Monday, August 10, 2020

Ancestral Roots - Organic Cacao Nibs - Aug. 10, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Ancestral Roots
Organic Cacao Nibs
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 8 oz. (226 g.) in total package
Calories: 130 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) serving
Cost: $7.99 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Cocoa Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Ancestral Roots Organic Cacao Nibs were distributed by OMG! Food Company LLC (Los Angeles, CA).

These unroasted, unsweetened* cacao bean pieces had rich cacao (faint brownie), clean and clear (fresh) green and fermented aroma notes. 

Unroasted (and "raw"), but lightly fermented and dried, cocoa nibs are the least processed form of chocolate most people will have the opportunity to sample. (Cacao beans (actually seeds) plucked out of freshly harvested cacao fruit/pulp contain more tannins and are relatively bitter. Fermentation and drying breaks down tannins, making the cacao beans more edible.) and why it matters

Fermentation happens naturally with most fruits. And cacao beans are seeds from cacao fruits. One reason why you don't see fresh cacao fruit (pods) in local markets (unless you live in Hawaii or a country located near the Equator) is that cacao fruit starts to ferment very quickly after it's harvested--resulting in a short shelf life.

Fermentation temperatures for raw cacao are controlled to help preserve nutritional content and more delicate cacao flavors (e.g. floral notes) that may be lost with higher heat. (Antioxidant levels can drop more than 40 percent with high temperatures associated with fermentation and roasting in the chocolate-making process.)

Back to the nibs

Back to the nibs...Today's cacao nibs had an unroasted green freshness, and a resilient, crunchy, uniform texture and nice clean "bite," indicative of quality beans, careful drying and humidity control, and good storage and sorting.

The flavor included even, clean/clear lightly fermented, green cacao notes. There were no off notes. (Off notes can occur if beans aren't carefully sorted and an inferior bean piece slips through before/as nibs are created.) The finish was clean, clear and subtle as well.

Cacao Nibs and food and dessert pairing considerations

Roasted nibs tend to have a richer, roasted flavor, but unroasted cacao nibs have their own charm. When I think of roasted nibs, I think of red wines, fall and winter, and grilled items. When I think of unroasted/raw nibs, I think of white wines, spring greens and summer fruits. It's similar to espresso and coffee, where roasting conjures up different flavors.

I enjoy roasted cacao nibs over conventional baked brownies with bolder flavor (and roasted nibs soaked in whiskey over vanilla ice cream). Unroasted nibs might be better with a light spring salad accented with flowers and fresh green pea shoots and a glass of chilled white wine grape juice; or a light vanilla cream/custard topped with fresh peach and strawberry. 

Either way, cacao nibs offer a lot of flavor with no added sugar, all with just one ingredient.

*Ingredients: "Certified Organic Cacao Nibs (Theobroma cacao)." 

Laboratorio Artigianale - Raw Organic Chocolate - Pink Himalayan Salt and Cacao Nibs (bar) - Aug. 9, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Cacao Crudo S.r.l. 
Raw Organic, Artisan Chocolate
Pink Himalayan Salt and Cacao Nibs (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $6.49 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Cocoa Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Raw Organic Chocolate Pink Himalayan Salt and Cacao Nibs bar was made in Italy by Cacao Crudo S.r.l.* (Roma (Rome), Italy) and imported to the U.S. by Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods (Seattle, WA).

This 75% cocoa raw chocolate bar was made using ground Criollo cacao, a heritage variety of cacao famous for its delicate, varied flavors (with notes of stone fruits like peach, fresh plum, and caramel, cream). True to its description, this bar had a friendly dark chocolate aroma and a subtle complexity with light green and light concentrated/fermented fruit-floral notes (Ecuador Arriba cacao like but with something more).

 Criollo cacao manages to be at once light and delicate and rich and complex. And not roasting these Criollo beans helped to preserve some of these more delicate flavors.

The sweet (concentrated coconut flower sap) and salt (Himalayan pink rose salt) flavors were nicely balanced and restrained, allowing the natural Criollo cacao flavors to shine through. (There were only 5 grams of total sugars in 1/2 bar.) The use of Criollo cacao nibs (that added bits of texture) and Criollo cocoa butter** helped reinforce this flavor profile.

*Prodotto In Laboratorio Artigianale; Lavorato A Freddo in Tutte Le Fasi

** Cocoa beans are about half fat, and can be separated into ivory colored cocoa fat (aka cocoa butter) and darker cocoa solids. Some cocoa beans are "leaner" than others, and may benefit from added fat to give it a creamier mouthfeel and melt. In fact, many makers do add cocoa butter for creamier texture (and occasionally to muffle stronger, rougher flavor elements). But if they have a small bean batch size, they may need to obtain additional cocoa butter from a another source.

Cocoa butter has a milder flavor profile than the darker cocoa solids, but it can influence the overall taste (and texture) of finished chocolate--which is one reason why cocoa butter sourcing and processing also matters. 

Some intrepid makers press their own cocoa butter from the same batch of cocoa beans used for cocoa solids/mass to ensure they have a uniform, undiluted single origin flavor profile. And when you have really great cocoa beans, great cocoa butter enhances the goodness.

Ingredients: Organic unroasted cacao Criollo beans paste, organic concentrated coconut flower sap, organic cacao Criollo butter from not roasted beans, organic not roasted cacao Criollo nibs (5%), Himalayan rose pink salt (1.5%).

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