Tips, Tricks and Treats from Five Colorado Chocolatiers
You might be thinking, “is there a wrong way to eat chocolate?” It seems unlikely, but when it comes to chocolate, we don’t want to take any chances. Especially with Halloween just around the corner. Fortunately, Denver is home to more than a few chocolate experts (aka chocolatiers) who have mastered the art of chocolate tasting and can help answer this and other very important questions. For example, what does chocolate conch mean and does it involve seashells?
But before the tasting begins, you will have to choose your chocolate. Choosing between black, milk and white is just the start. The type and origin of the cocoa beans, the percentage of cocoa solids, and inclusions like fruit or caramel can all significantly affect the character of chocolate.
Jenny Bazzetta, experienced chocolatier and co-founder of Bonbon Bombardier of Colorado Springs, recommends comparing a single variety for a tasting, such as bittersweet chocolates in the 70% range, “to better perceive the subtle differences in flavor that may exist. in a type of chocolate. She adds that “chocolate tasting can be as complex, stimulating and fun as you want it to be. Whether you are focusing on chocolate from specific regions of the world or how different inclusions enhance key flavor notes in a chocolate, there is always something new and exciting to explore.
Chocolate tasting should involve all five senses or your senses, and these techniques can help elevate the experience from a simple sugar rush to a true culinary adventure.
You can say a lot about a chocolate before you even put it in your mouth. The color and general appearance can be indicative of its quality and characteristics. One look at the beautifully hand-painted chocolates from Coco Gusto, Denver, founder Wade Stembridge, and it’s clear that he understands the importance of eating with your eyes first. He explains that good quality chocolate “will have a glossy, smooth and uniform finish”. This is proof that the chocolate has been properly tempered, a capricious process of heating and cooling the chocolate to precise temperatures to ensure proper crystallization.
Another way to check that your chocolate has been properly tempered is to listen to it. Stop a track and listen for a “good quick bang,” says Sarah Chesnutt of Boulder’s Moksha Chocolate. This again indicates that “the molecules are correctly aligned” for a better texture and a melting quality in the mouth. Chesnutt adds that the snap also indicates fat content, with fatter chocolates producing a “smoother snap.”
Then rub the chocolate with your thumb to lightly melt the surface and release its aromas. What do you smell? Red fruits? Darling? Caramel? Gonzo Jimenez is a true Willy Wonka (if Willy Wonka was originally from Argentina and hadn’t turned kids into blueberries), star of Netflix’s Bake Squad and co-owner of Miette et Chocolat which has locations inside the Stanley Marketplace. and in Aurora. Jimenez likens this step to swirling and sniffing wine before taking your first sip. “There is no right or wrong about what we smell or taste,” he says. “We can all experience different notes and aromas and that’s okay. “
Now is the time to (finally) eat chocolate. Place it on your tongue and let it start to melt without chewing. Jimenez tells us to look for a chocolate that “melts easily in your mouth and feels very soft between your palate and your tongue”. These pleasant qualities come in part from the conching process where the chocolate is mixed, sheared and aerated for six to over 90 hours to achieve a uniform particle size and distribution of cocoa butter. And while conching may not involve seashells, it gets its name from the shape of traditional machinery, which resembles a conch shell.
As the chocolate melts in your mouth, it’s time to put your taste buds to work. Temper Chocolates & Confections’ chocolate maker Victoria Johnson at Denver Central Market advises you to prepare for a taste journey. “Watch how the flavor changes,” she says. “A strong flavor can come on quickly, while on the other hand, it can build up and intensify over time.” Make sure to keep room temperature water nearby for use as a palate cleanser and also for taking notes. Notes can help you better understand what you are going through and better share it with your fellow chocolate tasters.
The next time you’re about to treat yourself to some premium chocolate, we hope you give these tips a try. Fingers crossed that all of our neighbors are handing out local, hand painted, single origin chocolate from bean to bar and pine infused on Halloween.
And if not, now you know where to find it.