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Archive for Chocolate

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
  •  
    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.
  •  
    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.
  •  

    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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    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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