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Archive for Chocolate

GIFT OF THE DAY: Beautiful Chocolates From John & Kira’s

Friends know that a box of chocolates (make that three boxes) from John & Kira’s is one of our favorite gifts.

These chocolatiers from Philadelphia not only make some of the best artisan chocolate in the country; they have what we think is the best packaging. The thick boutique boxes covered in fine paper and finished with a letterpress tag. are so beautiful, we give them continued life as containers in our drawers and closets.
 
Ganache & Caramel & Figs: Oh My!

Since they first opened their doors with their now-classic box of Valrhona chocolate ganache bonbons—each ganache infused with real herbs and spices into fresh cream—they have been the talk of the [chocolate] town.

There are now dozens of items waiting to be discovered, from the sophisticated to the whimsically delicious (ganache-filled Ladybug Medly and red Lovebugs, yellow and black Honey Caramel Bees and the multicolored Magical Mushrooms (three different flavors of caramel).

Their caramels are as special as the ganaches (in fact, can we order a gallon of the caramel, please?).
 
Give A Fig!

The most special item for us—because you can’t find them made elsewhere in the U.S.—are John & Kira’s tender, mouth-watering Calabacita fig confections.

The figs are grown on a small organic family farm in Spain. Because the fig harvest is once a year, these are limited-edition items. We look forward to them each fall.

There are two options.

  • Drunken Chocolate Figs. The dried figs are filled with a silky smooth, whiskey-infused chocolate ganache, then hand-dipped in 62% dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin Figs. After they’re filled with the whiskey ganache, the figs enrobed in white chocolate, hand-painted in the color of pumpkins, or autumn leaves.
  •  
    Enjoy Seasonal Classics

    The Winter Forest Trio has different motifs with three fillings:

  • Under the mountain peaks, a crunchy hazelnut-almond praline center.
  • Under the snowflakes, a refreshing white chocolate mint ganache.
  • Under the stars, dark chocolate ganache with a touch of vanilla.
  •  
    But there are no wrong choices here…except failing to order enough!

    Get yours at JohnAndKiras.com.

     

    Chocolate Dipped Figs

    Chocolate Covered Fig Pumpkins

    John & Kira's Winter Chocolates

    [1] Tender imported Spanish figs are filled with chocolate-whiskey ganache and partially dipped in chocolate. Delicious as is or with a Cognac! [2] The same lovely figs, completely enrobed in chocolate and hand-painted as pumpkins. [3] The Winter Forest Trio (all photos courtesy John & Kira’s.

     

      

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    HOLIDAY: National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day

    November 7th is National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day (National Almond Day is February 16th, National Chocolate Day is October 28th, National Milk Chocolate Day is July 28, National White Chocolate Day is September 22).

    Most celebrants would run out for a dark chocolate bar with almonds. But think outside the wrapper; here are other ideas:
     
    CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate bundt cake with chopped almonds.
  • Layer cake with chocolate frosting and almonds on the sides and/or top.
  • Flourless chocolate cake made with almond flour or finely-ground almonds.
  • Torte with an almond ganache filling.
  •  
    CANDY WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate almond bark. Add pumpkin seeds for the season.
  • Chocolate almond clusters. Add some dried cherries or cranberries.
  • Chocolate almond fudge. You can add almonds to chocolate fudge or make a chocolate-peanut butter fudge recipe with almond butter.
  • Chocolate-covered almonds.
  •  
    COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Brownies with almonds.
  • Chocolate chip cookies with almonds instead of pecans or walnuts.
  • Chocolate macarons (French macarons are made with almond flour).
  • Chocolate cookies with chopped almonds, or with a whole almond pressed into the top when the cookies come out of the oven.
  • Meringues with mini-chocolate chips and finely chopped almonds (use this recipe as a guide).
  •  
    DRINKS WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate almond cocktail (recipe below).
  • Chocolate almond milk (Almond Breeze, Pacific, Silk, etc.).
  • Hot chocolate, chocolate shake, smoothie, etc. made with almond milk.
  •  
    PIES & TARTS WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate cream pie or chocolate silk pie garnished with almonds.
  • Chocolate tart with almond crust (substitute almonds for the pumpkin seeds in this recipe).
  •  
    PUDDINGS & ICE CREAM WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate bread pudding with whipped cream and almonds.
  • Chocolate almond mousse.
  • Hot fudge sundae garnished with almonds.
  •  
     
    THERE’S A FOOD HOLIDAY EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

    The original concept, assembled by THE NIBBLE in 2005, has been widely copied.

    Check out all the American food holidays.
     
    COCKTAIL RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ALMOND DELIGHT

    We serve this cocktail for dessert. Nothing extra is needed, but a few Amaretti di Saronno are a welcome addition.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 ounce amaretto almond liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce chocolate vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Bailey’s or other Irish cream liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce white creme de cacao
  •  

    Almond Chocolate Bar

    Chocolate Tart With Brittle

    Chocolate Macarons

    Chocolate Almond Cocktail Recipe

    [1] A chocolate bar with almonds (photo courtesy Royce USA). [2] Here’s the recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (photo courtesy Delish). [3] French macarons are made with almond flour; thus, chocolate and almond (here’s the recipe from FoodToLove.com.au). [4] A chocolate cocktail with an almond cookie rim (photo courtesy Musings Of A Housewife).

  • 1/2 ounce Godiva or other chocolate liqueur (including regular creme de cacao)
  • 2 ounces half-and-half or cream
  • Ice
  • Optional rim: finely crushed Amaretti di Saronno, other almond cookies or chocolate cookies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FINELY CRUSH the cookies and place them on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Moisten the rims of the glasses and twist in the cookie crumbs to coat. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with the ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Halloween Bark

    Halloween White Chocolate Bark

    Orange Halloween Bark

    Halloween Candy Bark

    Halloween Chocolate Bark Recipe

    [1] White chocolate bark from Family Fresh Meals. [2] Orange Halloween bark from As The Bunny Hops. [3] The eyes have it—two sizes of eyes on bark from Chocolate Chocolate And More. [4] An elegant approach from Baked By An Introvert.

     

    Chocolate bark is like a chocolate bar, but vive la différence!

    Unlike chocolate bars, bark is not molded into individual rectangles. Instead, the melted chocolate is spread onto large pans to harden. While semi-hard, toppings—nuts, dried fruits, candies and more—are tossed on top in random order.

    When set, the bark is broken into shards, like brittle.

    Why is it called bark?

    HOW BARK GOT ITS NAME

    The Word Detective reminds us of the three basic “bark” nouns in English, none of which refers to chocolate:

  • Tree bark: Our word for the skin of a tree derives from the Old Norse “borkr.” It is first found in print in English around 1300.
  • Boat: “Bark” refers to a small sailing ship, is also spelled “barque.” It derives from the French, based on the Latin “barca,” and first appears in English in the late 15th century.
  • Dog’s bark: The sound made by dogs first appeared in print in 1562 as a noun, while the verb “to bark” dates back to Old English*. “Bark” in this sense is supposed to sound like an actual dog’s bark.
  •  
    Yet, most dictionaries omit the tastiest meaning of bark:

  • Chocolate: A layer of hard or semi-hard candy into/onto which other confections are embedded.
  •  
    Why is this type of chocolate confection called bark? Most authorities agree that it’s because the chocolate shards bear a slight resemblance to rough pieces of tree bark.
     
    WHO INVENTED CHOCOLATE BARK?

    We don’t know, even though it’s a relatively modern concept.

  • 1500 B.C.E.: The Olmecs begin to cultivate cacao in Central America. The roasted nibs were ground and turned into a drink flavored with local spices, including chile, cinnamon, musk, pepper and vanilla. It was thickened with cornmeal, then frothed in a bowl and served at room temperature—not a food we would recognize today as chocolate (the Spaniards who first tasted it spit it out).
  • 1527 C.E: Cacao beans and equipment to make chocolate were brought to Spain by the returning conquistadors. The pricey chocolate drink was reformulated for European palates by the chefs of the wealthy—the only ones who could afford it.
  • 1847: Solid-form chocolate was invented. Called eating chocolate, it was stone-ground, rough, grainy and chewy, the style that today is called “rustic.” As its popularity grew, confectioners created bonbons, chocolate-covered creams, gianduja, and in 1861, heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day. If you want to experience rustic chocolate, try the Taza brand.
  • 1875: Milk chocolate was invented. Chocolate was still grainy and chewy.
  • 1879: The conch machine was invented. The process called conching heated and rolled the chocolate into a smooth consistency, creating the smooth and creamy chocolate we know today. It melted on the tongue—no chewing required.
  • TBD: Mendiants, chocolate disks studded with nuts and dried fruits, mimic an ancient recipe that repurposed stale brioche or kougelhopf into a dense bread pudding studded with dried fruits and nuts. It’s a safe bet that chocolate mendicants happened after 1900.
  •  
    View the entire chocolate timeline chart.
     
    ________________
    *Old English was the language of the Anglo-Saxons, from the 5th century to the 11th century. It was very different from modern English, a highly inflected language with a largely Germanic vocabulary based on Old Norse from Scandinavia. After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Old English was replaced by the French-based Anglo-Norman for the upper classes, and Old English developed into Middle English for everyone else (centuries later, Russia adopted the convention of speaking and writing French at court and in the homes of the upper class). Middle English lasted until the 15th century, when modern English spelling and pronunciation began to codify. Early Modern English was the language in which William Shakespeare wrote.
    ________________

     
    READY TO MAKE BARK?

    It couldn’t be easier: Melt the chocolate, throw toppings on it and break it into pieces.

    1. PICK YOUR CHOCOLATE

    Chocolate bark can be made with any kind of chocolate: dark, milk or white; plain, layered or two-tone swirled. You can also tint white chocolate; for example, to make an orange base or layer.

    Some recipes advise you to use chocolate substitutes: almond bark (which is not chocolate with almonds unless you buy it from a good chocolate shop), candy melts, Candiquick or other base made with partly hydrogenated palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter.
    These are not real chocolate but confectionary coating, made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. It’s less expensive, it melts faster, and maybe with all the candy on top, nobody will notice. Right?

    For us: wrong. We can really taste the difference. To save money with a treat for young children, who don’t have refined palates and won’t notice, O.K. Anyone else who knows what good food is deserves better.

    Almond bark is another commonly found bark, topped with almonds or other nuts. But there’s a catch: Almond bark is also a more appealing name given to vanilla flavored candy coating, a chocolate-like confection made with vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter, with artificial vanilla and possibly other artificial flavors (for example, almond). Be aware, and avoid it!

     

    2. PICK YOUR HALLOWEEN TOPPINGS

    Pile on the seasonal candies:

  • Candy corn (see if you can find the yellow, orange and purple [instead of white] variety)
  • Candy Corn M&Ms (orange, yellow, white)
  • Candy eyeballs (you can mix larger and smaller sizes or different colors)
  • Chocolate chips: butterscotch, peanut, vanilla
  • Coarse sea salt (especially red alea salt)
  • Gummy pumpkins or mini gummy worms
  • Gold leaf bats
  • Halloween Oreos (with the orange centers), chopped
  • Edible Confetti: black cats, ghosts and pumpkins, holiday colors,
  • Sixlets: orange or yellow
  • Reeses Pieces (they’re perfect: brown, orange and yellow)
  • Anything else you find: mini candy bats, jack o’lanterns, skulls, etc.
  •  
    Save the standard bark toppings—dried fruit, mini-marshmallows, nuts, pretzels, etc.—for non-holiday bark.
     
    3. PUT THEM TOGETHER

    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BARK

    These ingredients are for an 8″ x 8″ pan. For a larger pan, e.g. 13″ x 17″, use 1 pound of chocolate and double the toppings.

    Ingredients

  • For 1-color chocolate: 3 cups chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
  • For 2-color chocolate: 2 cups primary color and 1 cup secondary color, each chopped
  • 2-1/2 cups toppings of choice, proportioned as you wish (from list above)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

    2. PARTIALLY MELT the chocolate in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl, heating at 30-60 second intervals until about half the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and stir or whisk until smooth. This process essentially tempers the chocolate.

    3. POUR the chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread out slightly, ideally with an offset spatula, to a depth of 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick (bark should be thinner than a chocolate bar). If using a large pan with less chocolate, you do not have to spread the chocolate to the edges. Gently smooth the chocolate into an even layer. If layering or drizzling a second color, the lighter color should be on top. Melt the chocolate after the first layer has been smoothed.

    4. SPRINKLE on the toppings and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until chocolate is set—solid enough to cut, about 20 minutes. Then score the sheet of chocolate, so it’s easier to break into pieces. With a sharp knife, create individual triangles and other shapes of varying sizes. Nothing should be even or uniform: It’s bark!

     

    Dark, Milk & White Chocolate Bars

    Chocolate Disks

    Chocolate Bark

    [5] These are not eating bars, but are couverture chocolate—large bars or blocks of two pounds or more, used by professionals. [6] Professionals also use disks of real chocolate to melt and form. Don’t confuse them with candy melts, which are not real chocolate (photos #5 and #6 courtesy King Arthur Flour). [7] Here’s how to make swirled bark from The Road Not Processed.

     
    5. USE a large, sharp knife to cut the set chocolate into random pieces: shards, triangles, irregular rectangles, etc. Store in an airtight container.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Lindor Pumpkin Spice Truffles From Lindt

    Lindt Truffles With Sprinkles

    Lindor Holiday Truffles

    Lindor Pumpkin Spice Truffles

    Lindor Truffle Cake

    [1] Glamorized Pumpkin Spice Truffles: Lauren of Climbing Grier Mountain tops the truffles with a bit of frosting and gold sprinkles. [2] Boxes of Lindor truffles are available at retailers nationwide (photo courtesy JunkBanter.com). [3] For larger sizes, head to LindtUSA.com. This bag contains 75 truffles. [4] You don’t have to be a professional like Becky Bakes to create a holiday cake with Lindor truffles. Tip: Use a simpler garnish!

     

    Last week was a big chocolate week for us, from the Big Chocolate Show in New York City to a media trip to Lindt’s U.S. headquarters in New Hampshire.

    Our favorite discoveries were at Lindt: not just the million-square-foot bean-to-bar plant, thick with chocolate aroma, but the ability to taste just about everything Lindt produces.

    We have many favorites, but one in particular is our Top Pick Of The Week: Lindor Pumpkin Spice Truffles.

    The milk chocolate shell has a creamy center of “smooth melting pumpkin spice filling.” We can’t get enough of them, and have stocked up on this limited edition (through the season, while supplies last) to get us through Valentine’s Day.

    Why?

  • To fill our candy bowl throughout the season.
  • For trick-or-treaters.
  • For dessert and dessert cocktail garnishes.
  • For sundaes or parfaits (chopped or sliced).
  • For coffee, hot chocolate and pumpkintinis (recipe below).
  • For no-bake dessert tarts (see the creation of Lauren at ClimbingGrierMountain.com).
  • Place settings for Thanksgiving dinner
  • Holiday gifts (they’re KOF-K, too)
  •  
    No wonder Lindt packages these truffles in jumbo sizes in addition to the standard 5.1-ounce and 8.5-ounce packages available at retailers nationwide (suggested prices $4.39 and $6.99, respectively).

    For larger sizes, we headed to Lindt Outlet Stores and Lindt’s online store at LindtUSA.com. There, you can find:

  • 75-piece gift bag, $28
  • 36-piece gift bag, $16
  • 550-piece case, $145
  •  
    A BIT OF LINDT HISTORY

    Before we move on to drinking the truffles, here’s a quick note on how Lindor Truffles came to be.

    In 1845, Zurich store owner David Sprüngli-Schwarz and his son, Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann, decided to be among the first confectioners in Switzerland to manufacture chocolate in a solid form.

    Prior to then, chocolate was a beverage, as it had been since Mesoamericans first began to use it around 1500 B.C.E. (the timeline of chocolate).

    Solid chocolate then was nothing like the product we know. It was a gritty, chewy product. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable, though. Some companies, like Tazo, still make this old-style chocolate.

    But progress marched forward.

    In 1879 chocolatier Rodolphe Lindt of Berne, Switzerland, indadvertently developed a technique, conching, that created the smooth, silky chocolate we enjoy today.

    Ten years later, older brother Johann Rudolf Sprüngli acquired the Lindt business, and the secret to making smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. The new company was called Lindt & Sprüngli, but Lindt, the easier name to pronounce in different languages, became the brand name.

    Right after World War II, with time to re-focus on life’s pleasures, the creative chocolatiers at Lindt & Sprüngli developed the Lindor truffle, enrobing an even meltier center with its famed chocolate.

     
    Lindor is a contraction of Lindt d’Or, Golden Lindt. We heartily concur: These truffles are golden.

    Here’s the complete company history.

     

    DRINKING THE TRUFFLES

    Lindor truffles are not just for eating. You can drink them:

  • Melted into hot milk to create milk chocolate.
  • Melted into hot coffee to create hot mocha.
  • Hot chocolate and coffee Lindor drinks can be shaken with ice for iced hot chocolate and iced mocha; whipped cream optional.
  • Flavored truffles (coconut, mint, orange, raspberry, etc.) can be used to add extra flavor accents.
  •  
    When we visited the Lindt Outlet Store (here’s a store locator for both Lindt Chocolate Shops and Lindt Outlet Stores), we found a large cafe counter offering the choice of these drinks and more. We dove right in.

    Our recommendation: For a less sweet drink, use two Lindor truffles per 8 ounces of hot milk or coffee. For a sweeter drink, use three truffles. Whisk them in one at a time.

    We haven’t stopped drinking Lindt hot chocolate since!

    Pizzazzerei set up a party bar, an idea you may want to try for your own fall entertaining.

    You can also use Lindt truffles as a cocktail garnish, matching the different Lindor flavors (more than 20) to specific drink recipes.

    With Lindor Pumpkin Spice, the choice is obvious:

    RECIPE: LINDT PUMPKINTINI

    It’s like an alcoholic milkshake! Have it for dessert.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • ½ ounce cream liqueur
  • 2 ounces vanilla vodka
  • ½ ounce pumpkin liqueur or pumpkin spice syrup
  • Ice and shaker
  • Garnish: Lindor Pumpkin Spice Truffle
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Lindor Pumpkin Spice  Hot Chocolate

    Lindt Pumpkintini With Lindor Truffle

    [5] Add two truffles to milk, stir, and you’ve got Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate. [6] The best Pumpkinitini has a Lindor Pumpkin Spice Truffle garnish (photo courtesy Lindt).

     
    1. COMBINE the cream liqueur and vodka in an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Add pumpkin the liqueur or syrup.

    2. SHAKE and strain into chilled a martini glass. Garnish with the truffle. If you don’t have a cocktail pick, lightly notch the truffle and place it on the rim of the glass.

    See our article on pumpkin liqueur, and why you should buy a bottle while you can.

      

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    PRODUCT: Merci Chocolate

    Something fun and yummy in the chocolate space is finally available in the U.S.

    Merci, sold in Europe for some 50 years, is a brand of boxed chocolates manufactured by the German company August Storck KG.

    They are miniature bars, in an assortment of flavors made with fine ingredients, nicely packaged in a gift box.

    The delicious selection of rich European-style chocolates includes flavors such as Coffee and Cream, Cream Truffle, Dark Cream, Dark Mousse, Hazelnut-Almond, Hazelnut-Creme, Milk Chocolate and Praline-Creme, and merci will delight the palate.

    Each flavor has its own individual color wrap, to distinguish it from the other flavors in the box.

    The idea for merci was born in 1965, as an affordable yet impressive way to say “thank you” (which incorporates “thank you for being you”). Its popularity spread, and Merci is now sold in 100 countries.

    Choices include:

  • All milk chocolate.
  • All dark chocolate.
  • Mixed milk and dark chocolate.
  • Assorted chocolate with almonds.
  •  
    The 20-piece box, with 8.8-ounces of chocolate, can be found for $7.50 (or more, 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.

    Can you give a box to yourself?

    No one’s going to stop you!
     
    MERCI WITH COFFEE

    In Europe, after-dinner coffee is often served with a napolitain, also called a pale or tasting square, just 5 to 10 grams. One or two of these small wrapped pieces are placed on the rim off the coffee cup.

    While Merci wrapped chocolates are stackable anytime, we enjoy serving them to guests with coffee. They easily can substitute for dessert, too.
     
     
    ABOUT STORCK

     

    Merci Chocolates

    Merci Dark Chocolate

    Coffee & Napolitain

    [1] You can serve Merci from the box or in your favorite candy dish. [2] Merci’s dark chocolate collection (both photos courtesy Merci | Storck). [3] Instead of two napolitains with after-dinner coffee, serve one Merci bar (photo courtesy Sandstein | Wikipedia).

     
    A family business now managed by the fourth generation, Storck has been a confectioner for than 100 years.

    Its brands are sold worldwide. Best-known in the U.S. are Werther’s Original caramels and toffee (the difference), and Bendicks Buttermints, chocolate-covered after-dinner mints.

    For more information visit Storck.us.

      

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