Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract
Baratti & Milano's Extra Bitter 88% bar was a gift from a lovely old friend who knows my taste for dark chocolate. I opened the box, the kind bound with an elasticated gold cord tied in a little bow at one corner, to find four different high-end bars. I'm starting with something Italian.
This is another wide, thin, flat bar, in a deep black-brown with a dull finish. The fragrance is kind of fascinating, less chocolate than like a spicy perfume heady with vanilla. I don't wear perfume, but I might if I were able to get my hands on one that smelled like this.
“Bitter” is an apt term for the chocolate, though it's not the pungent kind that makes you grimace—it's actually surprisingly smooth, in both texture and flavor. The bitterness comes on slowly and builds gradually, finally revealing a hint of sugar. It brings you as close to the bean as you can and still be eating chocolate, processed to be palatable and with just a hint of sugar for balance.
This is some of the darkest-tasting chocolate I've eaten. Another 88% bar I've tried (Endangered Species' Black Panther bar) is sweeter and more accessible, so it's not just the cacao content; maybe it's in the choice of bean, or in the processing. Because of how bitter it is I probably won't be buying this myself, but it's a very good special occasion bar, smooth and sweet enough to be more than plain cacao, but only just.
Conclusion: Baratti e Milano Puro Cioccolato Extra Fondente 88% is barely sweet, surprisingly smooth, a high-quality super-super-dark chocolate.
[Note: I couldn't find a website for Baratti e Milano, so the above link is to this bar on Amazon.]