Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chocolate Review: Ghirardelli's 100% Cocao

By Benjamin Skipper

While it may sound unappealing to most, it is possible to develop a cocao threshold high enough to enjoy full-bitterness chocolate, although I'm not sure how a person would go about establishing such. In my case, I guess my threshold increased through repeated eatings of increasingly bitter chocolate in conjunction with a restricted-sugar diet.

Anyhow, this review is for Ghirardelli Chocolate 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar. My main intention in purchasing this was to supplement a magnesium deficiency, as I had been suffering from intense leg cramps, but even as my cramps have disappeared I find I enjoy this beyond its supplementary purposes. Without the sugar it tastes uniquely different than that from sweetened chocolate, but not unpleasantly so. My cocao threshold seems to have even transformed the bitterness into something pleasurable and appealing, rather than something to be detested and spit out.

However, I don't seem to respond that strongly to this variety. I suppose that means I've been eating too much of it, so in that area I suggest eating sparingly lest you lose your taste sensitivity, but then again that's just common sense. I thoroughly enjoy the bitterness paired up with something sweet, such as mildly sweetened almond butter. In fact, the other day I was enjoying the combination of placing frozen banana pieces on broken off Ghirardelli bits and eating them in conjunction, giving a wonderful chocolate-banana taste experience. (Much better than that of the Valor's chocolate banana bar. That bar was the worst I've ever had.)

I have to admit that my lack of knowledge in professional tasting prevents me from describing too much in depth its flavor, so the most I can say is that its bitterness is very pleasant and leaves a good aftertaste, and it tastes much more intensely chocolately if a craving is present. Other than that, I ask my readers: Could there possibly be a difference in the taste of cocao beans that would cause a variety of flavors among unsweetened chocolate? If not, then cost and form will be the most important considerations for this type.

Cost-wise this bar is moderately decent, but it's about twice as expensive as the Baker's variety of unsweetened chocolate. Despite that, I've tried both of them, determined that they taste the same, and still prefer Ghirardelli's variety since it trumps in form. While Baker's is much cheaper, it's horrible in form. Upon opening the box I found that Baker's is not in bar form, but rather individual blocks wrapped in pairs. This is what makes is so terrible. The squares are super thick and are too strong for me to be able to break them apart by hand. Even using a steak knife to separate them is difficult, and when I broke through, some of the chocolate went flying. Even breaking them into smaller blocks makes them no easier to eat, as they're still so thick that you really have to gnaw on them to break them apart. This has led to a mess of drool, chocolate bits, and chocolate smudges all over my face, not to neglect the chocolate bits shed on the floor. Baker's is much cheaper and provides more chocolate than Ghirardelli's, but its atrocious form makes it unenjoyable to eat.

Ghirardelli's, in contrast, is in the form of a thin bar, can be broken apart and bitten off easily, and won't leave that much of a mess except if it accidentally cracks apart. If you're on a really tight budget or just want chocolate for supplementation purposes then go ahead and purchase Baker's; otherwise, I've found that Ghirardelli's is much more enjoyable.

Though don't think I'm giving my fullest recommendation to Ghirardelli. So far I've only eaten two unsweetened chocolate brands, so Ghirardelli wins by default for the present. If I consume another unsweetened variety that's equally manageable in form and cheaper, then I'll switch brands. For now, I'd say avoid Baker's solely on the grounds of how frustrating it is to eat.

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