When I landed at JFK after five months in Israel, the guy sitting next to me sighed and said, "Welcome back to the land of bad dairy," and I laughed, because I knew exactly what he meant. It was 2006, and the greek yogurt explosion hadn't yet moved American yogurt selection much past flavored Yoplait, but in a tiny country half covered by desert and where I never glimpsed a single cow, I tasted the real thing. My first spoonful of Israeli yogurt was a revelation, and I soon learned that the milk, cheeses, and chocolate were equally delicious. Especially the chocolate.
Friends pointed me to the Elite chocolate I kept seeing everywhere we went. I tried almost every variety of those red-wrapped bars with their depictions of a cow and whatever candy or filling happened to be inside. The one that most intrigued me was the milk chocolate bar with perplexing images of what appeared to be bright gold sparkles. I had no idea what those sparkles could be, but one day, on a trip to Nazareth, I finally bought one for the bus ride home. Turns, out it was pop rocks! Not the blue raspberry or strawberry ones I knew as a kid, but just plain, slightly golden ones that gave the chocolate a bubbly effervescence that I loved. Pretty soon, that was the only chocolate bar I was buying.
Almost ten years later, my local grocery store boasts yogurt options in an infinite variety of animal milks, flavors, styles, and fat percentages, so I don't find myself longing for much from Israel except good falafel and that chocolate. The first few years were tough. I heard rumors it was discontinued, and I never found the chocolate for sale at the Kosher grocery in Brookline, or online, but I sometimes got lucky, pouncing on the stuff like a crazed addict. When coworkers went to Israel for business I begged for someone to bring a bar or two back for me, and once I went to a not-close acquaintance's apartment and all but demanded her roommate share a piece from the bar I spied on the coffee table.
It turns out that they do still make it, and you can now buy it online, thanks to Amazon. Even Trader Joe's has a dark chocolate bar with pop rocks and chile powder, so clearly this has gone mainstream. The other thing that's gone mainstream is mixing oil and cacao powder to make your own chocolate at home, which I was dying to try. Of course, I knew exactly what was going in my first batch. I found some plain popping candy on line and held my breath it would work. My chocolate is darker than the bars I fell in love with, but that just means I feel fine eating more of it.
Pop Rocks Chocolate
Chocolate adapted from Minimalist Baker
1 cup cocoa butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup cacao powder
a good pinch of sea salt
1/8-1/4 cup popping candy
- Heat cocoa butter over a double boiler until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup and pinch of salt until completely combined, then add in cacao powder and whisk to combine.
- Pour mixture into a small, parchment lined cookie sheet or baking dish, and sprinkle with the popping candy. It will start popping a little bit, but that's ok.
- Place the sheet in the freezer to harden. When completely solid, cut or break into pieces.
- Store in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight bag or container.