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Clay called for the $100 chocolate bar. The good folks behind Toak Chocolate answered the call with enthusiasm. Rare and secret Ecuadorian cacao, so delicately flavored that one must handle it with tweezers made of Spanish elm to avoid commingling its aroma with that of the oils from one's skin.
The structure doesn't seem different this year from those in years past (i.e., educational sessions, tastings, and a mix of mostly local chocolatiers and out-of-town chocolate makers). I've always found it to be a pretty solid value for adult admission and a steal for children. I look forward to attending again this year.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it, Clay.
Another point with regard to sweetness. He's probably counting shell (erroneously) as a cocoa solid. Assuming 13% shell content, that means that the actual cocoa solids from mass are about 56%. But according to the ingredient list, he's also added cocoa butter. Assuming a typical 5-8% cocoa butter pad, that would give you a bar with more or less 50% cocoa solids from mass. But the assumed 5-8% cocoa butter supplement is based on what's typical from makers working with liquor. Even more cocoa butter would be necessary with the high content of shell particles. Sweetness!
You're more likely to get noticeably sick from raw chocolate, due to survival of microbial contaminants. But, unless you're in a fragile state, a case of salmonellosis will pass in a day or two and you'll be back to normal. Hug the toilet; ride it out.
The risks associated with shell are much more serious, though less likely to immediately manifest. Lead and OTA stay in the body a long time and do real and lasting harm--to organs (especially the brain and kidneys) and cells. (Lead has a half-life of 20 days in the body. OTA has a half-life of 35 days, making it still detectible in plasma 280 days after exposure.) Take a look Dr. William Manton's survey of the current medical literature on toxicity of "Nonnutritive Constituents in Chocolate and Cocoa" (from last year's Chocolate in Health and Nutrition) before deciding if you really want to "take one for the team" in this way.
Another rave review out of the UK for Young's "whole bean chocolate," referring to it as "bloody brilliant" and "a more wholesome way" of making chocolate.
And another one ("it sits in a whole different league!").
Thanks for offering, Clay, but I'll pass. With a novice maker using a tabletop ECGC, boasting of only 7 hours of conching (in the non-conche CocoaTown), and taking a perverse pride in including shell, I feel pretty safe in assuming this product isn't for me.
Paul Young is grabbing headlines in England this week with the launch of his "whole bean chocolate" (i.e., grinding all of the shell into the mass), which he sees as a notable innovation of chocolate making, rather than as a throwback to a time when lack of food safety regulations allowed the sale of such adulterated chocolate to customers unable to pay for anything better. More on it here (e.g., "No one's quite sure why the shells are removed; that's just how it's always been done"). And here (where Young is quoted as saying, "Everyone shells just because thats what theyve been told").
What you're seeing is fat migration. (For a brief explanation with photo, see Note 13 in this item on gianduia: http://dallasfood.org/2011/08/gianduia-gianduja-nutella-part-29/ .) The chocolate around your store-bought peanut butter cup is engineered to better withstand and/or conceal the movement of oil. The block of chocolate you're putting it on is not.
With no milk products, safety isn't really an issue. Keeping it in an airtight container in a refrigerator will keep the hazelnut oil from going rancid as quickly, though (assuming it wasn't rancid to begin with, of course).
Via Clay on Twitter, here's a $100 bar from Woodblock Chocolate . Since "all proceeds will contribute to the [International Cacao Genebank's] 'living library' of cacao," this is really more of a hundred dollar donation than a hundred dollar chocolate bar.
Interesting theory, Brad. Thanks for sharing.
That's paying for presentation packaging, though--fancy outer box, inner boxes, individually-wrapped pieces. Amedei's most expensive bar remains Porcelana, at $16.50 (or $33/100g or $151/lb). It's among the priciest bars in the world (apart from obvious hustles), but still a far cry from a $100 bar.
The secret to getting pronounced hazelnut flavor and aroma is to start with the best hazelnuts (especially cv. Tonda Gentile delle Langhe, though Tonda di Giffoni and Tonda Gentile Romana are also very good). Nothing you can do to kernels from a lesser cultivar (e.g., Barcelona from Oregon or Tombul from Turkey) will close that gap in quality and intensity.
As some may have noticed, last month Jim Walsh was sued by Deepak Chopra for fraud. Carla Martin--a postdoc fellow at Harvard with an abiding professional interest in chocolate--posted something of a dossier on Walsh at her web site, Bittersweet Notes . She concisely covers all of the bases: the Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate scandal, the formation of Intentional Chocolate and spurious claims on its behalf, the failed (and possibly fraudulent) Maya Biosana project in Mexico, the HESA Institute (a shell of a new age think tank that eventually became entangled with the Chopra Foundation), culminating in Walsh's teaming up with Deepak Chopra to release a co-branded, intentionally infused chocolate bar.
The chocolate world is full of fraud and craziness, but this story combines the two and turns the dial to eleven. Check out Dr. Martin's post here .
In the US, the standard of identity for "white chocolate" requires that it "be free of coloring material" (21 CFR 163.124(a)). Might be worth checking, if you haven't already done so, whether similar regulatory constraints are in place in Canada before deciding on what to call the product, how to label it, etc.
On the merits, I'd have no interest in buying a colored chocolate bar, unless the coloring was incidental to the inclusion of a natural ingredient chosen for flavor (e.g., achiote).
If Brad's chocolate were the best in the world, I wouldn't mind making a trip to Calgary (en route to stunning Banff National Park) to stock up on bars. But, not having tasted it, until I hear credible voices proclaiming it such, I have no reason to believe it's the best in the world. I'll have to remain agnostic until circumstances take me (or a willing chocolate mule) to Calgary or until Brad teams up with a US importer/distributor.