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Posts Tagged ‘pistachio’

A big thanks to everyone for the lovely comments and congratulations regarding my PhD announcement! It’s really nice to have your support 🙂

When I was house-sitting a few months ago, I went out for dinner with three lovely ladies. One of these lovely ladies (in the strictly non-Les Miserables sense) was L-Izzle, who you may recognize from her frequently-excited blog comments regarding butter, cloying-sweet things, and food in general. L-Izzle is a generous soul, and so brought me chocolate presents to this dinner. Sadly, I was on my chocolate embargo at the time, so I hid both bars away for a rainy (read: desperate-for-something-new) day.

Imagine my delight when, a week ago, I remembered that not only did these gift-chocolates exist, but that they were from none other than my favourite Canberra chocolatier, The Curious Chocolatier! Although I’ve already chatted about my favourite TCC bar, the Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Rosemary, this doesn’t mean I have no interest in the other flavours. Far from it. Particularly when there’s a bar in the line-up that showcases my current favourite nut as well as that boon to all sweet things, salt…

The Curious Chocolatier Pistachio and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Pistachio

A different design aesthetic is used for the seasonal bars.

Pistachio can be a bit hit and miss when applied to sweet treats. In some cases its rich, almost-savoury, nutty flavour is allowed to come to the fore (as with Vestri’s chocolate), while in others it tastes more like almond than itself (see Cote d’Or’s chocolate). Unsure as to which side of the spectrum The Curious Chocolatier’s version would fall, I unwrapped the bar with bated breath. Imagine my relief when I uncovered a glossy chocolate liberally studded with roasted whole pistachios, and sprinkled with sparkling crystals of sea salt.

Of course, the true test would be the taste, but I felt good about the chocolate’s prospects. You can’t hide when you’re using whole nuts and, from experience, Heidi is not one to employ sub-standard ingredients.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Pistachios

Pretty pretty crystals.

The aroma was at first simply pleasantly sweet, yet when I turned the bar over to its nut-studded underside, a strong scent of vanilla emerged alongside that of roasted nuts.

I started off with a bite of chocolate that had no nuts on top. This bar uses the same chocolate base as does the Apricot and Rosemary yet, without the herbal notes of the latter, I was able to pick out demerara sugar and vanilla as the highlights of the 54% blend. Moreover, Heidi’s deft hand with the salt enables its subtle tang to accentuate these soft, sweet flavour notes.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Pistachio

No scrimping on the pistachios, either. Hurrah!

Now, the moment of truth. What were the pistachios like, and how well did they play with their fellow salt-and-chocolate classmates? Did they hog the Monkey Bars and then block the others from the slide, or was everyone able to take equal turns before the Recess bell rang?

Readers, they played well. Interestingly, the first thought I had upon sampling a pistachio was that its dominant flavour was “roasted” rather than “pistachio”, but after the initial burst of deep toastiness ebbed away, the delicate, almost umami-flavour of pistachio came through.

As I carefully, and happily, made my way through this chocolate, I was surprised to realise that the salt tasted a bit “briney”. And then I wasn’t surprised because, after all, Heidi uses sea salt here, not, um, land salt. The assertive nature of sea salt married well with the roasted strength of the nuts, which in turn contrasted nicely with the deep vanilla notes of the sweet chocolate.

For anyone feeling tentative about trying The Curious Chocolatier’s more unusual flavour pairings, I’d certainly recommend this bar as a superb entry into her innovative world.

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Louise, you asked for it. You said that you wanted to hear about the bad chocolates, and who am I to deny such a request?

Without further ado, I present to you the singularly most unpleasant chocolate experienced during my four months of travelling.

Jacques Chocolat Fondant Extra Fin Fourré Crème Confiseur Goût Pistache

Jacques Pistache chocolate

Should not have been seduced by the pistachio label.

I should have guessed how horrible this chocolate was going to be upon reading the English translation of its name: “Extra Fine Plain Chocolate with a Pistachio Taste Filling”. Pistachio Taste Filling? Shoot me now.

This is likely to be one of my shortest chocolate reviews ever, because I do not have a single positive thing to say. Despite ostensibly being made from the “Finest Quality Callebaut”, this chocolate had no distinct cocoa flavours nor was it able to distract from the horrendousness of the… *sigh*… Pistachio Taste Filling.

Jacques Pistache Chocolate

It doesn't *look* that horrid, but looks can be deceiving.

Although “fondant” in the French above refers to the chocolate’s dark and “plain” nature, “fondant” in the English-language sense of “hard sugar icing” is the only apt description for Jacques’ filling. The pale green inside of this bar was almost rock-solid, and tasted of nothing but sugar squared. Sugar multiplied by itself a hundred times over, even, and compressed into a solid log that seemed determined never to dissolve in the mouth. I almost gagged.

And yet, I ate two-thirds of this 200g bar before giving up. Somehow, I couldn’t believe it was really as horrible, sickly sweet, hard to eat, and unsatisfying as it was.

Louise and anyone else interested in awful chocolate products? This was horrible, sickly sweet, hard to eat, and unsatisfying. Consider yourselves warned.

Nestlé Éclat Noir Fèves de Cacao

Nestle Eclat Noir Feves de Cacao

Yes, this chocolate is resting on a Charlaine Harris/Sookie Stackhouse book, which is in turn resting on my lap, a lap which at the time was resting on a tiny booth in a tiny cabin on a train from Paris to Firenze. It’s like the human-book-chocolate version of a Babushka doll.

Thank the stars for the existence of rich chocolatey intensity. Sure, this chocolate is made by Nestlé, that evil third-world baby-killer company mentioned in my Honours thesis, but at least it only made my conscience and not my physical self gag.

The chocolate had a 64% cacao content but was admirably rich and dark in flavour, with hints of the roasted and woodsy flavours I love. The cacao nibs contributed not only coffee notes bar but, in being caramelised, lent a lovely toffee essence as well.

Nestle Eclat Noir Feves de Cacao

Waves, or maybe sand dunes, of chocolate?

That’s about it, folks. Not the greatest nibby chocolate I’ve had, but so tremendously better than the Jacques and its Travesty Taste Filling that I’m probably being kinder than I normally would.

You lucked out, Nestlé. I may not be so lenient next time.

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My intention had been to intersperse the Thorntons’ reviews with my backlog of other chocolates, but after two lovely ladies cleverly pre-empted one of my just-eaten Thorntons in the last chocolate review, I decided to instead keep at this UK chocolate company… 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

For some reason, the word tonka makes me giggle. And think of Oompa Loompas.

I had never heard of tonka beans before coming across this chocolate, but after a little investigating I can safely say that Thorntons is trying to kill us all. 

Or maybe just Americans, as it’s only in the United States that the tonka bean is prohibited by the FDA on account of being lethal in large doses. For the rest of us, the tonka bean is merely a receptacle of vanilla and almond flavours. Who knew nationality affected susceptibility to poison? 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate With Tonka Bean

Venezuela - for you, M.HeartsofPalm.

Apparently, this tonka chocolate won a silver award from the Academy of Chocolate in 2009. Good for it, I say. (I’d like to win an award from the Academy of Chocolate Eating, if that’s at all possible.) Described as having “delicate flavours reminiscent of almond and vanilla”, I must admit that Thornton’s marketing blurb hit the nail on the head this time. 

The aroma reminds me of almond extract, butter caramel, and something a little floral, like jasmine. From the first bite, the flavour is like a magnified well-executed milk chocolate, in the sense that the honey, caramel, and vanilla flavours of a good milk chocolate are all there, but amplified. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

Honka honka tonka. That is all.

The tonka bean’s vanilla and almond flavours, combined with the sweetness and dairy emphasis of the milk chocolate itself, combines to create a taste not unlike toffee almonds mixed with clotted cream. HCarryOn noted that along with strong vanilla notes, this also has a bit of cinnamon spice, and I agree. It’s not quite interesting enough to make me buy it again, but I think it would be wonderful for those who are milk chocolate-inclined to begin with. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

More awards, but gold this time.

So, pistachio and chocolate, we meet again. Snapping at the heels of Vestri’s pistachio chocolate, Thorntons has a lot to live up to. Thorntons opts for halved, rather than whole, pistachios, and surrounds these with plain milk chocolate rather than the white chocolate blended with pistachio paste used by Vestri. However, I will state without qualms that Thorntons’ pistachio chocolate is brilliant and, without a doubt, the best of the Thorntons’ bunch so far. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

Never have bumpy bits been so welcome.

I don’t know whether its technically correct to describe pistachios as having a umami flavour, but I do feel that they contributed a delicious savouriness to the sweet chocolate that rendered the bar extremely satisfying. The nuts were fresh, crunchy, salty, and buttery, and toned down the sweet milk chocolate without overpowering it. There’s something of marscapone and cream cheese in the chocolate’s aroma, and something of golden syrup in the taste, while the “lightly salted pistachios” remind me a little bit of melted butter on toast. In a good way. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

It seems my flash had its way with this chocolate.

This is one of the few milk chocolates I have tried on my travels that I really want to buy again. Anything that makes me think of pistachio brittle and deliciousness is a winner in my books, and this chocolate, dear readers of mine, made me so think.

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