I completed the flavor trials yesterday, with these seven flavors:
This was a particularly great batch – four of the flavors made the cut and will appear in this year’s boxes. Here are my tasting notes:
The cranberry-vanilla-orange caramel was marvelous, and achieved one of my “Holy Grail” goals: get cranberry flavor to come through cleanly in a chocolate bonbon. The trouble is that cranberries’ flavor notes are mostly acid + bitter, and since chocolate is bitter + sweet, what comes through is just the acid. As a result, most blends of cranberry with chocolate taste like some sort of red fruit (raspberries, etc.) but it’s not obvious that it’s cranberry, even though it tastes good. I will probably omit the vanilla in the real batch, though, as it features far too prominently and I want the cranberry/orange flavor to dominate.
Angostura orange bitters and honey – this came out wonderfully. I had never tasted orange bitters before, but it was a recipe from Fine Chocolates 4 that sounded intriguing, so I had to try it. And it’s lovely! Complex orange flavor, with a touch of honey. I can see why people like using it in mixed drinks.
Juniper berries, balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, and honey – another recipe from Fine Chocolates 4 that is simply amazing. The juniper berry flavor arrives first, but then the balsamic vinegar comes through, with a bit of honey and bay leaf in the background. It’s probably my favorite flavor of the three.
Matcha and mint – delicious. The mint shows up first, and gradually morphs into the greeny-bitter taste of green tea. (Matcha is powdered green tea leaves.) Really like this one.
The cherry-rum was also good – dried sour cherries soaked in rum and then mixed into a milk chocolate ganache, very tasty (though the cherry flavor was a bit indistinct). I liked this flavor – five years ago it would certainly have made it in, but I had so many strong flavors this year that it wasn’t quite good enough – especially since I already have other two cherry flavors. Better luck next year!
The mint julep also came out fine – mint first, followed by the bourbon whiskey – but wasn’t interesting enough to include. Ten years ago maybe, not now.
The Cointreau, tequila, and honey also tasted good, but not good enough. (Although, one of my coworkers described it as the best yet! So it also has its fans.)
I have also figured out that if I want a full thirty-odd flavors in the box, I’m going to have to order slightly larger boxes. So I have nudged my candy box size up from a pound to a pound and a quarter, which gives me an extra quarter-inch on every side. That will allow me to fit three across the shorter side and five or six across the longer side, without traumatizing my candy packers.
After upping the size of the boxes, I spent several hours agonizing over my flavor choices. I finally narrowed it down to this final flavor list:
- White chocolate, lavender, Meyer lemon fudge
- Coconut tequila lime fudge
- Chocolate dipped coconut almond fudge
- Chocolate macadamia fudge
Chocolate covered stuff that keeps:
- Candied bergamot peel
- Candied grapefruit peel in rose geranium syrup
- Candied Cara Cara orange peel
- Candied Yuzu peel
- Candied Meyer lemon peel
- English toffee
- Jasmine caramels
- Lavender salt caramels
- cranberry-orange caramels
- Ginger lime chile peanut caramels
- sliced almonds, kirsch, praline paste, cherries
Fruit jellies/two layers:
- Sun-cooked strawberry fruit jelly with rosewater ganache
- Bergamot fruit jelly with aprium dark chocolate ganache
- Seville orange marmalade with cardamom-coffee ganache
- Walnut-caramel gianduja with cinnamon milk chocolate ganache
- Passion fruit caramel with white chocolate rum ginger ganache
- Raspberry jelly with lemon white chocolate ganache
- Blood orange/strawberry marmalade white chocolate ganache
- Cinnamon milk chocolate ganache
- Angostura orange bitters + honey
- Juniper, balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, honey
- Green tea and mint
- Fig cognac
- Strawberry balsamic vinegar
- Prune, port, cinnamon, honey
- Apricot honey
- Vanilla latte
- Black currant cointreau
- Eggnog (nutmeg vanilla rum)
- Whiskey (MacAllan 12)
- Jasmine tea
I am not sure everything will fit – so I will be doing some tests the weekend before Chocopalooza, and may eliminate one or more flavors if I run out of room. But that is the flavor lineup for this year.
(Items in bold are new flavors, items in italics appeared in last year’s box. Items that are in regular font have appeared in the past, but not last year.)
You can see that there are a lot of repeat flavors. That’s OK – I figure the lineup is stronger for having the best of previous years as well as the best of the new flavors. It also gives some continuity to those who have particular favorites. I try to get about a quarter new flavors every year, just to shake things up, so I’m doing pretty well this year.
I have also entered the ingredients for each new recipe into my master spreadsheet of ingredients, and generated the spreadsheet for this year’s chocolates. Some trivia for the easily amused: 106 lbs of ingredients are going into the centers of my chocolates. That includes a bit over 2 gallons of cream, not quite 20 lbs of sugar, about 28 lbs of chocolate (9 dark, 6 milk, 13 white). 75 kinds of goodies, going into 36 flavors. Wow! (And that doesn’t even include the 30-40 pounds of chocolate I’m going to use for dipping all those centers.)
Tasks for the rest of the week are basically prep work: scrubbing down the kitchen, updating my address lists, shopping for ingredients. (No activity in the kitchen this weekend.) The weekend of the 15th-16th starts the fun! I’ll start making fudges and caramels and other things that keep well. And then it will be on to the whirlwind!
And now Fritz has arrived to harass me, so I’d better stop here. More in a few days!