Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cero's Truffles Revealed

"National Truffle Day" was back on the second of May but I had to choose -- brownies on "National Brownie Day" or these before their fun food holiday.  Since the brownies came to us first, it only seemed fair to schedule them first.  Plus let's be blunt: isn't any day a good day for truffles if they are well-made?  Cero's Candies has been around for a long time but the current owners are not only maintaining the traditions but introducing new delights.  They sent us two items, a chocolate covered bacon we'll feature in September for "National Bacon Day" and this 9-count box of truffles.  Both of these featured reviews were pre-written because Cero's Candies does not use preservatives in their chocolates.

The box of truffles is one of the many chocolate assortments that Cero's Candies sells.  Their 9-count truffle assortment includes a beautiful collection of their work and Pam and Darcy who own and operate the shop included a list of these truffles.  As you know, I'm a big fan of knowing what I'm about to eat because I believe that the serious food allergies many of our readers have could be solved if all chocolatiers labeled their products and listed their ingredients better.  We're going to look at these one at a time starting in the upper left hand and going left to right through the box.  I had help from two other people while I tasted these over the course of a few days so I'll mention their opinions when they arose.  Ready, Sisters and Brothers?

Our first piece is not really a truffle but a "Vanilla Marshmallow," gourmet marshmallow dipped in dark chocolate. This is not quite a 1.25 X 1.25 square, it is a bit tilted but it is 0.75 inches thick.  I like the drizzles of dark chocolate over the top but I think the other specks might just be from other pieces in the box since the photo guide does not show anything like that and these flecks fall off easily when I try to take a good sniff.  I do smell the dark chocolate but also a definite marshmallow and vanilla fragrance as well.  This turns out to be a good 4-bite treat.  The inside is sticky and soft, the flavor very vanilla not strongly sugar which I really liked.  The chocolate is thick and bitter, a fairly high cacao percentage I'm betting.  The bitterness lingers and blends well with the vanilla but the chocolate is the dominant flavor as I think it should be.  To practice Moderation, I shared half of this but my assistant wasn't as impressed.  He wanted a more traditional marshmallow flavor but I actually preferred the stronger vanilla here because it made it more unique without competing sweetness.  This was my second favorite piece from this box.

Next is a caramel dipped in milk chocolate and looking at it and the other pieces in the box I can see a clear difference between the milk and dark chocolate Cero's makes.  This, too, has acquired some of the flecks from other chocolates in the box a check of the photo guide tells me.  This 1 by 1 by 0.75 inch piece looks smaller than most of the others in the box.  It has a strong tangy scent mixed with a creamy cocoa fragrance.  The milk chocolate shell is relatively thin over a very thick yet not particularly sticky caramel that is more tangy than sweet.  The tangy is a better balance to the creamy milk chocolate and makes this more chocolaty than it might have been with too much sweetness though the caramel is the primary flavor.  I wonder if a darker chocolate would have fared better against this caramel.

A lemon cream dipped in dark chocolate finishes off the top row in this box.  This is a mostly round truffle of 1 inch diameter but the top clearly has extra layers of dark chocolate giving it a off-tilt hat look.  The dark chocolate is the only scent but it starts to melt so quickly in my fingers that I must take a bite. Inside is a very soft and very lightly yellow center under a think top and thin sides that collapse when I take a bite.  The lemon is both sweet and tart at the same time, a very smooth texture that covers the bitter chocolate at first but then fade to leave our Sacrament Chocolate the final essence.  Until other creams which can be easily too sweet and overwhelm the chocolate, this is light enough and the chocolate bitter enough to be a good balance that I really and surprisingly enjoyed more than I thought I might.

The second row first features a "Chipotle Chili Truffle" covered in dark chocolate.  This also looks like a small round piece with a very pretty printed pattern on the top in tannish tones.  It is actually about an inch in diameter so not as small as it seems, I think the roundness makes it look smaller than the more square and half sphere pieces in this box.  This has a dark chocolate scent only and immediately started to melt in my assistant taster's fingers.  The thin shell cracks easily when he took a bite but the dark chocolate was more smooth than bitter, more on the semi-sweet side.  It took a few seconds for the chili's kick to start and even then it was more mild than many chili chocolates we've had in the past.  The two flavor blended smoothly making this a great introduction to spicy chocolates for someone who is not that familiar with them.

The most lovely piece in the collection is the green central chocolate.  This "Persian Truffle" also has the longest list of ingredients of all of the chocolates in this box: cumin, cardamom, Vietnamese cinnamon, pomegranate, tangerine, saffron, rose petals, with crushed pistachios and almonds.  The problem with complexity in food is that it can overwhelm but my assistant taster says this was not the case here.  The pistachios and dark chocolate were the only scents he could make out.  In the dark chocolate shell itself, the dark chocolate was the flavor while the center, a soft creamy colored confection, has the spices, fruits and nuts in them.  The nuts added a bit of texture but overall it was almost buttery chocolate flavor that blended well with the added ingredients without drowning them out.  He said it was both unique and complex but in a very good way.

"Passion Fruit Truffle" is the final chocolate in this second row and it milk chocolate inside and out.  This is a 1.25 diameter base mountain shaped chocolate that is a good inch tall, you can see the reddish dipping pattern over it in our photo.  This has a creamy cocoa scent with something vague fruity underneath the cool milk chocolate.  Inside is a milk chocolate semi-solid center with a strong tangy tart flavor. The center is also a bit sticky and there seems to be small pockets of passion fruit jelly in it as well that add an extra burst of tartness to the creamy chocolate.  I've had passion fruit and chocolate before and this is good blend of the two though the fruit flavor here lingers on much longer than the chocolate.  Not surprisingly I think I might prefer a darker percentage of chocolate because this lingering flavor was a touch annoying even fifteen minutes later.

The third row begins with the "Saigon Cinnamon Truffle" that has both milk and dark chocolate ganache under a dark shell.  This is a 1.25 diameter, one-half inch half-sphere with a beautiful copper colored wave over the top.  There was a light cinnamon scent but mostly a darker chocolate hit my nose when I took a whiff.  It was very smooth in my fingers but also melted very quickly.  The inside was darker than I thought it might be and had a stronger cinnamon scent.  The spice was a touch more on the hot side of cinnamon but it was diffused throughout the odd semi-soft center that was both bitter and creamy at the same time, clearly the two chocolates were there and blended but not so much I couldn't taste them both.  That made this very unique for cinnamon chocolates we've had in the past.   This was my favorite in the box.

A "Lavender Truffle" has swirls of purple on the top that I hope my camera can show well enough for you all, Sisters and Brothers; yup, only a hint along the edges of the building swirl -- that's fairly close to what it looks like.  Unlike the other darker chocolate, the lavender makes it way through the chocolate and I can smell it as well when I take enough a light sniff.  The base is about 1 1/5th inch across and as you can see it swirls up almost like a temple from the ancient Near East to rise 0.75 inches tall.  Inside the thick shell that makes the first sound of the entire box, soft but still there, is a very bitter and increasingly lavender semi-solid center which is also a touch grainy in texture. While the lavender is strong and builds at first it later recedes and leaves the dark bitterness as the flavor wonderful flavor.

Last but not least is a "Strawberry Champagne Truffle" that has a white chocolate ganache inside but dark chocolate covering.  This is another very round truffle about 1 inch across.  The sugar crystals have a tendency to flake off if you hold it too long but the chocolate also melts quickly.  Remember, the purer the chocolate, the faster it will melt at our body temperature so this is a good thing in terms of eating it.  Much like the previous truffle, the strawberry comes through the dark chocolate but it has that champagne edge to the scent as well.  The shell is very soft as is the like reddish pink center that isn't so much creamy as it is more like a mashed up strawberry's texture. The strawberry's tart and sweetness is there as is a good kick from the champagne; I think I can almost feel bubbles because this tastes so much like strawberry bubbly should.  The bitter chocolate is quickly overcome by the center and yet at the end it returns and blends very nicely into the alcoholic fruit essence.  This was my third favorite piece in the box.

We'll see Cero's Candies again as promised when we give their chocolate covered bacon a feature later in the year.  The prices at Cero's Candies are incredibly reasonable,   If you are anywhere near their 1108 E Douglas shop in Wichita, Kansas, you must stop in and buy something.  The down side is that they won't do mail-order except November through April but since I know our features are re-read over and over, I wanted to make sure you all knew about their chocolates because I found them to indeed be a "bit of happiness in every bite" as their motto claims.  Since they are a small woman-owned business in the heart of America that is using quality ingredients to make wonderful combinations of flavors, I give them a Worthy Sacrament title today.

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