Shawn Askinosie, best American chocolate-maker, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion).
My favorite American chocolate maker, Shawn Askinosie (see an earlier commentary on Shawn’s chocolates at http://www.napaman.com/napamancom/chocolate ), has just hit the ball out of the park again with several new chocolate treats.
Just when you thought chocolate couldn’t get any better, or more intense, Shawn figured out a way to top himself. The Springfield, MO, chocolate-maker has just introduced three new WHITE chocolate bars and a stunning, do-not-pass-GO-until-you-try-this-bar shortbread, enrobed in his killer, single-origin chocolate.
I caught up with Shawn when he was in San Francisco for the Slow Food Movement’s first-ever exhibition. At a breakfast rendezvous, he offered me his chocolate-enrobed shortbread and breakfast hasn’t been the same since.
Aski-noshie Chocolate Bar
Cleverly called the Aski-noshie Bar, this is a small shortbread biscuit that is studded with crunchy, unsweetened cacao nibs; the shortbread is topped with an almost fudge-y layer of oozy, runny, gooey caramel, the whole thing is then enrobed in Shawn’s single-origin chocolate. The bite-sized “bar” has a long, lingering dark chocolate and caramel finish. In the parlance of a wine-writer, this is a 96-pointer.
Available online at www.askinosie.com for $6.75 for a packet of two miniature bars. Don’t be surprised or disappointed – these are tiny bars about 25-grams each.
Shawn has also just launched America’s first-ever, single-origin, white chocolate; he has taken his revered cacao beans from Soconusco, in Mexico, removed the cocoa butter and used it to blend three types of white tablets, or “bars.”
Askinosie Soconusco White Chocolate Bar
I have never been a big fan of white chocolate as most versions are waxy, lacking flavor as well as complexity. They also mostly fail to do what real chocolate does – which is give you a flavor hit, telling your palate that you’ve just had a piece of stunning good chocolate.
But Shawn has done a pretty good job of changing my opinion. He keeps his Mexican single-origin cacao beans separate from other beans he imports, extracts the cocoa butter, then works the mass for several days, gently heating it, blending it, and finally molding it into 85-gram bars.
One of the reasons this bar has real flavor is that Shawn does not “deodorize” the cocoa butter; most commercial manufacturers of white chocolate try to stem rancidity by removing any flavors, which might go stale over time. As Shawn’s cocoa butter is pure and not adulterated, or “deodorized,” it adds a natural, somewhat nutty flavor to the end product.
The cocoa butter content of this bar is 34 percent, another reason you actually can taste the core ingredient. When asked, Shawn said that he does not know of any other white chocolate – anywhere in the world – with a higher percentage of cocoa butter.
These bars are not snow white; they have a slight tan-ish cast. They contain no additives, no preservatives. The cocoa butter is blended with organic cane juice (for sweetener) and instead of opting for just any old milk solids, Shawn uses goat’s milk powder. He says they tried different types of dairy powders, but found that goat’s milk powder made the tastiest end product. “Goat’s milk powder imparts a malted, caramel flavor, which we really like,” says Shawn.
FYI: The Food and Drug Administration’s standard for white chocolate requires a minimum 20 percent cocoa butter for a product to be called “white chocolate.” Shawn breezes by this requirement with his 34 percent. The FDA standard also requires a minimum of 14 percent milk solids with a minimum of 3.5 percent milk fat. Shawn opted for goat’s milk – to be different from other products in the market, but also because it imparts great flavor to the finished bars.
The basic Askinosie White Chocolate bar is soft in texture, has no artificial taste, and is not waxy; it is slightly creamy, and if you close your eyes when you take a bite, has an almost milk chocolate-like finish. 90 points.
Askinosie Soconusco White Chocolate Nibble Bar with Cacao Nibs
I like this version even better. The crunchy, unsweetened cacao nibs add a huge textural and flavor boost. The nibs provide a rich counterpoint to the otherwise dreamy, creamy complexion of the basic bar. This is my favorite of Shawn’s three white chocolates. 93 points.
Askinosie Soconusco White Chocolate Bar with Pistachio
As yet another alternative, Shawn has replaced the cacao bits in the bar with lots of chopped, salted pistachios. The green-ness of the nuts, their inherent saltiness, and the flavors and texture they introduce, make this my second favorite bar of the threesome. 91 points.
Each of the White Chocolate bars is $10.50, available online at www.askinoise.com.