17 Sep2007

choco1

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…

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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%!!!

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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
Brownie Crisps
Champorado/Chocolate Rice Pudding
Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies
Three Chocolate Cakes
Bouchons au Chocolat a la Thomas Keller
Chocolat Pots de Creme
Brownies
Potato Chips Dipped in Chocolate
Grape Truffles a la Michel Richard

 

COMMENTS:

  1. edel says:

    i learned to appreciate dark chocolates as kid because whenever my aunt and dutch uncle came for a visit, they never fail to bring tons of chocolates (and smelly cheese!) and my older cousins would always beat me to the coveted milk chocolates. that’s when i discovered that my cousins doesn’t like the taste of bitter chocolate so lucky, lucky me! =D

    i find meiji and ghirardelli’s dark chocolates yummy also. haven’t tasted scharffen berger though

    Sep 17, 2007 | 9:46 pm

     
  2. edee says:

    used to love milk chocolates as well, but for some reason , i find them too sweet now…i only like dark chocolate now…..my 5yr old son don’t seem to mind if it’s dark or not as long as it is chocolate :)

    Sep 17, 2007 | 9:54 pm

     
  3. Chris says:

    MM, that’s 70% cacao or cocoa solids, not cocoa butter. In contrastm white chocolate has just the cocoa butter and none of the solids…

    Sep 17, 2007 | 10:10 pm

     
  4. chris says:

    Oops… Just checked wikipedia and some other sources. Turns out the percentage quoted indicates cocoa paste content which includes BOTH cocoa solids and cocoa butter. I guess that explains why valrhona has labeled its white chocolate as 30%…

    Sep 17, 2007 | 10:34 pm

     
  5. Candygirl says:

    I also love S.B. too! I have a couple of baking bars left sitting in the fridge. Was it Hershey’s who bought the company recently?

    Sep 17, 2007 | 10:58 pm

     
  6. Teresa says:

    I really don’t have a sweet tooth that is why I love dark chocolates! When I was in high school, 1 or two pieces of Hershey Kisses was enough for me to go sugar overload. At work, when I was still back home, chocolates given as pasalubong by officemates who travel abroad remain in a candy jar I keep on my desk. I told my officemates to help themselves and that’s how the jar is emptied. We weren’t allowed to eat sweets as a child but I was addicted to a box of chocolates given as a gift to my father by a balikbayan. I cannot remember where the box came form or what kind of chocolates it was. I remember the bitter smell and taste of this chocolate with a surprise inside. Even though I have tried all the dark chocolates available, I cannot remember finding the same bitter smell on a chocolate until I tasted Sharffen Berger. A friend gave me a batch during a housewarming and I have been hooked ever since. My favorite is the one with Cacao Nibs. Ah it’s so heavenly! I think the company was recently acquired by Hershey’s.

    Sep 17, 2007 | 11:34 pm

     
  7. martin says:

    There’s a great chocolate factory in Argentina. It’s called Fenix and they’ve been in the industry for around 100 years.
    They use Brazilian, Ecuatorian and Venezuelan beens, toast them, crush them and *insert magic here* they produce an incredible chocolate.
    The line is 100% varietal, ie different products are made with only one kind of beans. They have: 2 diff beans from venezuela, 1 from brazil and 2 from ecuador, all 70%.

    I’m flying to phillipines next week, but I’ll be in Cebu City. If you’re interested, I can send you one sampler box for you to try them.

    There’s an article we wrote for our blog, in spanish: elcuerpodecristo.com/wiki/chocolate+salgado

    Sep 17, 2007 | 11:39 pm

     
  8. gemma says:

    this may be off topic, but since you mentioned having been goaded into eating cheese by your wife, how on earth do you acquire the taste for cheese? the most pungent cheese i could have is parmegianno reggiano. i would love to be able to enjoy stinky cheeses such as the camembert but i have trouble swallowing them.

    Sep 17, 2007 | 11:53 pm

     
  9. Apicio says:

    It might be interesting to note that in the course of investigating the claims of the maker of exorbitantly priced chocolates from Texas (founded by two Canadian accountants) Maison du Chocolat acknowledged that they use Valrhona chocolates in their products. But no matter, their take on the old Viennish favorite Rigo Jancsi that they named Rigoletto is wicked. Unctuous with beurre noisette and studded with fine caramel shards, it is well worth the mischief that a layer of cholesterol left in your arterial walls will wreak.

    I have (I think) a civilized appreciation of cheese (specially with fresh fruit after dinner) but the obsessive quest for the most fetid I shall leave to others.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 12:29 am

     
  10. Maria Clara says:

    US has produced a handful of good chocolatiers: as we all know Scharffen Berger is a brainstorm of two California locals and the birthplace is Berkeley, California. Dagoba Chocolates which pride itself as an organic chocolate was born in Ashland, Oregon. For exotic chocolate flavored candies, truffles Vosges Haute Chocolat of Chicago. Jin Patisserie of Culver City, California are known for their chocolate truffles too. I believe all these chocolatiers could stand side by side with their Parisian counterparts.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 1:11 am

     
  11. marie says:

    Oh I absolutely love sharffen berger and godiva however sharfeen is quite expensive. 3 bux for a very small bar ahaha but the bar is to die for!

    Sep 18, 2007 | 1:15 am

     
  12. pixeldose says:

    From what I’ve read, dark chocolates are supposed to be rich in anti-oxidants and have more of the flavonoids that can help lower one’s blood pressure. And I think this is what’s driving the demand and consumption of dark chocolates in the US. People think you get some health benefits from it.

    Personally, I prefer munching on the silkier and much smoother Scharffen Berger milk chocolates, hehe. There’s always that rich cocoa and creamy taste that lingers on your tongue long after you’ve consumed a piece of it. And it’s not sweet unlike most chocolates.

    I should really take my wife to that factory tour of Scharffen Berger in Berkeley as it’s just a mere 30 minutes away from where we live. That should be fun.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 4:59 am

     
  13. pinky says:

    MM, when you mentioned “good chocolate should last a good year past its supposed expiry date if stored properly in a fridge”, did you have to store all those chocolates in airtight containers? I have found that chocolates stored in the fridge just in its original packaging still tend to absorb the odors of other food.

    When we were still in the Phils. the first balikbayan box my mom sent us she put bath soaps with bars and bars of Hersheys and Lindt and Cadburys chocolate. She had the bath soaps and chocolates in different ziploc bags. But the 30 day freight trip ruined the chocolate bars and ended up smelling like Zest & Dove soap. Muntik na naming gamiting pampaligo yung mga chocolate bars kasi kasing bango ng mga sabon.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 5:30 am

     
  14. tulipfleurs says:

    At Trader Joe’s, one can buy a 2 oz. Scharffen Berger for about $1.99 but other places can go for more. The Scharffen Berger Chocolate Mocha Freddo is the latest collaboration between Peet’s Coffee and Scharffen Berger (both Berkeley. CA based). Yes, I’ve also read and heard that dark chocolate is richer in anti-oxidants so there’s all the reason to indulge without the guilt! :-) Pixeldose, I too have yet to go on their tour. If I do, I’ll make sure to dine at their restaurant, Cafe Cacao afterwards. [Hershey's did acquire SB about 2 years ago.]

    Sep 18, 2007 | 5:56 am

     
  15. bedazzle says:

    MM, you just made a chocoholic’s day! I love chocolates although I haven’t tasted the chocolates you put to the test. The dark chocolates I’ve tasted are Ghirardelli and Hershey’s Special Dark. You know that bag of Hershey’s Miniatures containing a variety of Hershey’s chocolates (Milk Chocolate, Mr. Goodbar, etc.)? Di ba ang laging naiiwan are the Special Dark chocolates? Well, in our family sa akin lahat napupunta yun because I’m the only one who likes them. Btw, did you know na meron ng kisses na dark chocolate. MM, may I know where I can buy some Scharffen Berger chocolates? Would you know if it’s available at Killion (that is if you’ve been there, hehehe).

    Sep 18, 2007 | 6:58 am

     
  16. Ted says:

    Has anyone tried the Ritter Sport dark chocolates? They’re from Germany and they are so good. Cheap too at $2/3.5 oz, available at Walgreens and Target

    Sep 18, 2007 | 7:36 am

     
  17. bernadette says:

    Of all dark chocolates, I prefer Ritter Sport because it is not so bitter. But then i will be on the look out for the Scharffen Berger!

    Sep 18, 2007 | 8:41 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    edel, I totally understand your amusing comment, I would end up with all the liquer filled chocolates in some Whitman’s Sampler boxes of chocolate my mom used to get! edee, I think it’s a good idea to start kids on dark chocolate early, The Kid likes dark chocolate and it is healthier as it doesn’t have as much sugar. Chris, thanks, yes I think it is better to say cocoa butter AND solids so I have amended post! Candygirl, WHAT? Hershey’s owns SB? Did the local Hershey’s guys read that? When can you bring in SB for some local retailers??? :) Teresa, dark choc with cacao nibs, I can see Mrs. MM really liking that version. Martin, I understand some of the FINEST cacao comes from the areas you mention… Have a good journey to Cebu, will email you off-line to answer your earlier email question. gemma, I think one just gets used to it…try a little blue cheese or gorgonzola with sliced tomatoes and a little balsamic vinaigrette and bread…then progress from there… Apicio, I am with you really repulsive smelling cheeses I cannot handle… pixeldose, I ate an ENTIRE milk chocolate Scharfennberger bar by myself in one sitting! Pinky, we store them in tupperware like plastic containers in the fridge, though I suspect it still acquires odors of other items in the fridge…though that fridge was no meats or seafood in it at all. bedazzle, I haven’t seen SB for sale in Manila, I got our stock in NY the last time we were there. I have seen the Ritter and I think tried it once, but I don’t recall what it tasted like…

    Sep 18, 2007 | 8:54 am

     
  19. kaye says:

    i am hooked on this post!! ay I sooo love dark chocolate.. my family thinks am weird for loving dark chocolates, same as the others here i always have a separate load of dark chocolates from my relatives abroad.. lucky me i don’t get to share it with my family.. i love munching on ghirardelli’s mini bits whenever am baking, so good with my chocolate chip cookies.. hope you don’t mind me asking MM, would you know what’s the best local brand of baking chocolate that we can use if in case we ran out of imported baking chocolate? thanks!

    Sep 18, 2007 | 9:08 am

     
  20. Marketman says:

    kaye, the bakeshops in Mandaluyong, Sweet Haven, etc. + Cook’s Exchange seem to have a steady supply of decent baking chocolate in stock all the time. Frankly, I don’t even know what the local brands of chocolate available are other than tableas or canned cocoas…

    Sep 18, 2007 | 9:10 am

     
  21. Anna Banana says:

    A real waker-upper in the morning for breakfast: dark chocolate in piping hot pan de sal. Also, I remember Godiva’s dark chcoloate ice cream. Don’t know if they still make it but it was the best chocolate ice cream i’ve ever had….still looking for one that will top that. It’s just too bad my kid is allergic to chocolates.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 9:35 am

     
  22. margaux says:

    true, hard to find local dark choco that is not in tablea form. it’s because the machines for the conching process are quite an investment so it’s hard to get into that business. although i think pueo’s got some baking chocolate out now-still not dark chocolate ready to eat but it’s a step in that direction … in any case my sister and i are still fans of ghirardelli and lindt. i looove dark choco. as they say, when you go black you never go back.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 12:30 pm

     
  23. CecileJ says:

    Count me in as a darkie…dark chocolate freak, that is! Call me unschooled but, like Edel, I like the Meiji dark chocs and Hershey’s special dark as well. At the moment, Godiva, Scarffen Berger and Valhrona are not within the budget. (I have been known to munch on Antonio Pueo unsweetened tablea just to get my chocolate fix!) Hehe.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 12:55 pm

     
  24. Blaise says:

    Well, I love chocolate, particularly dark.. I could relate with Edel when she said that her cousins does not like dark chocolate.. actually even the adults at our home don’t like them as much as milk chocolate.. But I do, I remember “accidentally” munching on dark chocolate when I was about 5 years old, and the adults thought I was going to spit it out, but I absolutely loved it..

    Yes MarketMan, milk chocolate doesn’t taste that good after downing a dark chocolate.. I just had my fix (Ghirardelli) and it’s so good, when my uncle goes to the US this October, I’ll ask him to get me a Scharffen Berger.. :)

    Sep 18, 2007 | 1:36 pm

     
  25. Mila says:

    There was a chocolate tasting matrix done by a UK food company recently, with a 12 year old girl, a pastry chef and a chocolate maker testing 15 or so different chocolates ranging from super sweet white chocolates to the highest cocoa liquer standard available (I think they did use the Valrhona 82% or Amadei – which is competing with Valrhona for supreme chocolate-ness). The child was all for the white and milk chocs, hated the dark chocolates; and of course it was a complete 180 degree difference with the older chef/chocolate maker who could barely stand eating the milk chocolate and dumped the white one. Dagoba (organic) chocolates are available at Healthy Options stores around Metro Manila. Hershey’s quietly bought SB two years ago. So far no one has seen a difference in quality, but it’s a niche market compared to the billions from Kisses and other milk chocs they dump in the world market. Among European brands, I found one called Dolphin (or Dauphin?) that had great flavors and subtle add ins (like orange zest, chilli, or espresso). I had my first dark chocolate epiphany while in college, on a road trip, and am truly glad for it.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 2:00 pm

     
  26. raine says:

    hi mm, i’ve been reading your blog for about a month now but i’ve never been ‘moved’ to comment until now….:-) as a chocoholic who’s recently been diagnosed with diabetes, i don’t only count my calories but also make my calories count. anyway, i manage my cravings by reading well-written and interesting food blogs such as yours. as for my chocolate fix, i get it from reading chocablog.com. you got a good thing going here.:-)

    Sep 18, 2007 | 2:26 pm

     
  27. palengkera says:

    Ghirardelli…Meiji Dark Chocolates..OK na ako dun

    Sep 18, 2007 | 2:59 pm

     
  28. pilar says:

    I’ve always been in favor of dark chocolate over the semi-sweet and white variety. I particularly like Scharffen Berger, Godiva and Neuhaus (kinda pricey but worth it!).

    Sep 18, 2007 | 10:26 pm

     
  29. abby says:

    ooh,yummy yummy!
    I prefer dark chocolates than milk chocolates.

    Sep 18, 2007 | 10:41 pm

     
  30. veron says:

    It’s been a toss up between Scharffen Berger and Valrhona for me lately but Godiva?!

    Sep 19, 2007 | 1:54 am

     
  31. sylvia says:

    I am not a big dark chocolate fan. For plain eating purposes, I like Dagoba in all its different varieties. For baking though, I prefer to use Valrhona or Scharffen Berger. Once, I made chocolate ice cream using Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate and, my God, it was sooo good.

    Sep 19, 2007 | 5:45 am

     
  32. MrsKookie says:

    I looove dark chocolates. This is a yummy post! :) An aunt recently gave me a box of dark chocolates but i had to stop eating as it might have triggered allergies to my newborn who’s breastfed :(
    now im craving….

    Sep 19, 2007 | 11:48 am

     
  33. ana says:

    hi!read about your mouth watering blog.my hubby and i are also fans of the dark chocolates.i could highly recommend Mora Mora (Malagasy)from Madagascar which won the Chocolate of the Year award for 2006, no grainy aftertaste but instead a velvety feel and excellent flavor, another one is Domori Chocolate from an Italian company but manufactured in Venezuela.There also now variations on dark chocolates even mixed with Chili, Rose, Pepper or Sea salt, even mushroom!
    hope you could taste these recommendations someday.

    Sep 20, 2007 | 5:37 am

     
  34. alicia says:

    MM. check this post out “Back to Chocolate School” by Dorie Greenspan.
    http://www.doriegreenspan.com/dorie_greenspan/
    You might enjoy it. Ms. Greenspan is a favorite food writer of mine. I sat next to her and her husband a long time ago from Paris to NYC and remember that she was carrying a chocolate cake back from Fauchon. I don’t know why, but at the time I found it very odd! Speaking to them, I was so impressed by her knowledge and passion for baking, cooking ,the NYC restaurant scene and the James Beard Foundation. I didn’t even know who James Beard was until then! I think from that time, my interest in food developed. And sInce then, I too have carried many cakes and other food items home with me on trips!

    Sep 20, 2007 | 9:00 am

     
  35. Trish says:

    I m passionate about dark chocolates… it’s the only type of chocolate I eat ! Just wanted to share this recent discovery I had for those dark chocolate lovers out there : If you happen to visit Berlin, seek out FASSENBERGER & RAUCH. Berliners are very possesive of this chocolate house which was established in 1863. They do not export their chocolates, so the only way you can get their chocs is if you go to Berlin. I even ventured and tried the 85% … and it was still very tasty. I thought it would be bitter already.

    And if I may dare say, another Belgian brand can/should give Vahlrona a run for its money… GALLER ! i think this one is being exported, so it is easier to come by.

    I only have these words to describe their chocolates : smooth, heavenly and really “chocolate-ty”!

    Sep 21, 2007 | 6:35 pm

     
  36. kulasa says:

    I’m lucky enough to get some chocolates from Belgium. Guests from our Europe office found out that I like chocolates and they bring me those Belgian brands that are to die for. The pralines I find too sweet, so the lucky ones in the office get their share. Some “hint hint” on my preference for dark chocos did the trick. They do bring Godiva and Leonidas but I love those dark minichocolats by Hamlet, the dark fruity ones from Callebaut, and dark choco truffles…and a lot of self control to watch the waist line.

    Sep 23, 2007 | 8:42 am

     
  37. ECC says:

    MM, I stumbled upon this Dark Chocolate Ratings by Consumer Reports and remembered that you had a blog item on dark chocolates. In the Overview, it says that, “A chocolate industry trade group has petitioned the US FDA to allow manufacturers to replace cocoa butter with cheaper fats and still call the results ‘chocolate’.” Oh no!!!!

    Sep 27, 2007 | 10:30 am

     
  38. artisan chocolatier says:

    E. Guittard is another super fine artisinal chocolate made in San Francisco and about the only one still owned by the family of the founder (Etienne Guittard).

    I find it unfortunate (fortunate for the founders however) that Scharffen Berger was bought out by Hershey.

    Oct 20, 2007 | 12:40 pm

     
  39. Angie says:

    Hi Marketman. Where can I buy Scharffen Berger here in Manila? Thanks in advance :)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:11 am

     
  40. Marketman says:

    Angie, I have not seen any Scharfennerger in local stores, but who knows, maybe someone brings it in…

    Oct 22, 2007 | 6:17 am

     
 

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