We have rarely met a dark chocolate we didn’t like. that disposition was confirmed by several dozen Globe staffers who eagerly gathered to sample many boxes of little confections last week. Valentine’s Day is payday for chocolate shops, and since the treats can set you back $30 or more a pound, we decided you need help with the research, and we would oblige.
These handmade dark chocolates came from eight shops – not every one in the area, but enough to give us an idea of the variety available. All are the work of specialty shops and artisan confectioners; none are mass-market machine-made.
Americans have been serious about dark chocolates only since the 1990s, according to “the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.’’ that was the moment when chocolate makers started touting the provenance of their chocolate and the proportion of cocoa to other ingredients, writes Maricel Presilla. it was also the time when medical research, financed by the food conglomerate Mars, Presilla says, suggested that chocolate offers health benefits.
The discussion of whether or not chocolate is good for you did not enter into our tasting. (But we did feel wonderful later!) we were judging the experience of buying the chocolates, the overall presentation, how the confections come packaged, and of course, taste.
“I like this taste but I can’t pinpoint the flavor,’’ said a colleague, biting into a rectangular candy with a firm exterior and fudgy center. if you can’t tell the flavor of what you just bit into, the chocolate maker did not succeed. Of course, most chocolatiers give you a hint of what’s inside, by sprinkling, say, a few pistachios on top, or adding a sliver of candied ginger.
We poured through the contents of chocolates shaped like hearts, decorated with bumblebees, wrapped in foil, and made into bark. Alas, we learned it is possible to dislike dark chocolate for any number of reasons: the outside coating is too hard, the chocolate has bloomed (that white blush usually associated with old confections), or a filling is too exotic or just not that pleasing. Among the least popular were licorice, which was hiding inside a chocolate-coated candy, and a funny green color that distracted from what encased it.
Many dreamy truffles, chocolates with a hint of salt, nut clusters covered with the dark elixir, and much more, led to these results.