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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE GIFT: Shiny Chocolate Hearts

kohler-hearts-230sq

Pretty to look at, these shiny chocolate hearts are filled with luscious raspberry-infused ganache. Photo courtesy Kohler.

 

These lovely hearts, from Kohler Chocolates, are beautifully crafted:

The dark chocolate shells are filled with a delicate raspberry-accented chocolate ganache.

The dark chocolate is then enrobed with a thin layer of red-tinted white chocolate, which is hand painted with pink dots, and glazed to a very dazzling shine.

Choose from four sizes, gift-boxed and tied with a lovely ribbon. The smallest size makes a great wedding favor.

  • 4-Piece Box, $9.99
  • 9-Piece Box, $18.99
  • 32-Piece Box, $59.99
  •  
    Get yours at KohlerChocolates.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Red Velvet Raspberry Truffles

    Surprise your Valentine with a beribboned box of homemade red velvet chocolate truffles with luscious raspberry flavor. The insides are the color of red velvet cake.

    McCormick, which contributed this recipe, specifies baking chocolate; but these will taste so much better if you use couverture—higher quality chocolate that chocolatiers and pastry chefs use. Look for 60% to 70% couverture from Guittard, Valrhona and other brands in cbaking supply stores or specialty food stores.

    RECIPE: RED VELVET RASPBERRY TRUFFLES

    Ingredients For 24 Truffles

  • 1 pound semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red food color
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry extract
  • Optional: sprinkles or other red, white or pink decorations; or white chocolate for a contrasting drizzle
  •    

    raspberry-chocolate-truffles-mccormick-230

    Make your own Valentine bonbons. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT 8 ounces of the chocolate as directed on package; or in a double boiler.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, food color and raspberry extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add the melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until firm.

    3. SHAPE into 24 balls (about 3/4-inch). Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.

    4. COAT and decorate only 12 truffles at a time (so the chocolate doesn’t harden). Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwavable bowl on MEDIUM (50% power) for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the chocolate. Tap the back of fork 2 or 3 times against edge of dish to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place the truffles on a wax paper-lined tray. (If there are any “bald” spots on a truffle, cover them with the melted chocolate that remains on the fork.) Repeat with the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and the remaining truffles.

    5. DECORATE: Garnish the truffles with colorful sprinkles immediately after dipping in chocolate. The sprinkles will adhere to the truffles as the chocolate coating sets in the refrigerator. Or, decorate truffles with a swirl of white chocolate. You can use a fork to drizzle white chocolate over the truffles.

    6. REFRIGERATE for 1 hour or until the chocolate is set. Store the truffles between layers of wax paper in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

     

    raspberry-cream-cheese-frosting-mccormick

    White cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting and filling. Raspberry extract is clear and won’t color the frosting by itself. Red food color was used to make the filling pink. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    MORE USES FOR RASPBERRY EXTRACT

    Some people hesitate to purchase a bottle for only one recipe. Here are other uses for that raspberry extract:

    Beverages

  • Club soda/sparkling water
  • Hot chocolate
  • Hot or iced tea
  • Shakes and smoothies
  • Soft drinks, e.g., add to cola or ginger ale
  •  
    Sweets

  • Cake and cookies
  • Frosting
  • Raspberry brownies
  • Syrup for shaved ice
  •  

    RECIPE: RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

    Ingredients

  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon red food color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water. Take care that the chocolate does not get too hot or it can scorch. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

    2. BEAT the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and raspberry extract and mix well.

    3. GRADUALLY BEAT in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the food color and blend well.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: “Breakfast” Chocolate Bars

    If you know someone who would gladly eat chocolate for breakfast, [s]he may be able to justify it with these new chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier:

  • Cinnamon Cereal Smooch, milk chocolate mixed with bits of cinnamon toast cereal.
  • Strawberry Waffle Wild, milk chocolate mixed with tart dried strawberries and crispy waffle pieces.
  •  
    They join an existing line of 14 palate-pleasing and imaginative chocolate bars, including Baconluxious and Potato Chip.

    The chocolate bars sell for an SRP of $6.00 (but are on sale for $4.00), and can be found online at ChuaoChocolatier.com as well as at major retailers nationwide, including Bed Bath & Beyond, REI and Whole Foods Markets.

    MAKE YOUR OWN CEREAL CHOCOLATE BARS

    For about the same price, you can make your own chocolate bars at Chocomize.com. This fun company utilizes a process that lets you place your choice of some 70 different ingredients—fruits, nuts, candies, spices—atop a dark, milk or white Belgian chocolate bar.

     

    strawberry-waffle-wild-bar-230

    “Breakfast chocolate,” embedded with cereal. Photo courtesy Chuao Chocolatier.

     
    Cereal options include Caramelized Rice Krispies, Teddy Grahams, Vanilla Granola and Waffle Crunch. Non-cereal options include from Potato Chips and Real Bacon.

    For Valentine’s Day, there are Candy Sugar Hearts, Message Hearts and LOVE plaques in white chocolate, along with Lavender Petals, 24 Karat Gold Flakes and Pink Pop Rocks.

    You can create your own bar or send a gift certificate so the recipient can customize excactly what [s]he wants. (In fact, the gift certificates are one of our favorite Valentine gifts.)

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Tonja’s Toffee, With Or Without Nuts

    tonjas-toffee-2-kaminsky-230

    Tonja’s Toffee. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    Not everyone wants a box of bonbons or chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day. Some of us would love the buttery crunch of toffee.

    When we received samples of Tonja’s Toffee, we were happy, happy, happy. The style is very buttery, which is how we like it. And, this considerate family business makes nut-free varieties too.

    Choices include:

  • Almond Toffee: topped in dark, milk or white chocolate with a fine dusting of almonds.
  • Butter Toffee: nut-free, also in dark, milk or white chocolate.
  •  
    The toffee is sold in quarter-pound, half-pound and one-pound bags. The small bags make great stocking stuffers or party favors.

    The company also makes peanut butter bon bons and peanut brittle. We haven’t tried them yet, but as soon as we finish eating all our Valentine candy, they’re on our list.

    Get yours at TonjasToffee.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Mini Cupcakes From Baked By Melissa

    These itty bitty cupcakes (about half the size of the photo) will delight kids and adults equally.

    The Valentine Collection from Baked By Melissa—a pioneer in tiny cupcakes—includes three varieties. Packaged in a gift box with a pink ribbon, the Valentine Collection includes:

  • White Chocolate Pretzel Cupcakes: white vanilla cake, Bavarian cream stuffing, vanilla icing, white chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Red Velvet Pretzel Cupcakes: Red velvet cake, cream cheese icing, milk chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcakes: chocolate cake, peanut butter stuffing, chocolate icing, dark chocolate pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  •  
    The round ball at the top is a chocolate-covered pretzel, adding crunch and a hint of salt to the sweet cupcakes. The cupcakes are bite-size: slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter, one or two bites.

    In the words of Melissa, a little cupcake equals a lot of love.

    The cupcakes, which are kosher-certified by OK, can be shipped nationwide and can be pre-ordered starting today. A 25-piece gift box is $25, plus shipping.

       

    peanut_butter_pretzel-230

    Shown here about twice the actual size, the cupcakes have the diameter of a quarter. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     
    To place an order, head to BakeByMelissa.com. For Valentine’s Day delivery, shipping orders must be placed by 3 p.m. on Friday, February 13th.

     

    vday2015_giftbox-230

    The Valentine gift box, tied with a pink ribbon. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     

    CUPCAKE HISTORY

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in “Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook” in 1828. [Source]

    Cupcakes were convenient because they cooked much faster than larger cakes. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes baked in a fraction of the time.

    Muffin tins became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered new convenience to bakers. Paper and foil liners were created for easier removal of the cupcakes from the pan.

     

    They evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering everyday treats.

    Each Baked By Melissa cupcake has 70-90 calories, but that’s a workable daily treat. An average-size cupcake from Crumbs, Magnolia, Sprinkles and the like will run you 450 calories or so (here’s a calorie comparison).

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Kiss A Frog Chocolates

    If you know a woman who is still waiting for the frog to turn into the handsome prince, here’s an idea for Valentine’s Day:

    A box of Kiss A Frog chocolates, frog-shaped chocolates. The chocolates include 26 solid chocolate frogs and 6 frogs filled with peanut butter. They’re nestled in a chocolate brown, heart-shaped box tied with a gossamer green ribbon.

    The box of chocolate frogs, a total of 16 ounces, is $39.00 at BlackDinahChocolates.com.

    Black Dinah Chocolates, handmade in Maine (on a remote island offshore), are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (here’s our review).

    The confectioners also make beautiful bonbons, bark, salted caramels and other beguiling confections.

    Discover more at BlackDinahChocolatiers.com.

     

    kiss-a-frog-blackdinah-2014-230sq

    Chocolate frogs will have to do instead of a handsome prince. Photo courtesy Black Dinah Chocolates.

     

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: X.O. Cognac

    hennessy-xo-230

    It’s a beauty—and it has a just-as-lovely gift
    box. Photo courtesy Hennessy.

     

    We sign our letters to friends with “X.O.,” short for a hug and a kisse.

    The abbreviation for “hugs and kisses,” XOXO, has been used for centuries to express love or good friendship at the end of a written letter or card (and these days at the end of an email or text message). The X stands for kiss and the O for hug.

    What is the history of this custom? Why not HKHK instead of XOXO? There’s more about that below.

    First, we’d like to suggest a luxurious Valentine’s Day gift: X.O. Cognac, a divine aperitíf or nightcap.

    This style of Cognac was created in 1870 by Maurice Hennessy, to be enjoyed with his circle of friends. The bold, intense and complex flavors are based on much longer aging. Some of the 100 eaux-de-vie* assembled to create X.O were aged for 30 years. M. Hennessy gave it the name X.O to signify “extra old.”

    It’s a Cognac for connoisseurs, served neat, on ice or with a splash of still or sparkling water. Don’t even think of mixing it in a cocktail!

     
    By the way, it was Maurice Hennessy, great-grandson of company founder Richard Hennessy, who created the Cognac classification system. He used varying numbers of stars to designate different quality, first producing Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, today known as V.S (Very Special). His classification system was adopted by the entire industry.

    When he was the Prince of Wales, King George IV of Great Britain asked Hennessy to create a “very superior old pale Cognac.” It was designated V.S.O.P—Very Superior Old Pale—and since then, a letter system evolved to replace the stars (see below).
     

    LUXURIOUS VALENTINE GIFT IDEA

    Deliver your hugs and kisses with a bottle of X.O. Cognac. In addition to Hennessy, it is made by a number of Cognac houses including Camus, Courvoisier, Martell, Rémy Martin and others. They bottles cost $150 and up.

    While a bottle of Hennessy X.O., at the top of the price scale, can cost upwards of $200, we found it “on sale” at WineAnthology.com for $165.

    If you’re not looking for a bargain, you can get a custom-engraved bottle directly from Hennessy. Your message is engraved on the back of the bottle, making it a lovely keepsake (see the photo below).

    We also like to give an engraved bottle of X.O. Cognac as a wedding gift or anniversary gift.

     

    COGNAC CLASSIFICATIONS

  • V.O.: Very Old, aged a minimum of four years.
  • V.S.: Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Also called Three Star.
  • V.S.O.P.: Very Superior Old Pale; the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years.
  • X.O.: Extra Old. The youngest brandy is aged for at least six years but the average is 20 years or more. In 2016, the minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an XO blend will be 10 years.
  • Extra/Napoleon/Vielle Reserve: While regulations designate a minimum of 6 years of age for the youngest brandy, this average is usually older than X.O.
  •  
    There are other age designations, but they are smaller productions and are not typically imported to the U.S.
     
    Other terms to know:

     

    valentine-engraved-bottle-230

    Engrave a personal message on your X.O. Gift Photo courtesy Hennessy.

  • Hors d’Age: Meaning “beyond age,” this is a rare Cognac that is off the designated age scale.
  • Varietal: Made using only one type of varietal grape
  • Vintage: Aged and was put into the bottle in the year of the vintage
     
    ABOUT X’s AND O’s

    The custom of placing X’s on envelopes and at the bottom of letters notes, signifying kisses, dates back to the Middle Ages. At that time, a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to indicate faith, honesty and sincerity. A kiss, indicated with an X, was then placed upon the cross by the signer as a display of his or her sworn oath.

    A similar practice dates back to early Christian history. Since most people could neither read nor write, an X was used as their signature on documents, and an actual kiss was placed upon it as a show of sincerity. [Source]

    What about the “O?” Current speculation is that it is of Jewish derivation, since Jews would not use the sign of the cross.

    In terms of how the two symbols came together in the very non-legal “hugs and kisses”: Alas, dear reader, the answer is lost to history.
     
    *Eau de vie (eaux is the plural), pronounced oh-duh-VEE, is French for “water of life.” It’s a clear, colorless fruit brandy. After the brandy is aged in wood, it takes on its amber color. Cognac is a region in northern France; only brandies produced there can be called “Cognac.” The artisanship and strict production regulations in Cognac creates a superior spirit. Generic “brandy” can be produced anywhere.

      

  • Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Crème Yvette

    creme-yvette-2-230

    Crème Yvette violet liqueur, worth getting to know. Photo courtesy Cooper Spirits International.

     

    This old-fashioned-looking bottle with an unfamiliar name hasn’t been around in more than 40 years. Purple-hued and violet-scented, it was enjoyed since the 19th century in cocktails and as an after-dinner digestif.

    Alas, it was one of many old-fashioned liqueurs that went out of style and ceased to be produced; in this case, it went defunct in 1969. But it recently caught the fancy of the creator of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (another favorite for Valentine’s Day or any day), who has resurrected it.

    Crème Yvette, also called Crème d’Yvette and Crème de Yvette, is made from parma violet petals*, blackberries, blackcurrants, red raspberries and wild strawberries, along with honey, orange peel and vanilla.

    Currently, it seems to be available in New York and California, but you can see if your local liquor store can order a bottle for you.

    There are cocktail recipes on the brand’s website, CremeYvette.com. We enjoyed mixing it with sparkling wine (we also layered St. Germain into one variation).

    And it’s delicious atop raspberry sorbet—an easy Valentine’s Day dessert.

    (By the way, exactly who Yvette was has been lost to history.)
     
    *The same exotic flower used to make those violet pastilles.

     

     
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Send A Cake To Your Valentine & To A Veteran

    bake-me-a-wish-cake-230

    Send a gift to a loved one and a veteran. Photo courtesy Bake Me A Wish.

     

    BakeMeAWish.com’s Valentine’s Day Freedom Cake is a Valentine gift with real meaning. When you send a cake to a loved one, Bake Me A Wish will also send a cake to a veteran in a VA Hospital in the U.S.

    It’s $75 for both cakes; the cake is normally $39.95 plus $15 shipping.

    If you’d rather buy something else: When you spend $25 or more at BakeMeAWish.com, use the code VETERAN. Bake Me A Wish will automatically donate 20% of the purchase price toward sending a cake to a veteran in a VA Hospital.

    The initiative is in partnership with, Soldiers’ Angels, whose motto is “May no soldier go unloved.” The non-profit organization provides assistance to families of enlisted soldiers.

    BakeMeAWish.com sends gift-boxed cakes nationwide, and includes a personalized card. If you’ve forgotten a special occasion, the cake can be delivered overnight.

     

    To order your Freedom Cake or other cake gift, visit BakeMeAWish.com.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cherry Almond Rugelach

    Cherry-themed recipes work both for Valentine’s Day (February 14th) and Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd, celebrated nationally on President’s Day, which falls this year on February 16th).

    There’s nothing better with a cup of tea or coffee than homemade rugelach. Try this recipe from QVC’s David Venable.
     
    RECIPE: CHERRY ALMOND RUGELACH

    Ingredients For 64 Cookies
     
    For The Dough

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter
  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • 2 cups flour
  •  
    For The Filling:

     

    cherry-almond-rugelach-davidvenable-230

    Cherry Almond Rugelach. Photo courtesy QVC.

  • 6 ounces dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup cherry-flavored brandy, kirschwasser, or 1 tablespoon brandy extract
  • 1/2 cup water (if using brandy extract, add an additional 1/2 cup water)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  •  

    Additional Ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • White sparkling sanding sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dough: Cut the cream cheese, butter and almond paste into bits. Pulse the cream cheese, butter, almond paste and flour in a food processor until crumbly. Place the mixture onto a working surface and knead the dough together. Shape it into 4 equal disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

    2. PREPARE the filling: Place the cherries, brandy and water in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, place the cherries, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and fold in the almonds. Set aside.

    3. MAKE the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a well-floured work surface, roll 1 disk into a 12″ round (be sure to keep the other disks chilled until ready to roll). Spread a quarter of the cherry mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border. With a chef’s knife or pizza cutter, cut each round into 12 wedges. Roll the wedges from wide to narrow, so you end up with a point on the outside of the cookie. Repeat with remaining discs of dough.

    4. PLACE the cookies on ungreased baking sheets and chill the rugelach for 20 minutes. Brush each cookie with egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

    5. COOL and store in an airtight container.

      

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