Chocolate! A Tasting, Recipes and a Book Review

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

In the mood for a treat now?  How about making some Chocolate Covered Oreos?

Chocolate Covered Oreos 17

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Dip the strawberries and lay on wax paper to harden.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Add a chunk of dark chocolate to the remaining melted chocolate and microwave about 30 seconds, then stir until melted.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using a fork, drizzle the darker chocolate over the strawberries to make a pretty design. Quick and easy!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

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.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Then, fold the chocolate into the rest of the whipped cream, and viola, instant chocolate mousse!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Served in a parfait glass, an easy yet elegant dessert. Yes, whipped topping would work too.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Are you a chocolate fan?  Milk or dark?


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34 thoughts on “Chocolate! A Tasting, Recipes and a Book Review

  1. Until January I was with you on chocolate. Not having sweets of any kind, I miss chocolate the most. I crave chocolate at least 2-3 times a week. Lindt’s Dark Chocolate Truffles are what kept me sane and going on rough days working.

  2. I have a serious chocolate problem…if it’s in my house, I will find it! And then I will proceed to eat every last piece! I am obsessed with chocolate covered strawberries as well. I prefer dark over milk!

  3. Jennifer Rauch

    This looks like a fun thing to do when we visit our daughter & family! S-i-law is very studious, so the science of it all would appeal I think. And my Scrabble friends might just enjoy it too for something different. Love chocolate, but not the white stuff that is too sweet & looks like plastic! Fun post!

  4. What a fun idea, and I may just have to get the book from our library, if available. In my youth and middle age years, I would have said milk chocolate, but for the last 20 years or so, the dark chocolate is so much more pleasing to the old taste buds. My absolute favorite piece of candy, and has been since I was a child, are chocolate covered orange peels. As a child, when in downtown Chicago, my mother would always buy some at Marshall Fields for me. Yummy!

  5. Oh my….I am so going to do this when my company arrives in 3 weeks. A fun activity everyone can participate in….thank you for sharing!

    Crystal in Cedar City

  6. Your chocolate tasting party looks like it would be lots of fun! I love chocolate, too, especially dark chocolate. Have not tried chocolate covered Oreos, though – they might send me over the edge! 🙂

  7. Linda B

    What a fun event you put together. I bet everyone had a great time! Trader Joe’s has a 72% dark chocolate bar that we keep on hand for those after dinner longing for a treat times. It is so nice that Dr Purlmutter suggests chocolate coffee and dry red wine are all good for the brain (in moderation!) (and not necessarily all together! Ha!)

  8. Dark all the way.

    We did a chocolate tasting party at work; everyone brought in various brands. We had so many different kinds we ended up splitting it over three days! We were amazed at how different the brands of chocolate taste (especially from different countries).

  9. karenfae

    I love chocolate too and the dark chocolate is my fave but I won’t turn down any kind. I keep a jar of Dove Dark Chocolate squares next to my sewing area – Dark Chocolate is good for you so I look at it as medicine that I have to take and help myself to at least 2 squares a day – LOL – I do limit myself but rarely a day goes by that I do not forget to take my medicine 🙂

  10. I loved your tasting party. I could live without white chocolate, but EVERYTHING else is fair game. There is one exception — cheap chocolate molded for various holidays. That is easy to spurn.

  11. kim

    Carole~ I love your blog. You have inspired me in so many ways. Thank you for that.

    Also, I have quit eating sugar, so Hershey’s and Russell Stover are about the only SF choices (at the local shops). I would say that Russell Stover Premium Dark SF is the most satisfying to me. Thanks for your ideas and keep up the good work.

  12. Cheryl

    Oh yes I certainly enjoy chocolate. Dark is my favourite but milk chocolate will do in a pinch. I love it with nuts or mint. A chocolate tasting party sounds like fun. I will have to be on the look out for the book. The secrecy around chocolate making sounds intriguing. We have a chocolate making factory close to here and I understand some employees must sign a waiver if they work in certain areas that they will not divulge anything about the making process. Who new chocolate making could be so interesting.

  13. Rosemaryflower

    Lindt Dark chocolate is my favorite.
    I do not like candy bars they sell here in US, too sweet.
    I love double stuffed vanilla oreos. I bet they would be epic covered in dark chocolate

  14. Melanie

    I am such a chocoholic that I’ve been known to eat chocolate chips right out of the freezer when there’s none other in the house and when I am DESPERATE for chocolate. LOL Terrible, I know. I am not at all discriminating, eat it with or without restraint and I don’t mind nuts either. I love the recipe for dipped strawberries and will definitely make the chocolate covered Oreos for a special treat or potluck! What a fun day you had with the chocolate testing party!! Thanks for another super fun and creative blog, Carole!

  15. Phyllis Smith

    Good afternoon,
    Oh what fun you had I know, CHOCOLATE GALORE! ‘
    Wish I had been there to eat some of those chocolate covered strawberries, look delicious. I prefer the dark chocolate myself. Love the Ghirardelli strawberry filled candies and their peppermint candies at the Christmas holidays.

  16. Gwynette in NW Arkansas

    I have a friend that doesn’t like chocolate and I don’t mind telling her she is a little on the weird side, but she is a quilter, so I forgive her. Loved your “chocolate tasting”! The Fresh Market Store Brand and Green and Black’s aren’t available here to my knowledge and are the two of your choices that I haven’t tried.

  17. Well I am like the friend of the lady above, I am not a chocolate fan, I do not even like the smell!! I got very sick after eating it when I was a teenager so do not go near it now…once in a while I will have white chocolate. ..Whittakers from NZ, it has little poppy bits in it and is very very nice. But my girlfriend from NZ LOVES chocolate so one time she was here we did a chocolate tour in Melbourne and Lindt was her favourite. Your tasting party was a great idea.

  18. Milk chocolate for me. We went to a similar chocolate tasting party, although not so scientific. We were living in Japan at the time, so they were all Japanese chocolate brands. It’s been a few years, so I don’t recall the results. But it sure was surprising and fun!

  19. A great idea for a fun activity! With some good red wine! 😄 I can easily let milk chocolate go by but cannot keep dark chocolate in the house.

  20. dezertsuz

    BIG dark chocolate fan! Lindt chocolates of all kinds are my favorites, and the truffles – oh do I enjoy those! I could enjoy myself right into fat-lady clothes, if I got all I wanted. Best trip ever, my best friend and I took a wrong turn (not uncommon with her navigation skills!) and wound up just over the Delaware line. We decided to have lunch in the shopping center and there was a Lindt outlet! I’m not saying how much I bought, or how long it lasted, but oh the memories are sweet! I never knew all this stuff about a chocolate tasting. That sounds like a great get-together for friends!

  21. Milk or dark? After reading your wonderful and deliciously delightful post, I don’t care which! I’ll have to try the whipped cream and chocolate together…Mmmm..I seem to remember a candy bar sitting in my purse, forgotten until now 🙂

  22. What a great idea! I love the Lindt ecudor dark. The chain grocery here in Ontario (Loblaws) also has a very nice organic dark chocolate. I find dark chocolate more satisfying, so I can eat less. Gosh, now I’m craving chocolate, but I’m trying not to eat any after 9 pm, because I think it keeps me awake.

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