Many chocolatiers are embracing memorable flavor combinations in sweet treats that make for a perfect holiday dessert.

We’re all about chocolate with a twist. Pistachio-matcha ganache? Yes, please. Yuzu cocoa butter bonbons? We’ll have six. Caramelized sesame bars? Take our credit card.

Here’s the good news: Chocolatiers across the West are creating a wide range of confections with ingredient combinations you won’t soon forget. Many are embracing Asian flavors—like the zing of yuzu or earthiness of matcha—or incorporating tropical notes ranging from guava to calamansi. The result? Well-balanced bites that are as delectable as they are beautiful on a holiday table, or stuffed in a stocking for a sweet surprise.

Deux Cranes founder and chocolatier Michiko Marron-Kibbey, for example, combines French techniques with flavors inspired by her childhood spent in Japan. Her autumn collection of bonbons ranges from chai milk chocolate to kabocha custard, while colorful bars stand out with flavors like matcha chocolate with caramelized sesame.

“In Japanese desserts and sweet treats, there’s often an aspect of earthy or salty with sweet that make those products particularly unstoppable, like sakura mochi, (a rice cake) which is filled with a very sweet red bean paste but it’s wrapped in a salt-cured cherry blossom leaf,” Marron-Kibbey says. “So, I always think of balance and contrasting flavors when I’m creating our chocolates. When you have a product that is very sweet, creamy, and rich like chocolate, I naturally want to balance that with earthy, salty, crunchy bites to make it irresistible.” 

The chocolatier’s kabocha custard bonbon, for example, is inspired by her grandmother’s stewed kabocha pumpkin, which was “full of soy sauce, dashi and sugar, and stewed for a long time until the pumpkin just began to melt,” Marron-Kibbey recalls. To make the Deux Cranes variation, the chocolatier steamed kabocha until it was “silky and smooth” before combining it with fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. She then made a creamy white chocolate ganache to be piped into dark chocolate shells.

“Kabocha has a unique nuttiness and silkiness that really shines in that bonbon, and I hope my obāchan is proud of this iteration of her kabocha dish,” Marron-Kibbey says.

Here are some of our favorite chocolates—all made right here in the West—inspired by these flavors and more:

Chocolate gift guide 2021

Thomas J. Story

  1. Seattle’s Hot Chocolat chef Michael Poole offers confections like matcha and chocolate ganache with pistachios.
  2. Kokak Chocolate’s Carol Gancia draws on her Irish-Filipino heritage to craft truffles, like matcha and white chocolate, in San Francisco.
  3. Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate grows its own cacao and sources from others, providing a base for flavors like guava and mango.
  4. French Laundry chef Thomas Keller debuted K+M Chocolates with flavors like yuzu—and truffle fries!
  5. Anchorage chef Ingrid Shim crafts yuzu Aurora Chocolate confections with cocoa butter to look like Alaska’s Northern Lights.
  6. Matcha meets yuzu in these white chocolate ganache truffles created by Kollar Chocolates‘ Chris Kollar in Napa Valley.
  7. Deux Cranes founder and chocolatier Michiko Marron-Kibbey combines French techniques with flavors inspired by her childhood spent in Japan, as in this matcha chocolate with caramelized sesame bar made in Los Gatos, California.

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