Friday, December 22, 2017

Zak's Chocolate: Christmas Truffles Selection

Last chance to get in some Christmas chocolate. I stopped by Zak's Chocolate here in Scottsdale this week to see what seasonal offerings they might have right now. Outside of the truffles case, there were things like hot chocolate sticks and dinosaur-shaped chocolate bars (dinosaurs are following me everywhere right now; they've become a daily part of my life). Inside the case, there were Pumpkin Spice truffles and the Cinnamon Plum truffles I've talked about before. The four that I chose this time were Eggnog, Candy Cane Crunch, Gingerbread, and Peppermint Mocha.

Eggnog - While this isn't my first experience with eggnog chocolate, eggnog is one of the more difficult flavors to get across both well and pleasingly in chocolate. This truffle has the plainer look of these four, built around an angled shape with a light spray of color on top. Instantly the flavor is warm with nutmeg and perhaps a dash of other spices, along with that a creamy, eggy flavor of Eggnog. The finish is light chocolate: the ganache here is lighter, therefore the overall feel of this truffle is almost more like milk chocolate than dark. It isn't exactly sweeter; it's just that it isn't so dark and again, it has that creamy feeling. So having both the heavy cream feel and the flavors of the spices, this truffle gets across that unique Eggnog experience.

Candy Cane Crunch - A circle-shaped truffle with a pattern of candy canes on top, this one quickly delivers candy cane flavor, even before you're done biting in. Not just a mint or peppermint flavor, but specifically a candy cane flavor. The taste is different than just a general mint feel; maybe it's mingled more with the taste of sugar. Either way, it's exactly the right flavor. A couple of little sugar candy pieces do reside inside the truffle, but they don't really give much crunch--which honestly doesn't detract from the experience at all. You get some creamy texture from the ganache that, even though it has a texture completely different from that of actual candy canes, somehow still feels exactly like candy canes. The candy cane flavor is strong like the candy but not strong like mint, and the dark chocolate adds a good flavor base that isn't too dark to please all palates.

Gingerbread - Another happy pattern here, this time on a thin square shape. Here you do need a second for the chocolate and the ganache to start to melt before you get all of the spices, which are primarily ginger but also a sense of cinnamon and cloves. I just mixed up a batch of gingerbread cookies that are waiting in the refrigerator to be rolled out, and the same scent that I got from that dough is what I find here in the flavors of this truffle. Instead of molasses, we have chocolate for the sweet and rich element.

Peppermint Mocha - A dusting of white over the square-with-a-coffee-bean-on-top shape creates a festive look reminiscent of Christmas cookies. The flavors come in with the following order: chocolate, coffee, then mint, and then cream. A peppermint mocha is primarily a sweet and creamy sort of beverage. I would say that this truffle is not quite so sweet as that; it also isn't so sweet as the Candy Cane Crunch. Possibly it isn't quite so creamy, either. But the coffee/peppermint flavor is balanced very much like in a peppermint mocha. The coffee seems strong but isn't really particularly strong; the peppermint stands slightly stronger. Again the chocolate here is the base, standing in for the other elements of a peppermint mocha. This truffle may in fact be the most chocolatey of the four I have today. It's bigger and taller than the others, so maybe there is just more chocolate in the shell.

Probably the Gingerbread was my personal favorite. I would, however, recommend all four of these truffles, whether for yourself or for a last minute gift. The candy cane crunch would be great for children, as well (or, you know, you could also get them one of those awesome dinosaurs). While all of these are classic Christmas/wintertime flavors, each one required a balance of individual flavor elements for everything to come across in a familiar and yet pleasing way. Happy Christmas, everyone.

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