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Archive for Chocolate

GIFT OF THE DAY: Merci Chocolates

Need a bunch of small, affordable holiday gift for teachers, salon staff, the letter carrier and others you’d like to thank?

Or do you need a stash of $10 gifts for anytime gifting?

Give a box of Merci Chocolates. The very name of the product says “thank you” in French.

The miniature bars, in an assortment of flavors* made with fine ingredients, nicely packaged in a gift box. There’s even a holiday-edition gift box printed with a red ribbon and evergreen branches—no additional gift wrap required.

The delicious selection of rich European-style chocolates in multiple flavors* will delight the palate.

Choices include:

  • All milk chocolate.
  • All dark chocolate.
  • Mixed milk and dark chocolate.
  • Assorted chocolate with almonds.
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    The 20-piece box, with 8.8-ounces of chocolate, can be found for $7.50 to $10.00 or so, depending on the retailer. You can purchase two boxes with free shipping for $21.90 on Amazon.

    In addition to Amazon, the chocolates are sold at CVS, Target, Walgreens and other chains and grocery stores nationwide.
     
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    Merci Chocolates

    Merci Chocolate

    [1] You can serve Merci from the box or in your favorite candy dish. [2] The holiday-edition box (photo courtesy Target).

    *Flavors include Coffee and Cream, Cream Truffle, Dark Cream, Dark Mousse, Hazelnut-Almond, Hazelnut-Creme, Milk Chocolate and Praline-Creme.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Baron Chocolates

    Baron Milk Chocolate Bar

    Baron Chocolate Truffles

    Baron Chocolate Gummi Bears

    Chocolate Covered Gummi Worms Baron

    [1] Baron Chocolate Bars are made in two sizes and 10 flavors. [2] Everyone’s favorite: chocolate truffles with plain or flavored chocolate centers. [3] Our favorite treat: chocolate-covered gummi bears and [4] worms (all photos courtesy Baron Chocolatier).

     

    Baron Chocolatier was created by Tomasz Kotas, the third of three generations of chocolatiers from Poznan (Posen), Poland.

    After selling chocolate in Europe for 30 years, The Millano Group decided to establish a North American subsidiary—the U.S. is the world’s single largest chocolate market.

    Selling private label* chocolates in the U.S. beginning in 2009, it more recently launched its own brand, Baron .

    The brand is probably the best quality chocolate we’ve had at such low price points. For consumers looking for the most affordable premium chocolates, take a look at Baron.

    All chocolates are made with natural ingredients, GMO-free and certified kosher by Triangle K.

    The company makes a larger variety of products than these, but for starters, here’s what most people would like to find under the tree (or on the table or anywhere else).
     
    PREMIUM CHOCOLATE BARS

    Plain or fancy, there are small bars (1.76 ounces, 50g) and large bars (3.5 ounces, 100g). In addition to plain milk and dark chocolate, there are 8 specialty flavors:

  • Milk Chocolate (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk Chocolate With Almonds (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk with Sea Salt Caramel (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk Chocolate With Toffee Crunch (1.75 ounces)
  • 50% Dark With Orange & Almonds (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 50% Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Pieces (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 50% Dark With Sea Salt (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate With Orange and Almonds (1.75 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt (1.75 ounces)
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    PREMIUM CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

    The truffles are round balls filled with ganache, plain and flavored, in 5.25-ounce boxes (148 g).
    The are made in six flavors:

  • Dark Chocolate Truffles
  • Dark Chocolate Lava Cake Truffles
  • Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
  • Milk Caramel Brownie Truffles
  • Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Milk Chocolate Truffles With Strawberry Cheesecake Fillings
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    There are also seasonal limited-edition flavors.

    CHOCOLATE GUMMIES

    As gummi enthusiasts, our personal greatest delight are the milk chocolate-covered gummi bears and gummi worms.

    They’re so inexpensive, we bought stocking stuffers for everyone!

    Warning: addictive!

     
    WHERE TO BUY BARON CHOCOLATES

    Baron is sold at some 80,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and is also available online at Amazon and other e-tailers.

    Examples of pricing from Amazon:

  • 6 boxes of Milk Chocolate Truffles with Milk Chocolate Creme Filling, 5 ounces each, ($3.63/box) $21.79
  • 12 bars plain Milk Chocolate Bars, 1.76-ounces each, $27.19 ($2.27/bar)
  • 12 Dark Chocolate Bars, 3.5-ounces each, $39.12 ($3.26/bar)
  • 12 3-ounce packages Gummi Bears or Worms, $10.71 (89¢ each)
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    For chocolate gifting, these prices can’t be beat!

     
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    *Private label goods are those made by a manufacturer for a client’s brand name. For example, the foods sold under the Williams-Sonoma brand are manufactured for them by other companies.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Noosa Mexican Chocolate Yoghurt (a.k.a. Yogurt)

    Noosa Mexican Chocolate Yogurt

    Noosa Mexican Chocolate

    Taza Mexican Chocolate

    [1] and [2] Buy lots—you’ll love Noosa Mexican Chocolate Yoghurt (photo courtesy Noosa). [3] Actual Mexican chocolate is melted into hot chocolate (photo courtesy Taza Chocolate). In the rear: the roasted cacao beans from which chocolate is made.

     

    Just when you think there’s nothing more to discover in yogurt, you get a surprise:

    Noosa Mexican Chocolate Yoghurt (that’s how yogurt is spelled in Australia).

    We’ve tried other brands’ attempts at chocolate yogurt, but they had only a hand-shaking acquaintance with chocolatey indulgence. Noosa gets it right.

    One of our favorite brands and a Top Pick Of The Week, Noosa is a whole-milk yogurt, which gives it the richness and creaminess of a good dessert.

    The new Mexican Chocolate flavor is ¡delicioso! It’s made with Fair Trade cocoa powder, a splash of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne.

    It leaves you saying “Mas! Mas! Mas!” and recommending it to every yogurt-eater you know. We promise!

    Here’s a store locator.
     
    WHY IS IT “MEXICAN” CHOCOLATE?

    Cacao was first cultivated in Mesoamerica by the Olmecs, around 1200 B.C.E.; who taught it to the Mayas, who taught it to the conquering Aztecs.

    In the New World it was a beverage for the wealthy and elite, an unsweetened beverage, flavored with cinnamon, chiles, cornmeal, musk, peppercorns and vanilla.

    The Spanish conquistadors, who arrived in 1527, didn’t like the drink at all. But they brought the beans back to Spain, where chefs “Europeanized” it with milk and sugar, keeping the cinnamon but leaving out the chiles, cornmeal, musk and peppercorns.

    In the 19th century, a method for making hard chocolate bars was invented in England. The technique traveled back to the land of origin, where Mexicans flavored their hard chocolate with cinnamon, sugar and almonds.

    But, true to tradition, they turned those hard disks back into a beverage: hot chocolate!

    Here’s a history of chocolate timeline.

    And for true foodies, here’s the full history.
     
    ARE YOU A CHOCOLATE LOVER?

    Test your knowledge of chocolate in THE NIBBLE’s Chocolate Section.

    You might want to start out with our Chocolate Glossary: all the terms you need to know to become a chocolate expert.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Thanksgiving Chocolate Bars Or Bark

    Dark Chocolate Bar

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bark

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bar

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bark

    [1] Turn a plain 3.5-ounce chocolate bar into a Thanksgiving bar (photo courtesy Livestrong). [2] You can present the bars whole, or break them up into bark (photo courtesy The Nutrition Adventure). [3] You can use your favorite chocolate, whether dark, milk or [4] white chocolate (photo #3 courtesy Chocolate Inspirations, photo #4 courtesy My Catholic Kitchen.

     

    We love to make chocolate bark, especially since we discovered this easy technique from Australian blogger Erika Rax. You can make bark almost instantly: for family, friends or gifting.

    In the conventional technique, the chocolate is chopped and melted, the inclusions mixed in, the mixture spread on a baking sheet to set and then broken up.

    Here, whole chocolate bars are topped with the inclusions, then placed in the oven so the bar melts and the inclusions set in.

    The result: chocolate bars with your favorite toppings, that can be broken into bark if you wish. Personally, we give them whole as gifts, and break them up when serving them with coffee.
     
    RECIPE: THANKSGIVING CHOCOLATE BARS OR BARK

    Use the chocolate of your choice—dark, milk, white—or make one of each. Just ensure that the toppings contrast with the color of the chocolate.
    You can use raw or roasted pumpkin seeds, as long as they’re hulled and unsalted.

    You can use as much topping as you like, from elegantly spare to voluptuously overloaded.

    You can place the toppings in an artistic pattern, or just toss them on.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Chocolate Bars

  • 2 3.5-ounce chocolate bars (Cailler, Green & Black’s, Guittard, Lindt, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Optional: 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped or golden raisins (sultanas)
  • Optional: 1/8 cup pecans halves or pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Optional: coarse/flaky sea salt or kosher salt (a great use for beautiful Maldon salt or alea red volcanic salt, actually a dark “harvest orange” color), to taste
  • Optional spice: 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 170°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on ends.

    2. SPACE the bars on the baking sheet bottom side up, with ample space between them (the pattern normally on top of the bar is on the bottom so the toppings have a level base). Arrange the toppings on top of the bars.

    3. PLACE the baking sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the chocolate just begins to soften. Don’t overheat or the bars will lose their shape.

    4. REMOVE from the oven, lift the parchment from the hot baking sheet and place onto the counter to cool. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. While bark will last longer, for gifting make it no more than 3 days in advance, and wrap it in plastic or foil before gifting.

    You can also make your own paper chocolate bar label on the computer.
     
    GET READY, GET SET, MAKE YOUR THANKSGIVING CHOCOLATE.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Chocolat Moderne Chocolate Bars

    Our favorite chocolate bars have long been everything in the Avant Garde Bars line from Chocolat Moderne.

    We discovered the company in 2005 and have been nibbling away since. Joan Coukos’chocolates, made with Valrhona chocolate, are always innovative in flavor and design.

    Even if we weren’t so beguiled by the Jackson-Pollack-like hand-painted designs on the bars, we’d still go for the flavor.

    At $8 each, these are wonderful stocking stuffers. Give an assortment of flavors for a larger gift. If you’re in New York City, the retail shop is open Monday through Saturday from 12 to 6 (7 West 20th Street, Suite 904).

    CURRENT FLAVORS OF AVANT GARDE BARS

  • Bazaar Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with house-made almond marzipan blended with creamy white chocolate ganache.
  • Blood Orange Bergamot Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with caramel flavored with fresh blood orange juice and scented with oil of bergamot.
  • Gunsmoke Bar: Milk chocolate bar filled with caramel laced with smokey mezcal and sea salt (our current addiction).
  • Lemon Up Bar: White chocolate bar filled with tart caramel made with fresh lemon juice.
  • Peanut Pizzazz Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with salted peanut and milk chocolate praliné blended with flecks of caramelized sugar.
  • Smoked Sea Salt Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with sea salted caramel and finished with crystals of smoked Welsh sea salt (the different types of salt).
  • Solbeso Mi Mucho: In Valrhona’s new Dulcey chocolate, a.k.a “blonde” white chocolate made by toasting the milk powder before making the chocolate (somewhat akin to the caramelization of dulce de leche). It’s filled with caramel blended with sea salt, unsweetened chocolate and Solbeso, the first spirit to be distilled from the pulp of cacao.
  • Spicy Hazelnut Gianduja Bar: A Dulcey chocolate bar filled with dark chocolate hazelnut gianduja blended with sea salt, chipotle, ancho chili and cinnamon.
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    Holiday 2016 Avant Garde Bars

  • Cranberry Orange Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled wtih soft caramel made with cranberries, essential oil orange and a touch of morello cherries.
  • Gingerbread Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with caramel infused with gingergread spices.
  • Peppermint Stick Bar: Dark chocolate bar filled with rich dark chocolate caramel laced with peppermint.
  • Pumpkin Pie Bar” Dark chocolate bar filled with milk chocolate caramel blended with organic pumpkin purée and aromatic pumpkin pie spices.
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    Chocolat Moderne Avant Garde Bar

    Chocolat Moderne Avant Garde Bar

    Chocolat Moderne Avant Garde Bar

    [1] Peanut Pizzazz Bar. [2] Smoked Sea Salt Bar. [3] Sobeso Mi Mucho Bar. [4] The caramel inside each square (all photos courtesy Chocolat Moderne).

     
    DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO BUY THEM

    Artisan chocolates often sell out for the holidays. Head to ChocolatModern.com.
      

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