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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quadratini Chocolat: Italian Wafer Cookies so Delicious & Chocolaty....

....you might just eat the whole box!
 
Luckily these wafer cookies come in two sealed packages, so you can only eat half of the box in one sitting.  Unless you are very determined, of course.

I found the Dark Chocolate Quadratini Chocolat cookies at an Ontario-based Independent Grocer in the cookie aisle. They stood out to me because, for starters, they were clearly an imported Italian product, so I knew it would be flavourful and focus on quality ingredients.  Secondly, they came in Dark Chocolate, which is rare for a wafer cookie sold commercially at a grocery store. So naturally, these cookies found their way into my shopping cart.

What I like about European products, like this one, is that they fully disclose the amount of chocolate and cream, and not just the percentage of cocoa solids within the chocolate.  So these wafer cookies, for instance, have 33% plain chocolate in the cookie itself.  And that chocolate has 60% cocoa solids with precisely 4% milk solids within that. There are more percentages listed in the ingredients, but I think you get the picture.

The box promotes its product by printing "with natural ingredients" on the front of the package, which is another reason why I bought it (I try to stick to the natural stuff, always). And overall, their claim is accurate: the product's ingredient list contains no modified starch, no food colouring and no hydrogenated oil; I really only have issue with the glucose syrup. But for the occasional indulgence, these cookies are not so bad. What's more, they also come in bars (so you don't have to worry about eating half the box in one sitting)!

This product is made by Loacker (www.loacker.it), a quality-focused Italian-based manufacturer located very close to the Austrian border. You can find the specific product information here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unnecessary additives in products that we use all the time for chocolates, truffles & confections:

I was recently shocked when I read the label on my usual brand of unsalted butter and learned that artificial colour had been added to it. I read the label several years ago and it only had one ingredient: cream. I am not sure when the change happened, but it got me thinking about all the products that drive me crazy - like how most yogurt has unnecessary additives and I have to search through all the brands on the shelf at the grocery store until I find the only one that has all natural ingredients. So I wrote to Kitchen Daily Canada and told them that we needed to share this information. And now you can read our article here

Chocolate can be a real problem - for instance, chocolate bars that claim to have a "mousse" centre usually have all sorts of hydrogenated oils in them.  And major brands, like Lindt and Godiva, often will offer some of their dark chocolate bars with natural vanilla, but others in the same product line have artificial vanilla ("vanillin") added to it. So we really need to be diligent about reading labels, if we want to keep the unnatural stuff out of our diets.

If you are looking for chocolate with natural ingredients, seek out organic chocolate, or the bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers on my lists, like the American craft chocolate list or my Canadian list. My 'soy-free' chocolate list also is a good resource for chocolate producers worldwide who care about using natural ingredients. But if you don't want to buy it, you can always make chocolate from scratch at home with this recipe.

So what are some other products that we use regularly in chocolate making and baking to watch out for? Sour cream, canned coconut milk, and one other product that we use ALL THE TIME are real culprits. Find out what that other product is on Kitchen Daily Canada.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chuao Chocolatier's Honeycomb Bar: Great Crunch, Rich Flavour


Hey dark chocolate lovers, have you tried Chuao's Honeycomb chocolate bar yet? With crunchy, honeycomb-like pieces and rich dark chocolate, it is definitely a tasty treat. What I liked best was that it was not too sweet. I prefer my chocolate bitter, and I was worried that this chocolate bar, with 60% cocoa solids, would taste a little too sweet, but instead it was rich and the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. Another bonus is that it is all natural - a food philosophy that I live by. I wish I had another one!

I found this chocolate bar at an Ontario Chapters-Indigo in the chocolate and gift section for $6.75. You can also find all sorts of other flavours by Chuao at Chapters.

Here are the package details from Chuao's Honeycomb chocolate bar:

Chuao Chocolatier Honeycomb, 80g (2.8oz)
San Diego, CA
www.chuaochocolatier.com
Ingredients: Premium dark chocolate (60% cacao, sugar, cacao butter, soy lecithin [as an emulsifier], natural vanilla), caramelized honey (sugar, corn syrup, honey, water, baking soda). Contains: soy. Manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts, wheat, and milk in other products.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake - A Heavenly Chatelaine Recipe Worth Trying

(see below for a visual guide to making this cake)

I regularly create my own recipes, but since all good recipes must start somewhere, I often try other recipes to see how they turn out and how I can change them up to make them extra-chocolaty.



Last week I finally tried out a recipe that I have been wanting to try for a very long time: Chatelaine Magazine's Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. The recipe was in an issue of the magazine several years ago, which I still have, and it can also be found in a special 2013 magazine edition called Cakes, Cupcakes & Chocolate, which I also purchased. But you can find the recipe online here.

Part of the reason why I wanted to make this recipe was because most of the cheesecakes that I make (and I make a LOT of cheesecakes for my business, Ultimately Chocolate) require only 2 or 3 packages of cream cheese.  The Chatelaine recipe calls for four packages of cream cheese.  So of course, I assumed this cake would be much more delectable than mine. And that assumption was correct! This cake is delicious and it tastes like a thick, rich and creamy chocolate mousse sandwiched between a buttery cookie crust and smooth chocolate ganache.

I topped my cake with a water-based ganache, although I wish that I had followed Chatelaine's lead and used cream for a richer flavour.  However, I decided to make it extra chocolaty by sprinkling organic milk chocolate chips on top before pouring on the ganache.  This gave it a rich and crunchy texture on top, which was a nice balance to the super-smooth centre of the cake.

I was concerned that the crust would be too mushy, since the recipe called for chilling it instead of cooking it. But the crust turned out fine and actually made it easier to slice. It was also super tasty.

Recipe Challenges and Required Modifications:

My only concern with the recipe is the cooking time.  If you decide to make it, be aware that your cake will not be cooked in the middle and it will be difficult to slice. 

A friend of mine made the same cake years ago, and hers was undercooked in the middle. Knowing this, I extended the cooking time by 10 minutes and it was still undercooked!  So my recommendation is to bake the cake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in a convection oven that automatically converts the cooking time to 25 degrees F lower. If you have a regular oven that does not convert the cooking time or are baking the cake in a 10" pan (I used a 9" as was one of the choices in the recipe), cook the cake for no less than 60 minutes and check that it is not too jiggly in the middle when you take it out.

The only other little concern that I will mention about this recipe is regarding the number of servings stated in the 2013 Special Edition magazine. It says that the cake serves 8, but I can easily slice 12 large pieces. Simply cut the cake in half, then in half again so you have four quarters.  Then cut each quarter piece of cake into three even slices. This will also cut the number of calories down to 388 per slice and 28 grams of fat (instead of the whopping 42 grams of fat for a cake with 8 servings).

On the website version of the recipe, it says it serves 16, and for that you would need to bake it in a 10" pan (cutting each quarter section, as mentioned above, into four pieces). A 9" cheesecake is only ideal for 12 servings.

How else can you serve this cake?

I enjoyed this cheesecake in two other ways:
  1. I used some of the extra cake batter (there was extra because not all the batter fit into a 9" pan) to fill a 3" mini toasted coconut pie crust that I had made from leftover ingredients of a Cherry-Chocolate PIECAKEN.  I poured the batter into the pie and baked it for 20 minutes and voila! a beautiful single-serving, gluten-free cheesecake was born.
  2. Since the cake was slightly undercooked and therefore difficult to slice without crushing it, I decided to freeze it and slice it once frozen.  It turns out that the slightly undercooked version tastes amazing frozen!  It's like a really rich ice cream cake and the perfect dessert for a hot summer day.

Here is a visual guide to making this cake through a sequence of photographs:

Using a KitchenAid mixer, I beat the four packages of softened cream cheese until soft, then added sugar, eggs and sour cream. It is important to run the spatula around on the bottom of the batter every 30 seconds or so while making the batter, to ensure it is smooth and mixed.  Otherwise you will have lumps in your cheesecake.
Real vanilla was added to the cheesecake batter. It may change the colour slightly, but it is worth it. 
Most people can taste artificial flavouring.

Once mixed, pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
The pan is wrapped in foil to prevent water from the water bath seeping in.
The water bath should reach at least 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan. 


After cooking for 1 hour and 10 minutes, the cheesecake is baked!
I decided to make my cheesecake extra chocolaty and to appeal to those milk-chocolate lovers by adding Cacao Barry's organic milk chocolate chips/drops to the top before adding the chocolate ganache. 
It also adds a wow factor to the overall textural experience of the cake.

I topped the cake with a water-based ganache to reduce a few calories, but wish I had used Chatelaine's cream-based ganache recipe. Adding 1 tbsp. of honey or corn syrup in the ganache makes it shiny and beautiful. A second batch of the same mix can also be used to make rosebuds on the cake. The ganache must sit for 6 to 8 hours to set and be used at room temperature to be used in a piping bag.
Be sure to slice the cake with a hot knife!  Run it under hot water and wipe it with a paper towel before making each cut.
 
Serve chilled! You can easily freeze this cake in an airtight container. Simply allow each slice to come back to room temperature for about an hour before eating it (more time if the cake is not sliced).  Or try eating it frozen! Yummy!
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two Great Chocolate Recipe Books for Only $5!

Are you looking for some great chocolate books to get you started on your chocolate & pastry creation journey? I just found two great books on sale (only $5 CAD each, savings of about $35 each) at Chapters-Indigo this week:

  • Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a Heart by Linda Collister (sponsored by the Divine brand of chocolate bars)
  • La Maison du Chocolat "Timeless Classics with a Twist" by Gilles Marchal and photography by Veronique Durruty

The recipe creator and writer of the Divine book, Linda Collister, is both Cordon Bleu-trained and La Varenne-trained and is considered a baking and chocolate expert. All the royalties from the sale of the book benefit farmers of Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana, which is an added bonus of purchasing the book.

I am most excited to try Ms. Collister's version of the Flourless French Torte (p.126), which differs from my usual recipe. And I cannot wait to dig into the cheesecake and mousse sections of the book. What's more, there is a Pain au Chocolat recipe that differs from my own on page 62, which is definitely worth a try.

La Maison du Chocolat is a gourmet chocolate maker that was founded in 1977 (the year I was born, so I guess I am meant to study this book) and now sells award winning confections in sixteen shops in Paris, London, Cannes, Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong.  The creative director who is both a chocolatier and a pastry chef provides the recipes that made the business famous and also includes new recipes.  There are also great instructions for working with chocolate.

Most interestingly, La Maison du Chocolat book is all about the pictures, which are stunning and artistic. I am super excited to try the Salvador Ganache and so many other recipes in this book!

Here is all the info you need to get your hands on these books:

Chapters Indigo website:
www.chapters.indigo.ca

Divine:
www.divinechocolate.com
www.absolutepress.co.uk

La Maison du Chocolat publisher:
www.abramsbooks.com

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Green & Black's Burnt Toffee and Hazelnut & Current, 2 Boldly Flavoured Dark Chocolate Bars

Earlier this week, I purchased two of Green & Black's dark chocolate bar flavours for the first time: Burnt Toffee and Hazelnut & Currant.

The Hazelnut & Currant chocolate bar has chopped hazelnuts and dried currants in a 60% dark chocolate.  I was surprised by how good it was. I do not normally like fruit pieces in chocolate, but I truly enjoyed this chocolate bar. The currents are very small and soft - not too big and too chewy like in some other chocolate bars.  And the hazelnuts are in small pieces - not whole, so the chocolate itself can be savoured and enjoyed.  Overall, it has a wonderful tangy flavour and nothing about it tastes artificial. 

The Burnt Toffee is AMAZING. The Yorkshire toffee pieces do have a burnt taste, but in a very good way.  Really it is just a hint of burnt flavour, like when just the bottom of the caramel pot starts to burn a little. In fact, it tastes a lot like the buttery brown sugar that cooks to a crisp at the edges of the Cinnamon Twists that I make for the local cafĂ© (which is, of course, the best part!). Overall, Green & Blacks perfectly paired their 60% dark chocolate with the burnt toffee, for a very delicious combination.

The most interesting part of both chocolate bars is that although each is closer to a semi-sweet dark chocolate, with 60% cocoa solids, they have a richer, darker taste. I often find 60% too sweet for me, and yet I found these to be just the right bitterness.

I highly recommend both of these chocolate bars. My favourite was the Burnt Toffee, but both were exceedingly good.

I purchased the bars for $5.99 each at The Sweet Shop in Tobermory, Ontario, a very cute little tourist town and the launching pad for the ferry to beautiful Manitoulin Island!

Here are the package details from the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Burnt Toffee, 60% Cocoa, 100g
Green & Black's Organic (U.K.)
http://www.greenandblacks.co.uk/
Ingredients: Organic Cocoa Mass+, Organic Raw Cane Sugar+ Organic Butterscotch (15%) (Organic cane sugar+, organic glucose syrup, organic butter, organic palm fat, organic molasses+, natural flavouring), organic cocoa butter+, Emulsifier (soy lecithin), organic vanilla extract+. Organic Dark Chocolate: Minimum 60% Cocoa Solids. Contains Milk and Soya. May contain nuts and cereals.
+Fair Trade Ingredients.


Hazelnut & Currant, 100g
Green & Black's Organic (U.K.)
http://www.greenandblacks.co.uk/
Ingredients: Organic Dark Chocolate (Organic Cocoa Liquor, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Organic Chopped Hazelnuts, Organic Dried Currants (with Organic Sunflower Oil). Contains: Soy, Hazelnut. May contain milk, other tree nuts. Organic Dark Chocolate: 60% Cocoa Solids.  Cocoa, cane sugar, vanilla: traded in compliance with Fairtrade standards.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Celebrate the 1st Real Weekend of Summer with this Chocolate Beer!

It is always fun to find something chocolaty at the liquor store, and what I found recently was a beer which claimed to have 'double chocolate' in it: Young's Double Chocolate Stout.  Truthfully, I thought it would be disgusting.  But I actually loved it.  It was the perfect drink for a scorching summer day on the patio, and it paired amazingly well with my chocolate-dipped bacon recipe.

The reason why I thought it would be gross was because I thought it would be too chocolaty and that it would perhaps have artificial chocolate flavouring, like many chocolate-flavoured beverages do. And as we know, chocolate and beer do not always mix (they can, but the pairing needs to be dead-on to be enjoyable). But in fact, this beer was very light on chocolate taste (which was real, bye the way), and instead was just a refreshing, great-flavoured stout. 

The BeerAdvocate gave it an "outstanding" score, but listed it as a milk/sweet stout.  I do not know much about beer, but seemed like a semi-dark ale to me! The LCBO's (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) website describes it as "Full & Malty" and the beer maker's website, Well's and Young's Brewing Company, describes it as a "rich, full-flavoured dark beer." But no matter how it is described, it is still great tasting and fantastically refreshing.

So if you are thinking that you want to mix chocolate and beer for this upcoming summer kick-off celebration weekend (Canada Day is on Tuesday - so isn't everyone taking Monday off? Which means this is a long weekend!), check out Well's and Young's website for more information on Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

I bought this at an LCBO in Toronto, Canada a few weeks back for only $3.50 per bottle.  You can learn more about the supply at the LCBO here.