Monday, February 28, 2011

March Chocolate Holidays 2011

So that your Chocolate Priestess can plan out her very busy month of March, I'm posting this the last day of February.  Below are the current list I have of Chocolate Holidays or possible Chocolate Holidays.  If you know of more, leave a comment with a link to where you found the listing.  Together we can make a thorough calendar for all of us, Sisters and Brothers.

March 14 = National Pi Day which is often treated as a pie day -- instead of getting a fruit pie or pizza pie, how about you make a chocolate pie

3rd week of March = American Chocolate Week -- I'm betting this is really a United States Chocolate Week but we casually use "American" even though it cold apply to anyone living in North, Central or South America.

March 24 = National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day -- I'm not a bit fan of raisins but I did note a new dark chocolate version of Raisinets that perhaps I'll try for you all

March 26 = National Make Up Your Own Holiday Day -- I want suggestions for this.  Make them please and if it involves chocolate in a way that we don't all ready have a holiday for, your suggestion will be one we'll vote on as a group.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

TCHO Brownies

The last Offering from TCHO to The Chocolate Cult which we have to review is their 8oz bag of 66% organic baking drops.  The bag contains these discs of chocolate instead of the more narrow but much thicker chips you find in most bagged baking chocolate.  Your Chocolate Priestess will write a bit about what this is important for higher purity chocolates in a few paragraphs.   Let me be blunt: these are not cheap and the ones we are using today are a dollar more than the other drops TCHO sells.  Either you buy these for special occasions or you must make a lot fewer treats than I do, Sisters and Brothers.

The recipe I used can be found on either their website at the link above or on the back of the 66% bag.  I changed a few things so these are the ingredients I actually used.

8 oz bag TCHO 66% Organic Baking Drops
10 T "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" stick spread
3/4 C "Egg Beaters"
1 1/4 C Splenda sugar
1/2 C Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder

I pre-heated the oven to 350°F, I have a gas oven.  I cut the stick spread into about 1/2 T pieces and added the chips. Then I microwaved them on high for 30 second intervals stirring at each break for a total of a 1.5 minutes.  When you have a wider surface area and purer chocolate, it melts very easily in the microwave if you stir and melt in short intervals.  It saves energy and dishes which save water and time later on.

In another bowl I whisked together the eggs and the sugar until it was smooth and I couldn't see any grains.  This was my second bowl and I wish I could have felt comfortable enough with the product to have made it all in one bowl.

Then I whisked in the melted chocolate mixture until it was all blended and dark.  I don't like to waste things so I make sure I scrap as much of the melted chocolate as I could.

Finally, I added the baking powder, the cocoa, and finally the flour.  I whisked each dry ingredient in completely before adding the next.  Honestly do we need to dirty even more pans with all this sifting and double boiler using?

Again I made a different decision and just sprayed my 9 X 13 glass pan with no stick, no fat, no cholesterol spray.  I set it to bake for 20 minutes but around 14 minutes the dark chocolate scent filled the house.  That's interesting because I didn't find the drops themselves to be particularly fragrant when I opened the bag.

The brownies looked and smelled beautiful coming out of the oven.  I let them cool then cut them before serving.  They cut very easily and lifted up in one piece.  I cut the entire pan into 24 pieces.  The great thing about my 9 X 13 pan is that I have a plastic lid I can use on it so everything is easy to store and I don't need to dirty another container.

I personally prefer my brownies thicker but these were very intensity chocolaty and even with the amount of sugar in them, not very sweet at all.  They had a definite bitter aftertaste.  

These are not calorie friendly brownies not even with the substitutions I made.  Share them with someone or more than one person and try to spread out the enjoyment over several days. The bag of drops themselves have almost 11.5 servings each with 110 calories made of 4.5g saturated fat, 7g sugars, 2g protein, with a touch of calcium and 6% iron you need daily.  I'm surprised given that this is 66% cacao content that it lack any fiber at all.

TCHO also offers 68% baking drops if you want something a bit darker and don't mind if if it's organic or not. Both are Fair Trade certified so you can assume your cocoa wasn't grown using slave or child labor, problems in the over all cocoa trade.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Retirement Needs Chocolate

I went to a "Week of Chocolate" event on February 9, 2011, where the bulk of the chocolate offered came from Meadowood, a retirement community in my city.  Since they were give to me, they qualify as a potential Sacrament and their marketing director was there and asked me to do a review.  Therefore I decided to do one and to raise the question of when you should think about chocolate in your life and in the life decisions you have to make.  To make a stronger connect, February 1912, is when Oreos were first introduced on the market.  I wonder how many folks in retirement communities today could tell us about their first time seeing this cookie.

The four Oreo truffles came in this gold box.  They were clearly handmade when I opened them because they truffles were not perfect spheres or even half spheres. They reminded me of some I hope I could make as well since so far, your Chocolate Priestess has failed in her own personal truffle making ventures.  These are a good size, about an inch in diameter and a good half inch plus tall for two good bites.  The inside is a dark truffle semi-solid and it has a very strong Oreo fragrance.

I can also tell these are made with quality chocolate and not a lot of preservatives because they start to melt as soon as I touch them and have no waxy texture or flavor when I take a bite.  They have a definite Oreo flavor, chocolate cookie of the darker variety, a creamy, sugar essence as well.  Letting a bite melt in my mouth only increased the cookie taste I was getting but also let the darkness of the chocolate through.

So I've never done a featured review of something made in a retirement community.  I've done reviews of products from big name companies, small family businesses, small independent chocolatiers, and restaurants.  A retirement community serves it's residents in may ways and one of these is through food that is made and delivered to the rooms or apartments or in a dining room functioning either as a restaurant or a communal space.  Of the retirement communities I've visited, many half a dozen so far in my life, I've seen a wide range all ready of the food, the service and the layout of the dining area.

One challenge as we get older that such businesses must deal with is that our scent of smell and taste can change radically.  Have you ever noticed that older people seem to get skinny? Part of that is that frankly eating isn't as much of a pleasure when it does not taste or smell the same.  So if you want to make food an older person will eat you either have to play with textures or intensify the taste.  These were intense truffles but I image for someone in her 80s or 90s the taste might have even been subtle, I'd need that intensity to really enjoy them.

Chocolate has an intense flavor plus it has a cultural and personal cache that I think make it ideal as a food for everyone.  I know that every grandmother I've ever known, loved chocolate and I suspect that to do in part with the messages she received growing up that she should love chocolate.  I know that one of my grandmothers months before she passed away would only eat chocolate.  That probably wasn't enough nutrition for her but at least she got some pleasure when she ate.

So while you may think about location and cost when considering a retirement facility for yourself or a loved one, I want to urge you to think about food as well.  Don't forget the chocolate, please.  They clearly have not forgotten it at Meadowood here in Bloomington, Indiana.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Godiva Hot Cocoa Reviewed

Before the end of 2010, your Chocolate Priestess used a coupon and her Godiva membership to place an order.  Among the items was their hot cocoa mix which comes in a 4 packet box which means this isn't inexpensive chocolate.  Costs can mean many things when it comes to chocolate -- fair trade, organic, greed, additives, or brand name -- but it does not necessarily equal quality of the chocolate product.

These are the two packets of Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix.  This has real chocolate as well as dairy products if that is a concern for you.  It also has added oils which really throws me since the dark version does not.  What is the point of the added oil?  The packet itself has 130 calories, 1.5g saturated fat, 5mg sodium, 2g fiber, 22g sugars, 1g protein with a minor amount of calcium but 10% of the daily iron you need.  Of course adding milk to it, the box suggests 2%, will add calories and changes the nutritional amounts so be aware of that.

The cocoa had a good chocolate scent and most importantly for a mix, it blended very well with the milk.  I heated the milk first then whisked in the cocoa mix.  As you can see we had it with some marshmallows when we tried it a few days back. The cocoa had a chocolaty taste that wasn't too sweet or creamy but a fair balance even after the marshmallows melted.   If you want more sweetness, you can always add sugar or more marshmallows, if you want more cream, add a higher fat milk.

The dark cocoa mix was darker in color but also had very different nutritional values per packet; again the type of milk you use will change this.  It has 170 calories with 2g saturated fat, 30mg sodium, 5g fiber, 25g sugars, 3g protein, minor amount of calcium and 15% of the daily iron you need.  This has less added ingredients and no added oils at all.

The dark cocoa also mixes very nicely into the milk after I heat it.  The scent is much stronger and the color before it is blended is much darker.  However, after it was mixed with the milk, the color was no different than the milk chocolate cocoa was.  However that stronger cocoa fragrance remained.  The mix stayed blended well and the taste was bitter, much more so than the scent suggested it would be.  Now if you like bitter, darker chocolate, this is great.  If you do not, stick with the milk chocolate mix.

This is an expensive treat, one I got for us only because I had discounts and because I wanted to review it for all of you, Sisters and Brothers.  It may be outside your budget to drink often but for special events or romantic moments, if you pick the variation which appeals to you best, then it is a nice treat.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

choco Bouchées in 15 flavors

We've reviewed a few Canadian chocolatiers but chocoStyle is our first from Québec.  While it helps if you know French their site does have an English translation button so don't be afraid to go check them out.  They ship to the USA and obviously to Canada where they have stores or are sold in stores you could visit if you find your way to Québec.  They sent us a 15 piece selection of their flavors all in either 45% or 75% cacao content.  It came in a very stylish box that you see here and it was packed minimally with recyclable materials.

The colored box actually slipped off a plainer white box which held the chocolate and released a wonderful dark chocolate scent as soon as it was freed.  I took this picture because it is reflects the order in which we tried them; I did get a touch of help from a few Acolytes for this review.  Each piece is larger than it looks measuring 1 inch square on the base and rising to just over a half an inch.  Each one has a lovely little picture on the top which reflects chocoStyle's ability to put your own pictures on their chocolates.  For the review I'm going to use the English title for each chocolate since most of my readers understand English but I can't be certain how many of you can read French.  I will also try to cut each to show you the inside of the pieces.  Just so you know, there is a listing online with photos for each flavor as well as on the back of the box itself. They also sent me some postcards with this information.  I shouldn't have much trouble figuring this out then.

Our first piece is the "Orange Cointreau" which has yellow diamond pattern on the top.  Inside is a thick chocolate semi-solid with a light orange fragrance.  The 75% dark chocolate shell is thick especially on the bottom and it makes some crunchy sounds for the first few chews.  The inside has a nice smooth but dark flavor with a tangy sweet orange essence that blends nicely with the cocoa.  I think this is a good example of a citrus flavor working with and not overpowering or fading underneath chocolate either of which can happen easily.

The next piece with peach and red circles and lines is the "Apricot Rosemary" in 75% dark chocolate and it does have a slight apricot scent before I cut it open.  Just like the previous piece this has a semi-solid dark center with the fruit scent though this time, oddly, that scent seems less strong then my initial whiff suggested it would be.  Here the chocolate fades into a rosemary and then a strong apricot flavor before returning at the end.  The center is actually a bit chewy and each bite releases more of the fruit.  A different balance than the first piece but still a good balance of three flavors.

If this third piece is solid inside, I'm going to stop cutting into them and give you a better look at the top of each chocolate.  I think is the "Cracked Hazelnuts" not just from the red, orange and yellow blend of colors on the top but also the scent.  Oh, this one is different in side with a layer of nut it appears under the dark chocolate shell's top.  This has a roasted hazelnut flavor and scent to it and it starts to overwhelm the chocolate which fights back to be the final flavor in an equal blend by the time I swallow.  The nut layer adds an extra crunch to each bite than last through several chews giving this more variety in sound and texture.  The 45% cacao content are called "milk chocolate" by chocoStyle so that's how I'll refer to them when we encounter them in this revelation.

The next piece has large white flowers with yellow centers marking it as the "Sea Salt Caramel"in 75% dark chocolate so I cut it open to see if it is different inside.  I don't even get to make a cut and the top pops right off to reveal caramel inside which I hope you can see.  The caramel is googy and I can taste it's tang as well as the salt. All that mixes well with the dark chocolate as this combination usually does.  The caramel almost melts in my mouth and doesn't stick to my teeth at all which makes me like this even more. 

 The second milk chocolate bouchée  has red, yellow and peach lines on it all going in one direction which says this should be the "Praline".  Over the past year my idea of "praline" has been changed by different chocolatiers and companies using it in different ways.  I don't see any nuts but it has a definite nut scent, almost a coffee hint as well.  Yes, there is something almost coffee like in the semi-solid chocolate center but I think it is a caramelized almond really.  If you think milk chocolate like most Americans do, this will seem dark to you but I can see why they didn't go with the 75%, that would have been too dark with the other flavors.  This is an interesting mixture and more of what I think of when I think "praline".

I turn to one of our Mocha Acolytes, Tim, for a look at the "Capuccino Coffee" flavor in 75% dark chocolate.  This is what he reports from his tasting. This has a very strong coffee and dark chocolate scent and taste.  The coffee flavor is more like a black coffee, which I prefer.  The two flavors blend very well together.  I think of all the coffee chocolates I've tried so far for The Chocolate Cult, this is my favorite because it is very strong, not sweetened, and blends very well with the darker chocolate.  Thanks, Tim, for helping me out with this part of our review.

The next bouchée in the box is a "Melted Cherry" in 75% dark chocolate and is marked by pale pink and dusky rose flowers on the top. There is a light cherry scent that makes it through the chocolate shell but I have to take a bite to get a true taste.  Warning!  Inside is a cherry liquid, not a solid center at all and it drips down my shirt.  It has a subtle cherry flavor, not sweet really and certainly not tart.  Sadly our Chocolate Fruit Acolyte is out of town today and has been crazy busy for weeks so I can't ask her advice.  These are preservative free chocolates do they needed to be sampled by a certain date. While the red liquid came out there is some pinkish and white material inside as well which has a stronger cherry flavor.

The next piece has a psychedelic pattern of green, yellow and even a hint of orange in thin lines over the top making this the "Praline Coriander" in 75% dark chocolate, a combination I haven't heard of before.  I can't smell anything beyond the chocolate itself so I take a bite carefully.  This makes a sharp snap and reveals a very solid center with a strong dusky nut flavor that remains me of hazelnuts but perhaps the coriander is affecting my ability to identify any nut that may exist.  Remember not all things labeled praline have nuts today.  It is an interesting flavor but I can't say that I really enjoy it myself.  Definitely more earthy than sweet and certainly unique.

Groovy blues, greens and white swirls tell me that the next piece must be "Dulce de Leche" also in the 75% dark chocolate.  Again I can only smell the dark chocolate but since I like that, I'm find with it.  Inside the shell which snaps when I take a bite, is a very soft creamy center with that definite dulce de leche flavor you want -- sweet yet tart, creamy with a nice bitter kick from the shell.  An excellent example of this flavor for chocolates or candies and one I can see returning to myself over and over though generally dulce de leche is a bit too sweet for me.

"Honey" in 75% dark chocolate, of course, has a yellow outline of honey combs but also the edge of bees making this the cutest of the bouchées in my opinion but tell me what you think please.  Inside is a semi-soft, sticky pale yellow center with a sweet honey flavor that tastes also a bit tart, making me think of wild bees, but there is also a bit of creaminess.  It blends well with the bitter chocolate and the result is an essence that seems to cool down my throat when I swallow it.  Usually I think of mint when I have this experience but then I recall that many folks use honey as well to sooth throats.  I'm not saying you could use this to self medicate but how much could it hurt?

While most of these bouchées have only a dark cocoa fragrance before you take a bite, the "Orange" has a strong scent as well as a pattern of different tones of orange over the top to identify it.  This is also a 75% dark chocolate as most but not all these pieces your Chocolate Priestess was sent do.  This makes almost no noise when I take a bite and inside is a very solid chocolate with a deep, earthy orange flavor that is more tart than sweet and mixes well with the chocolate, flipping back and forth in essence second by second as I chew.  This is definitely the strongest flavor so far in this box.

Another 45% milk chocolate is next in the "Champagne" version which has elegant curved lines in cream and brick red on top.  Inside is a semi-solid, reddish brown center with a strong champagne flavor that is slightly sour and a bit sweet.  It has a bit of burn in my mouth which suggests this is alcohol in the bouchée but don't worry because one piece will not hurt you.  However, champagne, traditional not the various new flavors I've seen and tried, isn't a flavor everyone enjoys so this is really for those of you who like the traditional drink with a kick of dark chocolate.

Once more I discover a new flavor combination in this "Strawberry Basil" piece marked with hills of red on the top and buried in 75% dark chocolate.  The top is suck in a bit and I'm thinking "Is this another liquid filled one?" and I grab a plate.  the piece has a light strawberry and basil scent before I take a bite which I do carefully.  Inside is a semi-solid dark center.  The basil flavor really overpowers the strawberry, so much so that if I had to identify it, I couldn't do it.  The dark chocolate and the basil blend into this very unique bitterness with a hint of sweet that is not fruity sweetness.  Personally I didn't really like it but I hope my description helps you decide for yourself.

Now there is one piece in this entire box that I cannot find online, on the postcards, or the back of the box.  This might be a winter special since it has huge snowflake like white stars on it.  It has the same scent as the darker chocolate and something I can't quite place but let me see if I determine the internal flavors.  The inside is a chocolate caramel, semi-soft center but it has a hint of something citrus almost inside.  A second bite reveals a bit of heat as well but my palate is not experienced enough yet to be more specific. The spicy coolness lingers but fades into the nice bitter dark chocolate.

Finally we end on "Mint" marked by a light minty color and flowers on the top of a 75% dark chocolate shell.  There is a slight mint essence when I take a very deep whiff of it but mostly the chocolate is what I smell.  Given that today, February 19, is also "National Chocolate Mint Day" I hope this ends our featured review well.  Inside is a semi-soft green center that almost matches the main color on the top of the bouchée.  It has a very strong, cool mint flavor but also a nice bitter chocolate essence that floats around on my taste buds as they tingle.  Now this would be a great way to celebrate this same day next year or if you live near a store that sells them, you should go get at least one of these today.

I made a connection with chocoStyle through the networking site LinkedIn and I'm so glad I do.  These were loving to look at, the dark 75% cocoa chocolates smelled and tasted wonderful.  The 45% milk chocolates were good as well.  I didn't get a chance to try the few white chocolate bouchées chocoStyle makes so I can't comment on those.  The dark and milk shells were thick enough in most cases to hide any hint of the internal flavor which will be a good depending on your view.  From my perspective, that corresponds often with the chocolate being the principle flavor which is one thing we love here on The Chocolate Cult.  You do need to consume them within a month or so so if you are getting these for a gift, let your loved one know that.  They also have a few white chocolate pieces and the number of bouchée you can chose range from 6, 9, 12, 15 and even 30!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What are You Making for National Chocolate Mint Day?

So tomorrow, Sisters and Brothers, is "National Chocolate Mint Day".  I wanted to make something, you know, that was my new goal for this blog for 2011 and I've all ready failed for health and weather reasons.

My partner has been wanting me to try and make a grasshopper pie which is frankly not nearly enough chocolate for me.  I tried a call out for a recipe on Foodbuzz but received no answers.  I looked through several foodie sites and was annoyed at either the complexity of the recipes or the ingredients that just didn't seem to match what he told me this pie should taste like.  Finally I used an Emeril recipe which I'll talk about later.

We'll try it tomorrow, which is the actually fun food holiday but as you know it is a Saturday Sacrament day.  So for now, leave a comment please and tell me what you will be making or buying to celebrate "National Chocolate Mint Day" tomorrow.

We actually tried it the evening of February 18, 2011, or I should say my guys tried it.  Honestly I've never liked grasshopper pie, too little chocolate.  First you should know that I made two -- one with the traditional chocolate cookie crust and one with a pastry crust because one partner likes less chocolate than the other.  Here you can see them in the frig after I made them.  I added a few drops of green food die which a lot of recipes suggested, I figure it couldn't hurt things too much but maybe I was wrong.

My partner whom I made these for said it looked like he remembered but as the hours rolled by I didn't like how it was not setting up.  Frankly I didn't like how the heavy whipping cream and the unflavored gelatin was setting up before I added it to the egg and sugar mixture.  The result was that the pie has almost two parts, pieces of the gelatin and pieces of the eggs/sugar, all flavored with Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cocoa which I could only find in big bottles for $11 each!

I am not happy!  I will admit that I bare blame here.  I looked and looked for a good recipe that seemed to fit what my partner described.  I asked on various foodie networks I'm part of for recipes but no one replied.  Marshmallow or cream based?  Real Creme de Menthe or just mint flavor?  Refrigerate or freeze?

I decided to go with a famous chef's recipe Emeril Lagasse's Kicked Up Grasshopper Pie -- I found on the website "Food & Health".  This recipe was vague like telling me to "add the gelatin and gently heat and remove from the heat and set aside" -- what exactly does that mean?  Shouldn't the gelatin dissolve?  Every time I've used gelatin the recipes have said to dissolve it but that was in water not heavy whipping cream.  I'm only one person I could only beat the eggs and sugar so fast and then as for drizzling in the cream gelatin mixture while it mixed... that was actually difficult to manage without burning myself.  Emeril's mixer must have a much wider rim than mine does.  Then while many of the ingredients were in cups the Cremes were measured in ounces.... so I had to do some figuring using a magnet I have on my frig but still I was trying to get close so I do not have ounce measuring spoons or cups.

I'm so angry now.  I spent over $25 on ingredients for something we threw away because it was terrible.  It was like cough syrup and gummy bears -- YUCK!

I hope you all had a much better "National Chocolate Mint Day" than I did.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate! Chocolate! 2011

Today is Valentine's Day, Sisters and Brothers, but I did three featured reviews and to be blunt, if you haven't gotten your sweetie something yet, what I saw in the stores on Saturday afternoon tells me that you pickings are slim in most brick and mortar stores.  Happy Valentine's Day but I found something even cooler and more loving than just giving chocolate.

I found another Pilgrimage that my chocolate followers in Indiana or even Ohio might be interested  in for next year.  It is called "Chocolate! Chocolate!" and it again benefits the Brown County Humane Society in Nashville, Indiana.  The event just celebrated it's 9th year with a large crowd yesterday, February 13, 2011, but it was your Chocolate Priestess's first time attending.  I went with my husband, our Milk Chocolate Acolyte, and we had a great two hours of our day.

This event was in the Season's Lodge Convention center and it filled an entire room.  I'm about to give you a photo tour of the event so get ready to see what you missed.

When we first walked in, we picked up our tickets that were waiting for us.  There were also tables with information and shirts you could buy for the Brown County Humane Society.  Inside some volunteers took our tickets (he didn't want you to see him), one took our coats (the lady to the left) and another had a tray of chocolate treats to start you off with a bang (the lady on the right).

There was nice jazz music provided by Sophie Faught and Nick Tucker.

There was a huge table of chocolates, all donated and homemade ranging from cookies to brownies to candies.  I took photos from two sides so you could see better.  Along the back was a cash bar, a fondue fountain and a non-alcoholic drink table.  All run by wonderful volunteers.

From the Left Hand Side
From the Left Hand Side

Bar & Fountain, Chairman Checking
Mocha drinks, milks, and non-alcoholic bubbly.

Here we have the gentleman who organizes this event each year and one of his volunteers in working the fountain table.  I didn't sample anything from there but they had strawberries and pound cake both.  The number of times I saw folks to back and forth though it seemed a big hit.

They also had tables for silent auctions of goods most of which were not food though there was some along with some wine, some art, some event tickets, jewelry and clothing.  The largest item was a bed frame!

Of course, I know you, Sister and Brothers, you are wondering "Is she ever getting to the chocolate?  Yup.  It was homemade and given to the event.  I won't review the individual pieces but here is my first plate full.  I apologize for the photos, I don't what the camera's problem was.  I had it set for indoors and flash.

Between the time of the first and second plate, about 40% of the chocolate variety was gone!  I loved talking to the folks at our table.  They came from Ohio to spend a romantic weekend in Nashville and discovered "Chocolate! Chocolate!"   One couple was from Dayton and the other four were two couples, friends who were splitting a cabin.  As I said I loved talking to them but a lot of chocolate disappeared.  I still got a good variety.
All of that, all of it, for $8 or $10 a person depending on if you bought your tickets ahead of time (we did) or at the door.  They had one animal to meet face to face and sold animal treats for your pets.  They also had a display screen showing other animals they currently have for adoption.

The four folks left and a family of five joined the table before I went to get another plate. The one woman was new to the area and this was a gift to her from the others.  I told them about "The Chocolate Walk" which they didn't know about.   This time when I went back, most of the chocolate was very low.  The event was selling $1 boxes for folks to pack up chocolate and take home.  But they were running so low I didn't think that was a good idea plus we brought bags but when we saw they had thought of that as a way to make more for the animals, we didn't back anything away.

I met older couples, younger couples, friends, entire families at this event.  Some folks came because they loved animals, some because they loved chocolate, some because they were staying in Brown County to celebrate the weekend and just heard of it.  I only heard of it because I'm on the mailing list after attending a few "Chocolate Walks". 

So next  year, keep this in mind. A fun way to get a lot of homemade chocolates, mingle with folks who love chocolate and animals, plus help the animals and have a change to get some cool items really cheaply.  "Chocolate! Chocolate!" is definitely Pilgrimage worthy.  I only hope they get a bigger space and tell their bakers and candy makers to make more goodies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dove Dark Chocolate & Cherry for Valentine's Day

Dove sent us a wonderful, huge heart if you will recall that we revealed two Saturdays ago.  Today we want to look at another new product from Dove for Valentine's Day that they sent to us to review.  This is the "Dark Chocolate & Cherry Swirl" Heart PROMISES that you may still be able to find in your local stores.  But before you run out, take a few minutes and read our full sensory review.

The dark chocolate is indeed dark, made of chocolate, cocoa butter but no milk though skim milk is listed later in the ingredients list on the back of the 7.94oz bag they sent us.  This dark chocolate comes in heart shaped pieces, six of them make one serving, and are wrapped in silver or cherry colored foil with hearts on it as well as the Dove title and "Cherry Swirl".  This photo was taken to show you the variety in the bag, I'll provide a close up of the heart itself in a few moments.  A serving of this is 230 calories made of 9g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 25mg sodium, 2g fiber, 22g sugars, 2g protein, with some calcium and iron.  If you share these, it is easy to moderate your consumption of these, I did that myself and didn't even take a servings worth.

The heart has a dark and this pinkish brown swirling pattern over the ever candy.  It measures 1 1/8th inch at the width section and is 3/8 inch thick.  It has a darker cocoa fragrance but primarily it smells like sweet cherry even though the ingredients do not list cherry only both natural and artificial flavors.  The swirling of colors goes all the way through the chocolate and makes me curious as to how they do that.  A soft snap issues forth when I take a bite, there are 2-3 bites per piece if you so desire.  It has a creamier flavor than I expect from a darker chocolate.  The cherry is very sweet with just a hint of tartness.  I let the next bite sit in my mouth to melt and the chocolate flavor is stronger than the cherry.   However letting it melt also increases the creaminess of the essence.

Valentine's Day isn't far away.  Have you finished shopping?  If not and you have a loved one who likes cherry and dark chocolate, see if you can find this.  Dove is available in almost every store never me from the grocery to the discount stores like Kmart.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Day = First Chocolate Tart

As you might recall, American Heritage Chocolate sent your Chocolate Priestess some samples, two of which we've reviewed all ready.  Today is another fun food holiday called simply "Chocolate Day" and since I've been ill I wanted to make something for you all.  I love when I can combine activities because I can get fairly busy and this week is an example of that with museum meetings, doctor's appointments, gaming appointments, work on two writing projects, a chocolate luncheon later today, and even a radio interview about my last book which came out right before Christmas.  No, it has nothing to do with chocolate sorry.

I decided to look at the recipes at the American Heritage Chocolate website and pick one which worked with the chocolate block they sent us.  The challenge was finding one that used the block, several of the recipes used the drinking chocolate, and one which used only one block since that is what I was sent.  So I chose their Chocolate Tart recipe and having never made such a creation before I knew this would be an adventure.

The first challenge was finding all the ingredients.  Actually the biggest challenge there was the rice flour.  That is just not something I keep around and I couldn't find it in a smaller quantity than the bag you see with the other ingredients.  It was expensive.  Let me repeat that: It Was EXPENSIVE compared to ever whole grain wheat flour which I use 95% of the time.  Also getting whole milk was an extra expense since we simply do not drink that and never had and I couldn't find it in a smaller amount.  The frozen pie shells were another extra expense but there were two in the bag so I get to make another pie later.  In short, this isn't a cheap tart to make especially when I need to try and make it as close to the recipe as I can while trying to respect our dietary needs.

The second challenge was grating the chocolate block.  I ran into a few problems here.  My grater just was not working well at all for this.  Pieces of chocolate were flying which is wasteful, something I and probably you cannot afford to be.  I switched to my peeler and that worked better but my hands and therefore the bar would heat up.  I had to keep stopping to let my hands cool down and stretch out my back.  Why did that matter?  Well, I was trying to get small pieces that would melt easily plus melted chocolate turns into wasted chocolate again since I can't really add it to my bowl of shavings or handle either peeler or bar with too much chocolate on my hands.  Remember these American Heritage Chocolates are made in the Colonial fashion so they are spicy and not what you normally go around licking off you hands.   A little bit for me goes a long way when I eat it directly.  Also finally at the end I simply had to break up the bar because it was too small to really handle well with the peeler.

The Egg Mixture

Cream, Chocolate & Sugar
The next challenge was combining all the ingredients but especially the pouring some of the boiled cream-chocolate-sugar into the other ingredients then putting that into the rest of the boiled and bringing it back to a boil. I have honestly no idea if I did that part correctly plus again measuring out some to the one mixture meant wasting some of it simply because it can't all be scrapped from the cup I measured with.  I'm sure some others can just spot measure but not me.  The completely combined and boiled mixture was very thick and I have no idea if it was supposed to be.  It certainly didn't really "pour" into the pie crust so much as plop into it.  Before baking, I can say that the mixture tasted very custard like and I think given the recipe that makes some sense.

I made sure and I got a deeper pie crust because the last time I made a recipe with a pie crust the mixture I poured in almost ran over the edges especially as it baked.  I hate cleaning my oven, such an annoying chore.  Anyway as you can see getting the 2 inch deep pie was a very good idea from this pre-baked photo.

Let's talk about the Chocolate Block itself while the pie bakes.  This comes in a 5.13oz block and I'm sure between all the melting on my hands and flakes going everywhere that I ended up with the 5oz that the recipe required.  Remember this is based on Colonial American recipes so it is a spicy chocolate but not in the Aztec way you might imagine. The spices in it include, according to the website, anise, red pepper, nutmeg, orange, and cinnamon.  It also includes sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, Annatto, and salt along with natural flavors that like the spices are not specified on the box label itself.  It had a very strong chocolate and spice fragrance when I removed it from the box and the inside paper wrapper.  This block is made of 4 servings though in our pie it will become 8 servings.  That means that each of our eight slices, in terms of the chocolate only will have 95 calories, 3.5g saturated fat, 7.5mg sodium, 1.5g fiber, 8g sugars, 1g protein along with some iron.  I'm not even going to attempt to try and figure out the entire slice's values but needless to say I may want to split a slice with someone.

After 45 minutes, the tart was done.  It was dark and it had filled out a bit but not over the edges of other pie crust.  I let it cool to room temperature per instructions then put it in the refrigerator until dinner, about 4 hours.  I set it out as I started to cook so it wouldn't be too cold and more difficult to cut.  I think it turned out well, you can see we tried two slices so I did indeed eat more than I should have.  It was not creamy but very spicy, just like it smelled, just like the block had been.  That meant that the chocolate was coming through all the eggs, cream, and sugar.  If you are expecting a traditional chocolate flavor this will surprise you so sample the chocolate first so you know what to expect. The spices, the Colonial chocolate, made it seem like heavy and dessert-like than I think using modern chocolate would.  However it was very calorie heavy.   

So there you have it, a review of the Chocolate Block, the recipe and a celebration of "Chocolate Day" all in one!  I hope you leave a comment and tell me how you celebrated "Chocolate Day" today.

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