Followers of Seventypercent will be no stranger to Amano chocolate. One of the new crop of US artisanal bean to bar chocolate makers, Amano have made a splash in the last few years with multiple awards from both sides of the Atlantic. Their chocolate is now well respected and from what we’ve tasted recently, continues to improve.
So what next for this small Utah chocolate maker? Well, like many of their longer established European counterparts, the second part of 2010 saw Amano produce their own bonbon confectionery line. This is a well trodden path, though often with mixed results. The confections of some of the more famous chocolate producing names tend to be bulk produced, overly sweet and often don’t do justice to their chocolate.
Amano have gone instead for small production, with an emphasis on freshness and quality. For this they’ve brought in a specialist chocolatier pastry chef from New York, Rebecca Millican as their master chocolatier.
The confections and truffles are all of course made with Amano’s own chocolate and are usually enrobed in the same chocolate as used for the filling – except where something different is called for by the recipe, e.g. a white chocolate coating.
The bonbons are on sale loose or boxed from Amano’s factory store in Orem, Utah, or can be bought online through their website or from selected stores in the US. Their fresh short shelf life nature makes it unlikely that they’ll be on sale outside of the US for now.
I was lucky to receive the Amano package just before Christmas – especially lucky given the usual North London postal chaos. The box was delivered to an office about twenty doors down, whose staff had to play postman to most of the high street. It seems that half a bag of local post was dumped on their doorstep.
The package was given to me while just on the way out in hunt of other deliveries – a lucky break, otherwise the box could have been sitting next to an office heater over the holidays.
A few days later I had to time to open the bonbon box. The selection inside was colourful, creating a splash for any would be gift receivers. The chocolates were well moulded, with good attention to details and capped off smoothly on the bottoms.
Art Pollard – Amano’s chocolate maker – told me that they’ve used a local cream for the ganaches. (Though he couldn’t give me names of the actual cows.) The cream gives a good full flavour with a slightly cooked taste, creating a ‘hot chocolate’ effect, most noticeable in the plain ganaches.
The general style is for a firm ganache, a little heavier than my personal taste, but the flavours are still delivered well enough and there are considerations such as shelf life to take into account for products sold online.
Dos Rios Palet d’Or
The aroma of this ganache is at once distinctive and unmistakable, just like the source chocolate – orange blossom/bergamot, lavender, rose, tea.
About 5 seconds into eating the full flavour of Amano’s Dos Rios hits the tongue: delicate rose water, lavender, a hint of mint. Then the cream comes in, warming up the flavours with a dusty chocolate effect while hitting some top notes of lime. The ending is delicate tea – less tannic than in the bar form, followed by a hint of salt.
I’ve always been a fan of Dos Rios (having had some involvement in its origin), but have found it be more of an ‘interesting’ chocolate rather than a bar to sit down and eat. I suspected though that the strength of Dos Rios as a chocolate would really show when it’s worked with in recipes, and this ganache really proves that.
Or put more simply, I could quite happily eat a whole box of these. Very good.
Guayas Palet d’Or
On first smelling the Guayas palet, there’s a chocolatey, ginger aroma. When cut, a more delicate cream cheese comes out.
On biting, a pleasant crunch from the shell combines well with the ganache – which as mentioned before is not at all runny.
The flavour is quite strong, with spicy raisin flavour, running into honey and cream and getting more delicate as we go – back to biscuit and ginger towards the end, with a warm spicy after-taste. After eating, the feeling is of having had a well made hot chocolate.
A nice journey and quite satisfying. This one went down very well.
Ocumare Palet D’Or
It’s not that often that the aroma of a bonbon is a significant factor, but as the featured origin palets are also enrobed in the chosen chocolate, then sniffing the bonbon is just as relevant as when trying a bar. In this case, it’s strong, full, wood, current, a little spice and tobacco and dark fruits – all the elements we’d expect from a chocolate made with Ocumare cacao.
The mould is a ‘double reverse wedge’ shape, so splitting the chocolate in half with a knife gives you two nicely shareable pieces. More fruit comes out of the aroma of the ganache, with a little more of a fermented head.
Once on the tongue, the flavour simply pours out, like an Islay whisky, peaty and toppy, until the cream kicks in and we’re into a pleasant black forest gateau – full forest fruits and cream.
The after flavour is very correct – chocolate and fruit, no deviations. Actually makes you want to sit and enjoy even just a small piece for several minutes.
Not sure if there’s something genetic here, but Ocumare always makes me happy. This ganache does it in spades. Eat it slow for maximum effect!
(A side note here – eat chocolate too fast, and it will generally seem more tannic if it is a tannic bean. This is something we’ve discovered from our ‘melt or munch’ test, as featured in our workshops. Let this ganache melt slowly and you will be rewarded with a creamy chocolate fruit hit at the end. Go too fast, and while it will still be good, it will appear tannic at the end. Definitely ‘melt only’ for Ocumare!)
Yemeni Sidr Honey with Guayas chocolate
This honey ganache comes in a lightly sprayed polygonal mould. Inside is a light ganache combined with one of the world’s most expensive honeys.
On cutting, there’s a good, sweet spice golden treacle aroma. Honey is a typical note of Nacional – the heritage Ecuador cacao variety, so Guayas makes an interesting base that should support and emphasise the honey.
The first taste is dominated by the chocolate. The honey is rather delicate at the beginning, combining with the chocolate to create some spice, then rising in a gentle golden syrup note, which takes over the palate but is never strident.
This is honey at its best, without being too sweet or too overpowering.
Key Lime with Guayas chocolate
One of the most striking in appearance of the Amano collection, sprayed in green and dashed in white. This really says ‘lime’, but personally I’m not keen on food colourings used in chocolates – perhaps a necessary evil to attract attention, but when you already have the best of ingredients, flavour should be enough.
Even the uncut chocolate has a lime note, which is pungent and stronger when cut. The flavour is violet/lime cream, with the bitterness expected from key limes coming at the end with a creamy pudding end.
If you like key limes, this will surely appeal, but personally I’m a fan of the green Persian type that has a citrus zing and makes a great mojito.
Yuzu white chocolate ganache
This is a first – white chocolate made by Amano, never before tasted as it’s not something they produce as a retail bar. (Made though with bought in cocoa butter, as is the case with almost all chocolate makers, though perhaps this will change in the future.)
Fans of William Curley in the UK will be familiar with this Japanese citrus fruit, which has a delicate flavour somewhat like grapefruit, but more intense and without the bitterness.
Trying the chocolate, the aroma comes mostly from the milk powder in the white chocolate, with only a hint of the yuzu.
On tasting, the white ganache does not feel too sweet, considering it’s made with white chocolate. At first the creamy white really dominates, but just when you think the yuzu will only remain a faint background note, it springs through and gradually rises, dominating by the end.
Raspberry ganache with Guayas chocolate
The Californian raspberry ganache is merely enrobed in white chocolate, and beautifully sprayed with a red top. The ganache is again Guayas – the origin of choice it seems for ganaches in the Amano collection.
The aroma is sweet raspberry milk chocolate, suggesting something mild and sweet. A few moments in though, there’s an almost shocking hit of pure raspberry, which quickly turns into the exact flavour of a good vanilla ice cream dribbled with a raspberry coulis sauce – an impressive effect!
The after taste is to die for and carries on forever. Forget eating a tub of Häagen-Dazs, just eat half of one of these!
Cinnamon Ganache with candied pecans
The candied pecans in this case are on the top of the palet and are rather excellent, but you need to make sure you get some of these when you bite into the ganache, to get the full effect of the combination.
The ganache itself is a good, clean, cinnamon with cream coming towards the end. Worthy, but no fireworks on its own. With the crunch and flavour of the pecans though, the experience is very moreish, not too sweet and creating something of an upmarket candy bar feel.
After taste is long-lasting and appropriately chocolate and nut. Does what it says on the label, and does it very well.
Cardamon and pepper ganache with Dos Rios chocolate
Dos Rios is a very distinctively flavoured chocolate in its own right – orange flower water, lavender, rose, green tea are just some of the typical notes.
That’s an interesting, yet challenging starting point for a flavoured ganache. Fruit flavours are likely to get lost or confused with the natural notes of the chocolate. Something in opposition and complimentary is required. Spices like cardamom and pepper seem a pretty good choice.
The aroma is surprisingly cheesy, with just a little orange. This is all the more of a surprise as there’s no cheese hint of this in the flavour, which is overwhelmingly the Dos Rios notes, with the spices kicking subtly in after a few seconds.
This is pretty much a Dos Rios ganache ‘plus’. The cardamom and pepper adding just a touch of complexity and drying out the fruitiness a little. Equally as enjoyable as the plain version, this is perhaps a little more approachable and balanced than the more exotic unflavoured Dos Rios, unlikely as that sounds.
Tangerine ganache with Ocumare milk chocolate
For the only milk chocolate based ganache of the collection, the aroma of the uncut chocolate is actually quite spicy with no hint of sweetness.
When cut we get warm tangerine and milk chocolate, which floods the mouth with flavour on eating.
As well as the tangerine, there’s a wine or whisky note going on, generated I would say by the fruit interacting with the milk and those spicy Ocumare beans.
A good addition to the collection without being too sweet.
Amano have done a good job with this collection, once again proving that it is possible to produce something of high quality from a standing start, if you stick to high standards. Choice of ingredients is the first key step here. Amano already have world-class chocolate. To this they’ve added what is in their opinion the best in class for sources of each flavour, always using fresh ingredients as the starting point.
This collection catapults Amano right into the top league of world chocolatiers. Amano have proved again that if you let taste be your guide and don’t compromise, the sky’s the limit when it comes to chocolate quality.
Amano website and online shop: www.amanochocolate.com/confections
Amano Factory store: 450 South, 1325 West, Orem, UT 84058, US, Tel: +1 801-655-1996