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Expensive chocolate bars: A load of crock?


phan1
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As to the price/performance ratio of chocolate bars, I find that a lot of the insanely expensive bars are made in the French style, meaning that they have a sharp, tart, fruity quality... I just don't like that aspect of chocolate, so the Valrhona- Scharffen-Berger - Cluizel type chocolates aren't worth their cost to me. I prefer the richer, more rounded Belgian style, where the fruity acidity is toned way down and the roasty toasty favors come to the fore. I'd say the difference is paralleled by the differences in style of Blanc de Blanc champagnes and Blanc de Noirs champagnes... the former is sharper, brighter, more acid, while the latter is richer, rounder, toastier. (FWIW, I much prefer the Blanc de Noirs too.)

This is great information. So would it stand to reason that if I prefer a French roast for my coffee (toasty!), I'd prefer the Belgian style of chocolate?

I also couldn't believe how grainy and dusty Hershey's tasted when I popped a bit into my mouth this Christmas. But, as in the case of cakewalk, it still didn't stop me from eating them.

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As to the price/performance ratio of chocolate bars, I find that a lot of the insanely expensive bars are made in the French style, meaning that they have a sharp, tart, fruity quality... I just don't like that aspect of chocolate, so the Valrhona- Scharffen-Berger - Cluizel type chocolates aren't worth their cost to me.  I prefer the richer, more rounded Belgian style, where the fruity acidity is toned way down and the roasty toasty favors come to the fore.  I'd say the difference is paralleled by the differences in style of Blanc de Blanc champagnes and Blanc de Noirs champagnes... the former is sharper, brighter, more acid, while the latter is richer, rounder, toastier.  (FWIW, I much prefer the Blanc de Noirs too.)

I don't find Cluizel fruity at all, it has more of the roasted caramel flavors. It is a much much darker roast than Valrhona or Scharffen-Berger.

I don't put alot of stock in what country the chocolate was made in. It's more a matter of how dark or light a maker roasts the chocolate. Light roasted cocoa beans produce a fruity acidic chocolate, a dark roast produces more of a caramel flavor with more bitterness. You find different roasts in all countries. While Valrhona is extremely light, other French makers produce heavily roasted chocolate like Pralus and Cruizel. Same goes for Belgian and American chocolate makers.

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Hmmm...

I have found the Cluizel bars I've tried quite sharp in the same way that Valrhona is. I've never tried the Pralus bars, so they may break the French mold.

Name the Belgian producers who underroast their beans. I need a list of sources to stay away from.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Well here goes. My first ever post. I've been reading this thread with interest: as someone who used to buy chocolate for a living, I can only impart my view based on my own experience.

Relying on percentage cocoa is a complete misnomer. Just because a chocolate bar has a high percentage of cocoa, doesn't necessarily make it a good bar. It really depends on the type, quantity and quality of ingredients used. Michel Cluizel, does fantastic chocolates, as they actually are involved in the complete chocolate making process, from bean selection to the end product. Contrary to a previous posting, there is a difference based on where the cocoa comes from.

Like all things grown in the earth, the produce takes on the characteristics based on the environment it is grown in (which is why a glasshouse tomato never tastes as good as one you've grown yourself outdoors)

In terms of interesting chocolatiers I would recommend, I would suggest:

Valrhona

Michel Cluizel

Scharffen Berger

Maison du Chocolat

Bonnat

I think most of these are available in the US.

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Welcome to eGullet, Andre.

Here is a link to a Wiki How-to article on tasting chocolate that is pretty much right on. The two most important elements when tasting chocolate as with most foods are the sensations of taste and texture. It is critical to let the chocolate melt in one's mouth in order to truly taste it, something I don't always have the patience to do. :laugh: As with any quality element, the more one does it, the more one is able to distinguish nuances, though one should be able to determine that different products are in fact different even if unable to identify what is different or why it is different.

This past summer at the NY Fancy Foods Show, I had the opportunity to taste a variety of different chocolates, particularly the line from Valrhona. Tasting the various chocolates of their "Grand Cru de Terroir" line was indeed instructive in noting differences between the various chocolates. I am not enough of an expert to distinguish whether the terroir of one place consistently shows through the Valrhona products and similar origin products from other producers, but the valrhona products are certainly distinguishable from each other. Examples from that line include the 66% "Alpaco" from Ecuador, 64% "Tainori" from the Dominican republic, 72% "Araguani" from venezuela and the classic 64% "Manjari" from Madagascar. Other companies like Michel Cluizel also market delicious single origin bars.

Edited by docsconz (log)

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Hmmm...

I have found the Cluizel bars I've tried quite sharp in the same way that Valrhona is.  I've never tried the Pralus bars, so they may break the French mold.

Name the Belgian producers who underroast their beans.  I need a list of sources to stay away from.

Try the Cluizel Grand Noir 85%, it'll be a darker roast than most of their chocolate. Some of the single cru bars can be fruitier, but I don't find any of them as sharp as Valrhona. Bonnat is another French maker that tends to use darker roasts.

Some of the Callebaut, and Chocolove bars I've had were pretty fruity and tart. There's a Pierre Marcolini bar that is suppose to be fruitier than their other bars, but I've not tried it.

You may want to try Amedei (Italian) as well. They are a middle of the road roaster, but many people feel they make the best chocolate. I've liked the stuff I've had alot, but I haven't tried the Chuao bar that the make, which is suppose to be their best.

Edited by BrandonPHX (log)
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Expensive chocolate only matters if you like dark chocolate. If you only like milk chocolate, don't go breaking the bank buying a spendy bar of dark chocolate.

I'm usually eating my chocolate in a hurry, so I don't bother with the expensive stuff very often.

I dunno about that - I was pleasantly surprised by the E. Guittard 35% milk chocolate that I got recently for making candies. It has a very smooth texture and a decidedly un-Hershey's flavor. I'm sure even someone completely unfamiliar with chocolate and/or tastings would have no trouble picking it out of a lineup. It's not that expensive, I suppose, but more than Hershey's anyway.

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Some of the Callebaut, and Chocolove bars I've had were pretty fruity and tart. There's a Pierre Marcolini bar that is suppose to be fruitier than their other bars, but I've not tried it.

You may want to try Amedei (Italian) as well. They are a middle of the road roaster, but many people feel they make the best chocolate. I've liked the stuff I've had alot, but I haven't tried the Chuao bar that the make, which is suppose to be their best.

The Chocolove only gets sharp at the 77% and above bars. Their 70 and below are all wonderfully mellow. I've not found a Callebaut bar that is too sharp and fruity for my tastes, but I've never tasted through their whole selection either.

Something I would like to figure out is which manufacturers supplement the cocoa butter in their blends. From its taste and texture, I'm betting that Cote d'Or does. Who else out there makes bars with that fabulous texture?

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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You may want to try Amedei (Italian) as well. They are a middle of the road roaster, but many people feel they make the best chocolate. I've liked the stuff I've had alot, but I haven't tried the Chuao bar that the make, which is suppose to be their best.

I found the Chuao bar to be underwhelming(not to mention considerably more expensive than comparably-sized Valrhona or Scharffen Berger bars, and forget about something like Green & Black's or Droste), or at least extremely, mm...timid? Kind of waxy/plastic-y and unyielding in texture, and the flavor went nowhere in my mouth...like a dud firecracker.

There you have it: my first chocolate tasting notes.... :wink:

Edited by markemorse (log)
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Bingo, nakji!  You sound like somebody with my tastes in chocolate.  Look into bars made in Belgium, or in the belgian style.

My secret love is the Belgian chocolate made by Neuhaus. Their plain dark bar is very very good; I don't know the cocoa percentage. For eating I usually like something in the 64-75 percent. Valrhona seems nice for cooking. Altho I am not a big baker, I do like to add it to brownies to bump up the chocolate factor.

I certainly wouldn't be unhappy if someone gave me any of the french bars mentioned upthread. I think Green & Blacks makes a pretty good product too; I like their unsweetened organic cocoa for hot chocolate or baking. Altho Sharffenberger is local to me I find it lacking in....emotion. Does that make any sense?

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Properly chastised, let me add a positive suggestion to try Theo Chocolate made in Seattle, organic, roasted from the bean, and formed into bars and confections. And if you like milk chocolate, try the 3400 Phinney bars in curry or chai!

US made

With the exchange rate what it is, these premium bars are fairly competitively priced.

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Properly chastised, let me add a positive suggestion to try Theo Chocolate made in Seattle, organic, roasted from the bean, and formed into bars and confections. And if you like milk chocolate, try the 3400 Phinney bars in curry or chai!

US made

With the exchange rate what it is, these premium bars are fairly competitively priced.

Ya know, I thought their Phinney bars are fine for what they are - kinda veering toward the 'novelty' area. But their premium Theo bars are surprisingly gritty / sandy.

Have you tried Amano Chocolate Bars? Also Devries Chocolate should be considered.

ETA: I haven't found them in stores but want to try Patric Chocolate, too.

Edited by John DePaula (log)

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Anyone find the mid to higher level chocolate bars sold in stores stale? I mean a Green and Black/Dagoba/hippie rainforest chocolate is about $4 here, but it still has a plastic taste/texture. I'm not sure what level Dagoba and Green and Black are, but at triple the price they should taste a lot better than they do.

If I spend $5 I can go to my local chocolate shop where they package the bar themselves, and it's much fresher (and bigger)

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Anyone find the mid to higher level chocolate bars sold in stores stale?  I mean a Green and Black/Dagoba/hippie rainforest chocolate is about $4 here, but it still has a plastic taste/texture. I'm not sure what level Dagoba and Green and Black are, but at triple the price they should taste a lot better than they do. 

I'm not sure I would recognize "staleness" in chocolate - is that plastic taste and texture symptomatic of staleness? I would think that the Hershey's that I get here an hour from Hershey, PA should be about as fresh as it comes, and it's still got that "waxy" thing going on.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Anyone find the mid to higher level chocolate bars sold in stores stale?  I mean a Green and Black/Dagoba/hippie rainforest chocolate is about $4 here, but it still has a plastic taste/texture. I'm not sure what level Dagoba and Green and Black are, but at triple the price they should taste a lot better than they do. 

If I spend $5 I can go to my local chocolate shop where they package the bar themselves, and it's much fresher (and bigger)

1) Never buy a bar that has no 'Best By' date; otherwise, how do you know?

2) Don't buy a bar that has obviously been stored incorrectly e.g. in a sunny window, or too hot a space

I've had the same experience with G&B that you've had - it's not a fave.

In the Dagoba line, I've enjoyed the 74% New Moon bar but haven't had one in years. I hear that the quality is inconsistent.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I'm not sure I would recognize "staleness" in chocolate - is that plastic taste and texture symptomatic of staleness? I would think that the Hershey's that I get here an hour from Hershey, PA should be about as fresh as it comes, and it's still got that "waxy" thing going on.

I notice a couple of things with old chocolate: it starts to smell more like dust than like chocolate, and the smooth, melt-in-your mouth texture becomes more chalky and crumbly.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I notice a couple of things with old chocolate: it starts to smell more like dust than like chocolate, and the smooth, melt-in-your mouth texture becomes more chalky and crumbly.

This is presumably due to the oils in the chocolate coming out of emulsion over time and evaporating (sublimating?), right? That makes sense. What kind of time scale are we talking about here? Weeks? Months? Years?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Expensive chocolate only matters if you like dark chocolate. If you only like milk chocolate, don't go breaking the bank buying a spendy bar of dark chocolate.

Actually, I like milk chocolate and I find that the expensive stuff makes a big difference. As I've gotten older I've been less tolerant of super-sweet chocolate, yet dark chocolate doesn't quite hit the spot. My favorite milk is Scharffen Berger, which has a nice burnt caramel flavor and complexity, and is nowhere near as sweet as cheap milk chocolate.

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Anyone find the mid to higher level chocolate bars sold in stores stale?  I mean a Green and Black/Dagoba/hippie rainforest chocolate is about $4 here, but it still has a plastic taste/texture. I'm not sure what level Dagoba and Green and Black are, but at triple the price they should taste a lot better than they do. 

If I spend $5 I can go to my local chocolate shop where they package the bar themselves, and it's much fresher (and bigger)

A few words on organic chocolate...

Most of the organic and hippy rainforest chocolate brands are exactly the same as each other. There's a very small number of organic chocolate factories in the US, and they make the same chocolate and just repackage it for different brands. Which explains why most of those brands are all about the inclusions, not about the chocolate.

Also, organic cacao is chosen on the basis of whether or not the cacao grower paid to have the property certified, not based on flavor. So if you're looking for the best tasting chocolates, you won't necessarily find them in the organic selections - that's just not their priority. Most cacao is grown on very small plantations (less than four hectares) and is essentially organic - the growers can't afford pesticides anyway. But they also can't afford to pay for certification.

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Anyone find the mid to higher level chocolate bars sold in stores stale?  I mean a Green and Black/Dagoba/hippie rainforest chocolate is about $4 here, but it still has a plastic taste/texture. I'm not sure what level Dagoba and Green and Black are, but at triple the price they should taste a lot better than they do. 

If I spend $5 I can go to my local chocolate shop where they package the bar themselves, and it's much fresher (and bigger)

A few words on organic chocolate...

Most of the organic and hippy rainforest chocolate brands are exactly the same as each other. There's a very small number of organic chocolate factories in the US, and they make the same chocolate and just repackage it for different brands. Which explains why most of those brands are all about the inclusions, not about the chocolate.

Also, organic cacao is chosen on the basis of whether or not the cacao grower paid to have the property certified, not based on flavor. So if you're looking for the best tasting chocolates, you won't necessarily find them in the organic selections - that's just not their priority. Most cacao is grown on very small plantations (less than four hectares) and is essentially organic - the growers can't afford pesticides anyway. But they also can't afford to pay for certification.

Has anyone had Fair Trade chocolate? Is it any good? Is it consistent I wonder? I've considered stocking it.

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I notice a couple of things with old chocolate: it starts to smell more like dust than like chocolate, and the smooth, melt-in-your mouth texture becomes more chalky and crumbly.

This is presumably due to the oils in the chocolate coming out of emulsion over time and evaporating (sublimating?), right? That makes sense. What kind of time scale are we talking about here? Weeks? Months? Years?

Best guess would be months. Storage conditions probably have a lot to do with it; I live with very little climate control so things can get pretty unfriendly for chocolate in my pantry.

Notes from the underbelly

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