Comparing different European chocolate is quite fun and tasty work to have to do, but a more appropriate comparison might involve American chocolate. While the styles are extremely different we have gone ahead, once again, and made the sacrifice to equip you to make an informed choice, this time between French and American chocolate. We have taken two different types of chocolate to compare; bars and filled chocolates. As should be done with any gourmet chocolate we will look at the ingredients, preparation, and presentation (more with the filled chocolates because after all, how many ways are there to present a bar of chocolate?). We hope that you will use this, more than anything, as motivation to make a comparison of your own.
The comparison of bar chocolate was fairly straight forward. All of our taste testers agreed that American chocolate is sweeter, plain and simple. French chocolate retains more of the rich chocolate flavor, particularly when it comes to dark chocolate. As milk chocolate in bar form is not really a specialty of France it was fairly easy for the US to win this category. But in the tasting of dark chocolate in bar form, unless what you crave is overly sweet dark chocolate, the French definitely come out ahead.
According to one taste test it was said that, “Traditional American-Style chocolate is lighter and sweeter than European-Style chocolate and the flavors are even more pronounced and identifiable.” Where as French-Style chocolate they describe as, “darker and less sweet, has subtler flavors”. We know though that many people base their taste for chocolate off of what they are used to so we would encourage you to make your own comparison and decide for yourself!
The category of filled chocolates was definitely a bit more interesting. There are a few things that are noticed right off the bat. The first is the packaging. American chocolate is presented in a large flat box with individual paper cups protecting one chocolate from another. French chocolate on the other hand is presented in the traditional ballotin, the Belgian invented packaging that is used throughout Europe to house their variety of delicate creations. The second easy observation is the size of the chocolates. This should come as no surprise but American chocolates are bigger. They include multiple whole nuts instead of the occasional one whole nut that you may find in a French chocolate. And while there is a bit of variety in their shape and size there is definitely more variety with French chocolate.
When it comes to the flavor of the chocolates there was an interesting juxtaposition that appeared. French cuisine is known for being subtle and simply delicious. They use few ingredients but they use them well, creating amazing sauces to go with well prepared meats and skillful composition to cook things in a way that brings out the best in their natural flavor. American cuisine on the other hand is bolder and uses a lot more ingredients; they combine an abundance of flavors to create busy dishes that rely more on flash than skilled preparation. These cultures best chocolate offerings seem to follow the exact opposite rules.
American chocolate uses a small variety of ingredients, mainly caramel, almonds, peanuts, and chocolate cream (75% of the chocolates that our participants tasted included one or more of these ingredients). French chocolate is the complete opposite of this in that it uses a wider variety of all kinds of flavors; fruits, nuts, spices, herbs, caramels, ganaches, and more!
French chocolate, while it may seem more complex than traditional French cooking, does also hold a few similarities. Each chocolate seems to be its own little masterpiece. French chocolatiers appear to put as much care and effort into one small chocolate as a French chef would put into an entire entrée. Also, as with French cooking, one flavor never overpowers another. One of the observations made during our taste test was that the chocolate flavor in the French treats was less overpowering and allowed the flavor of the filling to come out more than with the American chocolates.
A few other things came out while we were conducting out taste test that are worth sharing. Our American participants had to take some time to get used to the creative essence of the French chocolates. At first they thought they were a little too overwhelming but by the end they realized there was a subtlety to it that they really enjoyed. Also they were frustrated by not being able to identify the different flavors but eventually found the joy that came with seeking out each individual, creative aspect of the various chocolates.
So we have given you our opinion and that of our taste testers and once again French chocolate really truly comes out on top. We hope though that our work will do no more than motivate you to conduct a test of your own. Invite some friends, splurge on truly fine chocolates, and take your time. We hope that it proves to be a tasty adventure!