Are you nuts about nuts? Many people are. In fact 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.
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.
A lot of people have been put off dark chocolate by the acidity, that’s why it used to be known as “bitter chocolate”. But I like to think you don’t get that with mine. The fine trinitario and criollo beans that I use aren’t particularly acidic to start with. Then I only ever give them a light roast and conche at low temperatures for three, sometimes four weeks to drive off any remaining unwanted flavours. 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. Four weeks is lonnng!
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.
Milk of the Gods, is also made with the Rio Caribe bean. You get those same nutty notes coming through. Sea Flakes is the same chocolate but with flakes of sea salt. It is the flake part that is so important. What you want is to crunch into the little crystals (like in a good aged cheddar), not have a general salt taste.
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!
Pistachio Date and Raisin Hazelnut are quite unique. You can clearly see on the box that they hvae No Added Sugar. That’s the magic – all the sweetness comes naturally from the fruit and nuts, you won’t miss the sugar, I can assure you.
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.
Salty dog. Rio caribe 44 milk chocolate with almonds & sea salt
Get the best almonds you possibly can and give them a light roast to release their nuttiness. A quick chop, then stir them into freshly made Rio Caribe milk chocolate with a flurry of Cornish Sea Salt. That’s all, you salty dog! Pure flavour. Pure pleasure
Jewelled heaven. Creamy white chocolate, pistachio, yellow raisin, saffron
Joyous, totally joyous! I have taken the sugar right down to make the lightest, creamiest white chocolate. Jewelled with pistachios and raisins and infused with rare and precious saffron, this is one heavenly chocolate.