The Taste Test: Dark Chocolate

Anyone who has spent any time with me will know that I am a chocolate person. I know it’s a stereotype (women and chocolate, blah blah blah), but I love it. There are so many chocolate related posts on this blog that I couldn’t even begin to link to them all.

I’m the person who will always gravitate towards chocolate as a treat rather than crisps or pizza. I will always choose the chocolate dessert in a restaurant. I make brownies upon brownies upon brownies. To truly mark the obsession, I just did a chocolate workshop. This is my bag, basically.

Now, I will very happily eat white, milk, or dark chocolate. I know white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate and so on, but a very good quality white chocolate is a thing of beauty, and don’t even get me started on caramelised white chocolate, which is the food of the gods (I will do a post on how to make it, if you are interested). But, for the sake of fairness here, I had to go for something simple, so that I could get equivalent samples. Hence, five types of plain 70% dark chocolate.

70% dark chocolate is what I use in baking all the time, so I am pretty attached to it, and always have a few bars in the cupboard for short-notice baking emergencies (happens more often than you might think). Usually, though, I go for whichever name-brand is on offer at the supermarket. Often, I end up with Lindt 70%. So I was curious to see how other 70% dark chocolates measured up.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of dark chocolate or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which supermarket had made A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Dark Chocolate


per 100g

A – Lidl – J.D. Gross – 6/10

  • Good texture – a nice snap when broken. Creamy when eaten. A fairly sharp, bitter flavour with hints of coffee. A decent dark chocolate I’d happily eat, but not surprising or very special.

B – Aldi – Moser Roth – 7/10

  • Slightly softer and less bitter than the first sample, but still strong. A hint of fruitiness in the taste. A bold and dark flavour, and a velvety texture when eaten.

C – Tesco – 7/10

  • Another good texture. Tasted sweeter and softer than either A or B, with a less obvious bitterness. A slight orange/fruity taste in the background, and fairly creamy when eaten.

D – Waitrose – 8/10

  • Tasted somehow more chocolatey than the first three samples (sounds silly, but it did). Fruity and soft, and not too bitter – very mellow, especially in comparison to A and B. Tasted definitely different to the others, with a distinctive fruitiness.

E – Sainsbury’s – 5/10

  • Very distinctive flavour: maybe a hint of coconut. Hard to describe, but not as pleasing as the first four samples. Not too bitter, and quite soft and sweet in flavour. For me, the least appealing.



This was an interesting taste test, and somewhat different to any of the others I have done so far. I don’t think any of the products I tried were bad. Even the offering from Sainsbury’s, which I liked the least on balance, was perfectly fine. Whether or not you like each type of chocolate will depend very much on personal taste and what you are looking for. Aldi and Lidl’s offerings were of a different style to the others. Neither supermarket did their own named-brand, and instead stocked J.D. Gross (made for Lidl) and Moser Roth (made for Aldi).

Even though Aldi and Lidl’s products were 70% cocoa dark chocolates, as were the rest, they were notably darker and tasted more bitter. You could even see visually that they looked darker. So, for those who like their dark chocolate to be pretty strong and not too sweet, these would be perfect. The others were all mellower, sweeter, and tasted like they were a lower cocoa percentage than the first two, even though they weren’t.

Personally, I would eat or use any of these products. Now that I have more experience of the range available, I might use the Aldi or Lidl darker chocolates for baking something rich and with a distinctive dark chocolate flavour.  The others might do better in something designed to be more accessible; perhaps for people who don’t have such a taste for serious dark chocolate.

So, for the first time, I am not going to pick an official winner this week. If I was just eating the chocolate, unadorned, I’d probably go with the Waitrose offering. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily better than the others. The Aldi and Lidl products were clearly of a different genre, and trying to do a different thing. Which chocolate would be best of the bunch would be entirely dependent on your personal taste, and what you wanted to use it for.

*Prices correct at time of writing.


Malt Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake

Do you know what the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is? That sounds like it’s going to be the set up to a joke, but it’s not: I’m actually asking.

I thought I knew, until recently. I had a vague notion that introverts preferred their own company, and were often solitary and shy, while extroverts were confident and social by nature.

It turns out that definition isn’t accurate. Basically, as I understand it, introverts draw their energy from being alone, while extroverts draw their energy from being around people. An introvert, therefore, isn’t necessarily a solitary person sitting in a corner: they could be juggling fire and cracking jokes in the centre of the group while asking you to update them on that saga with your neighbour’s dog and simultaneously getting the drinks in. But not forever. An introvert isn’t likely to be in the last group of determined pub-crawlers, unwilling to stop talking and so trekking around town to find somewhere still open at 3am. An extrovert, on the other hand, thrives on the company of others: they enjoy social time and are likely to be bored by themselves.



I am a classic introvert. Even if I am enjoying an evening with a group of people I genuinely like being around, I can only stick it out for a limited amount of time before becoming socially exhausted. It will sound ridiculous, but was only relatively recently that I realised that this was okay. It took me a worryingly long time to see that it’s actually fine to be the first one to say ‘Right, that’s me! See ya!’, stand up from the table, go through the business of the hugs and farewells, and escape.

I think that our social practices tend to cater to extroverts. There’s a certain kudos to being the one out latest, to being the ‘life and soul’. When you get up to leave early, people sigh and groan and say ‘Oh come on! It’s only 10pm! Stay for one more drink’. But now I know that it’s fine not to. I have a reputation for being the first to leave, the one tucked up in bed while everyone else is contemplating round five and wondering if anywhere serves food at 11pm. I don’t mind being thought of as a bit pathetic: for me, there’s no fun to be had in staying out when all my social energy has been drained, and I know I’m not good company by that stage either.

In keeping with the practice of doing what makes you happy rather than what is expected (as long as what makes you happy isn’t, you know, hurtful to others or illegal), I made this cake.

I picked up this beautiful book, by Annie Rigg, pretty much by accident. I had twenty minutes to kill in town and wandered into the bookshop, and then mooched along to the cookery section, and then casually picked up a book and… I really wasn’t intending to buy anything, but I couldn’t leave it behind.

The book is full of gorgeous, elaborate, modern recipes, and I could have made something much more impressive if I’d had the time and inclination. But this was the cake that was calling me, so even though it wasn’t the healthiest, or the fanciest, or trickiest, I decided to do it anyway.


Source: Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits, by Annie Rigg. It’s great.

Notes: I originally made this cake exactly as it was in the book, only changing the toppings because I wanted something pretty to feed to a group. Although the cake was delicious, I didn’t get the malt chocolate flavour through as strongly as I would have liked, so I have slightly upped the quantities here. Nonetheless, besides some slight alterations and extra toppings, this is very much Annie Rigg’s recipe.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients: you will probably have most of them in the cupboard. In fact, the part of the reason that I chose this cake was that I was short on time and didn’t want to have to go shopping for supplies.


for the cake

200g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
25g cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
260g plain flour
40g malted milk powder (such as Ovaltine)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
125g soft light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
4 medium bananas, very ripe
3 tbsp sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, chopped

for the frosting

100g soft light brown sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
75g butter
125ml double cream
50g dark chocolate, chopped
pinch of salt

extra toppings (optional)

bag of maltesers
1 firm banana
25g white chocolate


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4. Grease a bundt tin with butter and dust with cocoa powder. The recipe suggests a 2.5 litre bundt tin, but I have no idea how big my tins are in litres (!?), and I only have one bundt tin anyway, so I went with that and it was fine. In a large bowl, sieve together the cocoa, flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, cream together your butter and both sugars. Add the beaten egg gradually, mixing until it’s even. Tip your dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter, sugars, and eggs. In the bowl that you were using for the dry mix (no need to wash it), mash the bananas, and then add the sour cream and vanilla and mix to combine. Tip this into the bowl with everything else and mix it all together. Add your chopped chocolate and fold it in.
  3. Pop your mixture into your tin, and bake for 30-40 minutes. Let the cake rest in the tin for two minutes (and no more), and then carefully turn it onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting, heat both sugars, butter, and cream gently in a saucepan until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Simmer for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate and salt. Stir until smooth, and then pour it gently over your cold cake.
  5. If you want to get overly complicated, like I did, top the cake with dried banana slices, maltesers, and grated white chocolate.

Enjoy a piece on your sofa, alone at 10pm on a Saturday night, reading a good book, watching your favourite TV show, or simply being content in your own company.

(Then probably take the rest of the cake out to share with friends, because it’s huge).