Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars


Today I taught a three-year old how to temper chocolate.  I am sure that he does not remember a single step, but he does remember licking the chocolate off the spoon when we were finished and eating (too many) pieces of this delicious chocolate bar.

I could call this a 'square' but there is far too much chocolate in it for that name.  There are only four ingredients, it is not baked, it keeps for a long time, and it requires melted and tempered chocolate. And the best part? You can eat it within a half hour from the time you start making it. 

So let's get to it! Here is the recipe...


Recipe: Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (Gluten-Free)



You need:
  • 227 grams (8 ounces) of chopped milk chocolate (I used organic and Fair Trade, but you can use any)
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces or a little over a half cup) of smooth peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter with no salt or other additives)
  • 2 cups of Rice Krispies (I used the Brown Rice, gluten-free kind)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ice in a large bowl
Instructions:

1. Prepare your ingredients and tools: Set out your Rice Krispies in your 2-cup measuring cup, and pour your peanut butter into a microwavable bowl. Chop your chocolate and place in a stainless steel or glass bowl (use only glass or plastic if using the microwave, not a double boiler). Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. Melt and temper your chocolate. Place your bowl of chocolate over a double boiler (1 inch of steaming water in a pot) and stir the chocolate until just melted. Heat slightly more until it reaches 115 degrees F. Then quickly reduce the temperature by placing it over a bowl of ice or ice water until it reaches about 84 degrees.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET EVEN A SINGLE DROP OF WATER IN THE CHOCOLATE. Use a paper towel to wipe the bottom of the bowl and your hands if necessary. Set aside on the counter. (For more thorough tempering instructions, click here).

If you prefer not to temper the chocolate over a double boiler or if you do not have a digital thermometer for candy/chocolate, you can microwave it on half power for 2 minutes and stir until smooth, but do not overheat.  If it won't melt completely, microwave for just 5 second intervals and stir just until smooth. Dip your baby finger in it.  If it feels like the same temperature as your baby finger, it is okay to use.  If it is warmer than your finger, stir it until smooth with the bowl resting on a bag of frozen peas, and ice pack or frozen fruit until it feels cool (careful not to let it harden though!).


3. Warm your peanut butter and add it to the chocolate. Pour your peanut butter into a heatproof bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds, just until it reaches 97 degrees F. Pour it into the tempered chocolate and stir.  Place the bowl over the ice bath and stir until the mixture cools, reaching just above room temperature (about 75-80 degrees F, but if it starts to harden move the next step immediately!).

4. Add the Rice Krispies and stir. Pour the Rice Krispies into the chocolate mixture and stir quickly.


5. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and then let it set in the refrigerator for 10 minutes until hard.

6. Remove from the refrigerator and cut into bars (about 30 grams or 1 ounces each). Place in an airtight container or cover each bar with plastic wrap and toss into your lunch bag for an afternoon pick-me-up!


Valentine's Day Tips:
  • You can also wrap these individually in treat bags (I purchased some at Bulk Barn and Michael's retailers) and tie them with red or pink ribbon for Valentine's Day Treats! Be sure to add a label to indicate that there are nuts in these bars, if you are sending them to people you don't know.
  • Instead of cutting this chocolate into bars, use heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut out hearts for Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Win a Chocolate Gift Basket for Valentine's Day! (Open to Canadian Residents Only)

Hello Canadian readers! 

I am giving away two chocolate gift baskets worth $35 to two lucky Canadian winners! In the basket, you can taste every packaged product made by Ultimately Chocolate (yup, that's my chocolate company), which includes:

  • 1 box of 4 chocolate TOFFLEs, 'Original'* flavour - a dark chocolate toffee wrapped around a fresh cream & milk chocolate truffle centre.
  • 3 flavoured chocolate TOFFLEs*, individually packaged - a dark chocolate toffee wrapped around a melt-a-way truffle centre in three flavours: Hazelnut, Mint and Peanut Butter.
  • 3 CacaoCookies* in each of our signature flavours: Original 71% dark, Milk Chocolate and Espresso
  • A gift box of The Ultimate Chocolate Toffee*, includes 8 soft melt-in-your-mouth toffees, 4 Salted Dark Chocolate and 4 Milk Chocolate toffees

*All of Ultimately Chocolate's products are made only with high quality Fair Trade and Organic chocolate, and all-natural ingredients.

How to Enter:
One Canadian Twitter follower and one Canadian Facebook follower will win. 

Twitter Contest:
To be entered in the Twitter contest, you simply need to follow @Ultimatelychoc. For an extra chance to win (i.e. your name will be added to the draw twice), Retweet (RT) our contest announcement tweet. Or simply Tweet about this contest page in your own words and include: the link to this page, the hashtag: #ultimatelychocolate and the Twitter handle: @ultimatelychoc.

Facebook Contest:
To enter the Facebook contest, you need to follow The Ultimate Chocolate Blog on Facebook by clicking 'Like' on the main page (not on the contest announcement alone). However, if you click 'share' on the contest announcement, you can earn a second entry into the contest.

Already a Follower?
For those Canadians who are already following on Facebook and Twitter, you will be entered automatically.  But you can earn a second entry by Retweeting or Sharing the contest as outlined above.

Follow on both Facebook and Twitter and earn the chance to double or even quadruple your entries by tweeting, sharing, liking and following!

Contest Start and End Dates:
The contest closes on Friday, February 6th. I will announce the winner in the afternoon of the 6th publicly, and then will send you a direct message to get your address. The two gift baskets will be mailed out to the winners on Monday, February 9, 2015, just in time for Valentine's Day!

My goal for this contest is to share my products with people who love to try new chocolates and experience something unique.  Are you one of those people?  And Canadian? Enter NOW!

Open to Canadian residents only.

If you have any questions about this contest, please ask in the Comments section below or e-mail info@ultimatelychocolate.com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Give your Valentine a gift of elegance, luxury AND the key to your heart

What is the BEST way to impress your sweetheart with chocolate? zChocolat. And what chocolate box should you give from one of France's luxury chocolate makers? The Romantic Ruby box of chocolates, which includes 27 fine filled chocolates in an elegant mahogany box, personally engraved with your sweetheart's name. It also comes with a personalized note, and in a gorgeous cloth bag with a mahogany key attached.

Sure it will set you back $157.25 Canadian, but this is a case of: spend a lot, receive luxury. The zChocolat experience is all about extravagance, elegance, quality and taste. The recipes were created by World Champion Chocolatier, Pascal Caffet, and it is clear that this flavour selection was the inspiration of a true master chocolatier.


When you open the box, the top layer includes 12 beautiful heart-shaped chocolates enrobed in dark, milk, white and red couvertures. The Amore, a red ruby heart-shaped confection, certainly has the most interesting flavour, with just a hint of bergamot left on your tongue after the dark ganache and white chocolate shell have melted away.

The second layer has 15 gorgeous filled chocolates, all numbered according to Pascal Caffet's recipes. An adorable picture book is included, which devotes one page to each chocolate flavour. zChocolat is always careful to tell you the origin of each chocolate used to make their confections (i.e. Venezuelan dark chocolate), and the origin of each ingredient (i.e. Valencia peanuts, slow-roasted Piedmont hazelnuts, etc.) and so the consumer is acutely aware of the quality of their purchase.

The chocolate is also delicious. But keep in mind that each chocolate has a unique set of ingredients, so every chocolate in the box may not be to your taste, but it will be to someone else's. For instance, the North American palette is not accustomed to lavender as an ingredient in sweets, and I certainly do not like it, but someone in Europe may find chocolate flavoured with lavender to be delicious. But you will surely find a good number of chocolates in the box to love.

Refills can be purchased of zChocolat's signature chocolate, the "Z", so if you prefer to stick to your favourite flavour, you can. The "Z" is layered with two divine fillings, which provides a taste experience like no other. A sweet, soft, salty caramel layered under a crunchy hazelnut praline and covered in one of three couvertures (white, milk or dark), truly is a favourite of mine. The "Z" will always stand out as one of my most beloved taste experiences.

The Romantic Ruby box is certainly an indulgence. But if you want to take a further step and cross into extravagance, you can take a look at zChocolat's other products, such as the Ambrosia chocolate collection, which includes 165 pieces of chocolate and a gorgeous box that can be used for your favourite jewelry or other keepsakes. The cost is $526.77 Canadian.

Will you give your Valentine the key to your heart through chocolate? If so, find further information about zChocolat on their website: www.zchocolat.com. Worldwide delivery is available and encouraged. So do it now because Valentine's Day is only 3.5 weeks away!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

30 Days of Artisan Chocolate and 100 Artisans Featured

FoodFynder is a place for foodies to share and learn about "unique, interesting and wholesome foods" made by artisans and independent producers. And all this month, they are focusing on publishing information on 100 chocolate artisans! 

They already have many U.S. artisan chocolate makers listed, including bean-to-bar brands like Virginia-based Frolic Chocolate and truly high-end confections such as New York's Jacques Torres, and there are more to come.

If you are planning on finding some beautiful chocolate for Valentine's Day, FoodFynder may be just the website to guide you in the right direction. Here is the link: http://foodfynder.com/.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crunchy and Caffeinated: Hawaiian Chocolate 'Breakfast Bar' by Manoa

Manoa Chocolate certainly delivers a whole bean experience with its Hawaiian Coffee Beans 60% Dark Milk 'Breakfast Bar'.  With the back side of the bar absolutely jam-packed with large pieces of cocoa nibs and coffee beans, this crunchy bar earns its 'Breakfast Bar' name with a double punch of caffeine.

It tastes like a sweet dark chocolate, with only a slight milk taste. It does not have any of the strong tropical flavours that I associate with Hawaiian cocoa beans - in fact, the chocolate taste is quite neutral. Overall, this was a good chocolate-tasting experience.

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that grows cacao. Manoa uses locally-grown Hawaiian cacao to make the Breakfast Bar and locally roasted coffee, so you will get a true Hawaiian experience! I paid $9.99 for this chocolate bar, plus shipping (to Northern Ontario, Canada), from La Tablette de Miss Choco in Montreal.

If you are headed on vacation to Hawaii for a warm-weather getaway this winter, check out a Hawaiian Chocolate Factory Tour, it costs $14 and includes chocolate tasting and tea service.

Manoa makes a full range of chocolate bars, including bars made from cacao of other origins, and a dark-milk bar with lavender and one with goat milk, among other interesting combinations. Check out the full product range here: http://manoachocolate.com/products-page/.

Here are the package details from the chocolate reviewed today:

Manoa Chocolate 'Breakfast Bar', Hawaiian Coffee Beans 60% Dark Milk, 2 oz (56.7g)
Manufactured by Grass Shack Industries LLC (Kailua, Hawaii)
www.manoachocolate.com
Ingredients: Cocoa nibs, cane sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter & coffee beans. This product is made in a facility that processes milk powder and tree nuts.

For more information on other Hawaiian bean-to-bar chocolate, read this article or check the U.S. bean-to-bar chocolate list: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/03/bean-to-bar-craft-chocolate-makers-in.html.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Cake - Recipe Change-Up!


I make a lot of flourless chocolate cake. And I do mean a LOT. First, there is my signature Flourless Raspberry Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake that I make as part of the dessert menu for a local restaurant, and then there is my Hazelnut Truffle Cake, the Flourless Dark Chocolate Maple Cake, and even a Flourless White Chocolate Cake, and so many more. But there is one step that I have never taken while baking any of these cakes. And yet it appears in all of the other online recipes.

So what is this supposedly crucial step that I am skipping?  Separating the egg whites That's right, I do not separate the yolks from the whites, and I do not fold stiff egg whites in to my batter just before putting it in the oven.

It's not that I have any good reason for not separating and whipping the egg whites, it's just that I never thought to do it.  The first few recipes that I followed years and years ago did not call for it, and I have excluded it from every recipe that I have created since then.

So this week I decided to follow one of those 'other' recipes.  I found a 'Flourless Chocolate Cake' recipe by searching on Google (for the recipe, click here). Not only did it include the step of separating egg whites, it also included almond meal (ground almonds) and a tablespoon of rum or brandy, which was new for me. So I gave it a try.

The recipe baked beautifully - in fact I recommend trying it. It did not suggest the percentage of dark chocolate to be used, so I used a cup (about 8 oz) of 71% dark chocolate chips (Camino's Organic and Fair Trade brand, but you can use any kind). It would probably be fine with a dark chocolate closer to 50%, like Lindt's long 300 gram bar that you can buy at the grocery store, but the overall cake would be sweeter.  I also used a 9" springform cake pan - the closest conversion to the <24cm pan listed in the recipe.  For the rest of the conversions, simply type them into Google and you should get a good match. And see below for a visual guide on how to make this recipe.

And how did it taste?  The cake definitely had a hint of espresso flavour, and just a little hint of alcohol (but barely). The ground almonds are not finely ground, so there were tiny pieces that were noticeable in the cake. It was delicious, but definitely not the fudgy experience that I am used to.

I had added a Raspberry Chocolate Ganache to the top (find my recipe here).  I considered pouring quite a thick layer onto the middle of the cake and letting it drip down the sides, which would have been tasty. But I wanted to highlight the flavour of the cake, instead of the ganache, so I just put some in a pastry bag, cut a tiny piece off the corner and made little swirls all over the cake. This added just a hint of raspberry flavour and a bit more chocolaty goodness to the cake.


So what was the difference?  By not separating the eggs, and then folding in stiff egg whites, my 'usual' flourless chocolate cakes are more like large slices of fudge or truffle on a plate. By adding the fluffy whites, the cake becomes spongier, more closely resembling a regular chocolate cake (although there is still a little 'fudgy-ness' to it).

Here is the link to the printable version of the recipe that I used: http://www.food.com/recipeprint.do?rid=162642

Check my 'Recipes' page for more flourless chocolate cake recipes to try. They are all delicious!


Visual Guide to Making Flourless Chocolate Cake
(get the recipe and ingredients list here):

The first step is to melt the butter and chocolate together over a double boiler
(a stainless steel or glass bowl resting over a pot with 1`of barely simmering water in it)

While the butter and chocolate are melting, separate your egg whites from the yolks
and whip, with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form.

Add the other ingredients to your chocolate and butter mixture,
including almond meal, espresso, 1 tbsp. of rum and cane sugar.


This is almond meal.  You can buy it at health food stores or bulk stores. 
I bought mine at Bulk Barn in Canada.



The final step is to fold in the whipped egg whites.  Do this carefully.


This is the final batter just before it went into the oven.

This is the baked cake, when I took it out of the oven after 45 minutes of baking.

Once it cools a little, run a knife around the sides of the pan and remove them.
Let cool a little longer before transferring it to another plate!
To keep the crispy side up, place a plate (not your serving plate) on top of the cake,
flip it over and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake,
then place your serving plate on the bottom and flip it back over so the cake is again right-side-up.



This is the final product, decorated with my Raspberry Chocolate Ganache recipe
and some roasted almonds!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recipe: Seedless Raspberry Chocolate Ganache

This dark chocolate ganache is bursting with raspberry flavour and can be enjoyed two ways:
  1. Pour it on a cake as a topping to replace a sugary icing.
  2. Make balls or squares of ganache and roll it in cocoa powder for a blast of chocolate truffle bursting with raspberry flavour. Or, if you have the skills, you can dip it in tempered chocolate and make your own chocolate truffles.
Recipe: Seedless Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache

You need:
  • 1/2 cup of raspberry jam (seedless is great, but if you just have the regular, you can sift out the seeds [see below])
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet dark chocolate (I used Camino 56% Organic and Fair Trade couverture, but you can use a Lindt 300g semi-sweet dark chocolate bar, or dark chocolate Callebaut chips or another brand from a bulk food store, or even the large Belgian dark chocolate baking bar from Walmart)

Instructions:
  1. Chop your chocolate into 1" cubes and place in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. If your raspberry jam has seeds in it, warm it in the microwave for 45 seconds. Then pour it through a sifter over the bowl of chocolate. Stir the jam in the sifter and press it down with spoon to squeeze as much jam through as possible.  Discard the seeds.
  3. Stir the mixture a few times and then place in the microwave for 1 minute on half power, and then stir until smooth.  Alternately place over a double boiler and melt, stirring constantly until smooth. Then immediately do one of the following...
To ice a chocolate cake:
  1. Immediately pour the mixture over the cake and spread it to the edges.  Let it drip down the sides a bit, if you wish.  Chill the cake until it sets (thickens).
To make raspberry truffles:
  1. If you are making truffles, prepare a small 8" loaf pan or  small 5" square plastic container by lining it with plastic wrap to cover the bottom and up the sides about 1". Pour the warm mixture into the pan, then immediately cover with plastic wrap.  Let set on counter overnight, or in the fridge for 4 hours.
  2. Remove the truffle mix from the refrigerator and take the top plastic wrap off.  By holding the edges of the lower plastic wrap, lift it out of your loaf container and place on the counter. Using a sharp knife, cut 3/4" squares of the mixture. Separate and roll these in a small dish of cocoa powder or dip in tempered chocolate (for tempering instructions, click here).
  3. To serve, place each truffle in a mini cupcake paper and cover with plastic wrap until ready to eat. Or layer on waxed paper and freeze to eat at a later date.
Tips:
  • If you roll your truffles in cocoa powder, be sure to seal them in an airtight container right away or a crisp outer edge will develop. 

  • If you are dipping the ganache in chocolate, be sure these are fairly cool, or they will be difficult to pick up with your dipping fork.  But with all ganaches that have been cooled in the refrigerator, you will have to be conscious of cracking (in other words, you may have to double dip these!).

  • If you have a silicone ganache mould or silicone ice cube tray, pour your warm ganache into each mould and then freeze - you can then use a spatula or knife to help pop these out onto some waxed paper. That's how I did it - see the picture on the right for an example!

  • I put this ganache on a delicious flourless chocolate cake (see the picture below). Check out where I got the cake recipe from in the next blog post.