Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Like Drinking A Mud Puddle

The Mud Puddle

It was a long weekend.

Between attending 2 separate (and unequivocally delicious) food festivals, on top of our usual weekendly chores, by Sunday night I was looking for a little liquid refreshment and a well deserved wind down.

While sitting at the dinner table shucking the 2 quarts of shell peas that I’d forgotten about in the fridge and enduring the sweltering heat from a pan of oven roasted veggies destined for stock, the Everyman offered to fix me a drink that would be good for what ailed me.  I didn’t know what I was in the mood for, so I just asked him to surprise me, something I’ve come to realize he is quite adept at.

The resulting cocktail was delicious, even if it did slightly look like I was drinking a mud puddle.  Honestly, I think that might be part of the appeal, though.

Moreover, I’m really quite starting to like this Domaine de Canton stuff.  Here’s hoping that the LCBO doesn’t delist it too soon.

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Soma-mbulatory Persuasion

Cocoa Beanie And Friends

Last weekend, the Everyman and I had the opportunity to dip into Soma Chocolatemaker before catching Glengarry Glen Ross at Soulpepper.

Now, I fully admit that the Distillery District is one of those areas of Toronto I don’t spend nearly enough time in, especially considering the sheer number of artisans packed into its demure acreage.  But, now that we have semi-regular tickets at Soulpepper and I’m spending my Saturday afternoons in the general vicinity, I’m sure passing through the cobbled arches will become much more common.

On our latest trip, aside from picking up a few items for a housewarming gift (FYI the tumbled green Iranian raisins are awesome, apparently) I decided to help myself to a few products for personal consumption.  Chief amongst these was the barberry Soma tube; an 18 inch long truffle bar that’s meant for sharing, but that I’ve only begrudgingly allowed the Everyman to nibble once.  The bar comes sealed in a folded cardboard tube that contains some of the most mind-bendingly complex chocolate accents I’ve ever tasted.  I chose it for its nut free countenance, which is speckled with barberries (natch), handmade toffee, roasted cacao nibs and feuilletine.  And though I’ve barely worked my way through a third of it, I’m already planning when I can return to the store to procure more of this limited edition deliciousness.  I also used my purse to smuggle tumbled espresso beans, a few bags of varied cacao nibs and a shiny packaged microbatch chocolate bar from the prying eyes of the theatre coat check clerk once we were done.

On top of that, Soma even carries whole cacao pods too, so of course I couldn’t resist buying a few of those either.  I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do with them yet (having already used straight cacao nibs to make my own homemade chocolate liqueur) but in the meantime whilst I figure it out, I’m just hoping our cats don’t abscond with them.

I wasn’t convinced of the awesomeness of Soma on my first visit a while back, but after greedily hoarding that barberry bar, I’m definitely a believer.

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From The Vault Of Delectable Chocolate Arcanum

Who Loves The Chocolate?

Above all else, I admire passion in others.

Not for me are the random masses shuffling along through their workaday lives, never fully immersing themselves or finding anything worthwhile to commit to.  Instead I respect the creative, overly exuberant doers, the ones who push the envelopes and expand the boundaries of their respective fields through constant trial and experimentation.

When I familiarized myself with Paul A Young’s 2009 work Adventures With Chocolate recently, I knew I’d found a rare culinary maverick worthy of further examination, whose book I just had to lay hands on.  Once I managed to track down a copy through Alibris UK I only had to exercise a modicum of patience until it arrived on my doorstep a week and a half later.

Adventures With Chocolate is a rollicking stroll through the mind of a (not so evil) genius, whose book jacket photo reveals a dapper young man reminiscent of a modern day Willy Wonka.  This is by no means your mother’s cookbook, resplendent as it is with the rich tones and lush textures of pure chocolate juxtaposed against rustic, homespun preparations.  It’s part concept journal and part chocolate as high art, but on all accounts they add up deliciously.  I’ve yet to test drive a single recipe, but after my recent experimentations with chocolate and ‘nduja I’ve been inexplicably drawn to some of his more whimsical combinations, including chocolate water crackers (for cheese), fig and date tarts with cumin chocolate syrup and cedar cassia truffles (to name a few).  I’ve no doubt that once I start I will work my way through the book in its entirety.

Especially helpful for the novice chocolatier is the glossary near the beginning that identifies certain flavours that marry well with distinct varieties of single origin chocolate.  I may be somewhere between amateur and professional (having only dabbled in truffle making during my late teens and early twenties under the moniker Princess P) but even I found the table to be an invaluable tool.  I’ve also found it curiously prevalent for British recipes to specify the variety of sugar; whether it’s turbinado, muscovado, caster or any other, nothing is left to chance in the precise flavour compilations Young is after (definitely a trend I would like to catch on universally).

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An Unorthodox Usage For Lard

Chews

As you may recall, one of the things I wanted for Christmas was a bag of Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone lard caramels (amongst other things).

After the holidays I was able to cross a few things off that massive list (I Know How To Cook, the dough press, a scraping beater, a rolling pin and the spice storage solution, specifically), but I was still no closer to tasting those caramels.  As I probably mentioned at the time of writing, unless I get myself (or someone I know) to California (which is highly unlikely) I don’t have much chance of partaking of them any time soon, either.

You may also have noticed that this past weekend I rendered down the better part of 10 pounds of pork fat into lard, the majority of which has been earmarked for sealing the prosciutto.  Even after taking that into consideration, there was still a fair amount of fat left over.  Some I planned to freeze for another day, but it occurred to me that I had enough of a surplus to sacrifice a little to a lard caramel experiment.

When I first read about these fancy lard caramels, I assumed there must be some magical twist to them.  Further research revealed that wasn’t the case, and in fact the only thing unique about them (compared to other caramels) is the fact that the lard supposedly comes from Cosentino’s restaurant.  Beyond that, everything I read indicated they’ve employed a fairly standard caramel recipe.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

Truffes De 'Nduja

I’m going to preface this by saying that this post is probably not for everyone.  With that in mind, I suggest you read on at your own risk.

Just before Christmas, Larbo and I were discussing ‘nduja and fate happened to drop this on my lap.  Being that our combined aptitude for deciphering Italian is mediocre at best, the consensus we reached was that it was a recipe for an ‘nduja and cocoa nib pasta sauce, but at the time we were unable to tell whether it was actually a traditional recipe from the Calabrian region that ‘nduja hails from, or just some kind of joke or one off creation.  Both somewhat perplexed, the bizarre medley has been on my mind ever since.

Generally speaking, Larbo, Scott and I have been good-naturedly one upping each other with this ‘nduja stuff since we all started making it early last year.  It’s become somewhat of a common theme in our posts, and I’m pretty comfortable saying that it’s likely one of the top trafficked search terms that brings people to our individual sites (I know it is on mine).

But, I just couldn’t shake this chocolate/’nduja feeling, so after much deliberation I decided what direction I wanted to take it in – that which has always been near and dear to my heart; the truffle.

Miscellaneous Bar Ends

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Nothing Compares To You

BarcelonaGoji

It’s been a little less than 2 years since I first became enthralled with the absolutely delectable chocolate from Chicago’s Vosges Haut Chocolat.

During that time I’ve come to love many of their varieties, but none more than the Barcelona, Goji and Mo’s Bacon bars.  Suffering from withdrawal last year, I even managed to find a Toronto source for Vosges that would order in the ones I liked after my mini library stash ran out.  But even the benefit of having a local vendor like The Mercantile to get my fix doesn’t come without its costs.  Firstly, the bars are quite pricy at $10 per, which is pretty much on par with what they sell for in the states.  Combine that with the current state of construction and disrepair on Roncesvalles (where The Mercantile resides) and you’ll understand why I stock up every time I go.  But, even though I savour the bars slowly, only allowing 1 or 2 squares (from a 9 square bar) at a time, there’s still something a little obscene about walking out of a store with $100 worth of chocolate.

So, over the last little while I’ve been contemplating potential alternatives to Vosges, focusing on the characteristics that I enjoy so much in them.  The one common denominator I’ve noticed between my 3 favourite bars is the fact that they all contain a savoury element.  The Barelona and Goji bars both contain salt (grey sea and pink Himalayan, respectively) blended with Vosges signature (but oxymoron-ish) dark milk chocolate, while the Mo’s bar combines it with Alderwood smoked salt and (also salty) bacon.  That being said, sea salt chocolate bars sounded like as good a place as any to start, so I started asking around for options.

First was Lindt Excellence’s A Touch Of Sea Salt bar ($3.99), one that I’d previously heard about but never seen at a retailer before.  It was sheer coincidence when I happened upon it during a pre-movie candy run to Shoppers, so I couldn’t help but buy one.  Snapping off a piece in the dark theatre, I found myself supremely disappointed.  For mass market chocolate, Lindt is usually decent, but A Touch Of Sea Salt was anything but.  The chocolate had a waxy quality that I didn’t enjoy as I scraped it against my teeth, and combined with the chemical-like bouquet of the “sea salt”, it made for an exceptionally unpleasant bite.  I spent the rest of the movie with nothing to nibble on, which made the whole experience that much more annoying, and at the end I went home with a full bar left over.

A few weeks later, while I was shopping at The Healthy Butcher, I noticed their display of artisanal chocolate next to the cash register included a sea salt bar ($4.99) by Montreal’s Gallerie Au Chocolat.  Clearly I’m not immune to the crafty wiles of impulse purchasing, because a bar of it came home with me, too.  After cracking open its rustic cardboard box, I was met with the lovely aroma of finely tempered dark chocolate and a bar that had a surprising amount of heft to it.  Breaking off a small chunk, I placed it on my tongue and waited.  Though the chocolate was rich, creamy and smooth, the salt was much too overpowering, situating the bar firmly in unpalatable territory.  After a few days I began to wonder if it might be a bar to chop into my next batch of chocolate brulee or chocolate chip cookies, allowing the extra salinity to be camouflaged by all of the other ingredients, but I have yet to test out this theory.  At any rate, unlike the Lindt, I have not yet completely written this one off.

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The Best Damn Cookie In The Universe

Ubercookie

Last night when I got home from work I was itching for a spectacular batch of cookies.

You see, the Everyman and I visited Sweet Flour Bake Shop on the weekend to make customized cookies, but the ones I made for myself just didn’t satisfy my cookie craving.  There was nothing wrong with them per se, I just didn’t figure out that they weren’t what I wanted until after we’d already left, negating my ability to correct my mistake with more cookies.

Since then I’ve understandably had cookies on the brain.  But, I had a very particular cookie in mind.  I wanted something akin to what I remember the Chewy Chips Ahoy from my childhood to be like, only not full of preservatives and trans fats.

Surprisingly, I don’t often (read: never) make plain chocolate chip cookies, so I was a bit stymied by the prospect of finding a place to start.  Usually I am seduced by wonderful additives like oatmeal and peanut butter, etc and never make it to the good old fashioned triple C (chocolate chip cookie).

But last night nothing else would do, so I hauled out all of my recipes and cookie books and started poring over my options.

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That’s The Way (Uh Huh, Uh Huh) I Like It (Uh Huh, Uh Huh)

chocri

I think I’m in love.

Last night I came across the greatest idea I’ve ever wished I had.

It’s called chocri.

Chocri is a German-based company that specializes in build-your-own chocolate bars.  According to their website, they take the idea of food customization to its most promising apex – the blendification of bespoke bars.  Considering what a trend food individualization has become over the last few years (as I discussed in my article about Sweet Flour Bake Shop last month), I can completely understand how this idea came about; I just hope it proves popular enough to make its way to Canada.

On the chocri website, you get to choose from the 3 basic chocolates (white, dark or milk) and then add up to 5 (of more than 90 potential) toppings.  There are fruits, nuts, spices, candies, granular additions like seeds, etc, and decorative elements like dragees and sugar pieces just waiting to grace your personalized edible confections. Once you’ve selected your toppings, or chosen one of their signature blends, chocri will create and ship your treat directly to you within 14 days.  And that is what they call, a fait accompli.

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Fashioning A Silk Purse From A Sow’s Ear

A Little Slice Of Heaven

There’s almost nothing I dislike more than waste.

Having a CSA share every summer means that I’ve learned to get pretty creative with its contents so that they don’t end up going into the trash.

But, now that summer has taken it’s final bow, we’ve gone back to receiving what our organic grocer Bob from Clean Food Connection calls a “vegpak” in every order, which basically amounts to a box full of fruits and veggies that his staff will pack up for me, based on my likes/dislikes/preferences.  So, while everything we receive is always something we’ll enjoy, sometimes it means we end up with produce that we weren’t necessarily expecting.

And sometimes that produce will sit around my kitchen almost until the brink of decay.  Which is exactly how I ended up having 6 overripe bosc pears sitting on my counter with no immediate plans for them yesterday.

At first glance, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to make a pear crisp, but once I started to peel the pears, I realized that there was no way they’d be firm enough to stand up to that.  Which is how I ended up making a puree.  And once I had that puree, it was only a mental hop, skip and a jump to deciding that a pear-based quick bread was the way to go.  Fortifying my general quick bread recipe with the addition of oats and a pinch of camphorous cardamom put the finishing touches on the bread.

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Zen; Or The Art Of Ayurvedic Brownie Making

Brow-nie!

Like the enduring search for a suitable mate, a good brownie is similarly hard to find.

There are fluffy brownies, cakey brownies, nutty brownies and frosted brownies.  There are chunky brownies, sweet brownies, crispy brownies and chewy brownies.  There are more kinds of brownies than there are hours in the day, and for my money, most of them are not worth the bother.  I’ve had success with Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies in the past, but every once in a while I get a craving for something just a little bit different…

To my mind, brownies are the ideal candidate for simplicity.  I don’t want nuts, frosting, M&M’s or candy mix-ins.  And I most certainly don’t want them swirled with cheesecake or peanut butter or any other heavy viscous substance.  When I take that first bite, I want the top to shatter in a mixture of crunchy, caramelized chewy delight, while the interior should be rich without being dense or cakey.

In short, I’m looking for a brownie miracle.

Months ago, when I finally located some 100 Mysteries tea, I’d found it a fantastic ingredient to experiment with.  It made its way into a panna cotta, and I’d intended to try additional applications, but other projects got in the way.  This weekend, I finally managed to pick up where I left off by producing a batch of 100 Mysteries brownies.

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We Can Rebuild It; We Have The Technology

Choco-Rosemary Bacon

That niggling chill in the air meant that yesterday morning I pulled the final mini slab of vanilla pink peppercorn bacon out of the freezer after I’d used the last thawed bits in a crockpot of fall-appropriate baked beans.

Thus, it seemed like as good a time as any to get started on my next batch of bacon.  Since bacon requires a 7 to 10 day lead time before you have finished product, it was imperative that I get it curing, lest I run out of delectable home-cured porkiness.

Magical Ingredients

While considering the next methods of flavouring, it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet gotten on Scott and Larbo’s choco-bacon train (though I’ve been meaning to).  Being a rabid consumer of my chocolate-covered guanciale toffee, I knew there was serious potential in the choco-bacon combo, but I wanted something more.  Leave it to me to prove that nothing exceeds like excess.  Recalling a dessert that I love at one of our favourite local haunts (Czehoski) formed the basis for this inspiration.  The chef there makes a rich and melty chocolate ganache flavoured with rosemary that is out of this world, so my mind immediately thought chocolate + bacon = good and chocolate + rosemary = also good, therefore chocolate + rosemary + bacon must = out of this world good.  And of course because I never do anything by half measures, it also occurred to me that a little pure Ontarian maple syrup might not be a bad idea either.

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Mrs. Foodie, You Make Good Cookies

Baked

More than just about anything else, I love cookies.

I like big ones, small ones, chewy ones, crispy ones, and my own patented brand of cookie, the “fookie“.  For those of you not in the know, a fookie is a fuckin’ big cookie, usually chocolate chip, that is made by taking a batch’s worth of cookie dough and forming it into one gigantic, deep dish pizza-sized cookie.  Yum!

Since the Everyman and I were planning on visiting his very awesome grandmother, it seemed only fitting that I should make a batch of baked goods to take along.  I knew she was a fan of my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but I felt like doing something a tiny bit different this time.  After all, I like people to know I am more than just a one trick pony.

Since it’s been quite humid in Toronto this week, the bananas have been ripening faster than normal, so I had half a bunch on my hands that needed to be dispatched with, ASAP.  Combining the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with bananas seemed like the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone, and sounded like they would produce an awesome hybrid of cookie/bread, while also allowing me to reduce the fat content.

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Love (And Gluttony) Can Make You Do Crazy Things

Like Manna From Shannon

Yesterday afternoon the Everyman was assisting me in my ongoing saga of learning how to drive.  Sometimes I think he must have the patience of Job in order to do this without breaking up with me.  I can fully admit I am not the easiest person to work with by any stretch.

Once all the knuckle-biting was over, I harangued him into stopping at The Mercantile on our way home.  Shannon had emailed me several times during the last ten days to advise that various things I’d ordered had arrived.  It’d been a busy week, and was shaping up to be a hectic weekend, so Friday afternoon seemed like the only opportunity.  Plus, they just so happen to be the closest place to get his favourite boutique potato chips…

As my go-to supplier for all things Vosges, I’d implored Shannon the last time I was there to order the one bar that was my most favorite (which seemed to be the only one she didn’t have).  This would be the Barcelona bar, which is a sumptuous combination of milk chocolate (which I normally hate), hickory smoked almonds and grey sea salt.  She was also completely out of the Everyman’s favourite, the Mo’s Bacon, which is exactly what it sounds like; an applewood bacon studded chocolate bar with alderwood smoked sea salt.  It’s a close second for me too, though I find the non-bacon Barcelona has many of the same smoky-sweet nuances of the Mo’s, so maybe that’s why I like them both.  Shannon had assured me she’d contact her supplier, who though notoriously difficult when asked for small orders, would nonetheless eventually come through.  In the interim I also happened to grow to love the Goji bar, and when I walked in last night I was a little disappointed that they had none of those left, either.

But then I saw the wall.  There were cases of bars as far as the eye could see.  Vosges is expensive, especially when it’s being imported from the states into Montreal and then taking a second trip to Toronto, so it wasn’t long before I was clutching $100 worth of chocolate bars in my sweaty, shaking hands.  In case you’re wondering what $100 worth of fancy chocolate looks like, that’s pretty much it.  If I had to guess I’d say that stash will probably last me 2-3 months, as long as I forget about it.  If I remember it’s there, I’d be surprised if it lasts me 2 weeks.  No doubt it’s an expensive habit, but I don’t have many (no $500 shoes in this girl’s closet), so it sort of balances itself out.  I know it’s still ridiculous though, but I just can’t help myself.

Such is the life of a career chocoholic.

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