Someday It Won’t Be Thanksgiving Without Chocolate

chocolate turkeysTurkeys be damned, or at least brought down a peg. Thanksgiving turns out to be a holiday of a lamb … as in Mary Had a Little Lamb …

As in, we don’t have the 1621 Pilgrims and Wapanoag (who together likely savored venison, and certainly not the pictured chocolate turkey) to thank for the upcoming onslaught of overdoing both food and shopping. We should actually thank Godmother of Thanksgiving, Sara Josepha Hale, who is more famed as progenitor of the rhyming tale of the young miss and her wooly pet.

Hale, an editor of early 19th century magazines for New England gentlewomen, made it her mission to lobby for a national holiday for giving thanks, which President Lincoln decided in 1863 would be a useful way to mark the third year of America’s Civil War.

Regrettably, we can’t also thank Hale much for anything in the way of chocolate. Additionally a cookbook author, she seemed to think of it mostly as a drink and gives very chocolate short shrift in her very long-named 1856 work, Mrs. Hale’s new cook book. A practical system for private families in town and country; with directions for carving, and arranging the table for parties, etc. Also, preparations of food for invalids and for children.

Given the mythmaking that has been part of its history there is no reason that just because Godmother Hale wasn’t a proto-chocolatista that chocolate should not in future years play a prominent place in the T-Day story and traditions (chocolate-loving mythmakers wanted).

It would be nice for a full cornucopia of cacao creations to be a central place in the holiday’s mystique, but the fruit of the cacao tree does already have a small place among the day’s desserts, although that place is primed for expansion.

Perhaps the holiday’s prandial delights could be made even more robust with a post-meal palate cleanser such as chocolate cabbage leaf cups for vanilla ice cream, or chocolate pudding shots to accompany viewing television or touch-football-in-the-backyard. (If the thankful spirit moves you so, feel free to thicken up what is billed as a “health” recipe libation with another chocolate-based liqueur.)

Ultimately, the history and traditions and myths of the day don’t matter. Life is about mouth (and soul) pleasing. To insure some pleasure, one can always rely on genius chef Michael Symon and his newly developed Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. As likely everyone already knows, with the right chocolate added and no matter whether there is or isn’t turkey on the menu — or even if its journey to the the table was a disaster — the day and meal will be the stuff(ing) of family legend as well as national myth.

#chocolate #Thanksgviving #recipes #foodhistory #history #myths

Questions and Answers with Debby Maugans of Small Batch Baking

debby maugansONE GOOD THING ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY’s appearance on the horizon (warning, warning: VD2013 in less than three weeks) is its reminder of all we did wrong last year in the name of love.  One mistake for which he hope to atone was to ignore highlighting the creation of intimate chocolates — those meant to be enjoyed by two (and absolutely not just one) — celebrated by Asheville (N.C.) Baking Belle Debby Maugans in her Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers.

Maugans’s first book, the 2005 Small-Batch Baking200 downsized recipes and included a section devoted to Valentines Day, but that wasn’t enough. Inspired by her teen daughter’s desire for chocolate bites made in quantities that too often sat at home after her daughter left for school, seducing in unflattering quantities, Maugans set out to create the recipes for reveling in chocolate, but in moderation.

Forgiving us our sins, the former food editor, recipe developer, columnist, TV and radio personality, food stylist and all-around cuisine biz veteran, kindhearted and talented Maugans let us steal a few moments of her time to learn more.

Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: What was the moment or event or day or taste that was the inspiration for your personal and professional interest in creating chocolate sensations?

Debby Maugans: In the late 1990’s, I attended a seminar during an IACP [International Association of Culinary Professionals] conference, and John Scharffenberger spoke about his new company.  I tasted dark chocolate with a new appreciation and fondness for all things richly cacao, without the sugar and emulsifiers and milk.

CAC: Two years on from the debut of your Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers, what new thoughts have you had about chocolate for two?

DM: We are fortunate to live in Asheville, N.C., near the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  We are never without several bars of Mast Brothers and French Broad Chocolates — 70 to 85 percent cacao — from various regions. We break off tiny pieces and savor them from pre-breakfast to just before bed. My youngest daughter loves dark chocolate now, so everything we make and eat is 70 percent and above. The great thing about making those small-batch desserts, which I still do frequently, is they never call for more than one bar. I keep them around for spur of the moment baking.

CAC: Which recipe will you be considering for the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day in your house?

DM: I’ll be making the Bittersweet Chocolate Tarts with Salted Pistachio Brittle. I’ve recently developed a passion for making and eating homemade pie crusts,and small batches are so much more fun and less mess to make.

CAC: Which recipe would you recommend for the less expert baker hoping to make their very best impression on that day?

DM: I would recommend the Chocolate Raspberry Cake Hearts. The steps are each easy, but the results look like the dessert was more complicated. The success from following the instructions and resulting in beautiful small cakes will encourage the cook to bake more and more!

CAC: Are there shortcuts or hints or particular chocolates you recommend to those who want to maximize both flavor and health?

DM: I think that the investment in a good bar of chocolate is worth it to make these desserts. I tested all with Ghiradelli chocolates because I knew that it is widely distributed. And I recommend finding premium chocolate bars and keeping them around to taste when your sweet tooth kicks in — just break off a half-inch piece and let it melt on your tongue. It is quite satisfying and you really don’t want to put anything else in your mouth to take away the lingering flavor!

CAC: Have you found any recipes including chocolate (perhaps ones you’ve already posted about so that I can link to it and not give anything away) or new sources or techniques that you would consider for a possible update of the book?

DM: If I were to update the book, I would recommend and provide information about some of my favorite artisan bars. I would also include gluten free recipes to appeal and make sure we satisfy those folks too!

CAC: Are there any new projects possibly involving chocolate about which you are particularly excited?

DM: My new project, Farmer and Chef Asheville, will include many chocolate desserts — not just for two, but chef recipes that are edited for the home cook. The website is only just begun — I hate to direct readers to it right now because we are only beginning to work out the design — but it will have desserts for two from the book, as well as many, many other chocolate recipes in many meal categories. The site should be up in two weeks. I’m also regularly posting on Twitter: @smallbatchbakin and @farmerchefAVL.

A Chocolate World and Recipes from Outside the Store

Grammia was ailing Wednesday, but sick days can still turn out to be good days in the world of chocolate.

CAC’s matriarch — whose monicker lore says is a decades-ago mix of Gram and Mamma Mia — took her once-a-year (or so it seems) sick day. She hasn’t yet shared what concoction she used to make herself so much better when she returned to work Thursday. However, she has now made us all listen to a show whose podcast sparked her spirits. New York Public Radio talker Lenny Lopate featured the great chocolatier Jacques Torres, he of chocolate conversation domination and Jacques Torres’ a Year in Chocolate, and University of California, Davis Nutrition Professor Emeritus Louis Grivetti (editor of Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage) to talk about how cacao began its trip centuries ago from the Americas to Europe and back again … and what is going on with it having “returned” from the worldwide trip.

Naturally in the internet age, that interview led the rest of us to a quick look at a paean to Torres’s chocolate chip cookies as well as a fun interview from that had him chat about fishing, motorycles and how his last meal should be combined with sex.

We also tripped over a brief look at the academic chocolatiana Grivetti, whose professorial focus has been on studies in the changes in diets, found within the aeigis of The Chocolate History group (sponsored by Mars at UC Davis).

All-in-all, thanks Grammia, mostly for not getting us sick but also for making us smarter … and for nagging us until we foundthe Lopate show page that also includes links to another Torres’ recipe and historic recipes Grivetti’s group discovered.

Not Health, but Magic and Hot Chocolate Truffles

Cocoa/Cacao is healthful, but in all honesty and despite Hershey Syrup’s FDA disputed claims to the contrary, what is usually sold as “chocolate” with its dumpload of sugar and chemical additives usually isn’t. What chocolate is, as famed chef Julia Child (whose wouldabeen 100th birthday 15 Aug. 2012 was celebrated with the Google Doodle left) is whatever magic a great chef (or any chef) can make of it. And as she said, as has been remixed in as another birthday celebration: “What makes a great chef? Well, training and technique of course. Plus a great love of food, a generous personality and THE ABILITY TO INVENT HOT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES.”

As for Child and chocolate, she can be sweetly remembered with a chocolate mousse, crème brûlée chocolate cake, or by poring (and pouring) over her cookbooks“.