Tasting Squares Assorted Chocolate by Scharffen Berger
Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares Assorted Chocolate Bittersweet, Semisweet and Extra Rich Milk Chocolate - 3.17 oz. (89g)
Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares Assorted Chocolate Bittersweet, Semisweet and Extra Rich Milk Chocolate contains individually foil wrapped tasting squares of 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate and 41% Cacao Extra Rich Milk Chocolate. A gluten free confection.
41% Cacao Extra Rich Chocolate: With higher cacao content, more milk and less sugar than traditional milk chocolate, their 41% Cacao Extra Rich Milk Chocolate appeals to both the dark chocolate connoisseurs and milk chocolate lovers. This chocolate has a smooth creamy texture and delivers a satisfying rich caramel flavor.
62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate: Their 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate is accessible but sophisticated. This chocolate is slightly sweeter than their other dark chocolates revealing soft citrus notes and finishing with the subtle taste of honey.
70% Bittersweet Chocolate: With its rich and pure complexity, their 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate is the ideal dark chocolate. It offers upfront notes of ripe raspberry and cherry that melts smoothly into rounder date and cinnamon flavors.
Scharffen Berger fine artisan chocolates give any dish a whole new layer of culinary cachet. From brownies to breads to savory beef, you'll find Scharffen Berger adds rich, intense chocolate flavor to your favorite recipes
Step 1 - Source
They begin their chocolate making process by sourcing and importing raw cacao beans, giving them control of quality and taste from start to finish.
Step 2 - Roast
In their factory, they clean and roast the beans. They separate the beans by country and region of origin and roast them in small batches to taste. They crack and shell the roasted beans into cacao nibs.
Step 3 - Grind and refine
They grind the nibs into a rich brown paste called chocolate liquor in a mélangeur-broyeur (granite mill). Then they refine the chocolate liquor with crystal cane sugar and whole vanilla beans in the conche for up to 25 hours.
Step 4 - Temper and Finish
The final step is tempering and molding the chocolate into bars. One bite reflects the attention, time, and care they invest in every batch.
History of Cacao
Cacao, a tree whose scientific name is Theobroma cacao, grows exclusively between twenty degrees north and south of the equator, making it by definition tropical.
Before it was cultivated, cacao grew wild in Central and South America and may have been harvested and consumed sporadically. Successive cultures in what is now Central America used it for ceremonies, as a type of currency, and, to a degree, as a food.
When Cortez landed in Mexico in the early 1500's, cacao was a prized agricultural product, although certainly not a staple of the Aztec or Mayan diet. It is probable, to the extent that cacao was domesticated, that it grew in settings similar to its natural habitat. Later, as colonial powers brought cacao to tropical regions around the globe, attempts were made to grow it on large plantations, rather than as a tree more integrated into the forest. These attempts failed almost universally because of disease, rapid exhaustion of the soil, political upheaval, or lack of properly skilled labor to produce cacao of reasonable quality. History has shown that much more successful have been small, most often family-run, farms of between eight and fifteen acres. Today these farms constitute approximately 80%–90% of cacao cultivation worldwide, the remaining 10–15% being made up of plantations of usually 100 acres or less.
The Cacao Plant
Cacao beans are seeds of the fruit or pod that sprout from the trunk and thicker branches of the cacao tree. It takes approximately five years for a tree to begin bearing fruit, and its useful lifetime is about thirty years. Each tree bears about a dozen viable pods per semi-annual harvest (although continuous production goes on to a small degree), and each ripe pod holds about forty beans, which translates into roughly 1,000 seeds per tree per year. Trees can be planted as little as three meters apart or as many as twelve meters apart. Approximately 500 cacao beans will produce one pound of bittersweet chocolate. The pods are harvested individually by hand and then usually sliced open by hand to remove the seeds and the surrounding pulp. Farms that have capital and access to electricity sometimes have machines that open the pod and extract the pulp and seeds, which are gathered into piles for fermentation.merica.
Cacao Bean Varieties
Today, the three cacao varieties— Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario— often referred to in literature about chocolate have more conceptual than practical value. Their utility lies more in demonstrating where cacao has been than where it is because the names no longer correspond to pure genetic strains. Purity disappeared many hundreds of years ago as a result of cacao's penchant for spontaneous cross-pollination. Deliberate hybridization has also occurred on numerous occasions in the four hundred plus years of cacao's history as a cash crop. This means that any relationship, therefore, between variety and flavor is so general as to be almost useless.
Criollo was the predominant cacao of Central and northern South America, but because of its low productivity and susceptibility to disease, it now constitutes, as a recognizable variety, on the order of 0.1% of the world's crop. Porcelana, the best known example of Criollo, retains the signature mild fruitiness attributed to the variety, although it is, of course, even more rare than Criollo as a whole.
Forastero, by far the most common of the three varieties, is believed to be indigenous to the northern Amazon River basin in what is now Brazil. As a result of its disease resistance and high productivity, it represents close to 90% of the world crop. It tends to have earthy, relatively simple flavors with moderate acidity and is known as "bulk" cacao. Depending on the quality of the bean (pod ripeness at harvest and the degree of care taken in fermenting and drying the beans), Forastero can add extremely desirable elements to a blend or little more than color.
A spontaneous hybrid of Forastero and Criollo that appeared in Trinidad in the mid-1700's, Trinitario may be the most difficult to define in terms of flavor due to widely varying ratios of Forastero and Criollo. Flavor notes range from spicy to earthy to fruity to highly acidic. Even Trinitario beans that physically resemble Criollo, suggesting a high percentage of Criollo genes, often exhibit little of its characteristic taste profile.
Several countries maintain living gene banks of cacao strains. The challenge is that no consistent attempt has been made to create certifiable bean types on a commercial basis. Thus, when a label states that the cacao variety of a particular bar of chocolate is Criollo or Trinitario, it is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the significance of that claim. Manufacturers rarely boast about using Forastero cacao, but most chocolates contain these beans and are quite good in quality. The ultimate danger in the careless use of labels, aside from the confusion it creates, is that genetic diversity may disappear before anyone realizes that its existence is at risk. When diversity departs, flavor goes with it.
Fermentation is a crucial step in the transformation of cacao beans to what we know as chocolate. Without fermentation cacao beans yield little or no chocolate flavor. The principal effect of fermentation is to eliminate or, at least, drastically reduce astringency and to develop the full cacao flavor. Because fermentation plays such a critical role in final chocolate flavor and quality, Scharffen Berger has strict requirements on which beans are acceptable.
Astringency is the drying sensation in the mouth. This is the effect you get when chewing on grape skins or eating a bit of the interior skin of an underripe banana. Astringency is reduced by adequate fermentation. Astringency should not be confused with bitterness which is associated more with the caffeine-like chemical in chocolate called "theobromine".
Fermentation must be carried out on or near the farm. It involves removing the cacao seeds and the pulp that surrounds them from the protective pod shortly after the harvest. The pulp and the forty or so seeds are then placed on the ground or in a wooden bin and covered with banana leaves. Yeast in the environment settles on the pulp and ferments natural sugars in it to alcohol, at which point acetic acid (vinegar)-producing bacteria, as well as bacteria that produce lactic acid from residual sugar, take over. As acids are produced during this procedure the pH of the seeds decreases and the temperature rises as high as 140 F. The combined effects of the acidity and alcohol production in the fermentation process acts to kill the cacao seed. When the seed dies, internal structures break down and allow previously segregated compounds to combine with one another. This results in a host of new compounds (and a marked increase in flavor complexity) and a decrease in the concentration of the small polyphenol molecules most responsible for astringency.
It takes from between four and seven days to complete fermentation. But it is not a matter of simply leaving the beans alone for that period of time. In order to properly ferment, the farmer must either have knowledge based on experience or have the ability to measure a variety of parameters that govern timing of tasks such as turning the mass of cacao beans.
The final step before the cacao is ready to be sold, is drying. The drying process can take up to seven days, drying in the sun. Because cacao dried in a dryer powered by wood, diesel, or propane fired driers can often cause off-flavors, sun-dried cacao is preferred. Sun drying reduces the danger of the exterior of the bean hardening before the moisture in the interior can evaporate.
Cacao trees thrive when planted in combination with other trees. The presence of other vegetation diminishes the likelihood of damage to the trees from disease and pests. Farmers worldwide attempt to maximize production from the land. More densely planted acreage tends to yield, in the short term at least, more cacao. Dense planting, however, also exhausts the soil and probably makes the spread of disease from one tree to another more likely. Moreover, the lack of plant diversity in tightly packed cacao groves inevitably leads to a decrease in the diversity of animals that may be natural enemies of the insects and other pests that attack the tree. Even under the best of circumstances, the loss of cacao to disease and pests is 30% or more.
But there is a better way. They recently began importing cocoa beans from a unique COOP in Tomé-Açu, Brazil that uses multi-crop, sustainable cacao farming practices, which provide a high level of income to the farmers, and actually help reforest degraded rainforest areas. Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker is the first company outside of Brazil to buy these beans.
What is meant by chocolate liquor content and how does it differ from cacao content?
Chocolate liquor (called cocoa mass in Europe) is ground cocoa beans, which themselves consist of almost equal amounts of cocoa butter and dry cocoa solids (there is no alcohol in chocolate liquor). A little extra cocoa butter is added in the production of most chocolate and some companies may add a little extra cocoa powder. Cacao content, expressed as a percentage, indicates the total ingredients in the chocolate that are derived from the cocoa bean, including chocolate liquor and any added cocoa butter or dry cocoa solids. Therefore, cacao content may be a few percentage points, or as much as 8%, higher than the % of chocolate liquor.
What's the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate?
Officially there is no difference. The FDA defines both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate as having a minimum 35% chocolate liquor content. In reality, and regardless of the official bittersweet/semisweet standard, chocolate makers have been increasing the cacao percentage in dark chocolate over several decades in response to growing demand for chocolate with more chocolate flavor and less sweetness. By the time Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker was founded in 1997, the actual cacao content of most domestic semisweet and bittersweet chocolate was between 50% and 60%, although none revealed cacao percentage on the label.
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker was the first American company to produce chocolate for home cooks with 70% cacao—and the first to put cacao percentage on all labels. Today many semisweet and bittersweet chocolates in the baking aisle are labeled with cacao percentages (from about 53% to well over 70%). Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates today are more diverse than ever and home cooks have lots of choices. Semisweet chocolates today are more diverse than ever and home cooks have lots of choices.
Many of my favorite recipes and cooking magazines call for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and either do not specify a cacao percentage or indicate the percentage is not to exceed 60%.
Many recipes for chocolate desserts and cakes were developed and tested with chocolate that contains 60% or less cacao.
After years of experimentation and side-by-side tests, I find that Scharffen Berger 62% Semisweet Chocolate is perfect in those recipes: just use 10% less chocolate than the recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe calls for 10 ounces of unspecified bittersweet chocolate, use only 9 ounces of Scharffen Berger 62% Semisweet Chocolate. Even with 10% less chocolate, your results will be very flavorful.
Can I use Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate in any recipe that calls for bittersweet chocolate?
For best results I recommend using Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate only in recipes that specifically call for bittersweet chocolate with 70% (or close to 70%) cacao (click here) [link] or for tips on substituting Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate successfully in other recipes.
How does cacao percentage affect recipes?
Semisweet and bittersweet chocolates are composed almost entirely of cacao (dry cocoa solids plus cocoa butter) and sugar.
As cacao percentage increases, the amount of dry cocoa and cocoa butter is increased and the amount of sugar decreased. Using chocolate with 70% cacao (for example) in a recipe instead of 55% or 60% cacao, has the same effect as adding extra cocoa to your batter and subtracting sugar. You can imagine the outcome. Extra cocoa can make cakes dry, mousses cakey and grainy rather than creamy, and ganaches curdle. Meanwhile sugar normally keeps baked goods moist and ganaches soft as well as sweet, so subtracting sugar intensifies the drying effects of the extra cocoa.
I've heard that two chocolates with the same cacao percentage may be quite different from one another? Is this true?
Of course, each chocolate manufacturer uses different beans and different manufacturing techniques to create their signature chocolate flavor. But also, manufacturers add different amounts of extra cocoa butter to their chocolate. Since extra cocoa butter is part of the cacao percentage, two 70% chocolates may differ in how much dry cocoa solids and how much cocoa butter they contain, and this affects the intensity of their flavors and sweetness, even though both have the same amount of sugar (30%). Differences in fat and dry cocoa may also cause some variation in the taste and texture of a dessert, but not as much variation as using chocolates with significantly different cacao content.
What is so special about Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder?
I tasted the very first samples of Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder almost 10 years ago and I thought (and still think!) that it redefined what cocoa powder could be. The fact that it is a natural cocoa powder, rather than alkalized (or Dutch processed) is important to recognize. Natural cocoa powder is purer, which is increasingly important to people who want to eat fewer foods processed with chemicals. But purity alone does not guarantee superior flavor unless, as is the case with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, the highest quality cocoa beans are used to produce the cocoa. The result is beautiful chocolate aroma with a complex flavor that captures all of the red fruit and almond notes that characterize Scharffen Berger Chocolate. If you want to compare cocoas, first evaluate aroma: close your eyes (to avoid being influenced by color differences). Even before you taste, you'll be amazed by how much chocolate aroma there is in this cocoa, especially compared with any Dutch process cocoa.
If you want to taste the difference, do as I do: make 2 cups of hot cocoa with two different cocoas or bake two batches of brownies (click here for a simple recipe). As well as having more chocolate flavor, natural cocoa powder has more healthy antioxidants than alkalized cocoa. You will also find that you don't need to use as much sugar to sweeten Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder as compared with other unsweetened cocoa powders.
Is it true that good chocolate is best for eating but there is no point in paying for premium artisanal chocolate just for cooking or baking because no one will taste the difference?
I've heard this before but I don't agree. In cooking classes, I sometimes prepare two batches of brownies for tasting: one with Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate and one with an old-fashioned supermarket brand.
The latter is served first and everyone is usually pretty happy. (Who doesn't love a brownie?). But when the brownies made with Scharffen Berger Cocoa are passed around there is usually a noticeable moment of silence, followed by comments like “oooh, now I get it” and other words that indicate that the bar has been raised several notches and brownies may never be the same again. Better chocolate does makes a difference, just like better coffee, better olive oil, better wine.
What kinds of recipe are best for using Scharffen Berger Chocolate?
All kinds of desserts are enhanced by Scharffen Berger Chocolate, but my strategy for celebrating the distinctive flavors of good chocolate is to select simple recipes without excessive amounts of sugar and fat or too many competing flavors.
Minimalist recipes really let the characteristics of the chocolate shine, and they are less work for the cook as well!
What is Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate and what should I do with it?
Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate is also known as unsweetened baking chocolate. It is called 99% because it is 99% pure cacao with less than 1 percent vanilla and lecithin.
Use Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate in any recipe, from old-fashioned fudge or brownies to the newest recipes that call for unsweetened chocolate. But don't forget to think outside the unsweetened chocolate box. This is not the bitter unsweetened chocolate of our childhoods. This chocolate is NOT harsh or gritty. Hard core dark chocolate lovers will find Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate strong but also smooth, and delicious enough to nibble in small quantities. (If you like espresso, definitely try nibbling Scharffen Berger 99% Unsweetened Chocolate) You may even use it for dipping, or chop it up and use it for chips or chunks in cakes and cookies. Also try enriching savory meat sauces with a tiny bit of 99% for richness and texture. For more ideas for using chocolate in savory dishes click here.
I am a big fan of Scharffen Berger 82% Extra Dark Chocolate. How can I use this chocolate in my recipes?
I don't recommend substituting Scharffen Berger 82% Extra Dark Chocolate for melted bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in most batters, unless it is specifically called for in the recipe, but I highly recommend using it for dipping or as chips or chunks:
Chop it coarsely or finely and use it in place of regular chocolate chips in cookies or cakes or brownies or even soufflés for a dramatic jolt of chocolate flavor.OR make an intensely bittersweet chocolate glaze, sauce (click here), or fondue. Click here for recipes created especially for Scharffen Berger 82% Extra Dark Chocolate.
I see that Scharffen Berger Chocolate has vanilla in it. How does this affect my recipes?
The vanilla in Scharffen Berger Chocolate is ground up pure Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans. You can omit the vanilla in your recipes, or leave it in, as you like. My strategy when making brownies, for example, it to omit the vanilla called for in the recipes and just let the Scharffen Berger Chocolate take the stage.
Scharffen Berger Story
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker was founded with one simple goal: to create the richest, most flavorful chocolate by sourcing the best cacao in the world and using artisan chocolate-making methods. We are the first ‘bean-to-bar' chocolate manufacturer established in the United States in the past 50 years, and our attention to detail at every step of the process – working with farmers and selecting fine beans to blend, roast and refine – sets us apart from other producers to bring you America's Finest Dark Chocolate.
Founded in 1997 by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger, Scharffen Berger began in Robert's kitchen with a few simple kitchen appliances and nearly 30 varieties of cacao. The two tested multiple combinations before perfecting a unique blend that highlighted the true flavor of cacao instead of masking it with sugar and other flavors. It was well-received by Bay Area foodies but it took a series of further experiments before the company could consistently make wonderful chocolate. The first official batch of Scharffen Berger chocolate was made in their South San Francisco factory using vintage European equipment.
To this day, our artisan chocolate making process has been preserved. Our chocolate makers travel the world in search of the best cacao beans. Through carefully selecting and blending beans from a range of countries in the cacao belt, the specific flavors of each origin combine to create chocolate with balance and pleasing complexity. The result is a depth of flavor that celebrates the fine quality of the original cacao in every batch we produce, bringing you the finest tasting chocolate in America.