Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wilder vs. Depp: Who was the Best Willy Wonka?

I wasn't yet born when this book made it across the pond to America in1964. Were you?


"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book cover)" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Today was the day back in 1971 when this "children's" movie was released.



Have you seen it? How old were you when you saw it? I was 1-2 years old myself so I didn't see it until years later on television. It was both scary and fun to watch. Later I read the book and thought it was different in a some ways but I felt the Gene Wilder version did a good job with the overall feel of the story.

Years later, in 2005, Johnny Depp took on this same role in a new version of the film.



Do you remember this one? Did you see it? How did you think it compared? It was creepy in other ways and while the lyrics were Dahl's I didn't really like the story changes or the tone of this one.

If you could only save one of these movies for future generations to watch, which would it be and why?

I look forward to seeing your comments and having a good discussion about these two movies.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

South Beach Gets Smoothie Right

The South Beach Diet has been called many things but very rarely have we enjoyed their chocolatey products here on The Chocolate Cult even though we get them fairly often through various programs we participate in such as the Vine Program on Amazon that sent us this four pack of the 100 Calorie Smoothie in Chocolate Truffle flavor variety. Note: I generally have a very negative experience with such "healthy" or "diet" drinks and even most breakfast drinks so I wasn't looking forward to testing this for all of you reading this article.

There are directions for usage on the box and I followed these -- chilled it well, shook it up well, poured it into a glass so I didn't get any plastic taste. As you can see it above, this has the milk chocolate look you'd expect.  It has a cocoa and light sweet scent to it that does remind me of a truffle you could buy in a candy or chocolate shop.  It is thick and coats my mouth and tongue when I take a sip but I brace for a poor flavor based on my previous experiences with South Beach Diet products... the taste is sweet but not too sweet, definitely chocolate and certain much like an average plain chocolate truffle.  I'm really pleasantly surprised.

If there weren't so many chemicals on the ingredient list this might approach great but with these added artificials it is merely one of the best we've had from South Beach Diet.  They are rather expensive to buy online so even though if you did that you'd give some money back to The Chocolate Cult and help us bring your more chocolate reports, I can't in good conscious suggest it.  If you want to try this link to Amazon (and help us out on The Chocolate Cult) or look at your local grocery store.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Goji Berries & Chocolate

Have you ever had goji berries? I hadn't had them until the folks from Viva Labs contacted me again to see if I'd be willing to try a few more of their products. Our rule here on The Chocolate Cult is that if we can combine it with chocolate, we'll try it out so they sent us this 16oz bag of their Viva Labs #1 Premium Himalayan Organic Goji Berries, Noticeably Larger and Juicier, 1lb bag
. Given that is it summer and some of you may be looking to add more fruit to your diets, I thought this was a good time to give it a try. I used the goji berries in a few different ways to see how they worked and how the type of chocolate I used them with affected their taste and vice versa.



First let's look at them on their own, chocolate free. They look a lot like a red raisin, don't they? They taste a lot like a raisin, too, but a bit tarter and a touch drier. I liked them okay on their own but we want to get to the chocolate with them, right?






I made a modified Hermit Bar recipe that I found in the "Just One More Bite!" cookbook from Mr. Food (page 174 for inspiration) that I'll review later this year. I switched out their cranberries for the goji berries and added a bit of cocoa in place of the flour and added in a bit more moisture as well as some other substitutions and reductions so here is my

Cocoa Goji Hermit Bars Recipe

Ingredients for the Bars:'
2 sticks light butter, softened
2 C firmly packed light brown sugar
6 T egg white substitute
1 C water
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C cocoa powder (I used Equal Exchange which I had on hand)
1 C goji berries
1 C mini chocolate chips (I used Nestle which I had on hand)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, move one rack to the middle position in the oven.

2. Coat 10X15 inch rimmed baking sheet with no-stick spray.

3. After bringing sticks of butter to room temperature, cut the sticks into small pieces and beat them together with the brown sugar until thoroughly mixed.

4. Blend in the egg whites until thoroughly mixed.

5. On lower speed, beat in water, baking soda, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.

6. Mix in flour a bit at a time until thoroughly blended and you can't see bits of any of the ingredients.

7. Stir in goji berries and chocolate chips by hand.

8. Spread mixture on baking sheet.

9. Bake 15-20 minutes or until firm.

10. Set pan on wire rack to cool before cutting into bars. I cut mine into 42 bars. Using the ingredients that I did and cutting them that many bars, made each bar hold 117 calories.


First thing to know about Goji Berries and baking -- the berries turn orange, they do not stay red so keep that in mind if you have an idea of what you want your finished product to look like.

I also tried the goji berries in a few other chocolate goods and I'll share those results and recipes with you later on in the year. But for now here's an extra photo to tease you.


What recipes have you made with Goji Berries, cocoa, and/or chocolate? Let me know in a comment please. If you haven't tried Goji Berries but like raisins and cranberries, I strongly suggest you give it a try. If you use the links we've proved it will take you to Amazon.com to buy these, helping out Viva Labs as well as The Chocolate Cult with every purchase.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pure Allergen Free Chocolate Bars from Pascha

I know, I know, it is June where is the ice cream and frozen treats on The Chocolate Cult. We'll get there, we'll get there, I promise. Do you remember that just two weeks ago we shared five flavored chocolate bars from Pascha Chocolate with you all? The photo to the right should trigger your memory, that is the 55% with cacao nibs, our favorite of the set of five. If do not remember, go back and check that article out before you continue reading about these three pure chocolate bars from Pascha.  Go ahead, we shared the link above. (We received those five bars and the three we are sharing with you today in exchange for testing and review.)

Now that you are back, let's check out the 55%, 70%, and 85% 3.5 ounce PASCHA chocolate bars. At 3.5 ounces these are bars you can use to bake or make candy with or you can eat them as is. We're going to do a bit of both with these bars but let's start with a direct comparison of the bars themselves in terms of their cacao content and how it affect flavor and color. I hope you can see the differences in colors in this photo but if it doesn't show there is a radical difference between the 55% and the 85% in terms of the darkness of their brown color.

We'll start with the 55% bar and work out way to the darkest then I'll show you how else I used these big bars. The bar has fairly easily break apart sections, 10 sections = one serving of 240 calories. This has a nice slightly golden brown color and a slightly fruity scent when I take a whiff of it. It makes a snap when I take a bite and immediately I get sweet chocolate flavor that grows in sweetness and a butteriness with each chew. There is no bitterness here, only sweet chocolate. Letting a bite melt in my mouth smoothed out the chocolate and sweet flavors and lets out a bit of a roasted edge as well.

The 70% bar may seem a bit intense for some of you. This was a bit more difficult to break into sections but again 10 sections = one serving of 250 calories this time. This is a solid brown color and has a stronger cocoa fragrance to it. The snap it makes when I take a bite is louder than the previous bar. The chocolate here is not as sweet, it does have a slight bitterness to it after a few chews. If you let it melt in your mouth the bitterness is really toned down quite a bit but the cocoa buzz I got increased.

I know that most of you reading now are going to cringe when I say it is time for the 85% bar because for most of you, this will be too bitter, you start thinking of chocolate as baking ingredient but I personally love the 80-90% range most of the time. Here 10 sections = 260 calories and each section was hard to break apart but you can do it. The color of this bar is much darker in color but interestingly it has a slightly sweet fragrance to it. Also it makes a softer snap when I take a bite and at first there is a sweetness that changes to a darker flavor with each chew but the sweetness never disappears. The slower approach of letting it melt in the mouth decreases the sweetness but did not increase the bitterness to me until right at the end. For some folks this might start to dry out your mouth but I didn't find that to be the case for this particular bar.

Back when it was cold, February 2015, our local Kroger had a grand reopening and as part of it they had a sale on strawberries and coupons for these -- I got two pounds of strawberries for $1 using these two discounts so I also turned them into a sort of strawberry 85% chocolate treat that you in the photo to the left. Yes, I used the 85% barf from Pascha. Why the darkest? Strawberries tend to be very sweet or tart so they need a good counter. Plus they have a lot of water and fiber so I think they only increases the healthiest aspects of darker chocolate. I made 7 servings of 142 calories each.

I melted some caramels (also on sale and with a coupon) with the leftover 70% bar, again the darker chocolate balanced well with the sweet caramel. I molded these in my larger molds with a result of 21 chocolate caramels with 55 calories each.

Finally I used the rest of the 55% bar to just make into molded chocolates. 55% is something all of our friends can enjoy while darker or milk chocolates tend to be more limited in their appeal. The result was 12 smaller molded shapes of 48 calories each.

Amazing 3.5 oz bars from Pascha that you can use in several different ways. These definitely earn our Sacramental Status!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Steampunk Chocolate?

June 14 is International Steampunk Day in honor of H.G. Wells's birthday. Many steampunk enthusiasts see his work an inspiration to their creativity in the form of costuming, writing, roleplaying, and yes, even chocolate.  One of our volunteers, the Fruit Acolyte, Rene, here on The Chocolate Cult found a company that makes steampunk items out of chocolate.  They are called Sweet Steam and today we'd like to talk about them.

Rene, our Fruit Acolyte, gave me a bag of three Dark Chocolatey Cogs that I shared with another volunteer to try out. They came in three different color sheens but were identical in terms of shape and size. While the package didn't say how much there was, my kitchen calculated 1.95oz of the chocolate. All three cogs smelled identical and there is nothing in the ingredients list that suggests they will be different flavors. These are only chocolate in that they use cocoa processed with alkali but they also have hydrogenated palm kernel oil and artificial flavors as two ingredients that make me unhappy -- neither are necessary and the first could be harmful frankly. The reddish cog does not taste dark at all nor does it taste creamy; it is very sweet with a strong vanilla flavor which makes sense given the company's name but not so much for something "dark."  The light purplish hue cog has a bit less of sweet and vanilla flavors but is still not very "dark" in flavor.  The grayish cog has the least sweet flavor and the strongest vanilla but still isn't "dark."

It was so very nice of Rene to get these for me at the convention she attended but overall I wasn't impressed. I don't think we help Steampunk (or any other genre) nor do we help Chocolate when we buy poor quality products.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Voila! A New Twist on Chocolate Bark

We return to Voila Chocolat today with a look at their Dark Chocolate Bark candy made with dark chocolate, their candied orange peel we previously wrote about, hazelnuts, milk, and soy. How do I know this is from Voila? Well, it did arrive from them in this cute box of other samples that the company sent us to test and write about.


Look at this level photo of the bark more closely... see the printed logo on the back of the bar? Isn't that clever? It adds a visual element to the product so that if you want to just lay some out for guests or wrap it up different to give to someone (I wouldn't because I think the box was adorable) you can do so but you'll still know what brand of confection this is. Don't worry, this is edible dye, it is safe but does it affect the taste? Sadly we have had chocolates with edible dyes that we have tested that do greatly affect the flavor. Let's discover where this bark falls in terms of edible dyes and flavor.

This is thin, just under a quarter of an inch thick. It has a a lot of nuts and pieces of the candied orange peel as you can hopefully see in this side view photo.  It has a dark cocoa fragrance with a hint of that candied orange scent.  The bark makes a soft snap when I break it into pieces but it is not difficult to break. It makes a consistent crunch when I'm chewing it, this is not the sort of treat to let melt in your mouth like a solid chocolate might be. The first flavor is a light cocoa which is an orange sweet that turns darker chocolate with every chew. It never turns bitter because the orange and a subtle hazelnut is alway present. This did not have the nutritional value but I'd be surprised if there was not a fair amount of protein and at least a bit of fiber from dark chocolate and the nuts; it will also have a lot of sugar. Just have it in Moderation and you'll be fine.


There you have it, Sisters and Brothers, another great chocolate candy from Voila Chocolat, earning them Sacramental Status here on The Chocolate Cult. We'll have a review of their hot cocoa mix later when the weather cools does a bit more.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Southern Indiana On the Road Chocolate Discoveries 1

From May 26 through May 31, 2015, I was off to Southern Indiana with my hubby for our 23rd wedding anniversary trip. Yes, I did find some chocolate along the way. Come with me now and see what I found. If you know of others or you have a chocolate shop or candy shop or restaurant dessert in the towns we visited that I didn't find, leave us a comment and tell us where you are and the name of your business. Please do NOT leave a website or email.

May 26, 2015, was just getting to Tell City, to the Ramada Limited Inn we were staying at so we could spend two full days at nearby Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. No chocolate at the included breakfasts each morning but the offerings were on par with what I expect from such hotel chains.



May 27, 2015, was our first day at Holiday World and we found Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen when we stopped into the Kringle Kafe for lunch. This photo is the back of my hubby going into the shop. Would you like to see more?




Here are some photos from around Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen in Holiday World.



The individual chocolates and fudge are in front of you when you enter from the Kringle Kafe. I'll show you the fudge in a moment.






I got five types of fudge with their Buy 4 get 1 Free deal. Rocky Road (upper left), Mint Chocolate (lower left), Cookies & Cream (middle), Chocolate (upper right), and Chocolate Peanut Butter (lower right). Nothing we got was going to last our trip with all of the hiking we did so we had to eat things in the hotel room thus the less than ideal photos. Yes, I did share four of these with my husband 50/50 split -- but not the Rocky Road which had nuts. All of them were good but the mint was oddly only mint on the top layer and the peanut butter chocolate was split layered as well.


Back to Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen with this photo of the section where they have the baked goods and huge candied apples as well as one of three check-out register stations. Because of the glass and lighting I didn't try to get a close-up of the huge candied apples but none had chocolate.



My hubby did get this XXL Chocolate Chunk Cookie from this section of the shop. He shared a bit with me, like I shared the fudge, and it was good. No, I didn't get the larger broken off part, I only took a third of the smaller side since I had to eat the Rocky Road Fudge myself.






There was also a smaller section with some items that seemed to be primarily breakfast goods, maybe left over, it wasn't clearly labeled. We didn't buy anything else at this station but check out the mural above it.





The next day, May 28, 2015, after finishing day two at Holiday world, we found Santa's Candy Castle which is along the road we took into Santa Claus, Indiana. Yup, Santa Claus Indiana. Here is me at what looks like the entrance to the castle with their statue of Santa.




This place is fairly large as you can see in this shot of it from the parking lot.

Inside are multiple rooms of different candy, toys, and books but my favorite was the front section where they sale the chocolates made for them but not by them by local candy makers. I got the Reindeer Shoe and the Chocolate Peanut Meltaway which the lady working that late afternoon said were their two biggest sellers.



Here are those treats close-up, again in the hotel room so the photo isn't great. I shared the meltaways with my hubby but the Reindeer Shoe had pecans, almonds, and cashews under the milk chocolate coating and inside a chewy caramel center. I would have loved the option of both of these in a dark or semi-sweet chocolate.



May 29, 2015, we moved to Tell City and stayed at the Kintner House B&B right in the downtown area. No chocolate for the breakfast or in the guest cookies -- the peanut butter and snickerdoodles were good but not chocolate -- from the B&B itself. We asked a BBQ we had dinner at that night where we could find chocolate or ice cream, preferably both since a bakery we found around the square was closed (it was closed our entire stay!). But that place wasn't opened and didn't have posted hours.

After a morning walking around Corydon on May 30, 2015, we had "lunch" at Emery's, the place that had been recommended to us the previous night. Now Corydon was Indiana's first state capital and there are a ton of historical sites which we love to visit.


While Emery's has candies of all types, their chocolates are primarily made by a place called Alvin's, their main focus seems to be ice cream and cold drinks. Here is just one of their wall menus with their famous shampoo bottle collection.


The owner was there and he was great to chat with. I asked him for the most chocolate ice cream he had and he gave me this: Moose Tracks with dark chocolate ice cream, ribbons of peanut butter, and dark chocolate covered peanuts. It was great!




That evening on May 30, 2015, the date of our wedding anniversary, the hubby drove us to Louisville, KY, to The Melting Pot. This is a chain and I forget to take a photo of the Chocolate Peanut Butter fondue we had but since it was our anniversary and I'm a club member, we also got this box of 6 chocolate covered strawberries which we split later that evening. We loved the dark chocolate with milk chocolate drizzle, liked the white chocolate with dark chocolate drizzle, but were underwhelmed by the milk chocolate with white chocolate drizzle that oddly tasted less chocolatey than the white dipped berries!

May 31, 2015 we traveled home slowly, stopping in Salem and Mitchell, Indiana, but sadly didn't find candy or chocolate shops open. The one restaurant we visited this day, Christie's in Salem, Indiana, had a buffet only but the desserts were not included and to be blunt, didn't look good enough to buy separately. There is a candy shop on that town's Public Square but it wasn't open on a Sunday afternoon... so sad.

Candy shops, ice cream shops, and bakeries not opened on this little trip was a frustratingly common experience. Given that there were so many rundown or vacant shops in all of the small Indiana towns we visited we have a piece of general advice -- Keep regular hours so that folks can shop and get their chocolates!

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