cacao beans from Ecuador, had a sweet fruity, cocoa aroma, and a mild sweet dark chocolate flavor. The melt and texture were fairly smooth.

It reminded me of the first time I tried fresh monk fruit, and then drank coffee afterwards. Smoothest, sweetest coffee I remember tasting. Somewhere in my brain I could tell that there was some sweet veil, but it's hard to detect what's really happening unless you really pay attention.

As with any food or chocolate containing a sweetener or substance that you're not used to, try a little bit first before over-indulging.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pascha - Organic Dark Chocolate Maca bar - Jan. 18, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pascha Chocolate Company
Organic Dark Chocolate Maca bar
Weight: 1.17 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 190? calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $4.29 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods Market, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

This bar was made in Peru for Pascha Chocolate Company (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Pascha uses Organic Cane Sugar in their bars, but also uses alternative, plant-based sweeteners and inclusions.

The packaging on this bar described maca as "a nutrient dense root vegetable from the Andes. It adds a slightly (non dairy) creamy texture and is blended with a 60% dark chocolate."

Unlike yesterday's Pascha bar with lucuma (a naturally sweet plant from South America with a caramel flavor note), this bar was less about replacing cane sugar and more about adding a slightly sweet and creamy flavor and texture to the chocolate.

The aroma of this Pascha bar was a little different with a hint of a sweet vegetable smell. The taste was sweet, smooth and pleasant.

The sweeter taste to today's bar base was likely also due to 60% Cacao. Yesterday's Pascha dark chocolate bar with lucuma was made with 70% Cacao.

Both Pascha bars were organic, vegan, Non GMO Project verified, and free from major allergens: peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat and gluten.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pascha - Organic Dark Chocolate Lacuma bar - Jan. 17, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pascha Chocolate Company
Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate Lacuma bar
Good +
Weight: 1.17 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 190 calories (estimate per label) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $4.29 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods Market, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweetener Theme Week.

Sometimes alternative or other natural sweeteners are combined with some cane sugar to enhance or add sweetness or flavor. Such was the case with today's bar.

The 70% Cacao Organic Dark Chocolate with Lacuma bar was made in Peru for Pascha Chocolate Company (Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

Pascha packaging described Lacuma as a "Latin American superfruit that is sweet but low glycemic and gives a rich caramel note."

The company replaced half of the cane sugar (they would normally use for a conventional 70% dark chocolate bar) and replaced it with lacuma powder.

How did it taste? First, this bar felt much "lighter" (in weight) when I removed it from the packaging than chocolate I'm used to handling. Lacuma powder was the second ingredient listed (after cocoa mass), and this powder might be less dense or have a lighter/different "feel" than cocoa mass, cocoa butter or even cane sugar (the third ingredient listed).

The bar broke with a very hard snap, a sign of a good temper. (It was also a cold day outside.) This chocolate tasted a bit lighter too -- not as dense, bitter or acidic as many 70% cacao chocolates.

It did have a light fruitiness (think apples, pears and peaches with a slight, pleasant carrot note, as opposed to dark berries)—and, as advertised, it had a light caramel note too. Overall a satisfying bar.

This Pascha bar was free of several common allergens: there was no peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat or gluten.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lily's Candy Cane 70% Dark Chocolate bar - Jan. 16, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lily's Sweets, LLC
Candy Cane Dark 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.); 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $4.19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods Market, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to the last day (Day #9) of Chocolate and Peppermint Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Alternative Sweeteners Week.

Cane sugar is the expected sweetener for most bean-to-bar chocolates. However, one sees brown sugar, coconut sugar, honey and a variety of other sweeteners in chocolate bars and confections.

Today's Candy Cane 70% Dark Chocolate bar from Lily's Sweets, LLC* (King of Prussia, PA) was made with unsweetened chocolate (no sugar added). Instead of sugar, it was sweetened with Non-GMO Erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and Stevia Extract (from a plant).**

This gluten free and vegan dark bar broke with a hard snap (a sign of a good temper), and had a fairly creamy texture and melt—although it was slightly gritty in one or two bites. "Natural peppermint flavor" provided the authentic candy cane zing.

Thank you to Toni and Margaret for tasting help!

*The company is named after Lily, a cancer survivor. And a portion of proceeds from Lily's bars go to cancer research each year.

**"Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, Erythritol, Inulin, Cocoa Butter, Natural Peppermint Flavor, Stevia Extract, Organic Soy Lecithin, Vanilla."  

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a naturally sweet plant from South America that has been used for centuries to sweeten teas, medicines and other items, particularly in Brazil and Paraguay, and has been processed and marketed as an alternative sweetener around the globe in more recent times.

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