Bacon. Lemongrass. Crisps. Edible flowers. US artisan chocolatiers are thinking way outside the traditional chocolate box these days, infusing their bars with interesting ingredients that go way beyond nuts and nougat. Welcome to chocolate bars: the next generation.
It was only a matter of time until someone combined two of the best substances on earth. Enter Vosges Haut-Chocolate. The US (Chicago based) company's “Mo’s Bacon Bar” blends hickory-smoked bacon and alderwood-smoked salt with dark or milk chocolate for a savory, balanced bar that’s more delicious than you might think. In 2012, Vosges also launched a beef jerky bar.
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Seattle-based organic chocolatier Theo Chocolates has plenty of intriguing flavor combinations (single-malt scotch truffles, anyone?), but our favourite is the Coconut Curry bar -- milk chocolate blended with toasted coconut and a kick of curry spice to liven things up. The result is an exotic bar that still delivers on chocolate’s sweet promise.
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Lavender flowers are celebrated in aromatherapy for their soothing properties, and the flowery, antioxidant-rich Lavender Blueberry bar from Dagoba, an organic Oregon chocolatier, has the same good effects as a day at the spa. (The slightly bitter dark chocolate and sweet blueberries balance out the flowery taste.) We also like Dagoba's Roseberry bar, which combines rosehips and raspberries with dark chocolate.
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By “truffle” we don’t mean the bonbon variety -- we’re talking tartufi, the prized edible tubers that can cost thousands of pounds. This earthy flavour infuses the Black Truffle bar from Mast Brothers, which is made with dark chocolate, cane sugar, black Oregon truffles and sea salt from Maine, on the east coast of the US. Other out-of-the-norm bars from the Brooklyn-based company involve inventive ingredients such as smoked cacao beans and Serrano peppers.
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The recipe for the “exploded corn” nuggets in Sahagun chocolate’s Palomitapapa bar might be top-secret, but the bar is part of a chocolate series using only ingredients native to the American continent -- hence its All-American chocolate, corn and chili combo. Earl Grey tea lovers will also want to try the Almond Bergamot, made with Bolivian dark chocolate, toasted almonds and candied bergamot peel.
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The tart berries have long been known as an ingredient in pies, but Antidote Chocolate proves they’re more than a one-hit wonder. The New York-based company's Aletheia bar combines ginger and gooseberries with dark chocolate for a tart/hot flavour. Other intriguing combos include the Hybris, made with mango and juniper berries, and the Hestia, which combines banana and cayenne pepper.
Candied flower petals
Roses are red, violets are blue, and New Orleans-based Sucre candies both flowers for its gorgeous chocolate bars. Candied violets stud dark chocolate in one bar, while candied rose petals and Sicilian pistachios top milk chocolate in another. Also try the salted pretzel bar, a perfect blend of salty and sweet.
Chocolate-covered crisps are a delicious, salty-sweet guilty pleasure; Chuao Chocolatier took the principle one step further to create a milk chocolate bar infused with salted, kettle-cooked crisps. Also worth checking out are bars infused with Earl Gray tea or studded with honeycomb.
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Roasted brown rice and roasted green and jasmine teas are the main ingredients in Japanese Genmai tea -- a concept nicely adapted by San Francisco artisan chocolatier Jade Chocolates, for a flavour combo way better than any Crackle bar. Other flavours include lemongrass, lapsang souchong tea and ylang ylang, a flower native to the Philippines.
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The brainchild of three recent US university graduates, Chocomize lets chocolate lovers customise their own bars -- and boasts more than 3 billion flavour combinations. Toppings range from the usual (dried fruits, nuts, M&Ms, coffee) to the decidedly unusual (Pop Rocks, vegetarian bacon, Cheerios, 23-karat gold flakes). If that’s overwhelming, the company also offers some of its most popular flavours on the website, such as the Hawaiian Sunset, made with milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, candied pineapple and gold flakes.