From baking to snacking, quaffing wine to impressing a gourmet, Katie Bryson looks at the finest dark chocolate for every occasion.
Whether you're on the hunt for a good chocolate to bake a batch of brownies, or trying to impress a chocoholic friend with a daring new bar, it's dark chocolate that hits the gourmet spot.
But with so many brands jostling for your attention, lovefood.com has swept the aisles for the worthiest contenders to make sure you make the right selection.
1) Best dark chocolate for baking
Green & Black's Organic 72% Dark Cooks' Chocolate, 150g, £2.19, available in all major and independent retailers
The potent flavour and lower sugar content of dark chocolate makes it an ideal match for baking, as it doesn't burn so easily.
“It also makes a pleasing snap which is a good indication that chocolate is of good quality for cooking,” says Sarah. “I covered a cake with ganache this week using Green & Black's and it went on really smoothly and was an even colour without any complicated tempering required.”
You could try using it to bake Eric Lanlard's hot chocolate fondants.
2) Best dark chocolate for savoury cooking
The bold flavours of dark chocolate also lend themselves beautifully to the delights of savoury dishes like chilli and sauces to go with game.
Chef and founder of Stewed! Alan Rosenthal says it's not just the flavours that led him to his selection. “Not only is Divine chocolate delicious, but it's also made from the finest cocoa from farmers in Ghana who co-own the company.
“The luxurious, creamy and smooth 70% chocolate bar is perfect for enriching my chilli con carne recipe, giving it a shiny finish and wonderful depth of flavour."
3) Best dark chocolate for snacking
Moser Roth 70% Finest Dark Chocolate, 99p for five 25g bars, Aldi.
With a higher level of cocoa solids than its milky counterpart, dark chocolate contains heart protecting antioxidants and less sugar which make it a great snacking option.
Munching your way through a bar a day is going to cancel out any health benefits because of those pesky calories, but if you're disciplined enough to stick to a 30g portion twice a week you're laughing.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get your gourmet chocolate fix, budget supermarket Aldi have got a superb specimen on their shelves. Moser Roth 70% Finest Dark Chocolate come in little 25g bars so you've got a bit of pre-packaged portion control. It's a very smooth experience worth seeking out.
4) Best dark chocolate with wine
Green and Black's Organic 60% Dark Chocolate with Ginger, 100g, £2.09, available in all major and independent retailers.
In the wine trade chocolate is considered to be one of the most difficult foods to match with wine. Master of Wine Sarah Abbot says, “dark chocolate can be especially challenging, as it coats the mouth, a bit like a tannic red wine, and you can end up with a very astringent experience if you combine the two.
“Maury and Banyuls are two sweet red wines from the south of France that are fantastic with dark chocolate, and Ruby port is also a delicious option.
“But in terms of which chocolate I choose - I like Green & Black's Dark Chocolate with Ginger.”
5) Best dark chocolate for connoisseurs
If you want to get properly gourmet, chocolate expert Dom Ramsay from Chocablog suggests taking a closer look at the label for a high cocoa percentage with the shortest possible ingredients list.
“Unflavoured dark chocolate should have a maximum of five ingredients; Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Sugar, Real Vanilla & Soy Lecithin (an emulsifier).
In particular, always avoid chocolate with added vegetable fat, usually environmentally destructive palm oil,” says Dom.
Original Beans go one better and only have three ingredients: Fair Trade Cocoa Beans, Cocoa Butter and Cane Sugar.
The Original Beans range is beautifully yet responsibly packaged, complete with tasting notes that are as detailed as a fine wine. You're promised flavours of “sun-dried cranberries, melon, subtle tropical fruit notes, hints of jasmine tea” which doesn't oversell just how stunning this chocolate is.
They also plant a tree for every bar sold to help support community farmers and the rainforest and this can be tracked on www.originalbeans.com.
So now we've done the legwork, all that's left to do is try them all.
The author of this article must declare for transparency that she had to exceed the recommended weekly intake of dark chocolate in the interests of increasing knowledge and understanding of this challenging subject.
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