On occasion, we’ve had to refine our chocolate recipes. The process can sometimes take us years to perfect, but even then we still find room for improvement. Sometimes we’ve had to make adjustments because our source ingredient suddenly wasn’t available; other times the ingredients we used hadn’t been up to our standards. Most of the time, though, we felt we could improve the flavor and texture with some small tweaks. We have, in some cases, added more cacao to our recipe and taken the sugar down, like in our Milk of Madagascar 45% and Lakkrís + Sea Salt in the past.
Black n’ Burnt Barley is a chocolate bar that kind of “happened.” We weren’t trying to make a “black” white-chocolate bar just to sound cool. In fact, we were making a white-chocolate bar that we wanted to incorporate some kind of caramel note into. After trying different methods and materials, we stumbled upon a specific type of toasted barley that is usually reserved for beer making — specifically in a darker variety of ales like porters and stouts. We added it to our test batch and the flavor really blew our minds. It had this rich, toasty, grainy, licorice-y flavor almost like burnt toast (which became the working title for Black n’ Burnt Barley during our test phase).
We knew we had something different on our hands and decided to pursue this idea further. Within weeks, we had fully perfected the recipe (or so we thought), adding some more types of barley, malt flour, milk powder, sea salt and the “pièce de résistance” ingredient, activated charcoal, which gives it its signature look and adds a subtle smoky flavor. For added texture, we got our hands on a local ingredient: barley from the Vallanes farm on the east coast of Iceland, one of few organically certified farms in the country. The barley gets toasted by a local popcorn factory and gives us that nice crunchy texture.
During the test phase, we experimented with many different combinations, and one of the ideas was to omit the milk in favor of using more barley. That version was even more flavorful.
With the absence of milk, the flavors were cleaner and more apparent, but it wasn’t as creamy. We were so focused on following the traditional reasoning that white chocolate needed to have milk that we never considered making the non-milk version for the launch. We have always followed an internal guideline that whatever tastes the best is the version of the recipe we should produce.
During the pandemic, we have had a lot of time on our hands to experiment with new ideas, but also to revisit some old ones. It was during this phase that we went back to testing this milk free version of BBB. It became clear to us that we had a missed opportunity, that we could improve on it, and we decided this was the way (insert The Mandalorian reference) to go. The flavors from the two types of barley are more vibrant, and the malt and the charcoal get more-prominent roles on the stage. We do lose some of that creaminess that the milk added, thus making it slightly more grainy in texture, but it feels more organic in the mouth and closer to the ground, so to speak. We hope this won’t put off any fans of this bar, and that they will see and understand the reasoning why we felt this was the right way to move forward.