White Christmas… Just Add Cocoa Butter
Last month we covered the Top 100s. Now we add in a forthcoming 100% – Åkesson’s Criollo.
They’re coming from all directions now.
To Pierrick Chouard… look what you’ve wrought in the wake of your Vintage Plantations release of an unsweetened eating bar in 2004: actual healthy chocolate.
Let’s face it: most chocolate, even Dark chocolate, isn’t all that healthy. Which partially accounts for why people indulge in it.
The culprit, apart from microbes, dead insects, animal droppings, & heavy metals that contaminate cocoa piles in the tropics… is the newly classified poison ‘refined sugar’.
100% unsweetened chocolate. Healthier by far & minimizes the risks.
But let’s raise the bar from there.
As more barsmiths produce 100% cacáo-content chocolate, almost nearly all stick exclusively to the Dark–Brut category. In other words, an extreme dark bar. Practically no one does the reverse in producing The recto-100: an unsweetened White.
Odd, because White comprises the butter coming from the same cacáo seed that makes the darkest chocolate. They’re dimorphic twins. Yet so little of the White exists, other than for adding to smoothies or cosmetics.
This month we turn our attention to cocoa butter, the queen of fats but the scorned stepchild of cacáo. Even cocoa gurus who write volumes on the subject of chocolate hardly mention cocoa butter at all if ever & then only in passing.
First, a word about fats generally: A recent clinical study undoes about 50 years of cultural brainwashing that saturated fats like butter & heavy whipping cream – not talking lethal trans fats here – are bad for you.
The new research, financed by the National Institutes of Health & published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, covers a racially & ethnically diverse group. It notes that individuals who consume twice to even triple the recommended limit by the American Heart Association of saturated fats, & up to almost half of all their total daily calories in fats including unsaturated varieties, fared well. Very well. Coupled with a low-carb diet (like as reduced sugar), markers for inflammation & triglycerides — a type of fat that circulates in the blood — plunged. HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, rose sharply. Better still, blood pressure, total cholesterol & LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, stayed about the same.
Cocoa butter is rich & dense in triglycerides comprised of a glycol molecule adhering primarily & almost equally to 3 fatty acids:
• stearic acid – a saturated fatty acid; converts to oleic acid in the liver;
• oleic acid – same monounsaturated compound found in olive oil;
• palmitic oil – another saturated fatty acid
The differing rates of melt between these 3 make cocoa butter both challenging to work with & intensely sensuous to behold… staking out a generalized melting point close to that of the human body.
Cacáo butter can similarly vary in texture & quality depending on geography, variety& weather just like a single-origin / single-strain Dark Chocolate. The prized seeds grown in the northern stretches of South America tend to have softer butter compared to bulk grade cacáo from Africa. A strong QTL (Quantitative Trait Locus) or genetic cluster with a particular characteristic for cocoa butter hardness has been identified in lipids with a higher melting point (specifically LG7 & LG9). Climate temperature also affects chemical & physical characteristics of cocoa butter, both in terms of the percentage of fatty acids & their melting point. For instance, some Central American harvests reported a few cacáo seed lots bearing 60%+ butter content. The average daily temperature during the last few months of pod development apparently affects the characteristics of cocoa butter as much as any other factor. Lower temperatures give softer butters with a lower melting point.
Most seeds contain approximately 53% butterfat. Nonetheless, whatever the exact percentage, fat represents over half of the dry weight & the most important nutrient for the seed, vital for its food storage.
Each seed consists of 2 cotyledons (“nibs”) & a small embryo, all enclosed in skin (“shell”). The cotyledons comprise 2 cell types — a) storage or parenchyma cells of fat globules, proteins & starch granules, & b) larger pigmented cells, containing polyphenols & methylxanthines.
As alluded to above, cocoa butter has been used for centuries as soap, an emollient, & an added fat. The Jesuits, huge chocolate drinkers during the European invasion of the New World, were first attracted by extracted cocoa butter’s medicinal healing properties. They established infirmaries & pharmacies giving rise to the saying: ‘where there’s church, there’s chocolate’.
In a similar vein, the “raw chocolate” tribe extols the health virtues, touting its preserved unrefined bio-chemicals to crown it a ‘superfood’. But as the caduceus points out, the snakes must coil around that fine line between medicine & poison. Recently we reviewed Navitas Raw Cacao Butter… to your health or at your hazard.
Conacado’s Manteca de Cacao on the other hand dispenses the more traditional cocoa butter, warmly roasted then pressed unfiltered to ring with distinct Dark Chocolate overtones — those tannic & deep notes of its conjoined sibling. Arguably the purest &, just maybe, the perfect White.
Just a couple harbingers that the era of White Chocolate is upon us.
HCP Sensory Panel
HCP has announced some key additions by way of Pierre Costet of Valrhona & Sepp Schoenbaechler from Felchlin. They will take their seats formally at the FCIA conference next month in SF. This should further elevate the evaluations & the quality of the designations.
And The Winner Is…
Our November issue included a contest to name the barsmith of the last box in an attached photo, with an explanation of why it’s there (which also doubled as a hint). The prize in this chocolate giveaway was a free bar.
3 readers came forward with the correct answer (Zotter) but only 1 had the explanation right (the bars in the photo were laid out alphabetically & Zotter… well, represents in many ways the last word on chocolate).
Congratulations to Xavier Lochon of Chartres, France for solving the entire puzzle.
‘Tis the season for giving so we decided to send free bars to all 3. No grinch here!
Bars of the Year
There is no “best” chocolate. Anyone who says so is just hustling their own game to the unsuspecting. But there is greatchocolate. ‘Twas an ever-burgeoning year for the premium category. These bars tower above the rest:
- Esmeraldas cacáo once again displays its prowess which originally earned it renown with two stunners: a) this princess of a cacáo further beautified by one deft stylist named Franck Morin. Deceptive complexities intermingle beneath a Naked Flavor Profile yet resplendent in finery. The FXs ala lace, velvet, gauze, silks, cashmere.So pre- & re-fined, thanks to the good growers on the ground, & the brilliant barsmith in the batch (who understands to leave best alone) that this may well be the exemplar for the varietal.And in a sign of just how great an heirloom Esmeraldas is, Hoja Verde, a middling label out of Ecuador, produced a dizzying vertical flight ascending from a 50% Dark-Milk all the way up to an unsweetened 100% with the 72% pocket the peak experience.
- Fruition is the breakthrough artisan of the year in grabbing 3 honors: a) One Hundred – the current state-of-the-unsweetened-art; & b) Marañón Nibs – a space opera of flavor; c) Dark-Milk Flor de Sel… 1-2-3, 1-2-3, bite — thrown ’em back ’til losing track on the way to getting vacuumed into its chocolate vortex. Addicts have no hope of recovery.All together, Fruition’s a helluva drug & this year moved into the Top 10 of barsmiths worldwide.
- Another remarkable 100– The Chocolate Tree’s Ali Gower & his fellow barsmiths spec’d this Madagascan closely. Nary an off-note, nor a false one. Every taste-point conveys edible organics as opposed to the vast majority of these Bruts marked by dirt & battery acid.
- Franceschi’s Choroní… get there by donkey or via this bar which consolidates a dense-pack without a single misstep.
- Brazilian cacáo, French craft, & Japanese name – Kaori by Bonnat adds up to a global baddass of a chocolate
- OB’s Papua Kerafat — a trophy chocolate. Hang it next to the deer antlers & elephant tusks.
- Mānoa detonated this limited-production torpedo beneath Maunawili, Hawai’I to explode an ocean fruit spray which carried over the Pacific to its Papauan yab-yum Dark-Milk
- Fave di Chuao. How could it be possible for an unadorned cacáo seed to enter this illustrious list? Well, only Domori.
- Chuao from Rom Still, the man behind it’s chocolate, just flows out of an edifice complex. Yeah, but anybody can work wonders with Chuao, right? So to prove he’s no one-hit wonder, Rom released a Maya Mountain Cacao that honors its namesake with a grape-ape that learned some pet tricks near the summit. Essentially the reference standard now for Belize & easily the best new barsmith to hit the scene in 2014.
In October they were lobotomizing pumpkins. Last month they shoved bread up a turkey’s ass. Now they’re cutting down evergreen trees. This planet has issues, Bert.
(Comic strip: Matt Bradshaw)
Whatever & however you celebrate, Happy Holidays. See you next year.