Saturday, May 29, 2010

1/2 Angelic Chocolate

The wonderful folks from Island Angel Chocolates were exceedingly generous with their Offering to The Chocolate Cult, Sisters and Brothers.  So much so that your Chocolate Priestess has decided to split them into two Saturday Sacraments.  Today we will look at the top half of the box of chocolates they sent her, at the end of June we will reveal the bottom half of that same box to you all.  To do this required me to spread out each half over a few weeks though this review is written, as always, as I'm eating them so you get immediate sensory reports.  Inside the box is a color coded list of the truffles but Mona, the chocolatier behind Island Angel Chocolates, also sent me a letter listing each one so I don't misidentify any of them and because some our seasonal flavors not listed on the card.  I'm not going to reveal these in the order you see above but instead in pairs that I think might help me appreciate each truffle and play off of each other so check out the coupled photographs as well.

We'll start with the two loganberry truffles, one milk chocolate and one dark, so I directly compare them to each other.  They both have a berry fragrance to them though I can't honestly claim I could tell a loganberry from most other berries I don't routinely consume by scent. Both are cool and smooth aside from the drizzles of purple on them and I know they will start to melt on my fingertips if I hold them too long.  The "Loganberry Milk" bites open without a sound even though the shell is thick.  Inside is a semi-solid very berry sweet cream colored center that melts in my mouth along with the chocolate, each essence balancing the other.  The "Loganberry Dark" makes a soft snap when I take a bite and the two flavors compete more heavily for dominance in this truffle with the bitterness of the chocolate winning out in the aftertaste.  Both are good and if you like loganberry the only question is your chocolate preference.

The next two are milk chocolate varieties "Milk Chocolate Hazelnut" and "Milk Chocolate Mocha". Both have the secondary flavor as a light scent but as you can see they also look different with the "Mocha" having a small coffee bean on top while the other is merely splattered with more milk chocolate over the top.   "Hazelnut" makes a soft snap when I take a bite into a mostly solid lighter colored centered.  The hazelnut fragrance increases once the truffle is opened up and the flavor melds well into the milk chocolate making this a well balanced chocolate that fulfills what we want when we see this nut combined with our Sacred Substance.  The "Mocha" makes no sound when I take a bite and inside is a darker, slightly softer center with a mild coffee flavor that I don't mind but which I'm expecting our Mocha Acolyte might find a bit subtle.  However the coffee essence continues to become the dominant flavor of this truffle so I expect after a second bite you coffee lovers might enjoy this more than I do.

Next I'll turn to the "Raspberry Jubilee" which has tiny red crystals sprinkled over the top and the "Majestic Milk" that is drizzled with more milk chocolate.  There is a light raspberry scent that comes through the milk chocolate shell of the "Raspberry Jubilee".  The shell breaks open easily and silently to reveal a semi-soft very sweet milk chocolate center.  This is so sweet that it almost tastes like a raspberry juice instead of the raw fruit itself, a description the Milk Chocolate Acolyte concurs with and adds that he notices it is very subtle compared to the chocolate itself.  This sweetness and subtleness makes this a different raspberry chocolate than we are used to eating and I am personally pleased to taste this variation of this common combination.  The "Majestic Milk" has thinner shell that makes no noise when I take a bite and a large semi-soft milk chocolate center.  The chocolate here has a creamy, smooth texture and flavor with a strong vanilla kick to it as well.

Next is "Awesome Anise" and "Alicante Chili Cinnamon" which should pair a licorice sort of truffle with a hot hot hot one.  I'll be sure to rinse out my mouth and sample these well apart from each other, Sisters and Brothers, so I get the full experience of them individually.  "Awesome Anise" does indeed have that licorice fragrance when I take a whiff of it and it is covered in the Anise seeds to mark it clearly.  The dark chocolate shell makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  Inside is a semi-soft dark center with a very strong licorice essence that battles with the bitterness of the dark chocolate before making an interesting mix.  Have you heard of chocolate licorice before?  I have tried it and I've always hated it but this is actually pretty good.  "Alicante Chili Cinnamon" even smells intense when I breath it in through the dark chocolate shell.  The thick shells surprisingly makes no noise when I take a bite.  Also surprising is the light spicy nature of the semi-soft dark center that tastes very creamy with a little kick of the spices.  If hot chocolates have not been your thing in the past, you might want to give this a try because it was very pleasant and not overwhelming at all.

To cool things done we'll try the "Orange Clove" and "Lime Dark" truffles next.  I can't really make out what the edible ink imprint on top of the "Orange Clove" is supposed to be but it marks the flavor clearly compared to the others.  The scent of orange is very light, almost covered by the clove and the dark chocolate.  After a silent bite, I find inside a semi-soft dark shell with an almost alcoholic twang of orange and clove flavor.  This creates a very strange aftertaste that lingers beyond the dark chocolate and which is hotter than the previous chili flavor was.  The "Lime Dark" has only a dark chocolate scent but the slice of lime on top clearly marks this variety.  The dark shell here makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  I'm surprised when the soft center almost melts in my mouth upon first contact.  It floods my tongue with lime sweetness and coolness which blends into the bitter chocolate pretty well.  By itself the lime center is a bit too sweet for my tastes but the chocolate calms it down to create a very good flavor combination that even the Milk Chocolate Acolyte smiles about after tasting.

Finally our top layer of this ample offering from Island Angel Chocolates has "Royal Grand" and a "Dark Swiss Caramel" truffles to send us off in a sweet way.   The "Royal Grand" not surprisingly has a sweet rumlike fragrance to it when I take a sniff of it's milk chocolate shell.  The top is drizzled peach color perhaps white chocolate but I'm not sure except that it looks unique among the selection.  The shell makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  The semi-soft milk chocolate center has both a creamy chocolate flavor but also a slight rum essence and burn that fades back into the chocolate itself as the aftertaste.  The "Dark Swiss Caramel" is odd in that it doesn't have much of a scent outside the dark shell with milk chocolate drizzle and almost colorless crystals.  This dark shell makes a loud snap and I quickly catch the semi-liquidity center on my tongue that becomes coated in tangy caramel.  Caramel and dark chocolate always taste great to me and this liquidity quality adds to the experiences by combining two textures for my mouth to explore.  The liquid disappears quickly taking the sweet tang with it so that a cocoa buzz can be felt by the end of just one bite.  An excellent chocolate all around.

This might seem superficial but one of the things I appreciate most about these truffles was how easy the variety guide and the truffles themselves were to identify.  Sometimes variation on decoration is so subtle that you can't tell, sometimes the fragrance so light you can't detect it through the chocolate shells, but each of these truffles was easy to name and therefore I could focus on just appreciating them through all my senses.  There was more variety here for my senses to experience than normal for truffles so I'm very pleased, Sisters and Brothers.  Would you like to get your own Island Angel truffles?  Look them up online or go visit their store at 138 2nd Street in Langley, Washington.  In one month, your Chocolate Priestess will reveal the bottom half of this wonderful offering from Island Angel Chocolates in another "Saturday Sacrament".

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Amazing Chocolate Brownie #1

A local bakery turned restaurant, cafe and Bed & Breakfast called The Scholar's Inn Bakehouse is located about six block from your Chocolate Priestess's house.  She visits them at least once a month to hang out with some other creative women she knows and over the course of almost a year of these meetings she'd tried a lot of chocolate baked goods.


This Bakehouse Brownie is a triangle of brownie sprinkled with powdered sugar measuring 5.5 X 4 X 3.5 inches, 1.25 inches thick with sugar covering the bottom. With so much sugar on the top and bottom, I imagined this would be very sweet but it isn’t. Instead there are chunks of chocolate inside and over all a very bittersweet chocolate taste that was amazing. I was very pleasantly surprised by it all and I highly recommend this treat if you l like brownies of a bittersweet nature. Nice and thick but a bit gooy inside just like what I want from a brownie.

What do you want in a brownie?  Does this sound like the sort of baked good you'd be happy to try?

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

M&M's Premiums Comparison

M&M put out a premium chocolate piece some time back but to be honest, your Chocolate Priestess had so many other things to try, test, and reveal to you all that she never got around to looking them.  Then one day while in her neighborhood Kroger she found four varieties of these on sale, prices deeply cut.  Oh, no!  Another product about to be canceled or at least no longer sold in this particular store?  Now was the time to try them and compare them to the original but also to each other.

Unlike regular M&M's these come in boxes that are sort of female shaped meaning they curve in toward the middle like the ideal woman's body should leaving her hips, bust and shoulders wider.  They each hold 6oz of M&M pieces that are larger than the non-nut variety of M&M's and remind me a bit of the bigger peanut butter flavor in terms of being very round and obviously larger.  The boxes are color coded to match their flavor.

"Mint Chocolate"  is obviously green which sort of matches the pieces we'll look at soon.

"Dark Chocolate" has a sort of brick color to it which doesn't really match the pieces themselves.

And finally the "Triple Chocolate" that has a purplish box.

The pieces themselves are more jeweled toned and even sparkle a bit in the light -- sparkling light and dark green, shiny copper, and shiny deep purple. Each box has 4 servings in it and there is some nutritional variation ranging from the 230 calories of the Dark and Triple to the 240 calories of the Mint variety.  Sugar content goes from 20g in the Dark to 23g in the Mint with both Dark and Triple having 8g saturated fat and again Mint being the heavy hitter at 9g.  Not surprising if you understand the nutritional differences between types of chocolate, the Dark has 3g fiber while the other two have only 1g.  What looks to be a candy shell actually makes no sound for any of these and really is just a ganache of colored chocolate over the rest of the candy so quie different from the mainstream m&m.

The "Mint Chocolate" has a strong mint scent as soon as I opened the plastic bag inside each box.  As I hope this photo can show, there are two slightly different shade or this sparkly green, a lighter then a darker version that appears almost marbled.  The dark minty chocolate on the outside hides a creamy white chocolate center that surprised me greatly but my camera is really unable to show you the full differences, Sisters and Brothers, so bite one in half and look at it yourself.

The "Dark Chocolate" variety is more copper colored on the external chocolate and since this isn't a candy shell it doesn't dilute the bitterness of the chocolate itself. How many of you have had the M&M dark pieces that aren't "Premiums"?  Take that flavor and double it for these pieces, not because of their size, for while bigger than are not that much larger, but I think because of the missing sweet sugary shell.  The result is a low level buzz by the end of a few pieces if you take them slow and just relax while you enjoy them.  As  you can see from the backgrounds I tried these are different days and attempted to piece a color that could show off their jewel tones better.

Finally the "Triple Chocolate" has a more purplish shine to its outer layer of chocolate.  When I say layer I mean three layers so the name does not lie.  Again I wish I could truly should you what this looks like so bite one in half and look at one yourself. First there is the shiny dark chocolate layer that gives this a deep chocolate scent and a hint of bitterness.  Under that is a thin white chocolate layer that is slightly sweet but the bulk of the pieces are a milk chocolate that has that traditional M&M taste.  You control the flavor really depending on how you eat these. Mixture by chewing or let them melt in your mouth for three different flavors.

Even heavily discounted these are more expensive than the regular varieties of M&M's.  They are worth the price though if you control how many you eat at a time but then isn't that what we all should be practicing here in The Chocolate Cult?

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crimes of Chocolate

Last year your Chocolate Priestess reported on several crimes connected to chocolate where chocolate either was target of the crime (someone stealing chocolate) or used to help commit a crime (selling candy to get into a house to rob it).  Today I want to highlight another such misuse of our Sacred Substance.

This case, a man accused of using chocolate to smuggle in cocaine to the USA is reminiscent of the case we saw last year of a woman caught smuggling drugs into Australia using truffles as her cover.  This time it was both chocolate candies and nuts that were being used. 

How did the airport security discover it?  Not drug sniffing dogs as in the Australian case but simply using their common sense to determine the weight was off and then opening some up.   Yeah, the inside of your Ferrero Rocher should not be a white powder.

Now this man is going to go to prison because he was trying to bring in an illegal drug hidden inside a legal one.  Look at the pictures in the news article from CNN.  It looks like he may have hidden it inside a chocolate shell, going further than our truffle smuggler did last summer.

So tell me what you think about this use of chocolate to cover up illegal drug smuggling, Sisters and Brothers?  Good idea?  Bad idea?  Or simply silly people not realizing the wonderful high they could all ready get from Chocolate?

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

83 Years of Chocolate Expertise

Drew's Fork-Dipped Chocolates can be found in the small Iowa community of Dexter, not far from the state capital of Des Moines.  We previously reviewed some of their chocolates, which we purchased during a trip through Iowa, but today we want to reveal the three types of products they gave your Chocolate Priestess so that she could share their expertise with the world.  You can order these worldwide, so at the end we'll tell you how to do that.

You can find them not via the above sign but with a highway sign along I-80, because they also serve ice cream and some drinks, thus earning the right to a highway sign.  We were thrilled to see that little blue sign and followed it carefully to this door.  This was in mid-March, so they were prepared for St. Patrick's Day, which I recall was widely but mostly privately celebrated when I grew up in Iowa, but that might be because your Chocolate Priestess can count Irish ancestors on her mother's side, and thus part of the reason for her auburn hair.




The shop was fairly small, but I could see a wide range of chocolates as well as the kitchen in the back where they make them.  A couple of tables and -- hey, another person there buying their goods.  You may think that a tiny Iowa store might be in need of business, but let me tell you, every place we found was busy, so plan to wait in line or order for delivery. 

I received three types of products -- one dark, one milk, and one white chocolate -- and I will reveal them to you in reverse order from least to most cocoa content.  First up, then, is the "White Raspberrry Cheesecake" truffles.  As you can see, these have sculpted edges and a fancy scroll design on top, suggesting that these are molded truffles.  They are just over 1.5 inches long, almost an inch wide, and 0.75 inches deep, so this is a nice big chocolate.  They have a creamy scent with a hint of fruity tartness, even though the shell.  A bite reveals a thick but soft shell of white chocolate over a semi-dry dusky pink center that has a sharp, tart raspberry flavor.  As you know, Sisters and Brothers, I think raspberry and chocolate is overdone, but this white chocolate and the texture of this fruity center is different, so I'm pleased with this particular truffle because it is unique and the sweetness balances the tartness well.

Toffee is a common treat, but at Drew's the "Toffee Krunch" are bite-sized pieces dipped in milk chocolate.  These are 1.25 inches long, 0.75 inches wide, and about a quarter of an inch thick.  They smell very sweet and are cool on my fingertips.  When I bite one in half it crunches loudly. Inside is very firm toffee with clearly visible almonds in it.  It has a more tart than sweet taste, and the nuts are more apparent than in other more sugary toffees.  The milk chocolate, however, can't really compete with the toffee itself, but I find this is the case so far with every "chocolate" toffee we've been offered.  With just two bites per piece this provides great portion control but a big toffee taste.

Finally our dark offering was the "Turtles" that Drew's makes, and you can see on the open caramel edge where they must hold them to fork-dip them. These are not uniformly shaped, and the two I was given are about 1.5 inches in diameter and about half an inch thick.  There is a slight dark chocolate scent along with the tang of caramel, which squeezes out when I take a bite.  The caramel is very sticky and more tangy than sweet in taste, as the fragrance suggested it would be. In terms of nuts the pieces are either small or not very numerous, because there isn't much crunch or much of their taste; I'm assuming these are pecans, but honestly there aren't big enough pieces for me to be sure.  The second "Turtle," however, has a lot of nuts, so many that they are the secondary flavor after the dark chocolate. This variation just indicates that these are individually handmade, in my opinion.

So this is a small sample of the wide variety I saw in the tiny store called Drew's Chocolates in Dexter, Iowa.  The chocolate is real and pure, it melts on the fingertips, and they clearly know how to deal with all three basic varieties of our Sacred Substance.  You can email Drew's at drews1927@iowatelecom.net or call them at 1-800-243-7397.  They do not currently have a website because for 83 years they've been doing fine by word of mouth and generations of chocolate lovers.  I think that if you want to say you truly know chocolate you need to try them, as well as all the other chocolatiers we reveal to you every Saturday Sacrament and for Special Sacramental Reviews.  The folks at Drew's have a chance to become one of your family traditions, so give them a try, especially if you aren't far from Des Moines.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spice & Vegan Chocolate = Very Nice

Your Chocolate Priestess is never surprised at birthday or major holidays if she is given gifts of chocolate.  Indeed somethings I have to ask my friends and family to not give me chocolate as happened for Valentine's Day 2010 when I have a ton of offerings from chocolatiers around the nation sending me in products especially that last two weeks to reveal to you all.  However I love getting gifts without a reason.  I think that's common to many women and not a few men as well.  Thus when our friend Dr. N gave me this lovely single flavor gift box of chocolates she loves, I was thrilled.

The box was pretty clever in that it must have hidden magnets that let the front flap snap from the rest of the box letting it open as you see above.  Inside were five large pieces of solid dark with colored cocoa butter decorating the top created by a company called Spice Rack Chocolates.  These were an "Earl Grey Tea & Piquant Orange" flavor and as you know from past reviews and Sacraments here on The Chocolate Cult, tea and chocolate can be a tricky mix to make.  Often the tea overwhelms the chocolate or is so faint you'd couldn't identify it as a tea flavor.

That is not true for these.  There was a clear taste of tea, a lovely orange sweetness but that 54% dark chocolate was also very strong.  The flavors flowed back and forth so that in the end after about three bites of one piece I was content with my cocoa buzz and happy about the balance of flavors.  To top that off, there are no dairy ingredients or any animal byproducts so this is great for dairy allergies and for vegans as well.  Thank you, Dr. N, for giving these to me and for letting me share this company with the world.

For all my readers, if you know of a great chocolatier, send them our way and we'll reveal them to the world.  Please do leave comments and let us know what you think of our reviews, our articles, our essays and our philosophy.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Silky Chocolate Drink

Your Chocolate Priestess has reviewed chocolate milk products before. Some were excellent and highly recommended while other were not worth your money and time.  Today I'm looking at a chocolate milk that could satisfy those of you who are dairy allergies or intolerances. 

Silk is a brand of soy milk that has several serving sizes and flavors.  I bought this "Light" Chocolate version when it was on sale and I had significant coupon from our local Kroger's.  Much like organic milk, soy and other diary milk products that try to be an alternative for diary tends to cost a good deal more so finding it on sale is usually a wise move.  I got the "Light" because the chocolate I've enjoyed most is a skim milk version so I felt this was a more fair comparison.

8oz is one serving and it has 90 calories with 80mg sodium, 300mg potassium, 2g fiber, 14g sugars, 3g protein. as well as 10 vitamins and minerals. A very healthy drink I think.  It looks very much like chocolate milk and has a strong, pleasant chocolate scent.  It does taste sweeter than the skim chocolate milk we've had in the past and that might be either the soy or the cane juice in it.  I gave a glass to a friend of mine who has drank other types of soy milks and he said this is one of his favorite.  So if you are looking for a dairy alternative but want your chocolate, give this a try and I think you'll be happy.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fiber before Chocolate?

You as you may recall, Sisters and Brothers, your Chocolate Priestess really likes the cereal bars from Fiber One compared to many other breakfast, cereal and energy bars she's reviewed for you here on The Chocolate Cult.  Today I want to look at another product from Fiber One: "Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins" that you can find on the mass produced bakery shelves in many grocery stores.  I found this on sale in Kroger and decided I wanted to try it.  First thing to note is that even on sale these are over $3 a box and there are only three muffins in it which measure about 2 inches across the bottom and rise about 2 inches tall.  That's expensive for grocery store bought, mass produced muffins!

Second, the flavor is not just chocolate chip but also banana and that is what you smell.  Indeed, no matter who close I got to one of the chocolate chips with my nose, I could not escape the fruit scent.  Luckily I like banana but if you don't, then you do not want to buy these.  The chocolate chips or "semi-sweet chocolate drops" as the ingredient list labels them are the 8th ingredient on that list but they are chocolate made with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter but they also have sugar as the primary ingredient and artificial flavors listed.  This is not a treat for folks with many food allergies including wheat, eggs, soy, oats and nuts.

Each muffin has 200 calories made of 1.5g saturated fat, 30mg cholesterol, 180mg sodium, 7g fiber (which is why you'd buy this over another chocolate chip muffin), 18g sugars, 3g protein, 2% calcium and 4% iron.  Nutritionally speaking these are pretty great though it would be better if the sugar was a bit lower and we could cut down the sodium just a touch.

All the nutritional greatest isn't going to get us to buy a product again here on The Chocolate Cult.  We demand more so let's see what these muffins are like beyond the scent.  The muffin come in individual plastic sleeves so they are still fairly moist.  It doesn't taste grainy or any of those other worries you might have about high fiber products.  However unless you bite right into a section of a lot of chips, it also doesn't taste like chocolate.  The pictures on the box aren't the same as the muffins inside -- they do not have as many chips as the professional photos suggest.  Meaning that the chocolate here does not meet our standards on The Chocolate Cult where we have to have a certain level of cocoa flavor and scent and over all chocolatyness or we can't recommend it.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chocolate for Adults & Kids

When your Chocolate Priestess was visiting South Dakota this past spring, she found two chocolate shops in one city after going for hundreds of miles without seeing any candy-dedicated stores that didn't just sell mass produced junk.  One of these chocolate shops, Watertown Confectionary, has treats designed for the entire family and donated some of their products to us, so today I want to reveal them to you and share them with the entire world.

The Watertown Confectionary was in the process of moving their store downtown at the time we found them, and this is what their future storefront looked like at that time.  At the end of the review I'll have a new photo so you can find them if you are even in the eastern half of South Dakota.  When we visited them in mid-March we met Vickie, who does the chocolate side of their business, while her husband Mike focuses on the coffee and wine/brewing side of the business.  Vickie talked to us for some time, showing us their home-based store and then giving us directions to where their new store would be located.  As you can see, they plan to go well beyond just selling chocolates, and perhaps we'll be able to visit them again in the future to see how they are doing, but for now I'm going to focus on the assortment and the patties they sent us home with.

I'll look at two of their patties, which I consider to be fun and child-friendly treats in shape and size.  These are two I did not cover in the product review of this chocolatier that I did in April.  I will then turn over the Cult to one of our Acolytes for her input on a third patty.  Each patty is milk chocolate and measures about 3.5 inches across; they vary by what is bound together by the chocolate.

One of these is the "Tater Chip Patty," and unlike the chocolate-dipped potato chips we've revealed before on The Chocolate Cult, this one is made from crushed potato chips.  It has a strong chocolate and potato chip scent when I cut it from the plastic sleeve.  It is solid and immediately starts to melt on my fingertips when I pick it up.  It has a constant crunch when I take a bite and chew.  The milk chocolate and the potato chips are an interesting combination and surprisingly complement each other very well.  In fact, I'd say these are more rustic style chips than similar products we've had in the past and thus give this a more earthy essence.  The pieces of chips can be seen within the chocolate, so this is not some sort of potato paste but actual crushed up chips.

The "Dakota Style Tater Patty" is made from "Dakota Style Jalapeno flavored" chips.  When I think of South Dakota, I have to confess I don't think of spicy or hot in terms of climate or food, but we'll give this a try and compare it to the plain version.  This smells very similar to the previous patty, but it does have that spicy fragrance that I find is apparent in many Jalapeno flavored foods.  The taste has a little kick to it but not too much, so you might still enjoy it if you aren't a spicy fan; in fact, I think kids would find this acceptable, too -- not to mention fun, which is what I thought when I saw the various patties they sold at Watertown Confectionery.

Our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte has this to report about their "Cow Pie" patty: "When I remove the patty from the wrapper, the chocolate scent is very obvious. It definitely looks like the object it’s named after. The scent is more powerful as I bring it closer to my nose, and I can also smell the coconut. The texture is firm as I bite into it, and the chocolate is cool on my fingers.   The chocolate is very sweet, and the toasted coconut supplies more crunch than I expected. Then I realize that it isn’t the coconut: there are tiny bits of toffee mixed into the patty, adding an extra layer of flavor. This is a very rich confection. I had to quit sampling before consuming the entire patty. But if you can get past the name, it’s a wonderful treat."

Vickie also gave me an assortment of their chocolates that are more adult in style.  I'm not completely sure what each product, is so you're coming with me on this mystery tasting, Sisters and Brothers.  The chocolate is made preservative free, but you can safely store it for several months if you keep it under moisture and temperature controlled conditions, as we do in The Chocolate Cult.  The box is probably a spring version, since the box on the website looks different, but then it was before Easter when we visited.

I see 13 individual pieces myself, some of which should be identical, to make 7 varieties of candies.  Remember, even though I am sampling each product, I very, very rarely eat more than a bite or two, so I follow our Path of Moderation and Purposefulness -- Acolytes are a huge help to me in this way.  As soon as I cut off the plastic wrap over this box, my nose picks up the chocolate scent, and I am promised wonderful treats via that sense, but I calm myself and proceed with focus so I can reveal all to you, Sisters and Brothers.

First up are two coconut candies and a molded milk chocolate piece in the shape of a lamb under the blue foil wrap.  The coconut is made with the same care as the "Cow Pie," so if that sounded good to you, this will be as good in a bite sized version.  My tongue may be playing tricks on me, but I think this lamb may have a bit of mint mixed in with the chocolate, because he cools my mouth down considerably without losing the taste of the creamy chocolate, which melts almost as fast as I can chew it.

The next two have a swirl of chocolate on top and a light peanut scent with the milk chocolate.  Peeling off the white paper cup is very similar to peeling back paper from a peanut butter cup treat, so I'm betting this is the Watertown Confectionary version of that treat.  Your Chocolate Priestess is correct, she discovers, as soon as she takes a bite and light peanut butter flavor mixes with chocolate.  Now, I rarely say this, but in this case, we need more of the other ingredient to balance with the chocolate, because the peanut butter filling isn't even a third of this candy, and it tastes good, not salty or too sweet, so we want more of it.

The next duo are 1 by 1 by 0.75 inch squares and have a folded back section of chocolate on top, it appears, and after several repeated whiffs I think I detect a mint scent.  Let's see if it's mint, Sisters and Brothers.  The thick coating makes a definite snap when I take a bite, and after a few chews of the darker, semi-solid chocolate center, the mint does work its way to my taste buds and starts cooling down my entire mouth, making it tingle after a while.  It all melts together and becomes an excellent mint truffle.

The next duo are matching cubes of chocolate but with a line of chocolate diagonally across the top.  This is mostly milk chocolate in fragrance, but there is something else that is sweet but hard to identify -- maybe caramel?  A bite reveals a very sticky center that is chocolate caramel with a bit of a spicy kick to it.  The caramel is very sticky, adhering to my teeth until it melts off.  The added heat lingers a bit longer, then fades into a tangy flavor before returning to a very light chocolate.  I'd personally like a bit more chocolate strength myself.

The larger of the two remaining flavors has a sort of turtle-like outline and is 2 inches at it's widest.  It does have a nut and caramel scent with the milk chocolate, so I take a bite and find that I've deciphered the type of treat once again.  Your Chocolate Priestess is on a roll today, Sisters and Brothers.  Inside I can see the nuts -- cashews, I think -- the caramel and more chocolate under the milk chocolate coating. This is a very sweet version of a turtle, with a light crunch and a very creamy chocolate, so these would be good for anybody with a super sweet tooth who might be reading this today.

Finally we get to the last duo of odd, sort of pseudo-triangles that remind me of toffee shards.  These are comparable in size to the turtles.  There is a buttery scent that seeps through the milk chocolate when I take a whiff.  I've guessed all the flavors today, I realize, when I work to snap off a piece of the deep, buttery toffee concealed by the milk chocolate. We have revealed several companies' toffees to the world over the 15 months The Chocolate Cult has been in service, and this is not one of the best, but it is a decent chocolate-covered toffee.

Overall these are good milk chocolate treats that range from fancier pieces in the box to kid friendly patties at reasonable prices.  You can check out the Watertown Confectionary's product line online, but you really need to check my reviews and contact Vickie or Mike to learn what they have in stock at any given time, since there are no detailed descriptions or even a product list on the website.  If you are anywhere near Watertown, SD, today -- May 15, 2010 -- is their new store's grand opening at 116 E. Kemp Avenue, so go check them out.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Never Too Hot for Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tomorrow, May 15, is "National Chocolate Chip Day" and one way to celebrate is with chocolate chip cookies.  Recipes for these come in all varieties but what if you think it's just too hot to bake your own but you don't want dry mass produced cookies or bakery bought cookies either?  Is the "Warm Delights" product line from Betty Crocker a good choice if you are looking for a warm chocolate chip cookie fix?

I bought this product, the "Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie" single serving microwavable cookie mix a while back from Kroger when it was on sale and I had a coupon -- you know your Chocolate Priestess is a big fan of sale combined with coupons.  Once made, this is supposed to have 340 calories, 5g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 280mg sodium, 2g fiber, 39g sugars, 4g protein and 2% calcium and 10% iron an adult needs daily.  A reminder about trans fat: You should not consume more than 3 grams of it a day but labeling only requires it be listed once it hits the 0.5g mark so it may be in a lot of products you eat so be careful please.  The healthier your life, the more chocolate you'll be able to enjoy.  But the good news is that this is a big cookie, about 5 inches across, so I don't know why you'd need or want more than one of them.

In terms of smell, it smells just like a chocolate chip cookie which it should since the label confirms both chocolate solids and liquor.  No big surprise that it is a very sweet cookie given the amount of sugar in it and the fact that is the first ingredient listed.  Frankly it is a bit too sweet for me and it would drown out the chocolate if not for the fudgy frosting you can spread on top if it; here in the photo you can see I did crossed, wavy lines as my pattern.  It baked in the time listed and didn't require any more water than 1 Tbsp even though I have  a fairly powerful mircowave that can easily overcook things.  It required a spoon to eat so not really very cookie like in that sense.  It also was more cookie dough like in texture than a baked cookie.

Is this the best chocolate chip cookie mix I've ever made or tried?  No but it isn't the worst either.  If you can find it on sale and have a coupon and you really want a chocolate chip cookie but don't want to heat up your oven, give it a try.  For me, I'll probably eat some chocolate chip ice cream to honor tomorrow's fun holiday depending on the weather.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sinful Brownies Contest

It's time for another contest here on The Chocolate Cult.  This time I'm giving away one of the two bags of "Cindy's Sinfully Chocolate Brownie Mix" that I received when my order was messed up for one bag.  So you may get to benefit from the free bag that came my way.  This mix is part of the Women's Bean Project which helps women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.  I received two bags, one handmade by Michelle, which I will ship to our winner, and one made my Tina when I baked for my family I am. I ordered this via a website called The Hunger Site which donates food and money to a variety of world-wide charities.

Let's get the contest out of the way then I'll review the mix itself.

To enter you must be a public Follower of The Chocolate Cult either through blogspot, Facebook, or Networked Blogs.  I do check this each time so if you joined for the last contest then left us you must rejoin -- honestly why would you leave your Sisters and Brothers in Cocoa behind?  You can join in either of those three ways linked to on the left hand side of this blog. 

To enter you must leave a comment below by Noon Eastern Time on Thursday, May 13, 2010.  Your comment simply needs to to say what sounded best to you about these brownies and that you do live in the lower 48 States of the USA --  I'm shipping these myself and that's what I can afford at this time.

Finally you need to make certain that your listing as a follower includes a way for me to contact you directly by private email. If you win and I can't contact you, I'll move on to the next person in line.

The order of your comments will determine your number for the random drawing so the first person to comment will be #1, the fourth person will be #4 and so forth.  The winner will be chosen using this random number generator.

Now we'll review this product.  The brown paper bag contains all the dry ingredients you'll need but you must add 4oz or 1/2 cup of butter and 2 eggs as well.  I followed the directions exactly, blended the mix into the well whipped eggs and butter just until it was all wet.  Then I put it in a lightly oiled 8X8 glass pan and baked it at the low end of the time.

First, they needed more time.  When I saw the brownies were not pulled away from the sides, I just reset my timer for a few minutes more.  And then a bit more until I was at the max listed time and they were finally done.  This was probably part the result of using glass instead of metal pan -- I use what I have, Sisters and Brothers -- and the uncertainty that plagues my oven at times.

I placed the pan on my wire racks to cool as directed.  They smelled great, very chocolaty from about the mid-point of baking.  They looked... well, flatter than I had hoped but then brownies don't raise very much usually.  I cut them into 16 pieces approximately 2X2 inches.  They smelled great, had a cake-like texture and tasted very sugary with some cocoa bitterness.  In short, like an average brownie mix.

So the reason to get these is not because they are the best brownies you will ever make but because you can get behind the goals at the Women's Bean Project.  If you want to give them a free try, follow the directions above to enter this contest.  Hurry, it only lasts a few days.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cocoa Nymph Tiny Truffles are a Treat

Cocoa Nymph Chocolates & Confections sent us three samples of their products back in February, and after a crazy March and April of multiple pre-written Sacraments and reviews your Chocolate Priestess is finally able to share one of these products with you.  8 samples of truffles came in their signature silver box.  You can also get truffles in boxes of 18 or 32, and the website shows photos of all 13 varieties of truffles, so you can make a good decision about what you want.  Let me help you with a full sensory review of 8 of these flavors.

Here you can see the truffles in the box as they arrived.  They also came with a little booklet of photos and descriptions of the truffles that matches what you can find online.  As you know, I like being informed about what I'm about to taste, smell and describe to you all so we aren't playing a guessing game, so I'm very pleased that Cocoa Nymph does this.  Each truffle is a one inch cube, so I won't keep describing the measurements for you all.  I'm going to describe these two at a time, starting at the top and working my way down, so get comfortable and relax, Sisters and Brothers, and enjoy it with me.  Remember, take your Saturday Sacrament slowly and enjoy each bite, just as I try to do for you all.

Our first piece is the "Barnabas the Tortoise," which is a milk chocolate truffle with a glazed pecan on top of it.  Primarily there is a nice chocolate scent, but also a hint of sweetness from maple glazing.  The nut crunches when I take a bite, but the rest of the truffle is silent.  The center is semi-solid, and I can indeed taste the sweet caramel, the creamy milk chocolate, and a strong brandy essence.  I've never had such a combination of flavors, a total of four, but they blend well, fading happily into the chocolate itself.

The next piece has crystals of sea salt on top of dark chocolate ganache and is called "Illa (Fleur de Sel)."  This has a dark chocolate scent with a bit of salt from the crystals when I breathe it in.  The shell over a semi-soft center breaks when I take a bite. Inside I taste some tangy sweetness and the chocolate, but the salt really lingers in this truffle regardless of whether you eat around the top crystals or not. Salty chocolate can be done well or not so well, and sadly this is a bit too salty for your Chocolate Priestess's preference.

The "Papillon (Raspberry)" has a white chocolate and raspberry square design on the top of a dark chocolate truffle.  This has a lighter chocolate scent than I expected.  Inside is a semi-solid center that starts off very chocolatey but turns a bit sour as I keep chewing before returning to a dark cocoa bitterness as I finish it off in my mouth.  A very unexpected twist on the common raspberry truffles I've revealed to you all in the past, Sisters and Brothers.

I think the other cube with a deep green decoration is the "Fresh" flavor, which is a green tea and fresh mint combination with both dark and milk chocolates.  This has a definite tea and mint scent with the dark cocoa when I breathe it in.  The shell makes a very soft crack when I take a bite to find a sharply green tea flavored semi-solid center.  The mint is not so much a flavor as it is a rush of coolness in my mouth that swirls with the cocoa and tea to create a different aftertaste that isn't unpleasant but is certainly different than what I've had before with mint or green tea chocolates in the past.

"The Liz" has a garnish of gold on it's dark chocolate ganache, and I wonder if it might be named for actress Elizabeth Taylor.  The fragrance is simply dark cocoa, so I take a bite to find a solid white center that has a creamy and vanilla taste, which becomes more intense with each chew but does not overpower the bitterness of the ganache over it.

"Lucy in the Chai" is clearly a play on a Beatles song and refers to the the spice flavor under the dark ganache, which has a crosshatched pattern over the top.  This has a spicy scent, adding a kick to the dark chocolate when I take a whiff of this truffle.  Inside is a semi-solid center of dark chocolate with the heat of chai but only a hint of black tea. This wasn't a flavor I thought I'd like, but I'm pleased it isn't as hot as I was worried it could be, and the chocolate is the primary flavor.

I'm not really sure what this second to last truffle is, since it doesn't look like any of the photos in the booklet or online.  This has a slightly sweet scent to it, so I consider the listing of varieties as I take a bite.  Inside is a crispy, crunchy center that tastes like honey and hazelnuts, so I now know what this is: "Melissa (Honey Crunch)."  I like the different texture in this piece compared to the other truffles, but the sweetness and nut slightly overwhelms the milk chocolate.

The final piece, though, is the "Glinda," perhaps referring to "The Wizard of Oz" and identifiable by an eye-shaped piece of candy on the top.  This is odd, because no matter how deeply I breathe the aroma of this piece in, I'm not getting much of a scent.  Intrigued, I take a bite, which makes a medium crunch because of the thickness of the ganache.  Inside are two layers, a top jelly-like blackberry layer and a bottom semi-solid chocolate layer.  Normally I'm not a blackberry fan, but this blends wonderfully with the two chocolates, and I have to say that this sort of truffle makes blackberries tasty to me.

These flavors are all unique, and some I liked more than others, which is very common as you know for assorted reviews, Sisters and Brothers.  I've tried to describe what I actually felt, saw, tasted, smelled and heard so that you can make your own decision.  For quality chocolate taste and unique combinations with fun names, Cocoa Nymph scores high marks for their truffles.  Come back later in 2010 for more reviews of Cocoa Nymph products, including a chocolate bar and their chocolate-glazed nuts.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mole Made Easy

Back in January, we had our first "Everyday Chocolatier" interview and our featured cook, Bridget, shared her mole recipe with us.  You can find that post HERE.  Yesterday in honor of Cinco de Mayo The Chocolate Priestess's family had mole at home for the first time.  I wasn't fully recovered from my recent surgery so we used a store bought "ready to serve" mole that I found in Kroger.

This is from Doña María and has three servings in a box though we only used half of it for us three.  You can make it two ways: microwave or stovetop with a teaspoon of added oil; I made it the second way so I could watch it and smell it as it cooked.  It wasn't difficult at all to make though frankly I would have appreciated a few more directions about what it should look like.  Mine was bought to a low boil then heated and stirred constantly for two minutes.  Then I let it set while I dished out diced potatoes and chicken breasts.  I only drizzled two spoonfuls onto that mixture directly and it turned out it added enough of a spicy kick to make it interesting without being overwhelming.  Since none of us have mole very often it was a good idea to start simple and small I believe.  I served it with simple toasted corncakes as well for a very easy dinner.

Purists will be appalled by the idea of mole in a box that you could heat in the microwave but I think this is a good basic introduction to something new for my family.  It has quite a bit of sodium in it but otherwise is decent nutrition-wise adding an extra 140 calories if you use it for three big servings.  The primary ingredients are water, chili peppers, and soybean oil with cocoa one of the last. Frankly I couldn't taste the cocoa but then if I had I probably would haven't been as pleased by the flavor.  I'm glad I thought of trying  it and it helped make our evening a bit unique compared to most Wednesday dinners.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo & Chocolate Gifts

Happy Cinco de Mayo for all our Hispanic chocolate lovers out there!

As most of you know, I hope, Sisters and Brothers, it was in the area of modern day Mexico that cacao took on it's first cultural significance.  I won't give you a history lesson here you can easily learn in most chocolate cookbooks, on a fair number of chocolatiers' websites or even from a quick browsing of the Internet.  But I do want to point out that here in the USA we don't think of Mexico or anywhere more south than Texas when we think of chocolate companies.  That just isn't true as a previous "Saturday Sacrament" revealed two different south of our border chocolatiers and their wonderful offerings.  

Today sadly I won't be reviewing a Mexican made chocolate but one made using Mexican stone mills and simple ingredients, only two in fact: organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar.  Taza Chocolate is actually made in Massachusetts.  Since they didn't send this to me this won't be a "Sacrament" and I didn't buy it it can't be just a "Review".

Instead this was a "Gift" for your Chocolate Priestess's last birthday from her friend Charles.  I have never had Taza before nor something with so few ingredients made in the "Mexican stone mill" fashion.  Inside the wax paper which does an amazing job of keeping this fresh, are two discs of chocolate measuring 2.75 inches across and over 0.25 inches deep.  There are eight partly incised sections with the letters of the company and four 0s around it. Note: Once you do open it, the discs become very easy to over expose to moisture which can cause sugar bloom and temperature changes that can cause fat bloom.

The package does not list nutritional values but the cacao percent must be high given the list of ingredients and the deep earthy scent.  It has a slightly grainy texture and is very bitter but also has a strong hint of sweetness after a while, a sweetness that becomes a bit too much it you eat it too fast so slow down with this one.  There is an immediate buzz produced confirming this is high and pure cacao indeed with a lot of cane sugar.  Let me add that post surgery this intensity makes a nice dent in my pain level as well.

An excellent gift, Charles, thank you!

Later today for dinner I'm going to be adding another chocolate to celebrate the day: Mole.  You may remember that our first "Everyday Chocolatier" Bridget shared her recipe with us. While I won't be making mine at home, your Chocolate Priestess is still recovering from surgery, we did buy some and will be trying it and then I'll review it in a future post.

For those of your reading I suggest you go out and find some Mexican or "Mexican fashion" chocolate and eat or drink it today in honor of this holiday.  Then leave a comment and let us know how you celebrated please.

Sisters and Brothers, may you, too, take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

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