Let’s take a Deep Dive Into the World of Chocolate
By Keri McWhorter
Yes, that’s right, chocolate! I’m not a chocolatier, confectioner, or professional chocolate taster. I haven’t traveled the world in search of the best; I just simply LOVE chocolate. And because of my obsession, I have tried a lot of different kinds.
As a young child, I lived out in the farmlands of South Chandler, in the heart of Arizona, so as a treat, every once in a while, my Dad would load me and my siblings up in the back of the truck and take us into town. The closest store was a Circle K. My two brothers and sister would spend several minutes debating the best choice, narrowing down the possibilities, asking what each other thought.
No matter what new candy was present, or donut or Icee flavor, I would choose some kind of chocolate: Hershey bar, Snickers, Kit Kat, Nestle Crunch. For me, there was no favorite, nor one less delicious than the other. I simply ended up with chocolate.
Now we skip to a few years later (cough, cough), and I still love it!!
I have never been opposed to trying any kind of chocolate. I love dark, white, and milk, plain, with nuts, and fruit. I will try almost anything when it’s combined with a chocolate confection.
So now, let’s talk favorites. (I have more than a few.)
Easy to Find Favorites
First, let’s talk less expensive. Yes, I have chocolate I like to ask for or buy for myself on a special occasion. But sometimes you just want a little bite of chocolate, and paying the big bucks doesn’t make sense. A milk chocolate HERSHEY’S KISS can hit the spot. I love to keep them in the freezer. Yes, you read that correctly. Do you know anyone who freezes their chocolate? I had a good friend a long time ago who introduced me to freezing chocolate. I don’t do that with everything, but a chocolate kiss tastes better to me when frozen. Part of it might be because it takes longer to melt in your mouth. Sometimes things melt faster here in Arizona, so if I can make chocolate last a little longer, I will.
Or what about a few PEANUT M&M’S? Chocolate and peanuts?! Perfection!
Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a SNICKERS – creamy nougat mixed with caramel and peanuts. Delicious!
Peanut butter is also a very popular item to accompany chocolate. REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS have a perfect combination of saltiness that balances out the sweetness of the chocolate and peanut butter.
DOVE MILK CHOCOLATE and DOVE DARK CHOCOLATE are classic favorites for me, amazing for individual reasons, and a perfect go-to for any occasion. The milk chocolate is creamy and sweet without being overpowering. Dove uses real milk, giving it a creamier texture. The dark is less sweet and has a richer taste.
I recently discovered DOVE MILK AND DARK SWIRL. For someone who loves both, this is the PERFECT combination. This is seasonal and comes out in January, so grab a few bags to have on hand.
Lindt. Oh, how I LOVE so many Lindt truffles. But there are three that have stolen my heart, or maybe I should say stomach. STRAWBERRY DARK CHOCOLATE, which is also seasonal around Valentine’s Day. This truffle (which resembles a chocolate-covered strawberry) will melt in your mouth. The strawberry cream is light and fresh.
ORANGE TRUFFLES are seasonal to springtime. I could compare them to those orange slice jelly candies covered in chocolate. If you love oranges, this will not disappoint.
Last but not least of the Lindt truffles (and usually my most favorite) is LINDT DARK 70%. The cocoa flavoring in this dark one is divine. It melts in your mouth and takes you to another world. It is not bitter in any way and is mildly sweet. I think it is safe to say I have a type: not too bitter and not too sweet.
Now, let’s talk candy stores. They can be more expensive, but it’s so enjoyable to see all the different flavors and combinations they have to offer.
SEE’S CANDIES is a fun place to visit! A tray of samples always greets you, and it’s hard to pass that up. I have loved trying all they have to offer, but my favorite by far is CARAMEL. Chocolate-covered caramel with almonds, to be specific. I am never sad about that choice. The caramel is just the right texture that doesn’t break your teeth, and the flavors mix together with a nutty and chocolatey perfection.
Do you have a See’s favorite? Or a chocolate store you love to visit?
Have you heard of SWEETIES CANDY? This is a candy store located in Chandler, Arizona. They have it all. A huge storehouse filled with candies that are hard to find and some that are available anywhere. Three aisles of this big store are dedicated strictly to chocolate! I visited this store on Valentine’s Day and decided on a STRAWBERRY DARK CHOCOLATE KIT KAT DUO. Delicious!! A crispy chocolate-covered strawberry felt appropriate for the occasion. In other stores, this is available seasonally, while here, it is available year-round. If you have a specific treat you love and can only find certain times of the year, a specialty store might be a good place to look.
Specialty Grocery Stores
For different holidays, I think it’s fun to try something new. I found myself at AJ’s Fine Foods for my birthday a few years back. If you haven’t been there, they have a good selection of chocolates from around the world. Each bar is around the $5 mark, so I don’t make it a frequent stop. But this is the place I discovered one of my most favorite types of chocolate.
On this specific visit, I found a small box on the top shelf, a yellow jacketed bar with the name SCHARFFEN BERGER on the front. For the sake of the fun name and that it reminded me of something the Swedish chef would say on The Muppets Show, I decided to try the EXTRA RICH MILK bar. It’s rich and creamy with hints of caramel and cocoa. I wasn’t super impressed at first bite, but as the chocolate melted down my throat, I was hooked. The flavor coats and lingers. So, now I stash SCHARFFEN BERGER bars deep into the shelves of my closet for special occasions. (I’m eating some right now, as writing about chocolate is a very special occasion.)
Recently, I visited AJ’s Fine Foods to grab some chocolate for my husband. His name is Mack, and I discovered MACKIES OF SCOTLAND. It was a no-brainer! I had to get it for him. I chose a MACKIES MILK CHOCOLATE and an ORANGE MILK CHOCOLATE. He loved them! (And so did I.) These might just be added to my new favorites list. The milk chocolate is super creamy, and the orange bar has an added zing of orange and honeycomb crunch.
World Market has a huge variety of chocolate and candies from all over the world. There are so many choices and really, you could pick a different part of the world to try every time you visit the store. I highly recommend the ICELANDIC CHOCOLATE, TRADITIONAL 33% milk chocolate toffee with sea salt. It’s so creamy, with a hint of salt and tiny pieces of toffee throughout that add the perfect crunch. And SUGAR PLUM CHOCOLATES makes a fun flavor you should try: PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY. It was fun and different. The flavors were more subtle than I thought they would be. I would describe it as a very high-end peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Very worth the try.
I haven’t ever tried to make my own chocolate, but my family does love to make cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are our favorite. Here is a family recipe that my dad and my daughter, Brooklyn, have perfected together after trying several recipes over the last few years. My mom, who was raised in the south, may not like that I’m sharing this recipe, so, please keep it to yourself (wink, wink).
BROOPA’S (The name Brooklyn and Papa together)
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet) or 1 ½ cups M&M’s plain candies
Preheat oven to 350
Beat sugars and butter in a large bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and eggs, flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in chocolate chips and/or candies. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough about two inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake until the edges are light brown, approximately 8 to 11 minutes.
Chocolate is a fantastic way to celebrate many occasions in life. No matter the reason, it can bring us closer together, help bring laughter, joy, even heal heartache, and make rough days seem a little better. Hopefully, you can find some great reasons to share chocolate with someone you love.
Now, that I’ve overwhelmed you with lots of chocolate to try, I would love to hear from you. I am always on the lookout for something new. Tell me in the comments where to find your favorites.
Keri McWhorter is a proud wife and mom, dog lover, published author, and marketing assistant at Lawley Publishing.