VDay. Ruining Good Chocolate Via Stress for at Least 147 Years

dead cupidSTRESS! But a few days left until #VDay2015! What to do, to do, to do, etc. The whole 24 hours are supposed to be about “love” … and not (in polite society anyway) the kind between mother and child. The love we’re talking about is fed by CHOCOLATE!

The tradition is a fairly long one. Richard Cadbury began to mass produce the “chocolate box” 147 years ago. The first one featured a picture of daughter Cadbury’s daughter cuddling a kitten and the success led to first Valentine Day candy box — for what it is worth, VDay and Candy begins 496 CE when Pope Gelasius I claims 14 February for St. Valentine and then meanders its way through history. Paradoxically, Cadbury’s time was Victorian, so in keeping with the age the giving of purpley-wrapped candy was a way both to suggest and sublimate sexual urges.

If perchance you want to suggest or sublimate in other, more modern ways and honor old St. Val on or before Saturday, there is always Nutella make-uping;

creating animal chocolates;

mixing your wines and chocolates; or booking a chocolate vacation or cacao-themed cruise.

Of course, you could just go it alone … and without even thinking about chocolate

But not thinking about chocolate can never be recommended. It’s probably better to give in, to not even try and face down this fiesta de amor. Better to live and love another day. Succumb to the pressures of what has become — thanks in no small part to that Victorian capitalist Cadbury — a “manufactured lovefest” no matter the cost in terms of taste.


#chocolate #valentines day #travel #humor #history

The Outside Is Chocolate; the Inside …?

chocolate shreds balls sticksWhat goes into chocolate? Looking around we’ve recently seen inspiration … and, fortunately not as often, sometimes sadness.

Starting at the happy end of the scale, reading about the glories of Yerba mate led us to a couple yerbamateplanet.com bros chilling in a seemingly slightly dystopic bachelor pad and talking cocoa nib/shredded coconut yerba mate brew

And that got us thinking about and then moving down the path of nutritious, if unexpected, pairings. Recent news highlighted the new Exo protein-saturated, ground-cricket chocolate bar (with tweeted updates from @exo_protein) and the entrepreneurial, Kickstarted “dream” to mainstream insect consumption. [See also, the earlier Q&A with “Bug Chef” David George Gordon.

Following that trail dropped us on top of other news items and recipes, including chocolate beet ice cream, Jack Daniels whisky-filled chocolate bars and celeb chef Marcus Samuelson’s (more from @MarcusCooks) concoction of chocolate bark with quinoa and a dash of cayenne.

Toward the less-happy edge of the scale there is the virus causing frost pod rot that, theoretically, threatens the world’s chocolate supply at some point in the future if not dealt with, and in a bit of how evil can overshadow ecstasy, smugglers encased elephants tusks inside chocolate to sneak them past the law.

But to take the mind back to a happier place and the goodness that should be inherent and infused in chocolate, we also stumbled across chocolate-slathered jerky from Portland’s Shurky Jurky:

Anyway, time to stop thinking about what’s inside the chocolate, start baking and get back to the fun of nibbling at the outside.

Easter Chocolate Hot Cross Buns Making More Sense Than Chocobunnies

bunny cartoon2We love the celebration and tradition, but know we do so out of ignorance. No matter how much we try to make sense of it all, there isn’t much that correctly adds up with the sum of making baskets for rabbit (Really? Rabbits laying tie-dyed…) eggs as part of a celebration of the resurrection and eternality of the son of God — all of which is part of the traditional and most reverent Easter.

But maybe it’s just all the chocolate, much of which will never be eaten, that’s so distracting?

For instance, there’s this chocolate Easter egg being constructed by 30 Argentinian kids, the majority with Down Syndrome. Their hard at work in 68 degree temperatures hand-making a projected 19,685-foot-tall, 9,920 pound, record-setting chocolate egg in a warehouse in Miramar.

Then there are the 20 sculptures — a pig to a wave rider — Brazilian master chocolatier Diego Lozano has created for an Easter celebration on display in a Rio de Janeiro mall.

British news is reporting a 56-year-old chocolate egg just hanging out as a family heirloom, which flows into a stream of thoughts on the history of how John Cadbury did a sort of pre-internet viral thing with his chocolate eggs, letting him commercially vault above the German and French competition in chocolate egg creativity and production

At least those eggs are being eaten, which somehow brings us back to the seemingly ridiculousness of bunnies and eggs that begin life as cacao and the extraordinary fertility of even chocolate bunnies, which in Germany are multiplying to the point where they are vastly outselling chocolate Santas.

And not to exhaust the point of why so much doesn’t make sense, but given the chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs that are a part of this celebration, why is there no push for chocolate crosses? The closest culinary confection we’ve come up with — and an idea for some counter-culture in future Easters — is the chocolate hot cross bun. (Outpacing the old chocolate egg is the extant and still uneaten 1821 hot cross bun.)

Given the tradition involved, we expect that we’ll be riffing off Cadbury and the Cadbury Kitchen’s Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Ingredients

Buns

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast (2¼ -2½ teaspoons per sachet)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 350ml lukewarm milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 3/4 cup CADBURY Milk Chocolate Baking Chips
  • 1/4 cup currants

Crosses

  • 1/2 cup plain flour, extra
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water, extra

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar, extra
  • 1/4 cup water, extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon gelatine

Directions

  1. Combine the sifted flour and mixed spice with the yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Add warm milk and eggs to flour mixture. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Add fruit and chocolate. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form soft dough.
  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in warm place for one hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Knock back (punch down) dough to its original size. Knead until smooth then divide into 12, shape each portion into a ball, then place onto a greased tray about 1 cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until buns double in size.
  4. For the crosses: Mix extra flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small resealable bag. Snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake in a moderately hot oven 190°C for 20-25 minutes or until cooked when tested. Allow to cool on a wire rack.i
  5. For the glaze: Combine extra sugar, extra water and gelatine in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for minute, then brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And eat and consider the mysteries of the day … or give in to some toy manufacturer Mattel marketing madness:

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Chocolate Bark and the Tale of a Chocolate Mouse

chocolate barkSomething about the time change and imminent vernal equinox (Wednesday, 20 March, if you want to mark your calendar) has us thinking about bark, chocolate bark. The thoughts go bad for business and good for writing stories.

Chocolate bark is the lazy man’s (or woman’s) perfect gift to him/herself or others. Buy a bar of good chocolate; melt it slowly so it doen’t burn or turn (putting it in a soup bowl and then the bowl in a post of simmering water on the stove will work); lay out some nuts or dried fruits on a piece of wax or parchment paper; pour the melted chocolate over them (or spread the chocolate first and then sprinkle the fixin’s and maybe even a few grains of sea salt); keep flat and refrigerate for 20 or 30 minutes; divide the chocolate and conquer the audience. More specific recipes can be found here, here and in a low-sugar, somewhat crunchy granola form, over here.

It’s so simple and sometimes can come out so well that we occasionally have nightmares about everybody taking up the idea, killing our commerce and forcing someone else into taking up residence in what currently is our space.

However, the simplicity of it all as well as the optimism that an onrushing springtime inspires does also spark imagination. First we considered the idea of a chocolate tree with chocolate bark. Then came the image of a chocolate bark (a type of ship) sailing on chocolate seas. What about a chocolate lab whose chocolate bark is worse than its chocolate bite? All of which brings us to the rhyming tale of an evil little house guest…

THE CHOCOLATE MOUSE

Who would imagine a chocolate mouse
Would skitter and scamper all over a house?

I wasn’t ready when it happened to me
Listen a bit more, maybe you’ll be.

It began with a ruckus, a rampage one morning
So loud I woke trembling, my toes curled in warning.

I crept downstairs with dread, expecting a crowd
Found the refrigerator open and TV very loud.

Furniture overturned, toys scattered around
But nobody there, or at least making a sound.

Suddenly I saw him. A long chocolate trail
Ending at the tip of a short chocolate tail.

The tail was attached to a small, chocolate mouse
Sipping chocolate soda, scattering prints about my house.

I hid from his view and surveyed what he’d done
Determined to put an end to his whole mess of fun.

I first planned a trip with chocolate cheese.
He nibbled a bit, springing the trap with no pain and ease.

He thumbed his nose seeing me and I couldn’t have that.
I schemed next to snare him with a chocolate cat.

But the cat preferred playing with chocolate string,
Which quickly unwound around everything.

To chase down the chocolate cat and the mouse
I now brought a chocolate dog into my house.

The one thing I never expected for sure,
When my new dog scratched, she shed chocolate fur.

Three animals were yelping and running amok
Mixing cheese, string and fur into chocolate yuck.

Disarray and commotion and gooey brown stuff
Were muddying each room. I shouted, “Enough!”

No more Mr. Nice Guy while hunting that mouse.
One of us would definitely be leaving the house.

I brought animal after animal into the fight
Sure with each one there’d be peace by the night.

My new chocolate bear chased neither dog, mouse nor cat.
The chocolate elephant I let loose didn’t move: it just sat.

From housing one mouse I now had a zoo:
Chocolate ducks, chocolate penguins, chocolate wildebeests, too.

I hired a zookeeper when I couldn’t move through the rooms.
Admitting defeat. One teeny mouse had brought doom.

I’ve found a new home that is quiet, clean and bright.
Best of all, no chocolate animals in sight.

Still, sometimes I wonder about that chocolate mouse
Who skittered and scampered all over my house.

And I ponder how rather than scheme and then fight.
Would the better course have been to grab and gobble at first sight?

Who can say if it will or won’t happen to you.
I’ve a new plan; do you know what you’ll do?

We know. The bark will be better than the story’s bite.

Questions and Answers with “Bug Chef” David George Gordon

IN addition to ingesting cocoa-coated squirmies, can there be a better, more appropriate way to celebrate Oct. 14, National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day, than to check in with Eat-a-bug Cookbook chef David George Gordon, whose recipes include Ants in the Pants (below), which features baked and then chocolate-pantsed ants.

Currently living in Seattle with his wife (and illustrator), Karen Luke Fildes, and a tank full of tropical fish, the just-a-shade-over-60 Gordon grew up poking and turning things in his backyard before getting a degree in biology, working at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and then Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Since, he has written on bugs he hasn’t eaten, as well as slugs, dolphins, sharks, and horses … and attained a fair degree of harmonica harmonium. Taking a break from writing, tweeting, making what a 2008 Time magazine article referred to as his “classic dish” of orthopteran (cricket) orzo, and cooking for students and food festival attendees around the world, he was kind enough to answer a few questions and help us celebrate NC-CI Day

Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: How did you get your start as the master of insect recipes?

David George Gordon: I’ve been involved with this topic of entomophagy (that’s bug-eating to you) since 1996, when I started collecting materials that would eventually appear in my Eat-a-Bug Cookbook. Since the book’s publication in 1998, I’ve watched public interest (and media attention) grow by leaps and bounds. I’m currently working on the revised and updated Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, which will be released by Ten Speed Press in July 2013. The climate into which this new book will be born is quite different than for the original edition, which, by the way, is still in print, nearly 15 years later.

CAC: Are there particular bugs or specific ways of preparing chocolate that go best together?

DGG: My best tip is to get the proportions of chocolate and insects correct—too much and you can’t taste the bug; too little and the bugs are overpowering, adding a little too much crunch.

CAC: What kinds of health benefits are there with insects that more people should know?

DGG: From my cookbook [Reading] :

What’s to be gained from a diet of bugs? A grasshopper’s body is more than 20 percent protein. Compare this with the protein in lean ground beef (about 27 percent), and you’ll see why even professional wrestlers could sustain themselves on a diet of food arthropods. Since grasshoppers and their insect relatives contain large quantities of water, their protein content jumps to around 60 percent after these animals are dried — that’s plenty of protein for both John the Baptist and Hulk Hogan to get by.

Many protein-rich bugs are also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fats. Ladies, are you worried about warding off osteoporosis? Then eat crickets, which are loaded with calcium. Want to avoid anemia? Try termites; they’re rich in iron. One hundred grams of giant silkworm moth larvae provide 100 percent of the daily requirements for copper, zinc, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin. It turns out that animals that eat greens have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids — the “good” fats in our bodies, whose powers as an anti-oxidant can thwart certain forms of cancer and disease. Many insects contain abundant stores of lysine, an amino acid deficient in the diets of people who rely heavily on corn. Could the ancient Aztecs have known this? They sold corn infested with corn earworm (a small green and black striped caterpillar that more modern farmers consider a nuisance) for more money than corn without the nutritionally supportive bug.

CAC: Are there ecologically sensitive and/or fair trade movements in the farming of insects as there are with cacao?

DGG: Not yet, but it’s coming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is investigating ways of mass rearing (as opposed to wild-harvesting) insects in tropical countries where bug eating is already part of the culture. It’s their hope that the results of the investigation will help to alleviate world hunger. It’s my hope that the FAO “certified” farms will be considerably less harmful to our planet that the farming of more traditional sources of protein — cattle and pigs.

CAC: What is your favorite chocolate bug recipe?

DGG: It’s Ants in Pants. Here’s the recipe from The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook [by David George Gordon; copyright 1998, Ten Speed Press]:

Who knows what inspired Reese Finer Foods to discontinue its product line of exotic fried and candied insect treats. It couldn’t have been from lack of consumer interest; one out of three grown-ups I’ve contacted recalls eating (and, in many instances, enjoying) Reese’s chocolate-covered grasshoppers and ants as a kid.

Alas, I’ve been unable to uncover so much as an empty can from this once-great bug supplier, or even someone who worked for Reese during its heyday. So in the spirit of entomological entrepreneurship, let’s rekindle the lost art (or is it ant?) of fudge making with Formicidae.

In this recipe, wild ants are frozen, baked in the oven, then dressed in tantalizing chocolate “pants.” My only precautionary note: It’s too easy to “overdress” for the occasion, inadvertently burying the tart flavor of the ants with their rich chocolate coating. So don’t be stingy with the ants. They’re a dime a dozen and only slightly more expensive if you purchase them from a biological supply house.

1/2 cup (about 80 to 100 individuals) western thatching ants (Yield: 10 or 12 candies)

(Formica obscuripes) or other large-bodied ants, oven baked

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into chips

1/2 teaspoon Grand Marnier, or orange extract to taste

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1. Combine the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler set over hot (but not boiling) water. When the ingredients are evenly blended, stir in the Grand Marnier. Remove from heat and allow the chocolate to cool to 90°F. The chocolate will be shiny and will coat the finger well.

2. Drip small amounts of the melted chocolate on a sheet of foil or parchment paper, forming 10 or 12 1-inch-diameter discs. Quickly pile up a spoonful of the baked ants in the center of each circle, then cover with the remaining chocolate. Refrigerate.

3. After the chocolate has set, use a spatula to transfer each chocolate bundle of Ants in Pants to a plate

CAC: How are you celebrating this year’s National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day?

DAG: I’ll be playing harmonica with my band at a house party. Hopefully they’ll have plenty of chocolate for the entertainers as well as the guests!

CAC: What are the best and worst bug and chocolate experiences you have had?

DAG: I haven’t had any bad experiences with the chocolate; but I have been attacked by soldier ants while trying to collect their nest mates for my Ants in Pants recipe.

The best experience has been the purchase of my Cuisinart CFO-3SS Electric Fondue Maker Cuisinart electric fondue maker, which allows me to include chocolate-covered bugs on the menu of my traveling bug-cooking demos.

CAC:What’s next for you and bugs and chocolate?

DGG: I have a wonderful new recipe for Chocolate Fondue with Chapulines (small grasshoppers from Oaxaca, Mexico, roasted and seasoned with salt, chile and lime). It and eight other new recipes using insects will be in my updated and revised Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, which will be released by Ten Speed Press in July 2013. In fact, I believe the chocolate-covered grasshopper will the cover photo for that book.

: What kinds of health benefits are there with insects that more people should know?

Rat Junkies … and cookie recipes

We love M&Ms but they are not the top of the chocolate line. In fact, according to a recent study they are junk chocolate that leads to rat junkies. Anyway, that’s the way we like to interpret the results gained as University of Michigan scientists messed with rat brains to see how to (and perhaps people as well) change the pleasure received from a particular reward. In this case they used M&Ms as the treat and got the rats to more than double their “natural” intake.

It’s all supposed to lead to procedures to possibly cure addiction as well as others to stimulate appetite, when that is called for. If you happen to be somewhere in the middle between appetite and addiction and hankering now for some of the round chocolate bites, consider Ann Romney’s M&M cookie recipe — unless you want the winner of the quadrennial Family Circle “First Lady” bake off, Michaelle Obama’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip cookies.