Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Oakland Chocolate Company - Strawberry Cardamom Caramel - May 20, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

The Oakland Chocolate Company
Strawberry Cardamom Caramel
Good +++
Weight: .4 oz. (11.3 g. ) (estimate) in 1 piece
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $2.50 for 1 piece
Purchased from: The Oakland Chocolate Company (online)

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

After eating more industrial versions of chocolate and sugar this week, I really appreciated today's flavorful Strawberry Cardamom Caramel from Nancy Nadel, who is the chief chocolate maker at The Oakland Chocolate Company (Oakland, CA).

Nadel was an early player in the artisan chocolate maker movement that lifted off around the turn of the century (2000). She was also one of the first women making chocolates from scratch in California, starting with cocoa beans rather than blocks of pre-made chocolate.

Nadel's tree to bonbon/bar chocolates, have been crafted using cacao grown in specific areas in one country--originally the Parish of St. Mary in Jamaica via the (now defunct) Jamaican Cocoa Industry Board for 13 years. Cacao beans are now from Bachelors Hall (Parish of St. Thomas) in Jamaica. (And she managed this business and its many moving parts for several years while serving on the Oakland City Council. Impressive.)

Over the years, her chocolates have included an array of flavor inclusions that have incorporated exotic blends and tropical fruits and spices, and today's piece was no exception.

Today's Strawberry Cardamom Caramel was a layering of fresh, authentic flavors. The result was a match made in heaven. Sweet, naturally fruit tart caramel with a very soft chew was surrounded by flavorful dark chocolate. A subtle hint of cardamom added an uplifting spice note. And a tiny piece of strawberry on top contributed a natural berry sparkle.

*Earlier Bay Area chocolate-making pioneers, such as Domingo Ghirardelli (Italy via South America) and Etienne Guittard (France) arrived in the San Francisco area in the 1800s, influenced by the Gold Rush. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company (now in San Leandro, CA) is part of Hershey Chocolate Company; and Guittard Chocolate Company is still family-owned as of this writing.

Dagoba - Milk bar + Chocolove Toffee Almonds bar + Dolfin Caramel bar - May 19, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

"Milk" - Milk chocolate bar
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) / 2.83 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 220? (guess) calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

Today we have three bars: a Milk Chocolate bar from Dagoba (Hershey) and a re-taste of a Toffee and Almonds small bar from Chocolove (Boulder, CO), and an even smaller Chocolat Au Lait Caramel bar made in Belgium by Dolfin S.A.

Often, milk chocolate bars will have a slight caramel taste to them, a result of the interaction between the added milk (powder) and sugar. This Dagoba bar did not. Although it did taste smooth and milky.

Caramel and toffee are both forms of cooked sugar(s) where the sugar molecules change state. Caramel, typically made with white sugar, is brought to 340 degrees F. (170 degrees C.). In the U.S. toffee can be made with brown or white sugar; and toffee is typically more well done (harder) than al dente (caramel) in the U.S. Both forms can complement chocolate nicely in the right proportions.

Unless one is armed with a candy thermometer, one can go from soft, flowing golden caramel to hard toffee-like, crunchy bits and pendants in minutes. (The degree of "caramel" flavor may vary depending on technique as well.) Almost any cooked sugar is a potentially interesting plaything, but you'll want to plan ahead if you're expecting company. Not everyone is a rabidly curious scientist--a pity really. And friends don't always appreciate being used as guinea pigs.

Whether you accidentally made caramel when you meant to create toffee or vice versa, a small bite of either homemade golden brown sweet treat can be delicious. Although, your teeth (after being sugar-jacketed) will may remind you a little goes a long way.

Every chocolate maker has their own way of incorporating cooked sugars into chocolate (covering, substrate, companion, getting wholly lost in each other, etc.)

Toffee and Almonds in Milk Chocolate small bar
Good +
Weight: 1.3 oz. (37 g.) in total bar
Calories: 200 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

I re-tasted this small Toffee and Almonds in Milk Chocolate bar from Chocolove (Boulder, CO). This was probably my favorite of the three bars. For a 33% cocoa chocolate, this one seemed more flavorful than other comparable milk chocolates with caramel. Identifiable pieces of toffee and almonds make it a more interesting bar to taste by adding layered flavors and textures. Nuts tend to balance out sweetness.

Chocolat au Lait Caramel (bar)
Weight: .35 oz. (10 g.) in 1 small bar
Calories: 53 calories (estimate) in 1 small bar
Cost: $N/A part of a bigger sale 
Purchased from: missing information

Last but not least was this thin milk chocolate caramel cutie from Dolfin (Belgium). It was the perfect size for a snack, or to accompany tea or coffee for dessert.

The company has done a nice job with flavors in bars over the years. Most flavor inclusions in their bars are balanced and subtle and fully incorporated into the chocolate creating a uniform smoothness. It was the same with this mini bar. The milk and caramel flavors were merged completely with the chocolat, giving it a smooth texture and flavor ride.

I would have loved to have tried a 40% - 50% cacao version of this one, with a little less sugar and milk, to see if I could taste un petit more of the chocolate flavor; but for this, there are other styles of chocolates ranging from small disks of chocolates adorned with fruit and nuts (mendiants*) to their chocolate descendants: artisan dark chocolate bars artfully sprinkled (or fully loaded) with a wide variety of ingredients on the back side.

*Mendiants (literally means beggars in English) are chocolate confections from France. Flat chocolate discs were adorned with nuts and pieces/slices of dried fruits (raisins, figs, etc.) that were said to represent the colors of monastic robes (from four mendicant or monastic orders) that were shades of brown and beige, grayish brown and a purplish (grape) color. Monks who took a vow of poverty may have depended on the charity of others, thus the name.

Since then chocolatiers in the U.S. and elsewhere have taken this mendiant format and added some brighter fruit colors, kiwi green, oranges, yellows, purples, reds, you name it, to brighten things up a bit, making this concept our own.

Vosges Haut Chocolat - 72% Dark Chocolate Black Salt Caramel Petites - May 18, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Vosges IP, LLC
72% Dark Chocolate Black Salt Caramel Petites
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 3.2 oz. (90 g.) in total package
Calories: 130 calories in 1 serving (3 pieces)
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

Today's attractively-packaged 72% Dark Chocolate Black Salt Caramel Petites were from Vosges (Chicago, IL).

These individually-wrapped and gluten free chocolate squares were an adventure on the dark side of caramel. They were still fairly sweet, but the choice to use darker chocolate, black sea salt and a darker-hued flowing caramel made them more complex and interesting than most milk chocolate caramel squares on the market.

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