Dark chocolate rise in rich flavor

Test Kitchen

May 24, 2006|By RENEE ENNA | RENEE ENNA,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Have you noticed bigger numbers on chocolate bars in the baking aisle? We don't necessarily mean the price tags. Rather, more companies are selling bars with 70 to 72 percent chocolate.

Where a bittersweet bar of a decade ago might have had 50 or 60 percent chocolate liquor (that's the official term), these bars are upping the ante, offering super-intense flavors that focus on more chocolate and less sugar.

We tasted eight brands we used in a ganache (a rich filling/icing) that combined 4 ounces chopped chocolate with 4 ounces whipping cream. We wanted deep-chocolate flavor with pleasantly bitter notes and some acidity. What surprised us were the diverse flavors these bars yielded: Some had berry notes, others spicy ones.

All the brands earned above-average scores and most of our six tasters chose different winners. Droste from Holland won because it scored most consistently at the top; it is sold at Trader Joe's stores. Second place went to Trader Joe's private-label brand, which uses Belgian chocolate and which, at 23 cents per ounce, makes it a real bargain. The often-praised Scharffen Berger (California) and Valrhona (France) tied for third; they are available at many specialty stores and larger supermarkets.

Here are the results, with prices for the winners as well as tasters' comments. Products are scored on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being highest. Prices are based on what we paid for them at the store and may reflect sales or discounts from frequent-shopper cards.

Renee Enna writes for the Chicago Tribune.

The rankings

1. Droste Pastilles, 72 percent extra-dark chocolate (7.1 points. 3.5 ounces, $3.39; 97 cents per ounce). "Quite balanced between rich and sweet." "Slightly sweet; mellow and mild." "A bit thin-tasting."

2. Trader Joe's Pound Plus, 72 percent dark chocolate (7 points. 17.6-ounce bar, $3.99; 23 cents per ounce). "Heavy-duty chocolate flavor." "Bitter coffee notes [that's good]." "Not great flavor."

3. (tie) Scharffen Berger Bittersweet, 70 percent cacao (6.8 points. 9.7-ounce bar, $9.99; $1.03 per ounce). "A touch of fruitiness; rich with a nice bitterness." "Acidic and fruity with floral and vanilla aftertaste." "Tastes burnt."

Valrhona Le Noir Amer, 71 percent cacao (6.8 points. 3.5-ounce bar, $5.79; $1.65 per ounce). "Bitter yet bracing; warm, comforting flavor." "Good sweet-bitter balance with a bit of sharpness." "Lacks flavor."

Runners up

Fourth place (tie, 6.3 points) E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate, 72 percent cacao; Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate, 70 percent cocoa content.

Fifth place (tie, 5.8 points) Ghirardelli Chocolate, 70 percent cocoa extra-bittersweet chocolate; Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate, 70 percent cocoa.

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