Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Online Bake Sale For Japan LIVE

Sisters and Brothers I hope you'll recall that I announced a worldwide food blog event called "Online Bake Sale for Japan".  They've been gathering baked goods and today is the day you do your part by bidding on some of the good by going HERE.

Please enable your browser to pull up a new tab when you click on links in The Chocolate Cult and let us know what you think in our comments.  Your comments feed us as much as the chocolate we test for you does.

Because of database problems and the large number of baked goods up for auction, please read their instructions carefully but do please consider what a good cause and a good ratio of donations to charity give-out is involved.  For every $100 dollars raised, the Second Harvest folks will send $1000 worth of food to Japan.  With radiation problems only increasing, I think they may need help for some time to come.

But you all want to know about CHOCOLATE offerings for this bake sale I'm sure so let me dig around and see what is up for auction using this LINK.

Chocolate Chip Banana Mochi Cake from SushiDay

Triple Chocolate Almond Cookies from uTryIt.com

Devils Food and Chocolate Cupcakes from LittleMissCupcakeParis

Alfajore Pops dipped in Chocolate from KitchenCorners

Chocolate Walnut Cookies from More Than a Mouthful

Monthly delivery of your choice from a great selection of treats from The Gluten Free Gourmet

Salty Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookies with Butterscotch Sauce from nomnivorous.com

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan or non) from Gluten Free Baking

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

 Nutella Cake from Ilke’s Kitchen

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Nuts from A Half Baked Life

Brownie Rolled Out Cookies from the baked life

Vegan Thin Mints from Chipped Bowl

Choco-Toffee-Cran Cookies from 52 Sweets

Coconut-Chocolate Chip Cookies from Jules Bea [Gluten-Free] Makeshop

Triple Layer Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from Budget Gourmet Mom

Several items from Dulcis Serenus including star shaped S'more Cookies

A Duo of Truffles: The heavenly white chocolate matcha truffle and the dangerous dark chocolate wasabi truffle from C&C Cakery

Candy Bar Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies (you have choices for candy bars) by From the Little Yellow Kitchen

Chocolate Chili Bites from Lemons and Anchovies

Chocolate Banana Bread from This little piggy went to the farmers market
 
The Cookie Karma Tin from marnees

Chocolate Marshmallow Whoppie Pies from Makin’ Whoopie

Vegan Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies from The Tolerant Vegan

Orange Cake with Chocolate Glazing from An Italian cooking in the Midwest

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Cupcake Carousel

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookies from And Love it, Too!

Sinfully Red Velvet Chocolate Truffle Cake Balls & Oh fudge Chocolate Truffle Balls from Sinfully Yours Chocolate

Homemade Oreos from Whit’s Amuse Bouche

Triple Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake from Steph's Bite by Bite

I wish I could share the photos with you all but I don't have permission from all these wonderful bakers and cooks.  So please go look, see if you can buy something, and help Japan.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adding Extras to Chocolate Recipes

This will be a new type of Saturday Sacrament, Sisters and Brothers.  Not only will I be revealing a companies products but also some of the recipes I used to incorporate non-chocolate items into chocolate dishes.  MarxFoods sent us some palm plates last year as some of you may recall -- I tried to set them on fire in my review.  After we won a Reader's Choice for our review, we received other plates.  Marxfoods also sent us some spices which is the food focus of their company.  They sent us two types of dried chilies, two types of dried mushrooms, vanilla beans, and fleur de sal.  Today I'm going to share with you how I tried them all out with chocolate recipes.  I want to give a big thanks to my food historian friend, Emilie, for her help in trying to figure how to use these spices as well as to our various Acolytes for trying the recipes or helping me create various treats you'll see below.  Success or failure rests on my brow.

The first thing I tried was the six Madagascar Vanilla Beans they sent my way.  First I added one bean to one cup of Splenda and let it set for three months.  I did the same with another cup as well at some point so I had two cups to play with in various recipes.  Several of the treats we made for our 2010 Christmas party were with this vanillaed sugar and I just left out any additional vanilla in the recipe. I think it turned out well each time.


That wasn't all I did with those vanilla beans, oh, no.  I'm going to get the most out of them that I can but that might take a while and I didn't want to put off this review forever.  I placed all six beans into a large bottle of vodka.  As you can see over the weeks it is taking the vanilla out and becoming extract.  It may take me a decade to use this much! When I finally remove the beans again I'll use them one final time by cutting them open and taking out the little seeds to use as flavoring and decoration for sugar cookies.  I know, that isn't all for chocolate but I do make treats and dishes that don't have chocolate.  Shocking, I realize for all of you to learn.



The Flor de Sal is a type of sea salt that I had a heck of a time trying to find a few years back when I had to test a cookbook about sweet and salty foods.  Now I can go back and try those recipes again so I'm grateful for this.  This particular type was from Portugal but MarxFoods has several kinds of gourmet salt you can discover.  I have to travel about town to find that much variety where I live.

I also received two types of dried chilies and I was confused as to how to use these.  Vanilla beans and flor de sal, that's easy because so many recipes I use call for those or their related components.  Emilie was a huge help here and she suggested I soak the broken up chilies in whole milk or broth.  I used heavy cream and then made two recipes.

I made a chocolate cake using the milder chilies, the Aji Cereza chilies that MarxFoods sent me.   I used a modified version of a Bon App├ętit recipe by only using the cake part of the recipe and substitution of the coffee for the heavy cream soaked chilies and leaving out the almonds so our Milk Chocolate Acolyte could eat it.  The result was two 9 inch round cakes we covered with frosting.  The cakes were a bit dry because I use whole wheat flour for all my flour needs but the chilies gave it a mild fruit flavor.  Next time I'll note to add more liquid to combat the dryness.

I tried to make truffles, again, with the Aji Panca peppers.  They wouldn't set up right and we too hard to form into balls or any shape at all so I'll simply call these "Hot Dark Chocolates".  This is basically the last of the Guittard 70% chocolate with a cup of heavy cream in which the peppers were soaked.  The result is a bitter chocolate with what I find to be a very spicy aftertaste though others who tried it and who like spicier foods and drinks than your Chocolate Priestess didn't think it was terribly spicy.   Razzle suggested that you could melt it again and use it as a savoy fondue for veggies perhaps.  What do you all think?

Again I was thrown about how to use the dried mushrooms that I received.  Emilie suggested refreshing them in cold water then simply dicing them to add to dishes I normally would.  We had some ideas but then I realized after the truffle failure I wanted to try simple first so I made a red sauce with added chili-cocoa powder for spaghetti and then diced the Black Trumpet Mushrooms on top.  I'm not a fan of mushrooms and this didn't look like any thing special so I didn't bother to take a photo.   The other mushrooms Marx sent me was these Matsutake Mushrooms and I am clueless how to use these with chocolate since these are Japanese mushrooms.  Any suggestions are welcomed, Sisters and Brothers.

There you go!  My sometimes crazy, sometimes tasting, sometimes unique experiments with spices from MarxFoods.  I will bake and cook with samples, I've reviewed cookware and you all may remember the ice cream failures of 2010.  But I really wish it had been easier to figure out what to do with 4 of the 6 samples they sent. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Online Bake Sale for Japan

Sisters and Brothers, I'm sure that many of you have heard about the earthquake and the following tsunami near Japan.  Aftershocks and damage to the infrastructure are causing serious problems with the nation. To support relief efforts via Second Harvest Japan, an online bake sale has been organized that I thought you all might want to know about.  Sabrina of The Tomato Tart is the lady in charge so I'll just copy her words explaining the event below.

Hello Bakers,
Thank you so much for joining the Online Bake Sale for Japan. We are donating all of the money to Second Harvest Japan- the food bank working on the ground to get people fed. Once again, I am overwhelmed by the kindness and enthusiasm of the blogging community. This bake sale is taking off like wildfire. So far we have almost 60 bakers from at least 6 countries!

I know some of you have already sent me your treats, but since logistics are getting so crazy, I am going to ask for everything one more time.  I appreciate your patience.

If you could have all of this to me by the 23rd, that would be really really helpful.

The bake sale auction happens on the 30th of March, but I will have a preview of all of the items up by the 28th of March at the latest.  I will send you the name and address of the highest bidder within a couple of days, and I'll ask that you ship everything by Monday the 11th of April which will give you two full weekends to bake or make your item.


Here's what I need:

Your Name:

Your Blog Name:

Your Blog Address:

Where You Live:
You can be as specific or general as you feel comfortable
for example, I'll say San Francisco, CA you may say only Italy or Montana.

A Blurb About What You Are Making:
ie:
My vegan matcha green tea cupcakes with sudachi icing were inspired by a trip to Japan town during the Cherry Blossom festival last year. I thought it wholly appropriate to donate these in solidarity with the people of Japan. Moist and delicious and free of eggs and dairy, these cupcakes have become famous amongst my friends. I'll ship these in mason jars so they arrive fresh and all in one piece.


A Link To The Item on Your Blog:
I know some of you are not bloggers, I have an idea! You can create a foodbuzz account (super simple) and share the recipe and a photo there. If this is too much trouble, email me and we will work something out.

Are you willing to ship internationally?

Also, please send a picture of your baked good/goods

Also, I've attached three sizes of badges for you to put on your site. If you need another size, let me know. I'm a graphic designer, so photoshop tweaks are super quick for me.

Please let me know about any blog posts you do on the bake sale, I'll try to promote them as well.

Again, thank you so much.  Let's Raise Some Dough!



--
contact info:

Sabrina Modelle
email: bakesale@thetomatotart.com
blog: www.thetomatotart.com
phone: 650.533.849
twitter: @thetomtatotart
facebook: www.facebook.com/sabrinamodelle.thetomatotart

Monday, March 21, 2011

Perkins Memories Better

We don't have a Perkins restaurant in the town I currently live in.  When I lived in NYC, we didn't see any near us as well.  I remember visiting them now and again when I was growing up.  I remember that I always had to have something chocolate while there and in my memory their chocolate baked goods were always great.

Recently I was in the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio, for a convention and I went to a Perkins there twice.  Each time I got a chocolate treat and sadly each time was I disappointed.

First I got the Chocolate Silk Pie which I try at any restaurant or store that sells them.  In fact, this was the first type of pie I ever made myself and I earned one of my Girlscout badges making a full formal dinner with this type of dessert.   You can see that it looks great, nice and thick, a good crust not over baked, a fluffy white whipped cream and HUGE chocolate curls.  The chocolate in the curls was the most chocolaty part of the pie.  The chocolate filling was too sweet and that level of sweetness over came the creaminess and the chocolatyness I expected.

The pie was better than the cookie I tried the next day. A Chocolate Chip cookie which was again very big but disappointing once I ate it.  For me, I want a softer chocolate chip cookie with some bulk to it.  This was only soft in the center 1/5 of the cookie, the rest was very crisp.  It was also very buttery and only had a chocolate taste in the chips though there were a lot of them.  I wanted to try the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie but our server gave me just a second one of these and it was the same as the first.

I'll try other chocolate things at the next Perkins we visit, I'm sure, they have a few others to think about, but my fond memories of these particular treats were better than the real deal this time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guittard Bars Revealed

Guittard is best known for it's baking and candy making supplies such as the 24oz slabs of baking chocolate they sent your Chocolate Priestess and which won them our 2010 Chocolate of the Year acknowledgment.  They now make candy bars that you can eat or use for your baking or candy making projects.

Unlike the mainstream candy bar you can find in almost any grocery, mass market, or pharmacy in America today, these Guittard Chocolate Bars are large bars, 2oz, and measure 4 5/8 X 2 X 3/8 inches.   The cacao content or cacao mass content is on the front of the wrapper.  They sent us eight flavors plus some extras of each so I had a lot of folks try these bars out before revealing them to you all today, Sisters and Brothers.  We'll look at them from the least cacao content to the most.  Note that there are other bars they now sell but these are the ones we received and can write about for you all today.

The first flavor is a 38% cacao "Orinoco" bar in a lighter purple wrapper which has 310 calories made of 13g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium, 1g fiber, 26g sugars, and 4g protein.  This has dairy in the form of full cream milk so this is a milk chocolate bar though much high cacao content than many of you may be used to tasting.  I broke up all the bars some some were broken in transport and I wanted to be fair and judge them on my senses, not on their breakage.  This has a creamy cocoa scent to it.  It was easy to break into the twelve sections all the bars come etched into and very quiet when I took a bite.  The taste was creamy with a slight almost caramel essence as well as a kick from the cocoa.  It melted very easily in my mouth and thoroughly coated my tongue.  Excellent for milk chocolate lover who also like dark chocolate since it has a higher cacao content than you may be used to.

"Tsaratana" is a 61% cacao bar in a sky blue wrapper with 290 calories made of 13g saturated fat, 4g fiber, 22g sugars, and 3g protein.  Notice how darker chocolate tend to have less fats and more fiber in general.  This had a good cocoa essence in the scent but surprisingly it almost tasted milky and a bit like coffee for some reason to me.  It melted in my hands as I tried to break it apart and it was much more difficult to break, making a loud snapping sound.  The flavor has to be a result of the cocoa beans used because the only added ingredients are the basics -- sugar, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, vanilla beans and soya lecithin.

In a royal purple wrapper comes a 65% cacao bar called "Ambanja Bittersweet" made from Criollo beans from Madagascar.  The type of cacao tree and the area it is grown, as well as the farming conditions, greatly affect flavor for all chocolate unless you overwhelm it with additional ingredients.  This one bar has a lighter color than the 61% bar but a much darker cocoa scent that has a strong hint of earthyness to it.  One bar has 290 calories composed of 13g saturated fat, 5g fiber, 20g sugars, and 3g protein.  It was difficult to break apart but didn't melt on my skin as the previous bar did.  It had a very dark taste and the chocolate felt like it was drying out my mouth as I took a bite and chewed it or let it melt in my mouth.  The aftertaste was tangy sweet and totally unexpected but a delight.

The "Quevedo Bittersweet" in a aquamarine wrapper also has 65% cacao content but it's bean come from Ecuador.  It is slightly darker than our second bar in this featured review and certainly much darker than the previous bar.  It has almost no scent no matter how hard I breathed in and attempted to get a grasp of the pieces or the bar itself.  Not knowing what to expect then I broke it apart fairly easily and noted a reddish streak on the edges where I broke it.  At first the chocolate is very subtle in taste but it builds with each chew and reveals a fruity and nutty quality that balances the intense buzz it also creates.  The nutritional values for all four of the 65% bars turns out to be identical or refer to the "Ambanja Bittersweet" for that information.

The next 65% bar comes in a emerald green wrapper with the name of "Chucuri Bittersweet" on the front.  The name reflects that fact that these are Trinitario beans from the San Vicente de Chucuri Valley in Columbia.  This has a strong cocoa scent with a generic spiciness to it when I took a whiff.  It is very difficult to break apart and as I did so it released an almost coffee essence which I'm sure our Mocha Acolytes would disagree with.  Apparently I sense more coffee than they do or perhaps they just like coffee so much it requires more to get a reaction from them.  The taste is mild then builds up to a hint of spiciness as the scent suggested but much more mild over all.  If darker chocolates tend to be too intense for you, try this one, I think you might discover a dark bar you can love.

In a brick red wrapper we find the "Sur Del Lago Bittersweet" bar which has 65% cacoa again, making that four bars with the same percentage of cocoa but very different flavors.  These beans are a combination of Criollo and Trinitario from the Sur Del Lago region of Venezuela.  This bar was broken as you can see in the photo but I broke it up even more which was difficult and really makes me wonder how it broke in the first place.  The scent is so dark and intense it almost makes my eyes water and yet the flavor itself is fairly mild with a hint of fruity tartness.  This would probably frighten non-dark chocolate lovers by the smell but try it and you'll be surprised.

"Quetzalcoatl" is a burgandy wrapped bar with 72% cacao mass because it contains no added cocoa butter.  It has an almost smoky touch to its very dark fragrance. Once more it is very difficult to break this bar apart, I had hoped with less cocoa butter it might be easier but no.  I am shocked by the flavor which is smooth not sharp or too intense at all.  The bar has 270 calories but still 13g saturated fat (why if no added cocoa butter?), 5mg sodium, 6g fiber, 16g sugars, and 4g protein.    That nutritional information though holds nothing to our final bar which just surprised me all around.

That would be the very dark, 91% cacao, "Nocturne" which I forgot to take a photograph of apparently or it was so dark it erased itself from my camera.  This comes in a black wrapper, just black with the normal white and gold letters and decoration from Guittard.  As I said, the nutritional information shocked me with 300 calories, 18g saturated fat (the highest!), 20mg sodium, 7g fiber, 5g sugars, and 5g protein.  If sugar is something you need to cut out, eat this, if saturated fat, well, I still have good news for you.  This is intense.  I'll say that again: INTENSE but what did you expect at 91% cacao?  It made several people I shared it with pucker up and look away.  It is not for the faint of tongue nor even for the vast majority of us dark chocolate lovers.  But guess what?  That just means you can make this last for a few more days compared to the other bars so you end up eating less calories and fat over all.   The flavor has a tangy berry like quality to it if you can tolerate the bitterness enough to truly let it connect with your taste buds.  Just like the "Ambanja Bittersweet" bar this also drew the moisture from my mouth as I tried a piece, just one piece.


Guittard is simply excellent chocolate made right here in the USA.  They have direct ties to their cocoa farmers and their company philosophy is something we can get behind here on The Chocolate Cult.  You should check them out, Sisters and Brothers, because they have yet to fail to live up to our standards here on The Chocolate Cult.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Size Less Important than Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess has reviewed Keebler products before.  Like many of you, I grew up familiar with and eating the "elf-made" treats.  After my Conversion from Chocolate as an Addiction to Chocolate as Sacrament, there have been some Keebler treats that still are good enough for me.  Sadly, today, I'm going to talk about some that just can't make the cut here on The Chocolate Cult.

I remember Fudge Sticks.  Do you remember them?  Covered with fudge, these layers of wafers and cream were a treat.  They made a little noise and certainly got your sugar rushing.  Recently I saw in our local Kroger that there was a new type of Fudge Stick out, a Jumbo variety that came in two flavors.  They were on sale as a 2 for 1 deal plus I had coupons so I thought I'd give them a try.


The original come in only one variety but the jumbo ones have a peanut butter version so I tried both as well as the original so I could compare them.  As you can see in this photo that are certainly larger.  The original sticks measure 2.75 X 0.75 X 3/8 inches while the jumbos are 4.5 X 7/8 X 5/8 inches in dimensions.  Clearly larger but does larger mean better?  The ingredients aside from the peanut butter are identical so in terms of flavor they really are about the same.  You can feel like you are eating more either because it is one big individually wrapped treat or three of the original ones.

In every case though I really couldn't taste the chocolate.  Oh, I see something that looks like chocolate but the boxes never claim this is chocolate only that that they have "100% Real Cocoa".  Cocoa can create a very chocolate treat, most cakes, cookies and brownies use cocoa not chocolate itself for example.  However, I noted that on each list of ingredients cocoa fell under the "less than 2%" category.  The result is a truly disappointing treat that I won't be buying again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Three Bags of Hedonistic Delight

The folks from Hedonist Artisan Chocolates sent us several Offerings and today we are looking at the final one -- three variations of their Bark.  These are the "Milk Chocolate Bark with Sesame," "Pecan Cranberry Bark," and "Pistachio Ginger Bark."  That is the order you see in the photo to the right from left to right.  The bark is broken into pieces as it should be so I can't really give you a measurement for them except for their thickness that varies with each flavor.  The ingredients are all natural, nothing artificial on the bags but there is no nutritional information either so remember to practice Moderation as your Chocolate Priestess tries to do.

We'll go in order of the barks above starting with the only milk chocolate variety Hedonist makes: "Milk Chocolate Bark with Sesame".  The clear plastic bag is tied off at  the top with a brownish paper or hemp rope which unties easily.  The primary scent I immediately get is the sesame and as you can some of the pieces are just loaded with white and black seeds.  The pieces are 3/16th of an inch thick and the milk chocolate is very cool to my touch.  The sesames are very crunchy and they have a strong taste because they are roasted and that adds a darker edge to the piece I tried.  However the milk chocolate really can't stand up to the sesames and I can't say I'm personally pleased since, as you know, I want the chocolate to be our main flavor or at least the one we are left savoring in our mouths.

The "Pecan Cranberry Bark" has both dark and white chocolate, the dark on the bottom with the white on top but the two are also blended together to make these pretty swirl patterns I hope you can see in the photo along with pieces of pecans and dried cranberries.  The win colored natural fiber string unties with a bit more work to release a complex fragrance where I believe the darker chocolate edges out the other flavors making me smile with hope.  These pieces are thicker, at least 1/4th inch.  The cranberries and nuts are spread around so it will take me about two bites to try it out thoroughly.  The bark itself snaps loudly when I take a bite and at first I can taste the bitter dark chocolate then the crunchy, sweet pecan, the tart and crunchy cranberry, the smooth white chocolate and as the scent promised, it all ends with the darker essence.  A second bite of just the chocolates confirm that the first flavor is dark then white then dark again.  I love this bark!

The final variation we were sent is the "Pistachio Ginger Bark" sealed with a moss green hemp or something else natural as a tie.  Let me be honest: I don't really like pistachios so I'll try to focus on the dark chocolate and the ginger, taking a second bite to really get into the two flavors I think I might be most impressed by.  When I open this bag, which is the most difficult of the trio to open, the pistachio essence hits me hard.  As you can see these are thick pieces of dark chocolate and there are entire nuts as well as large pieces of what looks like candied ginger on top.  These pieces are over 1/4th inch thick probably to support such big pieces of nuts and ginger.  When I bring this to my nose, the scent changes depending on where I take a whiff -- the sections with only ginger, strong ginger scent, the pistachio areas have a strong pistachio scent and the chocolate only a combination of all three flavors.  Both the ginger and the pistachios crunch and have distinctive, sharp flavors but the dark chocolate surprised me by fighting up to become the final essence in my mouth.  You better like ginger and pistachio but even if they aren't your favorite, the dark cocoa will make you happy.

Did these descriptions make your mouth water or your eyes light up a bit, Sisters and Brothers.  The "Pecan Cranberry Bark" really made me happy but perhaps another sounded better to you.  When I shared these with nine other people everyone had a different favorite.  Hedonist Artisan Chocolates has more than just Bark.  You can find their main shop in Rochester, New York, or you can find them in other stores around the state.  If you don't live nearby you can check out their website.  When they were shipped to me, they came in eco-friendly packaging which means they are concerned with our planet, the only place your Chocolate Priestess knows of where our Sacred Substance is grown and turned into Chocolate.  For eco-consciousness, their focus on purer chocolate and unique flavors, Hedonist Artisan Chocolates again wins our approval as a worthy Sacrament.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easy Mint Chocolate Brownies

This is one of our rare Recipes here on The Chocolate Cult.  After the failure of trying to make grasshopper pie I wanted to try a mint chocolate again for my family.  I found these Nestle dark chocolate and mint morsels on sell and stocked up on them so I thought perhaps I could make brownies.  But I'm a busy woman, I needed something simple.

I looked in one of the three cookbooks I'm currently trying my way through before I review them for you all and found a recipe for Pecan Brownies (page 83)   Chocolate (Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library) that my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas 2010.  Using this as a basis I created this recipe for Easy Mint Chocolate Brownies.


1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 bag Nestle dark chocolate mint morsels
1 tsp Creme de Menthe
1/2 cup Egg Beaters

See, not many ingredients at all!




I melted the morsels on 80% power for 2 minutes, checking and stirring every 20 seconds or so until it was all chocolate in color with no solid pieces.  I added in the Creme de Menthe and stirred vigorously.  Then I added in the eggs and beat those into the entire mixture was smooth. I shifted in the baking powder and then the flour, about 1/8 of a cup at a time, mixing it all thoroughly. Then I poured it into an 8X8 glass pan I covered with Pam baking spray.

Baked it at 350°F for 32 minutes on the lowest shelf and immediately removed them to cool on the dining room table for about 90 minutes.  Then we cut them and the guy in question who wanted something mint chocolate took a big piece as you can see here in this photo.  He very seriously tasted them and determined they had a good texture, a lot of mint, and a nice chocolate base.

HURRAY!  Finally a recipe correct and I part-way made this one up instead of relying on a celebrity chef.  Note: In general you could substitute any type of baking chip or liquid flavoring and thus create a new type of brownie or blondie.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview: Painting with Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess met artist, Dan Alexander, at the annual "Art of Chocolate Event" at the Indiana University Museum back on January 30, 2011.  Since I was acting as a Docent for the museum I could not take photos for you all but Dan did agree to an interview. I hope you all leave a lot of nice comments for him, Sisters and Brothers.


Photos Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh




Dan, how would you define yourself as an artist?

I tend to go across the board. I started out as all young artists do drawing, then graphic design to pursue a career after school. Painting came later then animation, book illustration, and finally now,tattooing and sculpture.


 
 
 
 
 
 
Did you study formally at a college or an apprenticeship?
Yes, I studied graphic design at Indiana Sate University. Worked in graphic design for six years the went back to school in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art to pursue comics and animation. Now I'm doing commissions and freelance work on top of working with the disabled.

Do you consider art to be your career?
I don't know too many artists that consider their art a career. For the most part, we all have to work two jobs (a day job and our art). Yeah, I'd say a day job is essential. To pursue art full time these days takes dedication, discipline, nerve and a fat bankroll to get through the lean times... Maybe when I'm all grown up?

How many years have you been an artist?
All my life but professionally for 13 years.

What materials do you normally work with?
Oh, gosh! I try it all. I've used use everything from graphite to Adobe Suite and clay to airbrush to screen printing. To scratch out a sketch I use a small Paper Blanks Zen acid free notebook and a Bic mechanical .7mm pencil or just a tiny golf pencil. Whatever is handy I guess.

How did you get into painting with chocolate?
We tried this at last year's event and I worked with a group of others on a much bigger canvas. We finished it so early we were able to slow down and let some of the attendees paint a bit. I saw the potential of working in chocolate and I knew that next year (2011) I would do one on my own. I just need to get in the ears of the right people.

Photos from Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh 

I'm sure my readers are very curious about using chocolate as a paint.  Do you have to do something to chocolate itself to make it usable as paint or were you using white, milk and chocolate paint when I saw you working on that portrait at "The Art of Chocolate"?
No, Its pretty simple. Heat to melt and milk to thin it. The coloring is my trick though. I can't give away all my trade secrets, you know?

You were using brushes at the event, correct?  (feel free to expand if you were using other tools as well)
I used some brushes and palette knives and had a hair dryer to melt any clumps on the canvas but fortunately we didn't need it.

What type of canvas were you using?  I've had readers ask me if one could eat the portrait after I mentioned the event.

I'm not sure what kind of canvas was stretched but it held up tremendously by the nice folks at Reframe. After the painting was painted it was finished with a clear coat but up to that point, yes, it technically could be eaten off the brush.

How many types of you worked with chocolate?

How many times have I worked in chocolate??? twice

Do you only paint with it?  We know that some folks sculpt with chocolate as well.
No, I only paint with it.

What's different about creating art in a public venue versus doing it in private?  Do find it frustrating to have people stopping to look at your work as you work on it?
No, Not really. I do caricatures for other events and you get over that kind of stage fright pretty fast.

What happened to the portrait that you made during "The Art of Chocolate"?  Can someone still buy it from you?
The Miles Davis chocolate painting was donated for charity to Options for Better Living . As far as I know it is still unsold. We are having it framed 36"x48" at a local frame shop and it will be held there in their front window until a buyer is found.  To inquire about purchase contact: Karol Stewart at Reframe (812)-333-6330.

Photos from Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh
How would such a work of art be maintained?  Would it attract insects?  Would it spoil?
I wouldn't hang it in direct sunlight but the painting from last year has held up extremely well and it was also not finished like the painting was this year. I don't think it would spoil but you cultists would know better than I.

Finally, do you plan to keep working with chocolate in the future?
You bet! It really was a hit with the crowd and its just a new and fun medium. I got tons of business cards and hopefully something good will come of it.

Thank you, Dan, for talking with The Chocolate Cult.  I was very impressed with your work that evening and I'm so pleased you were available to do an interview.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Celebrate Ghana Independence with Chocolate

There is another national holiday that we can honor but using Chocolate, Sisters and Brothers, and that is to mark Ghana's independence from Great Britain on March 6.  We've reviewed single source chocolate products made from Ghana cacao but today I want to give you some more information about Ghana that shows how important chocolate is to their nation.

Ghana is in western Africa and is slightly smaller that the USA state of Oregon in terms of physical size.  While they are within the belt for cacao production they are several environmental issues that can affect their crops such as extremes of wet and dry seasons, erosion and their water supply even though they have the world's largest artificial lake, Lake Volta.  As of last year they were number 47 in terms of world population much of which is related to their two principle income makers: Gold and Cocoa.  Government regulations tend to create higher standards for cacao so you may notice the finer quality of Ghana chocolate.  Ghana is the second largest cacao producer in the world as of 2009.

Cocoa is so important that it appears on their national coat of arms which has four shields, the third of which shows a cocoa tree to represent their national wealth and agriculture's importance to their nation.

Since they are such an important part of the world's cocoa production, I want to charge each of you, Sisters and Brothers to go out and find something made from Ghana cocoa to celebrate their independence.  Then leave a comment here telling me if you celebrated and how.

To learn more about Ghana visit their official government website

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wine and Chocolate Truffles

Your Chocolate Priestess has reviewed truffles with wine before and even chocolates with beer and hard liquor flavorings.  This is our first specific wine truffle collection and it comes from our friends at Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates where they get cocoa from around the world.  Here we see them with two bars we will be looking at later.  Just a note: We often sample the products we are sent months and months before you see the reviews, Sisters and Brothers.  Chocolate can last a good while under controlled conditions but still we want to try these out when they are as good as possible.

This is their six piece Wine and Chocolate Collection Collection that you can get in as small as three piece up to 36 piece size so you can keep it to yourself or share it as you like.  I love the fact that on the back of the paper cover over a simple brown box are images of the chocolates inside laid out exactly as they are laid out which makes it so easy to know what I should be tasting.  Not only does it tell you the wine that is used but also the type of ganche that is used so you get a ton of information in a very lovely way.  Or you can check it online.  All of the pieces are fairly close in size, measuring 1 X 1 X 0.75 inches so I won't keep repeating this measurement.  The chocolate is also very cool to the touch and starts to melt on my fingers each time as well indicating this is very pure chocolate without additives and preservatives.

The first one has a stylized grape vine with grapes on the top and is the Zinfandel in 57% bittersweet ganache.  I'm not sure if this is a red or white Zinfadel given the information on the box but the website will tell you exactly which wine each truffle uses.  There is a definite non-cocoa scent there when I pick it up to take a sniff.  The semi-solid center is very smooth and creamy, the alcohol light with a hint of spice to the light sweetness.  I like it for the subtly of the flavor and the strong cocoa.  Combined they give a touch of buzz.

Next with words written in yellow is a Malbec in 57% bittersweet ganache.  This should be a red wine and I've been told that reds go better with chocolate though personally I think it depends on the cocoa content and the type of wine.  It is hard to tell but I think I only can sense the chocolate when I breath it in as I hold it in my fingers.  I can read three words -- Savor, Enjoy, Indulge -- written on the top before I take a bite.  This has a sweet berry flavor that kicks in immediately as I start to chew.  It builds up then slowly fades into an almost buttery chocolate flavor.  Not at all what I was expecting and yet it was quite pleasing.

The Port in dark milk custard ganache has a checkered pattern on the top of it.  One of the best things about port is that is almost designed to be a dessert in and of itself.  Coupled with a dessert it can be a wonderful experience for your mouth and deliver a hearty buzz as well.  This didn't really have a non-chocolate flavor before I took a bite when a bit of berry aroma comes forth.  The center is crunchy though I'm not exactly sure why since I don't expect a custard like anything to be too crunchy but it is a nice change in texture.  The fruit flavors seem to intensity the chocolate which I think makes perfect since for a port, or at least any port I'd bother with.

With diagonal sections of chocolate, green and yellow, the Gewurztraminer plus candied ginger in milk chocolate ganache is the longest name for a chocolate we've had yet here on The Chocolate Cult.  Now Gewurztraminer seems to be described as having a ginger taste to it by several reviews of the wine so I'm wondering if adding ginger will overwhelm the chocolate since it is only a milk chocolate.  The center is fairly solid and has a lot of crunchy ginger pieces in it.  While the crunch is nice, the creamy chocolate is quickly lost to the sweetened ginger and the wine itself.  I don't know if darker chocolate could have held its own better but I wanted more chocolate from this piece.

Large reddish purple grapes grace a Shiraz in 57% bittersweet ganache truffle.  This has a general red wine fragrance with the cocoa as I bring it to my nose.  The center is very dark and semi-solid with a nice chocolaty essence that strikes my tongue first.  Then it fades into a fruity flavor, perhaps a hint of tart and then of more sweetness before returning to the chocolate. I really like when truffles are this complex and yet their flavors return to what we want here: Chocolate!

Finally the Cabernet Sauvignon in 57% bittersweet ganache has the initials "CD" in a circle making it's flavor.  This has a hint of something in the scent that is a bit odd, something I'm not expecting but then to be honest, I've never been a huge fan of Cabernet Sauvignon or perhaps I've not had very good versions.  This has a definite dark chocolate flavor but it quickly turns to a sort of blackberry maybe and then something I don't like though I can't be certain what it is; it reminds me of cigarette smoke.  Hhhmmm... Wine sure is complex and they are using quality brands here at Cocoa Dolce to get these flavors to work through the chocolate so well.

This is our third review of Cocoa Dolce products and we have one more to go before we have finished with their Offerings to The Chocolate Cult.  This Wine and Chocolate Collection is different from their cocktail collections though some of the truffles do appear in both.  Not every flavor pleased me but that doesn't seem to be a reflection of the chocolate so much as a reflection on the wine.  We don't all like the same wines and I could certainly get the subtleties one can get with a good wine.  So if you love wine, specifically the types mentioned in this review or more specifically the brands mentioned on their website -- hover over the images of the individual truffles to learn that information -- then you may love these.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gifts of Chocolate from Three Friends

Some of my friends whether they live close to me or in another country, give me gifts of chocolate.  To thank them and also to continue our reviews here on The Chocolate Cult I tend to collect a few and then review them as a group.

The first gift was a bar from Sylvarose who has posted comments here several times.  This was for my birthday and it was a brand of chocolate I've had before but not since starting The Chocolate Cult and definitely not this variety.  Chocolove has several varieties but this one is the "Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate" with 55% cocoa content in 3.5 oz which made this a big bar by candy bar standards.


This one bar has 18 squares of chocolate or 6 squares per serving; the squares are easy to break apart though I did get pieces of chocolate on my hands.  The chocolate melted in my mouth, the almonds were visible and crunchy, but the cherries were dried and hidden under the little domes on top that I hope this photo can show.  I liked it a lot but I'm glad that it is also easily broken up to be shared since I want to practice Moderation for you all.

Then my friend Peter sent me two bars of chocolate from a shop in his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.  We've had Canadian chocolate before, so far been pleased each time, but these were unique flavors to say the least.  The company is called Xoxolat  but pronounced sho sho la with long vowels.  Both bars are made with organic and fair trade chocolate which will matter to many of you, Sisters and Brothers.

The first bar I tried of this pair was the "Westcoast Breakfast" which has maple carmelized bacon and espresso in 52% deep milk chocolate which is really odd because that would be, without a doubt, dark chocolate in any American's mind.  The top is very pretty with these etched cocoa pods both open to show the beans and unopened.  It has a very strong coffee scent and normally when that happens I ask one of our two Mocha Acolytes to try something for me.  But this was a gift so I need to try it myself. I can see pieces of something in it that must be the bacon.  The espresso is very intense but the chocolate manages to make it through though the coffee truly dominates.  The bacon is crunchy at first then very chewy.  I don't really taste a carmelized anything however though the bacon's own taste comes through right at the end.

The second bar has more a description than a name "Sea Salt & Triple Peppercorns" in 73% dark chocolate.   This bar has a different design on the top with a sort of hewed stone pattern on the top half and some Aztec or Mayan type of figures on the bottom.  Given the research I've been doing lately I can't say that either of those cultures would have added these particular spices to their chocolate, most of which was drank.   The dark cocoa is the first scent followed by the salt.  The flavor is the sea salt that expands with each chew then the peppercorns which aren't that hot and finally settling into the bitter chocolate.  I like it better than the other bar but then you know I'm not a coffee fan.

Finally after a rough beginning of 2011 in terms of health, a gaming friend of mine, James, bought me some chocolate covered cashews knowing of my love of both chocolate and nuts.    These were just bought at a Dollar Tree and I've had both good and bad chocolate from deep discount stores.  The price is not a sure sign of quality or even whether or not chocolate will be real.

This is made with cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and cocoa.  Sure it has additives and lots of sugar and corn syrup but it doesn't have artificially flavored chocolate, just heavily treated and sweetened chocolate.  I was really impressed with the size of the pieces, some were well over an inch long and as you can see they were thoroughly covered with chocolate.  I love how they tasted, combining two things I like -- cashews and our Sacred Substance.  I don't like all nuts so this was a good choice since cashews, pecans and walnuts are really at the top of my nut preferences.  Thank you, James.

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