Savor the Small Chocolate Bites

SwirlsOne small chocolate taste is never enough. No matter the hype, no Platonic Ideal of the cocoa morsel has yet found its way from the mind of a master chocolatiere to taste buds of the supplicant. No satisfaction is found at the spectrum’s other end either: Those who worship the common prejudice that chocolate satiation can only come through quantitative consumption also want for satisfaction.

In the middle of the gamut — albeit, on a path searched with no guarantee of bliss — is the succession of small bites. Each tiny, delicate nosh of chocolate to be judged for the value it alone and through complement with the other bites adds to the overall aim of satiated pleasure.

How best to follow?

Opt from flight after flight of chocolate sampling as it is nearly impossible to keep the individual bites straight … and this is well before you try something like pairing them with wines at a marketing concept in search of a restaurant niche like NYC’s Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar. Swallow bite after bite of drugstore candy bars and see if you don’t get sick. Nibble upon bean-to-bar after bean-to-bar and see if you just don’t end up confused.

As glorious as it may be to do your tiny bit grazing with a tiny mushroom shaped, chocolate dazzled funghetto, or as dark (and not in the chocolate way) as it might make you feel to swallow tiny chocolate feet, or as endearingly cutesy as you think you look while ingesting eensy-teensy chocolate hamburgers, courtesy Japanese vending …

… the most joy to be had is following the small bite path through your own kitchen.

It is always worth the effort to try, even if enough energy is invested to result in dreams about a tiny chocolate frog invasion, like the ones in @SweetOlenkas salted caramel brownies. Make yourself chocolate fudge micro-cakes, dwarfed chocolate chip cookies, or even tiny chocolate wine cakes. Bake and savor small.

Because, if you disdain the delicate and want to go big or go home when putting mouth to chocolate, you risk comparison to UKFA, gourmandizing his way through what look like four supermarket eclairs in eight rather indiscriminate gulps … with bits of abdominal-vicinity foreplay.

Your choice.


#chocolate #recipes

Funeral Cakes, Death, Chocolate & More

chocolate skull cakeOctober is National Dessert Month, and also in its build up to Halloween, a celebration of death in various but still appetizing forms. What could be a better time than to talk about the choice between cake and death, as Eddie Izzard does,

or a touch more soberly to discuss (Chocolate) Funeral Cakes?

Not yet completely soberly. We note that serving a chocolate skull cake might work for some, but is for most people a goober of bad taste at funerals.

Funeral cakes are traditional, and traditionally quick and easy to construct: death is not something for which one is supposed to prepare. Generally, they also aren’t the most sophisticated taste fusions, as there should not be that much time to make them, and, presumably, the baker has more imposing thoughts hanging above his or head. That said, they do come in a multitude of varieties, ranging from the out-of-the-box ordinary to the out-of-the-bottle versions such as Coca-Cola chocolate funeral cake with Coca-Cola icing.

None of this should be confused with Day of the Dead cakes — often, surprisingly enough, baked for weddings. That holiday, blooming from Mexican roots is celebrated post-Halloween, over November’s first two days.

Back to funeral cakes, which also (in hopefully the final tangent) are also not to be confused with the popular restaurant dessert, “death by chocolate,” which is usually an excuse for a junior, so-called,”patissier” at a chain restaurant to see how much chocolate s/he can cram into a dessert at an appropriate for the owner price point.

While death by chocolate is not related, food studies Ph.D. candidates will surely be able to trace the links between funeral cakes, funeral biscuits, funeral cookies and journal cakes. All of which is apparently within the domain of knowledge required of your average funeral director.

For most non-funeral directors, however, all the knowledge of funeral cakes usually required is that it be relatively easy to make and that it mostly arrives as a sheet (or half sheet) cake in the spirit of what The Pioneer Woman calls The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.

One last (promise!) side note, while name-brand chefs have recipes for almost everything, none seems to have put their name on a funeral cake concoction. It’s not clear at all why. Would it really be that bad for their brand? It’s not like they would likely be dragged into a bit of funeral cake and workplace noir (as envisioned by Team Action Seal for the 2014 Austin 48-hour film project), featuring stolen break room swag and the may-it-live-forever-online quote, “My [funeral] cake was gone and my life was over. Things couldn’t get any worse. Then things got worse …”


#chocolate #halloween #dayofthedead #foodhistory

Baking Up Some August Romance

heart on chocolateAugust. Hot, sweaty, escape-anywhere-else-on-vacation August. However, there are days in the store, even in this month, when we forget the woes of weather outside and romance perfumes the air.

One of those days recently, the folks in the backroom “lab” were for reasons too difficult to explain thinking ahead to Valentines Day (13 August on the this year’s Chinese Calendar). They started with chocolate as an aphrodisiac as inspiration but then veered to pairing cacao creation with other libido jump starters, like garlic, licorice, cinnamon and clove.

Inspiration for some ideas came first from world-traveling, San Francisco-based Baking Barrister (@bakingbarrister). A few years ago she whipped up some Garlic Chocolate Truffles that give both pause and then pleasure

Next they worked over some ideas mashing up black licorice and chocolate. Regrettably (or not) they decided that the best they could do that day had already been done with Shawn Askinosie [his chat with CAC] having created the 2012 Sofi Silver medalist Dark Milk Chocolate Black Licorice bar and baseball wife Krissie having used anise flavoring for her Krissy Creation (@KrissyCreations) Chocolate Licorice Cupcakes.

A couple commercial interests had staked out the easy-to-make cinnamon and chocolate space with hyper-caffeinator Starbucks providing the recipe for their Chocolate Cinnamon Bread and mega-spicer McCormicks letting folks in on the “secrets” of Chocolate Cinnamon Scones.

When they finally put their minds and rubber spatulas together, they decided to move forward with the baking recipe beta for

Chocolate Clove Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup stevia
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup ground pistachios (alternative: almonds)
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup water (alternative: chocolate liqueur)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°
  2. Mix all dry ingredients
  3. Add honey, molasses and water and blend into a dough ball
  4. Cover and refrigerate about one-half hour
  5. Flatten dough ball and place cookies with about 2″ diameters on a lined sheet
  6. Bake 15 minutes and let cool

Eat, share and bring on summer sultry seduction!

Can’t Go Wrong on Nat’l Chocolate Chip Day

choco-chipsThink outside the cookie. It’s national chocolate chip day – for which we have to thank Ruth Graves Wakefield,who sold promotional rights to her Toll House Cookie to Nestle for a lifetime supply of their chocolate — and her mistaken genius.

To give the day the due it deserves, do more than whip up another batch from some foolproof CC recipe, or go too far in the other direction by stuffing an Oreo CC , or mashing up a peanut butter and bacon and chocolate chip doughball.

Consider thinking in (so called) health terms of a first course of Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal pancakes (h/t Well Traveled Wife). Then perhaps offer an ode to summer gardens and chocolate chips by baking some Smitten Kitchen Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread. And, ust because it should be a day of pleasure, bring on the Dark Chocolate Chip Raspberry Sorbet (h/t Gluten Free Table).

Of course, it is a bit late in the day to be posting, so perhaps it’s also worth throwing out there the idea of planning ahead. Some very sweet bed time reading to inspire another day perhaps:

Oh, and by the way. We have cookies.

Focus Group-Tested Recipes, 2012

Chocolate should be above politics, we believe. However, when choco-talking we often speak in code, not about the flavor(s) but where the stirrings of senses will lead our brains. So, once again thanks to Family Circle, cookie recipes will serve as proxies and the “taste” considered when print is brought to life will be the political not Bitterness, Sourness, Sweetness, Saltiness or Umami. So, this Obama/Romney throw&ndsash;down is an oven mitts-on clash of presumably staff-tested, focus-group screened cookie recipes.

vs.


The incumbent, Michelle Obama, lost out in the 2008 campaign — the only time FC’s bake-off has not predicted the winner of the electoral college vote since inception in 1992 after Hillary Clinton, then running for first-lady made what was taken as a disparaging comment about cookie baking. For mix-ins to basic batters, Obama is bringing white and dark chocolate chips (and, no, you are not overthinking the symbolism here) in a kitchen struggle against Ann Romney’s M&Ms (the everyman/woman’s mix-in, that probably tastes as well as it tested against her “couple of Cadillacs” image).

In theory we would be more likely to go with the white-dark chips, but in practice we are going to leave this one to the amateurs, the politicians and the voters. The recipes:

Michelle Obama’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

MAKES 5 dozen cookies
PREP 15 minutes
BAKE at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375°. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Ann Romney’s M&M’s Cookies

MAKES 3 dozen cookies
PREP 15 minutes
BAKE at 325° for 18 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (such as Karo)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&M’s candies

Heat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M’s.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.