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Archive for Chocolate

TIP OF THE DAY: Toast To National S’mores Day With Bubbly & Truffles

S'mores Truffles

S'mores Truffles Recipe

[1] This sophisticated S’mores truffles recipe from My Baking Addiction uses Smirnoff’s marshmallow-flavored vodka. [2] A down-home version from QVC’s David Venable. The recipe is  .

 

August 10th is National S’mores Day.

A couple of weeks ago, we suggested a gourmet S’mores party with a buffet of everything S’mores, including fondue, fudge, grilled banana S’mores and ice cream—along with numerous other adaptation of the popular campfire cookie sandwich.

If you don’t want the whole spread, just invite people over for easy-to-make S’mores Truffles with a glass of sparkling wine (our wine suggestions are below).

RECIPE: S’MORES TRUFFLES

This recipe from chef David Venable of QVC is very easy to make. You can delegate the task to kids who like to cook.

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14-ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee granules
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 14 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, divided
  • 62–64 mini marshmallows*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR the condensed milk, instant coffee and vanilla into a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

    2. ADD the chocolate chips and continue to stir until the chips are completely melted and the mixture is lukewarm, about 3–4 more minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs, and stir until fully incorporated.

    3. POUR the mixture into a small shallow dish (8″ x 8″ baking pan or a 9″ round cake pan). Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until the mixture has cooled completely, about 2–3 hours.

    4. PLACE the remaining 1/3 cup of graham crumbs into another shallow dish. To form the truffles, scoop 1 tablespoon of the chocolate mixture and make a well in the center. Place the marshmallow in the well, pinch the tops closed (to enclose the marshmallow), and roll the chocolate in your hands until a uniform ball forms.

    5. ROLL the ball into the graham cracker crumbs until completely coated. Repeat the same process to form each truffle.
     

    __________________
    *One intrepid baker counted There are 571 mini marshmellows in a 16-ounce bag. Really? Another counts 35 standard marshmallows in a 10-ounce bag, with the advice that 1 standard marshmallow = 3 mini marshmallows. If you conduct your own count, let us know!

     

    SWEET WINES TO PAIR WITH CHOCOLATE & DESSERTS

    Some sparkling wines are made in a sweet style, just to go with dessert. In the sparkling category, the terms dry, sec and demi-sec (dry and semi-dry in French) are used for these wines.

    Why dry? It’s an anomaly that began in the Champagne region of France. Here’s an interesting comparison of the different sweetnesses of Champagne.

    Sweet Sparkling Wines

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy
  • Asti Spumante from Italy (sparkling moscato)
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy
  • >Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne)
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain
  •  
    We also like two sweet sparklers from the U.S,:

  • Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington
  • Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California
  •  
    Sweet Still Wines

    Take advantage of the celebration to try one or more of these:

  • Banyuls from Roussillon in the south of France
  • Late Harvest Zinfandel from California
  • Lustau Muscat Sherry Superior “Emlin” fom Spain
  • Recioto Amarone from Veneto, Italy (not Valpolicella, a dry wine from the same region)
  • Ruby Port from Portugal
  • Vin Santo from Tuscany, Italy
  •  
    Liqueurs also work.

    And how about that Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka from Smirnoff?

     

    Red Wine & Chocolate

    Champagne & Chocolate

    [1] Certain red wines—still or sparkling—are perfect pairings for chocolate (photo courtesy Taza Chocolate). [2] Prefer bubbly? Make sure it’s a sweet style (photo courtesy Delysia Chocolate).

    S’MORES HISTORY

    Since the Girl Scouts popularized S’mores long ago (the first published recipe is in their 1927 handbook), it has been a happy tradition around the campfire. A stick, two toasted marshmallows, a square of chocolate and two graham crackers get you a delicious chocolate marshmallow sandwich.

    The heat of the toasted marshmallow melts the chocolate a bit, and the melted quality is oh-so-much-tastier than the individual ingredients (per Aristotle, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). The name of the sweet sandwich snack comes from its addictive quality: you have no choice but to ask for “some more.”

    But you don’t need a campfire, or even all of the classic ingredients, to celebrate with s’mores, as the recipe above and our other S’mores recipes show.

      

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    GIFT: Chocolate Elephants That Help Orphaned Elephants

    According to the United Nations, up to 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking their ivory tusks. Only 470,000 elephants remain on the continent; there were 3-5 million African elephants a century ago.

    As poaching and habitat loss continue, increasing number of elephants are orphaned.

    The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a charitable organization based in Kenya. It is renowned worldwide for its orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program. To date, the Trust has successfully rescued, raised and reintegrated 190 orphaned elephants into the wild.

    L.A. Burdick, one of our favorite chocolatiers, has created limited-edition chocolate elephants to honor the work of the Trust. The elephants are handmade and all natural, with toasted almond ears and tusks.

  • Milk chocolate elephants are filled with orange-flavored chocolate ganache (alcohol-free).
  • Dark chocolate elephants are filled with chocolate ganache flavored with passion fruit and Amarula Cream Liqueur. Amarula is the South African version of Baileys Irish Cream, made from marula fruits and laden with notes of banana, caramel, chocolate and cinnamon.
  •  
    The elephants arrive in a keepsake wooden box, hand-stamped with a golden elephant wax seal. A card is included explaining the work of the Trust; 10% of sales will be donated to the Trust.

  • 3 little chocolate elephants are $18.50 (2 dark chocolate, 1 milk chocolate).
  • 1 little dark chocolate elephant is $5.50.
  •  

    Orphan Baby Elephant

    Burdick Elephant Chocolate

    Top: Bottle feeding an orphaned elephant; photo courtesy David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Bottom: Boxed chocolate elephant(s) from L.A. Burdock

     
    If you have a special event coming up, or want Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts or party favors, you couldn’t ask for anything more special.

    Get your chocolate elephants at Burdick Chocolate.

     
    ADOPT AN ORPHANED ELEPHANT

    For a minimum of $50 a year, you can foster an orphaned elephant (or rhino or giraffe). Pick your orphan here.

      

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    EASTER CANDY: Easter Chocolate From Our Favorite Chocolatiers

    You can’t enter a food or drug store without facing down all the chocolate Easter bunnies and other candy. Thank you very much, but when we eat chocolate, it’s got to be really good chocolate.

    Here’s a sample of what are favorite chocolatiers are featuring this Easter. The candies are all natural (no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives) and handmade in small batches. All are beautifully packaged. Each company has other Easter choices as well.

    Since they don’t contain preservatives, artisan chocolates should be eaten within 10 days of receipt. (That’s not a tall order!)

    BURDICK CHOCOLATE:
    SIGNATURE BUNNY BOX

    This keepsake wooden box contains our favorite Burdick Easter candies, embellished with a gold wax seal and a beautiful ribbon. It includes:

  • Five hand-piped White Chocolate Bunnies with an orange-flavored hazelnut chocolate interior and almond ears
  • Two sets of Marzipan Eggs
  • Two sets of Chocolate Truffles
  •  
    The Signature Bunny Box is $26.00 at BurdickChocolate.com.
     
    CHARLES CHOCOLATES:
    EDIBLE CHOCOLATE BOX OF BONBONS

    A signature item at Charles Chocolates, the Easter Edible Chocolate Box has a white chocolate lid with a smiling Easter bunny. The bottom of the box is dark chocolate. Yes, it’s 100% edible.

    Inside the box are the chocolatier’s chocolate-enrobed caramels—Classic Fleur de Sel and Bittersweet Chocolate Fleur de Sel Caramels—with chick and bunny designs. The total weight of the box and contents is 17 ounces.

    The Easter Collection Edible Chocolate Box is $65.00 at CharlesChocolates.com.

     
    JOHN & KIRA’S:
    CHOCOLATE COTTONTAILS

    You’ll have to provide your own grass, because these adorable Chocolate Cottontails arrive in a charming keepsake box made of heavy pink paper. The label is removable so the box can be repurposed as you like.

    Three of the Cottontails are filled with peanut butter praline, three with coconut ganache and three with salted honey caramel. The outer shell is white chocolate, with a dark chocolate shell underneath.

    The box of 9 bonbons is $29.95 JohnandKiras.com.

       

    Gourmet Easter Chocolate Assortment

    Gourmet Easter Chocolate

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    Top: Signature Bunny Box from Burdick Chocolate. Center: Edible Chocolate Box from Charles Chocolates. Bottom: Chocolate Cottontails from John&Kira’s.

     

    Recchiuti Easter Eggs

    Gourmet Chocolate Easter Eggs

    Z Chocolat Easter Candy

    Top: Recchiuti’s Easter Eggs are filled with burnt caramel and chocolate ganache. Center: Speckled Robin’s Eggs from Woodhouse Chocolate are filled with brown butter ganache. Bottom: Classic French pralines in a mahogany box from Z Chocolat.

     

    RECCHIUTI CHOCOLATE:
    CARAMEL & CHOCOLATE EASTER EGGS

    This special box of chocolate Easter eggs divides the treasure between Recchiuti’s beloved Burnt Caramel in milk chocolate shells and his Force Noir Ganache (dark chocolate laced with vanilla) in dark chocolate shells.

    The Combo Egg Box, 28 pieces (10.75 ounces of chocolate), is $45.00 at Recchiuti.com. Note that the eggs are halves (the backs are flat).
     
    WOODHOUSE CHOCOLATE:
    SPECKLED BROWN BUTTER GANACHE CHOCOLATE EGGS

    These beautiful Speckled Robin’s Eggs are delicately hand colored in pastels and filled with Woodhouse’s signature Brown Butter Ganache. The box can be given as is, or added to an Easter basket.

    A box of six pastel eggs is $15 at WoodhouseChocolate.com.

     
    Z CHOCOLAT:
    EASTER PRALINES

    How about an elegant gift sent directly from France? Virtually no one will have received such a special box of chocolate.

    Z Chocolat, known for its elegant packaging, offers its Easter pralines—miniature chicks, bunnies, and other critters—in stunning black boxes.

    But even more stunning are the two fine wood boxes: the Easter Diamond box, handcrafted mahogany that’s embellished with an artistic egg motif and a gold metal latch; and the white basswood box.

    No matter which box you choose, it’s filled with pralines and solid chocolates in dark, milk and white.

  • The Easter Diamond (Mahogany) Box is $189.48 for 76 pralines.
  • The Easter Sunshine (Basswood) Box is $148.87 for 52 pralines.
  • Three sizes of heavy black paper boxes are $39.47 for 26 pralines to $136.46 for 62 pralines.
  •  
    Prices were converted to dollars from Euros at a $1.13/euro conversion rate.

    Head to ZChocolat.com.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Savory Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Top: Savory chocolate gazpacho from Chef Mat Schuster. Bottom: Savory chocolate gazpacho with strawberries from GoodToKnow.co.uk. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar offered us this Chocolate Gazpacho recipe, which we like for Valentine’s Day. It’s a savory chocolate counterpoint to all the sweet stuff.

    When most people think of savory chocolate dishes, Mexican mole comes to mind. You may have made a chili recipe with cocoa powder. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.

    (And why not? Cacao cultivation was begun by the Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico, located in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco; and furthered by the Mayas of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Aztecs learned about cacao from the Mayas, they made it a drink for noble or wealthy Aztecs and their warrior heroes).

    If you’ve ever had an all-chocolate dinner (chocolate used in every dish), you know that it can be included in every course, from cacao nibs in the salad to cacao chèvre for the cheese course. Here are more examples, with the recipes available at Saveur.com.

  • Asado de Bodas, pork in red chile sauce with Mexican chocolate
  • Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada* Sauce
  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
  • Enchiladas in Chile Chocolate Sauce, with Mexican chocolate
  • Gascon-Style Beef Stew (Daube de Boeuf À la Gasconne), made with
    Armagnac, chocolate and Madiera wine
  • Triple Chocolate Beef & Bean Chili
  • Turkey in Mole Poblano
  • White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
  •  
    RECIPE: SAVORY CHOCOLATE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup seedless or low-seed cucumber (Armenian, English,
    Persian, etc.), diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup to 1 cup cold water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: shaved chocolate (70% cacao to 100% cacao)
  • and/or croutons†

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD enough water to make the consistency you prefer, but be sure not to dilute the flavor.

    3. TASTE, season with salt and pepper and chill the soup. Before serving, garnish as desired.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE?

    Take a look at our Chocolate Glossary and other articles in THE NIBBLE’S Chocolate Section.

     
    _______________________
    *Picada is a Catalan-style pesto made with almonds, parsley and chocolate.

    †These can be American-style croutons—small squares—or French croutons/Italian crostini, slices of baguette or similar bread, grilled or toasted with olive oil, seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper) and/or optional toppings (for this gazpacho recipe, try fresh goat cheese and chives). You can float it on top of the soup or serve it on the plate under the bowl.

     
      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sweets We’d Like To Receive

    If you’re on the hunt for Valentine chocolate, you probably don’t have to hunt too hard. Even our drugstore looks like a chocolate shop.

    But here are some yummy items we enjoy, year after year.

    CHOCOLATE CHERRIES FROM CHOCLATIQUE

    Most of us grew up hoping to get the chocolate covered cherry in the box of mixed chocolates. At Choclatique, you can get an entire box of cherries!

    These are not the overly-sweet chocolate cherries of our youth. They are Grade A maraschino cherries that are marinated and then wrapped in a white chocolate-butter ganache. Next, they’re enrobed in premium dark chocolate shells (64% cacao).

    The bonbons are allowed to to cure, so that the ganache centers liquefy. The result is a delicate liquid center with just a touch of white chocolate ganache—and a memorable chocolate cherry.

    The chocolates are all natural and you can pick either a bright red ribbon for Valentine’s Day.

  • 12 Piece Box, $30.00
  • 24 Piece Box, $50.00
  •  
    CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRISP FROM GARRETT POPCORN

    Garrett Popcorn, known for its high quality popcorn gift tins, has two suggestions for Valenetine’s Day:

  • Lover’s Mix, a combination of Dark Chocolate Covered Caramel Crisp and regular Caramel Crisp. Note to caramel corn lovers: This regular Caramel Crisp is the best caramel corn you can buy, with a “burnt caramel” flavor that’s so much better than the ubiquitous one-dimensional sweet corns out there.
  • Spicy CheeseCorn, for those who prefer spicy to sweet. We’ve also recommended this corn for the Super Bowl. It’s a perfect blend of cheese and spice.
  •  
    Tins start at $39 for a one gallon and $69 for 2 gallons. The one gallon pink tin of Lover’s Mix is $47.

    Order yours at GarrettPopcorn.com.
     
    CLASSIC CHOCOLATES FROM LI-LAC

    Li-Lac Chocolates is one of our favorite munching grounds. This chocolate shop specializes in old-fashioned chocolates of top quality—the kind it’s become hard to find.

    Take a look at the choices at Li-LacChocolates.com.

       
    Chocolate Covered Cherries

    Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

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    Top: Gourmet chocolate cherries from Choclatique. Middle and bottom: Lover’s Mix and the Valentine tin from Garrett Popcorn.

     
    Whether a mixed box of chocolates or an entire box of our favorite chocolate-covered marzipan rolls, we hope our Valentine reads this message. (Please send both!)

    The chocolates are certified kosher.
     
    For those looking for kosher chocolate, LakeChamplainChocolates.com is another favorite chocolatier. Let us emphasize that, kosher or not, these to companies make excellent chocolates.
     
    MORE FAVORITE CHOCOLATES

    We’re happy with anything from John & Kira’s or Burdick Chocolate, two of America’s great artisan chocolatiers.

     

    Gimbal's Chocolate Cherry Chews

    Cherry Chews from Gimbal’s are available in
    several sizes, and are very affordable if you
    like to give something to many friends.

     

    CHERRY CHEWS FROM GIMBAL’S

    For something fun, affordable and not chocolate, try Gimbal’s Cherry Chews. They’re all natural and made with real cherry juice. They were created to have a cherry shape, but as you can see in the photo, they also resemble Valentine hearts.

    And they also double as celebratory sweets for George Washington’s Birthday.

    Bags in several sizes start at $1.39 to give out to friends and colleagues. A 38-ounce jar is just $13.99.

    Get them at GimbalsCandy.com.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Scotch Whisky Chocolates For Burns Night

    In Scotland, January 25th is a national holiday that celebrates the birthday of the great romantic poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). On Burns Night, family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served.

    This year, instead of cooking a traditional Burns Supper (smoked haddock, beef pie, haggis, colcannon, tatties), we’re taking the sweeter road:
     
    BURDICK SCOTCH WHISKY CHOCOLATES

    Available for only three weeks each year, this special box of chocolates blends Scotch whisky into every piece.

    There are ganache-filled chocolates made with some of the finest whiskys, including Highland Park, Macallan, Springbank and Talisker. They are accompanied by Glenfarclas bonbons and Lagavulin and Whisky Honey truffles.

     

    Burdick Scotch Whiskey Chocolate

    What a way to celebrate Burns Night! Photo of Scotch whisky chocolates from Burdick Chocolate.

     

    The chocolates are available now through January 28th. Get an extra box for Valentine’s Day, at BurdickChocolate.com.

  • A half-pound box of Scotch Whisky chocolates is $38.00.
  • The Scotch Gift Basket includes a quarter-pound box of the chocolates, shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate, three Scotch Whisky chocolate cigars, a 12-ounce bag of spicy drinking chocolate, 1 chocolate mouse* and a book of Robert Burns Poems and Songs, $78.00.
  •  
    OTHER WAYS TO CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT

  • Here’s an alternative Scotch and chocolate tasting party with fine chocolate bars.
  • Don’t like chocolate? Go straight to a Scotch tasting party.
  •  
    Here’s more about Burns Night.
     
    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey, a term that originated in Ireland. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the Scots’ national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the U.S., a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Here’s a brief history of whiskey.
    _________________________________
    *The mouse honors the famous Burns poem, To A Mouse.

      

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    REC: White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark

    White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn

    Popcorn, peppermints and white chocolate: Yum! Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     

    We enjoyed this confection so much at a holiday party that we asked for the recipe. Turns out it’s from Popcorn.org, the consumer site of The Popcorn Board.

    And it’s easy! Make it for gifts, for your guests and for yourself!

    Also take a look at this recipe white chocolate peppermint pretzels.

    RECIPE: WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT POPCORN BARK

    Ingredients For 1 Pound (Twelve 3-Inch Squares)

  • 5 cups popped popcorn (purchased or home-popped)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, chopped white chocolate or white candy coating*
  • 1 cup crushed hard candy peppermints
  •  
    *We use Guittard white chocolate chips or chop Green & Black’s or Lindt white chocolate bars. We avoid white candy coating because it substitutes vegetable oil for the cocoa butter in real chocolate (and that’s the reason many people dislike “white chocolate,” as they’re actually eating white candy coating).

     
    Preparation

    1. COVER a baking pan with foil or wax paper; set aside. Place the popcorn in a large bowl; set aside.

    2. MELT the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Alternatively, melt according to package directions. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the crushed peppermints.

    3. POUR the chocolate mixture over the popcorn mixture and stir to coat. Spread it onto the prepared pan and allow to cool completely. When chocolate is cooled and set…

    4. BREAK into chunks for serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
     
    Variation: White Chocolate Popcorn Crunch (No Peppermint)

    1. OMIT the candy peppermints.

    2. MIX ½ cup dried cranberries and ½ cup sliced almonds with the popcorn. You can also sprinkle chocolate chips over the popcorn. Pour the melted chocolate over the mixture.
     
    POPCORN TRIVIA

    Popcorn was first popped at least 5,600 years ago in Mexico, by throwing corn kernels on sizzling hot stones.

    Although it is an indigenous American snack, it originally was not a snack food, but was pounded into a meal and mixed with water. This same cooking technique was used by the early American colonists, who mixed ground popcorn with milk and ate it for breakfast.

    Popcorn is a whole grain food. Here’s the history of popcorn.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Topperfino Chocolate Coffee Toppers

    Our Top Pick Of The Week gets high points for innovation, flavor and beauty.

    The clever folks at Topperfino have hand-crafted discs from premium Belgian chocolate, with a lovely assortment of designs. When a disc is placed atop a steaming cup of coffee or cocoa, the beverage transforms into a work of coffee art.

    The thin disc then melts into the cup, releasing a captivating chocolate aroma and—oh, yes—adding chocolate flavor.

    The best Topperfino experience is on a coffee with crèma on top, such as cappuccino or latte. But we tried it on everything, including plain coffee, hot milk and rooibos and chocolate tea blends. (Numi, Republic Of Tea and Zhena sell chocolate tea blends. Our favorite is Buccaneer from Serendipitea.)

    And, per the company’s suggestion, it even works on a bowl of hot cereal (which might finally get the kids to eat their oatmeal and drink their milk).

    Topperfino is a memorable gift for anyone who drinks coffee or hot chocolate, and will delight adults and kids alike. Each disk has just 25 calories, and you can skip the sugar so the calorie switch is even.

    Gently place the Topperfino chocolate topper on top of your coffee cup and watch it melt into a creamy chocolate-y flavorful addition to your morning Joe!

     
    YOUR CHOICE OF DARK OR MILK CHOCOLATE

    Topperfino discs are made in dark chocolate in plain chocolate plus caramel, French vanilla and hazelnut, in more than a dozen designs. Milk chocolate toppers are available in caramel, French vanilla and hazelnut.

     

    Topperfino Chocolate Cup Toppers

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    TOP PHOTO: Two different designs turn cups of coffee into art. BOTTOM PHOTO: Gift box. Photos courtesy Topperfino.

     
    And what lovely designs: animal prints, circles, coffee beans, geometrics, hearts, music, orbs, paisley and snowflakes, for starters.

    What are you waiting for? Get yours at Topperfino.com. Each box of 10 toppers is just $13.99. There’s free shipping with two boxes or more.

    TIP: We used some aerosol whipped cream that made it easier to place the disc on the hot beverage. When your toppers arrive, you’ll see what we mean.

    TRIVA: Topperfino happened ­by mistake! The inventor, an artist, loved to drink coffee with a bar of chocolate on the side (in France and Italy, a square of chocolate is oftened served with coffee). One morning, a piece of chocolate accidentally fell into his coffee and floated for a short time. The light bulb turned on. After countless tests, he created the unique blend of art and chocolate that he named Topperfino.

      

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    HOLIDAY GIFTS: Gourmet Chocolate

    Edible Chocolate Box - Charles Chocolates

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans

    John & Kira's Winter Bonbons

    Chocolate & Whiskey Figs John & Kira's

    TOP PHOTO: Edible chocolate box with bonbons from Charles Chocolates. SECOND PHOTO: Coco Puro’s chocolate-coated cacao beans. THIRD PHOTO: Ganache-filled bonbons from John & Kira’s. BOTTOM PHOTO: Calabacita figs filled with chocolate whiskey ganache from John & Kira’s.

     

    We love putting together holiday gift lists, sharing our must-have favorites. The chocolate items here begin at $12. Items under $10 are on our Stocking Stuffers list, out later this week.

    If you’re looking for kosher gifts, check out Li-Lac Chocolates, below.

    CHARLES CHOCOLATES

    Our favorite chocolate-covered nuts are from Charles Chocolates: Triple Chocolate Almonds, premium California almonds that are fresh-roasted, then coated in bittersweet and milk chocolates and dusted with cocoa powder. They’re also available in Mint Chocolate Almond and Triple Chocolate Hazelnut, 6.5 ounces for $12. Toffee Chocolate Macadamias are $15 for 6.3 ounces. An assortment of all four varieties is $46.

    A memorable treat is the Edible Chocolate Box (top photo), filled with fleur de sel caramels, milk chocolate caramels and bittersweet peanut praliné butterflies. Seventeen ounces of chocolate, including the box, are $46.00.

    Get yours at CharlesChocolates.com.
     
    COCOA PURO

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans (second photo) are a unique gift for the chocolate connoisseur: chocolate-covered cacao beans—the whole bean, not the nibs, which are the “seeds” of the bean.

    The finest beans are roasted until crunchy, like coffee beans; then hand-enrobed in layers of white, milk and dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder. That’s five expressions of chocolate in one bite!

    Kakawa is the Olmec word for cacao. The Olmecs were the first people to cultivate the cacao plant in Mesoamerica.

    A 12-ounce bag is $28 at CocoaPuro.com.
     
    JOHN & KIRA’S

    Of all the wonderful choices at John & Kira’s, two are our favorites for holiday gifting:

    The Winter Forest Collection (third photo) comprises three seasonal designs and bonbon flavors, all enrobed in a 62% Valrhona dark chocolate shell.

    Snowcapped peak bonbons contain a crunchy hazelnut-almond praline center, crystalline snowflakes are filled with white chocolate mint ganache, and a starry night envelops vanilla-accented dark chocolate ganache.

    Nine pieces in a handsome reusable box are $29.95 at JohnAndKiras.com.

    Our perennial favorite are the Chocolate-Filled Figs With A Touch Of Whiskey (fourth photo). It’s become our annual treat to ourself, and truth be told, we buy two boxes (and have to restrain ourself from buying double that, and don’t share a single piece).

    A treat for the refined palate, organic dried Calabacita figs are filled with a whiskey-infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache; then hand-dipped in 62% dark chocolate and nestled in a handsome gift box.

    Each bite becomes a treasured memory; and if you think we’re getting flowery here, just taste them! Get yours at JohnAndKiras.com. Twelve pieces are $38.50.

     

     

    LI-LAC CHOCOLATES

    This French chocolate gift assortment contains a luscious mix of milk and dark chocolate squares filled with soft centers: caramels, chocolate fudge, French creams, hazelnut truffle squares, mocha, mousse, marzipan, and rum ganache. Inspired by European-style chocolates from the 1920s, we said “yum” out loud with every bite.

    Twenty pieces in a handsome repurposable box, 8.5 ounces of chocolate are $28. Larger boxes—one pound, two pounds and three pounds—are also available. The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get them at Li-LacChocolates.com.
     
    MAISON DU CHOCOLAT

    The venerable Parisian chocolatier, with outposts in New York City, has created something truly special: the Sweet and Savoury Collection. For the connoisseur, these surprising pairings of chocolate and vegetables are quite wonderful (but do not count toward your daily portions of veggies).

    The flavors include: dark ganache with Guérande sea salt, dark ganache with hot red pepper, ganache with balsamic caramelized onions, hazelnut praliné with porcini mushrooms and praliné with black olives and olive oil. These combinations may sound strange to most people; but for the true connoisseur, they are treasures.

     

    Li-Lac French Chocolates

    Maison Du Chocolat Savoury Collection

    TOP PHOTO: Wonderful French-style chocolates from Li-Lac. BOTTOM PHOTO: Savoury chocolates from Maison du Chocolat.

     

    The Savoury Chocolate Collection can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night, but Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau, who created the collection, enjoys it between the last course of dinner and dessert. Get yours at LaMaisonDuChocolat.us. There are two sizes, $24 and $36.
     
    Almost all of these chocolatiers sell a variety of chocolates; so if you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet, browse their websites.

      

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    RECIPE: Rocky Road Truffles

    Today is National Rocky Road Day. The original Rocky Road was an ice cream flavor invented in 1929 by William Dryer. He chose the name to describe the bumpy appearance of ice cream packed with chocolate, marshmallows and walnuts. Since the Great Depression began in October of that year, it was also a tongue-and-cheek reference.

    Pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti has taken Dryer’s original flavor profile and added her own twist, to make Rocky Road Truffles, developed for the California Walnut Board.

    Chocolate ganache surrounds walnuts and marshmallows, with a light dusting of cocoa powder. The truffles melt in your mouth.

    Make them for a family treat or for a special occasion like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day. The truffles can be made a week in advance. The better quality the chocolate, the tastier the truffles. (We used a Valrhona chocolate bar.)
     
    RECIPE: ROCKY ROAD TRUFFLES

    Ingredients For 30 One-Inch Truffles

     

    Here, the rocky road is welcome. Photo courtesy California Walnut Board.

  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows cut in half (use scissors)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chocolate bar chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WARM the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan lightly so the chocolate is covered by the cream. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

    2. WHISK occasionally until the mixture is at room temperature. Then stir in the marshmallows, walnuts and milk chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.

    3. PLACE a heaping teaspoon for each truffle in a single layer on a pan. Refrigerate until hard.

    4. PUT the cocoa powder on a plate or in a small bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One at a time, place the chocolate balls in the cocoa powder. Dust your palms with cocoa powder and lightly roll the truffles between your palms until round. (The cocoa powder keeps them from sticking to your hands.) Finally, roll the round truffles in the the cocoa powder. (If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.)

    5. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve. For gifting, you can wrap the truffles up in tissue paper and tie the bundle with a ribbon.

      

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