D is for Donkey Milk

After tasting camel milk chocolate last week, I was expecting this week’s bar to be funky and gamey. I was in for a surprise!

Honestly, I have never really thought about donkey’s milk before aside from hearing that that Cleopatra used to bathe in it daily as part of her beauty regimen and that Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister also used the milk for skincare (as it was thought to remove wrinkles and make the skin whiter). However, did you know that donkey’s milk is the closest to human milk in nutritional value and is often used as a substitute around the world for infants to build their immune systems? Hippocrates, the “father” of medicine, was the first to write about the benefits in ancient Greece and would prescribe it to cure various ailments. According to the packaging, donkey’s milk is rich in lactose, but poor in whey protein.

Speaking of the packaging for this bar, it is nearly identical to last week’s bar, aside from the name of the product: Cioccolato al latte d’asina.

The classic Domori white, maroon and gold are used on the exterior with the interior foil repeating the color scheme and company logo design.

This particular bar wasn’t available locally, so I had to order it from Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli in Utah. Somewhere along the way, the thin bar became segmented in half and this might have caused some of the chocolate “dust” that slightly marred the overall surface of the square bar.

My initial sniffs of the chocolate resulted in an aroma I couldn’t really articulate. My scribbled notes say: salty? / smells like a grain or leaves or an herb. Later in the day, I read a review describing the scent as chamomile flowers and that sounds about right.

Perhaps due to the width of the bar, breaking one of the two mini squares in half resulted in a brittle snap. The flavor reminded me of hazelnuts and was sweet with notes of honey, caramel or butter. I found that the morsel melted evenly, though not too quickly, on the tongue. Overall, the mouthfeel wasn’t entirely smooth and felt a little abrasive after a couple of tastings. I noticed a lightly grassy, but not unpleasant, aftertaste that lingered briefly. For 22.5% donkey milk, this was a very mild and palatable chocolate, but perhaps that was also due to the intrinsic characteristics of the criollo cacao that was used.

Sources say that a lactating donkey typically produces less than 2 liters of milk per day (whereas a cow can produce 30-40 liters per day), so you can imagine that the market for this type of milk is small. I’m not sure where Domori sources their milk, but I’ve read that there is a donkey farm in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and that country was the first to put this milk on the market.

So, if you are ready for a taste adventure, but a little apprehensive about eating a non-cow’s milk chocolate, this might be the way to go!

To find out more about Domori, please check out: http://www.domori.com/en/

C is for Camel Milk

Forgive me, but I just couldn’t resist the pun of featuring camel milk chocolate bars on a “hump day”! 🙂

In the past I’ve tried sheep’s milk and goat’s milk chocolate bars, so when I saw a picture of Domori’s camel milk bar on Instagram, I knew I had to add that to my tasting repertoire! Luckily, I was able to find a bar at a local shop, but honestly I was a little hesitant to try it right away! Then, by chance a few months later, I read an article in the AAA Westways magazine about an upcoming opportunity to feed apples to camels during an open house day at a dairy farm in Ramona, CA, which also happened to sell chocolate bars from Dubai maker Al Nassma.

After interacting with these endearingly sweet animals and acquiring a couple of flavored bars, now I had the incentive to wait for “round 2” of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project to feature this exotic “inclusion” ingredient.

Until researching the brand, I didn’t know that Al Nassma became the world’s first producer of camel milk chocolate in 2008, hoping to be the “Godiva of the Middle East” (making reference to the well-known Belgian chocolatier). At first, Al Nassma’s products were only available in Dubai; but, when they expanded their sales internationally in 2009, Chocolate Covered San Francisco was one of the only places in the United States that sold their chocolates. I’m not sure if the production process has changed since 2009, but articles from that year mentioned that freeze-dried camel milk was being airlifted from the Dubai Camelicious Farm to their Austrian chocolate maker partner (Manner AG) so that chocolate mass could be produced and shipped back to their Dubai facility where additional ingredients were mixed in before the bars were molded and packaged.

Speaking of the packaging, each of the Al Nassma bars depicts a camel standing on a sand dune with the sun in the background as well as a visual hint of the additional ingredients flavoring the bar. The brown and red earth tones blend nicely with spot embossing and the gold leaf accents.

First up is the “Arabia” bar. Though the packaging doesn’t specifically describe the “spice blend,” the graphic on the front appears to include green cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

For this particular bar, the gold foil inner wrapper was folded with the outer paper wrapper such that you couldn’t slip the bar out easily.

This gave me the opportunity to fully remove the bar and admire the inside of the paper wrapper which sported offset rows of the company logo: the silhouette of a camel standing under a single palm tree.

The bar is quite dense and thick, so segmenting the pieces took a little effort, resulting in a woody snap. The image embossed into 5 of the bar’s rectangles calls to mind a wind swept desert floor. According to the company’s website, “al nassma” refers to a seasonal cooling breeze which provides respite to the people of the desert.

You can see tiny black flecks throughout the bar, which makes me think that black pepper might have been used as one of the spices. Overall, the aroma reminded me of sweet cream or butter caramel. The morsel melted slowly on the tongue and produced a thick, not smooth, almost waxy mouthfeel. Despite there being 21% camel milk in this bar, I couldn’t tell that this was made with an unusual milk product. Disappointingly, this bar lacked depth of flavor and was a little too sweet for my taste. Of the three, this was my least favorite.

Next was the “Macadamia-Orange” bar, which slipped out nicely from the outer sleeve. Similar to the inside of the paper wrapper, the gold foil has rows upon rows of embossed camel logos.

Here is a close up of the gold foil:

Removing the thick bar from the packaging, you could already see the inclusion ingredients bursting out from the back of the bar.

While it was equally difficult to segment, this bar had an enticing orange oil aroma which reminded me of marmalade.

With a brittle snap, you could immediately see medium sized chunks of macadamia nuts and candied orange zest. This bar was not as sweet as the Arabia bar and was also slow on the melt, though it was more creamy than waxy. Again, despite 19% camel milk, I could not tell that this was made with an exotic milk. It is the most palatable of the three bars that I tried. With this bar you can brag about eating camel milk chocolate without it tasting that way!

Last, but not least, is a limited edition Cacao Criollo 45% bar (with 22% camel milk) – cioccolato al latte di dromedaria

I’m not sure where Italian bean-to-bar chocolate maker Domori sources their camel milk since this bar is no longer listed on their website and the packaging doesn’t list the origin.

Domori’s elegantly simple square box has gold embossed accents on all six surfaces and textured thick cardboard. The gold and maroon color theme extends even to the sealed pouch inside the box.

Inside the pouch is a thin bar made up of 4 easily segmentable squares that produced a sharp snap.

Upon opening the packaging, I could immediately smell a grassy, tangy (almost sour milk) aroma. This chocolate is silky smooth, creamy, lightly salty with a touch of caramel sweetness…but it tastes like it smells and there is no mistaking that this is not cow’s milk! This one also has a thicker mouthfeel on the melt, but it was not waxy like the Al Nassma bars.

Special note: During my initial taste yesterday, I sampled the bars in reverse order than how I listed them above: I started with the most intensely “camel” flavored bar and progressed to the least flavored one. So, this morning, I went through a “second pass” (re-tasting all three bars) in the order listed in this post, while palate cleansing between bars with stale corn tortilla chips. In case you were curious, my first impressions didn’t change the second time around.

On a whim, just now I decided to taste this bar side-by-side with the Mast Brothers’ goat and sheep milk bars. If it helps, I’d say that camel tastes more like sheep than it does goat. I have to confess that this wasn’t the first time for me trying the Domori camel milk bar. My first time was as part of Chocolate Noise’s underground chocolate salon in Seattle after the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November. Here is a link to Megan’s post describing the tasting (scroll down toward the end of the article for the camel bar): http://www.chocolatenoise.com/chocolate-today/#/notes-from-the-underground-chocolate-salon-4/

Stay tuned next week when I try Domori’s donkey milk bar for “D” week! I’ve heard that the FDA classified milk to include reindeer, moose, llama and even buffalo…wonder if I can find any of those for this project?! :0

For more information on the chocolates I tried, check out:

Al Nassma http://www.al-nassma.com/

Domori http://www.domori.com/en/