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Chocolate: What do you look for?

I enjoy making chocolate confections both for fun and profit, but I have a hard time deciding whether to stick with the classics or see how creative I can get. So, I'd love some input on what you look for when buying chocolate, whether it's a chocolate bar for a quick snack or a box of truffles or bonbons for a gift. You're not limited to these questions, I'm just curious what excites you and incites you to buy.

Do you prefer solid bars or bars with bits (nuts, toffee, fruit, etc.)?

Do you prefer classic combinations, or new and different?

All dark all the time, or do milk and white have their moments?

Is salty or savory chocolate a good thing, or way overdone?

Thanks!

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  1. I prefer milk chocolate for eating 100% of the time. Thin bars with good snap if plain, minted, or with crisped rice (TJ's has a great one with Belgian Chocolate) but thicker bars with single nut add-ins, almond, hazelnut, cashew. For combos I stick to the classic raisin/nut. Chocolate covered caramels can be plain or salted. For filled chocolates I prefer smooth fillings like vanilla cream, orange buttercream, that kind of thing. Chocolate covered toffee minis rolled in chopped nuts - fantastic, think See's.

    White "chocolate" is an abomination, and I limit dark chocolate chips to biscotti and the occasional ice cream mix.

    1. 1) Solid bars unless inclusions are something unusual eg rose petals, mushrooms...
      2) I like some classic combos (coffee, hazelnut) but in general prefer the new and different or at least less usual.
      3) Dark or occasionally white.
      4) Still love savory combos.

      What excites me and incites me to buy? I rarely buy bars from an unknown source unless I can taste - too much of an investment. Not all the combos need to be "edgy" but I won't bother to stop if everything is the same old, same old. Looks really matter too. High gloss, pristine edges and surface, creative shapes and decorations.

      4 Replies
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          Actually it was date and mushroom. Mushroom flavour could have been stronger. Zotter has a lot of interesting combos. http://www.zotter.at/en/choco-shop/ha...

          1. re: jadec

            Interesting site. I haven't made mushroom chocolate unless you count the magic variety that I made for an old BF (but that wasn't exactly about flavor). I have had a black truffle bar that was interesting, and I think porcini or a sweet mushroom like candy cap could be fun.

          2. re: BiscuitBoy

            This new-ish bar from Vosges in Chicago is fantastic (reishi mushroom and walnut) http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/produc...

        2. Not a big fan of fruit in my chocolate, tho I buy a bar from time to time with coffee bits in it. I prefer dark, but not in a crazy percentage that it's all dry and chalky when trying to eat it, and white chocolate....why?! It's just for looks as far as I'm concerned. I also like the salty component from time to time, trendy or not. Chocolove makes a nice sea salted almond dark bar that's very nice

          1. 99-100% dark (preferably organic), plain. I only eat pure chocolate. It's hard to find in the shops here. When I see it somewhere I buy the whole box of 10 or 20 bars.

            However, I encourage you to experiment. Most people don't like pure choco like I do :)

            1. I like dark, 80-90% is the sweet spot for me, although I will go down to 70% at times. Anything else is just too sweet. I enjoy bars both plain and with stuff in them, especially ginger, citrus, mint, dried fruit, chile and/or nuts. New and different combinations are fine, and I definitely do like salty/savory with chocolate - in fact, the only way I will eat milk chocolate is if it has sea salt or another savory ingredient. White chocolate fine as a decorative element but I would never choose to eat a bar of it.

              What I really DON'T like has more to do with the flavor of the chocolate itself - I strongly dislike chocolate with a bright acidic flavor. Lindt and Valrhona are two major offenders in this category, which means I can almost never enjoy a chocolate dessert in a nice restaurant in NYC because almost all of them use Valrhona.

              1. I've always liked nuts in my chocolate. Mr. Good Bar, Hershey's Almond Bar and Baby Ruth have always been at the top of my list until Nutrageous hit the market. It's now my number one chocolate candy bar.
                http://www.hersheys.com/reeses/nutrag...

                Rick

                1. Thanks, hounds, keep it coming!

                  I'm also interested in the non-food aspects.

                  Do you look for bean-to-bar, handmade, single origin, or socially responsible chocolate, or is deliciousness the only factor?

                  I think I make some very good products, but I'm having a hard time discerning whether they are unique and special enough, trying to figure out how to stand out!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: babette feasts

                    As a customer i choose fair trade over single origin and handmade/local over mass produced.
                    However, obviously cost is a factor- at $8/bar Mast Bros feels overly expensive for an impulse buy, yet I would expect to pay $5-7 for a special bar. It feels like there is a sustainable market for smaller sized product sold in a multi pack (like 3 two oz bars vs a six oz bar), and novelties like the dark chocolate covered cocoa nibs i was munching this afternoon.

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      Good idea about the multi pack, thanks!

                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                        You should be aware that $5-7 for a bar (let's assume a 50g size) would be on the low end of the good range, typically. It wouldn't be a "special" bar, most likely, more like a better-than-average bar. Mast Brothers is, for example, not really in the upper echelons of fine chocolate, although for the quality they have on offer, I think $8/bar for them is a bit overpriced. But there are other chocolates which I would gladly pay more - much more, for 50g.

                        $8 gets into the high-quality centre; at this price you should be able to get various bars that are really quite good. At $10/bar there are some very special chocolates indeed; not all will be worth that sort of price but some will be. It doesn't stop there - $15 and even $20 bars are available, some worth that sort of price.

                        The best value in chocolate by far is the Michel Cluizel Los Ancones, at the astonishingly cheap price of $6.70 for a 70g bar, through Chocosphere. It's virtually impossible to do better, in terms of price/quality ratio, than what Cluizel provides.

                        I'm putting this all up because it's an important issue: people need to be aware of the real costs of fine cacao, and not work under unrealistic expectations of what they should expect to pay originating in the market prices that prevail in the commodity chocolate industry.

                        1. re: AlexRast

                          Alex, I'm curious about your opinion of Callebaut.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Well, Callebaut is, of course, what it is: the largest chocolate producer in the world. So one may say as Starbucks is to coffee, so Callebaut is to chocolate. They make so many chocolates, for so many markets, that trying to capture them under one generic "umbrella" is meaningless. Callebaut has some decent chocolates and some very definitely bulk chocolates. They have some very good ones, too, although these are much less easily found, because Callebaut mostly sells to the trade, not retail.

                            However because of their size there are finite limits to their quality, simply as a matter of the volume of quality bean sources versus what they need. Very similar to Starbucks. If, for instance, a single farm has 10 50kg sacks, that's entirely unusable from the POV of Callebaut who are buying by the multiple metric tonnes. Maybe one of their research chocolatiers might buy a sack or two, to see what the potential from that area might be, but that's chocolate that's never sold, just used for lab experimentation. So the very best chocolates of all are not likely to come from Callebaut.

                            On the other hand, because they have a great deal more expertise, quantitatively gathered and in databases that those in the factory can refer to, their knowledge isn't "in one person's head" to nearly the same degree, and they can accurately produce a chocolate with given characteristics from a given batch of beans. They're much more consistent that what most artisanal manufacturers are ever going to be able to produce, because they're using more rigorous systems. However, at the small-volume, ultra-quality end of the spectrum this sort of approach is quite useless anyway, because you're not dealing with the sort of scale that has any reliable statistics to it. Thus from the POV of an artisanal manufacturer there's little sense in adopting rigorous formal production methods for batch sizes as small as what they're producing.

                          2. re: AlexRast

                            I understand what you're saying. My feedback was really just as the point of view of a generic shopper who "likes chocolate" and observations I have made in stores that sell a variety (like fairway in nyc) yet are not specialty retailers or targeting an educated about chocolate audience.

                            1. re: AlexRast

                              These conversations are always interesting. There's a really wide range of ideas about what "fine" chocolate is, from people who are impressed by anything a step up from Hershey's to people who willingly spend $10+ for a 50-gram bar. Although I've tried very high-end bars, I seem to have settled in a mid-point. When you get over $8 a bar you're getting diminishing returns, and often, chocolatiers who are trying too hard. At $10 for a 50-gram bar you are paying over $100/lb.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                I agree, I have wasted plenty money on high end bars that are unpleasant.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Indeed. $100/lb should just be a reminder that fine chocolate isn't a cheap thing. On the positive side, it's a LOT cheaper than many other foods (truffles, caviar, saffron, to say nothing of wine) so in that sense it's an affordable luxury. But I encourage people not to be mistaken: fine chocolate IS a luxury, not a commodity or everyday product.

                                  I would put a much more nuanced interpretation on the idea of "diminishing returns" over $8/bar. What you really get, at over $8/bar, is much more variability in what you might end up with. Some bars, from some companies, in that price range, are sublime, easily worth the price, and for that matter easily better than virtually anything you'll find at a lower price point. Others will be no better than good. It's unlikely though, unless the company is totally image-driven and mostly trying to "cash in" on perceived interest in fine chocolate, that it will be bad - or even of a similar level to say, a typical Lindt. It'll usually be a lot better than that.

                                  Expensive bars, however, are more distinctive, they have much stronger personalities that you may or may not like personally. For example, if I get a quality Papua New Guinea, it's going to be smoky and leather in flavour, very distinctively, an unusual flavour that some like, others detest. A Chuao will have a very fruity start and a treacley, bold finish with a lingering bitterness, again, powerful flavours that some like, some find overwhelming. So as you get to higher prices you also have to start being selective according to your own personal preference as well as by brand/price.

                                  Also, as I mentioned earlier, in expensive bars usually made from small-volume sources, annual variablity is going to play a part, and the manufacturer can't apply the same sort of rigorous process control that can be done at greater volumes, which means the result will always be somewhat inconsistent. Let's take the Los Ancones I mentioned earlier. It must be understood that both the bean source (Rizek) and the manufacturer (Michel Cluizel) represent the industry state of the art in terms of consistency at fine quality levels. You can't get better than them; their systems are as thorough as are possible. So if *any* fine chocolate bar could be expected to be consistent this would be it.

                                  In fact, Los Ancones is always very good indeed, but there's noticeable variability. At times, it's so utterly astonishing, beyond sublime, that you think you have encountered chocolate perfection (the outstanding example of this was the Spring 2012 batch). At other times, it's merely good, a chocolate that you'll readily eat and greatly enjoy, but doesn't have that same magical quality. If that level of variability is possible in the most consistently great dark chocolate out there, imagine where it's going to stand with other chocolates?

                                  Steve, as you say, it's quite easy to waste money on high end bars that are unpleasant at least to you, because of these inconsistencies (I'd be interested to hear which ones you didn't like). On the other hand, I will also say that you will always be missing a very great deal of the potential quality (and pleasantness) to be found if you limit yourself to chocolates below about $7/50g. For some people, this isn't going to be a problem because they're not particularly interested in anything really special in chocolate anyway. However, I suspect there are a lot of people who *would* pay that much without too much trouble, at least occasionally, if they could know what quality they'd get. It's hard to judge from the wrapper on a bar, you have to try. However if your first few forays at the high end are unpleasant, that suggests either you've had the misfortune to pick the wrong bars/brands or you've actually not gone high enough to get to where the real quality starts.

                                  1. re: AlexRast

                                    I've found I prefer New World chocolate. For example, I find Madagascar chocolates to be too acidic (which is odd, because I generally like high-acid foods). And I don't like super-high cocoa solids chocolates: they overwhelm my palate, and although I've run across a few exceptions, they tend to be too dry, losing the luxurious mouthfeel that is part of what makes chocolate so special. Something in the 65-75 percent range is usually ideal. Finally, all other things being equal, I prefer my chocolate without vanilla.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      If they were too "dry" that probably means they were actually made with lower-quality cacao that was astringent (i.e. with mouth-drying flavour) rather than having poor mouthfeel as such. Most high-percentage bars have enough cocoa butter that they have excellent mouthfeel, usually better than lower percentages. But for some reason a lot of manufacturers choose to make their high-percentage chocolate from poor-quality beans. A mystery to me.

                          3. -For flavors I prefer dark-er for eating, but close to 60-70%. Milk once in a long while, white "chocolate" for decoration only, i won't eat a whole pc of it
                            - I buy smaller bars when available
                            - unique flavors i have enjoyed include dk chocolate with cocoa nibs and pistachios, a very spicy chili pepper with crushed almonds, a chai spiced one, and each and every chocolate i have tried from Kee's (their basalmic is my must get)
                            http://www.keeschocolates.com/cho.html

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Kee's looks great, nice variety of flavors!

                            2. in freezer, pulled out some English toffee that I'd made-2 different kinds.1 w-white choco the other with dark. they both went over well, I was pleased.
                              broke 1 of each of 'em both up and crushed them into batter of "banana walnut coffee" cake. added a lot of moisture.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                a new favorite
                                subtle sea salt crystals

                                 
                              2. I do not care at all about single origin. Too many bad ones out there. Also, I am not concerned with social responsibility in food, any manufacure will do.

                                I much prefer dark chocolate(about 65%) add-ins always welcome, though whole or chopped nuts are usually too rough and ruin the smoothness for me. Adore salt, salt caramel, praline with a bit of crunch, quite a few fruit flavors, mint, herbs, or nut pastes.

                                New creations always welcome! Savory is good.

                                1. I'm not a fine chocolate connoisseur. Half the time I'll take those chocolate covered "power berries" from Safeway as my chocolate fix and call it a day. But when I do want something special:

                                  1. I look for a high quality solid bar, around 60% cocoa unless I'm buying it for someone who I know likes his chocolate darker. Maybe something I had before and liked, was recommended, or has a solid, simple ingredient list. I don't like most add-ins as it makes it feel more like a gimmick. The only exception is coffee flavored anything.

                                  2. Well . . . if it's something that sounds sensational and it's never been done before then maybe, but for the most part I prefer traditional. If I'm shopping for someone else, then I try to make it special to what he/she likes. For instance, I'll buy chocolate with a marzipan center for my mom or maple bacon chocolate for my sister. Obviously, this is all over the place! Mmm, actually, I have a suggesion: Is chocolate covered black licorice possible? My mom would LOVE that.

                                  3. To be perfectly honest, I prefer something in between milk and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is often too rich and doesn't satisfy my sweet tooth as well as something . . . well . . . sweeter. I dislike white chocolate but read that it's excellent as a canvas for showcasing other flavors, so I'd be willing to give it a try as a novelty in a good bar.

                                  4. I don't say no to salted caramel, ever. Other than that, I'm not that into savory things overall, so I prefer my chocolate to be dessert-like.

                                  Good luck!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I tend to go with dark chocolate, but recently I tried Vosges milk chocolate Mo Bacon bar. I'd had it in the dark chocolate version and it was good. But it was so, so much better in the milk chocolate version. It was a good reminder that both can be good, depends on the combo.

                                    White chocolate is an abomination.

                                    Salty and savory can be fantastic.

                                    I like classics (cinnamon, hazelnut, orange), but like trying new combos, too. Last week I had a chocolate basil truffle that was absolutely fantastic.

                                    1. Milk chocolate is too sweet and smarmy - I avoid it.

                                      I like my chocolate between 55% and 75%. I can even enjoy a tiny bite of good quality unsweetened. I don't care about the organicness, single-sourceness, fair-trade, etc. I know I should.

                                      I like it both plain and with stuff in it - I'm open to anything that tastes good; I don't care about trendy ingredients, just taste - I am the person who would shout "the emperor is NAKED!"

                                      White chocolate, if high quality, has its place. I don't really consider it to be actual chocolate, though.

                                      I like good quality and less sweetness - do you have that idea yet? I see no reason to throw a bunch of overly sweet toffee or HFCS craisins into perfectly good chocolate.

                                      Savory/salty...hm-mmm...I put kosher salt in some of my cookies so that it can be tasted, but ONLY in very small amounts so as not to overwhelm. A delicate hand is essential here.

                                      Nuts are so delicious with chocolate - they are best if well-toasted. I recently over-toasted some pecans and then tasted one and was blown away. They looked and smelled slightly burned, but the pecan flavor was enormously enhanced.

                                      Regarding form, Lindt has a good idea with individually wrapped treats, although I'm not a Lindt fan. I hate rewrapping a bar after muscling off a square.

                                      4 Replies
                                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                          HA, I had the same reaction. Milk chocolate wears a cheap suit, too much cologne and wants to sell you something?

                                          Time and place for milk chocolate, always: in a s'more, for example.

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I prefer s'mores with dark chocolate. It seems wrong to use anything other than a Hershey bar, but it tastes SO RIGHT!

                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                              I don't think there's a wrong answer. :) Hard to argue with a childhood favorite many kids in adult suits still love.

                                      1. Not too sweet and something attractive. Interesting flavors that stand up to an after dinner coffee, brandy or dessert wine. Small bites. Usually, that leaves out milk chocolate or white chocolate. Something chewy in it is a plus (for texture) like dried fruit, nuts, salt crystals, caramel.

                                        I frequently pick up small bites like this to serve with biscotti or almond cookies to keep around for company.

                                        1. Plain dark chocolate at around 75% cocoa solids is all that I ever buy. It's a rare treat - maybe two or three times a year.

                                          1. Bars instead of bits for baking, sans chocolate chip cookies. Bits have a stabilizer in them. I like all kinds 60%, 70% etc and milk, depending on the application.

                                            1. I've eaten an assortment of chocolate from around the world - special (dubious) mention goes to Caesarwave, China's fake Toblerone. At the end of the day though, just like with many other foods, if the base isn't good, it won't matter how many/which extras are added.

                                              Take Silver Queen, an Indonesian brand. Not a treat at all, even if the bar is loaded with cashews. So, melt the chocolate and use the cashews in a korma...

                                              Jonathan
                                              http://buildingmybento.com

                                              1. Do you prefer solid bars or bars with bits (nuts, toffee, fruit, etc.)?
                                                **********
                                                Depends on my mood. I'd say 50-50

                                                Do you prefer classic combinations, or new and different?
                                                **********
                                                I'll try (almost) anything once. After trying many, many combinations I've come to the conclusion that the classics are classic for a reason. In particular, I don't like herbs or flowers in my chocolate, and although I like fruit and chocolate, I find the execution of most fruit combinations fails.

                                                All dark all the time, or do milk and white have their moments?
                                                *************
                                                I'd say 70-30 dark to milk; white only under very specific circumstances.

                                                Is salty or savory chocolate a good thing, or way overdone?
                                                *************
                                                Both? I like salty or spicy chocolate (or chocolate with bacon and sometimes cheese) but that doesn't mean I don't think they have become overdone!

                                                1. Solid bar about 40-50% cocoa solids with hazelnuts.Have recently discovered this which is my go to bar at the mo.

                                                   
                                                  1. The most common thing I'll get, by far, is chocolate bars. Nothing like the pure substance. I MUCH prefer plain bars to bars with bits.

                                                    There are very few bars with bits, where the bits don't end up being a distraction rather than something that adds. THE most annoying and irritating thing is when a chocolate company offers a bar with bits, where the chocolate used in the bar is NOT made available in plain form. So often interesting potential chocolates are wasted in this way. There are some honourable exceptions to the bars-with-bits being bad: Bonnat's Fraize is a delight, Slitti's Caffe is good in both milk and dark versions, Amedei's Nocciola is outstanding and really stands out every time.

                                                    If you're going to do bits, they MUST be mixed into the chocolate fully, NOT simply layered over the bottom by sprinkling after moulding the chocolate bars. This construction method always results in uneven flavour release and hastens staling.

                                                    As far as plain bars, I love to see new and interesting varietals or brands - as long as they've been made in a classic style and it's not a different production method or style that's being promoted. The experts of years past Have Tried It All Before. It Didn't Work. Staying with traditional bar manufacture methods is definitely strongly to be recommended. I also buy a lot of "repeat" bars for ones that I particularly like: for instance Red Star Ocumare 55% milk, Red Star Honduras Indio Rojo 72% Dark, Michel Cluizel Hacienda Los Ancones 67% Dark, and Michel Cluizel Plantation Mangaro 50% Milk.

                                                    With respect for confections, I'm generally a classicist, i.e. my favourite flavours tend to be the basics: plain ganache, raspberry, hazelnut praline, mint, coffee. Whenever I go to a new chocolate shop, the first chocolates I'll get will ALWAYS be the plain ganache, then the raspberry, then a hazelnut praline, then the mint, then a milk ganache, then a coffee, then a caramel. Even if there are other flavours that are exceptionally exciting and original, that I'm just dying to try. But first I've just GOT to know how they do on the classics.

                                                    But I like experiments when they're well-designed and crafted. Paul A Young here in the UK is the master of original, well-thought-through but quite unusual flavour combinations: I liked greatly his Banoffee Pie, Pea and Mint, Cream Scone, and many others. But you have to be a genius to do the really wierd successfully. And Paul has his own ultra-classics, which are also done to an exceptional level: the salt caramel is simply the best in the world, and the dark Pacari truffle is certainly amongst the competitors for a similar honour. One chocolate flavour that I'd LOVE to see done truly right is rose. Everybody gets it wrong, in my opinion, either too sweet, or too evanescent on the rose flavour, or artificial, or poorly matching chocolate. Rose needs a Colombia Nacional origin (such as, e.g. from Guittard), the flavour should be fairly strong and MUST use a quality rosewater, one of the ones that tastes sweet, not perfumed. Probably the best interpretation would be a dark chocolate-covered lokum.

                                                    I don't like alcohol used where it's not necessary. The most common instance of this abuse is in fruit flavours such as raspberry or lemon where frequently chocolate shops use a liqueur rather than the fresh fruit. And of course alcohol is always suspect because it's a preservative, and one wonders whether the real intent may not be to extend the shelf life, which means the chocolatier is already cutting corners on quality. Alcohol where it's the *intended primary* flavour: great! But where it's added almost gratuitously, no thank you.

                                                    Milk and white very definitely have their moments. Sometimes, indeed, they're the right choice. One of our local chocolatiers in Manchester (Bonbon) makes an utterly sublime chai tea truffle using white chocolate; it's quite impossible to imagine how it could be done any other way without ruining it. I'd like to see more creative use of white chocolate and milk chocolate: for instance, white chocolate is a natural partner to the mildness of blanched unroasted almonds; milk chocolate works much better with cinnamon that dark. That's just a start on 2 categories that I don't think should be an afterthought. There seems to be a school out there that imagines that particularly white chocolate almost by definition is something that deserves no respect. They should try El Rey Icoa. Then ask themselves how much their opinion might change.

                                                    Savoury chocolate is something that I think has its place, but that place is usually different from the chocolate confectionery. I tend to think of savoury chocolate as more of a main-course (or starter) food for a dinner than something you find in a box. Most attempts to create savoury "chocolates" I find to be spectacular failures and almost always feel like the chocolatier was trying much too hard. By contrast the mole I had at Mesa in Dallas was so completely beyond anything I was prepared to expect that in one dish they'd already made my meal.

                                                    One thing I'd like to see is really good versions of classic confections like Kit Kats and Mars Bars. By this I do NOT mean either ones that attempt to replicate the exact balance of flavour with better ingredients (which feels like what's the point?) or ones that try and put a "twist" on it by altering in some subtle way the concept or flavours involved, but rather ones that take the same basic concept and flavours, and elevate it to the level it could achieve if done with artisanal care rather than industrial production methods.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                                      "One thing I'd like to see is really good versions of classic confections like Kit Kats and Mars Bars"

                                                      Me, too. Serious Eats has a few recipes for copycat candy bars; I wonder if they are worth the effort (which is considerable).

                                                    2. If it's a gift, I like to purchase a small ballotin (as in 2-4 pieces) of really excellent hand-crafted dark chocolate truffles, or a few dark chocolate almond clusters. The quality of the drugstore boxes (Whitmans, Russell Stover) has plummeted a ton, and I'd rather give a small box than a pound of junk.

                                                      As for me...I buy solid bars. If I could find a 85-90% dark chocolate bar with nuts, I'd buy that, but they're hard to find.

                                                      Dark all the time. Milk and white just taste like sugar to me (that's just me, not a judgment on folks who like other chocolate types).

                                                      Dark (85-90%) chocolate tastes inherently slightly bitter and slightly salty to me, so no more salt is needed there. I imagine some of the more cloyingly sweet varieties would benefit from a kick of salt or chili.

                                                      Fun questions!

                                                      1. Thanks everyone for your feedback so far, it has been helpful.

                                                        I have to agree with Alex and Ruth about high-end bars. I haven't tried many, but I have had some higher end bars that I just did not like, and others that were interesting, but not necessarily worth repeating. Bean to bar and single origin are the riskiest, I'd rather not pay a premium for gritty or raisiny chocolate because someone thinks they're an artist. I also just don't want to pay $10 for a chocolate bar, it seems like gouging.

                                                        I'd like to play with bean-to-bar on a tiny scale at some point, but I'd rather take high quality chocolate and do fun things with it. The Europeans have conching and consistency down, I'm not going presume I can do it better!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: babette feasts

                                                          Sorry for harping on about this, but this is a critical point. $10/bar is ABSOLUTELY NOT gouging, most likely. Indeed, it probably reflects reasonably accurately the real price of quality chocolate.

                                                          The problem here is that consumer expectations have been formed around the prices typical for commodity chocolate - whose price is cut down to the bare minimum, and every cost-cutting measure imaginable applied in the supply chain. We need to get to the point where people have a more realistic understanding of the real cost of chocolate - or at least of the discrepancy between what good chocolate will cost and what cheap chocolate costs.

                                                          People, for instance, readily accept that the price difference between a cheap olive oil and a high-quality one may be 20x or more, and again in wine the differences may be even more extreme. A similar situation applies to chocolate.

                                                          1. re: AlexRast

                                                            I agree that people should expect to pay for both quality and fair trade, I just have my personal limits.

                                                        2. Speaking of the price of chocolate, the most costly ones I have indulged in must be the Cocoa Absolute (my favorite are the brulee).

                                                          My go-to lately is Dandelion, which does not do inclusions, but does an always interesting range of bean-to-bar special single origin bars.

                                                          There are certain bars with inclusions that I would like to indulge in, from makers like Bernachon http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/09/... (especially the caramel Kalouga), but those are hard to find outside of Lyon (I found them at the NY chocolate show), or anything from Zotter (not that I like all of their crazy stuff, but I would try any of them at least once!), but they are hard to find these days, too, and I have not broken down and ordered them directly http://www.zotter.at/en/homepage.html.

                                                          I just saw a Scharffen Berger bar, 72%, with salted pistachios; I will try it next.

                                                          - @Sandylc, for the high-end version of a Snicker's bar, try here: http://doubledutchsweets.com/

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: foodeye

                                                            I'm with you on the Zotter -- always worth trying! According to my local chocolate pusher, they're a little hard to deal with (they're not good at keeping things in stock, their shipping is unreliable, etc.), which might explain why few retailers here carry them.

                                                            1. re: foodeye

                                                              I have now tried the Scharffen Berger bar, and did not care for it: very dry and savory, not really sweet at all. Maybe it would be nice in a creative salad or something.