Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Expert Chocolate Cookbook Fails

This review today, Sisters and Brothers, is both a book review but also will serve as a Special Sacramental Review since I'm including a wonderful product a chocolatier sent to me in the final recipe I'll cover.  As always with cookbooks, I tried three different recipes for three different types of products if there is enough variety to do so.  There is a lot of variety in Greatest-Ever Chocolate Cookbook so I chose a cookie, a pie, and a cake to try each for a special occasion. Luckily I made a lot of other things to eat and drink for those parties and we had fun games because the recipes from this book did not turn out very well.

Let me start with some good things about the book.  It is 224 pages long and the majority of that are recipes all with lovely photographs.  There is a section on the history and evolution of using cacao worldwide as well as a section with all the various techniques and reused cream, frosting and sauces several recipes share.   This technique section had very good photographs showing you how things were done, a trait I wished the recipes themselves had had.

The book is a hardcover though you might be able to find a soft cover version but wasn't so big it couldn't lay flat with some help.  At 11" bu 9.75" though it doesn't fit well in most cookbook holders I've seen.  The recipes include both American and what I think of as European measurements mostly based on weight.  That's both good and bad because I found it distracting until I got used to looking at the recipes myself.  The book has five general sections organized by type of recipe including "small bakes and cakes," "large cakes and loaves," "hot desserts," "cold and frozen desserts," and "sweets and drinks". That made it fairly easy to chose three recipes from.

The first recipe I tackled was for "Chocolate crackle-tops" on page 21 for our holiday party back in December 2009.  It turned out that this type of cookie, which I'd never heard of let alone made, was one of our guests favorites but he took one look at these and wrinkled up his nose.  Let me show you way with a side by side comparison below.  On the left is what the cookbook showed, the right is what happened when I followed the directions:










Following the directions, whose only moisture was some butter, three eggs, and a tsp of vanilla, the cookies didn't flatten out at all.  They tasted dry but otherwise I was told they were very chocolaty. I burst out crying when I saw them come out of the oven.  Later I went looking for other versions of this recipe and they all said to either flatten out the cookies a bit or they had more moisture in the recipe.

The next recipe I tried was for January 23rd which is "National Chocolate Pie Day" and you may remember I took votes the day before on which recipe to try.  "Black bottom pie" was the winner and that recipe was on pages 136-137 of the cookbook.  The directions just were off for someone who had never made this particular recipe.  Heaven help you if you'd never made a pie crust or a whipped topping because the directions were just a bit too vague about what the finished product should look or feel like.  But I tried to stick as close to the directions as possible for this review including using what I felt was an ungodly amount of dark rum -- I couldn't taste anything but rum myself though others claimed it did taste like chocolate also. At least it wasn't dry this time though the next recipe would revert to that problem.

The wonderful folks at Guittard very generously sent us four different types of their baking chocolate and I used the 38% Cacao variety for the final recipe -- that's the upper right hand 20 square bar that you see in the photo to the left. I'll review the other three cocoa content baking chocolates in the future as I use them.  I compared a squares of this to Baker's Chocolate squares and determined they were approximately the same amount, one ounce if that 's correct then there are 20 ounces of each of these.  As you can imagine I felt truly blessed to receive these offerings.  The feeling increased when I used the 38%.  It melted quickly, smoothly and evenly in the microwave or a sauce pan.  It melted just as well alone or with added ingredients.  It tasted great by itself and in recipes as well.  I had a lot of this so I experimented beyond the recipe I'll now critique.

One of our Followers here on The Chocolate Cult, a woman whose culinary skills I hope to reveal to you all one day, is also a personal friend of mine and we live in the same town.  March was going to be busy for all of us so I asked if we could host a birthday party for Emilie and if I could make a cake from scratch.  I chose the "simple chocolate cake" recipe on page 71 which is supplemented by the instructions for a "Chocolate buttercream" on page 184.  By this time in using this cookbook I had this feeling something was not going to go right.  The cookies were wretched, the pie was too intense, but I prayed nothing too bad would happen for her birthday.

Following the recipe as closely as I could but fearful something would go wrong I was first pleased that I had become so familiar with the two measure system that I could easily navigate it which did make it strength for this book. It mixed up easily, it poured easily, and the buttercream worked out too though I must confess I added more of the Guittard's to both as well as more moisture -- that turned out to be a good thing.  As  you can see in the photo the layers turned out fairly even but even with added moisture they were still dry.  The recipe suggests just using powdered sugar and cocoa on the top but given how dry this was I just knew it would get even dry exposed like that.  Plus my friend Emilie loves this baby pink color so I got to play with coloring frosting.  The cake did indeed taste chocolate but everyone agreed it was dry.

That was the common experience with all three of these recipes.  While they might have tasted fairly good, at least to some of those who ate them, they looked very off, were dry, or frankly just didn't match my expectations.  The result is that I have to be harsh at the end of this review.  Greatest-Ever Chocolate Cookbook does not fulfill the first part of the title.  Chocolate yes indeed, but to use this well I think you need a lot of experience with chocolate and all these types of recipes to compensate for missing instructions, lack of ingredients and just odd things about each treat it is supposed to teach you how to make.  I bought this with some birthday money but on close-out at our local Borders bookstore.  If you see it, pass it up, that is really my best advice unless you think you can overcome the difficulties in this book.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chocolate for Passover

This evening at sundown, the Jewish Passover will begin so your Chocolate Priestess wanted to reveal a few of the chocolate products she found in her local Kroger that claim to be suitable for the holiday.  Let's check them out one by one to see if they are also suitable for a chocolate lover.

The first are a small bag of chocolate coins wrapped in a plastic net from Lieber's.  This bag has four silver wrapped coins in it and collectively they are made from ingredients including cocoa mass and cocoa butter.  They contain 83 calories 3g saturated fat, 4mg cholesterol, 4mg sodium, 7.5g sugars, and 1g protein.  What I really like about this is that the label lists the rabbi in charge of their production which I suspect may be reassuring if I were Jewish.

The coins come in two sizes but here you see the bigger one with the other two treats I'll be looking at soon.  This is just simply surprising dark looking and tasting chocolate with no added dairy or oils in it so it is also vegan.  It melted in my mouth and actually produced a slight buzz.  While I notice that Kosher products are more expensive compared to the cheap Easter choices I revealed on Sunday this is much, much better quality chocolate.

Manischewitz's Milk Chocolate Swiss Mints are the next product I found and bought.  This two has milk chocolate and darker coating made with cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate liquor.  8 pieces come in this 6oz box and one equals a serving with 80 calories, 2g saturated fat, 10mg sodium, <1g fiber, 13g sugars, 1g protein, 2% calcium and iron as well.

Inside these 1inch diameter mounds are a lighter cocoa filling and a strong mint scent mixing with cocoa fragrance.  The center is dry but not powdering and the overwhelming flavor is mint that leaves my mouth tingling immediately.  In fact in a few chews, the mint with a strange aftertaste is the only flavor.  I never taste the chocolate and this is disappointing.

Finally I have the Joyva Marshmallow Twists that are basically cherry flavored marshmallows covered in chocolate of cocoa butter and chocolate solids.  There are 12 pieces of sort of wavy looking sticks just under 3 inches long.  Two pieces equal 1 serving with 190 calories, 2g saturated fat, 20mg sodium, 23g sugars, 1g protein, and 1% iron.

Inside these twists is a bright pink, very sticky marshmallow.  Oddly, very oddly the cherry scent fade very quickly and the dark coating has no flavor. The color is primarily from dye according to the label but there is unspecified "natural flavor" though it doesn't say it is cherry.  It sort of tastes cherry but mostly like sugar and again the chocolate really isn't part of the flavors in my mouth as I chew.  I can't say I'm thrilled with the marshmallow either, it isn't too sugary but also it was stale tasting.  Overall not impressed.

That makes this identical to the Easter review of products you can find easily in stores around you -- two aren't really worth it, one is pretty good.  Actually I'll go farther than that and say the coins here are good, not as good as others I've reviewed for you, but good.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cheap Easter Chocolates

A few years ago I started seeing these chocolate crosses appear in stores before Easter.  As a trained ancient historian, I was confused.  Why would anyone make chocolate in the form of an instrument of execution?  As a Christian I was offended.  Was the desire for money so great that we belittled the symbol of salvation by turning it into chocolate?  This year, because of my duty as your Chocolate Priestess, I spent as little as possible at our nearby Dollar Tree to review some of these products that combine religious symbols with chocolate for Easter.

You're heard of Palmer I'm sure.  They make a lot of different molded chocolates and sell them very cheaply for almost any major holiday you can imagine in the USA.  I picked up this "Hear My Prayer" double crisp treat. There is cocoa in this, far down on the list of ingredients, so I can review it.  It comes in a plastic and paper package that lets you write "To" and "From" on the back and unfolds to a little prayer or good wish for the receiver.  Eating the entire hands equals 220 calories, 11g saturated fat, 70mg sodium, <1g fiber, 24g sugars, 1g protein, with 2% calcium and iron.  Honestly this isn't healthy so it better taste great to make it worth your time even at only a dollar. 

The praying palms are 3.75 inches long and 2.5 inches at it's widest.  They have no scent which I find incredibly scary.  On the back you can see the dimples of the crisp rice inside.  The hands have some details, likes for veins and wrinkles for the knuckles so some effort went into what it looks like.  The lack of scent still concerns me.  With a sigh I take a bite just for you all, Sisters and Brothers.  Waxy and sugar hits my tongue and fills my mouth.  YUCK!  There really is not other way to review this.  I don't care how tight your finances are this is worse for your child, loved one or self than giving them nothing for Easter.

You may not have heard of Dairy Good from Dutchtown novelties and I can't find a website for them but they made this "Candy Cross" in the "chocolaty" version.  The white version by the way we could not review here but this one has cocoa at least.  One cross in this simply paper and plastic box has 300 calories, 16g saturated fat, <5mg cholesterol, 65mg sodium, 34g sugars, 2g protein, and 4% calcium.  Again, this is not very healthy so it better taste great. 

The cross is 5.25 inches long and with the cross beam of just over 3.5 inches.  It has a wood grain design on it and a gathering of flower at the cross point of the beams.  This also has no scent and with the horrid memory of the last candy in my mouth I gird myself to try this out for you, Sisters and Brothers.  This is just as sweet as the previous but not as waxy.  It is slightly better than the Palmer but honestly I strongly urge you to spend a dollar or two more and get something else.

The Milk Chocolate Acolyte has this to report about a chocolate bunny I bought him at this same store on the same day. This is his first written report so he'd gotten a bit wordy in his enthusiasm.

"The Easter season being quite a busy time of year here at the Chocolate Cult, the Chocolate Priestess has assigned me, in my capacity as the Milk Chocolate Acolyte, the task of reviewing a beautiful chocolate bunny. I am certain that many of us recall from childhood the books of Beatrix Potter, with her tales about the adventures of animal characters, illustrated with her exquisite watercolor paintings. Probably the most famous and beloved of these books is The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and I certainly remember it well. Even the opening words of the story can cause the story to unfold anew in my memory: “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.” The Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (http://www.frankfordcandy.com) has produced a line of chocolate Easter bunnies in the likenesses of these four famous rabbits, officially licensed by Frederick Warne & Co., who owns the copyrights to the Beatrix Potter characters (http://www.peterrabbit.com), and here we have the first of the rabbits, Peter’s sister Flopsy.

The chocolate is solid, not hollow, and is in the form of a bas-relief, flat on the back and molded on the front into the three-dimensional image of a picture that could have come from the book. (This precise picture does not actually appear in the book, however.) Flopsy is depicted with her shawl and a basket for gathering blackberries, looking down at a small bird that sits at her foot, calling up to her (perhaps requesting blackberries). Both rabbit and bird stand upon a label, also made of chocolate, which is the only way that we would know which rabbit this is, since nowhere on the box does it say what is printed in raised letters in the chocolate: “FLOPSY.”

The Frankford Company is perhaps best known for making some of the candy related to the “Harry Potter” films (no relation to Beatrix, obviously). They make a variety of other candies based on characters from books, movies and television, as well as various Valentine’s Day and Easter chocolates. I was a bit optimistic about this product after seeing the attractive box it came in and noticing that it was officially licensed rather than used without permission, but seeing some of the other Easter products the company produces is slightly lowering my expectations.

The chocolate melts only slightly in my fingers as I hold it up and smell it, and although my sense of smell is not as acute as the Chocolate Priestess’s, I detect only a slight aroma of milk chocolate when I bring it near my nose. The list of ingredients on the label is fairly short: sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, milk, soya lecithin and PGPR (emulsifiers), vanilla and salt. Taking a bite from Flopsy’s ears with a solid snap, I let the chocolate melt in my mouth, and I can tell why sugar is the first ingredient, because this chocolate is very sweet. The Chocolate Priestess agrees with me that this is sweet and creamy milk chocolate, not artisan quality of course, but certainly superior to the other Easter products she has also been reviewing today. I quite enjoy it, though at 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) there isn’t a lot of it, but then it wasn’t very expensive. I am a bit worried about the high saturated fat content of 7 g, which is 34% of the saturated fat I should have today if I eat the whole thing. It is, however, free of trans fats."

So at the end, of the three molded Easter candies I got for $1 at the Dollar Tree, only one was actually worth that money.  Yes, you can save money for the holidays but please don't sacrifice taste and health to do so.

So I'm not accused of picking on other Christians, on Wednesday I'm going to try three products I found in my local Kroger for the Jewish Passover. 

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easter Truffles from Kara

Kara Chocolates sent an Easter sampling for us, Sisters and Brothers, that you might want to check out.  If the molded candies are not your thing then Kara has some of their truffles individually wrapped or in boxed sets just for Easter. I don't have the nutritional information for all three varieties they sent but if you eat one or two that is being moderate and as you should know by now, moderation is a wonderful key to healthy and happy eating.  Each truffle was about an inch across and very round, I did this on a recent trip so I didn't have exact measurement instruments with me but my Saturdays are cocoa sacred wherever I am so I followed our Path and took notes for you all.

The "Hoppy Easter" box had three lemon chiffon flavored truffles inside of it.  These had yellow decoration drizzle over the top but the drizzle itself didn't seem to have flavor.   All three truffles you see equaled one serving with 210 calories, 5g sat fat, 5mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium, 2g fiber, 22g sugars, 2g protein, 4% calcium and 6% iron an adult needs daily.  These contain both soy and dairy ingredients.  Each one had a strong milk chocolate fragrance and was smooth to my fingers.  The quality of the chocolate was evident in how quickly it melted as I held it.  When I bit through the thick shell it made a soft snap and revealed a nice, firm chocolaty center.  At first the flavor was a very creamy chocolate but then with each chew a sharp lemon tang came forward but never overwhelmed the cocoa.  This was an excellent truffle that any lemon and milk chocolate lover should try.

In the pink wrappers were the Strawberry Cheesecake truffles of the same size and shape as the previous flavor.  These were completely smooth and melted again on my fingertips as I held one up to sniff at it.  There was a definite strawberry and milky cocoa scent.  The thick shell made a strong snap as I took a bite and more strawberry essence hit my nose.  Inside was a white center with some light pink swirls that I hope you can see in the photo.  The truffle melted in my mouth and was primarily a cheesecake flavor with a strong strawberry component but sadly not a lot of chocolate flavor.  If you love strawberry cheesecake, this is a good choice.

The Mint truffle came in two wrappers, the light blue you saw in the first photo and this green wrapper that you can buy year round.  The truffles were identical to the cheesecake variety externally but had a dark, harder center inside.  As soon as I unwrapped one, my nose was caressed by mint and cocoa that promised me a good personal choice for your Chocolate Priestess.  The shell snapped again when I took a bite and immediately my mouth was cooled by the mint but it blended in with the chocolate never letting me forget this was first and foremost a chocolate.  A wonderful choice for mint chocolate lovers any time of the year.

If you are looking for something different and more adult for Easter check out this offering from Kara Chocolates.  They taste great though some had more chocolate flavor than others and if you chose the flavor that sounds best to you, you will not be disappointed.  The website is a bit difficult to navigate, there isn't a chocolate tab to click on so you may have to drop them an email but they should respond quickly.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Create a Chocolate Holiday

Today, March 26th, is "National Create Your Own Holiday Day" so I have a challenge to all of  you, Sisters and Brothers.

I've been mentioning chocolate holidays and holidays we can say are related to chocolate now for a year on this blog.  Do a search under the label "Chocolate on the Calendar" and check it out.

Now come back here and suggest your own chocolate related holiday that we could celebrate next month in April, the one month there are no standard fun holidays related to our Sacred Substance.

Whoever has the most interesting, most unique, and and most fun sounding holiday will have their holiday idea promoted here in The Chocolate Cult.  This will decided by a vote of myself and our four Acolytes and announced by the end of March so we have plenty of time to plan and celebrate.

Now is your chance to impact thousands of lives and encourage the positive enjoyment of Chocolate.  Make your suggestions including not just a title for the holiday but also a suggested date.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cheap Swiss Rolls in All Ways

In the past, your Chocolate Priestess has said that the Mrs. Freshley brand of products isn't too bad for chocolate.  Every company will have successes and failure so how do their "Swiss Rolls" I got at Kroger stack up?

2 cakes equal 1 serving which comes conveniently in 2 cake plastic sleeves.  This is much better than packaging we've seen that has multiple serving per interior package or each cake individually wrapped when more than one is a serving.  Each sleeve then has 200 calories of 6g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 1g fiber, 24g sugars, 2g proteins, 4% iron. They look very similar to the Little Debbie version of these that I grew up eating but a bit less shiny, a more dull tone to the chocolate coating.

The cocoa processed with alkali and also natural is the 10th ingredient on the list so not much real cocoa here. It feels waxy to my finger tips and less chocolaty than other versions of this treat I’ve had.  Mostly a sugar and cream taste and definite potential for a sugar rush but really zero cocoa buzz chance.  Of course, what we want here on The Chocolate Cult, Sisters and Brothers, is chocolate to be at least half the flavor and scent we get from a product.

Ultimately this brand is not what I would turn to in the future to satisfy a Swiss roll craving. You're better off with another brand even if it costs slightly more.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chocolate & Raisins & "Holidays"

Today is "National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day" if you didn't know, Sisters and Brothers.  Your chocolate Priestess may have loved chocolate for as long as she can remember but she certainly has not tried all the varieties.  In honor of today, I tried a Nestlé Chunky and I want to review it for you.

I’ve seen this for years and never tried it because frankly I’m not a huge fan of raisins and it just seemed weird to me to cover them in chocolate. That was when your Chocolate Priestess was younger and less willing to take food risks when it came to cocoa. Now I must take risks as my duty to all of you, Sisters and Brothers. So when I saw this Nestlé Chunky on clearance at my neighborhood Kroger, I got it to finally try.

First thing to note is that this is a 5oz bar with 4 servings in it, luckily the bar is divided into four main sections with four smaller sections in each. The major sections were easy to snap apart but not the minor ones. Each of the quad sections has 170 calories, 5g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 15mg sodium, 1g fiber probably from peanuts and raisins, 18g sugars a good part of that will be from the raisins too, 2g protein, with 2% iron and 4% calcium an adult needs daily. While the first ingredient is milk chocolate you should know that it contains artificial flavors, AGPR and TBHQ which I had to look up.

The silvery package opened easily and immediately I could smell the raisins. It took focus to pick out the scent of milk chocolate and peanuts. When I break it apart I can see both the peanuts and the raisins so I take a bite. You know what? Mostly I taste the chocolate, it is rarely waxy and not as good as I had hoped, and the peanuts. The raisins may promise a lot with their scent but they fade into the background in terms of taste. What this lacks in taste it makes up for with textures. The creamy solid chocolate that melts, the crunchy peanuts, and chewy raisins that stick to the tops of my teeth.

I can’t say this is a candy bar I’d buy again when there are so many choices out there with much better milk chocolate. This certainly isn’t the worst I’ve had and I’m sure for people who grew up eating these, you really like the flavor and texture combinations.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chocolate Goldfish

Before your Chocolate Priestess found our Path and began this Journey with Chocolate, she was enslaved to cheap candy bars.  This meant many things but one of the saddest was that she didn't see the variety of products that used our Sacred Substance.  I found these Goldfish Grahams Chocolate flavor crackers a few weeks ago on sale so I bought them.  According to our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte, this flavors of Goldfish has been out a few times before then it will disappear with a different flavor.  I hope she can find some and give them a try and then her opinion here but my review of these tiny snacks follows.

This 6.60z bag normally costs $2.19 according to the printed price on the bag but I got it for $1 on sale.  Each bag has 6 servings of crackers with 130 calories, 1g sat fat, 125mg sodium, 2g fiber, 11g sugars, 2g protein, 2% calcium,and 10% iron.  Nutritionally this isn't bad but it is almost identical to most chocolate graham crackers you can buy.  Approximately 50 fishies make up a serving if you want to count or simply share out with six others if you are watching your portions.  I've noticed, Sisters and Brothers, that if I offer someone a normal square cracker and one of another shape, the other shape often wins so the draw here is the cute little fish shape which measures 0.875 inches long and just over 0.5 inches wide with a smiling face.  Yes, there is chocolate here in the form of processed cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate but they are fairly on the ingredient list.

They taste much like I expect a chocolate graham cracker to taste -- light, dry, crisp, with a touch of sweet.   However we are most concerned with the chocolate taste here.  That is very cocoay but it also has a burnt edge to the flavor, an intense bitterness that turns the sweet a bit sour.  Again I've tasted this same flavor in the square graham crackers.  So the reason to buy these is a matter of money -- if it is on sale it may be the same value as the traditional graham cracker -- or a matter of shape -- perhaps you want to use the fish shape for some decoration or your kids like them best.  The flavor though is sadly not the primary reason to buy these.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chocolate Bunny with Social Consciousness

Our Taraluna friends who have sent The Chocolate Cult several items over our first year end their offerings in time for Easter with this solid milk chocolate bunny.  This is a Sjaak's chocolate but since Taraluna sent it to us, I strongly recommend you think of ordering it from them.  As you can see this comes simply wrapped in plastic and closed with a bow on a twisty tie which made it very easy to unwrap.  The one I received is 6.8oz so this is fairly large though it may not look like it should weigh so much.  More about why it does later but here is a warning: This review contains a bit of "bunny damage" in my duties to reveal it's full nature to you.

The figure is probably molded chocolate and I can a seam all around it where the mold would have closed over the chocolate while it was cooling.    One bunny has 4 servings with 270 each composed of 10g saturated fat, 8mg cholesterol, 33mg sodium, 1g fiber, 27g sugars, 3g protein, and 9% and 6% of the calcium and iron an adult needs daily.  When I opened the wrapper the milk chocolate scent was strong.  Taking it out I could feel it's unexpected heft and the cool, smooth surface of the chocolate.  I nibbled on an ear and received a mouthful of rapidly melting, creamy yet cocoay delight in my mouth.  Sometimes organic or vegan products do not do favorably compare to other chocolates and I've found that from some of the items offer at Taraluna.  This bunny though stood out above all other Easter Bunnies in my memories because it is real chocolate with none of that waxy feel taste.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the store bought Easter bunnies but they come in two general types: hollow or solid.  This one is solid which is why it is so heavy.  How do I know and still follow my practice of Moderation, eating only enough to expose the true nature of any chocolate to you all?  We cut it's head off then tried to break it open.  It was difficult to cut into and it didn't do much more than dent no matter how I tried to break it open by dropping it, wrapped still, on hard surfaces.  The trick to eating solid chocolates of this size, about 4 inches tall and about 3 inches wide, it to take small bites at the surface or find a way to break.  This is just what you want from a milk chocolate so don't feel like you need to rush, spread it out over four or more days or share with friends.

This milk chocolate version of the Easter Bunny is one of a few other Easter items available at Taraluna right now.  If it fits your needs -- organic and fair-trade -- then know that you still have time this week to order it or one of the other Sjaak's chocolates in bunny or egg shape.  They also have vegan varieties listed on the website as well though the one I reviewed is not vegan so I can't speak about the flavor which can be quite different for vegan chocolate.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Friday, March 19, 2010

American Chocolate Week

The fun holiday, American Week of Chocolate, has been going on this week since Sunday, March 14th, and will end tomorrow when we have another Saturday Sacrament.  You want to come back for that because I vegan Ester Bunny that actually tastes great!

As you have seen I've had posts all week about finding chocolates during a recent trip.  I ended up finding seven chocolate shops in a nine day period of journeying so those reports will continue as I eat my way through their offerings and the things I bought.  This will likely take a few weeks as I continue to have Sacraments to reveal and news to discuss.

Today though your Chocolate Priestess just wanted to remind you that if you have celebrated all week you still have today and tomorrow to celebrate with American chocolate.

Tell me what you did to celebrate.  Who did you visit?  What did you buy?  When did you eat it?

If you haven't celebrated yet, tell me if you plan to and how.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Speedy Chocolate Chip Cookies

On our recent trip, your Chocolate Priestess, tried a cookie from a Speedway.  Now, she knows what you are thinking: "How could you possibly buy from a convenience store when you get all these amazing chocolates?"  Traveling entices us to eat things we probably shouldn't though over all I think I did a great job of keeping to our Path or Moderation and Purposefulness.  I never had anything chocolate that I didn't take notes on or take photos of for you, Sisters and Brothers.

The chocolate chip cookie came two to a pack in these little paper and plastic sleeves.  As you can see it cost $1 which, considering the Milk Chocolate Acolyte spent over that to get three donuts as we were driving, seemed like a good deal to me.  The signs promised still warm, fresh cookies and we bought this at around Noon on a Tuesday. Those are the Milk Chocolate Acolyte's hands by the way in the photo; doesn't he have nice hands?

The cookies were as advertised.  They were still warm and fresh, the chips were partly melted and melted the entire way in my mouth. They had a good semi-sweet taste to them and blended well with the cookie itself. Not a particularly low-fat treat but I've certainly had much worse in my life and given these were portion controlled, it was easy to stay moderate with them.  If I were on a long driving trip again, I'd certainly consider buying these again.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor

Even though today is Saint Patrick's Day and even though I am 1/8th Irish, I couldn't find any Irish Chocolatiers I could get samples from in time.  I don't count just adding Bailey's as making Irish chocolate.  So instead I've done this "On the Road" post for you all.

On your Chocolate Priestess's recent trip, she visited a few nice local chocolatiers, chocolate shops, and restaurants where they had quality chocolate.  One such place was a Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor in Davenport, Iowa.  However since this is a six state franchise, I didn't want to call this an "Iowa Chocolate".

If you have never been to a Happy Joe's it is sort of like an early version of Chucky Cheese in that it focuses on children and pizza but also has ice cream.  The Milk Chocolate Acolyte had many birthdays at these places growing up so when he saw one, we had to stop.  This particular location had another room as big or bigger than the eating area that was a huge indoor playground for kids.

They don't have chocolate pizza but they do have chocolate varieties of their homemade ice cream.  I had one scoop, remember Moderation and Purposefulness even though this is the American Chocolate Week.  This was simply their chocolate variety which the young lady behind the counter told me was her favorite chocolate ice cream.  The biggest problem with chocolate ice cream is that the cold can dampen the cocoa flavor.  Not so with this scoop.  It tasted nicely bitter like a darker chocolate and yet creamy with just a hint of sweetness.  The Milk Chocolate Acolyte had the Cookie Dough variety and praises it as well.

So whether or not you like pizza, do stop into one if you can find them and give the ice cream a try.  It really is very good and not weak on the chocolate at all.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Iowa Chocolate #2

In your Chocolate Priestess's hometown of Vinton, Iowa, there has always been a malt shop along highway 218.  Currently under different ownership and called Leon's Malt Shop, it has been expanded and offers several chocolate items.  While we were recently there, the Milk Chocolate Acolyte, the Chocolate Priestess, and her father tried three of their Cyclones which are soft serve ice cream with mix-ins.

The Milk Chocolate Acolyte got the Peanut Buttercup Cyclone which he tells me tasted great.  My father got the Oreo Cyclone which he loved as well.  But they aren't me so let's focus on the super chocolaty thing I got.

I asked the young lady behind the counter, "What is your most chocolaty item?"  That is my standard question when I go to a restaurant or shop.  The reason I ask is twofold.  First, I want to review the best for all of you but secondly, it gives those with the greatest knowledge of their products a chance to shine.  Her advice was to not get a standard Cyclone but have one made of chocolate soft serve, hot fudge and Oreo pieces.  I followed her advice and was not disappointed at all.  The fudge was hot and sticky but the ice cream was so cold and creamy it helped the fudge stay in ribbons while the cookies are what you expect.  The result was a product that didn't really cost more than the standard choices so about $4 for a medium which was plenty big enough if I want to stay on the Path of Moderation and Purposefulness.

What is now Leon's Malt Shop used to be owned by my uncle many, many years back.  It was great to see it a malt shop still on that stretch of highway and to see that it is still run well and offering many chocolate choices.  Vinton is a small town but it is the county seat so if you have reason to travel along 218 or need to go into Benton County, check them out.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Iowa Chocolate #1

Not far from where your Chocolate Priestess was born and raised, she discovered a chocolatier called Divine Decadents that her parents had seen advertized in the county newspaper.  We had to stop in and were told they were still recovering from a busy Valentine's Day season -- this what we love to hear on The Chocolate Cult.  Judy is the chocolatier and according to her husband Ed, the man who is working on their website, she is constantly coming up with new products and new flavors.  Today I'm going to look at just a few of their products and later in a Saturday Sacrament I'll look at some more.

I bought two samples of fudge that you can also get at a candy shop a bit south in a city called Cedar Rapids.  This included the "Snickers" and the "Peanut Butter Cup" varieties but these aren't exactly what you'd get in that other shop.  The "Snickers" has a more creamy taste and the chocolate blends more with the peanut flavor in this piece.  Overall though it is superior to the candy bar it is named for.  The "Peanut Butter Cup" though is very different than the piece I got at the other shop.  This has an inverse of the layers with two peanut butter fudge and a central chocolate layer.  It still has the mini peanut butter cups and as you can see in the picture they are packed in that top layer.  This is the better choice for the peanut butter lover but it is good for any cocoa-peanut lover.

The other item I bought at Divine Decadents was their BAT which stands for "Big Ass Turtle".  Now, you all know what a turtle is, right?  Chocolate, caramel and nuts, usually pecans or cashews.  But this is a huge dark chocolate, tree nut free version.  It is as big as my hand and the peanuts are all on the bottom of it giving this three layers: dark chocolate, caramel, and nuts.  The nuts are salty and that concerned me at first since I find that salt can overwhelm chocolate.  The caramel is sticky and tangy with a hint of sweetness as well.  The dark chocolate has that nice bitter kick to it and is real chocolate that melted in my hand when I held it to eat.  Taking a bite revealed that the entire thing is very sticky and the bites have to be pulled more than cleanly bitten off.  The individual flavors mix according to how you eat it -- peanut side down, more salt, chocolate side down, more cocoa.  I recommend eating it peanut side down because then the flavors that you encounter are salty peanut, tangy caramel ending with the dark chocolate.  A huge treat for about $3 so this is a great buy.

Divine Decadents has not only quality chocolate but practically a monopoly on chocolate in this part of the country.  They supply much of the chocolate for a Cedar Rapids store called Simply Divine which we will look at in a few reviews.  Right now, Sisters and Brothers I need you to check out their website and encourage them to keep making good products and keeping making that website better so you can sample Judy's talent for yourself.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

National Pi Day and American Chocolate Week

Today, Sisters and Brothers, is National Pi Day.  This is a real holiday in that the US House of Representations designated this day in honor of the symbol pi which represents the relationship between a circle's width (called "diameter") and the distance around the circle (called "circumference") for those who may not have had geometry for a while.  This isn't officially related to anything chocolaty and we do all ready have a National Pie Day but a lot of geeks I know celebrate today by eating circular foods such as pizza pies and dessert pies.  Why not incorporate that into something chocolaty?  We certainly will.

This is also the first day of the "American Week of Chocolate" which last until March 20th which is always the 3rd week of March.  So you can use this as a reason to have something chocolate every day but remember: Moderation and Purposefulness.  Try some fat free chocolate milk or high fiber bars for breakfast that have chocolate -- read the labels and make sure it is chocolate and not simply flavorings -- YUCK!

If you do something celebrate either this day or this week, please leave us a comment.  We'd love to hear about it.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Toronto Chocolates

Boardwalk Chocolates in Toronto is our chocolatier today, Sisters and Brothers.  The wonderful owner, Siue, sent your Chocolate Priestess two little boxes of their vegan, gluten free, fairtrade, organic homemade truffles: "By the Sea" and "Nut Roaster" varieties. Together these include half of the 16 flavors they offer.  Each truffle is at least one inch in diameter, and most are globes, though one, the "Peanut Butter," looks like a pyramid base.  I don't know the nutritional content, but as always, if you practice Moderation and Purposefulness in regard to your chocolate use, you should be fine.

We'll start with the "Nut Roasters" quartet of truffles.  The first is an "Almond Orange" covered with a lot of almond pieces and shavings.  This has a very deep cocoa scent to it with a tiny hint of orange and almonds when I take a whiff.  There isn't really an outer layer to this truffle, and a bite breaks off smoothly when I take one.  Inside, the flavor is an explosion of orange and cocoa with the nuts crunching as I chew.  It reminds me a lot of French style truffles where the texture inside and out is firm but creamy, not too dry, and not too moist.  This is an excellent truffle for darker cocoa and almond lovers who want a nice hit of citrus.  I can highly recommend this flavor.

The next variety is the "White Cashew & Cardamom," which unlike most white chocolates is dairy-free, as Siue assures customers on the website.  This has a cardamom scent to it, and you can see the dusting of the spice on top of the white chocolate coating.  Inside the cool white shell is a tan semi-soft center, which has a mild cardamom flavor but only slight nut shavings as far as I can feel or taste.  Overall I would call it creamy and smooth but with that added kick from the spice, so this is not for someone looking for strong cashew flavor, in my opinion.

The next is the "Hazelnut," which is dark chocolate with light cream decorations on top.  This has a cocoa and hazelnut scent even before I take a bite.  The shell is a bit thick and makes a light snap when I bite into a solid center flecked with hazelnuts.  Again this isn't too dry nor too moist, making it easy to eat.  The two flavors blend well, making this a good choice for lovers of Nutella and related hazelnut and cocoa blends.

Then to finish the nut selection is the "Peanut Butter Cloud & Marshmallow," the pyramid base piece.  This has a sweet peanut butter fragrance to it when I take in a deep breath of it.  As with all the truffles, this is cool to my fingertips and begins to melt after a few seconds.  This one is different inside when I take a bite.  First there are two layers of truffles, a top smooth creamy layer and then a more jelly-like layer below it.  The peanut butter also tastes different from what I was expecting, not nearly as sweet as the scent suggested but also not as peanutty as I would like.  This is not my favorite peanut butter truffle of all of the ones I've had since starting The Chocolate Cult, but it isn't the worst either -- that was last Easter with the terrible "Reester Bunny" I revealed to you all.

Next I'll look at the "By the Sea Box," which has four flavors as well, beginning with the "Beach" Lemongrass Ginger flavor. I think this is the piece with a white heart on top and roasted coconut on the bottom, which means I'm not going to be very objective about this.  Unfortunately I can't get this to our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte because I'm writing this review "on the road" today.  I can say that there is a nice lemongrass and ginger flavor here and that the coconut seems very crisp to me, not soggy, as I know she sometimes bemoans.

Next let's look at the "Breeze," which is a chocolate mint truffle and is supposed to have a candied mint leaf on top, but I don't really see the outline of a leaf on this chocolate, which looks like a half spiral folding in around itself to me.  The Milk Chocolate Acolyte tried it and said that there actually is a sliver of mint leaf inside the clump of sugar crystals on top of this piece.  There is a very light mint fragrance before I take a bite to find a creamy, minty cocoa center that cools down my mouth with each chew but also builds up a slight cocoa rush as well.  An excellent mint chocolate truffle with a dark cocoa buzz.

Then the "Lady Pirate" is a Lavender Chestnut combination.  This round piece has a purple crystal and a golden crystal on top of it to mark this variety.  I only smell cocoa when I take in a big breath of this chocolate.  The shell is soft when I take a bite to find a semi-soft and very lavender intense truffle inside.  Within the cream, though, are tiny flecks of chestnuts that add to the texture on my tongue and a bit of earthiness to compete with the lavender, which is really the dominant flavor here instead of the chocolate, which you know your Chocolate Priestess prefers above all other essences.

Finally I'll end today's Sacrament with the "Sea Shell," or dark raspberry truffle -- although technically this isn't a truffle per se, because it doesn't have a soft center.  This is actually two half shells put together, so you get two pieces instead of one.  They have a strong raspberry scent, and when I take a bite of one of the two shells it reveals itself to be a molded chocolate with the raspberry flavor infused into the chocolate itself.  This is good if you like a hint of raspberry without the seeds or a soft liquid center oozing out. The dark chocolate is wonderfully intense and easily provides a good buzz with just one of the two shells, so save the other to have later, or share it.

If you think that Boardwalk Chocolates sound good to you and you are in the Toronto area, go check them out, especially this coming week, when they are hosting a special event on March 18th in honor of Siue's latest cookbook and giving out samples of their truffles.  If you aren't in Toronto go check out the website to see if they will ship to you. For those of you with specific allergies and who are looking for quality vegan chocolates, this will give you what you are looking for.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

World Kidney Day

Today is "World Kidney Day" and while this has nothing to do with chocolate directly, your Chocolate Priestess wants you all to take good care of yourself so you can continue to enjoy the Sacred Substance for the rest of your life.

I get a blood test regularly for my kidney health because of strong family history of problems.  Because I exercise regularly, eat fairly healthy, and practice what I preach here -- Moderation and Purposefulness -- I currently have healthy kidneys. 

I urge  you all to check out this website and learn all you can about your kidneys and how to help your body keep yours running well. 

My best piece of personal advice on kidney health is to drink water.  Always chose water as your beverage whenever you have a choice especially between meals.  As you know I drink only water when I am working on a review so that the chocolate is not compromised by other flavors.  However I also chose water because it does a great jump of helping my body flush out toxins and in keeping me hydrated.  Try adding just 1-2 more 8oz servings of water to your routine daily and you'll see a difference.  Yes, you may need to use the restroom more but if it helps keep you healthier and also curb your urges to snack in an unhealthy fashion, just go. 

Keep yourself healthy and you'll be enjoying Chocolate for decades to come.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Holidays in March

Starting next week we will see a few chocolate related holidays you may want to celebrate, Sisters and Brothers.  Here is the list that I currently know about.  If you know of others, please leave a comment with the holiday and the date and if it is nation or region specific.

March 14 = National Pi Day -- often celebrated with pies of some type so why not make it a chocolate type of pie?

March 14-20 = American Chocolate Week -- plan to have a small amount (1oz or so) of chocolate every day to celebrate

March 24 = National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day -- I should do the Chunky review that day, it has raisins....

March 26 = National Make up Your Own Holiday Day -- I've love to hear your ideas for this one.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women Chocolatiers

Today is International Women's Day, a day where many nations around the world honor what women contribute to all aspects of their societies. In some countries this is on par with a national holiday, in others it may be recognized as part of social celebrations people may chose to honor, but in others this day is almost unknown as it sadly is in the USA.



Here in the Chocolate Cult I wanted to mark the day by pointing out how many of our chocolatiers who have sent products have been women and the women who have been my contact person at these companies.  The majority of time, the person who contacts me from a chocolate business is a woman.  Sometimes the person who runs the company and makes the chocolate is a woman, too.

While women are said to enjoy chocolate and consume chocolate more than men, I notice in many of the cooking competitions I watch which relate to something chocolaty that most of the competitors are men.  I think this reflects the state of "professional" cooking that still sees it as a man's profession even though, at least in the USA, mom and wife is still far more likely to cook at home than dad and husband are.

Today I have a mini-Pilgrimage for you all to participate in.  Go out and find a chocolatier in your area who is a woman and buy something from her with a "Happy Women's Day" comment.  Then post here where you found such a store and what you got.   I'll to this post later after I visit one of our local chocolate shops which is owned by a woman.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Parisian Chocolates in the USA

Sisters and Brothers, today your Chocolate Priestess is going to reveal a 17-piece collection from Antoine Amrani Chocolates. These are preservative-free chocolates, so if you decide to order or buy some yourself, remember that you should consume them within three weeks for the best quality. The entire collection is labeled "Organic," yet some of the individual varieties are also labeled "organic." The ingredients are listed for the entire collection and include the potential allergens dairy, wheat, nuts, and eggs.

When we look inside we find that some of the flavors included in the gift box appear more than once, so I don't need to review 17 different flavors, which is great, or I would have had to split this review into two Saturday Sacraments.  There are twelve "signature flavors" offered at Antoine Amrani, and I have one or two of each of these flavors to share with you today.  So go get some water, and settle down for a long and full sensory review with some more photos to help you decide if these might be something you want to check out on your own.  Some of them, as you can see, are imprinted with edible dyes, while others are fully colored with more edible dyes, and others differ only in shape and decoration.  The little guide booklet that came with the box is good, but I find the online link I gave you is even better.

We'll start with the "Pure Dark" pieces, which are imprinted with with the company name in a sort of light moss-green ink.  Each piece is a 1 inch square that is 0.75 inches thick.  This 70% cocoa chocolate has a nice deep scent that already makes my mouth water.  The outer shell is cool and smooth and breaks silently when I take a bite.  Inside is a bitter and intense semi-soft center whose essences linger for at least half a minute after a bite.  Letting it melt in my mouth slowly heightens the flavors, allowing me to taste the unique character of this chocolate and increasing the rush into my mind.  A worthy choice for us who love dark chocolate.

The "Earl Grey" flavor is identical in shape to the previous chocolate but has a light brown edible ink imprint in an abstract floral design.  It has a scent both of dark chocolate and tea.  Inside this smooth, cool shell is a solid Earl Grey flavor that fades into cocoa bitterness as I chew the first bite.  Since I'm not a huge fan of teas I don't let this piece melt in my mouth, but the Milk Chocolate Acolyte, who loves tea, reports that the bergamot flavor that is so characteristic to Earl Grey tea is unmistakable here but is not overstated, and the lingering flavor is that of chocolate, which is as it should be.  The flavor is not unlike dipping a cookie with a solid chocolate overlay, such as a "Petit Écolier" cookie (you may have seen these; they are made by the French biscuit manufacturer Lefèvre-Utile, although the company is now owned by Kraft), into a cup of Earl Grey tea, then taking a bite.

The next piece is the "Organic Coconut Kaffir Lime," which our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte reports: "This piece measures 1.5” by 1” by 0.5” The dark swirling pattern is visually appealing making this almost too pretty to eat. But I will make the sacrifice for the Cult. The scent is predominantly coconut, with a bit of chocolate. There’s another scent too but not one I can identify and might be the lime. The first bite reveals a “wet coconut” filling (think Mounds bar). My teeth silently sink through both the chocolate and the filling and in just moments the chocolate begins to melt in my fingers. I let the second bite slowly dissolve on my tongue and taste sweet coconut, good dark chocolate and that mystery ingredient. I’m more convinced now that it’s the lime as it has a certain bite to it. And the filling, while not green by any means, is not as white as I would expect a plain wet coconut filling to be. The lime scent is slightly more pronounced once the filling is exposed but it’s still not overwhelming. It is, however, different than anything I can recall having before. And while it’s not something I think I’d like every day, it is a very nice change from the usual chocolate coconut confections of this variety."

The same shape and size as the previous piece, the "Almond Crisp" flavor differs only in the pattern on top of the chocolate, a pattern that almost remains me of old leather with stress lines that make it more attractive than the newer, shinier fabric of a new coat.  All I can sense when I take a deep breath of this piece is a light chocolate fragrance.  It makes a soft snap when I take a bite and reveals a solid and very crunchy lighter colored milk chocolate with pieces of rice and pralines.  The flavor is very sweet and earthy at the same time, and it does allow the cocoa to resurface as the combination of ingredients changes with each bite.  It's complex but not too much, which is a risk in some chocolates we've revealed.

The 1.25 × 0.25 × 0.25 inch shiny gold rectangle is the "Organic Cinnamon Honey" flavor and is next in line to be revealed.  Two pieces came in one paper cup.  With these metallic colors I won't use our Sacred Dish in hopes of showing you truer colors against a simple white background.  This slick-feeling chocolate has a very strong cinnamon scent that matches its intense spicy flavor, tempered by a touch of sweet honey.  The smooth, soft chocolate ganache is both creamy and bitter and counters the spice nicely to create a unique and excellent variety.  Sadly, this is not a chocolate for our Mocha Acolyte — sorry, davebear_in! 

The purplish-red version of the cinnamon chocolates are a pair of "Raspberry" chocolates.  They have a definite raspberry scent when I take a deep whiff of one.  The soft center feels like it may have seeds in it, hinting at real raspberry filling and not just juice flavoring.  This has a sweet and sour taste to it, but the chocolate finds a way through, though not as strongly as with the other varieties I've revealed so far.

I have to review the two coffee flavors myself this time, since our Mocha Acolyte is now more difficult to get samples to than he was when he began — without preservatives, these chocolates would likely no longer be fresh by the time they reached him.  Let me be clear: I am NOT a coffee expert, nor am I particularly fond of it.  Companies sending me these flavors risk a bias when I try them.

The coffee flavors have raised dots and lines connecting them together on the top.  The "Duo Cafe" is plain dark chocolate and has La Colombe coffee in it.  The dark maroon "Coffee Sour Cherry" has the same coffee, but with a Grand Marnier soaked cherry that has been de-pitted by hand.  The first has a nice coffee and chocolate scent, while the second really has just a light cocoa essence.  Both measure 1.25 inches across and rise to 0.75 inches high.  The maroon half-globe is much slicker to my fingertips than the "Duo Cafe," which probably reflects an edible ink.  Both have a semi-soft center and make a snap when I bite through their thick ganache coating.  The "Duo Cafe" has a strong, dark coffee flavor that is the first and last flavor I sense; the chocolate essence pops up in the middle of my chewing.  The sour cherry does temper the coffee in the second piece, but overall the coffee wins out in the flavor combination of both varieties.

The two chocolates with leaf patterns on top include the "Orange Grand Marnier" in the plain chocolate, while the golden yellow one has "Organic Banana Rum."  These are the same shape and size as the coffee varieties.  The first has only a light chocolate scent, which is not what I was expecting from an orange flavor.  This breaks apart easily to reveal a softer center that has a good balance of orange, alcohol, and cocoa flavors, though the alcohol lingers the longest on my taste buds.  The banana flavor also does not have a real scent, not even chocolate, and I wonder if that is the gold coating at work.  This center is firmer, as is the shell, and it makes a dull sound when I take a bite.  Inside is the definite rum, banana, and cocoa flavor, which blends well if you like those.  I am surprising myself by finding that I prefer the banana over the orange between these two varieties.

The final two have swirl patterns on top of them.  The "Hazelnut Praline" is the plain chocolate, while the coppery one is "Pistachio."  These are the same shape and size as the coffee varieties.  Like the other colored half-globes, the Pistachio lacks a fragrance until I take a bite.  Inside is a yellow semi-soft center with a slightly sweet taste that doesn't really remind me of the nut, though this allows the cocoa to come through, meaning that I like this more than other pistachio varieties I've tried before.  The Hazelnut Praline has only the lightest of cocoa scents at first but attains a strong earthy fragrance when I take a bite.  Inside is a milk chocolate semi-soft center with pieces of the nuts, so it makes a good crunch.  The chocolate is superior to Nutella quality, though, so the cocoa shines through, again making me very pleased by the combination. 

As an overall retrospective, I would say that most of these varieties were solid and blended well, but only the "Pure Dark" had that buzz we often search for.  Most of these, though, were unique and delivered the promise of their titles, so we here in The Chocolate Cult are pleased by the selection.  If this 17-piece Classic selection sounds good to you, you should check it out.  They also offer larger 34- and 68-piece gift boxes as well as smaller 9-, 6-, and 4-piece selections.  They ship from their online store throughout North America and are available in retail locations as well along the East Coast and Georgia.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.