Its a Wrap-per

Sharon Klein Graphic Design is pleased to announce that the new branding and chocolate packaging line designed for Ashanty Chocolates has begun production.

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The 4 flavors (2 dark, 2 milk) are each hand wrapped in gold foil, then a custom African inspired pattern, printed on cotton/silk fabric to create a very upscale impression.

Using secondary colors and large readable type, the labels contrast with the dark chocolaty colored background making them pop off the shelf. The bars will be sold at stores, green markets, online as well as corporate gifting in a branded mahogany box. 5% of profits from sales of the bars will go to a variety of causes.

 

 

 

 

 

Next project is applying the new branding to the rest of their product line of small bars, chocolate covered nuts, hot chocolate and a chocolate spread.

Sweet success!

Photo Credit: Takamasa Ota/otaphotography.com

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The Design of All Things

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In my day-to-day life I create graphic and digital designs, but when I really look — I see that design transcends all and applies to everything I do. Even cooking.

Before the holidays I attended an evening of chocolate decorating on the Upper West Side at Voilà Chocolat with the Harvard Women’s Club of NY. It was a chance to play and let your inner child out. Once you enrobed your truffle in dark melted chocolate you could be an artist, by adding toppings of your choice. We then took the balance of the chocolate left over and forged unique bars. I made mine look like an oversized cookie.

I got a compliment from the left, then I got a compliment from the right and a comment that I must have done this before (it was my first time). Then one of the assistants said he noticed I had designed an unusual topping combination he had never seen before.

The next step was packaging our delights in a sophisticated set up that looked extremely professional when completed; and Voila! — a gorgeous looking and tasting present to share.

I often take this all for granted, it’s what I do everyday, though now I realize it is a gift I possess and love to share with others.

Contact me with your creative project challenges — it will be fun and possibly very delicious.

The Spirit of Cacao Tasting

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This past Saturday was a bit cold and gloomy, but not inside Back Label Wine Merchants cozy back room. That is where 25 curious chocolate and spirits enthusiasts gathered to taste 8 new experiences from around the world. Mark Christian of the C-Spot and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund spoke about the chocolates and what makes them heirloom designation, Natasha Soto-Albors of BLWM explained her spirit choice pairings then I discussed the importance of packaging and its effects on why you purchase what you do and showcased the Heirloom Chocolate Series package Mark and I worked together on.

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Our line up was:

#1 Designation VII

Spirit — Tuthilltown Cassis Liqueur (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Maya Mountain, Belize / Barsmith: Brasstown (USA) / Cacáo-content: 70%

#2 Designation IX

Spirit — Bittermen’s Citron Sauvage (OR)

Chocolate —  Origin: Piedra de Plata, Ecuador / Barsmith: TO’aK (Ecuador) / Cacáo-content: 73%

#3 Designation II

Spirit — Catskills Provisions NY Honey Rye (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Beníano, Bolivia / Barsmith: Oialla (Denmark) / Cacáo-content: 78%

#4 Designation Preliminary

Spirit — Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum (LA)

Chocolate —  Origin: Purús, Brazil / Barsmith: Luisa Abram (Brazil) / Cacáo-content: 81%

My fave pairings in order were 3, 1, 4, 2.

One of the highlights was the chance to try the TO’aK sample disks from Ecuador. This bar at $300 a pop is the most expensive in the world. I was very curious to find out what makes it so special. I did like its very mature, grown up flavor, but as discussed earlier much of the hoopla is the cost of wonderful packaging and store presentation of the bar. Well done.

As a bonus, one of the guests, Glenn Petriello of Glennmade Craft Chocolates  gave out samples of his two heirloom chocolate bars whose beans originate from Belize and Ecuador. Glenn is a new bean to bar producer in Hoboken “yeah” and has 6 single origin dark chocolates in his line.

There were many lively questions and discussions and was so much fun that when it was over no one wanted to leave, but eventually we had to go ;-(

The quote of the day from our package “Save the Earth: It’s the only planet with chocolate”.

“Look ma, no PGPR”

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I actually can’t remember the last time I ate a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. It could be 15 years ago and around the time I began my love affair with dark chocolate. Though it is possible my first taste of “dark chocolate” was when I tried the Hershey’s version. I didn’t buy another bar, but that led me to broaden my horizons and discover Belgian dark chocolate.

Back then I also didn’t think too much about ingredients, I was somewhat conscious  — more than the average person. Now I am interested in what I consume for health reasons and also because my body has become far more sensitive to additives and white sugar.

Nielsen (who studies consumers in more than 100 countries to give the most complete view of trends and habits worldwide) says the current trend is towards cleaner, simpler ingredients in our foods and more transparency in the labeling. “Artificial is out, many of us avoid foods with long lists of ingredients, and consumers are intent on removing the bad and adding the good. A majority of global respondents say that when it comes to ingredient trends, a back-to-basics mind-set, focused on simple ingredients and fewer artificial or processed foods, is a priority. In fact 75% of global respondents say they’re worried about the long-term impact of artificial ingredients. 68% strongly or somewhat agree they’re willing to pay more for foods and drinks that don’t contain undesirable ingredients.”

I remember noticing a strange ingredient PGPR on the Hershey label a couple of years ago and wondered what it meant and whether it was used in other chocolate candy products. Seemed to just wiggle it’s way in. When I asked an expert, I was told that the ingredient was “very” not so good for you. Hmmmm. By using it in their formulation Hershey’s was able to add less cocoa butter (an expensive ingredient) and then sell that same cocoa butter to the cosmetic industry and make an even larger profit.

For this blog I did two things; take took a look at a current bar’s ingredients and finally read up on PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate). I was pleasantly surprised to see the new label shows a simpler ingredient list and the absence of PGPR. Interestingly, Hershey’s website now has sections about transparency and what’s inside their products.

Today’s bean to bar dark chocolate crafters very often use only one to two ingredients; cacao and some form of sugar. That is all you really need to create an amazing tasting bar.

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Below is the Wikipedia description of PGPR and it rings pretty true to what I originally heard. The main ingredient being Glycerol.

Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR), E476, is an emulsifier made from glycerol and fatty acids (usually from castor bean, but also from soybean oil). In chocolate, compound chocolate and similar coatings, PGPR is mainly used with another substance like lecithin[2] to reduce viscosity. It is used at low levels (below 0.5%),[3][4] and works by decreasing the friction between the solid particles (e.g. cacao, sugar, milk) in molten chocolate, reducing the yield stress so that it flows more easily, approaching the behaviour of a Newtonian fluid.[4] It can also be used as an emulsifier in spreads and in salad dressings,[5] or to improve the texture of baked goods.[5] It is made up of a short chain of glycerol molecules connected by ether bonds, with ricinoleic acid side chains connected by ester bonds.PGPR is a yellowish, viscous liquid, and is strongly lipophilic: it is soluble in fats and oils and insoluble in water and ethanol.[3]

Manufacture: Glycerol is heated to above 200 °C in a reactor in the presence of an alkaline catalyst to create polyglycerol. Castor oil fatty acids are separately heated to above 200 °C, to create interesterified ricinoleic fatty acids. The polyglycerol and the interesterified ricinoleic fatty acids are then mixed to create PGPR.[6]

Use in chocolate: Because PGPR improves the flow characteristics of chocolate and compound chocolate, especially near the melting point, it can improve the efficiency of chocolate coating processes: chocolate coatings with PGPR flow better around shapes of enrobed and dipped products,[7][8] and it also improves the performance of equipment used to produce solid molded products:[8] the chocolate flows better into the mold, and surrounds inclusions and releases trapped air more easily.[2] PGPR can also be used to reduce the quantity of cocoa butter needed in chocolate formulations: the solid particles in chocolate are suspended in the cocoa butter, and by reducing the viscosity of the chocolate, less cocoa butter is required,[2] which saves costs, because cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient, and also leads to a lower-fat product.[9]

Safety: The FDA has deemed PGPR to be Generally recognized as safe for human consumption,[1] and JECFA[3] has also confirmed its safety. Both of these organizations set the acceptable daily intake at 7.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. In Europe, PGPR is allowed in chocolate up to a level of 0.5%.[3] Short-term studies on rats and chickens showed reversible liver enlargement as a result of higher doses of PGPR, but those were deemed a result of increased hepatic (liver) workload.[10] In India, PGPR is allowed in specific products e.g. Gums. In a 1998 review funded by Unilever of safety evaluations from the late 1950s and early 1960s, “PGPR was found to be 98% digested by rats and utilized as a source of energy superior to starch and nearly equivalent to groundnut oil.”[11] Additionally, no evidence was found of interference with normal fat metabolism, nor with growth, reproduction, and maintenance of tissue. Overall, it did not “constitute a human health hazard.”[11]

A Taste for Chocolate

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I recently attended my first Underground Chocolate Salon by Megan Giller of Chocolate Noise at Voilà Chocolat. Voilà is a unique experience on the Upper West Side where you can make your own truffles, bars and mendiants, etc. in dark, milk or white chocolate and get creative with toppings.

Megan is a food/chocolate writer I met at the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP) tasting a few months ago. She has fallen in love with chocolate and invited a group of eleven of us to sample some dark chocolates from around the world made with beans from either Peru or the Dominican Republic. She also recommended a book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum, which ended up on my tasting notes near the roasted beans and the caramelized cocoa nib.

The interesting part of the evening for me was that numerous attendees photographed my tasting notes, which consisted of two small napkins side by side with scribbles and a bite of each chocolate.

I was told that my set up was unique and very organized. The designer in me always comes out in mysterious ways.

After an hour and a half of laughing, tasting and discussing we unanimously chose:

Chocolarder of Cornwall, England – Asháninka 70% from Ene River Valley, Peru

Confusing name for a terrific bar, lucky for them I don’t care what they are called. You can see in the photo their bar has the ultimate glossy shine to it.

Our unanimous loser was:

Hexx – 70% Marañon Peru, made in Las Vegas

And squarely in the middle:

Valrhona – 70% Noir Andoa Peru, made in France

The other makers were:

Wellington Chocolate Factory – 70% Dominican Republic, made in New Zealand

Maraná – 70% Piura Peru, made in Peru

Cool to compare the lighter color of this bar against the Dominican Republic bars.

Dandelion Chocolate – 70% Zorzal, Dominican Republic, made in San Francisco

Fresco – 72% Dominican Republic, made in Washington State

ChocoMuseo – Caramelized Cocoa Nibs, made in Peru

 

What‘s an Heirloom Chocolate?

… and how do you brand it?

In simple terms it’s the highest quality, most flavorful cacao sourced from around the world that chocolate can be made from.

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Our design journey began by creating a fair number of versions with the direction to incorporate a monkey image because most of the cacao comes from the Central and South American rain forest regions — plus they’re cute.

After further discussions with the organization they determined it was paramount to incorporate into the icon the people involved in the cacao process —the farmer as well as the person who buys this special chocolate. The equal importance of the cacao pods on the tree was accomplished by making them oversized and multi-colored as they grow in nature.

The larger design is the final inspirational icon and logo created for the non-profit Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP), a 501(c)(3) organization that works closely with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. It will be used in many forms but mostly to promote on chocolate packaging.

The HCP collaborates with the USDA and together with chocolate industry professionals, chocolate makers, farmers, and chocolate enthusiasts are determined to save the quickly diminishing Theobroma cacao trees that produce the most flavorful chocolate and certify the farmers who grow them and help them receive higher, more consistent prices.

An alternate version of the logo in vertical format within a shield shape, will be placed on all packaging utilizing Heirloom beans designated by the HCP.

We also are consulting with them on their event materials, on-line newsletter and website — see more here.

The Search for the 1% of 100% Chocolate

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It was about 15 years ago when I was first introduced to dark chocolate. Like most of the world I thought a Hershey’s bars was chocolate, and once tried their “Dark” version to see how it tasted — not so good. I started calling myself a chocoholic and everyone knew I loved and ate some every day, expounding that because of the flavonoids, it was health food.

Time went on and I tried darker and darker, higher cocoa content bars up to 80% and began to recognize that there were flavor differences. I started to hear the term “single origin” beans and understand there were many varieties of cocoa trees, pods and that the taste depended on where the beans were sourced from around the world. An 80% chocolate bar means that 20% of the make up is sugar and possibly other fillers, 70% has 30% sugar — you can figure the rest.

Then 3 years ago I began to struggle with eating white sugar and cut all manufactured sweets out of my system, along with my beloved chocolate. I never thought I could live without it. To compensate, I started making shakes incorporating 100% cocoa and fruit juice for breakfast each morning, keeping chocolate and its health benefits in my life.

Oh joy, I recently started eating chocolate again, but mostly 85% cocoa content and above. So thus began my quest to find 100% chocolate bars that were truly edible and enjoyable, joining the ranks of the 1% who like it.

I’ve only been at this a short while — guided by experts like Mark Christian of the C-Spot and Lisa Ainbinder of 2 Beans and my current picks of 80% + I’ll share with you …

Oialla 100% by Bojesen, Akesson’s 100%, Pralus 100%, Taza Wicked Dark 95%, Guittard Nocturne 91%, Cacao Sampaka 91%, Du Rhone 85%, Madecasse 80%

I’m also including a sugarless frozen dessert made with an optional drizzle of mixed 85-100% chocolates on top — a treat for the senses.

Sugarless Macadamia Nut Frozen Bars

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted, macadamia nuts
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 3500 F

Toast the coconut flakes till lightly browned for 4 minutes.

Line 8×8″ pan with parchment paper. (If you use a plastic container you do not need the parchment paper.)

Process the macadamia nuts and coconut oil in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Add coconut and chia seeds and pulse a few times.

Pour the batter into pan and sprinkle with the salt.

Place pan in freezer for at least 30 minutes. (I make initial cut marks after 15 minutes while it’s still pliable.)

Cut into bars.

Store in freezer.

Chocoholic version

Melt a few pieces of a mix of 75, 85 and 90-100% chocolate and drizzle over squares. Yum!!!