I’ll admit to being a card carrying chocoholic, I love the stuff. Most of the time I go for the dark varieties, but I won’t turn down milk chocolate if it is offered. I like it best in its pure form, just chocolate, unadulterated with any other flavor. Chocolate French Silk Pie is my favorite pie, and I love Chocolate Pot de Creme. Give me a Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle first, but I won’t turn down a Milky Way Midnight bar if offered, or any one of a number of other chocolate treats. So long as it doesn’t have nuts, coconut, or raspberry, I’ll happily accept, and probably have a silly grin in anticipation of the delicacy to be savored. Today is National Chocolate Day, too, the perfect time to show the Chocolate Tasting we did for a dear friend’s special birthday, also a chocolate lover.
We gathered six different brands of chocolate, all in the range of 72% cacao, so the comparison would be more or less equal. We had to go to different stores to find all these, amazingly enough the best selections were at chain drug stores, although the specialty grocery store here had several.
We settled on just six trying to get a good mix of expensive to inexpensive for comparison. Our choices were Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, Fresh Market Store Brand, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black. I wanted to get Valrhona as well, but they no longer sell to retailers and the shipping was too expensive.
Using the gold chargers to serve, the pieces of chocolate were placed in paper cups with any logos or writing face down to preserve the anonymity of the chocolate maker. Each cup was numbered in the bottom.
There is an art to doing a tasting, beginning with aroma. Did you know that chocolate contains over 1200 compounds? What you smell and taste is fully dependent on how it is processed. The chocolates were added to the cups, and water crackers are served as a palate cleanser.
Using the chart to help you describe the aroma, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety of flavors.
Fruit Notes – citrus, berry, tropical, cherry, apricot, peach, fig
Nutty – walnut, almond, hazelnut, peanut
Vegetative – grass, olive, tobacco, tea, hay
Spice – cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, licorice, coffee
Floral – rose, violet, lavender, jasmine
Earthy – musk, mushroom, truffle, soil
Silky – butter, honey, molasses, milk, butterscotch
Next, break a piece and evaluate the ‘snap’. It is a crisp break or does it bend before breaking. Higher quality chocolate has a crisp snap. Look at the break to evaluate the overall texture of the chocolate, smooth to grainy. Place a small bit on your tongue and let it melt on its own. Rate the chocolate from bitter to sweet on a scale of 1-10, with very bitter at one, and too sweet at 10. Now, concentrate on the flavors, what do you taste? Use the scale above to help identify flavors.
Download a Chocolate Tasting tasting sheet for your party – Chocolate Tasting. So which did I like? I picked the Lindt in the test, with Green & Black as a close second. Amazingly, the Hershey’s Special Dark scored well with guests, coming in third in my scoring.
On this subject too, I highly recommend this book. The Emperors of Chocolate. It is without a doubt the most interesting non-fiction book I have ever read! The amount of detail and interesting storylines that are the history of chocolate, chocolate makers and the titans of Hershey and Mars are amazing. It reads so well, it is hard to put down! I learned so much about the industry and the process of making chocolate. The family dynasties of Hershey and Mars started out as friends, with Hershey giving Mars the technology to make the candy coating for M&Ms. The ‘M’s stand for Mars, and the executive at Hershey named William Murrie. But later, they became such rivals that they tried to destroy each other. Secrecy abounds in this industry anyway, but paranoia is present too, so much so that parts of the manufacturing process are divided up, so no one person on the line knows how the whole candy is made. Read this fascinating book, and have some chocolate nearby, you’ll want some!
In the mood for a treat now? How about making some Chocolate Covered Oreos?
It’s summer here, so the strawberries are coming in. Here’s the easy way to do chocolate dipped strawberries. Using the chocolate candy melts, microwave a handful in a glass container for one minute on medium-high setting, then stir until melted and smooth.
Dip the strawberries and lay on wax paper to harden.
Add a chunk of dark chocolate to the remaining melted chocolate and microwave about 30 seconds, then stir until melted.
Using a fork, drizzle the darker chocolate over the strawberries to make a pretty design. Quick and easy!
After a party, I had some whipped cream left over. Taking it out of the frig, I whipped it by hand a few times to get the soft peaks back. Then melting some candy melts in the microwave, stirring until smooth, I added a bit of the whipped cream to the chocolate to loosen it up.
Then, fold the chocolate into the rest of the whipped cream, and viola, instant chocolate mousse!
Served in a parfait glass, an easy yet elegant dessert. Yes, whipped topping would work too.
Are you a chocolate fan? Milk or dark?