If you were up bright & early this Valentine’s Day you might have seen Cocoa Runners co-founder, Spencer making his third appearance on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. This time he was talking to Simon, Tim about craft chocolate bars with inclusions.
As Spencer explained on the show, when we talk about “craft chocolate bars with inclusions” we don’t mean adding a bunch of whacky flavourings to create sickly chocolate confectionery. This is not about covering up cheap chocolate with artificial flavours.
This about using great singe estate, craft chocolate and adding to this carefully chosen ingredients that bring out nuances and flavours that aren’t otherwise apparent. Think strawberry and balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, salt and olive oil, maple syrup and bacon, espresso and vanilla ice cream (affogato), rum and raisin, apples and cheese or gin and tonic. Think 1+1 to make 5.
For those of you who missed it or want to learn more, here we give our detailed notes on why each inclusions bar works. If you want to try the bars for yourself, you can buy the collection by clicking here.
The hint of sea salt serves a double purpose. It opens the palate, helping you to get the full flavour of the berries and red fruits. At the same time, the salt cuts through some of the nibs’ intensity, revealing their roasted fruit and raisin notes while reducing the bitterness.
The sea salt or ‘Fleur de Sel’ comes from the salt marshes of Morondava in South West Madagascar. It forms naturally on the surface of the clay basins as sea water evaporates. You don’t collect the Fleur de Sel, you pick it in small quantities. Naturally very pure it has a delicate taste, which makes it perfect for bringing out the cacao’s fruit without overpowering the chocolate.
Venezuelan cocoa has a naturally creamy and rich profile, with a delicate aromatic edge. Their flavour is best described as ‘chocolate pudding’ but with just a hint of subtle spice. The bar’s deep chocolatey notes provides a perfect base for the Cardamom. The butteryness also helps to absorb some of the spice so the flavour doesn’t overwhelm the palate.
At the same time, the Venezuelan beans’ own scented aroma mixes with the cardamom, subtly altering the spice’s flavour. The spice has been so well conched in that the bar’s texture is incredibly smooth without any graininess.
Because of the strong and vibrant flavours of many beans (e.g. Peru & Madagascar) it can often be hard to find beans that will carry the strong flavours of the inclusions well. Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé have achieved just the right balance.
A delicious double treat. The first bar is a single origin dark from Ecuador. Smooth with a quick melt, the bar has a hint of the vegetal flavours typical of Ecuador with more sweetness – think pumpkins rather than asparagus.
The second bar is a white chocolate. It’s still made from cocoa beans but just from the cocoa butter (the natural fat in the beans). The cocoa mass (the chocolatey part of the bean) has been removed and replaced with finely ground raspberry powder.
The result is intensely fruity and sweet with a deep pink colour. The bar’s flavours, mostly come from the tart and vibrant berries. It’s a great example of how chocolate can be used as a base to create incredible confections.
A classic combination – this bar came about because Bertil so enjoyed having a piece of his chocolate with his morning coffee. The chocolate has light tropical fruit aroma but is dominated by stronger roasted flavours, with woody notes and a hint of tobacco on the finish.
The bourbon Arabica coffee beans have a light roast to bring out the subtleties of the bean. The coffee’s roasted flavours blend with those of the chocolate. A whisper of fruit in the coffee provides an intriguing undernote for the stronger flavours. The crunchy coffee bean pieces release bursts of flavour into the smooth chocolate.
Made in France from Brazilian cocoa & coffee beans. In April 2009, Bertil Åkesson and his Brazilian partner Dr. Angelo Calmon de Sa, purchased the historic Fazenda Sempre Firme in Bahia, Brazil. The coffee is from a neighbouring plantation in Bahia Brazil, so both ingredients were grown under similar conditions (soil, climate etc.)