Monday, April 11, 2011

Chocolate Review: Endangered Species' 72% Hazelnut Toffee

By Benjamin Skipper

Toffee: Yet another confection which I haven't tried, but have been introduced to through chocolate. By paleo standards it hardly seems offensive, as its basic ingredients are butter, sugar, and nuts. Given the salty descriptions I've read about this apparently delectable treat, I was more than salivating at the chance of trying Endangered Species' 72% dark chocolate with hazelnut toffee bits. I'm aware that Endangered Species also sells a thicker version that comes in individual pieces, and I'm intrigued enough to want to buy some.

For the most part, this bar is actually disappointing, but I think it has the potential to become something good. The flavor profile is dominated by sugar and milk, which overrides the toffee. The start is very powerfully milky, and it only subtly touches upon the toffee notes in the middle, with an even subtler salty finish. There might be a nutty aftertaste just barely on the breath, but it's much too weak to be identified as hazelnuts.

The inner flesh of the bar revealed the problem. Inside the chocolate the toffee pieces can be spotted like little glassy jewels or polished rocks trapped in the chocolate, and there's so few of them. The ratio of chocolate to toffee sets things way too much in favor of the chocolate and drowns out the other players. I can still taste the toffee and salt even though the notes were too weak to invoke pleasure, so I think my craving could be a sign that if these players were just strengthened a little bit the bar would be awesome. Simply: It just needs more toffee, either in the quantity of the bits or as a filled center. The filled center might be a viable choice, since it would allow for a concentration of flavor. Whatever the case, I hope this bar does get its potential fully brought out.

As always, the bar is very attractive. The top is extremely smooth, shiny, black as coffee, and reflective, almost as if it were hand-polished, and the bottom is a twist to ES' usual standards by being bumpy, slightly lighter in tone, and wavy in its shine. Like with Dagoba's Conacado, there are streaks and varying amounts of shine intensity, only in this case it seems to be a coherent pattern, like horizontal rows of clouds being tossed apart by the wind. Full-credit, as always for ES, in the aesthetic realm.

The aroma is very simple in it primarily being sweetened, milky cocoa, though there is an odd attribute of spice in it. I don't mean spice as in herbs and spices, but spice as in heat. The toffee nuts seem to give this bar a sense of it being warm, as if heat were an individual aroma manifest in its own matter. It's nice, but just far too simple.

I barely enjoyed this variety, but the salty taste I get in my mouth while thinking about it makes me conclude it isn't entirely worth dismissing. The toffee is too far pushed off the stage, but with greater inclusion I think the balance could be set right and this would be a wonderfully buttery and nutty experience. Until then, this chocolate remains largely chocolate with only "suggestions" of something else. I do hope ES considers modifying their recipe, for the potential for greatness is there. Otherwise: This bar is kind of bland, but is at least worth tasting. I'll add the Coexist pieces to my wish list and consider it in the future.

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