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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Chocolate

GIFT: John & Kira’s Artisan Chocolates

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Splendid chocolate-dipped calabacita figs
with whiskey-infused ganache. Photo
courtesy John & Kira’s.

 

Still need some special holiday gifts?

Go no further than John & Kira’s. The dynamic duo of artisan chocolate can always b relied upon to handcraft memorable confections that are guaranteed to please.

For Chocolate Sophisticates: Chocolate-Dipped Figs

One of our favorite treats anywhere, the chocolate covered, ganache-filled figs are as good as it gets The figs are grown on a small family farm in Spain, then filled by John & Kira with a silky smooth, whiskey-infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache. They are then enrobed in 62% dark chocolate: perfection!

A 12-piece box is $34.95; a 6-piece box is $24.50.

Get yours at JohnAnd Kiras.com.

Don’t want figs? Check out the Happiest Of Holidays gift box with ten different infused ganache fillings.

 

For Kids & The Young At Heart

Almost too cute to eat, hand-painted ladybug chocolates in red and green are filled with flavored ganache: raspberry in the red ladybugs and garden mint in the green.

A nine-piece box is $29.95, a five-piece box is $14.95 and a three-piece box is $10.00.

Another gift ideas is Holiday Marshmallow Heaven, chocolate-enrobed marshmallows with mint ganache, raspberry ganache, caramel and plain.

The handsome gift boxes are lovely “keepers,” and the letter-pressed card is another expression of John & Kira’s artisan approach.

Anyone who gets a taste will become a fan!

 

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Who can resist chocolate ladybugs? Photo courtesy John & Kira’s.

 

  

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PRODUCT: Moonstruck Chocolate Gifts

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Hand-decorated Bark Bars are works of art. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

Moonstruck Chocolates has been pleasing Oregonians since 1995; and thanks to the rise of e-commerce, all of us can get their handcrafted chocolates.

Whether for stocking stuffers or a principal gift, Moonstruck has distinctly different offerings, from the beautiful chocolate bars shown here, the beautiful bonbons below, and everything in-between.

 
STOCKING STUFFERS

Bark Bars

The Bark Chocolate Bars are beauties, at $9.00 apiece:

  • Dark Chocolate, Candied Orange & Hibiscus Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Strawberry & Basil Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Raspberry & Fennel Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Praline Pecan & Ginger Bark Bar
  •  
    Tumbled Chocolates

    Tumbling is the way the centers are enrobed in chocolate. For $5.00 per package, these bites are wonderful stocking stuffers, each more delicious than the next:

  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Caramelized Hazelnuts
  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Sea Salt Caramels
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Blueberries
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Beerberries
  •  

    WHISKEY-INFUSED CHOCOLATES

    We love whiskey-infused chocolates, and Moonstruck has two wonderful collections, exquisitely painted by hand:

    New American Whiskey Flight Bonbons

    The New American Whiskey Flight is a six-piece collection of bonbons: pairs of three whiskey-infused truffles.

  • The Knob Creek Whiskey Truffle features ivory ganache infused with Knob Creek Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Dads will appreciate bold notes of oak, caramel and fruit.
  • The Makers Mark Whiskey Truffle features creamy milk chocolate ganache infused with Makers Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Vanilla, oak and smoke nuances play along the palate.
  • The Woodford Reserve Whiskey Truffle marries Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey with rich dark chocolate ganache. Deep, spicy notes end with a clean finish.
  •  
    Nestled into a custom-designed box with a royal crown motif, the collection is $15.

     

    oregon-distillers-box-230

    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    Oregon Distillers Collection

    Oregon is home to numerous craft distillers, which inspired Moonstruck’s Oregon Distillers Collection. This exciting box of bonbons includes:

  • Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle
  • Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle
  • New Deal Distillery Ginger Liqueur Truffle
  • Oregon Spirit Distillers Wild Card Absinthe Truffle
  • Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle
  •  
    A 12-piece box is $25.00. The bonbons are approximately 5% alcohol content by weight.

    Both boxes are memorable chocolate experiences.

    There are seasonal treats like Santas and penguins, and many other beauties to discover at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

      

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    GIFT: Boxes Made Of Chocolate, Filled With More Chocolate

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    One of our favorites: Orange Twigs. Photo
    courtesy Charles Chocolates.

     

    We have two favorite products from San Francisco’s Charles Chocolates.

    The first, Orange Twigs, delicate milk chocolate butter truffles that melt in your mouth.

    They have a hint of fresh orange, a divine combination. The ganache is coated in a thin layer of 65% bittersweet chocolate and finished with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

    A 6.3-ounce box is $ 16.00.

    How about a gift box made from chocolate, filled with more chocolate?

    Second on our menu are the company’s signature chocolate boxes. The square gift boxes made entirely of chocolate are filled with assorted bonbons (details below). After the chocolates are consumed, you eat the box!

     

     

    Three seasonal designs include:

  • Christmas Collection Edible Chocolate Box (shown in photo): a bittersweet box bottom and a white chocolate top
  • Hanukkah Collection Edible Chocolate Box, a bittersweet chocolate box
  • Winter Collection Edible Chocolate Box (snowflake design), a milk chocolate box
  •  

    What’s in the boxes?

    Cinnamon Spice Truffles, Orange Zest Truffles, Pecan Fleur de Sel Caramels, Peppermint Cremes, Bittersweet Peanut Butterflies, Poire William Caramels, Maple Truffles, Fleur de Sel Caramels and Bourbon Truffles.

    Each box is 17 ounces, $65.00.

     

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    An edible chocolate box filled with holiday bonbons. Photo courtesy Charles Chocolates/

     
    Get yours at CharlesChocolates.com. There’s free shipping on all orders over $75.00 shipped before Christmas.

      

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    GIFT: Chocolate Tray

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    Something special: a chocolate tray to serve chocolate truffles. Photo courtesy Fika NYC.

     

    Need a unique gift for a chocolate lover?

    How about a chocolate tray, that can be topped with chocolate truffles or other bonbons.

    The handcrafted tray is in the shape of a wine bottle in roughly the same (although two-dimensional) size, 13 x 4.5 inches.

    It’s sure to elicit oohs and ahhs, not to mention a discussion of when the tray itself will be eaten.

    The chocolate tray is $38.00 at FikaNYC.com.

     

     
      

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    GIFT: Madécasse Artisan Chocolate Bars

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    Madécasse chocolate bars can be gifted individually or in boxed sets. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    If you’re looking for something special for a chocolate lover, check the chocolate section of Whole Foods Markets. In addition to other fine brands, they carry Madécasse chocolate bars, made in Madagascar from locally-grown cacao and vanilla beans.

    The fairly traded chocolate is made with a rare native heirloom cacao, so people who really like to taste the differences in cacao by terroir will have a field day.

    You’ll find flavors such as:

  • Espresso Bean Chocolate Bar, made with 44% dark milk chocolate that has caramel notes, and blended with a coffee crunch.
  • Salted Almond Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate, sprinkled with roasted almond nibs and sea salt for.
  • Sea Salt & Nibs Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate with added crushed cocoa bean nibs and a light dusting of sea salt. It was the winner of “Best In Show” at a recent Paris Salon du Chocolat.
  • Toasted Coconut Chocolate Bar, made with a 70% bittersweet chocolate with fruity notes, topped with crunchy flakes of toasted coconut.
  • Special Holiday Bars, Orange Cranberry and Hazelnut, both 63% semisweet chocolate.
  •  
    Other options include plain 70% and 80% cacao bars, Cinnamon & Chile Pepper, Citrus & Pink Pepper. There are gift sets at Madecasse.com. Each bar retails for $4.99.

     
    For holiday gift giving, you can replace the straw tie in the hole punched in the top of the package with a festive ribbon, tie a bar onto a larger gift box, or even hang it from the tree!

    ABOUT MADÉCASSE

    Madécasse Chocolate is a Brooklyn-based chocolate manufacturer established in 2006 by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar. Their mission was to improve economic opportunities for farmers and villagers in the region. The name Madécasse refers to an inhabitant of Madegascar.

    Madécasse is the only company producing bean-to-bar chocolate and vanilla products that are grown, harvested and hand-wrapped entirely in Madagascar. The chocolate is made from the world’s last remaining genetically pure cacao beans.

    All Madécasse products are Fair for Life certified, a certification similar to Fair trade, but which offers four times the economic impact.

    Learn more at Madecasse.com.

     
      

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    GIFT: Sushumna Chocolate

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    The chocolate is made in individually-
    wrapped tiles. Photo courtesy Sushumna.

     

    For the person who meditates or does yoga, consider a gift of Sushumna chocolate. This line of “chakra-choc” includes seven flavors that correlate to the seven major energy points (chakras) in the body developed.

    Hindus refer to the chakras as the intersections of energy lines. One of them, sushumna, leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to self-realization.

    Will these flavored chocolates lead you there? No promises are made, but at 30 calories per tile, anyone can enjoy a tile or two daily to find out.

     
    What is the Chakra-Chocolate correlation?

    According to the owners, on the chakra Ladder, these energy points are represented by color, emotive and physical attributes. They found natural correlations to these attributes among various nuts, spices, herbs and essences that they then married to chocolate.

     

    The creators describe their chakra-based chocolates:

     

  • Compassionate: Sweet dried cherries provide a burst of dark, luscious fruit flavor to complement the 70% dark chocolate. An explosion of flavor reminds you to keep your heart open.
  • Connected: Transform that “fire in your belly” into positive action with this sumptuous vanilla bean and white chocolate infusion. The universal aroma and flavor of pure vanilla blended with white chocolate strengthens and soothes this fiery, action-oriented power chakra.
  • Expressive: Vibrant, refreshing peppermint and 70% dark chocolate vivify this chakra and strengthen your innate ability to know and speak your truth.
  • Grounded: The warm, earthy flavors of sweet potato pie are blended with the familiar crunch of crisped rice, and swathed in luscious, smooth milk chocolate. This medley was created to help focus and realign your connection with the earth and all that’s primal through the “root chakra.”
  • Insightful: This blend of port-soaked currants with 70% dark chocolate captures the mystery and wonder of intuition. Help strengthen and balance your “third eye” chakra for a new perspective and way of seeing the world.
  •  

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    The tiles in a gift canister. Photo courtesy Sushmna.

  • Sensual: Cardamom, nutmeg and a whisper of cinnamon are blended into chai chocolate. Spices, a touch of heat and milk chocolate stimulate your second chakra—the energetic portal of the senses, and the source of creativity.
  • Transcendant: A savory blend of hemp oil, exotic mushroom extract, rich raw cashews, and silky milk chocolate which help you connect to your crown chakra: the connection to the cosmos and spirit.
  •  
    There are gift sets from $15 to $50.

  • Individually wrapped squares are $1.00; the Tea Boxed Set of 21 tiles is $28.00.
  • The Media Boxed Set, a reusable gift box with each of the 7 flavors, is $15.
  •  
    Get yours at SushumnaChocolat.com.

      

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    HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Day

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    Harvest Truffles. Photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections.

     

    It’s National Chocolate Day, an excuse for anyone to run to the newsstand to pick up a Hershey Bar or some M&Ms.

    But the chocolate connoisseur deserves something better, and we’ve found it in these delicious Harvest Truffles from Recchiuti Confections of San Francisco, which we received as a gift.

    Each bite of these beautifully flavored bonbons is a bite of heaven. The medley of three new flavors inspired by autumn includes:

    • Cinnamon Malt Truffle, made with cassia cinnamon and barley malt
    • Mandarin Truffle, infused with mandarin orange oil
    • Cranberry Pomegranate Strata, with layered pomegranate and cranberry gelée atop chocolate ganache (strata means layer)

    A nine-piece gift box, three of each flavor, is $26.00. It was all we could do to save some pieces for Day 2.

    Get yours at Recchiuti.com. They are a lovely gift for any lover of fine chocolate.

     

    BONBONS VS. TRUFFLES: THE DIFFERENCE

    It’s easy to get confused when terms like bonbon, praline and truffle are used interchangeably to describe filled chocolates—and all three terms have alternative meanings as well.

    The differences, describing filled or enrobed individual chocolate pieces, are country-based:

    • Assorted Filled Chocolates, the English term.
    • Bonbons, a French word describing a variety of confections including hard candy, chocolates, chocolate-covered confections, taffy and more.
    • Pralines, a word that was originated in Belgium by Jean Neuhaus to describe his molded filled chocolates (but also refers to caramelized nuts in France).
    • Truffle, a word that originated in France to describe balls of chocolate ganache, because they resembled the mushroom cousin, truffles.

    Thus, when chocolatiers immigrated to the U.S., they might be selling pralines, truffles, bonbons or assorted chocolates, depending on their nationality. And, although the name of what they sold differed, the product might be the same.

    In the interest of clarity, it would be ideal to stick with “bonbons” or “filled chocolates” for the filled chocolates, use “pralines” for caramelized nuts and nut patties, and reserve the term “truffles” for the balls of ganache.

    But given all the imported candy, we can’t escape our chocolate Tower of Babel. If you receive a box of candy from Germany or Switzerland labeled “pralines,” for example, will it be filled chocolates or caramelized nuts? You may be surprised!

    Here’s a detailed explanation.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark

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    barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
    Ripple Brands.

     

    There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification (FairTradeUSA.org) that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
  •  
    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).

     

    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”

     

    barkTHINS FLAVORS

    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut
     

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    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

     
    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
     
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to Amazon.com.
     
    WHAT IS FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE?

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit FairTradeUSA.org.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Chocolate Bars & Wine

    If your idea of grown-up Halloween does not include costume parties, how about a chocolate and wine tasting?

    For years, THE NIBBLE has been updating its highly-regarded wine and chocolate pairing chart. You can use it to prepare a memorable Halloween tasting.

    While our chart is quite extensive, your tasting can be as simple as four or five chocolate bars. John Scharffenberger, who got his start as a wine maker, shares his own favorites to pair with Scharffen Berger dark and milk chocolate bars:

  • Scharffen Berger 72% Signature Dark Chocolate. John Scharffenberger notes that darker chocolates pair beautifully with dry, rich, full-bodied red wines. He likes an Italian Amarone, a Spanish Rioja or French Bordeaux.
  • Scharffen Berger 72% Dark Chocolate with Pistachios and Sea Salt. While you can use the same wines when pistachios are included, lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Mas Amiel, a dessert wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France; Sauternes, a dessert wine from the Bordeaux region, or Cabernet Sauvignon, which can bring out nutty accents.
  • Scharffen Berger 33% Smooth Milk Chocolate. Lighter-flavored chocolates pair best with light-bodied wines. John Scharffenberger advises that buttery caramel overtones make this chocolate a perfect complement to a Sauvignon Blanc. Also try it with Armagnac, a single-distilled French brandy.
  •  

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    For holiday gift giving, tie some fine chocolate bars with a ribbon and bestow them with or without matching wines. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     
    THE NIBBLE particularly likes these wines with milk chocolate: Hungarian Tokaji (pronounced TOE-coy); Muscat, a white dessert wine from France with peach and apricot flavors’ and Tawny Port, a fortified wine from Portugal. In fact, Tawny Port is our favorite match with milk chocolate. Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor.

  • Scharffen Berger 33% Milk Chocolate with Toasted Coconut and Macadamia Nuts. For this delicious bar, THE NIBBLE recommends Brachetto d’Acqui, a light, ruby-colored sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas of fruit and roses. It’s a great match with both nuts and coconut. A Sauternes from Bordeaux (Lafaurie-Peyraguey or similar style) or a Late Harvest Semillon from Australia are also good complements.
  •  
    The educational fun of a tasting is to be able to compare and contrast different wines with different chocolates, and decide what you like best. That’s more important, after all, than any expert opinion.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Autumn Chocolates

    While Halloween chocolate is creeping into stores—chocolate ghosts, pumpkins, candy corn and other holiday specialties—you have a few weeks to enjoy some “autumn chocolate” until Halloween week.

    Until then, how about some “autumn chocolates” that are in chocolate shops until the Christmas flavors come in? Today, we feature two of our favorite chocolatiers, with very different products.

    RECCHIUTI CONFECTIONS: AUTUMN DRAGÉE SAMPLER

    San Francisco-based chocolatier Michael Recchiuti is known for his fine chocolates, made with a custom blend of Valrhona chocolate. His popular Dragée Sampler, available year-round, includes Burnt Caramel Almonds, Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Peanut Butter Pearls and Cherries Two Ways.

    From now through the end of November you can enjoy the flavors of the limited-edition Autumn Dragée Sampler: Burnt Caramel Almonds, Candied Ginger enrobed in 64% cacao dark chocolate and Tart Cranberries enrobed in 70% cacao chocolate.

       

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    Autumn Dragée Sampler. Photo courtsy Recchiuti Confections.

     

    A lovely treat or gift: a 12-ounce black gift box (sturdy and reusable) tied with an orange satin ribbon is $29.00. Get yours at Recchiuti.com.

    WHAT ARE DRAGÉES?

    Dragées (drah-ZHAY) are a French word for almonds encased in a hard-shell coating. The almonds can also have a chocolate coating underneath the sugar. They are a popular wedding favor, representing good luck. Hazelnuts, which can be made in the same manner, are a more modern variation.

    “Dragée” is also used to describe tiny, round balls of sugar, often coated with edible silver or gold, and used to decorate baked goods; and to refer to sweet, medicated lozenges. The commonality is the sugar coating. In French, dragée also refers to nonpareils; dragée à la gelée de sucre is a jelly bean. And finally, dragée is French slang for bullets (small shot).
     
    Panned Products

    Dragées are part of a confection category known as panned products. Panning is one of the basic methods of coating chocolate onto a center (mostly hard centers such as nuts and crystallized ginger; the other methods are enrobing and molding or shell molding).

    In panning, chocolate is sprayed onto the centers as they rotate in revolving pans; cool air is then blown into the pan to harden the chocolates. On a small scale (and before the industrial revolution), nuts are coated on a pan on the stove top; they can be rolled in cocoa powder or other coating before they harden.

    Discover more about chocolate in our Chocolate Glossary.

     

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    Apple Cider Caramels. Photo courtesy Lake
    Champlain Chocolate.

     

    LAKE CHAMPLAIN CHOCOLATES: CHOICES GALORE

    On the other side of the country in Vermont, Lake Champlain Chocolates is our go-to source for delicious American-style chocolates. We love thechocolate-dipped dried apricots and orange peel, buttercrunch, nut clusters and many other treats. The couverture chocolate is Callebaut from Belgium, and line is certified kosher by Star-K.

    For fall, there are:

  • Assorted Milk and Dark Chocolate Truffles give you a taste of the season via Spiced Pumpkin, which joins French Roast, Hazelnut, Legendary Dark and Raspberry, $16.
  • Autumn Chocolate Coins, a mix of milk and coins, foil-wrapped in festive foliage colors.
  • Autumn Chocolates of Vermont, an autumn-themed gift box of chocolates, $25.50
  • Caramel Chocolate Leaves, $13.00.
  • Milk Chocolate Apple Cider Caramels, $35.00.
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Leaf Bag beckons to lovers of peanut butter cups, $13.00.
  •  

    Find them at LakeChamplainChocolates.com.

      

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