With the New Year comes a new “theme” for the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet blog. In 2017, I plan to alphabetically feature unusual or unique “inclusion” ingredients (meaning stuff that gets included with the chocolate). Last year I limited myself to only new-to-me chocolatiers and chocolate makers, but this year all brands are fair game! While I might not be able to stick to the “one post a week” schedule due to the availability of some letters (I’m currently stumped with “X” – so let me know if you have any recommendations), I’ll still try to post as often as possible.
To start off the alphabet, I’m featuring an Amaranth Crunch 70% La Red Dominican Republic dark chocolate bar made by LetterPress Chocolate from my hometown of Los Angeles, California.
According to Wikipedia, it is thought that amaranth represented 80% the Aztecs’ caloric consumption prior to the Spanish conquest. Even though this seed has been around for thousands of years, it’s only started to recently gain popularity since it can be eaten by those with gluten intolerance. Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, iron and more.
David and Corey Menkes started a chocolate blog in 2012 called “Little Brown Squares” where they would feature bean-to-bar makers. According to their website, after they attended the Northwest Chocolate Festival and discovered that there were no bean-to-bar makers in the Los Angeles area, they made it their mission to change that and founded LetterPress Chocolate in 2014. Since they launched their company, I’ve had the opportunity to meet them at different pop-up events + at the 2016 Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. They are passionate about sourcing the best cacao beans from around the world and are very friendly and knowledgeable. Here is an article from April 2016 that provides more information about their small batch production set-up at that time: http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/some-of-las-best-chocolate-comes-from-a-living-room-in-beverlywood-6806732
One of the first things that you notice about their bars is the distinctive logo which was inspired by vintage air mail stamps.
Their custom-designed logo features an airplane and some cacao pods.
This particular paper label is an older version since they have recently switched to a much more eye-catching gold foil stamped and letterpress embossed thicker packaging. My only complaint was that the paper “sleeve” seemed to be affixed to the silver foil and I was unable to simply slip the hand-wrapped bar out easily…akin to being thwarted in quickly opening a present due to the item being taped to the wrapping paper. I’m glad that the adhesive was minimal and flexible so that I could open the wrapper without damaging the label or the foil.
Even before fully unwrapping the bar, I could already smell the darkly roasted cacao which made me think of coffee, which isn’t a flavor that I particularly enjoy.
The 24-rectangle bar had a flawless finish on the front, neither shiny/glossy nor dull matte (not sure if the correct term for that would be “satin”?)
Flipping the bar over, you can see that the entire back surface is covered in tiny bumps from the air-puffed amaranth seeds.
Segmenting a couple of tasting morsels, there is a sharp snap and an earthy aroma.
While most people suggest savoring chocolate by melting it on your tongue, I’m a proponent of “chomping” (chewing) this bar, otherwise you would completely miss the fun and enjoyment of hearing the crackling of the amaranth and the crunch of the delicate fleur de sel!
However, if you do choose to melt, you will be rewarded with a creamy mouthfeel and red berry sweetness with a slight back-of-the-throat tangy aftertaste. According to their website, it’s a grown up (and healthier) version of that certain crunch bar remembered from childhood.
To learn more and find where you can locate some of their bars for yourself, check out: http://www.letterpresschocolate.com/