Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chuao's Maple Bacon Chocolate - It's more about the crunch than the bacon


San Diego-based Chuao Chocolatier offers a plethora of chocolaty taste sensations. There is always a new Chuao flavour available at Chapters-Indigo, such as the Honeycomb or the Potato Chip chocolate bars that I picked up recently. And the newest chocolate bar to catch my eye was Chuao's 'maple bacon' bar - a high percentage milk chocolate (41% cocoa solids) with all-natural inclusions, including maple sugar, bacon, and 'bonfire smoked' sea salt (my favourite 'smoked' description ever).

As for the taste, it was good. The milk chocolate was not super sweet (just the way I like my milk chocolate). And the salt was not overwhelming, but yet there was a nice crunchy texture from the maple sugar, salt, and the crispy bacon. The bacon flavour was minimal; although it was there, it was there in a noncommittal sort of way (although when it comes to bacon flavour in chocolate, sometimes less really is better).

Albeit tasty, I must admit that I preferred Chuao's Potato Chip chocolate bar, which I purchased at the same time, and tasted last week. The potato chip bar was also made with a high-percentage milk chocolate and it had a little more crunch to it, with a saltier taste. It gave me a little more of that savoury taste that I was expecting from the bacon bar.

As a fan of bacon and chocolate, I am happy that this bar is available to us, since I can no longer buy Vosges's Mo's Bacon Bar in my region of Canada. That is definitely a chocolate-and-bacon experience that is out of this world.

If you really like the flavours of bacon and chocolate, try this chocolate-dipped bacon recipe. Candy the bacon with maple syrup instead of brown sugar or sprinkle a little maple sugar on top, if you want to replicate Chuao's excellent idea of maple and bacon flavour.

Chuao's Maple Bacon Chocolate Bar cost $6.75 at Chapters-Indigo. It is gluten-free and it won an Excellence Award at the International Chocolate Salon.

Here are the package details, including ingredients from the chocolate that I tasted today:

Maple Bacon All Natural chocolate bar, 2.8 oz (80g)
Chuao Chocolatier (San Diego, CA)
www.ChuaoChocolatier.com
Ingredients: Premium milk chocolate (41% cacao, cacao butter, sugar, dehydrated milk, soy lecithin [as an emulsifier], natural vanilla), maple sugar, bacon (pork, water, salt, turbinado sugar, seasoning), bonfire smoked sea salt, natural maple flavor (maple, canola oil). Contains: Milk, Soy. Non GMO Ingredients. Manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts and wheat in other products.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chia Chocolate Bars: Perhaps THE chocolate recipe to make you as slim as Taylor Swift!


Just a few weeks ago, media was reporting that Taylor Swift has kept her super-slim figure by munching on chia seeds (ref).  Chia seeds expand in the stomach and make her feel full longer, according to the reports. But of course, we know that media reports are not always accurate, and Taylor Swift has always had a great physique.

But true or not, chia seeds do seem to be all the rage lately, and so I wanted to find out what they are about. Not only are chia seeds high in Omega-3 Fatty Acid, which is similar to flax seeds, but your body is able to process them whole, as opposed to flax seeds, which have to be ground. They also do expand in fluid, so you can eat less to feel full sooner.

I bought a bag of organic chia seeds, and it turns out that these little crunchy seeds are enjoyable to eat, and tastier than flax seeds. Plus, they have a really nice crunch, making them fun to munch on. However, munching on them straight up is a little difficult, because they are so tiny.  Sure, you could lick them off your hand, but that is messy and, well, kinda gross.

What's more, POPSUGAR tells us that eating chia seeds straight up is not safe. If you chase them with a beverage, the seeds will expand before they reach your stomach and may cause breathing problems. They also explain that "when they're included in a recipe, our bodies can digest chia seeds whole". So I thought, why not put chia seeds in chocolate? There seems to be a lot of chocolate-and-chia pudding recipes on the Internet, but no products or recipes for solid chocolate-and-chia bars.

And so I headed off to my commercial kitchen to make some Chia Chocolate Bars. I wanted to maintain the health benefits of eating the seeds, so I chose a 71% organic dark chocolate chip made from Peruvian cacao as my base. I chose it because it has an interesting flavour that really stands out. But because chocolate chips are 'bake-stable' chocolate products, they do not melt very easily, nor do they have a nice shine like professional chocolate couverture does. So I added a little cocoa butter to the recipe to get a nice smooth texture and a good shine for my chia chocolate bars.

These solid chocolate bars turned out beautifully. Although I could have poured the chocolate out onto waxed paper and made a nice thin chocolate bark*, I decided to use a variety of the chocolate bar molds that I had on hand to experiment. They were all great, but I found the thinner the piece of chocolate, the more enjoyable it was to eat because the chia seed crunch really stood out. This recipe made the following:
  • Four 45 gram chocolate bars, plus six 30 gram chocolate bars, plus ten 20 gram 'discs' (chocolate poured into the bottom of a cupcake tin).
Check out the recipe below if you want to make your own Chia Chocolate Bars. I'm not saying they will make you as skinny as Taylor Swift, but the fun flavour experience will make you want to dance to 'Shake it Off' after just one bite. And THAT will certainly burn some calories.

RECIPE: Chia Chocolate Bars

You need:
  • 12 ounces (340g) of organic 70-71% dark chocolate chips, chopped (I used Camino brand of baking chips)
  • 1 ounce (28g) solid cocoa butter (chopped or shaved), preferably organic (I used Cacao Barry)+
  • 2 ounces (57g) of organic chia seeds* (I used Organic PRANA Chia seeds from Costco)

*Option: for a bark with a heavier crunch and higher cacao content, use only 1 ounce (28g) of chia seeds and 1 ounce (28g) of organic roasted cacao nibs. See below for bark instructions.
+Cocoa butter is not necessary if you use a good couverture chocolate. You can buy couvertures from companies like www.vanillafoodcompany.ca or Google other online retailers near you with the brands Cacao Barry (offers an organic 71% couv), Guittard, Belcolade, etc.

All of the above ingredients can be purchased from the health food aisle in a large grocery store or in a health food store.

Instructions:

Before you start, ensure all your tools and your hands are dry (not even a drop of water can get into your melted chocolate or it will ruin the whole batch!).

1. Melt and temper your 12 ounces of chocolate and cocoa butter. Click here for detailed and accurate-every-time tempering instructions using a double boiler and ice bath, or follow the Simple Tempering Method at the bottom of this recipe.

2. When the temperature is right, toss in your chia seeds and stir until mixed. 

3. Immediately pour a little into the bottom of each cavity of one or two cupcake tins or chocolate bar molds, if you have them*.  Be careful when pouring not to drip any up the sides of the tin. Bang your pan/mold on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles and spread the chocolate around.  If any remains, pour onto waxed paper and spread around to make a chocolate bark.

4. Let set in the fridge for 1 hour, then take it out and flip the container over onto waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap on the counter, tapping the cupcake tin or mold until the chocolate releases.

5. Let the chocolate bars or discs come back to room temperature before you package them. Seal in candy bags, plastic wrap, parchment paper or just a tin and consume when needed for up to one year! Store in a cool, dry place (a dark cupboard works best).

*Making a chocolate bark: If you don't have chocolate or cupcake molds, you could also just make a bark by pouring the chocolate and chia mix onto a large piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Spread around and let set for a few minutes, then make rectangular cuts (for bars) or triangular cuts (for bark) with a straight-edges knife. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 1 hour, then remove and pull the pieces off of the waxed paper.  Let the chocolate come back to room temperature before you seal in containers.

Please use the comments section below if you have any questions and I will try to help in a timely fashion.  Enjoy! 

***
Simple Tempering Method:
For a more accurate tempering method, click here.

Step 1: Place your chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl.  Melt for 2 minutes on HALF POWER.  Remove and stir until melted or nearly melted. Place back in the microwave for another 15 seconds to bring the temperature up to 120 F (if you do not have a digital candy thermometer, it should be slightly hot to touch) and stir until everything is melted.

Step 2: Add the cocoa butter to the chocolate and stir until fully melted, then continue to stir and reduce the temperature to about 84 or 85 degrees by placing the bottom of your bowl over a bag of frozen peas, frozen fruit or ice.  Stir until the chocolate is the same temperature or cooler than the back of your baby finger when dipped into the chocolate.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Barkleys 'All Natural' Solid Dark Chocolate Bunny


Forget the junk-filled Easter chocolate this year, feed your kids (or yourselves) a tasty chocolate bunny that is all natural, and has no refined cane sugar. In fact, it has no cane sugar at all.

Barkleys, a Canadian chocolate brand from British Columbia, is now selling a 60% dark chocolate bunny sweetened with beet sugar, rather than the usual cane sugar. Many people are making the switch from cane sugar to alternate sweeteners for health reasons these days. Barkley's has introduced just the product to help people who have made the switch through the Easter season.

As for the taste, this bunny has a nice sweetness, but is still bitter.  Truthfully, I thought it was a 70% chocolate, rather than a 60%, which may be influenced by the beet sugar (often cane sugar substitutes will not taste as sweet as actual cane sugar). The flavour was quite mild in fact, just straight up chocolaty with no specific flavours (so if you are into origin chocolate, this may not be your bunny). 

I think anyone who likes Lindt, Godiva or commercial organic dark chocolate bar brands, or a child who likes dark chocolate (my son, for instance), would like this bunny quite a lot.  I personally prefer bean-to-bar, craft chocolate with strong cacao origin flavour influences, but I still enjoyed Barkleys' bunny!

Certainly this is a great product for people who cannot have cane sugar, but still want to enjoy chocolate this Easter.

I purchased my bunny at Bulk Barn, but Barkleys' products are available all across Canada in a variety of retailers.  Click here to learn more.

If you are looking for a milk chocolate bunny that is also all natural, check out my 2013 review of Camino's organic and fair trade bunny here.

Barkleys also makes other all natural products. Learn more about some of their truffle bars here.

Here are the package details from the product that I reviewed today:

Dark Chocolate Bunny, 60% cocoa solids, 100g
Barkleys (Coquitlam, BC)
www.barkleys.ca
Ingredients: Cocoa Mass**, Beet Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin* (emulsifier), Natural Vanilla Flavouring. Contains soy.  May contain milk, tree nuts and peanuts.  Gluten Free. *Non GMO, Naturally Derived.
**Contains 60% cocoa solids.


***
Please note: I was not paid or given any kind of incentive to write this article. As in most cases with my reviews, I found it while scouting products locally and wanted to share the information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Potato Chips in Milk Chocolate; Products to Try and Recipe to DIY

I purchased a Chuao Chocolatiers' kettle-cooked Potato Chip chocolate bar at Chapters-Indigo recently and was blown away by how enjoyable it was. With a rich 41% milk chocolate and a very distinct kettle-cooked chip flavour, a good amount of salt, and a very crunchy texture, this bar delivered on everything that the package promised. The deep-fried flavour that remains in your mouth after the chocolate melts away may leave you feeling guilty about eating this chocolate, but you can lose the guilt when you hear that it is all natural, with real vanilla, no hydrogenated oils or any other strange additives.

So when I bought the second bar (Yup, I did. But I shared), I got to thinking, why kettle cooked chips?  Well, for one, they are crunchier than regular chips and therefore should maintain their crunch once added to chocolate. Certainly that could be seen with Lays new Wavy Milk Chocolate covered potato chips. They are delicious with a good crunch, but slightly less than Chuao's chocolate bar. Lays chocolate-covered chips also have a natural ingredient list.

So that is when I had an idea. A wonderfully indulgent idea. Why not make my own milk chocolate bar with chips in it?  The result was delicious.  So I have decided to share it with you.  And if you do not have chocolate bar molds, you can turn it into a beautiful chocolate-and-chip bark that will keep your friends coming back for more.

Recipe: Kettle Cooked Chips in Milk Chocolate Bar (or Bark!)

You need:
  • 16 ounces (454g) of milk chocolate, chopped (I used Camino 45% organic milk chocolate)
  • 3.5 cups (3.52 ounces or 100g) of kettle-cooked chips (I used PC brand, which are very crunchy)

Instructions:

1. Place the chips in a large plastic zipper freezer bag, then using a rolling pin or tall straight glass, roll over the chips until they are fully crushed. Set aside.

2. Place your chocolate in a stainless steel (for double-boiler only) or glass bowl (for double boiler or microwave method). Melt and temper your milk chocolate. For detailed tempering instructions, click here. See the bottom of this post for a simple (but not always accurate) tempering method.

3. Once your chocolate is tempered (and at about 84 degrees Fahrenheit), pour the chips into the chocolate and stir until combined. Immediately pour onto a large piece of waxed paper, or imprint mats like the Cake Boss new mats (in Canada, see here), or into chocolate bar molds. If making bark, spread around to the edges of the mats, if chocolate bars, pour into middle and gently tap the mold until the chocolate spreads to the edges, then bang lightly on the counter to remove air bubbles.

4. Place in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours to let set, then when the edges are pulling away from the sides of the molds or waxed paper, you can take it out of the fridge and extract.  For the molds, flip upside down onto waxed paper. For the bark, break into pieces.

5. Let rest until the chocolate comes back to room temperature, then package however you like in sealed containers or bags.  Keeps for 6 months to 1 year.


After I made chocolate bars, I then made chocolate bark with
the new Cake Boss Imprint Mats to add a bit of fun
to the back-side of my chocolate bark.

Just after pouring the bark, let it set at room temperature for
just a few minutes (less than five), then cut various sizes of
rectangular pieces for a smoother, more professional edge.
Here is the final product with patterns made by the Cake Boss Imprint Mats.

Simple Tempering Method:
For a more accurate method, use a thermometer and follow the instructions here.

Step 1: Place your chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl.  Melt for 2 minutes on HALF POWER.  Remove and stir until melted or nearly melted. Place back in the microwave for another 15 seconds to bring the temperature up to 115 F (if you do not have a digital candy thermometer, it should be slightly hot to touch) and stir until everything is melted.

Step 2: Add the cocoa butter to the chocolate and stir until fully melted, then continue to stir and reduce the temperature to about 82-84 degrees by placing the bottom of your bowl over a bag of frozen peas, frozen fruit or ice.  Stir until the chocolate is the same temperature or cooler than the back of your baby finger when dipped into the chocolate.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What's up with all that Dominican Republic-Origin Chocolate? Who cares, I like it!

More and more of North America's craft chocolate makers are using cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic to make single origin tasting bars. And I'm not sure if it is the delicious La Red Hispaniola bean flavour that attracts chocolate makers to it, or if it is because the Dominican is more easily accessible to us here in North America.  But whatever the reason, I like it. I like it a lot.

The distinct fruity flavours are rarely overwhelming but always noticeable. The graphic posted in this Popular Science article made by Sean Seidell says Dominican Republic cacao only has tobacco, winey and grassy flavours. I'll give it 'winey' but the other two I am not so sure about.

Ambrosia, a Waterloo-based Canadian bean-to-bar chocolate maker, certainly makes one of the most robust bars of them all. With 75% cocoa solids, this bar gives you a quick and bitter bite of chocolate, with that tanginess that can be found when you've cooked down pure raspberries with a little lemon juice and very little sugar. In fact, it reminds me a little of a flourless dark chocolate raspberry cake that I make.

Ambrosia has changed and improved their packaging since I last tried their chocolate over a year ago. The bars used to be uniquely square. Aura Hertzog, co-owner of Ambrosia Pastry Company, said that the new thinner, rectangular shape makes it easier for their customers to break off pieces, and the packaging change has made the work of wrapping easier on their end. I certainly enjoyed the new shape, with more delicate pieces that melted away nicely as I ate it, allowing me to taste the flavours of the origin, without overwhelming my palate.

I always enjoyed the Hispaniola bar by Ottawa-based Hummingbird Chocolatemaker, and so I am beginning to believe that I just really like Dominican-origin bars.  There are so many other chocolate bars made from cacao beans from the Dominican Republic. You can find many of through my Canadian bean-to-bar craft chocolate list, or the American list.

Here are the package details from the chocolate that I wrote about today:

Ambrosia Bean to Bar Dominican Republic 75%, 80g
Chocolate maker: Ambrosia Pastry Company (Waterloo, ON)
www.ambrosiapastry.com
Batch #8003
Ingredients: Organic Cacao, Cane Sugar, Non GMO Soy Lecithin. May contain traces of dairy, soy or nuts. (Made from Trinitario cacao beans)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chapman's 'Slice Cream': the Chocolate Symphony Ice Cream...er Cake?

Is it cake, or is it ice cream...excuse me, 'slice cream'?

Chapman's Ice Cream has been advertising their new 'Slice Cream' ice cream cakes on Canadian television recently.  So I thought, being a lover of all things chocolate and ice cream, that I should try it.  And of course, I chose the most chocolaty of the three Chapman's products, called 'Chocolate Symphony', with layers of dark chocolate, white chocolate, and milk chocolate ice cream, all topped with little chewy brownie pieces.

I liked the very centre section - the 'dark' chocolate.  It did not really taste like dark chocolate, but just a rich chocolate ice cream.  The 'white chocolate' section really tasted strange to me. Although it did seem like something my children would have liked, it just did not taste like white chocolate. And the milk chocolate ice cream on the outer edges was just okay

I also liked the whipped chocolate cream on the top, and the brownie pieces.  So all-in-all, I ate around the white chocolate and just ate the more chocolaty stuff, which sort of left me wanting more with each slice. 

Truthfully, I was comparing it to a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, which made me wish for a chewy and crunchy layer of chocolate cookie pieces and some thick chocolate sauce, or at least something with a bit more richness. After experiencing that childhood favourite, it is hard to find anything else that compares.

So the question still remains: Is it an ice cream cake? Or is it just a slice of ice cream on a plate?

Maybe Chapman's will tell you! Visit their website to learn more: http://www.chapmans.ca/.

Friday, March 13, 2015

White Chocolate & Peanut Butter Truffle Easter Eggs - Recipe and 'How-To' for Using Simple Candy Molds


Buying exquisite gourmet chocolate Easter eggs are never easy on the budget, but don't fret this Easter because you can make your own beautiful chocolate eggs that look just like a Master Chocolatier's! And you know what?  All you need are four ingredients, and simple candy molds from Bulk Barn or any other candy or cake supply store.

It is definitely easier to use professional polycarbonate molds sold at chocolate supply stores like Vanilla Food Company or Chocolat-Chocolat, but at times we just don't have the budget to sink money into something we make just for family and friends once a year.  But for less than $5 at Bulk Barn, you can buy plastic egg molds and start experimenting at home. The trick to making your treats look professional is to be creative, and be sure to temper your chocolate.

Here is a recipe and instructions for making delicious truffle-filled Easter Eggs. It may look a little complicated at first, but use the pictures as your guide and once you learn the steps and try it a few times, making truffle-filled chocolate eggs will become easy!

See below for links to other truffle recipes for filling your chocolate eggs.

White Chocolate & Peanut Butter Truffle Easter Eggs (Recipe)
Makes 6 eggs of about 30 grams (1 ounce) each, or double the recipe for 12 eggs.
Time: 2 hours.

Tools you need:
  • Easter Egg chocolate mold (I have one from the Bulk Barn with 6 cavities for eggs - if you want to reduce time, buy two and double your recipe)
  • A double boiler (a pot with 1" of steaming - not boiling - water in the bottom on the stovetop.
  • Two dry stainless steel bowls for melting your chocolate in. Or two dry microwave safe bowls.
  • A bowl of ice water
  • Dry spatulas
  • A small or snack-sized Ziplock bag.
  • A small plastic or microwave-safe bowl for melting your dark chocolate.
  • 2 large pieces of waxed paper

Ingredients you need:
  • 340g (12 oz) white chocolate, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 55g (2 oz) Peanut butter (if using natural, be sure it is an extra smooth peanut butter with no grittiness)
  • 40g (1.4 oz) Coconut oil
  • 55g (2 oz) dark chocolate (semi-sweet or 70%, whatever you prefer) for the decoration

Make the chocolate egg shells

1. Melt and temper your dark chocolate in a very small microwave safe bowl. Here is the short version of tempering: Melt it for 2 minutes on half power, then stir until melted. Reduce your temperature by stirring over your bowl of ice water until it reaches 88 degrees Fahrenheit (or slightly cooler than the back of your clean and dry baby finger when dipped in).

2. Decorate the egg cavities in the mold. Pour the chocolate into the Ziplock bag. Cut a small hole off of the corner of the plastic bag.
Squeeze the chocolate out through the small hole and swirl your hand around over the chocolate mold to make whatever pattern of swirls or streaks that you like on your eggs. Do not overdo it, remember: Less is more! Set aside to let set.

3. Place two large pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap on the counter.

4. Temper 1/2 of the white chocolate. Place 6 ounces of white chocolate into a stainless steel or glass bowl. For detailed tempering instructions for white chocolate, click here. But otherwise, here are the steps: Remove 1/4 of the 6 ounces of white chocolate and set aside. Place the rest of your white chocolate in a stainless steel or glass bowl over a double boiler and stir constantly until melted and reaches 110 F. Then quickly reduce the temperature to 79 F by tossing in your reserved chocolate and stirring until smooth, then place the bottom of your chocolate bowl in the ice water for a few seconds, then remove and stir.  Keep doing this until your chocolate reaches a temperature of 79 degrees F (or if you do not have a thermometer, dip the back of your clean, dry baby finger into the chocolate and if it is slightly cooler than your finger temperature, it is ready to use). Be careful to not get a single drop of water into the chocolate!

5. Dry the bottom of the bowl of white chocolate.

6.  Pour your chocolate into the cavities of the egg mold and fill up each cavity completely or turn to fill up to the sides. Then flip the entire mold over and hold it parallel to the counter over one piece of  waxed paper, letting the white chocolate drip out onto the waxed paper. Tap the mold a few times, then flip it back over. Using a long straight clean ruler, offset decorating spatula or the back of a long, straight knife, scrape the chocolate off of the surface of the mold quickly and then flip upside down onto the second piece of waxed paper. Let set for 10 minutes, then flip back over and again use a straight edge to scrape any lingering white chocolate off of the flat surface of the mold, careful not to break the 'egg' shells in the cavities.

7. Set aside on the counter while you make your truffle filling.

For the White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Filling:

1. Prepare your coconut oil and peanut butter. Place your coconut oil and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Melt your coconut oil in the microwave until just melted (about 40 seconds). Then warm your peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds. Set aside.

2. Melt and temper 6 ounces (the remaining 1/2) of white chocolate. See above for tempering instructions.  

3. Combine and reduce temperature. Pour the coconut oil and peanut butter into the chocolate and stir with a spatula until combined.  Place over the bowl of ice and stir constantly, reducing the temperature to 2 degrees above room temperature (or until it just starts to thicken).

4. Pour into the chocolate egg shells. Immediately dry the bottom of the bowl and pour into your chocolate egg shells, careful not to get on the sides and to stay 1/8 inch below the edge of the shells.  Set aside.


Close the bottom of the eggs with white chocolate:

1. Seal in your egg and truffle centre with melted white chocolate. Melt the remaining white chocolate and temper it (as instructed in Step #4 of the 1st section (making the egg shells) above - melt to 110 F and reduce to 79 degrees F).  Once the chocolate reaches 79 degrees F, pour it onto your eggs and spread around to completely fill in the egg bottoms. Using an offset cake decorating spatula, a paint scraper, a long clean ruler, or the back of a long straight knife, scrap off the extra chocolate so the chocolate is only on the eggs in the cavities of the mold. Place the entire chocolate mold into the fridge for 2 hours to set and retract from the edges.

2. Remove finished eggs from the mold. Once set, take your chocolate eggs out of the fridge and place a cookie sheet over the top.  Then flip the cookie sheet and the mold over. Remove the mold from your eggs, tapping gently to get them to release. Wrap or serve however you like, but be careful not to get any finger prints on your shiny eggs - a lifter helps when transferring your eggs.

Feel free to e-mail me at info@ultimatelychocolate.com if you have any questions.

Don't forget to visit my Recipes page for Truffles Recipes - you can use any of them to fill your eggs (use the Red Wine Truffles recipe for a fun adult chocolate egg filling!)