Besides a penchant for ice cream sundaes (a not-so-secret weekly indulgence weekly when hubby is out), my go-to sweet treat is without a doubt something chocolatey. Actually, strike that. My go to food is ANYTHING chocolate based.
I get through mounds of the good stuff. Pretty much every week I make something chocolate themed. Gooey brownies, crunchy tiffin, decadent cheesecakes, fluffy mousses, melting fondants, the list is endless. I’m in love with the dark richness and comfort of the cocoa flavour, and the meltingly silky texture brings a luxurious sense of solace, not needed to be enjoyed solely in times of crisis (though chocolate is a welcome aide, if not necessarily a cure-all when emergency strikes).
And it doesn’t stop at dessert. Some of my favourite savoury dishes also contain the delicious dark stuff. My best ever chilli recipe (which can be found here ) has a few squares of a 70% bar. And whoever came up with venison in chocolate sauce is a genius. It adds a intensely luscious depth without tasting at all of dessert.
And whilst I’m not too much of a food snob to say that I never eat milk chocolate (I do, enjoyed enormously, and often), the dark stuff is really the best for cooking with. Its intensity and richness is great in bakes and cakes, where sugar can be added to temper the bitterness. But if you’re buying as much chocolate as I do each week, particularly quality stuff, you’re going to be adding unwanted pounds to your grocery bill, as well as perhaps to your bathroom scales.
Put simply, sugar is cheap, cocoa is expensive. Bad news for frugal foodies with a sweet tooth.
So, in true pennywise style, I try to find a balance between quality and affordability. I’m not looking for the cheapest product with the least offensive taste, but the best product I can buy for an affordable price
In order to find the best bang for my buck, I decided to do a blind taste challenge to discover the very best offerings of British Supermarkets.
Finding recruits for the challenge was, as you can imagine, incredibly tough, but somehow my friends from a Church ladies’ group found the grace to acquiesce to being my guinea pigs.
I only had two criteria for my chocolate bars: they had to be supermarket own brand (therefore easily to buy and usually cheaper than premium brands) and at least 70% cocoa solids. I added one premium brand bar to test quality against (Green and Black’s new velvet edition 70%) but didn’t reveal which bowl it was in. I cut up all the bars into small pieces so as to disguise any distinctive markings and give as fair a test as possible.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to taste every British Supermarket’s product (Tesco didn’t have any own brand dark chocolate in store when I visited). Nonetheless this is a pretty good round up of products from a variety of different stores. There’s only so many supermarkets you can visit in one week with two kids in tow.
Green and Black’s bill their new offering as being “rich in cocoa content, yet exceptionally smooth in flavour”. Well, I’m afraid to say that this bar was surprisingly, but unanimously the least favourite of the group, a verdict that I wholeheartedly agreed with. Adjectives such as ‘bland’, ‘artificial’ and ‘powdery’ were bandied around, and the taste certainly didn’t marry with the advertised character of the chocolate. It didn’t have a particularly pleasant feel in your mouth; it was chalky rather than meltingly smooth. At £1.67 per 100g, the most expensive bar of the trial, my frugal leanings were well justified.
Asda’s Ugandan Extra Special 70% cocoa solids
At the priciest of the supermarket own bars (£1.50 per 100g), this chocolate needed to impress. And to be fair to Asda, it really was quite a pleasant offering. Fruity and ‘sharp’, it had quite a complex flavour which would be perfect for a brownie or cake recipe where the chocolate flavour can really shine. It was popular with my tasting group too, with one taster stating they ‘could eat a decent amount’. You done good, Asda.
Moser Roth Dominican Republic 75% cocoa solids
Aldi’s own luxury brand produce a variety of chocolates with varying cocoa solid content, and I’m quite a fan of their lines in general. The cheapest of all the bars at £1.03 per 100g, this chocolate offered a slightly more intense flavour with a bitter, coffee-esque edge. Although I probably wouldn’t choose to eat a lot of this on its own, it would make a lovely sauce for ice cream where some of the bitterness could be balanced. And for the price, you’d be wise to buy in bulk.
Morrisons The Best 72% cocoa solids
This chocolate divided opinion in the group. Some testers described it as having an ‘alcoholic’, acrid flavour, whereas others mentioned its smoothness and berry-like tang, being easy on the palate. I enjoyed its intensity, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as some of the others. Not a bad offering for £1.34 per 100g, but not my favourite.
Sainsburys Taste the difference 72% Belgian chocolate
This chocolate is the only product tested that was made in Belgium, with beans from two different origins: Africa (not very specific, I know!) and Ecuador. Now I’m not sure if single origin bars are supposed to have the monopoly on flavour, but I really didn’t care as this bar was by far my personal favourite. The group by large agreed with me, describing it as ‘pleasantly smooth’ and ‘mild’. It was definitely a bar I could munch my way through, and even though it had intensity, it was creamy and caramel like, despite having 72% cocoa solids. A bargain at £1.25 per 100g.
Although I don’t often shop at Sainsburys, I reckon I’m gonna be paying my local store a few more visits in the future. This really is a good all rounder: incredibly moreish when nibbled straight from the pack,intense enough to play a starring role in your cakes and bakes.
So, frugal food lovers, I hope you appreciate the market research my pals and I selflessly undertook.
It really was an arduous task.