Saturday, September 23, 2017

Zamora! The Newest Askinosie Single-Origin Chocolate Bar

Askinosie Zamora 72% Bar
It isn't often that a socially minded chocolate brand comes out with a new product. When you care about the land that sustains the cocoa trees and the people who care for and harvest from those trees, developing a new products requires more forethought than just what added flavors or new shapes might inspire consumers to give it a try. If all you are really doing is a new shape -- square versus circular -- or a new added flavor or ingredient -- caramel to a plain chocolate bar -- you spend a lot of time on marketing research as well as in the kitchens or labs. But if you are looking for a new source of cocoa beans and you want to partner with the people who make it, you have to not only interview then but let them get to know and trust you. That process takes time. Thus I was thrilled when Askinosie Chocolate announced their first new bar in seven years. Today we are going to look at the Zamora 72% bar. I will include the normal full sensory descriptions as well as information about the bar, how and why it was created, and which cocoa farming community is benefiting from the production and sell of this product. I was sent two of the 3 ounce bars to try out in exchange for this feature article; no other form of compensation was received.

Zamora 72% Bar from Askinosie
The bars coming in paper that you can see in our first photo and this one as well. They are further in a plastic sleeve that I cut open. Immediately the scent of darker chocolate greeted my nose. As you may recall, Your Chocolate Priestess is a fan of darker chocolate. This comes in at 72% of the ingredients are chocolate liquor or mass. In fact this bar is just three ingredients: cocoa beans of the Arriba Nacional variety, organic cane sugar, and cocoa butter. This means that the bar is also vegan and gluten free but it is also certified Kosher as well. This is as pure as your chocolate gets unless you want to go real dark and no have sugar or a sweetener at all, Sisters and Brothers, and I don't think most of us what that in a bar we eat. Each of these 3 oz bars are two servings (9 squares) but with such pure dark chocolate I generally don't even want let alone need a full serving to get a cocoa rush. I let the first square I break off just melt on my tongue. Yes their is a bitterness to it but as I let it melt I also get a sweetness that is a bit like raisins. The melted chocolate is thick and has a bit of a fudgy texture to it. While the wrapper suggests a mocha flavor I luckily do not get that because I'm not a coffee fan at all. Instead there is an intense earthiness to the flavor. The cocoa buzz begins in my head as the single square finishes melting and the world around me seems brighter and I feel more relaxed. This is better than any painkillers you can buy over the counter or from a doctor. I take a water break and a few minutes to clear my mouth before biting and chewing the next square. The chocolate is quiet, not at all what I'm expecting. It is smooth and creamy as I chew it, the intensity of the raisin like sweetness is more intense as it the bitterness; ah, there is a bit of mocha edge. I'll let the other squares melt in my mouth then.

Askinosie Zamora Bar Label
The beans come from Zamora in the Amazonia region of southeastern Ecuador. According to the International Cocoa Organization, Ecuador is the 5th largest producer of cocoa beans. Some news articles in the past few years have argued that the region may produce some of the best cocoa beans in the world. One reason may be that cooperative farming communities have been gaining ground there in the past couple of decades compared to the huge plantations elsewhere. The Shuar tribe have been cocoa farmers for almost 8000 years! The woman on the wrapper is Monica Guaman who is the lead farmer partner who works with Askinosie. Her family has their own farm and she head a cocoa coop in their village, called APEOSAE. The coop cultivates the trees, harvest them, and ferments them using wooden boxes and the sun. The beans are lightly roasted then conched for a short time to before the product is ready to be used by Askinosie. The area does not only produce cocoa beans but also coffee, lime, mandarin, plantains, and other foods.That gives them more economic flexibility and stability.

Askinosie has done it again! They earn Sacrament Worthy Status with the 72% Dark Chocolate Bar from Zamora, Amazonia.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Organic Improves Sheila G's Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle

We've tried and loved a lot of different varieties of Sheila G's Brownie Brittle here on The Chocolate Cult over the past few years. In general the difference in flavor between their regular and organic versions of the same variety has been minimal. Today we finally get to try out their Organic version of Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle. The organic ingredients account for every one on the packages list with these few exceptions: sea salt, baking soda, natural flavor, and water. To be blunt I'm not sure how you'd qualify sea salt or water as organic. Baking soda is mined as Sodium bicarbonate and then is processed with another chemical so it can't be organic. As for natural flavor... it is derived from another ingredient and without more information I can't say where it would be considered organic or not but since all of the ingredients that have flavors are organic, it might be just not legally speaking. We were sent two 5 ounce bags of this product directly from Sheila G's headquarters to test out and write about in a fair and as objective fashion as possible; no other form of compensation was received.

As you can see it looks very much like the previous chocolate chip version we covered here. The scent when I opened the bag was very dark, it really made me eager to try it out. Individually eat piece's fragrance isn't very intense. The darker chips stand out against the lighter brittle and the amount of them varies per piece. When I place a piece on my mouth, there is a sweetness but also a strong cocoa edge. It crunches with each bite and the intensity of the chocolate increases with each bite but it never gets bitterly dark. This was pretty additive to eat. It didn't need a dip or spread, in fact I'd hesitate to add anything to it. The intensity may reflect a generally more dark tasting natures of organic cocoas and unsweetened chocolate which this has. It also has organic cocoa butter This also reminded me a lot of the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt version we wrote about here but without the saltiness.

If you have not yet tried Organic Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle from Sheila G's, you need to do so. This is Sacrament Worthy. Great job, Sheila G!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In Honor of Milton Hershey's Birthday

Hershey's Cookie Layer Crunch Bar, Caramel variety
I'm sure many of you have heard of Hershey. In the USA this is the chocolate brand that many of us grew up with. The company bears the name of its founder, Milton S. Hershey and today, September 13, back in 1857, he was born in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. In honor of this American candy and chocolate icon, I'm going to look at a relative new Hershey product I got to try through my Kroger membership card in the form of a Freebie. Even though this post is also to honor the man himself, I won't be anything other than honest about my experience with this product. Kroger and Hershey had no idea their freebie would turn into this article so, of course, no other form of compensation was received either.

Before we get to the bar let's look back at Milton S. Hershey. What is interesting about Hershey in light of the product I'll be talking about later, is that he started in the candy business making caramels (Lancaster Caramel Company) so we shouldn't be surprised that in their candy today they often include caramel. Yet today we think of chocolate when we think of Hershey so how did that happen? Hershey went to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and there he saw how chocolate was made. In 1900 he sold his successful caramel company and focused on chocolate, particularly milk chocolate. By 1905 he had his first Hershey Chocolate Company factory up and running.

From: By unknown (original image); Centpacrr (derivative image) - Hershey Community Archives (original image), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25759267

Unwrapped Hershey's Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch Bar
Now let's look at Hershey's Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch Bar. It looks a bit like a regular Hershey's milk chocolate bar with the sectioned pieces all bearing the Hershey's logo but it is much thicker and as you can see inside is a lot of caramel and some solid pieces (probably the cookie crunch part of the bar). The sections break apart fairly easily and also very quietly. Where's the crunch? The crunch happens when I bite into a section but primarily chewy it is both crunchy and sticky. The chocolate is the standard Hershey's milk chocolate, the cookies pieces while crunchy don't add that much flavor, and the caramel is primarily sweet, not tangy or buttery. This is a candy bar so I'm not surprised that it has 200 calories, half of these from fat and 19 grams of sugars.

As a candy bar this is okay but it doesn't impress me, I'm not pulled to seek it out again. Have you had one? What did you think about this newer Hershey treat?

Online Articles Consulted for this Post:

1: Biography.com article

2: The Hershey Story

3: Hershey History.org

4: Wikipedia

Monday, September 11, 2017

10 for 10 Years Makes Chocolate Walk Tradition

For 10 years the Brown County Humane Society has been inviting pet lovers and chocolate lovers to come together to help support their operations with a November event called "Chocolate Walk." For nine of those ten years, I've been going with between 1-8 other people, walking the full length over the course of a few hours, eating a lot of different chocolatey treats, and telling you all about it. But there are 10 businesses in Nashville, Indiana, that have been a spot on the map, put forth their own time, money, and many times their own chocolate creations. Today I'm going to list them and give you a few memories I have of them on the Chocolate Walk. If you have memories of your own, please do leave a comment and let us know. If you don't have your tickets, get them because they will sell out!

Hob Nob Corner Restaurant

The Candy Emporium

Nashville Fudge Kitchen

Carmel Corn Cottage

Common Grounds
Nashville Candy Store

Artist Colony Inn

Bone Appetit

Jack and Jill's Nut Shop
Ice Cream Cottage on the Right

Ice Cream Cottage is also a sponsor this year. They've won the "Best" vote for several years as well. And they deserve those "bests" because you get so many choices of treats when you are there from ice creams to hot cocoa to cookies or brownies in past years.

In another note, Crystal Jeffries of Forever Sweet is once more the official chocolatier for the event. I wonder if she'll have cupcakes again

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