The International Chocolate Awards: European Semi-Final 2014 by Tania Bazel

The International Chocolate Awards is pleased to announce the Grand Jury finalists of the 2014 European Semi-final, which was judged at the Palazzo Gaddi in Florence, Italy, 27 February – 3 March 2014.

The Grand Jury finalists are the entries that made it through to the final Grand Jury round after a two-day Selection process and two days of Main round judging by over 70 judges from Italy and around the world – including Germany, Belgium, France, Japan, the USA and UK.

The Gold, Silver and Bronze winning products voted for by the Grand Jury in each category will be announced at the Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner in Florence on 17 May 2014. Grand Jury Merit awards will also be announced at the May ceremony.

The Grand Jury finalists of the 2014 European Semi-finals are:

(In alphabetical order)


Akesson's Organic Chocolate

Akesson’s Organic Chocolate

Bars – Dark plain/origin bars

Akesson’s Organic (United Kingdom)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Chocolaterie A. Morin (France)
Friis-Holm (Denmark)
Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (Hungary)
Red Star Chocolate (United Kingdom)

Bars – High Percentage Dark plain/origin bars

Akesson’s Organic (United Kingdom)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Francois Pralus (France)

Bars – Rough Ground Dark plain/origin bars

Donna Elvira (Italy)
Omnom Chocolate (Iceland)
Szántó Tibor Fine Chocolates (Hungary)

Bars – Dark plain/origin bars made with alternative natural sugars

Chocolate Naive (Lithuania)

Francois Pralus

Francois Pralus

Bars – Milk plain/origin bars

Francois Pralus (France)
Friis-Holm (Denmark)
IDILIO ORIGINS Premium Swiss Chocolates (Switzerland)
Michel Cluizel (France)
Red Star Chocolate (United Kingdom)
Slitti (Italy)

Bars – White plain/origin bars

Michel Cluizel (France)

Bars – Dark chocolate bars flavoured with an infusion or flavouring

Co Couture (United Kingdom)
Gardini (Italy)
MENAKAO (Madagascar)

Bars – Dark chocolate bars flavoured with inclusions or pieces

Akesson’s Organic, Ltd. (United Kingdom)
Michel Cluizel (France)
Pasticceria l’Antica di Ernst Knam (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Bars – Flavoured dark chocolate bars with a filling

Co Couture (United Kingdom)
Francois Pralus (France)
Guido Castagna (Italy)

Bars – Milk chocolate bars flavoured with an infusion or flavouring

Chocolate Naive (Lithuania)
Gardini (Italy)

Bars – Milk chocolate bars flavoured with inclusions or pieces

Chika Watanabe (United Kingdom)
chocoMe (Hungary)
Gardini (Italy)
Michel Cluizel (France)

Bars – Flavoured milk chocolate bars with a filling

Francois Pralus (France)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Bars – Flavoured white chocolate

Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
chocoMe (Hungary)

Filled chocolates – dark (flavoured or unflavoured)

Andrea Bianchini Chocolates

Andrea Bianchini Chocolates

Unflavoured dark – Ganaches and truffles

Andrea Bianchini (Italy)
Le Cacaotier (France)

Unflavoured dark – Nut pralines

A Giordano (Italy)
Bonnat Chocolatier (France)
Giuseppe Manilia (Italy)

Unflavoured dark – Gianduiotto

A Giordano (Italy)
Bodrato cioccolato (Italy)
Guido Castagna (Italy)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Unflavoured dark – Cremino

Guido Castagna (Italy)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Flavoured dark – Ganaches and truffles

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Chococo (United Kingdom)
Damian Allsop Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Dolci Libertà (Italy)
Ika chocolate (Israel)

Dark – Nut based pralines and gianduja, enrobed whole nuts

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Guido Castagna (Italy)

Dark chocolate marzipan

Torta Pistocchi Firenze (Italy)

Dark – Caramels

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)

Dark – Dark fruit pastes, jellies/gelée, enrobed whole fruits, liquid centres with alcohol, fondants

Atelier du Confiseur (France)
Bruco Dolciaria (Italy)

Filled chocolates – milk (flavoured or unflavoured)

Milk – Ganaches and truffles

Andrea Bianchini (Italy)
Ben Le Prevost Chocolatier (United Kingdom)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Dolci Peano (Italy)

Milk – Unflavoured Cremino

A Giordano (Italy)

Milk – Flavoured Cremino

Gardini (Italy)

Milk – Gianduiotto

Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Milk – Enrobed whole nuts

chocoMe (Hungary)
Dolci Libertà (Italy)

Slitti (Italy)
Torta Pistocchi Firenze (Italy)

Milk – Fruit pastes, jellies/gelée, enrobed whole fruits, liquid centres with alcohol, fondants

Bruco Dolciaria (Italy)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)

Filled chocolates – mixed (flavoured or unflavoured)

Ganaches and truffles with mixed dark/milk/white chocolate for coating and fillings

Bruno Chocolate (Israel)
Chococo (United Kingdom)
Nicky Grant (United Kingdom)
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates (United Kingdom)
Piccola Pasticceria (Italy)
Zangio Családi Csokoládéműhely (Hungary)


Dark – Spreads

Guido Castagna (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Milk – Spreads

Fonderia del Cacao by Alfonso D’Orsi (Italy)
Gusti di Napoli (Italy)
Pasticceria Vacchieri Marco (Italy)
Piluc (Italy)
Slitti (Italy)

Patrick Roger Chocolatier

Chocolate Shops of Paris, France

With summer upon us people making their summer vacations plans, there’s always a lucky group who get to travel to the city of lights – Paris.  Paris is home to both fashion and food.  It is really known for its chocolate shops too!  At last count, the city of Paris was noted as having more than 100 chocolate shops to visit. I know that seems like a lot, but you have to keep in mind a number of things.  First off, a lot of those chocolate shops have been around forever and only Parisians know about them.  They have no website and often no clear markings.  They don’t advertise.  You may get super lost finding them.  Second, all of the chocolate shops in Paris cannot make and sell good chocolate.  I know that’s hard to grasp, but it’s true.  The chocolate shops vary in location, length of time in business, quality of chocolate and name recognition, just to cover the basics.  The ones that I’m going to share with you are hands down the best the city has to offer.

The best known chocolate shops feature work done by artisan craftsman using the best, high-quality and natural ingredients on the market.  They know what type of chocolate they produce is a reflection on them.  They would rather be the best and be a bit more expensive than sell lower quality chocolate.  It’s not all quality either.  These Parisian chocolatiers also make sure their work reflects years of apprenticeship and study too.  The chocolates are works of art to be beheld and enjoyed.  The best chocolate shops will look expensive and opulent from both inside and out.  You may feel like you walked into a couture shop of a famous designer.  Well, you have.  There’s lots to buy in these chocolate shops including bon bons, confections, chocolate bars and some also offer pastries and beverages.  When you enter the shop, make sure you great the salespeople.  It’s the French way and they appreciate it.  The French also only help you if you ask for it, but once you ask them to explain the chocolates to you they are more than happy to oblige and you may find yourself lost in conversation!  Many of these shops now offer lunch as well.  If you have limited time, you’ll find that both the 6th and 7th arrondissements have lots of chocolate shops.  You’ll be happy there.  Enjoy and don’t forget to bring some home.

Some of the best chocolate shops in Paris that you must go visit include:

Jean-Paul Hevin, 231 rue Saint-Honore, 1st arrondissement

Pierre Marcolini, 89 rue de Seine, 6th arrondissement

Jean-Charles Rochoux, 16 rue d’Assas, 6th arrondissement

Patrick Roger, 108 boulevard Saint-Germaine, 6th arrondissement

Patrice Chapon, 69 rue du Bac, 7th arrondissement

Michel Chaudun, 149 rue de l’Universite, 7th arrondissement

Debauve & Gallais, 30 rue des Saint-Peres, 7th arrondissement

La Maison du Chocolate, 225 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, 8th arrondissement

Jacques Genin, 18 rue Saint-Charles, 15th arrondissement

Enjoy your trip to Paris and your Parisian chocolates!

Annmarie Kostyk, The Chocolate Expert



I’m Back! Chicago’s French Pastry School and Venezuelan Black Chocolate by Willie Harcourt-Cooze

My dear chocolate readers. It’s been 9 months since I have last written.  Besides a huge project, I have no excuse except laziness. I apologize. Promise to make it up to you!

For four of those months, I attended L’Art du Gateau at the French Pastry School in Chicago. I met lots of wonderful people, who like myself, only wanted to talk cake, dessert, and food. I introduced a few of them to the dark side of chocolate. I even converted a confirmed non-chocolate (gasp!) eater. I learned taste combinations, the making of cakes, fillings, icings, filling, sugar, chocolate, fondant, sugar flowers, pastillage, and so much more I honestly can’t even remember.  I was taught by the winners of the 2011 National Pastry Team (my chefs were the two on the right – Chef Scott and Chef Josh – aren’t they cute ladies?) and the famous Chef Nicholas Lodge! They also offer a program in pastry, bread, and continuing education if you’re interested. Come one, come all.

For my first post back, I have ventured over to the United Kingdom!  You may remember me writing about Willie Court-Cooze participating in Chocolate Unwrapped as part of the Real Food Festival in London. If you missed it, click here.

I was lucky enough to receive two samples of Venezuelan Black chocolate – Indonesian 69. First, you should know that the wonderful Willie Court-Cooze, also goes by Organic Willie.  The chocolate bar also has yet another brand – Willie’s Delectable cacao. They are all one in the same, confusing…but I’m sure they have their reasons.  Hopefully, they will pick one and go with it. Organic Willie is the only small producer of Theobroma cacao in the United Kingdom. For over ten years, Organic Willie has been farming at Hacienda El Tesoro which is his farm overlooking Henri Pittier National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Venezuela.

All of the cacao trees on the farm are not only grown without pesticides, but they are irrigated by water that runs all the way down from the mountains. Once the beans are harvested and fermented, they head to Organic Willie’s factory in Devon in Southwest England where they will be turned into Venezuelan Black goodness!

Willie’s Delectable Cacao Indonesian 69 is not made from Organic Willie’s organic chocolate. These beans come from Java. I believe the beans are a blend. One of the nice things about this packaging is that there are two separately wrapped bars in one box so you can enjoy one now and enjoy one later. Freshness and chocolate are always nice. I liked this bar. I was a bit surprised at that though. Upon opening the bar was quite dark, but not at all shiny or smooth. The aroma, however, was amazing! My nose was tempted with scents of caramel and strawberries. Not a hard snap either, which again, worried me a bit. Once popped in my mouth, I forgot about the”standards” which I look for in chocolate, because taste and mouth feel are what it’s really about in my mind. Caramel was the first taste, followed by a spice I couldn’t quite put my finger on, a quick woodsy taste, followed by the strawberries. Delightful. The chocolate completely covered my mouth and my taste buds were dancing. Downside, I had a bit of a metallic taste in my mouth afterwards which lasted quite awhile. Needed to drink some water. It felt thick.

Now for the Venezuelan Black 100% Rio-Caribe-Superior . It was awesome! First, you have to remember that this is all cocoa mass. No sugar, no nothing. It is bitter, which is to be expected, but full of fruity fruity aroma and taste. The label says citrus, but I wasn’t getting the citrus. It was more like red fruits. The color was a nice dark brown with just a hint of purple. Still not that shiny either, but we’re going to cook with it. Yes, cook with it. I made chili with this. The tomatoes from the chili and the fruitiness from the chocolate melding together to make for a great dinner experience!

You should give Organic Willie’s a try. You can check out their website Venezuelan Black and find great sweet recipes featuring chocolate on their site under recipes, or click here.

Enjoy your daily chocolate and I’ll see you soon! Annmarie Kostyk


Madagascar Chocolate Bars and Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread


As you all know by now, Theobroma cacao (aka the chocolate tree, the cocoa tree) will only grow and bear flowers and fruit in a place called the cocoa belt which is located 20 degrees both north and south of the equator.  One of the countries that falls within the cocoa belt and produces some amazing cocoa beans for chocolate is Madagascar.  Madagascar is an island located off the southeast coast of Africa.  It has the Mozambique Channel on its western side and the Indian Ocean on its eastern side.  About 2/3 of the island country of Madagascar is located in the cocoa belt.

Here is a listing of some of the best chocolatiers in the world using the cocoa beans from Madagascar to make some of the best chocolate bars around.

Amano Artisan Chocolate's Madagascar 70% Chocolate Bar

Amano Artisan Chocolate’s Madagascar 70% chocolate bar.  Made from beans grown in the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar.  Made in small batches.  Winner of the 2009 Academy of Chocolate award.  “Madagascar has long been known for producing fine cocoa beans. The beans from Madagascar are primarily of the Trinitario and Criollo varieties. The soil and climate produce beans that are particularly fruity and our Madagascar bar is a fine example of this. This chocolate is perhaps a bit nontraditional with its strong fruity flavors that include hints of citrus and berry and shows the wide range of flavors possible in cocoa. It is absolutely delicious and one that you will remember for its incredible flavor.” (Amano Artisan Chocolate website) (Amano Artisan Chocolate’s Blog)

Madecasse Madagascar Chocolate's 70% Chocolate Bar

Madecasse Madagascar Chocolate is made from 100% Madagascar grown cocoa beans.  Their cocoa farm is completely sustainable and all of their chocolate and cocoa products are not only grown in Madagascar, but they are made their too.  All of their chocolate is bean to bar.  They produce cocoa powder as well as a selection of seven Madecasse Madagascar Chocolate bars including a Milk Chocolate bar, a  Sea Salt and Nibs chocolate bar, a 63% Cocoa chocolate bar, a 67% Cocoa chocolate bar, a 70% Coco chocolate bar, a 75% Cocoa chocolate bar and a 80% Cocoa chocolate bar.  Buy Madecasse and support the Madecasse chocolate co-op.

Patric Chocolate's Chocolate Bar Selection

Chocolate maker Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate makes chocolate like they did 150 years ago in France.  His chocolate bars are not only fair trade and organic, but he is a bean to bar chocolate maker as well.  Currently Patric Chocolate offers four chocolate bars made from cocoa beans grown in Madagascar.  They are the 67% Madagascar Sambirano Valley chocolate bar, the 70% Madagascar Sambirano Valley chocolate bar, the 70% Madagascar Bar with Cocoa Nibs chocolate bar and the 75% Madagascar
Sambirano Valley chocolate bar.  All of theses chocolate bars are made from single-estate cocoa beans.  Click here to follow Patric Chocolate’s blog.

Francois Pralus 75% Madagascar Criollo Chocolate Bar

Pralus has been making exceptional chocolate for over 50 years.  Francois Pralus is the current chocolate maker at the company.  He is only one of three artisan chocolate makers in all of France.  Pralus’s Madagascar 75% Chocolate Bar is a single origin chocolate bar made exclusively of the rarest of the cocoa beans… the Criollo.   The chocolate bar is a tad minty and fruity with acidity and bitterness in the end.

Theo Chocolate Bars

Theo Chocolate’s Organic Single Origin Madagascar 74% Dark Chocolate bar is fantastic.  It brings together what Madagascar chocolate is all about.  It’s very fruity and just slightly acidic.  Theo Chocolate prides itself on this chocolate bar being dairy free gluten free, soy free and vegan.  Perfect for everyone!  Theo Chocolate offers fair trade chocolate that is sustainable.  They use green energy to produce their

Theo Chocolate's Chocolate University

chocolate and they even use sustainable packaging and printing for their chocolate bar wrappers. You may follow Theo on Twitter, Facebook or follow them on their blog.  FYI…Theo Chocolate’s Chocolate University starts September 29th!

There are, of course, many more chocolate bars coming from the beans grown in Madagascar.  These are simply some of my all time favorites for you to try,  The cocoa beans from Madagascar make for some amazingly delightful chocolate that sets it apart from any other region growing cocoa.

Askinosie Chocolate's Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Today is the first day of autumn.  Happy fall!  You’d never guess it by the weather in Chicago today.  It’s 88 degrees!  Tomorrow and the days to follow will bring lovely autumn days of sun and temperatures in the 60s.  When I think of autumn, I think of winter squash.  I had a great pumpkin soup last night.  My mind went to pumpkin and voila!  Here’s today recipe for Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread.  You’ll love it for breakfast with a bit of butter or cream cheese, try it for a snack with a spread of Nutella or your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread (Askinosie Chocolate has a really good one!)  If you are feeling really decadent…it’s nice with a scoop of ice cream too!

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

4 eggs
2 1/2 cups  sugar
1 cup oil ( I use macadamia nut oil.)
1/3 cup water
2 cups canned pumpkin
9 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into chunks  (I like to use 70-75%.)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat eggs and sugar together. Add oil, water and pumpkin to egg mixture and mix flour, soda, salt and cinnamon together and add to pumpkin mixture. Stir in dark chocolate. Pour in 2 greased bread pans and bake at 300°F for 1-1/2 hours or until cake tests done (toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).

Ghirardelli Chocolate 66% Semisweet Chocolate Chips

In the photo below, I used Ghirardelli 66% Chocolate Chips instead of chopping up three dark chocolate bars.  I’ve also used white chocolate before as well as making muffins instead of bread.  It’s all good!

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate and Chocolate Chili Cake

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate

I found out about Snake & Butterfly Chocolate though a friend of mine who adore chocolate as much as I do.  She found them at her local farmer’s market.  You never know what you’ll find at a farmer’s market, that’s why should should visit as many as you can!  Snake & Butterfly Chocolate has been around since 2007 and they make both chocolate truffles and chocolate bars.  They are one of many bean to bar makers in the United States.  They purchase and roast their owns cocoa beans for their chocolate truffles and chocolate bars.  They make their chocolate in small batches using only organic cocoa beans.  Some of their chocolate is live (raw) and most of their chocolate is vegan.  They also are preservative and soy free.    Snake & Butterfly Chocolate believes in eco-friendly packaging too – less is more.

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate Bar

I was lucky enough to receive four chocolate bars from Snake & Butterfly Chocolate to see what I thought.  I received a Venezuelan 67%, a Ghana 67%, a Maple Syrup & Bacon Brittle and a Smoked Almond Sea Salt chocolate bar.  The Venezuelan 67% and the Ghana 67% chocolate bars are both made of single origin cocoa beans.  They Venezuela 67% is rather fruity and tangy with just a hint of walnut and nutmeg.  It is made from Rio Caribe cocoa beans.  This chocolate bar was my favorite of the group.  The Ghana 67% chocolate bar is made from Forastero cocoa beans and had prominent vanilla notes with just a hint of earthiness to it. Both of these chocolate bars are vegan.

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate's Chocolate Caramel Figs

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate’s Maple Syrup & Bacon Brittle and Smoked Almond Sea Salt were not my favorites.  Nothing against them or the chocolate bars.  I can appreciate how fantastic they were and my fellow chocolate taster absolutely loved them.  I, however, can’t stand anything smoked but salmon.  The bacon was just too smoky for me.  I was hoping for bacon caramelized in the maple syrup giving it a sweet, candied taste.  I did appreciate the bit of butter in the  Maple Syrup & Bacon Brittle chocolate bar.  It was a nice surprise.  The sea salt in the Smoked Almond & Sea Salt bar was a perfect balance, easy on the salt.

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate Thai Truffle

Snake & Butterfly Chocolate makes eight different chocolate bars.  In addition, they also make Chocolate and caramel Figs (which I’m just dying to try!), Chocolate Dipped Plain and Coffee Marshmallows, and Peanut Butter Cups.   If that wasn’t enough for you…they make a few really exceptional truffles.  They are Bourbon and Apricot Truffles , Rum and Cherry Truffles and Thai Truffles.  All are packed in packages of four.  The Thai sounds really good to me…coconut, lemongrass, lime, and green curry past and dipped in dark chocolate.  A taste sensation!  If I were you, I’d just order a gift box for myself to try them all!

Talking about Thai food made me think of this chocolate cake recipe I have.  It’s for Chili Chocolate Cake.  You make it in a loaf pan, so it looks like bread, but most definitely is cake!  Sweet, rich with a gentle kick at the finish!  At the Whole Foods in Austin, Texas they made a Chocolate Chili Gelato that would have put this over the edge!  For those of you in Austin, I beg you to buy a pint to go when you make this!  Think of me while you’re indulging!

Chocolate Chili Cake

Serves 6

7 ounces dark chocolate, I used 72% chocolate
6 ⅓ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 cup super fine sugar
3 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Gently melt the chocolate in the oven, microwave or in a heat-proof bowl suspended over simmering water. Mix the chocolate with the softened butter, flour, chili powder, sugar and lightly beaten egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Turn the cake mixture into a buttered loaf tin (approximately 8 inches long) and bake in pre-heated oven for 35 minutes. The cake will be cooked when a thin crust has formed on top. It may appear slightly under-cooked inside, however it will become firmer as it cools. The ultimate result is a moist, dense cake with a crackly exterior. Turn out onto cake rack as soon as it is cooled.

Chocolate Chili Cake

Gail Ambrosius Five-Bundle Chocolate Bars and Adventurous Truffles

Not to long ago I told you all about Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier and their amazing truffles.  Well, sometimes I can’t get enough of a good thing, especially when it is beyond good.  I thought I’d give their Five-Bar Bundle a try.  I am a huge chocolate bar fan.  They were nice enough to add a few more truffles and some other goodies in the shipment for me to try too!  I am such a lucky person!

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier's Dipped Ginger

First thing out of the box and enjoyed in one sitting was the Chocolate-Dipped Ginger.  The ginger is crystallized and dipped in 70% Colombian dark chocolate for a unique combination of tang, zing and sugar.  The ginger is plump and juicy with just the right amount of cocoa content in the chocolate.  Spectacular!

I’m not sure if anyone knows this or not, but Gail made me a fan of the lavender and chocolate combination.  I’ve never been a fan of lavender anything.  She brought me to the other side.  Why do I tell you this again?  Well…I don’t care for chocolate and mint either.  It’s true.  I’m sorry to say.  Can Gail convert me?  She did, and with flying colors.  Her

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier's Shiitake Mushroom and Machu Picchu are part of the Adventurous Collection

Fresh Mint truffle is one of her summer specialties.  The mint? Fresh, not flavoring.  The chocolate?  More of her outstanding dark Colombian chocolate.

Looking for something really unique?  How about a Shiitake Mushroom truffle?  Warm, earthy and smooth.  65% Peruvian chocolate.  Gail Ambrosius brings umami to this little gem of heaven.  Umami is the fifth taste sensation out there that most people don’t even know about.  Your taste buds are not sure what to do, but boy do they enjoy learning!

Another interesting truffle?  Machu Picchu.  It’s over the top.  65% Peruvian dark chocolate with bits of caramelized

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier's Sea Salt Caramel

cacao nibs.  How unique!  Add to that a hint of cinnamon and some vanilla bean and you are transported to an ancient time.  The top of the Machu Picchu is topped with bits of crushed and candies almonds.  Sublime…

Another treat that is something I can eat every single day are the Salted Caramels.  Creamy, smooth, sweet and salty.  Perfectly yummy. Suggestion…buy a large box.

Now for the Five-Bar Bundle.  What is in the Five-Bar Bundle of chocolate goodness?  Bittersweet, Nib, Three Hot Nuts, Cherry Almond and Espresso.  Seriously.  I started with one a day and went from the simple, Bittersweet chocolate bar and worked my way to the more complex.  The Nib chocolate bar is chocked full of gently toasted cacao nibs.  Crunchy, bitter, salty and luscious.  Three Hot Nuts chocolate bar.  How unique!  Spicy, hot, rich and chocolaty.  Pistachios, pine nuts and pepitas are roasted with chipotle and cayenne peppers and topped with chili verde salt.  Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier’s Three Hot Nuts chocolate bar was nominated for Best Chocolate Bar, 2008 Next Generation Chocolatier Awards.  Cherry Almond chocolate bar marries sensuous Michigan cherries with toasted almonds.  Sweet, crunch and chewy all in the same bit.  I kept thinking how good cookies would be with this chocolate bar in them.  Sounds good, doesn’t it? Last but not least was the Espresso Bar chocolate bar.  The Espresso is locally made at Just Coffee Coop in Madison with chunks of espresso beans spread throughout the bar.  What a pick-me-up treat!

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier's Five-Bar Chocolate Bar Bundle

Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier never ceases to tantalize all of your taste buds, all of your sense.  When you place your order or are fortunate enough to visit the shop, you will step into another dimension of heaven…

Guest Blogger: Chocri Chocolate on How to Make Your Own Chocolate Bars

How to Make Your Own Chocolate Bars

Making your own chocolate at home has obvious attractions – the smell of melted chocolate, the power over your creation, and not at last the left over chocolate in the forms and on the spoons that just begs to be licked off. But what others like just spells m-e-s-s-y for others, so I’m offering you two ways to create your own chocolate bars in the following: 1) at home and 2) with Chocri Chocolate.

1) Making Chocolate Bars at Home

You need:
* Two or three chocolate bars of a chocolate that you really like. I suggest Lindt or Tcho chocolate
* Anything that you want to mix into or put onto your chocolate bar. Suggestions: M&Ms, Banana Chips, Nuts, Marshmallows, little balls of Marzipan, Sprinkles, Gummy Bears, Granola, you name it.
* If you’re fancy, a molding form – that requires some online ordering or specialty candy supply store shopping. Generally though, you just need a relatively, not too flat form

In theory, you would now temper the chocolate (temper means you expose it to different temperatures in a strict order). However, that’s really tricky to do and really creates a mess because you will need several bowls and you have to keep transferring the chocolate mass from one to the other, so we’ll do the easy version here. If you like, you can also add a very little bit of coconut oil to the mix, which should take care of the blooming (white streaks on the chocolate if it isn’t well tempered).

Now, melt the majority of the chocolate in a bowl that you place over hot water. When the mass is nice and creamy, take it off, and add the rest of the chocolate, which should melt immediately and will cool the chocolate down a bit. Pour the chocolate immediately into the form. When doing that, make sure that you don’t fill as much chocolate in from the start as the form will hold – the chocolate will distribute evenly and fill out the corners even if it doesn’t look like that in the beginning. You will find out how much chocolate you need in the form, but start with little and then increase.

Next, shake the form with small but fast hits against the table, not only for the chocolate to distribute evenly, but also for the air to leave the chocolate. You might even see little bubbles come out of the chocolate. Once it’s evenly distributed, you can mix in your ingredients, or place them beautifully on top of the chocolate bar. That’s the best part! If you’re like me, you’ll find that it isn’t altogether easy to make it look pretty, so don’t fret if it doesn’t look perfect the first time – it will still taste great.

Now place the form with chocolate and ingredients into the refrigerator and let it sit there for 30 minutes. Afterwards, take the form out, cut the borders off and resist the temptation to bite into it immediately before anyone was able to admire your creation!

Chocri Chocolate Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

Now, if this sounds like too much mess and/ or time to you, consider this:

2) Create Your Chocolate Bar Online

Visit Chocri Chocolate and click on “Create a chocolate bar”. Choose a base chocolate (dark, milk ,white or a combination base), and then choose your toppings from a wide variety, spanning across fruit (strawberries anyone?), spices (hm, cinnamon), nuts (pecans!), confections (peanut butter drops), decor (a marzipan rose, so pretty) and grains (coffee and milk chocolate ROCK!).

When you completed your bar, don’t forget to give it a personalized name. It’s not only free, it’s also cute. Add your very own bar to the cart and repeat the process or pick one of our [recommended creations] And then order it and that’s it! We deliver it to your doorstep – without the smell of molten chocolate, but all of the excitement of holding your very own creation in your hands.

We use only fair trade, organic chocolate from Belgium, and our toppings are European quality ingredients. I’m sure you’ll love it! [Try us out!]

Chocri Chocolate's Chocolate Bars

Storing Chocolate Bars and Chocolate Fudge Half-Pound Cake

I recently had a question from someone that was having problems with a recipe for chocolate bark.  She was putting it in the refrigerator to set and was having problems with “sweat” once she took it out.  I thought we’d talk about chocolate bar packaging and how to store it today since there are so many old wives tales out there about it.

Chronicle Books Chocolate Bar Wrapper Wall (I have a box, but like this idea!)

All chocolate is temperamental.  Chocolate bars are no exception. Packaging of chocolate bars is in transition right now.  The issues are that if the chocolate bar is wrapped in foil, it will remain fresher longer, but it can also pick up the metallic taste of the foil.  Waxed paper and parchment paper are being used more frequently, but the shelf life is much shorter.  A few companies are also using waxed lined foil which solves both of the problems. Some chocolatiers are started to use clear plastic to package their chocolate bars.  Chocolate needs protected from the light and the plastic bags can become little hot houses for the chocolate bar, which are not recommended for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. They don’t like it.

Foil Chocolate Bar Wrappers

Perfect Temperature

Chocolate should be stored in a cool dry place in its original packaging.  Chocolate does not like the temperature and humidity to vary from the high-end to the low end either.  Chocolate likes a cool, dark place. A low shelf in your pantry if it’s away from the appliances is perfect. The room temperature should range between 60 and 70 degrees, although some say 55 to 60 degrees.  Chocolate is happiest and stays in the best condition between 55% to 65% humidity. Any higher or lower temperature will cause the chocolate to bloom.

Chocolate Bloom

Bloom is a grayish white film on the surface of the chocolate bar.  This means that the cocoa butter has separated.  It will still taste okay, but won’t have that beautiful color and shine.  A higher temperature will also cause melting. Once the chocolate melts and then hardens, the chocolate will look like nothing but a blob.  Chocolate is like a fine jewel.  It should be taken care of to maintain its beautiful color, texture, shine and taste.  If you do open a chocolate bar and only eat part of it, first wrap wax paper or parchment around the chocolate bar and then add a foil layer around the bar to keep it fresh.

Chocolate (Photo Courtesy of Madame Chocolat)

Never store chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer.  Many people do, but chocolate just doesn’t like it.  Chocolate should never be stored near items with a strong odor.  A chocolate bar place next to an onion will take on the aroma, smell and even taste like an onion.  Dark chocolate will keep for up to three to five years if stored properly, milk chocolate for up to eighteen months and white chocolate for up to five years.  Most chocolatiers now put expiration dates on their chocolate bars so their individual shelf life may differ.

Bonbons in Madrid

Chocolate that can go into the refrigerator are chocolate cakes or cakes that have some form of chocolate in them, brownies and chocolate buttercream icing.  Chocolate bon bons (aka chocolates, pralines), truffles, chocolate bars, ganache and fudge should never be put into the refrigerator because it changes the chemical make-up of the chocolate.

You spent good money on your fine chocolate and the chocolatiers creating it for you have put in time, love and money to make it for you.  Make sure you give it the love and respect that it deserves and enjoy it!  If you’e not sure where or how something chocolate should be stored, drop me an email!

The recipe today is for Chocolate Fudge Half-Poundcake.  It’s called half-poundcake, because there is not the traditional pound of each ingredient and it is made in a bundt pan.  This is great for breakfast (I’ve made French toast out of it before.  Plan on a nap after! It’s good toasted under the broiler too.), it’s a nice afternoon snack with shmear of cream cheese or you can serve it for dessert.  You may make it with or without the glaze.  If you’d like, you may substitute agave for the honey in the chocolate glaze recipe.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Fudge Half-Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Serves 8

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons brandy (You may substitute with water.)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Chocolate Fudge Half-Poundcake Without Glaze Made in a Fancy Pan for the Holidays

Chocolate Fudge Half-Poundcake Without Glaze Made in a Fancy Pan for the Holidays

Chocolate Glaze (optional)

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heavily grease a 12 cup Bundt pan; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the cake, place chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in chocolate, vanilla and brandy. In a small bowl stir together flour, salt and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour in fourths and buttermilk in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in center of oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert to remove from pan and cool 20 minutes before frosting.

Meanwhile make Chocolate Glaze, if desired, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.

Chocolate Fudge Half-Poundcake with Chocolate Glaze

Swiss Chocolate, Shop Tour and Sacher Torte

The photo of the chocolate bars that I posted yesterday from the Swiss chocolate shop really excited me.  Although not an exceptionally clear photo, it invited me not only into the shop, but made me  want to lie down in that chocolate case with the chocolate bars similar to the scene in Chocolat.  I emailed the photographer and asked if they remembered the name of the shop.  They did not, but shared with me that after living for a time in Switzerland,  they found almost all chocolate shops sell their chocolate bars that way.  They said you will seldom find a wrapped chocolate bar in Switzerland unless it is from somewhere else.  Fascinating!

The bars are weighed just like the truffles and bon bons.  I also learned that the bars are displayed in ascending order of cocoa content along with descriptions of each bar.  How convenient is that?  Chronological and informative directions.

The Swiss are known for their high end, luxury chocolates with the first chocolate being processed there in the 17th century.  Jean Tobler was one of the first ones to set up shop.  Maybe you have heard of him?  Toblerone?  In the 18th century, there were limited amounts of chocolate production happening in Switzerland, but by the 19th century things started booming with the Swiss.  In the 19th and early 20th century, fourteen large Swiss chocolate manufacturers set up shop, including Lindt, Camille Bloch, Frey and Suchard.

The Swiss eat a lot of chocolate.  They consume 54% of what they produce which equals about 25.6 Pounds (11.6 kg) per person per year.  That is a lot of chocolate!  Germany, France, Great Britain and North America import and consume 53% of the chocolate made in Switzerland.  Some other wonderful numbers…the gross income of the Swiss chocolate industry is about 1,365 million Swiss Francs ($1,312 million)per year.

In honor of the Swiss, for not only their chocolate but for their Sacher Torte, I bring you a video tour of a Swiss chocolate shop and to follow that a recipe for Swiss Sacher Torte.

Swiss Sacher Torte

For the Cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
8 egg yolks
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
8 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the Filling:
3-4 tablespoons apricot or raspberry jam

For the Frosting:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4-6 tablespoons boiling water (add some instant espresso coffee)
about 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

For the Cake:
Blend together: butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until fluffy. Melt the chocolate in a little saucepan, cool and stir into above. Beat egg whites, adding 1/2 cup sugar, slowly. Gradually and gently fold sifted flour, baking powder and egg whites into batter. Pour into well greased and floured round cake pan. 9 inch. Bake at 350 approximately 50 minutes. Let cake cool a few minutes then carefully remove onto a cake plate. You can make it into layers by carefully cutting it twice and spreading the jam between layers or leave whole and spread the jam on top, either way is fine.

For the Frosting:
Melt the chocolate chips with the boiling water (mixed with espresso if desired) when smooth add the powdered sugar and butter. If the hot water doesn’t melt the chocolate chips stir over a pan of hot water. While the frosting is still slightly warm glaze the cake by gently pouring and spreading on the top and sides. It doesn’t have to be even on the sides but can drip over if you like the look. Cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Hotel Sacher's Sacher Torte

Valrhona Chocolate and Wine Pairing and Chocolate Punch

Valrhona Dark Chocolate Bar

I’ve been spending my entire weekend writing and missed a post yesterday.  Sorry about that.  I was lucky in that Valrhona must have known my plight and sent me something they thought would interest me.  Which of course made me think of you.  It’s about pairing chocolate and wine which, quite frankly, I know nothing about since I don’t drink anymore.  They have passed their knowledge to me and I now pass it on to you.  The Chocolate Punch is their recipe as well.  I have to say it sounds like it would be delicious spooned over a nice dish of homemade ice cream.  If you want to make it for the kiddies to enjoy too, you can omit the rum and add a rum flavoring or another flavoring of your choice.  I think hazelnut or almond would be nice.  Read, learn and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

When pairing wine with chocolate is a research project for both oenophiles and chocoholics. Everyone’s flavor palate is different, but there area few good parameters to follow:

Light, creamy and smooth chocolate (milk) should be paired with lighter bodied wines. Dark, rich and strong chocolate should be paired with full-bodied wines. These are only guidelines, not rules. Another important fact to remember is that the wine should be a little bit or more sweet than the chocolate; otherwise you will end up with a sour or bitter taste.

Here are pairing suggestions specifically designed for Valrhona’s Grand Crus:

Valrhona Tanariva 33%

TANARIVA 33%: Pure Madagascar. Balanced acidity softened by distinctive milk and caramel notes.

A light fruity Pinot Noir from Oregon or Sonoma melds with the milky caramel profile of this milk chocolate and brings out the fruitiness (cherry/raspberry) of the wine. One could also try a velvety rich Californian cabernet Sauvignon to really bring out the dark cherry and spice. If you prefer your wines sweet, try a ruby port (which hasn’t seen any oak — it’s bottled right after fermentation).

Valrhona Manjari 64%

MANJARI 64%: Pure Madagascar. Fresh, acidic, sharp bouquet with red fruit notes.

Here is a versatile pairing chocolate that works with both white and red wines. Manjari’s fresh, fruity notes pair well with a fruity, high acid Sauvignon Blanc from either California or New Zealand. The citrus flavors really shine here. One can also opt for the dessert style Rieslings from Washington state or Germany. For reds, go with a strong spicy Californian Zinfandel to soften the acidity of the chocolate; great combination.

Valrhona Tainori 64%

TAÏNORI 64%: Pure Dominican Republic. Flavors of yellow fruit follow in the wake of roast almond and freshly baked bread.

The nuttiness, hint of plum and citrus in Taïnori pairs perfectly with a lush, rich Central Coast Pinot Noir. The bright fruits of plum and cherry along with the spiciness melt together with the chocolate and make one’s mouth smile.

This chocolate is also a great pairing with Tawny Port because of the nuttiness both share.

Valrhona Caraibe 66%

CARAÏBE 66%: Flavor Profile: Aromatic and long finish reveals almond and delicate roasted flavors.

Here’s a chocolate that pairs with both warm and cooler climate Cabernet Sauvignon blends (California and Bordeaux). Caraïbe is all about roasted nuttiness, not fruit. A light earthy Bordeaux brings out this earthiness in the chocolate making them a great match. A mountain grown (Howell, St. Helena) Californian Cabernet Sauvignon would also make for a fine pairing with its more structure driven style of cassis and baking spices.

Valrhona Jivara 40%

JIVARA LAIT 40%: Milk chocolate with pronounced cocoa taste, notes of malt and vanilla.

A moderately oaked Merlot from the Napa Valley offers enough fruit of plum, cassis and dark cherry along with the vanilla to pair with the cocoa, malt and vanilla of this milk chocolate. Also try a dessert wine from Southern France named Banyuls. The Grenache based wine will show lots of dark fruit while enhancing the prominent cocoa flavor of the chocolate

Valrhona Alpaco 66%

ALPACO 66%: Pure Ecuador. Jasmine and orange blossom notes give way to a long finish of refined bitterness and woody flavors.

Here is and example of when a strong velvety cabernet sauvignon and a chocolate taste completely different on their own, but change dramatically when tasted together. The nutty bitterness of Alpaco melds with the high acid and tannins of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruits of cherry and cranberry emerge along with the flavor of peanuts and almonds when the two are together. A Malmsey Madeira is also right at home here; sharing nutty character, while bringing out the fruity tang of the Madeira.

Valrhona Abinao 88%

ALBINAO 88%: Cocoa beans from Africa create powerful tannins with a strong, lingering intensity.

A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State or California works best here, but don’t forget to try a rich, spicy Zinfandel from California too. The strong tannic Abinao and these strong tannic wines become a creamy rich pairing where the cocoa becomes prominent. Currant and white pepper spice really show through, too.

Valrhona Guanaja 70%

GUANAJA 70%: Intense flavor, floral notes with an exceptionally long finish.

Bordeaux’s left bank (aka Cabernet Sauvignon based, with a good amount of Cabernet France and Merlot) is a perfect pairing here. This strong, nutty and fruity chocolate brings out the cassis and dark cherry of the wine. Guanaja’s mix of flavors blend well with Bordeaux’s blend of grapes. An Australian Shiraz/Grenache blend brings out a tangy yet creamy side of Guanaja. For the sweeter side, try a slightly sparkling Moscato d’Asti from the region of Piedmont in Italy. The citrus and peach driven fruit and bubbles pop their way into the fruit and nuttiness of the chocolate.

I hope you learned a lot!  I sure did.  now for the Chocolate Punch recipe also from Valrhona.

Chocolate Punch

A recipe from Valrhona’s École du Grand Chocolat

For 6 glasses

9 ounces Valrhona milk chocolate Valrhona Le Lait 39% Baking Bar
28 ounces (3 ½ cups) coconut milk
7 ounces (less than 1 cup) sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces (½ cup) rum
3 vanilla beans


In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30 seconds intervals (you can also melt it in a double boiler). In a pot heat, the coconut milk with the sweetened condensed milk. Pour a third of this mixture over the melted chocolate and mix rapidly with a spatula to create a shiny and thick texture. Same procedure for the other 2 third of the milk (in 3 parts like the mayonnaise). Once you get a shiny and thick texture add the rum.
Split the vanilla beans in half and scrape out the contents; add to the punch. Chill. Serve chilled over ice.  Garnish with a dash or stick of cinnamon and a dab of whipped cream.

Chocolate Punch by Valrhona