Sometimes, we are beholden to childhood food biases. Growing up, one of my favorite chocolates was Hershey’s chocolate kisses. Followed by Kitkat’s, Hershey bars, Mars bars, etc. In other words, I was definitely of the milk chocolate ilk, the plebeian of cocoa tastes. Even a bitterish tablea hot chocolate was something I found unappealing. As I grew older, I started to acknowledge the existence of darker chocolates, but it took me a while to appreciate them. It was Mrs. MM who really introduced, no goaded me more like it, into darker chocolates in the same manner that my taste for smelly cheese and different types of mustard also came from her influence. She did her graduate degree in Paris so I suspect the chocolate, mustard and cheese thing reached its peak there. Lately, I have indeed turned the corner and can very much appreciate a good dark chocolate…
Whether in its purest form (a chocolate bar), or in cakes or other desserts, a high cocoa content chocolate has FAR more chocolate flavor and is an intense shock to one’s palate. Just this evening, after dinner, I asked The Kid to hunt down a small bar of Scharffenberger that I knew was hiding in the fridge, as I had a hankering for it after watching a feature on Scharffenberger on the Food Network yesterday, and she returned with a veritable mountain of different chocolates that had slowly accumulated throughout the year! Some of these we purchased, many were brought as gifts from various dinner guests, friends back from travels or folks who knew Mrs. MM and The Kid were dark chocolate fiends… We had choices ranging from milk to medium dark to super dark chocolates. On a cocoa butter/solids content range, there were chocolates with 40%, 44%, 50%, 52%, 70%, 72% and 85%!!!
I decided we should do a taste test and I picked out three chocolates at about the same cocoa content. We let them warm to room temperature, taste tested several small squares of each and here are the Marketman, Mrs. Marketman and The Kid’s rating guide for dark chocolate:
Valrhona 70% Cocoa Butter/Solids
I have to first disclose that this bar was a few months OLDER than the other two tasted, however, I understand that should have minimal effect on the taste… good chocolate should last a good year past its supposed expiry date if stored properly in a fridge. At any rate, Valrhona, which is among my favorite chocolate brands ever, surprisingly came in third in this evening’s impromptu taste test. The Valrhona seemed to be less smooth than the other two brands, and it had a distinct after-taste, possibly of nuts, Mrs. MM thought. A check of the ingredients after the taste test was completed yielded the possible culprit, listed among the ingredients are traces of peanut and sesame. Hmmm, I am IMPRESSED with Mrs. MM’s taste buds. This was good, it just wasn’t the best when tasted against the others.
Godiva 72% Cocoa Butter/Solids
This was another smooth dark chocolate with a strong chocolate flavor. Again Mrs. MM noticed a sort of coconut or other nut oil butter infused to the chocolate, and it left a bit of an aftertaste. Although this bar had 2% more cocoa butter, frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference. This did come a few hairs ahead of the Valrhona, surprisingly. Godiva has seriously improved its quality in the past few years, must have happened when production of its finest chocolates returned to Belgium, rather than an East Coast factory.
Scharffen Berger 70% Cocoa Butter/Solids
This was INTENSELY chocolately, and smooth to boot. Surprisingly, all of the three brands tried were not crumbly, chalky or grainy at all, rather they were rather smooth and intensely flavored. I can see what all the positive brouhaha about Scharffen Berger is about… this was a VERY GOOD DARK chocolate. Even when I repeated the taste test BLIND, this came out ahead of the other two. Yum.
Now, my only regret? That I didn’t have a 70-72% bar of La Maison du Chocolat at the same time to test it against the other three… I wonder if La Maison would have won or slipped into a lower slot. I don’t recall how much I paid for the Scharffen Berger, but it wasn’t outrageously expensive…so I suspect I will have a new favorite in the house. And just for good measure, I popped a Valrhona 40% cacao butter milk chocolate square for “dessert” and EEEWWWW… that is how to cure yourself of childhood milk chocolate biases… eat some milk chocolate after the bittersweet stuff and the milk chocolate will actually taste a bit repulsive. Not to worry, rest overnight and I suspect I will still love my milk chocolate but will have a new found respect for dark chocolates as well!
Still have a craving for chocolate: Then check out the following Marketman Chocolate Index from February 2007 and other chocolate related posts since then…
The Marketman Chocolate Index A summary of 32 previous chocolate posts!
Hot Liquified Chocolate
Sikwate a la Marketman’s Mom
Champorado/Chocolate Rice Pudding
Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies
Three Chocolate Cakes
Bouchons au Chocolat a la Thomas Keller
Chocolat Pots de Creme
Potato Chips Dipped in Chocolate
Grape Truffles a la Michel Richard