Sunday, March 29, 2015

Roasted White Chocolate Eggs: A Treat-Torching Triumph!


When I bought a beautiful 'Roasted White Chocolate Bunny' in Toronto last week (click here to see it), I was fascinated not only with the distinct roasted marshmallow flavour, but also with the ingenious technique that SOMA chocolatemaker had applied to white chocolate. I have never, in my 10 years of obsessing about chocolate creations, thought to pull out my yet-to-be-used Crème Brûlée torch and fire up some white chocolate. But SOMA's rabbit inspired me and 'hopped' up my chocolate curiosity. From the first bite, I decided that I HAD TO try this technique.

SOMA probably should have printed the statement "Do not try this at home" on the package, because this is certainly a dangerous activity. And I admit that I was nervous about using the torch, which is precisely why I hadn't used it in the four years since I received it. But my curiosity was so overwhelming that I was willing to take the risk.

I tempered and molded small organic white chocolate eggs, with the Canadian organic and fair trade brand 'Camino', which only has three ingredients (cocoa butter, whole milk powder and cane sugar). The eggs were gorgeous, and I wondered if I really should be burning such delicious-looking little treats. But again, curiosity won out.

I placed the eggs on a metal cookie pan, and also lined the pan with aluminum foil to protect it. I started with the top side of the eggs, then chilled them in the refrigerator until cool (about a half hour). Then I flipped them over and roasted the bottom side to get a nice, roasted flavour all over (like a perfect campfire marshmallow should have).

As it turns out, a little practise is required before getting a good 'roast'.  At first, I tried applying the flame in rows, up and down the eggs, but that left a streak in the middle that almost looked like a crack. Finally I got the hang of it and started to even the roast out.

The only real difference was the appearance (Soma has clearly had a little more practice than me), and the slight taste of vanilla in Soma's chocolate.  Perhaps next time I would add some vanilla bean to my couverture.

I also made a few larger eggs with whole almonds in white chocolate, and the roasted marshmallow flavour with crunchy roasted almonds was a nice combination.

So if you are looking for a new way to use your Crème Brûlée torch, or if you love white chocolate and the flavour of roasted marshmallows, then do try this at home (with the proper safety precautions, of course). Or just buy Soma's.  This article will tell you how to get your hands on one of those delicious bunnies.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Not Your Average White Chocolate Bunny; SOMA has outdone the competition

All the flavour of toasted marshmallow...without the marshmallow!
 
Has winter been too long, and now you're missing that toasted-by-campfire-marshmallow-flavour of summertime? Well, miss it no more! Toronto's SOMA Chocolatemaker just introduced a delicious white chocolate rabbit, called 'Rascally Rabbit' for Easter that has a fire-burnt exterior. And it tastes just like slightly tinged marshmallows that are roasted over a campfire. Seriously. Good. Stuff. 

If you peel away the roasted exterior, the white chocolate inside is mild with a light taste of cocoa butter and real vanilla. It's delicious (nothing like those white chocolate chips made with artificial vanilla at the grocery store). But when eaten together with the tinged and crispy exterior, the taste of slightly burnt marshmallow lingers in the mouth, and it wakens the feeling of summer. It is a perfect gift to take us out of the cold season and into Spring, looking ahead to the warmer months that will come after Easter arrives.

I have been reading the ingredients of a few different 'white chocolate' bunnies at the grocery store this week, and I can tell you that those commercial bunnies are not actually made with white chocolate. The cocoa butter, which is a key ingredient in actual white chocolate, is most often replaced with hydrogenated oil. So it is worth the extra expense to buy a quality product like Soma's.

Soma is often trying unconventional methods (and equipment) when it comes to chocolate. In addition to torching some white chocolate, Soma's 2015 chocolate egg is resting on a nest of hazelnut chocolate that has been put through a Venetian pasta press. I am (not so) patiently waiting until my birthday on Sunday to try the egg, but I promise to tell you all about it next week! Soma has inspired me to try 'toasting' white chocolate in my own kitchen. I will also tell you all about that once my experiments are complete.

It may not be too late to order for Easter! If you do not live in the Toronto region, Soma takes orders by e-mail and they will ship it to you! Or check them out at their two locations in Toronto, in the Distillery District or on King Street. Here is a link to the online brochure. The bunny comes in four flavours, 'Roasted White Chocolate' being one, and Costa Rican Milk Chocolate, Dark Sugar-free chocolate, and Soma's signature Peruvian Dark Chocolate (66%).  But you had better hop to it - Easter is just over a week away!

As always, here are the package and ingredient details from the chocolate that I tasted above:

Rascally Rabbit: White Chocolate, $10 each
SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto, ON)
www.somachocolate.com
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder, natural vanilla, soy lecithin. May contain trace amounts of wheat & nuts.

Please note:
Although this may sound a bit like an Soma advertisement, I really have not been enticed in any way to write this article. I paid for my products in full, and I am simply excited to share this unique chocolate product and the high quality of Canadian craft chocolate with the world.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chuao's Maple Bacon Chocolate - It's more about the crunch than the bacon


San Diego-based Chuao Chocolatier offers a plethora of chocolaty taste sensations. There is always a new Chuao flavour available at Chapters-Indigo, such as the Honeycomb or the Potato Chip chocolate bars that I picked up recently. And the newest chocolate bar to catch my eye was Chuao's 'maple bacon' bar - a high percentage milk chocolate (41% cocoa solids) with all-natural inclusions, including maple sugar, bacon, and 'bonfire smoked' sea salt (my favourite 'smoked' description ever).

As for the taste, it was good. The milk chocolate was not super sweet (just the way I like my milk chocolate). And the salt was not overwhelming, but yet there was a nice crunchy texture from the maple sugar, salt, and the crispy bacon. The bacon flavour was minimal; although it was there, it was there in a noncommittal sort of way (although when it comes to bacon flavour in chocolate, sometimes less really is better).

Albeit tasty, I must admit that I preferred Chuao's Potato Chip chocolate bar, which I purchased at the same time, and tasted last week. The potato chip bar was also made with a high-percentage milk chocolate and it had a little more crunch to it, with a saltier taste. It gave me a little more of that savoury taste that I was expecting from the bacon bar.

As a fan of bacon and chocolate, I am happy that this bar is available to us, since I can no longer buy Vosges's Mo's Bacon Bar in my region of Canada. That is definitely a chocolate-and-bacon experience that is out of this world.

If you really like the flavours of bacon and chocolate, try this chocolate-dipped bacon recipe. Candy the bacon with maple syrup instead of brown sugar or sprinkle a little maple sugar on top, if you want to replicate Chuao's excellent idea of maple and bacon flavour.

Chuao's Maple Bacon Chocolate Bar cost $6.75 at Chapters-Indigo. It is gluten-free and it won an Excellence Award at the International Chocolate Salon.

Here are the package details, including ingredients from the chocolate that I tasted today:

Maple Bacon All Natural chocolate bar, 2.8 oz (80g)
Chuao Chocolatier (San Diego, CA)
www.ChuaoChocolatier.com
Ingredients: Premium milk chocolate (41% cacao, cacao butter, sugar, dehydrated milk, soy lecithin [as an emulsifier], natural vanilla), maple sugar, bacon (pork, water, salt, turbinado sugar, seasoning), bonfire smoked sea salt, natural maple flavor (maple, canola oil). Contains: Milk, Soy. Non GMO Ingredients. Manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts and wheat in other products.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chia Chocolate Bars: Perhaps THE chocolate recipe to make you as slim as Taylor Swift!


Just a few weeks ago, media was reporting that Taylor Swift has kept her super-slim figure by munching on chia seeds (ref).  Chia seeds expand in the stomach and make her feel full longer, according to the reports. But of course, we know that media reports are not always accurate, and Taylor Swift has always had a great physique.

But true or not, chia seeds do seem to be all the rage lately, and so I wanted to find out what they are about. Not only are chia seeds high in Omega-3 Fatty Acid, which is similar to flax seeds, but your body is able to process them whole, as opposed to flax seeds, which have to be ground. They also do expand in fluid, so you can eat less to feel full sooner.

I bought a bag of organic chia seeds, and it turns out that these little crunchy seeds are enjoyable to eat, and tastier than flax seeds. Plus, they have a really nice crunch, making them fun to munch on. However, munching on them straight up is a little difficult, because they are so tiny.  Sure, you could lick them off your hand, but that is messy and, well, kinda gross.

What's more, POPSUGAR tells us that eating chia seeds straight up is not safe. If you chase them with a beverage, the seeds will expand before they reach your stomach and may cause breathing problems. They also explain that "when they're included in a recipe, our bodies can digest chia seeds whole". So I thought, why not put chia seeds in chocolate? There seems to be a lot of chocolate-and-chia pudding recipes on the Internet, but no products or recipes for solid chocolate-and-chia bars.

And so I headed off to my commercial kitchen to make some Chia Chocolate Bars. I wanted to maintain the health benefits of eating the seeds, so I chose a 71% organic dark chocolate chip made from Peruvian cacao as my base. I chose it because it has an interesting flavour that really stands out. But because chocolate chips are 'bake-stable' chocolate products, they do not melt very easily, nor do they have a nice shine like professional chocolate couverture does. So I added a little cocoa butter to the recipe to get a nice smooth texture and a good shine for my chia chocolate bars.

These solid chocolate bars turned out beautifully. Although I could have poured the chocolate out onto waxed paper and made a nice thin chocolate bark*, I decided to use a variety of the chocolate bar molds that I had on hand to experiment. They were all great, but I found the thinner the piece of chocolate, the more enjoyable it was to eat because the chia seed crunch really stood out. This recipe made the following:
  • Four 45 gram chocolate bars, plus six 30 gram chocolate bars, plus ten 20 gram 'discs' (chocolate poured into the bottom of a cupcake tin).
Check out the recipe below if you want to make your own Chia Chocolate Bars. I'm not saying they will make you as skinny as Taylor Swift, but the fun flavour experience will make you want to dance to 'Shake it Off' after just one bite. And THAT will certainly burn some calories.

RECIPE: Chia Chocolate Bars

You need:
  • 12 ounces (340g) of organic 70-71% dark chocolate chips, chopped (I used Camino brand of baking chips)
  • 1 ounce (28g) solid cocoa butter (chopped or shaved), preferably organic (I used Cacao Barry)+
  • 2 ounces (57g) of organic chia seeds* (I used Organic PRANA Chia seeds from Costco)

*Option: for a bark with a heavier crunch and higher cacao content, use only 1 ounce (28g) of chia seeds and 1 ounce (28g) of organic roasted cacao nibs. See below for bark instructions.
+Cocoa butter is not necessary if you use a good couverture chocolate. You can buy couvertures from companies like www.vanillafoodcompany.ca or Google other online retailers near you with the brands Cacao Barry (offers an organic 71% couv), Guittard, Belcolade, etc.

All of the above ingredients can be purchased from the health food aisle in a large grocery store or in a health food store.

Instructions:

Before you start, ensure all your tools and your hands are dry (not even a drop of water can get into your melted chocolate or it will ruin the whole batch!).

1. Melt and temper your 12 ounces of chocolate and cocoa butter. Click here for detailed and accurate-every-time tempering instructions using a double boiler and ice bath, or follow the Simple Tempering Method at the bottom of this recipe.

2. When the temperature is right, toss in your chia seeds and stir until mixed. 

3. Immediately pour a little into the bottom of each cavity of one or two cupcake tins or chocolate bar molds, if you have them*.  Be careful when pouring not to drip any up the sides of the tin. Bang your pan/mold on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles and spread the chocolate around.  If any remains, pour onto waxed paper and spread around to make a chocolate bark.

4. Let set in the fridge for 1 hour, then take it out and flip the container over onto waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap on the counter, tapping the cupcake tin or mold until the chocolate releases.

5. Let the chocolate bars or discs come back to room temperature before you package them. Seal in candy bags, plastic wrap, parchment paper or just a tin and consume when needed for up to one year! Store in a cool, dry place (a dark cupboard works best).

*Making a chocolate bark: If you don't have chocolate or cupcake molds, you could also just make a bark by pouring the chocolate and chia mix onto a large piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Spread around and let set for a few minutes, then make rectangular cuts (for bars) or triangular cuts (for bark) with a straight-edges knife. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 1 hour, then remove and pull the pieces off of the waxed paper.  Let the chocolate come back to room temperature before you seal in containers.

Please use the comments section below if you have any questions and I will try to help in a timely fashion.  Enjoy! 

***
Simple Tempering Method:
For a more accurate tempering method, click here.

Step 1: Place your chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl.  Melt for 2 minutes on HALF POWER.  Remove and stir until melted or nearly melted. Place back in the microwave for another 15 seconds to bring the temperature up to 120 F (if you do not have a digital candy thermometer, it should be slightly hot to touch) and stir until everything is melted.

Step 2: Add the cocoa butter to the chocolate and stir until fully melted, then continue to stir and reduce the temperature to about 84 or 85 degrees by placing the bottom of your bowl over a bag of frozen peas, frozen fruit or ice.  Stir until the chocolate is the same temperature or cooler than the back of your baby finger when dipped into the chocolate.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Barkleys 'All Natural' Solid Dark Chocolate Bunny


Forget the junk-filled Easter chocolate this year, feed your kids (or yourselves) a tasty chocolate bunny that is all natural, and has no refined cane sugar. In fact, it has no cane sugar at all.

Barkleys, a Canadian chocolate brand from British Columbia, is now selling a 60% dark chocolate bunny sweetened with beet sugar, rather than the usual cane sugar. Many people are making the switch from cane sugar to alternate sweeteners for health reasons these days. Barkley's has introduced just the product to help people who have made the switch through the Easter season.

As for the taste, this bunny has a nice sweetness, but is still bitter.  Truthfully, I thought it was a 70% chocolate, rather than a 60%, which may be influenced by the beet sugar (often cane sugar substitutes will not taste as sweet as actual cane sugar). The flavour was quite mild in fact, just straight up chocolaty with no specific flavours (so if you are into origin chocolate, this may not be your bunny). 

I think anyone who likes Lindt, Godiva or commercial organic dark chocolate bar brands, or a child who likes dark chocolate (my son, for instance), would like this bunny quite a lot.  I personally prefer bean-to-bar, craft chocolate with strong cacao origin flavour influences, but I still enjoyed Barkleys' bunny!

Certainly this is a great product for people who cannot have cane sugar, but still want to enjoy chocolate this Easter.

I purchased my bunny at Bulk Barn, but Barkleys' products are available all across Canada in a variety of retailers.  Click here to learn more.

If you are looking for a milk chocolate bunny that is also all natural, check out my 2013 review of Camino's organic and fair trade bunny here.

Barkleys also makes other all natural products. Learn more about some of their truffle bars here.

Here are the package details from the product that I reviewed today:

Dark Chocolate Bunny, 60% cocoa solids, 100g
Barkleys (Coquitlam, BC)
www.barkleys.ca
Ingredients: Cocoa Mass**, Beet Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin* (emulsifier), Natural Vanilla Flavouring. Contains soy.  May contain milk, tree nuts and peanuts.  Gluten Free. *Non GMO, Naturally Derived.
**Contains 60% cocoa solids.


***
Please note: I was not paid or given any kind of incentive to write this article. As in most cases with my reviews, I found it while scouting products locally and wanted to share the information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Potato Chips in Milk Chocolate; Products to Try and Recipe to DIY

I purchased a Chuao Chocolatiers' kettle-cooked Potato Chip chocolate bar at Chapters-Indigo recently and was blown away by how enjoyable it was. With a rich 41% milk chocolate and a very distinct kettle-cooked chip flavour, a good amount of salt, and a very crunchy texture, this bar delivered on everything that the package promised. The deep-fried flavour that remains in your mouth after the chocolate melts away may leave you feeling guilty about eating this chocolate, but you can lose the guilt when you hear that it is all natural, with real vanilla, no hydrogenated oils or any other strange additives.

So when I bought the second bar (Yup, I did. But I shared), I got to thinking, why kettle cooked chips?  Well, for one, they are crunchier than regular chips and therefore should maintain their crunch once added to chocolate. Certainly that could be seen with Lays new Wavy Milk Chocolate covered potato chips. They are delicious with a good crunch, but slightly less than Chuao's chocolate bar. Lays chocolate-covered chips also have a natural ingredient list.

So that is when I had an idea. A wonderfully indulgent idea. Why not make my own milk chocolate bar with chips in it?  The result was delicious.  So I have decided to share it with you.  And if you do not have chocolate bar molds, you can turn it into a beautiful chocolate-and-chip bark that will keep your friends coming back for more.

Recipe: Kettle Cooked Chips in Milk Chocolate Bar (or Bark!)

You need:
  • 16 ounces (454g) of milk chocolate, chopped (I used Camino 45% organic milk chocolate)
  • 3.5 cups (3.52 ounces or 100g) of kettle-cooked chips (I used PC brand, which are very crunchy)

Instructions:

1. Place the chips in a large plastic zipper freezer bag, then using a rolling pin or tall straight glass, roll over the chips until they are fully crushed. Set aside.

2. Place your chocolate in a stainless steel (for double-boiler only) or glass bowl (for double boiler or microwave method). Melt and temper your milk chocolate. For detailed tempering instructions, click here. See the bottom of this post for a simple (but not always accurate) tempering method.

3. Once your chocolate is tempered (and at about 84 degrees Fahrenheit), pour the chips into the chocolate and stir until combined. Immediately pour onto a large piece of waxed paper, or imprint mats like the Cake Boss new mats (in Canada, see here), or into chocolate bar molds. If making bark, spread around to the edges of the mats, if chocolate bars, pour into middle and gently tap the mold until the chocolate spreads to the edges, then bang lightly on the counter to remove air bubbles.

4. Place in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours to let set, then when the edges are pulling away from the sides of the molds or waxed paper, you can take it out of the fridge and extract.  For the molds, flip upside down onto waxed paper. For the bark, break into pieces.

5. Let rest until the chocolate comes back to room temperature, then package however you like in sealed containers or bags.  Keeps for 6 months to 1 year.


After I made chocolate bars, I then made chocolate bark with
the new Cake Boss Imprint Mats to add a bit of fun
to the back-side of my chocolate bark.

Just after pouring the bark, let it set at room temperature for
just a few minutes (less than five), then cut various sizes of
rectangular pieces for a smoother, more professional edge.
Here is the final product with patterns made by the Cake Boss Imprint Mats.

Simple Tempering Method:
For a more accurate method, use a thermometer and follow the instructions here.

Step 1: Place your chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl.  Melt for 2 minutes on HALF POWER.  Remove and stir until melted or nearly melted. Place back in the microwave for another 15 seconds to bring the temperature up to 115 F (if you do not have a digital candy thermometer, it should be slightly hot to touch) and stir until everything is melted.

Step 2: Add the cocoa butter to the chocolate and stir until fully melted, then continue to stir and reduce the temperature to about 82-84 degrees by placing the bottom of your bowl over a bag of frozen peas, frozen fruit or ice.  Stir until the chocolate is the same temperature or cooler than the back of your baby finger when dipped into the chocolate.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What's up with all that Dominican Republic-Origin Chocolate? Who cares, I like it!

More and more of North America's craft chocolate makers are using cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic to make single origin tasting bars. And I'm not sure if it is the delicious La Red Hispaniola bean flavour that attracts chocolate makers to it, or if it is because the Dominican is more easily accessible to us here in North America.  But whatever the reason, I like it. I like it a lot.

The distinct fruity flavours are rarely overwhelming but always noticeable. The graphic posted in this Popular Science article made by Sean Seidell says Dominican Republic cacao only has tobacco, winey and grassy flavours. I'll give it 'winey' but the other two I am not so sure about.

Ambrosia, a Waterloo-based Canadian bean-to-bar chocolate maker, certainly makes one of the most robust bars of them all. With 75% cocoa solids, this bar gives you a quick and bitter bite of chocolate, with that tanginess that can be found when you've cooked down pure raspberries with a little lemon juice and very little sugar. In fact, it reminds me a little of a flourless dark chocolate raspberry cake that I make.

Ambrosia has changed and improved their packaging since I last tried their chocolate over a year ago. The bars used to be uniquely square. Aura Hertzog, co-owner of Ambrosia Pastry Company, said that the new thinner, rectangular shape makes it easier for their customers to break off pieces, and the packaging change has made the work of wrapping easier on their end. I certainly enjoyed the new shape, with more delicate pieces that melted away nicely as I ate it, allowing me to taste the flavours of the origin, without overwhelming my palate.

I always enjoyed the Hispaniola bar by Ottawa-based Hummingbird Chocolatemaker, and so I am beginning to believe that I just really like Dominican-origin bars.  There are so many other chocolate bars made from cacao beans from the Dominican Republic. You can find many of through my Canadian bean-to-bar craft chocolate list, or the American list.

Here are the package details from the chocolate that I wrote about today:

Ambrosia Bean to Bar Dominican Republic 75%, 80g
Chocolate maker: Ambrosia Pastry Company (Waterloo, ON)
www.ambrosiapastry.com
Batch #8003
Ingredients: Organic Cacao, Cane Sugar, Non GMO Soy Lecithin. May contain traces of dairy, soy or nuts. (Made from Trinitario cacao beans)