Of the over one thousand bars of chocolate I’ve either formally reviewed or consumed purely for the enjoyment I think Mast Brothers win hands down when it comes to its packaging and are certainly ‘right up there’ when it comes to flavour. So I thought as I’ve been reviewing far too much seasonal chocolate that it was about time that I tried some proper, artisanal chocolate and what better than try some truly indulgent black truffle chocolate?
Just going back over the packaging, if anyone has seen the inside of a truffle of the fungal kind you’ll know that it has a pattern similar to the appearance of the inside of a brain, and the wallpaper-style packaging for this bar strongly reminds me of that. The swirls with white and cream form somewhat of a hypnotic pattern and sets the scene for a very unique chocolate experience and is a much more suitable design than the previous.
When I unwrapped it from the inner foil the bar did look incredibly dark – it was almost black. But what I also noticed was how uneven it was. At the outer edges of the bar, the chocolate was 9mm thick whilst in the centre it’s just 4mm. Of course the Mast Brothers chocolate making process is far from being as laser-guided, automated or as costly as that of the Thorntons kind (see the photos from my recent tour) – it’s far more low key than that. But I wonder how this bar wasn’t as full as the others from that batch – Al from the Chocolate Society has confirmed the others are the correct weight? I’m not going to complain, people choose artisan purely because it handmade, and with that you get errors. It’s not like the fingernail I found in a tube of Smarties once. This sort of irregularity I can live with.
Visually the bar had an immense shine, it was almost as if I was looking at black porcelain from a Victorian public house hallway or a vintage GPO telephone that I remember from All Creatures Great and Small. There were small striations and pot-marking on the surface, but this, again gave an indication of the less than fully automated processes the brothers use.
It’s a brave man, or men that adulterate the wonderful flavours of fine cacao (I expect that this bar is made with their Dominican Republic cacao from the La Red de Guaconejo co-opertive) with either truffle or salt. What’s Cooking America exclaims: “Truffles are the culinary equivalent of sex. You love them or you don’t” – which confused the hell out of me. But feeling undeterred I ventured on and tried the chocolate.
Perhaps my senses are still thinking about the sex connotation, but I didn’t really pick up much of a truffle aroma. I found it was pretty hard to put the acidic aroma, which was enhanced with the sea salt from Maine, aside and actually hone in on anything else. Perhaps the Oregon black truffles are fully intended to be mute and largely indistinguishable from the core dark chocolate flavours. The main factor to be considered is that I found it immensely engaging. There was no flowery niceness, no platitudes and no frilly politeness – it was pleasantly rambunctious – picture a good, old knees up fuelled by fine wine and great food.
I dare you to let a little melt on your tongue and push it up against your teeth. The flavours are almost tear-inducing. What seems to be a muddle of tones when it comes to the aroma is magnificently exposed like a spectrometer when forced to. There is cedarwood, smoke, cherries, mustiness, sweet and sour and just a whole heap of beautiful acidity – all clearly separated and playing in concert.
I feel that far too often cacao is abused my manufacturer. Left to play with cane sugar and a dash something extra in the form of the black truffles you’re able to see the true wonder of the bean. Far too often people have mass-produce rubbish forced upon them by society. Some people are brave enough to rebel the overtures of marketeers and decide that nature knows best – when coaxed by artists you can be rewarded by something as magnificent as this bar. Although some may consider that it is either enhanced or distracted by the other ingredients, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Mast Brothers make exemplary chocolate. And that’s all you need to know.