If you’re crazy for chocolate and into innovation, you’re in for a treat. The following intriguing edibles share a common characteristic: they’re all quite literally uncommonly good, possessing quirky characteristics that lend them a little je ne sais quoi, and quite possibly make you go ‘oh la la!’
Switch it up this summer and, as one supermarket slogan sagely urges, ‘try something new’.
Made Not From Choc but from a cacao cousin, this truffle was one of the first in the UK to showcase the unique flavour of Brazilian arboreal fruit Cupuaçu (say ‘coo poo asoo’), also known as Theobroma Grandiflorum – and did so well enough to net its maker Marc a Great Taste Award. The beans in this baby are processed much like their cocoa counterparts; then blended with wild Brazilian honey and fresh cream into a dreamy ganache that’s cloaked in chocolate. The flavour is rich and long, the mouthfeel is light and buttery, and the contrast is compelling. A must-try.
Love cheesecake? Love white chocolate? Wish there was a bar that brought the both together? You’re in luck; and similarly so if you wish white chocolate was a little less sweet. Artisan du Chocolat’s new recipe includes a good dose of mascarpone to add a touch of tartness and a velvety melt to a carefully-conched, ground cocoa butter, sugar, and milk base; rendering the divisive confection acceptable – even enjoyable – to white chocolate haters, and even more lovely to its lovers.
Made at a family factory within splashing distance of Lake Como, Vanini’s bean-to-bar chocolate uses unique, high-quality, highly-flavoursome ‘primitive’ Bagua cocoa across its range; the strangest of whose number is this highly herbal creation. Along with its characteristic flavour, rosemary lends a cooling, menthol-like sensation to this sensational bar, whilst candying the fine-chopped needles gives texture to a treat guaranteed to hold endless appeal for fans of munching on crunchy mint chocolate.
New to the British chocolate market but already taking Brick Lane’s Backyard market by storm on a weekly basis, Ama Uzowuru and Andy Clarke’s upstart company’s ‘handmade in London’ chocolate collection comprises arresting, distinctive single origin specimens – and this brilliant bar. Touted as ‘Mona Lisa’ owing to its enigmatic nature, Natural Blonde is caramel-hued and raisiny in flavour – certainly unlike any white chocolate you’ve ever tasted. Coconut sugar creates caramelly notes, whilst lucuma powder helps the beautiful fruitiness flourish further.
This niche creation is one proffered to pastry pundits rather than the general public, but is still well worth knowing about. ‘Double Fermented’ was finally unveiled in April 2014 with a Madagascan 62% chocolate, after Valrhona devoted a decade to perfecting the process – which promises a unique eat that’s highly aromatic, and complex yet balanced. For the benefit of scientific sorts, those enhanced elements arise during the cocoa’s unusual secondary fermentation phase; triggered via the addition of sugar-rich fruits after the first ferment is complete.
This bar proves once and for all that chocolate and sugar don’t have to be synonymous. At least, it does if you’re a fan. I am; but I won’t deny it’s divisive – indeed, some may dispute my calling it a ‘treat’. The lack of sweetness is consistent with chocolate from the Mayan and Aztec eras; although the addition of milk is rather more modern. In spite of slight saltiness and a drying quality, the the melt is smooth and the chocolate-y flavour pure. If you let it lure you in, you might just find you’re a fan.
The prospect of AoC award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate from Finchley is unusual enough in itself, but this one’s another animal entirely. Quite literally so – in his 60% Robson Estate Trinitario dark milk, creator Dom Ramsey has replaced conventional cow’s milk with insanely creamy, super-rich buffalo stuff sourced from certified buffalo buffs Laverstoke Park in Hampshire. Those who enjoy taking things with a pinch of salt with love the hint of Halen Môn, and fans of floral flavours will blooming love the ‘Turkish delight’-like taste.
Pablo Spaull’s organic, raw stone-ground single-origin chocolate comes from Wales via Peru. You didn’t expect that, did you? Similarly surprising is the flavours you’ll find in his characterful chocolate. Explore the entire range, but start with the signature bar; a chocolate that’s intensely chocolate-y as Peruvian cocoa has a habit of being, and boasts bursts of caramel and tobacco. It’s lovely and it lingers. An all-organic chocolate bar whose ingredient list is as simple as its flavour is complex – containing just raw criollo cacao liquor, coconut sugar, and organic cocoa butter.
With its glowingly-green colour and intricate traditional-fireplace-tile mould, this handsome Hungarian is a sight to behold. It’s a treat to eat, too; with a fine, fulsome flavour coming from a host of herbs and other aromatics. At first look, the intriguing list of added ingredients would seem more at home in a salad dressing than in a chocolate bar, but when one tucks in, they’ll quickly learn that white chocolate with tarragon, peppermint, matcha, lemon oil and walnut oil works just wonderfully.
It pays to have a healthy cynicism where ‘healthy chocolate’ market is concerned. Many of the products that make up the category are dubious not only in terms of the ‘nutritional’ claims they make but also in terms of palatability. Thank the chocolate gods, then, for Doisy & Dam, and chocolate bars like this one with its well-judged inclusion of a trio of ingredients long-known as potent powerhouses in the superfood stakes. Combining quality chocolate, sweet berries, the crunch of chia, and a little je ne sais quoi from spirulina, this IS genuinely ‘super’.
- To read more about Vanini, click here
- To read more about Doisy & Dam, click here
- To read more about Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé, click here
- To read more about unusually-spiced chocolate, click here