Pastry Chef Jenny Raven conducted a chocolate tasting last week with her pastry assistants. Jenny’s five-month-old son Ofelio was on hand to offer his opinion and Chef Canales & Maggie Klein joined in as well.
From Pacific Gourmet we order Callebaut (belgium; one of the cheapest chocolates on their list) and Valrhona (France; one of their priciest.) I wanted to do a chocolate tasting because I thought it would be cool to order some mid-range chocolates and play around with specific pairings or specific uses for unique chocolates. I am also interested in the “single bean” trend because of how it relates to our emphasis on terroir.
We tasted from less to more percentage of cocoa solids.
1. Guittard 65% single bean Colombian source $6.30/lb
Facile, texturally and taste-wise. Buttery, waxy mouth feel; I immediately thought of Easter candy.
2. Callebaut 70% $4.13/lb
Dense, coffee- flavored bitter. Simple but good.
3. Michel Cluizel “Los Ancones” single bean 67% not available through Pacific Gourmet. Bought out of interest in this very boutiquey, super-expensive chocolate.
Excellently complicated: bright, luscious, sharp, and floral
4. Valrhona Guanaja 70% $8.18/lb
Superb: (Maggie said, “the most sophisticated”) well balanced bitterness, acid, and tannins. Also well balanced richness and leanness.
5. Amedei (Tuscany) 70% not available through Pacific Gourmet. Bought out of interest in this very, very expensive Italian chocolate.
Flavors grew and changed dramatically as the chocolate melted softly in the mouth. Wonderful acid and gentle vanilla flavor, but less flavor complexity
6. El Rey, “Apamate” Venezuela source 73% $4.97/lb
Unpleasant mouth feel that read as buttery but disappeared quickly and ended up feeling lean. Too much cherry, black currant, and vanilla that combined tasted a little cough-syrupy.
7. Dagoba organic fair trade 73% $9.69/lb
Not unpleasant chewy texture, but it tasted horribly of mildew
All in all we liked 3 and 4 the best. It was interesting to be reminded of why we choose the chocolates we choose. I will ask Pierre at European Imports if we can order some Cluizel, although he is a big Valrhona fan and might not carry any. We were also annoyed at the “branding” on the Cluizel label, which screams of celebrity chocolatierism and boutiquey trendiness. So maybe we won’t even bother. I think my assistants also learned the merits of Callebaut (which has been looked down on) as a very good ( and very affordable) all-purpose baking chocolate.