Chocolate Roundup #6: Please Pass the Salt
Time for another chocolate roundup! It’s been a few months since the last in the series, but by no means have those months been chocolate-free. There were my chocolate finds in London, a true chocolate gem in Switzerland, a New York City inspired chocolate creation of my own and endless tastes along the way. And now, time to share a few of the latter.
A previous theme (more than once) and still current favorite of mine is dark chocolate and salt. It’s not a trend that will fade with time; it is simply a natural pairing and classic combination. Bakers may add extra salt to their recipes to bring out the flavor of sweet ingredients, as in chocolate chip cookies or cakes – the overall effect being flavorful, not salty. Whenever I see salt as a featured ingredient of a chocolate bar, my eyes open wide, and I usually end up grabbing it. Here are just a few of the many I have tasted lately. Anyone else a big fan of chocolate with salt ? Or have another fetish ingredient ?
First up is ChocoLate Orgániko from Spain, a brand I discovered here in Zürich (at Globus) for their simple, yet sleek packaging. I love the design – the logo and bright colors totally caught my eye. Their white chocolate bar with letters in a rainbow of colors on a white background, saying “for children from 0 to 90 years old” is pure fun. Too bad I don’t like white chocolate though. And too bad the rest of their line is not available here, as I would love to taste the bars made with Ethiopian coffee, green anise, or honey and almonds. But thankfully their 70% dark chocolate with salt from Ibiza is always here. It has an attractive sheen and a really excellent snap. It’s a tad bitter, but works nicely with the salt, which is clearly visible on the bottom of the bar. Definitely one I will continue to get again. And again.
Another organic dark chocolate that does not do salt in a subtle way is Salazon, the name itself meaning “salted” in Spanish. But this chocolate is made in the United States, in small batches, using sea salt harvested off the coast of South America. The bars themselves are beautiful, with a replica of the photograph shown on the packaging, of Asian salt farmers at work. There are just three bars in the lineup, and I had a very difficult time deciding whether I preferred the classic bar of dark chocolate and salt, or the one with Turbinado cane sugar too. I’m still not sure in fact. (I might have to get them both again to compare again!) I enjoyed the very thick, unscored, excellent quality chocolate. I may go with the cane sugar as my preference, as you get a strong hit of every taste – bitter, salty and sweet, with an added crunch. The third bar of the collection may even bring more balance with the addition of black pepper, but as I hardly use pepper in savory cooking, I certainly don’t want any in my chocolate. Oh, and I love their motto, which I seem to be following quite well so far: “Roam the Earth. Eat Chocolate.”
Also made in the United States, Taza is artisan, Mexican-style chocolate (for eating and drinking), whose “stone ground chocolate” labels I first spotted at my favorite shop when living in Boston years ago, Formaggio Kitchen. But only recently did I discover their Mexicano discs, with a real rustic appearance and texture. Thick and somewhat softer than other bars, they have a coarse texture as you can see below, and crumbly when you taste it. (Somewhat reminiscent of Enric Rovira’s Rajole bars.) I had the salted almond disc, which was super sweet but balanced nicely by the kosher salt, yet I didn’t find the roasted almond notes to be as intense as they are intended to be. Still a great bar, original in all ways, and I hope to try their other flavors, especially the one with coffee too. There is a ton of information, recipes and more products on their website, and they even do tours of their factory in Somerville, Massachusetts – all worth checking out.
Keeping with the theme of salt and nuts too, next up is actually milk chocolate. Peanuts, salt and chocolate. What’s not to like? I ignored the milk factor and went for it. And I am oh so glad I did. Not normally a big fan of Green & Black’s chocolate, this bar is sweet, creamy and addictive. Perhaps more confection than high quality chocolate, it was a nice change from the usual dark bars I eat. I had actually customized my own chocolate bar with salt and roasted, caramelized almonds, like New York City’s Nuts 4 Nuts, but found the nuts too hard and the salt not distributed evenly. This G&B bar gets the balance of flavors and textures right.
And last but not least, a bonus bar for this October roundup. What’s in season in Switzerland now ? And what’s keeping me busy in the kitchen ? Pumpkins ! There are still a few left from the 19 varieties I brought back from a nearby farm, as well as a small piece of a certain chocolate bar… made with pumpkin too ! It’s actually a bar with a marzipan filling, made with almonds and pumpkin seeds, a dense, chewy and sweet confection coated in dark chocolate. This bar by Josef Hochleitner in Austria came my way via Berlin — danke fellow cookie lover, Anne of Kekstester ! She was so right, I definitely would have grabbed it myself had I seen it at the market there. (Love those Berlin markets !) The bar had a very homemade feel to it, if a bit greasy, a strong almond flavor and distinct seed aroma.
So what chocolate have you tried lately? Can’t wait to hear…
Until it’s time for chocolate roundup #7, here are the first five to keep your taste buds busy:
Chocolate Roundup #1: Croatia, USA, Austria, Switzerland
Chocolate Roundup #2: Switzerland, Spain, Italy
Chocolate Roundup #3: France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland
Chocolate Roundup #4: Caramel & Salt
Chocolate Roundup #5: France, Belgium, Switzerland, USA