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There are so many specialty and niche chocolate bars available these days. Most of them are pretty good too, with creative flavor combinations and unique textures. I’m not sure we have ever had this many choices for chocolate. Most of these bars are made by smaller producers that use just a few high-quality, simple ingredients and have their cocoa sourced ethically and sustainably.

Of course, better quality means pricier chocolate bars. While they’re totally worth the cost, it can make it more difficult for the impulse nature of buying a chocolate bar. Because, let’s be honest, no one ever puts a chocolate bar on their shopping list.

These aren’t the dollar bars at the checkout registers of grocery stores. These are chocolates you’ll find in small, local businesses such as food co-ops, markets, chocolate shops and gift stores. You may find some in the specialty or local section of a supermarket, but probably not in the traditional candy aisle.

Specialty chocolate bars aren’t unique to Vermont. Many of these chocolate companies sell throughout the country. But regional chocolate businesses are not uncommon, and they’re fun to try out.

The other week a friend asked if I had ever tried a Honey Mama bar. I had never heard of Honey Mama, let alone tried their bars. So she brought one over to sample along with a recipe for us to attempt a version of our own.

Honey Mama is based on Portland, Oregon, and makes chocolate bars with just five ingredients — raw honey, cacao powder, coconut oil, pink salt and sprouted almonds or shredded coconut. They’re organic, direct trade, non-GMO and free of soy, eggs, dairy and gluten. It’s a softer chocolate bar that’s almost fudge-like, which is why you’re supposed to keep it refrigerated. I loved the strong taste of honey and coconut that came through with each bite. And it was totally unique compared to the chocolate I’ve had lately.

With so few ingredients, it’s no wonder that someone replicated, or at least came pretty close to replicating, Honey Mama chocolate and posted their recipe. Naturally, we had to give it a try. It is such a quick and simple process that didn’t require ingredients we didn’t already have in our kitchens. The only special equipment we needed was a candy thermometer, which I already owned and cost me about five dollars when I bought it a couple of years ago.

Our first attempt was delicious, but the consistency was a bit off. Ours had more of a bite compared to the almost melting nature of the original Honey Mama bar. Regardless, it disappeared in no time. When I tried the recipe again, I cooked the honey and coconut oil to a slightly lower temperature hoping that would create a softer texture. I also used both the almonds and coconut, since I thought our bar was a little light on coconut flavor.

I knew I would devour the bar too quickly, and instead of making one large bar, decided to make small pieces using a silicone ice cube tray. Not only did this help create individual portions, but it also reduced the prep time and allowed me to flavor each cube as I liked. I added some chopped candied ginger and cardamom into a few, almonds and dried blueberries in others, and just some flaky sea salt into the remaining. You can put whatever you like in yours.

I’m not sure these really compare to the Honey Mama version. But at the end of the day, it’s a quick and simple-to-make specialty chocolate bar that you can customize to your liking. Perhaps it will save you a few bucks from that next impulse chocolate purchase.

Honey coconut chocolates

makes: about 15 pieces

2 ounces quality dark chocolate, chopped

¼ cup cocoa powder

3 tablespoons roasted almonds

3 tablespoons coconut flakes (unsweetened)

¼ cup local honey

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

flaky sea salt

your choice of spices, nuts and dried fruits

Sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly into a silicone ice cube tray.

In a food processor or decent blender, blend the cocoa powder, almonds and coconut flakes until you have a fine powder or the almonds and coconut are just crumbs.

Add the honey and coconut oil to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low. Clip your candy thermometer to the pan and allow the mixture to gently simmer and bubble until the thermometer reads 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Quickly remove the pan from the stove and carefully stir in the cocoa/almond/coconut blend along with the vanilla.

Once the chocolate is well combined, pour it evenly into the ice cube tray. At this point, you can mix in or top the chocolates with your choice of spices, nuts, dried fruit and sea salt.

Freeze the chocolates for about an hour until firm. Keep frozen or refrigerated until ready to eat.

Recipe adapted from llbalanced.com.

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