When presented with a choice between sweet or savoury – I almost always opt for the latter. I distinctly remember going to birthday parties as a child and eschewing birthday cake altogether in favour of more sandwiches and chips. My family thought this truly bizarre, but in my defense, how many marzipan-loving 6-year-olds do you know? Yeah, I thought so.
In any case, while turning vegan hasn’t exactly changed my affinity for all things salty, it has made traditional desserts like cakes, cookies, and ice cream much more of a novelty. So if a vegan cupcake happens to present itself to me, I’m not likely to turn it down.
That said, when it comes to dessert, sometimes nothing is more satisfying than a well made bar of high-quality dark chocolate.
Enter Bare Chocolates.
I first spotted Bare at the supermarket a few months ago while perusing the organic aisle. The brightly coloured packaging and screamed out to me, and upon scanning the ingredient list to assess vegan-friendliness, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a homegrown brand, based right here in little old Bahrain. Curious, and nursing a serious chocolate craving, I picked up a bar of the organic dark chocolate with almonds. A square too many later, consumed shamelessly in the supermarket parking lot, I became a bona fide fan.
So when one of the co-founders of Bare reached to ask if she could bring me a selection of their vegan flavours to try, I was, to put it mildly, ecstatic and agreed without hesitation.
I met up with May Mahmoud who was bright, bubbly and full of energy as she gave me the low-down on the brand and their ethos. Hailing from a foodie family that is behind one of Bahrain’s top pastry bakeries, May and her brother Tariq teamed up to form their own entrepreneurial venture. The idea for Bare was born when May, a trained pastry chef herself, found herself lamenting the lack of quality and affordable chocolates available locally.The options she could get her hands on had far too many additives, preservatives and sugar.
“We wanted to make the perfect chocolate bar”, she told me, and that meant producing premium chocolates made from all-natural, responsibly cultivated, organic and fair trade ingredients, by the hands of artisanal Swiss chocolatiers.
Having recently taken steps towards becoming a more ethical consumer myself, I was incredibly impressed with Bare’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Not only are they Fair Trade certified and GMO-free, they’ve also partnered with My climate to offset their carbon emissions by using recycled materials for their packaging.
I was also delighted to learn that 6 out of their 11 core flavours were indeed vegan, and was pretty excited to give them all an extensive taste test. In the name of honest and transparent blogging, of course (and/or thinly veiled gluttony, but you know – same difference).
In terms of texture, all of the chocolates are luxuriously smooth and creamy, with just the right balance of solid bite and melt-in-your-mouth feel. The almonds and lemon, ginger and pepper flavours do offer a slight crunch and texture, but nothing gritty or off-putting at all.
As for flavour, they are nothing short of delectable. With varying amounts of cocoa, there really is something for everyone, although given that they are all dark chocolate flavours all the ones I sampled are quite rich. I found that the amount of sugar was balanced perfectly with the cocoa – just enough to cut the bitterness but not overpowering in the slightest.
While I haven’t baked with them yet, a dear friend of mine who is a talented baker and certified pastry chef, trialled the dark chocolate in some sumptuous cupcakes last weekend and they were divine.
I was most intrigued to sample the lemon ginger and pepper chocolate – which I remarked to May was quite unique and a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous chilli chocolate flavour that had flooded the market a few years ago.
Let me tell you, this guy did not disappoint. A tantalising mixture of sweet, spicy and tangy, this bar gets two thumbs up from me. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of unusual flavour combinations, then I urge you to try this one.
As for my least favourite – I’ll be honest, it doesn’t exist. Initially, I had my reservations about the orange variety, purely because I’ve never been a fan of that particular flavour combination, but surprisingly Bare’s rendition was extremely palatable and, dare I say it, enjoyable. The orange flavour comes through subtly and serves as more of an undertone rather than an overwhelming artificial citrus haze.
Would I buy Bare Chocolates on my own? Absolutely, if I thought myself a fan before then consider me a fanatic from here on out.
Stay tuned for a delicious and incredibly easy recipe featuring Bare Chocolates next week. Until next time, dear readers, and a very warm Eid Mubarak to those that celebrate.