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Archive for Chocolate

TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Food Gifts

Cranberry Bark

Cailler Chocolate Bar

[1] Chocolate bark with holiday accents (photo courtesy Close Encounters Of The Cooking Kind). [2] Use a quality chocolate bar like Cailler for the best flavor (photo courtesy Cailler—pronounced kiy-YAY). The Swiss chocolate bars in their festive boxes also make great stocking stuffers.

 

For those moments when unexpected guests arrive for Christmas, or when acquaintances give you an unexpected gift—we have a strategy:

Make homemade bark or fudge in advance. They have a long shelf life; it’s easy to carry a small tin with you for chance encounters; and even people who don’t eat sweets will be pleased to have something nice to serve their own guests, or to regift.

It’s also a sweet gift to take on casual visits over the holidays.

Here, two holiday-accented options:

RECIPE #1: CHOCOLATE ORANGE PISTACHIO BARK

Using salted pistachios gives this bark the popular sweet-and-salty profile. We adapted this recipe from one by the Florida Orange Juice.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 16 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate (Callebaut, Lindt, etc.)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup salted pistachios, chopped if desired
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE the orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to ¼ cup and cool.

    2. MELT the chocolate over in boiler. While the chocolate melts, stir occasionally as you…

    3. LINE a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment to a ¼-inch thickness. Swirl in the cooled orange juice with a spatula, creating thin channels in the chocolate.

    4. SPRINKLE the cranberries and pistachios over chocolate and lightly press. When the chocolate is completely hardened…

    5. BREAK into pieces and package. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

     

    RECIPE #2: WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY FUDGE

    We adapted this snowy holiday fudge from Mom On Timeout (love that name!).

    It’s just the thing to take over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house…or to the neighbors next door.

    Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup regular sour cream
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate (we use Lindt* chocolate bars)
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme/cream†
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces dried cranberries
  • Optional garnish: green sprinkles or candied mint leaves
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    How To Measure Chopped Chocolate

    Six ounces of chocolate chips equals 1 cup. If you chop the chocolate the size of chips, this conversion will work.

    Unless dry ingredients are finely ground, like flour and sugar, so they completely fill the cup measure, it’s difficult to get a precise measurement (e.g., one cup of blueberries). This is why professional recipes give measure in ounces, not cups.
     
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    *You can use white chocolate chips, but you’ll get better chocolate flavor from a premium chocolate bar.
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    Preparation
    1. LINE a 9″ x13″ baking dish with parchment or foil; lightly spray with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, sour cream, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, to the soft ball stage (238°F on a food thermometer).

    3. REMOVE from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Stir in the marshmallow cream and vanilla extract until completely blended. Next, blend in the dried cranberries. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and cool to room temperature. If you want a green accent, add it now. Then…

    4. PLACE the pan in the fridge for several hours or overnight, before cutting into squares.

    5. STORE in an airtight container. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

    Cranberry Fudge

    Craisins

    Candied Mint Leaves

    [3] Snowy Christmas fudge from Mom On Time Out. [4] Dried cranberries from Ocean Spray. Their Craisins are simply branded dried cranberries. [3] Want a garnish? Make candied mint leaves—the smaller the better. You can chop them after they’re candied. Press them into the fudge when it has cooled (photo and recipe from Emjay’s Imagination).

     

    †CREAM VS. CREME

    What’s the difference between creme and cream? Why do you see “creme pie” and “cream pie” for the same thing? The answer: error which evolved into common usage.

    Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French word for cream. In America, French recipes were served at the tables of the wealthy, most of whom knew how to write and pronounce French properly.

    As these recipes entered the mainstream, people who did not know French began to pronounce crème (KREHM) as (KREEM), and dispensed with the accent mark: hence, creme. This mashup of French and English became acceptable, and over time, “creme” was used for American dishes like cream pie, because “creme” looked fancier (i.e., French-associated was better).

    To display your erudition when discussing a French dish, e.g. Crème Brûlée, use crème; when discussing an American dish, e.g. Chocolate Cream Pie, use cream.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: White Chocolate Polar Bears

    White Chocolate Bears

    White Chocolate Polar Bears

    Mom, dad and the kids are adorable…but not too adorable to eat! Photos courtesy Woodhouse Chocolate.

     

    They may be too old for Teddy bears and Winnie The Pooh, but no one is too old for these chocolate polar bears from Woodhouse Chocolate of Napa Valley, one of our favorite chocolate artisans.

    Give just one bar or the whole family—all with your choice of red or blue snowflake medallions around their necks:

  • Five-inch tall chocolate bear, $12.00
  • Ten-inch tall chocolate bear, $32.00
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    To get a bear, point your mouse to WoodhouseChocolate.com

    John Anderson of Woodhouse Chocolate was a vintner for 20 years before he became a chocolatier. So next up:

    WINES TO SERVE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE

    From California

  • Fruity Chardonnay
  • Muscat
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    From Europe

  • Gewürtztraminer: (Alsatian and German varieties have more sweetness than American versions
  • Liqueurs: cream liqueurs, creme de cacao, or fruit liquer
  • Mas Amiel: Vintage Blanc, from southwestern France
  • Muscat: (French) or Moscato from Italy
  • Riesling:: Alsatian (late harvest) or German Riesling: Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein (ice wine)
  • Sherry: Amontillado, Brown, Cream or Pale Cream, East India, Moscatel, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez (PX)
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    DON’T FORGET THE SWEETER BUBBLIES

  • Asti Spumante, a sweeter sparkler from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy
  • Brachetto d’Acqui, an Italian sparkling rosé from the Piedmont region Italy
  • Champagne labeled sec, demi-sec or doux
  • Prosecco and Valdobbiadene from the Treviso area of northeast Italy
  • Other Italian sparkling wines labeled dolce or amabile
  •  
    If you need assistance in the wine department, don’t hesitate to ask one of the staff. That’s what they’re there for.
     
    CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE ON PAIRING WINE WITH CHOCOLATE.

     
      

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    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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