In this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ it’s time to get out into the countryside and forage. The treasures at this time of year are endless, from nuts to berries and fruits to fungi.
Last weekend my sisters and I picked and pressed enough Kingston Black apples to make 140 litres of cider. After the first frosts it will be time for sloe vodkam but now, like a squirrel, I’m turning my attention to nuts.
Chocolate and nuts are eaten together all over the world in a myriad of famously delicious cakes, desserts and chocolates, and very often the nuts are roasted or caramelised first. On my flavour map you’ll see the Nutty section is next to the Roasted section. This is its own whole world of flavour – nutty, caramelly, roasted, toffee, smoky – and it is where we will be playing this month.
All the single estate dark chocolates that we are tasting this month have something nutty about them, but you will find them very different. Let’s start with the Surabaya 69 from Java in Indonesia. This is in the Roasted section, at 12 o’clock on the Flavour Map. Layered with its soft caramel, toffee notes it has toasty notes like the ones you get from roasting hazelnuts.
Moving anticlockwise round the Map, you get to Rio Caribe. If I close my eyes and think of chocolate this is what I dream of. It is the classic cacao, the king among beans, with layers of complex nutty, coffee notes. It is a fine Venezuelan Trinitario bean and so is the bean from Las Trincheras. I make both of them into 72% dark chocolates, so you might imagine they would taste the same. They don’t!
Las Trincheras 72 is all together smoother and softer. For me this has all the nuttiness but without the smoky roasted notes. That takes us to the San Agustin 70 which is on the honeyed and floral side of nuttiness.
Next we’ll go to the Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut chocolates. Both are 100% cacao naturally sweetened with fruit and nuts. Ie no sugar!. The nuts tone down the cacao and the fruits bring the sweetness. They are the perfect delicious and healthy snacks!
The final two chocolates are all about flavour pairing. Almonds are some of the most delicate nuts. They need a light roast to bring out their flavour but even then you have to be careful as they are easily over powered. So in my Almendra, I have put them nestling in Sur del Lago 70 chocolate which is one of my lightest chocolates and itself has a very soft nutty flavour profile. Here the almonds can shine. Hazelnut Raisin however is made with Chulucanas 70 because the fruity notes in this beautiful criollo bean pair with the raisins.
These two chocolates are at opposite ends of the nut spectrum. Are you with the smooth, sophisticated Gianduja celebrating the purity of freshly roasted nuts? Or do you prefer to pump up the volume with crunchy, caramelised nuts?
Dark Chocolate Gianduja. Irresistibly smooth roasted hazelnut and Sur del Lago 70 dark chocolate.
The first Gianduja is said to have been made in Turin in 1806. They refined hazelnuts into chocolate during a cocoa shortage and made a chocolate of such intense, velvety deliciousness that is has become enduringly famous worldwide.
Caramelised Nuts. Caramelised almonds and cashews in Sur del Lago 70 dark chocolate.
This is the rowdy younger brother of the sophisticated Gianduja. The nutty Sur del Lago chocolate is bursting with crunchy, caramelised almonds and cashews.