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Dark Milk Bar

Patric’s Dark Milk Bar – an example of craft chocolate’s dark side!

This post is part three of three of my interview with Carla D. Martin, “Professor of Chocolate” and Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Part one discussed the meaning of “craft chocolate” in North America, and part two questioned the idea of terroir and craft chocolate’s cost. Today’s post looks at North American craft chocolate’s dark side — so much of it is dark chocolate! What’s a milk chocolate lover to do?

 

Carla D. Martin

Carla D. Martin

(Rob) So lastly, most of the North American craft chocolate we carry at the store is dark chocolate. For those milk chocolate lovers out there who are approaching all these dark chocolates as a skeptic – any advice?

(Carla) This is one of my favorite questions to be asked. As I keep learning about tasting chocolate, I love talking with people about what they like – textures, flavors – and basically trying to prescribe chocolate that they might enjoy trying. You have to think about what kind of chocolate experience you want. Do you want to snack on it and finish it quickly, or do you want to really take your time and think about it as you eat?

Regarding dark chocolate, one of the most common misconceptions among consumers is that a percentage listed on a bar tells you all you need to know about that bar. The quality of the cacao and the making of the bar affect the experience of eating dark chocolate immeasurably. Furthermore, many people believe that 75%, for instance, indicates how much chocolate liquor there is in a bar, and expect that a bar like that will be very dark and bitter. In fact, that percentage most often refers to the combined amount of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter in the bar, allowing for a wide range of flavors and textures.

Not all 70% chocolate is created equal

Not all 70% chocolate is created equal

Formaggio Kitchen carries a couple of dark milk bars, and milk chocolate lovers are in luck because these can be especially delicious. I have a lot of students who are die hard milk chocolate lovers, and I’ll often introduce them to a dark milk bar and they’ll say “Oh wow, this is the best milk chocolate I’ve ever had,” not realizing that it’s got maybe 30-40% more cocoa content than the usual chocolate they eat. So that’s a really fun way to experience the difference varying chocolate content and quality can make.

I also have a lot of students who love milk chocolate with nuts, and of course a lot of dark chocolate bars have a roasted nut kind of quality to them, so if you want to explore dark chocolate, you can ask about bars with those tasting notes, such as Dick Taylor’s Ecuador bar. Others who love berries and citrus fruits might seek out dark chocolate with a similar flavor profile, such as Patric Chocolate’s Madagascar bar. I also think tasting chocolate more slowly can help people to better identify what they like. We are socialized to crunch and munch – just think of kids racing to eat their Halloween candy. But scarfing down dark chocolate can often cause you to miss most of the enjoyable flavors and highlight other things like acidity or astringency that people tend to like less.

In teaching about chocolate, I have the good fortune to observe how students’ tastes change over the course of a semester. We start off with the familiar – Hershey’s Kisses, Snickers bars, etc. – and gradually work our way toward the unknown. Many of the milk chocolate lovers routinely report “I just don’t like this” or “it’s much too bitter” when trying industrially produced dark chocolate. We don’t taste the finest craft chocolate bars until the last weeks of class, and when we get to the big reveal and they have their first taste of a dark craft chocolate bar they more often say “I didn’t know it could taste like this!” or at least “You know what, I didn’t hate that.” It might be that they don’t ever prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, like a lot of people don’t care for black coffee, and that’s totally fine. One student charmingly realized at the end of last semester that she probably doesn’t actually like chocolate that much, but definitely loves milk and sugar. Regardless, it’s important not to make the mistake of assuming that what we’ve always tasted is how things are supposed to taste forever, unchanging. And I guess that’s what this whole chocolate thing is really about for me – cultivating an open palate and mind, seeking to learn more, and thinking critically about food and culture.

 

Check out the rest of my interview with Carla D. Martin in parts one and two, and stay up-to-date on the latest chocolate-world happenings by checking out her blog. You can also follow updates on our chocolate selection through our newsletters.

 

Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also the blog manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Big Picture Farm has caught the attention of many a candy-eater, gift-giver, artisanal-food junkie and Tumblr user, and the farm’s award-winning goat’s milk caramels are fully deserving of hype and high praise. We proudly stock their precious packages in the bakery window, and hold onto their idyllic postcards behind the bakery to cheer us up. Behind their stunning pictures and doodles of goats, dogs, and garden harvests, however, is a working farm and growing business driven by passionate people.

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Get ready for Thanksgiving turkey!

Get ready for Thanksgiving turkey!

As a young girl my family would travel every year to share Thanksgiving dinner with family. I remember singing “Over the river and through the woods…” ad nauseam at least one of those trips. I grew more and more excited as the car crossed the Connecticut River, then through the mountain forests; the Appalachian Mountains. I knew with each landmark I was that much closer to seeing my cousins and the feast they would have prepared. Images of the giant bird, dripping with juicy gravy, made me anxious to arrive.

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Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Tibouren

Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Tibouren

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Chocolate Terroir

A sampling of our selection of Madagascar and Ecuador bars

Earlier this month we posted part one of my interview with Carla D. Martin, “Professor of Chocolate” and Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. In part one we talked about the meaning of “craft chocolate” in North America, both to the producer and the consumer. In this post I asked Carla to talk about what I consider to be two of the most interesting aspects of food production — terroir and cost.

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Clos de l'Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Clot de l’Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

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Verival Urkorn Müsli Bowl

Verival’s Urkorn Müsli

The most important meal of the day isn’t always exciting, especially when you’re trying to keep it healthy. In the U.S. we associate health-food with bland, boring attempts at reduced sugar, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Müsli (also written muesli) was invented at the turn of the century by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a health food and diet dish — whole grains blended with lots of fruit and eaten with yogurt, milk, or fruit juice. I don’t remember if I was first introduced to müsli in Switzerland or not, but I do remember that I loved it (and not as a diet dish).

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