In brief, American chocolates are sweeter while French chocolates contain richer chocolate flavor, especially when it comes to dark chocolate. However, this is more of a generalization rather than a rule, particularly with the rise of American artisan chocolatiers who often emulate their European predecessors. Dark chocolate is more easily found in France and it is wonderful. However, some Americans are accustomed to an overly sweet variation of dark chocolates and may shy away from a more subtle French type. Traditional American-style chocolate is not just sweeter; it is lighter than European-style chocolate. The flavors are more pronounced and identifiable. French style chocolate is darker, less sweet, and more subtle.
Jean Francois notes, “American chocolate is in your face. If it contains raspberry for instance, you will smell the raspberry, strongly, well before the candy reaches your mouth. By contrast, if it’s a French raspberry chocolate, you could sniff it for many minutes and have no idea it’s a raspberry chocolate until you bite into it. Even then, if you’re not tuned in to subtle tastes, you might miss it. I try to marry the two approaches. I would never want the sugary flavor to cover up the beauty that lies beneath a glorious piece of dark chocolate, but I would never tell an American how to eat; so I flex in an attempt to please my customers. Our flavors are geared towards the American palate but I stay true to my roots by using genuine ingredients. No matter the price of ingredients, I will never change my ways! Fortunately, there are always people who recognize and pay for quality. The pride of any chef is to go home with the satisfaction of having provided the very best quality.”
Another difference between American and French chocolate is that American chocolates often use a small variety of ingredients – primarily caramel, almonds, peanuts, and chocolate cream, and they can begin to taste repetitious. The flavors may be bold but they’re not very complex; French chocolate is just the opposite. It uses many wonderful ingredients to create all kinds of flavors in the same bar, such as fruits, nuts, spices, herbs, caramels, ganaches, and more. The dark and milk chocolate barks you’re receiving this month are beautiful and delicious examples of this. One final difference is the curse of all American food; American chocolates are just too big! You are full after one or two and can’t explore more flavors. French chocolates, by contrast, are more complex and 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 puts into an entire entrée. Americans often require some time to appreciate the creative essence of French chocolates.
Jean-Francois is thrilled that he can now get wonderful American chocolate to use in his confections, something that wasn’t possible a decade ago. He often uses Guittard, a San Francisco based company with which club members may be familiar, since other artisan chocolatiers we have featured in the past also craft from this chocolate.