Vegan Chocolate Chips! Yay, Finally!
Trader Joe recently caused an uproar both in the Kosher Community and the Dairy-Intolerant Community by switching their chocolate chips from Pareve to dairy. When I wrote about the Gastronomic Uproar at Trader Joe’s , I positively clamored for our community to urge chocolate manufacturers to fill the void. My war cry was, exactly as it always is, this no brainer equation: More Cocoa Less Sugar Equals Good Chocolate!
Last week, Bentzion Raskin, owner of BenZ’s Crown Heights contacted me to ask me if I would sample some brand new chocolate chips he just started carrying in his store, and of course I said, bring it on down. You gotta love BenZ’s: he has impeccable taste and is always on the lookout for new premium Kosher food products, a fact that is borne out by displays overflowing with the best fish (I once bought there an enormous assortment of herring as a birthday gift for an unabashed herring-loving junkie friend), cheeses, crackers, breads, condiments and much more.
BenZ’s shipped several bags of the new vegan chocolate chips to my home.
They are called demurely and somewhat generically Vegan Chocolate Chips. The more seductive California Gourmet tagline is inserted in an easy-to-miss-circle, and I thought, what a shame. I even did some unsolicited mental word-rearranging for them. Brand: California Chocolate Chips. Tagline: Vegan. Just kidding, but hey, you never know, they might take my suggestion seriously. What’s in a name? A lot! Fast forward just a couple months. Owner Chana Shusterman did heed my advice (add California to the brand) and tweaked her brand name to California Gourmet Vegan Chocolate Chips. Gourmet is the excessive word here, making the brand name a bit long, but hey, now they come up on SEO much faster and higher!
Good hound that I am, I proceeded to probe the label all over. OK Kosher supervision, plus a Chassidishe Supervision; dairy-free; allergy-friendly; made in a gluten-free plant; 45% cocoa content. This last piece of information is what perked my ears up the most. Callebaut Chips: 44.9%. Trader Joe’s chips: 58.9%. Hello, this is what the uproar came from: Trader Joe’s still gives many chocolate chip brands a run for their money (Scharffen Berger: 62%, all the way up there, but dairy and expensive). So Vegan Chocolate Chips compared favorably with Callebaut’s, which is my all-time favorite brand, so I thought it looked pretty promising.
I decided to try the vegan chocolate chips in three of my most crowd-pleasing chocolate recipes:
Chocolate Sauce, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Pecan Brownies The funny thing is, I baked during the fast of Shiv’a Asar Be Tamuz, and my whole impatience about dinner time was eclipsed by my impatience about just tasting the goodies. I was so filled with anticipation I decided to make one giant cookie for dinner to break my fast, which is exactly what I had, with a glass of wine and a cup of coffee. Hey where’s the health nut? Having a Frisbee-size cookie for dinner? Nice! In my defense I must say I shared the Frisbee cookie with my husband, which somewhat mitigated the binge.
Verdict: California Vegan Chocolate Chips are delicious.
Dear Kosher consumers, and dear Dairy-Free consumers, your new chocolate chip has just been identified. Good trailblazer BenZ’s is one of the first to carry it, let’s hope and pray all health food stores and Kosher supermarkets carry it soon as well: It will do them proud. Thank you dear Ms California Gourmet Vegan Chocolate Chips for picking up the Trader Joe slack, and best of luck. After a long and stormy fast day, you made my tongue smile!