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Archive for February 14, 2014

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Old-Style Chocolate & New Learning Opportunities

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A sip into the past. A cup of drinking
chocolate with two chocolate sticks. Photo
courtesy American Heritage Chocolate.

 

Turn the clock back 400 years. You’re in colonial America. You can’t have a chocolate bar, because solid chocolate bars have not been invented.* But you can have a cup of luscious hot chocolate.

In the 1700s, the chocolate making process (like most cooking) was very time consuming. Chocolate, made from the cacao beans grown in the Caribbean and Latin America, became a favorite drink among the colonists.

American Heritage Chocolate, a division of the chocolate giant Mars, has recaptured the sophisticated flavors of that early hot chocolate, as well as the “eating chocolate” that was first created in 1847.

The division focuses on historically authentic chocolate. The company sends educators to historical sites around the country to demonstrate early chocolate making: roasting the cacao beans, winnowing off the shells, breaking the bean into nibs and flavoring them with sugar, salt and spices from around the world: annatto, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel, red chile and vanilla.

 
*Solid chocolate was invented in 1847 in England. Here’s a historical timeline of chocolate.
 
IN NYC ON PRESIDENTS DAY?

On Presidents Day, February 17th, American Heritage Chocolate will be at the New York Historical Society in New York City, demonstrating the drink that was enjoyed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The kid-friendly demonstrations (held from 12 to 4) begin with the imported cacao beans, to the extraction of chocolate from the beans, to the finished hot chocolate. Attendees get to sample it, although the 21st century Cocoa Latte machine they employed sure beats the 18th century hand-whipping with a stick in a chocolate pot.

The entire process is on display, including all of the spices, plus the fascinating experience that even food writers will cherish: tasting the component parts of chocolate (the cocoa butter, the chocolate liquor and the milk powder that creates milk chocolate).

Participants also get to taste “chocolate sticks,” cylinders of chocolate that look historic but wouldn’t have been available until the second half of the 19th century (in time for Lincoln, but not for Washington and Jefferson).

 

AMERICAN HERITAGE CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS

The American Heritage Chocolate brand was developed in 2006 by Mars Chocolate North America to help educate consumers about the history of chocolate in America. The delicious products are sold exclusively at heritage sites and museums†, an exclusive revenue opportunity for those worthy organizations. You can find the site nearest to you online or online, including Colonial Williamsburg website.

The chocolate recipe was created from an ingredient list from 1750, and represents a true taste of the chocolate our ancestors would have enjoyed. The product line includes:

  • Chocolate Sticks: Individually-wrapped single serving chocolate sticks
  • Chocolate Bites: Individually-wrapped, bite-size chocolates in a keepsake muslin bag
  • Chocolate Blocks: Two chocolate blocks, perfect for grating, chunking, shaving or baking
  • Chocolate Drink: A canister filled with a bag of finely grated chocolate for drinking or baking
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    Individual portion chocolate sticks are 63% cacao and excitingly flavored. Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

     

    And aside from being a bit of history, the products are truly delicious—and special. The spices wake up the palate in a way that the typical chocolate bar Americans enjoy cannot hope to do. Connoisseurs will love it, too.

    The products are so special, they’re our Top Pick Of The Week.

    This morning, we woke up and prepared a cup for Valentine’s Day.

  • It’s so rich, an espresso-size cup is perfect. A 12-ounce mug could do in the most enthusiastic hot chocolate lover.
  • We personally prefer to make it with milk, rather than water. Try both and see which you prefer.
  • The recipe recommends a 1:1 ratio of liquid to chocolate. If it’s too rich and spicy for you, add more milk/water, and use less chocolate the next time.
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    †It is sold at more than 130 fine gift shops at historic sites, museums and historic inns across the U.S. and Canada.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Last Minute Gift

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    One of many thousands of ways to decorate a chocolate bar. Photo courtesy Chocomize.

      If youve forgotten someone special, send an e-gift certificate for exciting gourmet chocolate bars from Chocomize.

    The giftee can decorate a standard 3.5-ounce or a heart-shaped chocolate bar with the toppings of his/her choice.

    First, the giftee picks the type of chocolate (dark, milk, white), from the fine Belgian producer Barry Callebaut. It can be topped with up to five selections from almost 100 choices:

  • Many types of candy
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sweet and savory spices
  • “Decorations,” including flower petals, gold flakes and Valentine greetings
  • “Other,” a group of favorites ranging from coffee beans to cereals, potato chips and pretzels
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    You can send an e-gift card for $10 or more at Chocomize.com. (And design a bar or two for yourself, while you’re there.)

    Next year, if you plan ahead, you can send all of your Valentines your own custom designs.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Carrots In Love

    Who would want to eat these carrots and destroy their charm? But wiser minds argue that if they aren’t eaten, they’ll just wither away.

    Point taken, and it’s a moot point too, since we are not in possession of these carrots in love.

    But we do have a bag of baby carrots, and the photo inspired us to create a healthful carrot snack, tricked out for the occasion.

    VALENTINE CARROTS

    Ingredients

  • A bag of baby carrots
  • Red food color or beet juice* (from the can of beets)
  • A dip base—plain Greek yogurt or hummus, for example
  • Optional chives, dill or other herb for yogurt dip
  • Optional garnish or mix/in: finely diced cooked beets (sliced canned beets work)
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    Isn’t nature grand? Photo via Dole | Facebook.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE yogurt dip: If choosing plain Greek yogurt, season with herbs and garlic.

    2. COLOR the dip (yogurt or hummus) with food color or beet juice.

    3. CREATE a very small dice of beets. Mix them into the yogurt or hummus.

    4. GARNISH the dip bowl with a rim of diced beets, if desired; and scatter with minced herbs.
     
    *Beet juice is available at some supermarkets and at most health food stores. It’s delicious, high in antioxidants and low in calories. For a yogurt dip especially, beet juice adds flavor that red food color does not.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Latte Art ~ Try A Heart In Your Coffee

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    Make this for your Valentine. Photo courtesy
    Amoretti.

     

    Ever wish you could create latte art? Today’s the day to practice a heart design in your latte.

    We love latte art: animals, cross-hatches, ferns (rosettes), hearts, flowers. The ephemeral milk foam adds a smile to the coffee.

    We looked for a book on latte art, but surprise: There isn’t a dedicated book in print (there is, however, LatteArt.org). So we turned to the experts at DeLonghi, whose coffee and espresso machines are coveted by lovers of espresso, cappuccino and latte.

    They in turn reached out to Laila Ghambari, Director of Coffee at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle—the home of American latte art. Here are her tips:

  • The micro-foam is a crucial element in creating the perfect latte art. Use a milk foaming machine that is able to produce rich, thick, long-lasting foam.
  • Use whole or 2% milk. More milk fat equals more creaminess.
  • Add air to the milk by bringing the steam wand tip to the surface of the milk (not beneath). Remember that NO air will just create hot milk and TOO MUCH air will make your milk bubbly.
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  • Make sure that when you are steaming your milk that the milk is spinning. You can achieve this by tilting the pitcher, which allows for the air and milk to blend together.
  • You need to steam the milk to a smooth, creamy texture. It should look cold cream or wet paint.
  • Once the milk is steamed, swirl it around to make sure the milk and foam are incorporated, not separated.
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    TO MAKE A HEART

  • TILT. Start by tilting the cup of espresso 45 degrees.
  • TOUCH. Think of the steamed milk in the pitcher as the “pencil” and the espresso in the cup as the “canvas.” To create art you must touch the pencil to the canvas. Tilting the cup enables the pencil to touch the canvas much sooner than if the cup is upright (in which case you could only reach the canvas when the cup is full).
  • POUR. Start pouring up high, further away from the cup, so that the milk has a higher velocity and drops below the espresso. When the cup is full enough that the coffee soon start spilling out of the 45 degree tilt, drop the tip of the pitcher to the surface of the milk.
  • POUR. Keep pouring in the same spot as you fill the cup (make sure you are tilting the cup back to upright, so not to spill). This will create a large white circle in the cup.
  • PULL. To make a heart, pull the pitcher away from the surface of the milk to thin the stream before you “slice” the circle. Pour the milk through the center of the circle, which will split it into two halves. It will immediately start to take the shape of a heart.
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    A DeLonghi cappuccino machine close-up on the steaming wand and frothing pitcher. Photo courtesy DeLonghi.

     
    See it done in this video.
     
    THE HISTORY OF LATTE ART

    Latte art was enabled by the development of microfoam, created by the steam wand of a cappuccino machine, used to foam a pitcher of milk. The combination of the crema atop the cup of espresso and velvety microfoam allows patterns to be made. (Note that other types of milk steamers/foamers do not create microfoam.)

    Latte art in the United States developed in the Seattle coffee culture of the 1980s and 1990s. By 1989 the heart pattern was a signature at David Schomer’s Espresso Vivace and the rosette pattern followed, based on a photograph Schomer saw of latte art in an Italian café.
     
    FOOD TRIVIA

    Cappuccino is named after the color of the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the Capuchin order. The red-brown color was a common descriptor in 17th-century Europe.

     
    HOW DOES LATTE DIFFER FROM OTHER ESPRESSO DRINKS?

    What’s the difference between latte and cappuccino? What’s a macchiato? Check out our Espresso glossary for the different type of espresso drinks.

      

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