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Peanut Butter and Chocolate: How Dark Is Too Dark?
While jelly may be peanut butter's most popular partner, chocolate comes in at a very close, very decadent second.
It's probably not news to you that peanut butter and chocolate make for a delicious pairing. Whether you're preparing a chocolate mousse cake with peanut butter drizzle, eating a peanut butter cup, or taking a lick from a chocolate peanut butter swirl ice cream cone, chocolate is always a delicious flavor to enjoy with peanut butter.
These days chocolate comes in a variety of "strengths." Unsweetened chocolate is almost 100% cocoa, giving it a nearly black color and very bitter flavor. Milk chocolate has a much lower percentage of cocoa, and a much lighter color and sweeter taste. Dark chocolate's place is somewhere in the middle of the cocoa content continuum. With all these different options, how is a peanut butter lover to know what type of chocolate goes best with their favorite spread?
The staffers at Peanut Butter & Co., led by Annie, one of our intrepid summer interns, decided to tackle this question with a taste test. The good people at Chocolove—a company that incorporates each of the bar's cocoa content into the pretty packaging—supplied us with some delicious chocolate to use for the test.
We tried three varieties of their chocolate: Chocolove Milk Chocolate (33% cocoa), Chocolove Rich Dark Chocolate (65% cocoa), and Chocolove Extra Strong Dark Chocolate (77% cocoa).
And we tested each bar with two kinds of peanut butter: our Old Fashioned Smooth (made with just peanuts and a touch of salt) and our Smooth Operator (sweetened with evaporated cane juice).
Everyone was interested in how the milk chocolate would work, since that's what's commonly used in traditional peanut butter cups. It was a familiar taste when paired with both peanut butters. The pairing with the unsweetened peanut butter felt a little more "grown-up," as the peanut flavor seemed stronger when paired with the sweet chocolate.
Extra Strong Dark Chocolate
We had a lot of dark chocolate fans in our group. Some went straight for the darkest chocolate available. I suspected that with the really dark, the chocolate might overpower the peanut butter. The Extra Strong Dark Chocolate paired with the unsweetened peanut butter "tastes healthier than I know it is," said one taster. This bar was best appreciated with the sweetened peanut butter—the converse of what our tasters liked most with the milk chocolate.
Our love of chocolate and peanut butter has a lot to do with the melding of different flavors: sweet, bitter, salty, etc.
Rich Dark Chocolate
The crowdpleaser among our tasters was the Rich Dark Chocolate. This bar's combination of bitter and sweet flavors worked well with both peanut butters. Of course, the sweetness and bitterness were highlighted differently depending on the peanut butter pairing. With both though, the rich, nutty savoriness and salty twang of the peanut butter mixed well with the sweet and slightly bitter dark chocolate, making for "the most balanced bite."
Any way you slice it, peanut butter + chocolate = eternal deliciousness. Tell us how you like to combine these two flavors, and for your own personal taste, how dark is too dark?
About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.