Archive for the 'Single Origin Chocolates' Category

Product Feature – Askinosie Davao White Chocolate + Pistachios

In some circles, white chocolate has a reputation of being something other than chocolate. In defense of white chocolate’s chocolate nature, I present exhibit A – Askinosie’s Davao White Chocolate with Pistachios, a must-try for any chocolate enthusiast.

In the United States, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter. But that’s all. As a result, the first ingredient in most white chocolate isn’t chocolate, but sugar. In Askinosie Chocolate’s white chocolate, cocoa butter is the first ingredient. “We have a 34% cocoa butter content, which is one of the highest and is what makes the white chocolate actually ‘chocolate,’” says Lawren Askinosie, the company’s Director of Sales. The cocoa butters used in other white chocolate are also deodorized, a process that removes the natural flavor and aromas from the butter. Askinosie skips this step to preserve the full, rich flavor of the butter.

Askinosie’s Davao chocolate is the first Philippine chocolate the Untied States has seen in a long time. “We wanted to go to the Philippines because it was historic on the cocoa bean trail from the 1600′s, but they had not exported in 30 years so we took that as a challenge,” explains Lawren.

To make chocolate, raw cacao is fermented, dried, roasted and the cacao nibs are separated from their hulls. These nibs are then ground into cocoa liquor, which is composed of approximately 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa liquor, mixed with sugar, is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate.

If you want to make a white chocolate, however, you need to do something radically different – press the cocoa butter out of the liquor. “We were the first small batch chocolate makers in North America to make a white chocolate from scratch,” explains Lawren. “We press our own cocoa butter and that is the main ingredient in the bar.”

Pressing cocoa butter is long and difficult task. “Our white chocolate bars are some of our most labor intensive products because when pressing the cocoa butter, it can take several days to press enough for just one batch,” said Lawren. After pressing out the cocoa butter, Askinosie is left with press cake that is ground into cocoa powder.

The cocoa butter is put in an 85-year old German melanguer, combined with organic cane juice and goat’s milk powder, and mixed for several days. “We use goat’s milk as opposed to a cow’s milk,” says Lawren. “We did this primarily for flavor. We really thought it fit better with our white chocolate than cow’s milk, but also because of sensitivities to dairy.” After the chocolate has reached the right consistency, its poured into molds and salted pistachios, grown on a single farm in Santa Barbara, California, are sprinkled on top.

The bar snaps softly, unlike the crisp snap of a dark chocolate. Askinosie’s non-deodorized cocoa butter combined with the goat’s milk gives this chocolate a buttery and rich flavor, with a tanginess from the goat milk that keeps it from being too heavy. The bits of pistachio strewn on top extenuate the earth, nutty, wheat-y flavor, and have a beautiful color contrast with the white chocolate. Sunrise meets sunset.

Åkesson’s Chocolate Sweeps Up at the Academy of Chocolate Awards

At his family’s plantation in Madagascar, Bertil Åkesson of Åkesson’s chocolate grows cacao and pepper and turns them both into delightful chocolate. Three of his bars recently won awards at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London. He faced some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers and came away with a hat trick. Congratulations to Bertil! Here are the descriptions for his winning bars.

Brazil 75%

Our Brazil 75% bar  is made with an astonishing forastero variety of cocoa called “parasinho” that grows in Brazil’s Mata Atlântica – the wild forest with the highest biodiversity on earth – where we purchased a 120-hectare plantation. This chocolate is very smooth and has very expressive notes that evoke wood, autumn scents, and the local pitanga fruit.

Bali 45% milk chocolate & fleur de sel

Our 45% milk chocolate bar is the first Balinese single-origin bar ever made in Europe. This chocolate holds a caramelized flavor resulting from the use of natural sugar produced from the juice of coconut blossoms, harvested by gently slicing the flower. Once collected, the nectar is kettle-boiled into a thick caramel and ground to a fine crystal. With a very low glycemic index, this sugar is a great and healthy match for our Balinese fleur de sel. The cocoa is produced by the Sukrama family on seven hectares in the Melaya area in the western part of the island.

Madagascar 75% Criollo cocoa

Our Madagascar 75% bar has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavor notes that evoke citrus and red berries, the true taste of the very best cocoa beans from Madagascar. Our 2,300-hectare family estate in the Sambirano Valley in northwestern Madagascar has produced world-famous aromatic cocoa since 1920. Besides 300 tons per year of trinitario cocoa, a very limited production of criollo cocoa – two tons per year -is harvested separately

Åkesson’s produces several other bars, including one with voatsiperifery pepper, a wild pepper that grows on creeping vines up to 20 meters (that’s 65 feet!) up in the tree canopy. All of Åkesson’s chocolates are available online from the Meadow and in both of our shops.

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Patric’s 75% Sambirano Chocolate – An Interview with Alan McClure

Patric 75% SambiranoCacao from Madagascar has inspired some the great chocolate makers for years now. Most famous of all is the Sambirano River Valley, located on the northern tip of the island. Sambirano’s unique combination of tree genetics, climate, and terroir make for chocolate that is both warm and acidic, with lush cherry flavors that spend themselves like dark lucre in a fruit market of citrus.

Alan “Patric” McClure of Patric Chocolate, one of Missouri’s two bean-to-bar chocolate makers (what is it about Missouri and chocolate?), is a big fan of Madagascan cacao. He makes two different plain Madagascar bars and one with nibs, each one a distinct showcasing of this phenomenal bean. He and I exchanged some emails recently regarding his Patric 75% Sambirano bar, which he says was his “attempt to push the limits of the cacao in terms of balance.”

“I felt like the cacao I was using was so mild in terms of bitterness that if I was able to handle the roasting and conching just right, I’d end up with a concentrated, interesting, delicious and balanced chocolate.  Someone once called the bar the espresso of Madagascar chocolates, and I really like that.  I think it is just the right description for something so full of flavors and yet still so balanced.”

Alan also makes a 67% Sambirano bar, and I was curious how he thought it stood apart from the 75%. Aside from being a bit sweeter, and therefore more accessible,

“…there are also flavors in that bar that are quite clear—more so than in the 75%–even though there is a higher percentage of those flavor compounds in the 75%.  It seems contrary to reason, but what it shows is how sugar can actually have a positive impact on chocolate in terms of allowing certain flavors, specifically juicy berry-like flavors, to shine instead of simply adding sweetness or detracting from the chocolate.”

My brother – a gourmand if there ever was one, and a wine collector who snuffs around Los Angeles like a sort of oenophilic wild boar – considers the Patric 67% Sambirano the best chocolate bar on the market. His single-minded obsession with this one bar guarantees that we run out of stock periodically when he unexpectedly decides to replenish his supply. I had a similar obsession with Patric’s 100% Sambirano chocolate discs, which sold like wildfire from a jar in our store. That chocolate, alas, has been discontinued (send Alan a letter and beg him to put that back into production).

Patric also makes a 70% blend and a Dark Milk, for which he uses his Sambirano beans, some Rio Caribe, and two other origins that remain a trade secret. His view of blend versus single-origin chocolate bars refuses to take a side, as one would expect from a man who understands the whole process of turning those seeds of the brightly-colored cacao pod into the shiny dark slabs we’re all familiar with.

“I am not a proponent of single-origin bars over blended bars or the other way around. Theoretically, a single-origin bar can tell the consumer more about the terroir of the cacao in the chocolate, but often the post-harvest processing and chocolate making changes the flavor so dramatically that it is hard to argue that one is getting an extremely clear picture of the impact of the terroir. Additionally, even if one does, that doesn’t make the chocolate any good. It is a rare bean that can make a delicious chocolate by itself.”

The Meadow has a selection of Patric bars in our shops and online, available to ship nationwide.

Artisan du Chocolat’s Vietnamese, 72% dark limited edition dark chocolate bar

Just off the docks and onto the shelves, a new chocolate maker arrives from Kent, England.  Artisan du Chocolat is one of the new generation of adventurous bean-to-bar chocolate makers keeping everything fresh in the chocolate world.  It was their much talked about tobacco chocolate and the selection of other playful-serious infused chocolate bars that originally led me to them.  When I discovered they actually made their own chocolate, getting the entire line into our shops in Portland and New York became a whole lot more pressing.  We missed the holidays, but they’re here at last.

This is my first experience with the bar that really caught my eye.

Only the last lingering traces of flavor remain now, a burnt caramel with a touch of spicy ginger.  That was preceded by raisins and treacle, and indeed, as the maker, Gerard, suggested, perhaps a touch of “biscuit.” The first flavors that greeted me upon opening, regarding, snapping, sniffing, and sucking the chocolate bar were something: what, maybe cardamom and/or turmeric with a bit of allspice.  It is remarkably sweet.  The bar is imperfectly crafted, with a mouthfeel that is not entirely decisive, embracing neither the contemporary daring lightness or the old world brooding silkiness.   But I have not tasted Vietnamese chocolate before, and I’m dang happy to have experienced this new creation.  Artisan du Chocolat’s Vietnamese, 72% dark limited edition chocolate bar is made with Trinitario seedlings from neighboring Malaysia and grown in Ba Ria Vung Tau Province, East of the Mekong Delta.  Complex and distinctive, I couldn’t ask for more, sitting here in the sun, still puffing and warm from shoveling snow off the sidewalk of the Hudson street shop on a Thursday morning.

Busy Days of Chocolate Tasting at The Meadow

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about chocolate, and a lot has happened.

The main thing is that we have been eating (ahem, I mean tasting) a lot of chocolate bars.

Sahagun Salted CaramelsOur Meadow Salted Chocolates were back in stock for a short while!  But no, they are gone again, darn it.  If anyone knows a great, secret local chocolatier who can mold and package our salted chocolate, please do tell.

Also made locally, we now carry Sahagun Handmade Chocolates’ legendary fleur de sel liquid caramels, and an expanded collection of her lovely “barks.”  There is the Palomitapapa, the Pepitapapa, the Oregon Bark.

Michael Recchiuti fleur de sel caramels have also landed on the shelves, along with boxes of his wild and delicious chocolates.  I confess that part of the reason does not have to do with the fact that his caramels are ridiculously, annoyingly good.  Part has to do with the fact that we just love Michael and his wife Jackie so much, we want to be feel their presence in the shop.  (I’ll post something on a Japanese salt-festooned dinner we all shared at the Heathman not long ago on Saltnews.org sometime soon!).   Local chocolatiers include Sahagun, Xocolatl de David, DePaula Confections, and Lulu’s Chocolate!

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Uno Mas de Mexicbar: Taza’s Chiapas 75% Limited Edition

taza chiapas 75% dark chocolate bar from MexicoTaza Chocolate is a new American bean-to-bar chocolate company that has brought an unusual approach to chocolate-making. Their new, limited edition Chiapas 75% chocolate bar is made from beans from Chiapas, in southern Mexico. It has great earthy-nutty-nutshelly notes and some fruit and spice to boot. The bar is made with Taza’s characteristically coarse grain sugar, which gives the impression of added sweetness for a bar of this cacao content.

This is an intellectually welcome and culinarily exciting addition to the small but fundamentally key (a gourmand of no less magnitude than Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin  repeatedly refers to the unsurpassed drinking chocolates originating in the “sokonusco” region of Mexico.  Askinosie Chocolate not long ago introduced its own Soconusco chocolate bar from a small band of growers in Mexico.  taza chocolate grinder

According to Larry Slotnick, co-founder of Taza with Alex Whitmore, the beans in the Chiapas bar are from the farm community of San Felipe in Southern Chiapas. Only 1,392 bars were made, and each is hand numbered. Larry and Alex don’t give cellaring recommendations, but I think the bar is eating pretty nicely right now. (I’m kidding around…)

The Taza guys say this about the bar: “We carefully blended the chocolate as a 75% dark that is a perfect balance of sweetness allowing the very unique flavor characteristics of this bean to shine. The beans exhibit a very nutty flavor profile and a dry, tannic finish not found in most chocolate bars.”

Some background on Taza: Pulling some very old technology from the shadowy recesses of history, they have resurrected ye olde grinding stone (molino) to create a more rustic, less processed chocolate.

Taza’s mission is stated: “Taza is a true bean-to-bar chocolate maker located in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is the only maker of 100% stone ground chocolate in the United States. Taza sources organically grown cacao beans directly from small farmer cooperatives ensuring those farmers receive more than fair trade prices for their high quality cacao. Taza is uniquely positioned as one of the only independently owned, socially and environmentally responsible chocolate makers in the country.”

In addition to the rougher grind and lack of conching of the chocolate, Taza roasts their cacao beans lighter than many, leaving more intense fruity acidity.

Very Dark and Nibby Chocolate Fondue

Cooking class featuring Himalayan Salt Plates, Blocks with ChocolateButter, margarine, confectioners sugar, heavy cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, brandy, vanilla extract. What do all these things have to do with chocolate? Why not add Eye of Newt to the mixture?

Fondue recipes proliferate. Many are unduly fancy. Some are simply mired in preconceived notions about food inherited from the roly-poly days when butter and flavorings were the esteemed foundations upon which we constructed our culinary fantasies. Sometimes it’s nice to dispense with the curlycues, or more savagely, just take those crusty habits out to pasture and put them out of their misery.

The other day at our Himalayan Salt Block Cooking Class we made an original sort of chocolate fondue. More viscous, richer, more complex, and, (of all things) crunchier than your typical fondue, we ate fondue was at once more sophisticated and yummier. The only ingredient in the fondue is chocolate.

No good pictures of our Himalayan Salt Block Very Dark & Nibby Chocolate Fondue have survived for posterity, but a shot taken that evening (right) gives an idea of the basic setup. The Himalayan salt block works like a double boiler, protecting the chocolate from excessive heat while contributing the temperature stability necessary to work the melting chocolate without allowing it to separate into oil and solids. The salt block also makes a beautiful serving platter. Because there is virtually no moisture in chocolate, the Himalayan salt block does not add any perceptible amount of saltiness to the chocolate.  To prepare this dish, you will need the following:

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Claudio Corallo Featured in Der Spiegel

Claudio Corallo at his plantation in Sao Tome and PrincipeDer Spiegel, the popular German magazine and website, has published a great story based on a visit to Claudio Corallo at his plantation on Sao Tome and Principe. The story communicates pretty nicely the general impression one gets that Corallo harbors little love for the chocolate industry in general, and, perhaps, the gourmet chocolate industry in particular. I definitely recommend reading it if you are interested in learning about Claudio Corallos quest for the intense and true flavors in chocolate.

Striving for the World’s Best Chocolate

In a remote corner of the global village, an Italian believes he’s developed the best of all chocolate recipes. Claudio Corallo lives on an island off Nigeria and ships his small-batch chocolate around the world.

Most people, says Claudio Corallo, don’t have the slightest idea what chocolate is — or what it can be. The article continues>>

Amedei Chocolate Takes the “Golden Bean” Best Bean to Bar Award

Amedei’s Tuscan BarsAfter an examination by a committee of experts of the London Academy of Chocolate, Amedei (Tuscany, Italy) has won the Golden Bean award for “the best bean to bar chocolate in the world.” That has a nice ring to it. Once someone told me my Cassoulet de Castelnaudary was “the best cassoulet in the world,” my chest still gets puffy when I think of it (it is puffy now).

I imagine Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri, the brother and sister founders of Amedei, were drowning in Champagne on the night of the announcement. Nonetheless, they managed to comment: “We are very proud of this award. Our objective shall always remain that of producing the best chocolate in the world, dedicating it to all our supporters. We thank the Academy of Chocolate for this award, and for the seriousness and passion it puts in its worldwide work in search of good quality chocolate.”

Here is their announcement, edited slightly, because while I respect their palates, “harbouring” all those “colourful” extra ‘u’s hogs up RAM on my “computour.”

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Salted Chocolate by The Meadow

There is so much to say about the combination of salt and chocolate that I will just stare, paralyzed, at the computer screen for three hours of insect brain-deadness… Salt and dark chocolate, salt and milk chocolate, salted chocolate, chocolated salt (I actually do have both).

But as with everything in life, the devil is in the detail. Salted 80% dark Italian blended chocolate (Salinae bar by Antica Dolceria Bonajuto) has nothing to do with 80% dark Italian Ecuadorian chocolate a chocolate (Blacksal by Domori), which in turn has virtually nothing in common with a 74% dark Italian blended chocolate served up side by side with Trapani and Cervia sea salts (Cioccolato Fondente al Sale di Cervia by Cioccolato di BruCo).

meadow_salted_chocolate_pangasinan_web.jpgThe power of salt to coax out, elucidate, and expand on the flavor of food does not stop with the savory. Actually, the idea that sweet and savory are somehow opposite is strange, and actually at odds with our natural affinity for diversity and complexity in food. Eat Ethiopian and you will find your fingers plunged in sugar on lamb with tamarind; eat dim sum and half the time you are eating donuts and pork. My grandpa was in love with apple pie with cheddar cheese. At any rate, chocolate is not even a sweet until after it is sweetened, and that can be done with much more deftness than is common.

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