Wednesday, April 17, 2024

J. Street Chocolate - Caramelized Koji Mylk 55% (bar) - April 17, 2024

Chocolate of the Day

J. Street Chocolate 
Caramelized Koji Mylk 55% (bar)
Good ++ 
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.)/ 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 136.4 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.00 (web site price today) for 1 bar
Purchased from: J. Street Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Umami Theme Week. 

Today's Caramelized Koji Mylk 55% (bar) was made by J. Street Chocolate (San Francisco, CA). J. Street founder and chocolate maker (Julia Street) explores chocolate "through the world of fermentation, upcycled food, and single origin bars." 

Fermentation enhances umami and other flavors. (Almost all chocolates are made with fermented and roasted cacao.) Pairing chocolate with other fermented foods--and umami flavors including vegetables, meats, sauces, as well as mushrooms and fungi* is very interesting to me; so please forgive the longer, nerdier, review for this bar.

Today's inclusion was koji, a prized fungus that can be cultivated on rice (mold inoculated grain) and used to ferment sugars and alter proteins. The result: flavor development. Koji is used in fermented products ( miso, sake, soy sauce, meju, shochu, mirin, and other foods and beverages). There was koji in yesterday's featured J. Street Chocolate 72% Shoyu Chocolate bar.) And, like chocolate, koji can go sweet or savory.

Aroma notes for this mylk chocolate bar included: chocolate (chocolate-y/dark milk chocolate ganache, lemony green herb (oxalis), caramel, faint and diffuse fruit(s), very faint aromatic rice, and very light savory.

Texture: uniform, relatively smooth texture and melt. There was a very faint graininess/astringency that developed a few seconds in. But by the end it had a clean, less astringent, almost fresh finish -- almost like the koji cleared and I got a clearer taste of fruit in the cacao. There were some fun microscopic interactions going on in this gentle and tasty game of hide-and-seek.

Flavor notes included: dark milk/mylk chocolate with some very faint tropical fruit (Botan) rice candy notes. After the first bite, there was an interesting (in a good way), very subtle taste shift that happened that was hard to explain. 

There was a whisp of menthol-like coolness (without any strong mint or menthol flavor) that felt like a mellowing/settling in the flavor in the first bite. The slightly lemon-green (oxalis) citrusy note fell off a bit, but a pleasant tangy-ness remained. 

Subsequent bites also had slight shape-shifting quality, including recurring, very light flickers of fruit (cacao fruit, fleeting red berry) and caramel in subsequent bites. 

The sweetness level of this 55% mylk chocolate seemed right; i.e., it was not too sweet. (Thank you!) The flavors were nicely balanced, and subtly complex. 

Like the other J. Street Chocolate bars sampled this week, this Koji 55% bar was thoughtfully conceived, well-executed and fun to try. I really appreciated Julia Street's willingness to explore savory chocolate options, choice of fermented flavor inclusions (expertly matched with specific cacao varieties/origins), and her process.**

Ingredients: "cacao beans from Tanzania*, cocoa butter*, cane sugar*, caramelized rice koji (Koda Hills white rice*, aspergillus oryzae)"  * organic

Allergen-related information: (No allergen information printed on packaging; check with J. Street if you have questions.)

*Umami foods are higher in glutamate, a contributor to the savory "fifth" flavor. It's not the same as salty; umami foods have more "meaty" depth--even if there's no meat. (E.g., miso soups, or tomato sauces with parmesan cheese and mushrooms, etc.)

** The following is Street's description of how she made this bar and some tasting notes: 

"...I dry and caramelize the koji rice slowly to bring out the sugars and the Maillard effect. Then I grind it before adding it to the chocolate as the "milk". It lends a caramel sweetness (and I can use less sugar than most bars!) and makes for a really balanced bar."

"Just as important for this bar are the cocoa beans from Kok(o)a Kamili in Tanzania. This origin's fruitiness is a perfect match for the koji's nutty properties I bring out."

"In this bar I taste notes of strawberry, caramel, biscoff cookie, and rye..."

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