Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hebel & Co. - Double Chocolate Organic Sesame Tahini Halva - April 23, 2024

Chocolate of The Day 

Hebel & Co. 
Double Chocolate - Organic Sesame Tahini Halva
Good ++
Weight: 1.1 oz. (32 g.) / 8 oz. (227 g.) in total container/tub
Calories: 170 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $ (Missing information) for 1 container
Purchased from: The Market at Edgewood, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Umami* Theme Week. Today 

Today's Organic Double Chocolate Organic Sesame Tahini Halva was from Hebel & Co. (North Hollywood, CA).

Sesame tahini-based halva (derived from the Arabic word halwa (sweet confection)) is a traditional Middle Eastern confection made from ground sesame seeds and honey. Dairy free kosher versions are particularly popular this week when Passover is being celebrated.

Aroma notes for today's relatively modern chocolate and vanilla** version included: sweet, nougat like aroma and appearance; faint sweet sesame seed confection; and subtle chocolate and vanilla.

A slab of halva can look rather humble in appearance. However, the texture and flavors can be divine. The thick slice I tasted had a uniform, softly chewy (micro) crunchy, almost nutty, flaked texture that within 3-4 seconds dissolved into smooth, creamy deliciousness.

Flavor notes included: rich, creamy and sweet, high-end sesame nougat-like flavor infused with chocolate (cocoa) and vanilla. Not too stiff or sticky. Just right.

The sweetness level also felt just right for a confection. It wasn't made with honey; but the tapioca syrup and cane sugar sweeteners didn't obscure more subtle sesame and vanilla flavors.

Ingredients: Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Chocolate (Organic Cacao Beans, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Vanilla Beans), Organic Cocoa Powder, Certified Sustainably Sourced Organic Palm Oil, Organic Quillaja Extract, Organic Vanilla Extract, Citric Acid.

Allergen-related information: (Contains sesame.) "Made in a Facility That Processes Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Wheat, Soy, Milk."

* Umami flavors are associated with savory foods with high levels of glutamic acid/glutamate. These amino acids and protein building blocks exist not only in meats and mushrooms, but also in a variety of other foods, including: sea and land vegetables/plants, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts), cashews and several seeds (sesame, hemp, pumpkin, chesnut, chia). (Sesame seeds contain a whopping 4000 mg. of glutamic acid in a 100 gram (3.53 oz. portion.)

**Halva-style confections (aka halvah, halawa) made with varying ingredients have been enjoyed in countries like Iran/Persia, Greece, Turkey and Egypt long before new world flavors like chocolate and vanilla were added. (A sunflower seed version can be found in Russia.) That said, the more recent additions of chocolate and vanilla seemed a perfect, natural and complementary fit with this historic sweet.

Sabadi - Il Cioccolato di Agrigento (bar) - April 22, 2024

Chocolate of the The Day

Il Cioccolato di Agrigento (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 118 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Caputo's Market, online order

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Umami Theme Week.

Today's Il Cioccolato di Agrigento (bar) 60% (Ecuador cacao) chocolate bar with olive oil and bay leaves was from Sabadi srl (Modica, Sicily, Italy). (Agrigento is a town in southwest Sicily.)

Sabadi (Saturday in English) offers a variety of chocolates, including raw chocolates and Italian herb and fruit infused items, as well as other Italian foodstuffs. I recommend a browse of their website. If I'm able to travel to Sicily in the future, I'll definitely look them up.

Aroma notes included: sweet dark chocolate, savory herb and oil (very faint olive oil potato chips).

The texture of this chocolate was slightly crunchy from (I'm assuming) less refined sugar crystals, similar to some stone-ground chocolate where the cacao was minimally ground, adding a slightly crunchy creamy texture. In this case the sugar was the "rougher" ingredient, and not completely incorporated. I was expecting olive oil and cocoa butter creaminess. But I also enjoyed the added textural interest. (The company does some wonderful things with different sugars.) 

Flavor notes included: sweet, dark chocolate (with very faint fruit-floral); herb (light rosemary-mint, faint tarragon, sweet (Turkish) bay leaf). Note: there are different types of bay leaves. Bay* leaves in California are much stronger, and less "sweet" and nuanced than those found in Southern Europe.

This 60% "cold processed" chocolate was relatively sweet because: 1.) in part because the sugar crystals weren't ground down and fully incorporated, so I could taste the sweetness in a more intense way; 2.) the Ecuadorian cacao was inherently smooth (low in bitter/sour notes that can dampen or counter-balance sweetness); and 3.) 60% is a lower percentage of cacao than many dark bars (by definition there is more sugar).

Flavors were well balanced. The dried bay leaf had a lovely, nuanced/layered herbal flavor. The olive oil was very subtle.

I paired this chocolate with a high-umami, Italian-inspired meal with savory tomato and mushroom sauce. (Tomato is a high-umami fruit from the Americas that has become fully embedded into European--and global--cuisine(s).)**

Ingredients: Cocoa mass** -- origin: Ecuador -- variety: Nacional Fino de Aroma; cane sugar*, extra virgin olive oil (min. 5%), dried bay leaves (min. 1%). Cocoa: 60% minimum.

Allergen-related information: May contain traces of nuts, milk and soy.

*California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica)--aka California laurel, Oregon myrtle, Pacific myrtle, Myrtlewood, Spice tree, Pepperwood---is native to California and Oregon in the U.S. It has a strong, almost eucalyptus-like/menthol-like strength. A little goes a long way. 

European bay laurel leaves are much more nuanced and pleasant (and less likely to give some people a headache).

** The Americas, for a variety of reasons, became more densely inhabited later than Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. The indigenous peoples of the Americas cultivated many species of plants and domesticated animals early on. 

Subsequent European explorers sped the spread of cacao, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, vanilla, allspice, many squashes, Brazil nuts, avocados, tobacco, and many other uniquely American tropical fruits, grains and other foods worldwide in a big way. 

According to the Smithsonian Institution, approximately 60% of the world's diet today is based on foods that originated from the Americas.


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