Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scary Chocolates throughout October 2014

Soon, very soon, Sisters and Brothers, we will have our Annual Halloween Treat Challenge now in its 7th year.  Which brands and companies have been brave enough to submit to our testing to see who will be named the best of 2014? You'll have to come back every Saturday to see throughout October -- here's a hint: I'm doing a lot of baking with this year's challengers.

There are even more reason to celebrate with Chocolate in October as you can see below.

October = National Dessert Month, National Cookie Month

October = first full week is National Mental Health Illness Week

October 1 = National Homemade Cookie Day

October 7 = National Frappe Day

October 9, 1797 = Birthday of Philippe Suchard, founder of what was once the greatest chocolatier in Switzerland, creator of the Milka bar

October 10 = National Angel Food Cake Day; World Mental Health Day

October 14 = National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day

2nd Thursday = National Dessert Day

3rd Saturday in October = Sweetest Day

October 16 = World Food Day

October 18 = National Chocolate Cupcake Day

October 28 = National Chocolate Day

October 30 = Buy a Donut Day

October 31 = Halloween; National Candy Apple Day

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mars Chocolate Theater Box Recall

One recall to share with you all but this is from a bit big brand name: Mars. Please read the below information careful, follow the link if you think you have bought the product in question, and follow the companies directions.  This involves peanuts which are a serious allergy problem for some people so take this seriously!

Mars Chocolate North America Issues Allergy Alert Voluntary Recall On Undeclared Peanut Butter In M&M’s® Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box

Consumer Contact: 1-800-627-7852

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 19, 2014 – Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its M&M’S® Brand Theater Box 3.40 oz UPC #40000294764 with the following lot numbers:

417DH4JP09 417EM4JP10 417FM4JP09 418AG4JP10
418BG4JP10 418CG4JP10
418DM4JP09 418EG4JP10
419AM4JP09  417EG4JP09
417FG4JP09 417FM4JP10
418AM4JP09 418BM4JP10
418CM4JP10 418DM4JP10
418EM4JP09 419AM4JP10
417EG4JP10 417FG4JP10
418AG4JP09 418AM4JP10
418CG4JP09 418DG4JP10
418EG4JP09 418EM4JP10

This theater box item within these lot codes may contain product containing peanut butter without listing on the ingredient label on the outside cardboard box. The inside package is correctly labelled with ingredients and allergy information.

People who have allergies to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if their theater box contains an inner M&Ms Brand Peanut Butter bag and they consume the product.  No adverse reactions have been reported to date.

The issue was identified after a consumer notified us of a M&M’S® Brand Peanut Butter package containing peanut butter M&M’S® inside a M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box.

These specific lot codes were shipped and distributed to our customers’ warehouses between May 8 and July 1, 2014, located in:  NC, TX, MN, IL, FL, KY, MS, AZ, GA, AI, CA NJ, PA, WA NY, CO, MO, MI, NH, CT, TN, MD, SC, OH, ME, VA, RI, WI, WV, IA, LA, OK, MA, NE, OK, AR, VT, ID and IN -- That's 39 out of 50 states! These customers then redistribute products for retail sale nationwide.

The M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box comes in a 3.40 oz brown, 3 inch x 6.5 inch cardboard box  stamped on the right-hand side panel with the lot number and best before date.

Mars Chocolate will work with retail customers to ensure that the recalled product is not on store shelves.  In the event that consumers believe they have purchased this item and have allergy concerns, they should return this product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund.  Consumers with questions or concerns may call our toll-free number:   1-800-627-7852. This number will be operational Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (EST).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Wonderful Gift Box of German Chocolates

Your Chocolate Priestess just had a birthday a few days ago and so I thought I would share an amazing gift box of pralines that I would have been thrilled to get for it.  In Europe the word "praline" has an entirely different meaning than in the USA so let's look at this box from Chocion of pralines made with various types of alcohol.  Chocion gave us permission to rearrange the two boxes of praline they sent us for two different feature articles for you all.  All of these have alcohol so our two Alcohol Acolytes along with another Acolyte helped me test these all. I've combined the opinions below with specific quotations in italics.  Each of us took the time to look at, multiple attempts to test the fragrance, at least two bites one of which we let melt in our mouths, while we wrote out notes.  At the end of each test we discussed our experiences and drank water to cleanse our palates.  We hope you enjoy our experiences. Note: one of our testors is notoriously difficult to please when it comes to alcohol and chocolate both.

A Chiemgauer-Kirsch (Milk Cherry Cream Truffle) has a unique look, doesn't it?  A cup shaped base then this lump on top which is an Amarena cherry and 2% Kirsch (fruit brandy made from cherries).  The truffle is covered in a milk chocolate (38%) with drizzled white chocolate on top. Our testers had a lot of thoughts as they worked with this one: The shape was described in various ways during our testing -- cupcake, distorted, even bunny-like.  We all agreed that the dominant scent before and after biting was a sweet cherry Kirsch scent and not really chocolate.  The chocolate made a soft sound but really it was the squishy sound from the full cherry that made the stronger audible impression on us.  The skin on the cherry, its juiciness, and then the solid chocolate were a series of wonderful textual changes.  However the sweetness of the cheery and the Kirsch completely overpowered the milk chocolate making this great for cherry lovers who really like very sweet cherries. We were very curious as to how a darker chocolate would have been with these cherries.

The Bier Trüffel Praliné (Milk Beer Truffle) is round with a milk chocolate (38%) and white chocolate drizzle shell.  Inside is a beer cream made with 3% beer.  Here's what our test group reported: A light beer scent that was a bit stronger when you took a bite and sniffed the soft center; one tester thought it might be a stout, or some other dark beer.  There was a nice pop or snap when we took a bite but no crunch after that.  The center was a smooth and silky soft milk chocolate and cream.  Oddly while we could taste alcohol, it was more the burn of it than the flavor of any beer, and it blended thoroughly into the milk chocolate increasing the intensity of the cocoa flavor. Three out of four testers would highly recommend this truffle.

A Calvados flüssig (Milk Calvados) is next and it is made with 13% alcohol in the form of Calvados (French apple brandy) that some of you may have heard of before; three of our four testers had heard of it but none had it in the past.  This is a round truffle covered in milk chocolate (38%) with green confectionery cocoa butter lines over it.  Our testers said:  WARNING: the center is liquid and one us almost had an spill before we figured this out. The outer shell has just a milk chocolate scent but the inside which was Calvados, of course, was a wonderful brandy smell.  The alcohol made the milk chocolate a bit soft so it didn't make much of a sound.  The brandy had a definite apple flavor to it and if you were careful you could get the milk chocolate and it together though the chocolate lingered the longest.  Only one of us did not like the combination of apple brandy and milk chocolate; three of us thought it was a nice balance and would strongly recommend it.  We decided this is Chocion truffle you should probably just pop into your mouth to enjoy best instead of eating in individual bites.

The final truffle in this box is the Sahne-Trüffel Erdbear (White Strawberry Cream Truffle) which is a 28% white chocolate shell with a confectionery cocoa butter red drizzle (very eye-catching as one tester put it).  It also has 3% strawberry spirits in it.  Our testers experiences varied a great deal with this one: The scent was not what we expected, it wasn't the normal creamy white chocolate but also not fruit of any type.  It made no sound when we took bites or chewed but three of us noticed that there were tiny strawberry bits in the pinkish creamy center that gave a burst of tartness amongst the creamy strawberry flavor (that two of us likened to Strawberry Hard Candy). Every had a different opinion of the tastes even though we all liked it, just not as much as two others we tried that testing evening.  Two of us thought the creamy chocolate blends into the strawberry well but the others felt the two flavors stayed separate.  White chocolate and strawberry lovers will enjoy this best but even though I'm not a white chocolate fan I did enjoy it myself.

There you go, Sisters and Brothers, four truffles from German chocolatier Chocion.  Have you tried them before?  If you have tried these before please leave us a comment and tell us what you think -- come on German readers, we know you are out there!  Personally, I really liked to loved each of these four flavors so I strongly recommend them.   The quality of ingredients is exceedingly high and so I give them a Sacrament status with a note that individual tastes did greatly vary with these. You can find Chocion truffles under the Praline tag on their website but you don't seem to be able to choose the ones you get... try calling them or emailing them and see if they might accommodate you or, if you are Germany, you can find their shop in München.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cocoa Cravings Giveaway

Today we're going to look at the 71% 50g chocolate bar from Cocoa Cravings, an Illinois company whose products are made in the country of origin, in this case Ecuador.  They claim that these are "Seed to Table Rainforest Beans" and also that these are a "Healthy Way to Indulge" so we'll check those claims out as well in today's Saturday Sacrament.  We are also hosting a giveaway of all three of their bars to one lucky reader.  You have to read through the entire article and then enter at the end of this post.  Read carefully because one of the entries will be a question about this feature article.

The bar itself is 50g and made up of 16 etched out squares so you can eat as much or as little as you want. It has a nice dark color and the top of each square has a s sort of starburst or sunburst on the top of it.  It comes in a paper box but also a silver foil wrapper that takes a bit of effort to open but not that much.  It has a very dark cocoa scent with an undercurrent of sugar cane and double checking the ingredients list I see cocoa powder, cocoa butter, evaporated cane juice, lecithin, and vanilla -- so this is vegan for our readers who need or want this.  The columns and then the individual squares of chocolate snap off easily and with a loud sound.  Each chew makes a snapping sound and the first burst is a light cocoa with increasing intensity with a light floral edge; there is none of the sweetness that I've encountered with other sugar cane dark chocolates that I find distracting.  I let the second square melt in my mouth and as expected it melts very slowly, coating my mouth, and allowing the chocolate's intensity to increase and start a cocoa buzz that has the world seeming brighter to my eyes within seconds.  This is wonderful 71% chocolate, nothing hampering the experience of the rich single-origin chocolate.

The box this bar came in says "Pure Made in Ecuador for Cocoa Cravings" yet the website proclaims that their chocolate is made in Chicago... This is confusing and something the brand should clarify. This bar is made from single-origin Criollo beans, which are a fairly raw species of cocoa bean so you may not have encountered much chocolate out there made from them though we have tested a few brands that use them.  The website lists several organic and fairtrade organizations that this family owned business is a member of in case you want to check that out.

Now for the information you've been waiting for -- how to enter the GIVEAWAY and win 3 Cocoa Cravings chocolate bars.  First, you Must have an address in the lower 48 states to win this giveaway; sorry international readers. Make sure you have a real email address linked to your comment so I can contact you if you win.  Follow the directions from Rafflecopter below.  I will manually check that you have left a comment on this post here so do that before you click the Rafflecopter information saying you have left a comment.  The comment needs to answer a question so be careful when you answer.  You may send a twitter message every day for an extra entry to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If this 71% bar from Cocoa Cravings sound good to you, go check them out. This is a wonderful chocolate bar that you should savor and enjoy.  Made from Criollo beans and definitely dark this is not for folks of common tastes or for most children. Giveaway Update -- our winner did NOT receive the three bars that the company promised.  While I really liked the chocolate, not honoring their promotional agreement makes me think very negatively about Cocoa Cravings.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Twix Recall for September 14, 2014

I'm betting a lot of our readers in the USA are familiar with Twix so please read the information below if you bought Twix candies recently.  Please click on the links for each product and double check the information and your homes for these products.

Mars Chocolate North America Issues Allergy Alert Voluntary Recall on Undeclared Peanuts and Eggs in TWIX® Bites 7oz Stand Up Pouch

Consumer Contact: 1-800-551-0907

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 5, 2014 - Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its TWIX® Brand Unwrapped Bites 7 oz. Stand Up Pouch with the code date: 421BA4GA60.

Fewer than 25 cases of the stand-up pouches in this single lot code may contain product containing peanuts and eggs without listing them on the ingredient label. People who have allergies to peanuts and egg run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. No adverse reactions have been reported to date.

The issue was identified after a consumer notified us of peanuts in their TWIX® Unwrapped Bites product.

This specific code date was shipped and distributed to our customers’ warehouses in Indiana, Texas, Oregon, Tennessee and Connecticut. These customers then redistribute products for retail sale nationwide.

The TWIX® Brand Unwrapped Bites product comes in a 7 ounce, metallized-golden package marked with lot # 421BA4GA60 and with an expiration date of 03/2015 stamped on the back.

Mars Chocolate will work with retail customers to ensure that the recalled product is not on store shelves. In the event that consumers believe they have purchased this item and have allergy concerns, they should return this product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund. Consumers with questions or concerns may call our toll-free number, 7 days a week, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (est): 1-800-551-0907.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Chocolate Goddess for the Fall Equinox

The fall equinox comes on September 23, a Tuesday this year, so I wanted to reveal this wonderful work of art that we were sent -- the Venus of Willendorf in dark chocolate from Sucré Bleu.  I tested this with my women's group because many people have seen this figurine as an empowering symbol plus we all like dark chocolate and everyone is very opinionated so I know they'd be honest with me. Because your Chocolate Priestess was a history student and professor for a while, let her geek out a bit about this.

Here's a photo of the 1908 find of the figurine (now often called the Woman of Willendorf by some scholars).  The mold that Sucré Bleu made resulted in a very realistic chocolate version of her, don't you think? The original statue isn't large only 4.25 inches or 10.8 cm tall.  It was discovered in Austria on the banks of the Danube River and is dated back at least 22,000 years ago during an ice age.  While archaeologists and scholars originally ascribe religious meaning to the figure the truth is that we may never know why she was made or what she was used since we do not know for certain which prehistoric people made her.  That they did when they would have been struggling to survive suggests that she was very important however.

We know what the Sucré Bleu dark chocolate version of this icon is for -- eating!  Not only is this solid dark chocolate but it has peanut butter chips and pretzels pieces in it as well.  If you are allergic to any of the ingredients that would normally be used to make dark chocolate, pretzels, or peanut butter you should steer clear obviously.  However the artist behind Sucré Bleu describes her work as "an absurdly delicious conversation piece" and you'll see that we did indeed talk about it when I tested it with three other women.

Everyone loved the looked of this Venus, one said this is the most beautiful chocolate that she'd ever seen. One of my testers pointed out she is only made in the half, not the full model of the figurine.  In this case that was good because it made it much easier to cut her up (cry) and share her out.  That posed a problem when another woman said It seems sad to destroy her, should we have some sort of ritual?  So we did.  We laid her down, we thanked her and Sucré Bleu for sharing her bounty with us, and we paused in silence for a few seconds.

Inside we found pretzel pieces and peanut butter chips.  From the outside we could only smell the dark chocolate but once you have her open you can smell salt, a hint of peanut, and grain. We noticed that the flat back wasn't completely flat but had lumps for the pieces of pretzels and chips inside.  One of the testers suggested that perhaps a layer of dark chocolate coated the top and side to make them smooth and shiny compared to the back.  The initial flavor upon taking a bite from this figure was sweet chocolate blending into a grainy saltiness, and a hint of creaminess before turning to a slightly bitter chocolate; no one in the foursome got peanut yet because it blended so well we didn't mind and figured the creaminess might be from the chips.  The flavor was best described as harmonious.  This was a pleasure to each of our mouths. The pretzels were crunchy, the chips creamy, and the chocolate smooth; everyone loved the texture.  In this case letting it melt in our mouths wasn't as enjoyable since it blended the flavors a bit too much.

For beauty and thoughtfulness as well as overall sensory pleasure, the Chocolate Venus of Willendorf earns our highest honor of Sacrament status. Sucré Bleu holds great promise as a chocolate company with an artistic soul and you all need to go check this out and order one.

Pages Consulted:

Art History Resources Online
Then Again

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Meet the Artist behind Sucré Bleu

Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate I'd like to introduce you today to the lady behind Sucré Bleu, Persia Tatar.  We'll be featuring one of her creations this coming Saturday in honor of various approaching neo-pagan and earth based religious holidays that some of you may be celebrating.

Welcome, Persia to The Chocolate Cult!

Thanks TammyJo, excited to be here!

Persia do you consider yourself an artist, a chocolatier, a chocolate maker, or something else?

I am an artist. The chocolate is just the medium, albeit a delicious one!

Do you have formal training (if so, where) or is this all raw talent that we see in your creations?

If not raw, at least rare! I have a business degree and studied fashion design; I’ve spent a lot of time in advertising and social media. My husband is an artist, so we work together on many of the sculptures.

How did you get into making works of art in chocolate?

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to make a chocolate Jesus. I grew up in a very religious area and was also obsessed with candy.  One day after school I attempted to melt candy bars and form them into a sculpture and you can imagine how this turned out. Many many years later I still had this dream and have been finally able to realize it!

Your first creation for Sucré Bleu was the Chocolate Jesus and now you've turned to the Venus of Willendorf.  Why did you decide to start with these two iconic images?

The Chocolate Jesus was always something I wanted or needed to make. The Venus of Willendorf seemed like a logical counterpoint because she’s a prehistoric symbol of girl-power!

Did you get any backlash against your Chocolate Jesus?

Very minor, and on Twitter only. Chocolate Jesus is about peace and love, and for the most part I think people get that. We’ve had many orders from religious people and even several churches. I don’t believe that humor and deliciousness are outside the realm of the spiritual.

How do you turn your idea into the actual product?  Do you have a partner who helps you?  Do you craft a mold for these?  Please do explain a bit for our readers.

We begin by making the sculpture by hand (currently we use sculpting clay). When we have the perfect shape and size, I make a silicon mould and create a casting in plaster.  The castings are then sent to a mould making company, I use TOMRIC and they’ve been very helpful.  I also work with an amazing chocolatier, Jean-Francois Bonnet of Tumbador and he makes sure that the mould works well with the chocolate. Once we have perfected the test mould, TOMRIC creates production polycarbonate moulds and Jean-Francois and his team perform their magic. I also use Tap Packaging Solutions for my custom boxes – I actually connected with them through the Chocolatiers & Confectioners Linkedin group and have really enjoyed working with them on packaging for both chocolate sculptures.

The Chocolate Jesus was solid dark chocolate with sea salt on the back but the Venus of Wilendorf is dark chocolate with salted pretzels and peanut butter chips.  How did you decide what to put in each creation?

To some extent the shape of each piece dictates what will work in terms of inclusions or fillings. The intensity of dark chocolate sparked by fleur de sel seemed fitting for Chocolate Jesus. With the Venus, her primitive power called for more substantive inclusions. Working with Jean-Francois on multiple flavor combinations, we went with pretzels and peanut butter chips for the salt and also the textures.

Are your creations only available online or do you have a brick and mortar storefront?

We sell online and will also be available at Smorgasburg this fall in Brooklyn.

Have you begun to think about your next creation?  If it happens to be for Halloween we have our Annual Halloween Treat Challenge here on The Chocolate Cult.

We love Halloween and challenges – so we will have to brainstorm for victory!

Is there anything else you'd like our world-wide readers to know about Sucré Bleu?

We’re all about having fun. We strive to share our joie de vivre through absurdly delicious conversation pieces!

Thank you, Persia, for your time today.

Thank you! Thrilled to be a part of The Chocolate Cult!

Sisters and Brothers, please leave a few comments for Persia and perhaps she'll answer back.   Let us know what you think about the idea of chocolate as art.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cupcakes for Birthday Treats

Your Chocolate Priestess is married and today is her husband's birthday. To see how old he is, you have to read the entire article today.  To celebrate I've made cupcakes and I've used the Little Gems cupcake cups that I was sent to test by sunsella.  These are silicone cups in a rainbow variety of colors that you can see in this first photograph.  12 of these came in one little box that doesn't take up much cabinet space if you that is a concern in your kitchen.

I decided to try a recipe for Caramel Cupcakes but give it a chocolate twist by pairing it with milk chocolate frosting and little candy decorations.  I had to buy the decorative candies and the cake mix but I already had the frosting.  First off the recipe makes far more batter than is needed for 24 cupcakes so I ended up throwing some out and filling up the liners very full.  This provided a good comparison of the traditional versus silicone liners.  Look you can see that the traditional cupcake came out less even and less full because the batter flowed over onto the metal while in the silicone it merely kept rising because it had nothing to latch on to.

This is because these sunsella Little Gems stood up on their own very well. You can see the side by side pan versus silicone in this photo.  My mother once gave me a set of silicone cupcake liners that still required the traditional muffin tin to work or the silicone just spread out too much make weird shaped cupcakes or muffins. These Little Gems worked exactly as you'd want them to plus you can wash them and use them again and again. I advise washing them by hand for best performance.

I topped the cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting and a mini square of chocolate (milk chocolate caramels to be exact) except for two that I put his number candles on.  The left over cupcakes that didn't get chocolates, five of them, I'll just save up to send with my husband into his work tomorrow. I tried to lay out the cupcakes to look pretty for the party itself.  Eating these revealed that they need to have a bit of oil rubbed on their inner surface -- as is very common for silicone baking products but this is not printed anywhere on the box.  In fact if there is one downside to this product it is that there is a lack of directions.

These sunsella Little Gems worked really well, better than previous silicone cupcake holders that I've used in the past! You need to check these out, Sisters and Brothers, and if you use the link in the photo below and buy them, you'll be helping out The Chocolate Cult, too.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What is The Chocolate Walk in Nashville, Indiana?

On November 8, 2014, your Chocolate Priestess may be attending an annual event for charity in the nearby town of Nashville, Indiana.  If I do attend I'll be going with at least one other person as I have every year now for five previous years.  But what is The Chocolate Walk?  To learn more we interviewed Jane Weatherford from the Brown County Humane Society who organize The Chocolate Walk every year.

Jane, thank you for agreeing to talk with here on The Chocolate Cult.

It’s my pleasure, TammyJo.  Thanks so much for the opportunity!

Jane, would you tell our readers what The Chocolate Walk is exactly?

The Chocolate Walk is a fundraising event to benefit Brown County’s homeless pets.  Over 35 shops and chocolatiers participate in the event.  Ticket holders are provided a map of participating shops.  They stroll from shop to shop in the Village of Nashville and sample delicious chocolate treats.  The variety is amazing!  It’s been described as “Halloween for grown-ups!”.  Many groups make this an annual event and stay in Brown County for the entire weekend.  Each year new shops join the Chocolate Walk, so ticket holders get to find fun new shops that they may not have discovered on their own.

The Chocolate Walk helps fund the Brown County Humane Society so would you tell us more about that?

The Brown County Humane Society is a private, volunteer supported non-profit organization dedicated to serving Brown County’s homeless dogs and cats.  With a passion for humane care & education, BCHS operates the county's only animal shelter, accepting and placing all county animals except those deemed too vicious or ill to save. Despite its small size & budget, BCHS rehomes over 95% of the animals it receives, placing it in the top tier of shelters nationally. (The national average Save Rate is 50%).  The BCHS also operates a vital, low-cost spay/neuter/vaccine and outreach program, which has since 2010 successfully halved the number of animals being admitted to the shelter.  With a record of compassion and success, the Brown County Humane Society embodies the power of a positive community for the animals and people it serves!  Of course, all that good work has to be funded and as a private, non-profit the BCHS is dependent on individual donors and fundraising events.  The Chocolate Walk is an integral part of our annual revenue.  Every bit of proceeds from this event goes directly to caring for the shelter’s homeless pets.

How much of your annual funding would you say comes from The Chocolate Walk?

Proceeds from the Chocolate Walk cover the cost of operating the animal shelter for about one month. 

How did the walk get started?

It was serendipity.  In the summer of 2007, I was vacationing with my family in Pennsylvania.  We just happened upon a little tourist town named Lititz while on our way Philadelphia.  We saw flyers in several shops advertising a Chocolate Walk to benefit a local charity.  I asked one of the shop owners what the Chocolate Walk was.  As luck would have it, she was one of the Chocolate Walk organizers!  She was so helpful in explaining how their Chocolate Walk worked and she encouraged me to attend.  That October, another Brown County Humane Society board member and I drove to Lititz to attend their Chocolate Walk to determine if it would work as a fundraiser for us.  It seemed like a perfect fit and the rest is history!

How many businesses are donating their time and products to the 2014 Chocolate Walk?

This year we have 36 stops on the Chocolate Walk.  The biggest so far!  Every chocolatier donates all of their product and time to the event.  We do have a few shops this year that will have “non-edible” chocolate items.  When Chocolate Walkers get satiated with delicious, edible chocolate, they will be taking home chocolate candles, soaps, or other items to enjoy later!

Have you had any complaints from businesses or Nashville residents about the event?  Any complaints about businesses or residents from the walkers?

I can’t recall any complaints from businesses or residents.  Before our first Chocolate Walk, we visited with several Nashville shop owners to get an idea of what would work for them.  We wanted the event to be as beneficial for them as for the BCHS.  Those shop owners helped us settle on the 2nd Saturday in November as the best date.  Business in Nashville drops off after October; therefore, November was good.  We knew we could not do it in the hot summer months and the humane society has another big event in May, so November worked well for everyone.  

We have had a few bumps in the road with participating shops not preparing enough chocolate, not having a good traffic pattern through their shop or not realizing how busy they would be, but we’ve usually been able to work through the issues and hopefully our Chocolate Walkers have not noticed.  Everyone is in such wonderful spirits on Chocolate Walk day, that a few minor inconveniences don’t seem to bother anyone!

What is the greatest challenge in organizing The Chocolate Walk?

We start planning the Chocolate Walk in March and the biggest challenge is getting all the shops on board.  We have to get agreements signed and bios written for the booklet.  It is sometimes a challenge getting those administrative items taken care of in time to print the booklet.  Our other challenge is finding sponsors for the event.  Sponsors help cover the expenses related to the Chocolate Walk so that all proceeds can go directly to the shelter dogs and cats.

The Brown County Humane Society hosts another chocolate related fundraiser in February.  Could you tell us a bit about that event?

Our February chocolate event, Chocolate! Chocolate!, is a smorgasbord of chocolate in one location along with a silent auction.  Our very loyal supporters, volunteers and board members all make their favorite chocolate treats and donate them to the event.  Usually held on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, all these freshly created homemade treats are delivered to the event hall that morning.  They are cut into bite-size pieces and arranged buffet-style.  Ticket holders then spend the afternoon listening to music, enjoying the chocolate and bidding on auction items.  It’s a delightful day all to benefit homeless pets.

Finally is there anything you'd like our readers to know about the Brown County Humane Society or The Chocolate Walk that I haven't asked about?

We limit Chocolate Walk tickets to 1250 and have sold out prior to the event the last few years, so buy early!  Tickets are $20 prior to Nov 1 and then are $25 from Nov 1-8 (or whenever we sell out!).  They are available at www.bchumane.org.

Thank you so much, Jane, for speaking with us today.

Thanks for having me and for helping spread the word about the Chocolate Walk!

Will you join us at this annual walk to help animals and experience a wide variety of wonderful chocolate on November 8, 2014?  Get your TICKETS soon because they will sell out and the price will go up later on. Leave us a comment and let us know.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

4 Varieties of Sjaak's Organic Chocolate Bars

As your Chocolate Priestess mentioned the entire month of September is "National Organic Food Month" and to help us mark this month's fun food holiday we're going to look at some of the very first products I ever tried from Sjaak's Chocolates -- their standard chocolate bars.  We have looked at these briefly as offerings from retailers but didn't focus on the bars themselves at that time.  These are directly from Sjaak's and thus we put them through our full sensory testing to write today's feature article.  The variety now available in these bars is amazing so we are looking at four entirely new varieties for us here on The Chocolate Cult. All four of the bars are certified organic and certified by the Rainforest Alliance for how the cocoa beans are grown and how the farmers are treated but the bars is also marked as vegan.

First up is their Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter bar. When I unwrap the golden foil I see six sections that turn out to be very easily snappable into six, two-bite size piece -- this is true for all of these bars by the way.  All of the bars also have molded ridges over the top on each section and each appear to be shiny in color though this bar is lighter from the rest because it is lower cacao content as a milk chocolate bar. It has organic cocoa butter and organic cocoa paste as well almonds so don't eat if you have tree nut allergies. This has a light cocoa scent until you break it open when that is joined by a creamy almond essence.  The chocolate feels a bit sticky not smooth as I expect regardless of the ridges.  It makes a very soft snap when I break the sections apart but no noise when I take bites or chew because it is a smooth chocolate and almost butter filling.  The flavor is less chocolatey and more creamy over all than I expected but there is no lingering aftertaste either.

The Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar is made with organic chocolate paste and organic cocoa butter both as well as almonds so tree nut allergy suffers like my husband need to steer clear.  The six sections break apart with sharp sounds but I can't see any almonds inside or on the outside of the bar.  The chocolate is smooth against my fingertips. There is only a dark chocolate scent with something slightly earthy underneath it.  The chocolate piece bites off with a snap and there at the center is an entire almond -- unsalted, unsweetened, just roasted it tastes like.  The chocolate's nice bitterness is the first and last flavor I get, the almond is there but not the dominant flavor.  The bitterness is the perfect level for my mouth at least with no odd "organic" sweetness aftertaste that I find all too common in organic chocolate. This was an excellent balance of almond and chocolate.

The Dark Chocolate with Creamy Caramel bar also has organic cocoa butter and organic cocoa paste.  It has a deep, dark fragrance and once I break it in half to find the ribbon of caramel a sweet essence is added to that.  It is cool to my fingertips and even starts to melt just a bit.  It makes a sharp snap when I break the sections apart and more of the chocolate melts on my hands. The easy melting continues as soon as a bite passes my lips though the chocolate collapses with barely a noise under my teeth.  The caramel is actually not as sweet as the scent suggested nor it is particularly tangy, more smooth allowing the wonderful bitterness of the chocolate and a strong kick of vanilla to blend with it.  This is by far my favorite bar of these four we tested for our feature today.

Dark Chocolate with Raspberry was given to our resident raspberry lover on The Chocolate Cult and this is his report.  The six-piece bar has already been broken in the middle, showing some of the thick, pinkish transparent filling.  I can smell a strong hint of raspberry without even holding the chocolate near my nose, and bringing it closer reveals a scent similar to that of raspberry jam.  The raspberry aroma is quite a bit stronger than any chocolate aroma, but in general the scent of chocolate is usually rather subdued. The chocolate doesn’t melt at my touch, and breaking off a piece makes it snap rather softly and unevenly, trailing a bit of the raspberry filling behind it.  I cannot resist tasting the filling, which tastes quite a bit like actual raspberry jam, not like an artificial raspberry flavor at all.  Biting into the chocolate causes the piece to crush, getting the sticky filling on my fingers.  In my mouth, the filling is what I taste first, but it dissolves quickly, leaving behind a sweet but dark chocolate flavor with only a lingering hint of raspberry.  Unlike many organic raspberry products, there are no seeds, which I consider a positive trait.  Yes, I will be licking my fingers.

Four organic chocolate bars larger than the average candy bar you can find almost anywhere (1.75 versus 1.5 or less ounces).  Four flavors that are balanced and delicious for all senses. Top that out with each certified by The Rainforest Alliance as well as certified organic and you have the making of Sacrament status chocolate. The dark chocolate bars we tested from Sjaak's certainly earn this status but the milk chocolate bar wasn't not as good and I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 Halloween Treat Challenge

6th Annual Halloween Treats Challenge (2014)

The Chocolate Cult is pleased to announce our 66h Annual Halloween Treats Challenge for chocolatiers, confectioners, bakers, and purveyors of chocolate related treats for the spooky holiday.

The rules are simple.

Contact the Chocolate Priestess via thetammyjo(@gmail.com), removing the parenthesis, and arrange to send a sample of your Halloween treats for this Challenge on The Chocolate Cult.

We will devote one day in October exclusively to your product — the earlier the better so that the 3000+ unique visitors we get each month will have more time to learn about your products.  The sample does not need to be large, but there should be enough of each treat for a five-senses review of the product and take a photograph that will accompany the feature. 

On Halloween, October 31, 2014, I will name the Best Halloween Treat for this year.

In addition to be the featured product for the day your treats are featured, the winner of over all category will be offered the opportunity to place a FREE ad on the blog’s sidebar for 30 days.  That ad must fit on the sidebar or at the bottom of the front page, and you would need to provide the HTML code for it.  This means that you’ll get extra notice for any month of your choosing for the next year.

Previous Winners: Taraluna, Sjaak's, Cocoa Dolce, Oliver Kita, and Magic Choc

Please contact our founder at "thetammyjo"(@gmail.com) if your company is interested in this opportunity.   Note that featured review dates are limited so contact us soon but also know that we schedule on a first-samples-to-arrive = first-reviews-scheduled and featured basis.  The first four Challengers receive the Saturday Sacrament dates; other Challengers will be done as Special Sacramental Reviews at mid-week.  Time is limited!

We also do year round reviews so if you don’t have Halloween Treats you can still become featured review on our popular blog that has worked with 203 different brands since 2009.  We have readers in 182 different countries.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chocolate Makes School Better in 2014

Out of worry that I might have needed yesterday to share chocolate related recalls with you all, we are starting off the month with our calendar this time. Some schools in the USA started back to classes in August but by September all the kids and adults who are in college are back to the grind of books, papers, and tests.

September = National Whole Grains Month; National Organic Food Month -- we're getting more and more organic chocolate these days can't just save them all up for September

September 4 = World Chocolate Day

September 6 = National Read a Book Day -- I really wanted to review the erotic science fiction book "Chocolatiers of the High Seas" for you all  September is INSANE this year so it may not happen until November or December but hey, then in time of Christmas, right?

September 8 = National Muffin Day

September 12 = National Chocolate Milkshake Day

September 13 = International Chocolate Day; oddly this might also be the birthday of Milton Hershey, yes, that Hershey (1857)

September 14, 1964 = Pop-Tarts come on the market from Kellogg’s

September 18 = National Rice Krispies Treat Day

September 23 = National White Chocolate Day -- There is a legal definition of white chocolate that you all need to be aware of since this is the most lied about type of chocolate in our six years of experience testing and writing about products. Check your own government's regulations to learn your local laws.

September 27 = National Chocolate Milk Day

September 29 = National Coffee Day in USA, England, Canada, Sweden. Ethiopia, and Malaysia

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