My mistakes in past New Year's resolutions generally stem from trying to do a complete about-face. For example, I didn't exercise at all this year, so next year I'm going to run a marathon! Or, I'm finally going to learn how to play the violin/speak Russian/understand fractals. And so on.
One of the first things that people generally give up when trying to get back on the health wagon is sweets—particularly chocolate. But let's not forget that chocolate is actually good for you; in moderation, of course. Here are my favorite three healthy(-er) chocolate treats to start the new year off right, and three more indulgent ones for those who, like me, don't bother with resolutions.
If You're Making New Year's Resolutions...
1. Fine + Raw's Chunky Almond Bar: I became addicted to this little rectangle of joy while working the Brooklyn Flea next to F&R's table. Funnily enough, there are no chunks in this bar. It has a smooth, not-too-sweet, melty interior with just a bit of texture and a delightful nuttiness from the almond butter that's mixed in. Unfortunately, they don't actually sell it online (New Yorkers, you gotta come to the Flea); but they do offer their equally luscious Cacao + Coconut Chunky Bonbon. Everything they make is raw and vegan, without any refined sugar. And I don't believe I've had one thing of theirs I didn't like.
2. Dagoba's Superfruit bar: I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Dagoba in general (sorry, guys) but there's something about the dried berries in here that nicely balances the acidity and bitterness of their straight chocolate. They're organic, and this particular bar features acai, goji berries, and currants. So, I guess an added benefit is...superhuman strength? Seems like, at the very least, you'll get your antioxidants for the week.
3. Pralus Le 100% bar: So first chocolate gave you acne; and then it made you live forever; and now you have to limit it because of the fat and sugar and whatnot.
Sure, you could crunch on some beans or nibs, but even for a hardcore chocolate-eater like me, that can get pretty boring pretty quick. Enter the Pralus 100% bar.
I first had this at the 2008 NY Chocolate Show, and it totally changed my idea of what "unsweetened" meant. All of Pralus' stuff is top-notch (see below), but this pure criollo from Madagascar is a really surprising (and delightful) way to eat unadulterated chocolate that's well-rounded, well-balanced, and generally delicious.
If You're Breaking New Year's Resolutions...
On the other hand, if you're like me, you don't bother with resolutions, because you know you're going to forget about them by March anyway. Which is fine, too—I consider wholesale acceptance of oneself to be the true way to happiness. At any rate, in that somewhat contrary spirit, here are my top three indulgent picks.
1. Roni-Sue's Buttercrunch: When I worked at Roni-Sue, it wasn't the chocolate-covered bacon that I kept going back to; or the tart raspberry truffle; or even the addictive caramel corn. It was the buttercrunch. It's made with exactly three ingredients: butter, sugar, and salt. But the way they're combined, into a perfectly rich-yet-lightly-crunchy center, is what really makes hers special. Well, that and the perfectly roasted walnuts that it's rolled in. I promise you will not find any better.
2. Scharffen Berger Milk Chocolate with Almonds: I'm a big milk chocolate fan (I'm hoping it comes back into fashion soon), but it's true that a lot of milk chocolate on the market is cloyingly sweet, made with inferior ingredients, or some combination of the two. I was sent a box of some Scharffen Berger goodies a while back, and the milk chocolate bar was the first to disappear.
Their high cacao percentage (41%) makes for a rich, actually-chocolaty-tasting milk chocolate. Add some salty almond bits in there, and I'm a goner.
3. Pralus Barre Infernale: Yes, I know, I already mentioned Pralus. But they just happen to be one of my favorite chocolatiers, and this bar changed my life when I tried it this past spring.
The name really says it all: It's a big, ominous brick of a thing, and is filled with the most heavenly, silky praliné (hazelnut paste) you could ever imagine. The dark chocolate version has whole roasted almonds nestled inside; the milk chocolate version, hazelnuts. They're both tasty, but the hazelnut is my personal favorite. Trust me—you'll want to book a room with it.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.