Are you nuts about nuts? Many people are. Infact more nut bars are sold in the UK than any other type of flavoured chocolate. This month for The Magnificent Creations, the handmade chocolates I make each month for the Tasting Boxes, I have been playing with old favourites like almonds and hazelnuts, but also the more exotic pistachios and macadamias.
Nuts take you to all corners of the globe, deep into ancient culinary traditions, and have the added benefit of being packed full of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. But let’s not forget the naturally occurring nutty notes in so many of the finest cacaos, they have their own magic.
Take a look at your Chocolate Flavour Map and find the nutty side. These are some of the most universally loved cacaos, classically chocolatey.
We will start with the Pure Gold 100% Sur del Lago cacao, because as ever we start with the most intense and move sweeter. What makes this 100% cacao so special is that you really do catch the smooth nutty notes that are often obscured by acidity in 100% cacao bars. The Sur del Lago is an incredibly light bean, perfect for this bar. Having given it a light roast, I then conche it at low temperatures for three sometimes four weeks when the beans are fresh, to drive off the acidity while protecting the flavour. To put this in context, industrial chocolate is produced in a few hours total, and other bean to bar makers often talk of a 3 day conche. This is lonnng!
Las Trincheras 72 is the most approachable of my dark chocolates with its smooth nutty notes. When people start on their journey with dark chocolate this is where I recommend they begin. Rio Caribe 72 is more complex, and when I close my eyes and think of chocolate, this is what I think of, from the palm fringed Paria Peninsula. It is a prince among beans with layers of complex coffee, nutty flavours, quite different from the Las Trincheras, yet both are 72% Venezuelan dark chocolates.
You’ll find that roasting nuts, (or maybe toasting is a better word for it) really brings out their flavour. As well as crisping them up it removes the raw, green slightly astringent flavours and brings out their deeper softer side. I roast my nuts in a beautiful old nut roaster which looks like a rotating barrel. It gets a lot of use!
In the No Added Sugar bars I’d start with the least sweet Orange Almond, then move on to its friends Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut. These all have their sweetness coming naturally from the fruit and nuts. This leaves Almendra, with roasted almonds nestling in smooth nutty 70% Sur del Lago, and Hazelnut Raisin but this time made with 70% Chulucanas cacao because of the perfect pairing with its raisin notes.
Macadamias are particularly extraordinary and are in fact the world’s most expensive nut, sadly making them too expensive to appear in my normal chocolates. Their slow growing tropical evergreen trees take seven years to produce a crop, but it’s well worth the wait. These nuts are highly nutritious and have an incredible sweet, buttery flavour and creamy texture that makes them a pure delight in chocolate.
Macadamia Rum Raisin. Rio caribe 72 dark chocolate with macadamia & rum raisin
In The Chocolate Factory I am endlessly experimenting. There are jars and jars of different fruits soaking in various alcohols. Here I have taken some rum raisins and dried them out just enough to get them into the chocolate with their best friends, sweet, buttery macadamias.
Arabian Nights. Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with orange, almond & chilli
Oranges and almonds are a classic Mediterranean / Middle Eastern combination. This time I have added a touch of chilli, just a touch… it plays against the natural sweetness and is just enough to bring the juiciness alive. It is remarkably different to its No Added Sugar cousin.