Are you looking for something for Valentine’s Day or just in need of a chocolate fix? One of Prague’s chocolatiers should offer you something tasty, whether your taste runs from the traditional to the unexpected.
When it comes to the high end pralines in Prague, then most of the chocolate will be Belgian. One purveyor of Belgian chocolate is V!va (Celetná 10, Old Town, Prague 1). Viva, if you haven’t seen it, is a sweet tooth’s delight. They sell pralines by Belgian ‘shock-olatier,” Doinique Persoone, and locally made truffles and candy. The latter is made right there in the store.
Behind the shop, there is a museum where you can learn a bit of the history of chocolate and see cacao pods, ornate mugs for drinking chocolate and read some interesting facts about chocolate. They also have praline making demonstrations in Czech and a little English. I caught up with one of the resident chocolatiers, Vítek, to talk chocolate. My first question was why Belgian chocolate is associated with high quality.
“There are two reasons,” Vítek said. “The first is that the Belgian chocolate has a very high cocoa mass, up to 70%. Cocoa mass is the paste created from the ground cocoa beans, and is a mixture of cocoa butter, the fats extracted from the cocoa bean, and the cocoa powder. The butter gives the chocolate its texture and the powder its taste. The other reason is the long history of Belgian chocolate production. They have been making chocolate for many years and over time they have perfected their craft.”
Vítek also explained the all-important difference between a praline and a truffle.
“With the praline, you start with the shell. You pour the chocolate into the mold and then pour out the excess chocolate leaving what will be the top of the praline. This is cooled and into goes a filling. Afterwards, it is covered with more chocolate. A truffle starts with the filling, which is then covered. In a way, it is the reverse process of the praline.”
Some words to the wise: “To enjoy chocolate it’s important to take it slow. Don’t shovel it into your mouth, but take it a bite at a time and savor the taste and the texture,” Vítek said.
Another chocolatier is St. Tropez in Passage u Nováku in the Lucerna complex. St Tropez is an elegant patisserie with an incredible array of tempting pastries. On this day, I was interested in the case of chocolate to the right. This is one store where you can find French, not Belgian, chocolate.
Proprietor of the store, Nadine Musso, was kind enough to take some time out to discuss her delicious looking products.
“The big difference with our chocolates is that we are concerned with the whole process right here. This means that everything that goes into this comes from our inspiration. At the moment, we’re making chocolates with herbs like rosemary, basil and oregano. These are kinds you won’t find elsewhere. It also means that we know exactly what goes into the chocolate. There is nothing artificial, no additives in the chocolate.”
What about a perfect accompaniment for chocolate?
“Coffee of course goes well with chocolate. The basil chocolate goes especially well with green tea. It can also be good to eat a small piece of chocolate before a meal because it can cleanse the palate.”
The Musso’s inspiration doesn’t just end with herbs. Nadine said they can also offer a very special chocolate.
“We also make chocolate with cheese filling and it is very good. This is very good as a starter for a meal.”
However, if you want to try this unique sounding delicacy, you need to order one or two days in advance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try this but did sample some of their other wares, along with other chocolates from around Prague.
The Taste Test
As with anything, the proof is in the tasting. I admit I have not tasted all the chocolates available in Prague. I also still have all my teeth. I tried to make my selection as broad as possible, though it does tend toward the dark end of the chocolate spectrum, since this is what I prefer. As for fillings, I’ve gone for both the traditional to the experimental.
Caramel Truffle: This has a crispy shell and a light caramel taste.
Coconut Cream: Quite thick milk chocolate shell. The coconut taste was not overly strong and a little too sweet for my liking.
Lingot: Also quite a thick milk chocolate shell. The center was coffee, though I did not find it that distinct.
Orange Ganache: A dark chocolate shell, which was not overly bitter and would be ideal for people who are not fans of dark chocolate. The orange was noticeable, though generally the praline was a bit too sweet.
Koruna Pralines is at Národní třída 23. They offer chocolates made in the Czech Republic from a Belgian recipe.
Prague Praline, the National Theater: This has a thick shell of white and dark chocolate, with an image of the theater on the top. The hazelnut filling had the right texture and blended well with the shell. A good chocolate if you want a souvenir of Prague.
Lemon Ganache: A white crispy shell around a lemon ganache. The lemon taste was strong, though a little too sweet.
Telephone: A cute little chocolate telephone with hazelnut filling. Like the Prague Praline, the texture was creamy and there were small nut pieces.
Mocha Truffle: My favorite from this store. The shell was thin and crispy and the mocha filling was creamy and melted perfectly in the mouth.
Milk Truffle: This one had the right sweetness, though the filling could have been a little more distinct.
Dark Truffle: Again the filling was not so distinct, but the texture was right and the blend of the dark shell with the filling was perfect. It also melted nicely in the mouth.
Sladký Život is a little stall in the Eden Shopping Center. They offer Belgian chocolates, hand made in Southern Bohemia. Apart from chocolates they also sell marzipan.
Gerlach: A white chocolate pyramid with a creamy, buttery hazelnut center. The filling had a very great smooth texture. The chocolate was not too sweet, though the shell was a little thick.
Cinnamon Ball: A marzipan ball of cinnamon. The marzipan lacked that strong bitter after taste. It was a refreshing change to all the chocolate.
Little Basket: For a basket it was small, for a praline it was pretty big. Again, it had the buttery hazelnut filling, which seems to be what these people excel at. The dark chocolate edge was too far in the direction of sweet, which made the overall filling heavy.
Orange Ball: A standard praline with a milk chocolate shell and orange filling. The two flavors mixed well and the sugar did not overpower the other tastes.
Gold Pralines also have a few stores around Prague. They are an old favorite of mine, so forgive me if I’m not overly objective.
Gold Marzipan: The marzipan was smooth though a little too sweet. The shell was thin and crisp and the chocolate subtle.
Walnut Cream: The filling was very creamy. The chocolate also had the right balance of sweet and bitter. This was a good traditional chocolate.
Caramel Brittle: This also had a light chocolate shell and the brittle pieces are a nice contrast with the smooth center.
Diamond: This was a little extra bitter, which I like, with a creamy brandy feeling. A delicious piece of indulgence.
St. Tropez offers a mix of traditional and unique pralines made in Prague. Of course, I had to try the herb ones Nadine had mentioned.
Tea: We usually associate chocolate with coffee, so I was surprised at how well these flavors complemented each other. The texture was perfect, very buttery and the sensation lingering on the tongue.
Basil: This is one of St Tropez’s unique herb creations. As with the tea praline, the center was wonderfully smooth. The basil kick was quite strong, but it was how it lingered in the mouth that made the flavors unexpectedly work.
Oregano: This flavor was not as pronounced as the others which made it a lighter more refreshing praline.
Rosemary: Also a more delicate taste with that trademark buttery center. If you are skeptical that herbs and chocolate go together, this would be a good one to try.
Heart: White chocolate with hazelnut filling. This was sweeter than the others, but not so sweet, and the creamy sensation of the filling remained on the tongue.
Cognac: A liquid filled praline; it was also sweet because of the sugar shell containing the cognac. Perfect in one mouthful to let the cognac burst from the chocolate and then mix on the tongue.
V!va offer a very wide range of chocolates from the traditional to flavor combinations not associated with chocolate. I decided to be a little adventurous with my selection.
Lavender: I’ve had lavender ice cream before, so I was curious to see how it would work in a praline. I can say very well in this instance. The lavender was distinct and refreshes the palate.
Passion Milk: This praline looks more at home with marbles. The milk chocolate shell was crisp and blended well with the passion fruit filling to give a sweet and sour finish.
Lemon Grass: Now the flavors start to get a little strange. The texture was also perfect and the lemon grass was more discernible in the finish. Given lemon works well in a praline, it was no surprise that lemon grass did too.
Chili: Chili in chocolate is no longer a novelty. A few commercial brands sell this blend but few pull it off with the balance of this praline. There was no burst of chili flavor, rather a pleasant tang in the finish.
Wasabi: Perhaps the most interesting find of my chocolate tour. I thought at best this would be just a novelty. In fact, it proved to be a natural combination. The wasabi was subtly used and instead of the nasal sting there was just a creamy texture and a very refreshing finish.
Where´s your favorite chocolate shop in Prague? Share your suggestions!
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