Saturday, June 30, 2012

Leysieffer Sloe (Schlehe)


100g bar
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sloe extract, soy lecithin

Corporate Info: (Copied from 6/9/12; see that post for more) Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: Sloe...? Before I did a little research, I knew basically nothing about sloe except for the vaguely familiar phrase “sloe gin.” Sloe, a.k.a. blackthorn, is a small tree/big shrub in the stone fruit family, and the “berries” it produces are kind of like tiny, bitter plums. You wouldn't eat sloe off the tree, but it's good for jams or to infuse liquor, that sort of thing. I didn't notice much sloe in Germany, but the plant is native to Northern Europe (among other places), whereas in North America it's nonnative and appears to be grown mainly only in the very Northeastern U.S, so it should be less surprising to find it there than here.

Appearance: Leysieffer's usual, because this is just flavored with extract.

Smell: Here's where it gets interesting! The aroma of mild chocolate is well-melded with something fragrantly fruity, sticky-moist, like a dark honey or dried-but-not-too-dried plums and cherries, the sort you bite into and find syrupy sweetness inside.

Taste: This works so well with the mild chocolate that it doesn't taste like an additive to me so much as a whole different kind of chocolate, as though these particular cocoa beans were rich and darkly fruity instead of the usual tart and bitter. Or you can think of it like many flavored truffle centers, with their orange or rum or strawberry balsamic subtle yet thoroughly incorporated. I'm having trouble describing the sloe, since it tastes rather familiar...I'm not sure why...but isn't quite like anything else, just sweet and juicy and deep, and lingering for quite a while after I finish.

Sloe + chocolate conclusion: In Leysieffer's mild base, sloe's deep, honeyed sweetness makes for a perfectly rich, mellow bar.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Leysieffer Poppy Seed (Mohn)



100g bar
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, poppy seed, soy lecithin

Corporate Info: (Copied from 6/9/12; see that post for more) Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: Chocolate and poppy seeds! I noticed more poppy seed in Germany than here in the US. We're not talking on pizza or anything, but anyone familiar with hamentaschen has tried poppy seed in desserts of German origin, and I saw them in the odd pastry or bagged for sale with other nuts and seeds. I don't know if Leysieffer has included them whole or ground or what, but I guess I'll find out.

Appearance: On the outside, this looks like any other Leysieffer bar, but a cross section shows tiny white flecks. I think of poppy seeds as black, so either these are magically different or it's what you get when you break one. How about that.

Smell: I think just chocolate? If there's something more there, it's not obvious to me.

Taste: Man, I don't know. It mostly just tastes like chocolate, but with a slightly gritty (not sand-like, something softer) texture. These poppy seeds are either ground/broken up or really easy to chew, leaving little bits hanging around in your mouth as an aftertaste of sorts. Not sure about any particular flavor, though my sometimes co-taster claims it “tastes like poppy seed.” “What does that mean?” [Long pause.] “I don't know, poppy seed?” Given how low-key this is—just a light texture as far as I can tell—I'm not sure why anyone would search it out. Maybe people who eat a lot of poppy seed products become sensitive to their subtle flavor, or buyers just want that texture?

Poppy seed + chocolate conclusion: Underwhelming, but fine. I'd like to try something with a higher poppy seed content, or even a filling of poppy seed paste, as perhaps that would emphasize what the ingredient has to contribute to chocolate.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Leysieffer Lavender (Lavendel)


100g bar
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, spices, nutmeg extract, lavender extract

Corporate Info: (Copied from 6/9/12; see that post for more) Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: Lavender, which I noted includes “spices” and nutmeg extract as well as the lavender. Interesting.

Appearance: Similar to last week, semi-glossy, very medium brown with a warm, yellow-orange undertone. Possibly half a shade lighter, or maybe not.

Smell: Huh. Definitely lavender, but not just floral, and it doesn't merely lay unmoored on top of the chocolate flavor. I never would have thought of nutmeg as a complement, but that and/or the “spices” seem to act as a bridge connecting the earthy chocolate to perfumey lavender to make it smell more complex and melded. I can't wait to see if this carries over to the taste.

Taste: Lavender sticks out first and stays there, while chocolate comes up from behind along with a warm spiciness. I can identify nutmeg, and if there are other spices I'd guess something darker and spicier—allspice or something like that—but only just a touch. As with last year's elderflower, I think this floral might not pair well with a darker, more sour or bitter chocolate, but here and with the bridge of “spices,” it actually works. A unique experience.

Lavender + chocolate conclusion: I don't know what it would be like with a different chocolate or only lavender as a flavoring, but in mild chocolate and with additional spices to connect the two flavors, lavender imparts an intriguing floral note.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Leysieffer Honey (Honig)



100g bar
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, honey, honey oil, soy lecithin

This May I was back in Germany and again visited the small city of Osnabrück, home to Leysieffer and its interestingly-flavored bars. Last year I tried their 55% cacao with pink peppercorns, rose oil, cardamom, and elderflower, and this year I brought back five more flavored bars and one plain one. As I did then, I'm focusing on flavors that are new to me, at least as chocolate additives, so even if you can't get your hands on Leysieffer anytime soon, it might be fun to hear about these funky combinations.

Corporate Info: Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: Honey! Germans seem to be into honey, relatively speaking—not that it's everywhere, exactly, but the typical hotel breakfast buffet spread of breads, cheese, meat, jams, and so on always includes honey of some sort, and in Cologne I walked by a store whose entire stock was honey-related. So while I didn't see a lot of honey-infused chocolate floating around, neither was I surprised to find it as a flavoring in Leysieffer's large product line. As with all the flavored bars I'm reviewing, this is in 55% cacao. Also note that the “honey oil” in the ingredients list seems to be some sort of essential oil, not a honey-dosed vegetable oil or, obviously, oil in the drug-related sense that you'll discover if you Google the phrase.

Appearance: Aside from a few bars with inclusions, Leysieffer flavored bars in 55% cacao look more or less the same, a semi-glossy, very medium brown with a warm, yellow-orange undertone.

Smell: Mild, with a light, complex sweetness.

Taste: As I knew from last year, Leysieffer's dark chocolate base is mild, smooth, and sweet, not a challenging base to the flavorings it uses. So, more importantly, what about the honey? It's not strong, but more a particular take on the sweetness common to any (not-too-dark) chocolate. Imagine several sweeteners—say, honey, maple, cane sugar (white, brown, raw, whatever), and some artificial sweetener—and how, if you mix each into a cup of coffee or yogurt, it ends up sweeter but with a slightly varied perfume, which may or may not work with the other flavors and be what you want in that moment. This bar basically tastes like a fairly sweet dark chocolate, but with a touch of the succulence of a light honey. It doesn't do anything for me, personally, but it's a rather innocuous take on flavoring chocolate.

Honey + chocolate conclusion: Fine, just a slight variation on a usual sweetish dark bar. However, Leysieffer's version uses quite a light honey, and I'd be curious to try a more robust take on the combination.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fearless 70% Sweet & Hot Hibiscus Ginger

 
2oz (56.7g) bar
Ingredients: Organic raw cacao, o. raw cane sugar, o. hibiscus flower, o. ginger
7g sugar/28.35g serving (24.7% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Fearless is totally new to me, but I spied its frankly adorable boxes (tiny elephant! lightning! cloud/bite out of corner! friendly font!) on sale and bought a couple boxes. The company was apparently founded in 2006 in California, uses recycled paper for the outer boxes, and makes bean-to-bar chocolate with organic ingredients and direct trade cacao from specific plantations in Brazil, with a special focus on raw cacao. All of this may or may not mean anything to you, but I think I can safely say that Fearless is full of good intentions, part of what I'm seeing as a young cohort trying to bring chocolate into the modern age more thoughtfully, with an eye toward (or blatant focus on) sustainability and treating growers well. The small-company, bean-to-bar model is one way of doing it (contrast with Divine, for example), and it's a fine option. Good for them. Oh, and Fearless currently produces only five items, a plain 75% bar and four 70% bars with interesting flavor combos.

Today's Bar: The third in a run of ginger bars, this one also contains hibiscus, which in my experience is usually quite tart. The raw cacao also promises to be a flavor wild card.

Appearance: Fearless has its looks down, making raw/organic/direct trade accessibly cute. In addition to a matte, orangey bar with a touch of grey (mostly the washed-out effect of the matte texture), this bar has the tiny elephant, stars on each section, and a replica of the scalloped “bite” taken out of the top right corner. This is a rare case of meaningfully good product design.

Smell: Surprisingly mild, with a beany-tart “real chocolate” aroma (similar to last week's) and some super-integrated gingery spice. Not sure about the hibiscus.

Taste: Spicy ginger shows up immediately, even before I begin chewing, then a sour combo that I think comes from both the chocolate (beany) and the hibiscus (sharp). The texture is quite smooth and somewhat thick, which also means no crystallized ginger pieces. I don't know if I'm tasting ginger juice or ground ginger, but either way it's thin and spicy, not at all candied, but also not overwhelming or hot. I'm not sure that raw, super close-to-the-tree chocolate is my favorite kind, but it works very well with the fresh tasting ginger and a hibiscus flavor that enhances the cacao's raw, sour highs. A surprising success.

Conclusion: Fearless 70% Sweet & Hot Hibiscus Ginger makes raw cacao and fresh ginger and hibiscus friendly by controlling potentially harsh flavors and presenting an outstanding appearance.