There was a time when we’d all be satisfied with a comforting, creamy bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, but tastes are changing. The weird and wonderful creations dreamed up in the finest restaurants are filtering down into our everyday foodie culture, and we’re becoming more far more discerning about our cocoa fixes.
As a nation we’re eating more and more dark chocolate with cocoa solids of more than 70%. You can even buy 100% cocoa bars, although it must be acknowledged that they are a fairly acquired taste. Provenance is big news too, with connoisseurs tasting chocolate as you would wine, paying credence to the origins of the cocoa beans and the roasting process.
But it’s the unusual chocolate flavour combinations dreamed up by chocolatiers that have really captured our imaginations. Chocolate and chilli is now so much an accepted part of culinary experimentation that two years ago Walker’s chose it as a limited edition flavour for their crisps.
Artisan chocolatiers across the country are increasingly making a name for themselves with creations that challenge our preconceptions about the nation’s favourite treat. Delicate, floral tones of rose and lavender are infusing creamy milk chocolate in a logical progression from the era of rose and violet creams. Meanwhile, sea salt is being added to variants of even the most mainstream brands, salted caramel is everywhere at the moment, and even wasabi is being used to give plain chocolate a kick. In fact, so adventurous have we become, that in the run-up to Christmas 2010 Unilever felt confident enough to release limited-edition Marmite chocolate.
Our tastes remain quite tame, however, when compared to our American friends. Chicago-based Vosges Chocolate has created quite a reputation for itself with its bacon chocolate bars, which expertly blend the saltiness of bacon with the sweetness of chocolate. The result is a deep milk chocolate with applewood smoked bacon bits and sprinkling of sea salt. Their innovation doesn’t end there. They also sell an organic Enchanted Mushroom bar that blends dark chocolate with reishi mushrooms and walnuts, and an Indian food lovers’ dream: chocolate featuring the flavours of sweet Indian curry, coconut and spice.
If all that’s tempted you, challenge your chocolate conventions with these flavour combinations, available in the UK:
BASIL & PERSIAN LIME from Rococo Chocolates. Lime infused dark chocolate is fairly commonplace. Take it one stage further with this aromatic Basil and Persian Lime bar. (£4.25, http://rococochocolates.com)
ROSE OTTO from Rococo Chocolates. This delicate rose-scented organic milk chocolate is about as indulgent as chocolate gets. (£4.25, http://rococochocolates.com)