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GIFT OF THE DAY: Spicy Brownies

Sea Salt Brownie

Sea Salt Brownie

We [heart] spicy Mayan brownies (photos courtesy The Grommet).

 

Salt Of The Earth Bakery is an artisanal baked goods company that re-imagines classic treats, by adding finishing salts and exotic spices.

These extras turn the cookies and brownies into decidedly adult fare.

We love brownies—great ones—and are always on the prowl for what’s different and delicious.

Salt Of The Earth Bakery makes five brownie flavors. The one that called out to us was the Mayan, “the brownie that bites you back.”

Seasoned as the original Mayan chocolate was, with cinnamon, and cayenne, it’s topped with Halen Môn (Anglesey), crunchy sea salt flakes.

In the Mayan and later Aztec cultures, chocolate* was only available to the nobility, wealthy merchants and honored warriors.

Unleash your inner warrior and try a few.

Other flavors include:

  • The Brownie, a classic with Halen Môn sea salt
  • The Kona, with espresso and Hawaiian Kona sea salt
  • The OMGCB, with caramel and French sel gris
  • The Nutty One, with peanut butter, and French sel gris
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    ABOUT SALT OF THE EARTH PRODUCTS

    The line is all-natural and certified kosher by OK-D. The chocolate is 100% Fair Trade USA certified chocolate from Guittard.

    Salt Of The Earth Bakery is commited to the environment, from sustainable packaging, to recycling to maximizing eco-friendly power sources such as solar and hydro energy.
     
    GET YOUR BROWNIES

    Three boxes of 2 brownies each (1.6 ounces per brownie) are $15.00 at SaltOfTheEarthBakery.com.

    There are also gift packs of brownies and cookies.
     
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    *For the first few thousand years of its existence, chocolate was a beverage. Solid chocolate was first created in the 19th century, in Europe. Check out the Chocolate Timeline.

     
      

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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
  •  
    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)
  •  
    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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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gingerbread Scone Mix

    November 21st is National Gingerbread Day…and also a reminder that it’s easy to make gingerbread scones with a $6.95 gourmet boxed mix from King Arthur Flour.

    We typically give small gifts to our Thanksgiving guests, and last year it was these scone mixes (this year it’s the Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix).

    The one-pound box makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on size. The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    They’re whole grain, too, made with white whole wheat flour.

    The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    The 1-pound box of mix makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on how you portion them.

    And you can use it to make gingerbread loaf, coffeecake, muffins, pancakes and shortcake.

    Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

    THE HISTORY OF GINGER

    Since ancient times, the Chinese and Indians used ginger root as medicine. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.

    By the first century, it had been introduced in the Mediterranean via India and became a popular spice in Rome. It fell from use with the fall of the Roman Empire fell, to return during medieval times as a spice for baked goods and other sweets.

    Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!

    Used as a medicine in medieval times, ginger became a popular holiday spice (it was too pricey to use year-round), most famously in gingerbread cookies.

    In 11th century northern European countries, it was used to flavor buttermilk drinks and over the next two centuries became used in cooking meats and in ginger pastes.

    During the 13th and 14th centuries, Arabs traders voyaging to Africa and Zanzibar planted the rhizomes, spreading the cultivation of the plant.

    Many ginger-flavored baked goods have evolved since then, from muffins to cakes. Today, we offer this recipe from King Arthur Flour for gingerbread scones: perfect weekend breakfast and brunch fare throughout the holiday season.

    THE HISTORY OF SCONES

    You may have heard two different pronunciations for “scone.” The word is pronounced “skahn” in Scotland and Northern England (rhymes with gone) and “skoan” in the south of England (rhymes with own), the pronunciation adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

    Which is the authentic one? They both are!

    Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure.

    Scones may well have originated in Scotland. The first known print reference, in 1513, is from a Scottish poet. However, in earlier eras, when communications were more limited, the creation of an actual item can have predated the first appearance of printed references by many years.

    Centuries ago, there weren’t newspapers that reported on the minutiae of life the way modern news sources do. There were no food columns in the local papers announcing that “McTavish Bakery has created a new griddle-fried oatcake called a scone—now available at 3 Sheepshead Lane.”

    In fact, there were few newspapers. Much of the population was not literate. So culinary historians rely on cookbooks and mentions in literature and other printed records. Given the perishability of paper, it is logical that many first-printed mentions of foods and other items may not have survived.

    What About The Name?

    One claim, probably not the best, says that scones are named for the Stone of Destiny at the Abbey Of Scone, a town upriver from Perth.

     

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scone Mix

    Ginger Root

    Scone Pan

    [1] Triangle scones with icing. [2] Round scones with sparkling sugar. [3] Scones, pancakes, muffins and more come from one box of mix (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Ginger root (photo by Jan Schöne | SXC). [5] Long before baking pans were invented, scone dough was shaped into a round, cooked on a baking stone and cut into wedges. Modern bakers can use scone pans like this one from King Arthur Flour/

     
    It is a stone bench upon which Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. The original was long ago removed to Westminster Abbey, and a replica stone stands in its place.

    Others say that the word derives from the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone), a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch “schoonbrot,” fine white bread; and the closely-related German “sconbrot,” fine or beautiful bread. The Oxford English Dictionary favors the latter two.

    What About The Shape?

    Scones are related to the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes (leavened breads) on bakestones, and later on griddles. Long before the advent of baking pans, the dough—originally made with oats—was hand-shaped into a clarge round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire.

    With the advent of stovetop and oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

    Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes. This recipe produces a hard, dry texture.

    Traditional English scones may include raisins or currants, but are often plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for added flavor—perhaps with a touch of clotted cream.

    Fancy scones—with dried fruit such as cranberries and dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings—are best enjoyed without butter and jam.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Coconut Milk & The Different Types Of Soups

    Twenty-five years ago, people who needed an alternative to dairy milk turned to soy milk. Then rice milk arrived.

    Today there’s quite a selection of non-dairy milks: almond, cashew, coconut, flax, hemp, oat, rice and soy.

    Since 1999, according to market research firm Euromonitor, plant-based alternatives milks have grown in annual sales by an average of 10.9%. They are now a $1 billion-plus category in domestic retail sales.

    The trend is based on personal factors: allergies, kosher and vegan diets, lactose intolerance and sustainable lifestyles (the manure and flatulence of dairy animals produce huge amounts of methane, a major greenhouse gas. Here’s more information).

    As with dairy milks*, each plant-based milk has a different flavor and nutritional profile.

    Although we drink a large amount of cow’s milk, we like plant-based milks for different reasons: chocolate and green tea almond or soy milk for a refreshing drink, cashew milk as a delicious newcomer, coconut milk for cooking.

    We especially like coconut in creamy soups. It gives a slight Thai twist; add hot chile slices and lemongrass for the full Thai experience.

    Some of our favorite thai dishes include coconut rice, coconut curried chicken, coconut pumpkin soup, and our beloved tom ka gai, coconut chicken soup. All get their coconut flavor from unsweetened coconut milk.

    But for today, here’s a fusion soup: chowder with coconut milk. It has another popular Thai ingredient too: hot chile slices.

    RECIPE: SPICY SEA BASS CHOWDER WITH COCONUT MILK

    Sea bass is poached in coconut milk for this extra rich and velvety hearty chowder. DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com, which gave us the recipe, suggests that it be paired with California chardonnay or viognier.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon (15g) coconut oil
  • 5 spring onions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small red jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds (substitute the slender Thai or birdseye chiles if you can find them)
  • 5 medium Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes (about 1½ pounds/675g), peeled and cut into ½-inch (1.25cm) cubes
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch (1.25cm) cubes
  • 3 cups (720ml) unsweetened coconut milk, well stirred
  • ½ cup (125ml) water
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) salt
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces/225g), peeled and cut into ½-inch (1.25cm) cubes
  • 1½ pounds (680g) sea bass fillets, cut into 2-inch (5cm) pieces
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking

    2. ADD the onions, garlic, and jalapeño; cook, stirring for 1 minute.

    3. ADD the potatoes; cook and stir for 1 minute.

    4. STIR in the red bell pepper, coconut milk, water and salt. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes

    5. ADD the zucchini and bass. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes.

    6. DIVIDE the chowder among 4 bowls. Squeeze the juice of one lime wedge over each serving.
     
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    *The list of animal milks drunk worldwide includes camel, cow, donkey, goat, horse, llama, reindeer, sheep, water buffalo and yak.

       

    Sea Bass & Coconut Chowder Recipe

    So Delicious Coconut Milk

    Coconut Banana Smoothie

    Coconut Milk Flan

    [1] Fish chowder with coconut milk (photo courtesy Discover California Wines). The recipe is below. [2] Coconut milk is available in cartons and cans (photo courtesy So Delicious). [3] Try coconut milk in your next banana smoothie (this recipe has pineapple as well, from Makes And Takes). [4] Many desserts can be made with coconut milk, from ice cream to this coconut milk flan (here’s the recipe from Care 2).

     

    Seafood Broth

    Corn & Zucchini Chowder

    Lobster Bisque

    [1] Consommé, clarified into an elegant, clear liquid (photo courtesy Picholine | NYC. [2] Chowder, here the chunkiest soup, packed with goodies. Here’s the recipe for this corn and zucchini chowder from LittleBroken.com. Some, like Manhattan clam chowder, do not contain dairy. [3] Bisque is a creamy seafood soup, pureed into smoothness (photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com).

     

    THE DIFFERENCES: BROTH, CHOWDER, SOUP & MORE

  • Bisque: A thick, creamy soup that traditionally was made from puréed shellfish. Today bisques are also made from fruits, game fish and vegetables.
  • Broth & Stock: Liquids in which meat, fish, grains or vegetables have been simmered. The difference between a broth and a stock is that broth is made from the desirable ingredients; stock is made from “leftovers” such as bones and skin; thus broth is richer and more nourishing than stock. Both are used as a base for soups and gravies.
  • Chowder: Chunky soups thickened with flour. The main ingredient chowder can range widely, including chicken, corn, fish and seafood.
  • Consommé: A broth that has been clarification. This means that egg whites or other ingredients are boiled in the broth to coagulate the sediment, resulting in a clear, elegant-looking soup.
  • Gumbo: A dish that can fall into the soup or stew category, a strong stock of meat and/or fish/seafood, with pieces of the protein and a variety of vegetables, served over rice. Gumbo is traditionally thickened with okra or filé powder (from the sassfras tree) and vegetables. A gumbo is traditionally served over rice.
  • Gravy: Gravy is not a soup, but a sauce; although Americans have often turned canned soups into sauces. Gravies are made from the juices of cooked meat or vegetables after they have been cooked. Almost all gravies start with a roux (ROO), a mixture of flour and butter; and are thickened with starch (flour, corn starch, arrowroot, etc).
  • Purée: Some soups are puréed into smoothness. A purée can be considered a vegetable or grain/pulse counterpoint to a bisque. The technique also produces smooth apple sauce, whipped potatoes and puréed vegetables (carrot purée, broccoli purée, etc.).
  • Ragout: The French term for a main-dish stew. Note that in Italian, n Italian cuisine, ragù is a meat-based pasta sauce.
  • Soup: Any combination of ingredients cooked in a liquid base: fish/seafood, fruit, meats, starches and vegetables. Soups can be thick and hearty or thin and delicate. While cooked ingredients can remain in the soup, the objective of the ingredients is to flavor the liquid. Soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Fruit soups can be served for starters or desserts.
  • Stew: A hearty dish made from proteins, vegetables, pulses, etc., simmered in a liquid (water, broth, stock, wine, beer) and then served in the resulting gravy. Stewing is a technique to cook less tender cuts of meat: The slow cooking method tenderizes the meat and the lower temperature allows the flavors to combine. There is a thin line between soups and chunky soups; generally, stews contain less liquid. Sometimes the name is adopted for a soup. Oyster Stew, for example, is a thick soup with butter and milk or cream, like a bisque.
  •  
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOUP

    THE HISTORY OF SOUP

     

      

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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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