“I don’t have to watch my figure as I never had much of one to watch. What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of eating chocolate.” ~ Katherine Hepburn, at age 70
A big chocolatey thanks to all who voted in my Candy Bar Poll the other day!
Mars/Milky Way won by a nose, with Krackel/Nestle’s Crunch, Lindt, and Snickers tying for second.
The comments were very interesting. They proved that you can’t pigeon-hole writers. They simply will not settle for status quo, ho-hum chocolate. Ask a simple question, and you’ll get a complicated answer!
This is probably because most writers are rich and famous.
By now, they have long outgrown their childhood favorite chocolate bars — those milky, sugary, high fat concoctions most closely resembling mother’s milk. They now have more, er, mature palates, which seek out the savoury instead of the overly sweet.
Confused? Okay. For the non-writers way up in the balcony seats, a little primer today on gourmet chocolate.
It really is the only way to go. Yes, I know. You’re thinking, gourmet? Expensive. Snooty. Hard-to-find. Gimmicky. No way.
That’s where education comes in. High quality chocolate may cost more, but with less sugar content, it will sate faster and for longer periods of time. A little goes a long way. True chocolate connoisseurs prefer bars of dark chocolate, not bonbons. Filled chocolates are great for special occasions, but if you wish to add chocolate to your daily, balanced diet, go for the high quality bars — no caramel, ganache, liquid raspberry, or praline. Like all the other food products you purchase, take time to read the labels!
The darker the better. Look for 70% (or higher) cocoa content (percentage of total weight coming from cocoa beans)
Real vanilla, not vanillin
Sugar, not corn syrup or artificial sweeteners
No additives like lactose, malt extract, or butter fat
No other emulsifiers except soy lecithin
Be very suspicious of “cocoa powder” in a dark chocolate bar.
Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, and chocolate buyer at London’s Fortnum and Mason, seems to have been born with a chocolate spoon in her mouth. Her highly refined palate is the equivalent of a perfumer’s “nose.” She eats a pound of chocolate (and swims an hour) each day, and offers lots of tips for both selecting and tasting chocolate. Among the brands she suggests are:
Michel Cluizel (France)
El Rey (Latin America)
Guittard (San Francisco)
Michael Recchiuti (San Francisco)
Scharffen Berger (USA)
With any of these brands, you can be assured of strict quality control — cacao beans from only the best sources, use of less high-volume processing machinery, more time spent extracting the most flavor from the beans. These are not huge mass market companies, but smaller companies interested more in quality than quantity. Can’t find them near you? Check out chocolatesource.com. For more info on some of these companies, be sure to visit this website. Even if you’re not in the market right now, it’s fascinating to see how specialized the chocolate industry has become — truly a worldwide revolution!
Valrhona is reportedly the world’s best
This was a real eye-opener for me. I assumed, maybe like some of you, that Godiva was high quality stuff. It sure costs enough. But just today I read the label on the back of a dark chocolate bar and discovered there was more sugar in it than cocoa! Also some undesirable ingredients like corn syrup, shellac, xanthum gum and vanillin, not real vanilla. It seems Godiva has all of us fooled with its clever marketing and fancy packaging. It’s owned by the Campbell Soup Company! To their credit, they’ve recently added higher quality bars containing just chocolate (50 or 70% cocoa), sugar, and soy lecithin.
Chocolate has really grown up. It’s sought after and savored like fine wines, with tastings, festivals, and chocolate clubs around the world. More and more, you’ll see percentage of cocoa printed on bar labels. Some will also include type of bean(s), place of origin (plantation, country or estate), vintage and tasting notes. A far cry from the 5-cent Hershey bar I remember as a kid. But perhaps this represents a search for chocolate’s real essence and what it can truly offer us — minus the inferior ingredients that for so long made it a profitable commodity for big corporations.
Next time you’re out shopping, look for some new chocolate brands and read the labels! Be willing to break old chocolate habits and be more discriminating. Because of the increasingly good news about its health benefits (wouldn’t you rather pay for chocolate than pain, depression, or heart meds?), the right chocolate can make a big difference in your life. But you have to do some homework, and some tasting, and rethink your relationship to chocolate. Who knows what great things may come of it?
But don’t take my word for it. Just look at all these high achievers:
Cole Porter had 9 pounds of chocolate shipped to him each month from his hometown.
In 1900, Queen Victoria sent her New Year’s greetings to the British troops stationed in South Africa during the Boer War in the form of a specially moulded chocolate bar.
Napoleon carried chocolate on his military campaigns for energy.
Jane Austen prepared chocolate for breakfast.
Paddington always shared a cup of cocoa with Mr. Gruber for elevenses.
Barbra Streisand’s favorite dessert is coffee ice cream with fudge sauce.
Samuel Pepys frequented coffee houses and strongly believed in the restorative powers of chocolate.
Thomas Jefferson loved hot chocolate: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
Frank Shorter reportedly eats a dozen chocolate bars for breakfast and eats several more for extra carbs on days he’s going on long distance runs.
Ernest Hemingway said, “I should have a musette full of chocolate. These I should distribute with a kind word and a pat on the back.”
American and Russian space flights have always included chocolate — both for nutritional and morale purposes, and chocolate is a standard part of army rations in times of stress.
swears by Teuscher’s champagne truffles and Peppermint Patties.
Author Linda Urban (
) loves Lake Champlain chocolates.
all go for Snickers.
is in love with See’s Butterscotch Squares.
prefers Skor, and author
likes Coffee Crisp.
craves Kit Kat,
can be bribed with a Butterfinger,
gives a hoot for Aero, and
Leaning toward Switzerland with Lindt are authors
Anyone want to make it a threesome with 3 Musketeer lover and author
For some serious Krackel and Crunch, consult authors
are inspired by Almond Joy or Mounds.
Finally, the very rich and famous artist,
, and authors
can all be found on Mars or the Milky Way.
**Go forth, and get thee some chocolate!!