For our first challenger in the "Best Gourmet Halloween Treat" category for 2011, Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates sent us a box of their Cranky Jack o'Lanterns. These came packed with just the right amount of materials in the standard Cocoa Dolce box which we've seen before here on The Chocolate Cult. I wasn't sure what a Cranky Jack was until I unpacked it all and turned the box over where the ingredients and a photo was. I like that because this means before I start handing out truffles, I'll know who not to give them to because of allergies. Inside were 16 fairly mean looking jack o'lanterns glaring up at me. These are fairly large truffles measure 1.25 inches at their widest and reaching to 1.25 inches at the top of the stem. The ganache or filling of each is covered with what appears to be a molded shell in two pieces from the seam I see on them so the cranky little faces and the pattern of a pumpkin are clear on every one of them. When I break on open I see that these are made by filling the two halves of the shell and then sealing them together so you get two pieces of chocolate combined into the bigger treat.
There are two types here. The Milk Chocolate Jacks have a "classic hazelnut gianduja filling — from what I could find on the Internet this means that the recipe is the same as the 30% hazelnut paste invented by one Caffarel from Turin in 1852 when chocolate was still not the same consistency and form we are familiar with today. All I really needed to know for certain was that these have tree nuts so I keep these away from my husband with the allergy. Through the shell I can smell the hazelnut scent along with the chocolate. The coating barely makes a sound as I take a bite and immediately I can taste a very creamy milk chocolate with much less hazelnut essence than I was expecting. I think this is a good thing because hazelnut is so common with chocolate, especially milk chocolate, that it can seem overdone; the hazelnut flavor does build up with each new bite so go slow to maximize the chocolate you taste. The filling is very soft and creamy but also firm, it does not ooze out. These are also very sweet but in that hazelnut way that I personally taste whenever I have anything with hazelnuts. A very good balance of flavors for the milk chocolate and hazelnut lover.
The Dark Chocolate Jacks are organic orange and Cassia cinnamon ganache meaning that this should be the hotter cinnamon I'm used to since Cassia refers to the Chinese cinnamon also found elsewhere in Southeast Asia; this type of cinnamon is the most common in the USA but if you are most familiar with Mexican or Latin American flavors then we are talking about Ceylon cinnamon. Some folks may have concerns about the blood thinning properties of Cassia cinnamon but I doubt there is enough in all eight of these to really worry about but if you have blood thinning concern, give these to someone else and try the milk chocolate ones. But I digress because I love learning new things when I try these chocolates for us all.
The Dark Chocolate Jacks didn't travel as well as their milk counterparts, the harder chocolate on the top broke off of more of these than the milk ones so just arrange them if you serve them and know they will break as soon as you take a bite. Since some of the shells broke I took one and tasted it alone -- alone the shell is very dark, bitter aftertaste that those of us who like the darker chocolate expect. The ganache inside has that bitterness then a burst of orange, a very dark not sweet orange, and then the heat starts to build. This filling is as firm as the milk chocolate version but not as creamy which it shouldn't be. Eating shell and the filling at the same time increases the bitter chocolate flavor to start but both the orange and the heat build up as you chew or let it set in your mouth. This can get a bit hot so eat it slow or fast based on how much cinnamon intensity you want. I really loved these, the darker orange, the bitterness and the cinnamon's kick made this an adventure in my mouth.
Need a bit of creepy that is also a touch cute for a Halloween party? These Cranky Jacks look the part and taste great for older teens or adults. Little kids trick or treating are not the folks who should be having these but with adult Halloween festivals becoming more common, these are a nice change of pace from just eating bagged mass produced candy bars. For the quality of materials, the festive crankiness and the balance of flavors these are a worthy Sacrament and a great competitor for our 2011 Halloween Treat Challenge.