Thursday, February 16, 2017

Raaka Virgin Chocolate - Ghost Pepper DR bar - Feb. 16, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ghost Pepper Dominican Republic bar
Good +
Weight: .9 oz. (25.47 g.) / 1.8 oz. (50.9 g.) in total bar
Calories: 129 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Raaka (online order)

Welcome to the last day (Day #7) of Chocolate and Chili Theme Week.

Will we finish up with a bang (or a whimper)? How about with a whisper of Ghost Pepper (aka Bhut Jolokia), one of the hottest chilis around? The Ghost Pepper scores between 855,000 to 1,041,427 on the Scoville scale used to rate spiciness. (The Jalapeno pepper is rated at a "mere" 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units on this same scale.)

Today's attractively packaged Ghost Pepper dark (68% Cacao) chocolate bar from Raaka (Brooklyn, NY) was made with cacao from the Dominican Republic.

Raaka makes what they call virgin chocolate. What does that mean? The chocolate makers at Raaka make bean-to-bar chocolate with unroasted cacao. Why is that important? Well, roasting contributes to the flavor profile of finished chocolate; and the decision not to roast might make for a smoother or, some would say, less robust taste. I think different people will have different preferences here.

The word raaka means raw in Finnish. But, notice I didn't use the word "raw" in the previous paragraph. Of the many steps that go into making chocolate there are at least three (fermenting, roasting, conching, tempering) that involve heating chocolate to a point where temperatures may exceed the threshold (112-118 degrees F./42-45 degrees C.) for raw food adherents. I respect those who honor the spirit and benefits of raw/wild chocolate, but who are also honest about processing terms.

And, Raaka is conscientious about the way they source cacao and make chocolate. They also take their creative side seriously. They are committed to flavor that's less processed and "close to the bean." They almost always identify the country of origin, and sometimes the farm/plantation on the packaging for their bars (and farmers are paid an above market price for their cacao). Today's bar was gluten free (thank you), soy free, vegan and kosher.

Last, but not least, they're creative. E.g., their packaging and bar mold designs, scaled up, might adorn a prize-winning, modern building (exterior or interior).

So, let's get back to today's Ghost Pepper bar. How was it?

The fruity pepper aroma carried a note of warning. This will be hot and s-s-spicy an imaginary snake voice hissed. I've learned this week that the heat and flavor arc of various chilis can be quite different. Some have a slow start and finish with a nuclear blast; others have a mild richness throughout. I wondered what this would be like.

I could taste the almost delicate unroasted cacao, with hints of marshmallow and flowers, that is before the fire from the ghost pepper engulfed it. But, as hot as this chili could have been—the flames flickered throughout the tasting experience and lingered beyond the initial bite—it somehow managed not to be objectionable. This also speaks to the makers' ability to add just the right amount of chili. Hats off to the Raaka team.

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