Friday, July 17, 2009
Summer is a great time to be eating dark chocolate because even at room temperatures, these beauties are primed to melt in your mouth. Too often, I see folks eating chocolate stored at less than 60F ambient temperatures - which is almost criminal. Here is a rule of thumb - if stored at an ideal temperature, the chocolate should start to lightly smear up your fingers within a few seconds of coming into contact. While it can be messy, you are assured that you are getting the most out of the chocolate.
Dark Chocolate doesn't lend itself to instant gratification - its pleasures are surrendered in a delayed action sequence. First come the texture and smoothness which, if consumed at the right temperature (65-75F) should become apparent with minimal effort from your mandibles. After traversing the insides of your mouth for a few seconds, the flavors should start to announce themselves. Apart from the varying levels of bitterness and sweetness, one should start to sense the infusions - most commonly dried fruit bits, coffee, spices, seeds/powdered seeds, wine and other alcohols. These flavor notes can arrive in waves hiding and surfacing unpredictably. Here is where you palate and the skill of the chocolatier come into play. Allow yourself the time to experience these and if you aren't a convert already, you'll be one.
Pictured here is my sister Manju creating what turned out to be among the best truffles I'd eaten for my birthday earlier this year. In addition to conventional orange rind truffles, she got a bit creative with wine soaked dates and amaretto soaked raisins. The latter were a huge hit - in particular the wine soaked dates - which almost seamlessly disappeared into the ganache. I've been trying to get her to mail me more of these ever since.
Finally, an honorary mention for chocolate bars made by Santander which are among my recommended picks and a great value for money. The bars cost between $2-$4 each and pack a lot of quality at that price. If you are like me and try to justify nibbling square(s) of dark chocolate daily as a nutritious health supplement (yeah, right! :-)), this one is well suited and won't set you back by too much.
Of late, I find that I only eat their coffee/fruit infused 70% Cacao bars because those are the ones that really set Santander apart. A nod to Colombia's rich coffee producing culture, both the "70% Dark Chocolate with Coffee Nibs" and "70% Dark Chocolate with Espresso" have rich, deep, lasting flavors with great texture. Both of these can really wake you up - so if you are sensitive to caffeine, don't consume them at night. At about $3 or less, these are among the very best you can find at the price.
Pictured above is something I recently tasted, their "70% Dark Chocolate with Passion Fruit bits". Again, this was a great creation - the acid and sweetness of the passion fruit bits perfectly complementing the chocolate base. There is another one with Pineapple bits that I haven't yet tried.