Friday, September 8, 2017

Zak's Chocolate: Truffles

Last week, I covered the intriguing Single Origin Brownie Flight from Zak's Chocolate here in Scottsdale. Now it's time for the truffles. I've been enjoying the truffle scene quite a bit lately because it's still new for me to be able to buy fresh truffles in the state (usually it's something I do when I'm out of state).

Zak's truffles have a sleeker sort of look. The designs, neither quite modern nor rustic, are simple with well-executed details. The style implies that the focus is all about the chocolate. While there are some fine lines that are more difficult to mold, there are no distractingly bright colors, just a hint of gold brushed onto the turtle and the rectangular truffle.

Let's begin with the most exciting piece, the Pecan Caramel Turtle. The other people who were in the shop at the same time as I was were commenting on how wonderful the turtles were (while I was off to the side looking at a display). So I thought, what are these turtles and will I need to get one? Oh, definitely: even if I hadn't heard about them, I think I would have chosen one, anyway. In a glass case of sleek truffles, a single chocolate animal is irresistibly cute.

I did worry about slicing this one open; I thought I might just make a mess. But this isn't free-flowing caramel, so I didn't need to worry. And the open look shows off the little beauty inside that is a whole half piece of pecan. I don't think I've come across that in a chocolate before; it's wonderful how they used that shape to perfectly fit the turtle's body.

You instantly get crunch from this pecan, so that's what you taste first, even though it's located in the middle, surrounded by the caramel and then the chocolate. Sweetness comes from the caramel and even to some degree from the pecan. What's interesting to me is that this is dark chocolate yet also an example of how dark chocolate doesn't need to be limited. This turtle has a sweeter, fun angle that's generally more associated with milk chocolate than dark, so naturally I love that it is made with dark chocolate instead of milk.

The caramel, especially paired with the pecan, comes across with a maple syrup flavor. Even with that big piece of pecan, there is still plenty of caramel; it even fills the turtle's head. This caramel has a delightful, lightly chewy quality, so there is plenty of texture. The chocolate frames both texture and flavor and keeps this turtle more in the truffle zone than the confection zone. I can see why these turtles are so popular: I love absolutely everything about them. If you went in and bought just one thing, it could definitely be this.

Next we have the Blackberry Lychee Passionfruit, which is the one with what I believe is a lychee pictured on top. I had to get a truffle with a strong fruit presence just to see Zak's approach. This truffle starts off tangy, then gets a little sweeter. The blackberry seems to be more present in the beginning, and the passionfruit comes in more around the middle to the end. The lychee is hard for me to recognize because, while I've been coming across lychee often lately, it's always paired with other flavors and never on its own. Mainly I would say that the passionfruit is the dominant flavor of this truffle.The ganache is smooth but solid. As the chocolate melts, the chocolate base rounds off those tangy flavors with its deep richness. This feels like a less tangy chocolate than in the turtle; either it is an earthier chocolate or that's just the role that it plays in this particular composition.

The Simply Chocolate is the square truffle with the cocoa pods design. There is a super smooth ganache here; it tastes of chocolate and cream. Usually I don't taste the cream so much in a ganache, so I'm enjoying this effect. It gives almost more of a milk chocolate feel, even though everything here is dark chocolate. The outer shell is a good thickness, neither too thin nor too thick. This truffle reminds me of what it's like to enjoy a (good) hot chocolate, except that it's cool instead of warm. The flavor notes, though, are warm.

Last is the Mint truffle (the rectangular one), which I have to admit I chose as a kind of follow-up to my recent disappointment over Madecasse's Mint Crunch. I was just curious how this approach to mint would compare. As such, I'm probably just overcomplicating my comments here. At first, I did taste a strong mint leaf flavor, but then I felt like I was still tasting mint oil. Maybe it's just a better quality mint oil? The mint taste, after all, does taste strong and cool, not dull and flat. The chocolate is dark but doesn't feel too dark; I might perhaps have preferred it to be darker to give this truffle more of an edge. As it is, the effect is more like a chocolate dinner mint (reminding me once again, just a bit, of those Andes mints). That is, maybe I'm being unfair because this could be the intended effect: here I am praising the Pecan Caramel Turtle for not being a snobby dark chocolate and yet I'm also asking for this truffle to be less casual. The fact remains that the chocolate elements, the ganache and shell, are good. And the mint works. So this is still a nice piece.

As you can tell since I spent half of this post focusing on it, the Pecan Caramel Turtle was easily my favorite of these four. You will want to note that, while the other truffles come in at the usual price of $2.50 each, the turtles are $3 each; after all, they are a little bigger. Probably my next favorite was the Simply Chocolate. Favorites, aside, though, when it comes to truffles the greater impression tends to be more important than thoughts on a single flavor. My general impression is all personal excitement that there is a chocolate shop nearby where I can buy fresh, good quality truffles. The chocolate base for these truffles is excellent while also not detracting from the fact that truffles have the opportunity to be an ensemble of multiple flavors, not just chocolate. I will certainly be going back for more in the future.

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