What Could Make 2015 the Winter of Chocolate Poetry?

child google doodleWinter’s chill, somehow, seems the perfect weather for thinking about the intersection of poetry and chocolate. The elaborating wordplay of the genre, its ability to suggest so much in content while hacking away at excesses in form, should be a perfect match for the sublime sensuality of creatively developed and enhanced cacao.

Sadly, often it is not.

There is the oft cited Rita Dove’s Chocolate noted in previous posts, but given how beloved the subject, there is surprisingly little chocolate poetry of note. A recent Google found a quasi-epic from Michael Rosen as he blended childhood joy and disappointment at its passing with his Chocolate Cake

as well as the surprisingly sensual Chocolate Poem by filmmaking poet Tehut Nine

Beyond that, there are random groupings (with the expected variability) such as the one at Poetry Soup and a recent news posting of second graders taking part in a “Hot Chocolate Poetry Hour

Clearly, given the pleasures of chocolate and possibilities of poetic expression this is not satisfactory. Suggestions as to what it will take to inspire the deserved more are now being accepted.


#chocolate #poetry

Choco-Hype, Healthily Speaking

darkThere is joyous screeching again about dark chocolate as the panacea for whatever ails you. It includes excitement about how dark chocolate promotes healthy teeth. Hyperventilating is also encouraged by headlines howling the news of a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars (not that there is necessarily an undue amount of self-interest here in how taking a couple high-concetrate flavanol-extracted dark chocolate pills (or fake) a day will buck up the old ticker, which follows up a report on dark chocolate helping to restore flexibility to arteries for 44 Dutch fathertubbies by preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.

Not to diminish any unfettered joy with some ick, but the key seems to be something about how gut bacteria feast on dark chocolate and (better living through chemistry) how that produces burgeoning good microbes.

Speaking of “good microbes,” this might be as good a place as any to place to throw in a note about a Washington Post hemp brownie recipe (oh, how far the one-time president slayershave fallen) as well as a shoutout to the new Hershey Psychic, which would be a pretty fun job even if it isn’t quite what the title indicates.

Anyway, if inspired by headlines and dreams, and think runaway chocolate proseletyzing could be your thing, you could do a lot worse (financially speaking, at least) than to take at least a few lessons from David Wolfe, author of Naked Chocolate

It’s all almost enough to get one to forget about the importance of taste. Almost …

Horror, but Not Horrible Chocolate

killing cookiesThere is a time and place for chocolate … and for many that is today’s Halloweenapalooza.

And there is a time and place for horror … (see above).

For those whose All Hallows eve is the time for a horror update to the more refined observance, but not the place for the crapchocolate that is passed out in “fun sized” globs, then we suggest some horror in keeping with the chocolate theme, or an evening’s entertainment spiced up (and down and in fact run through) by Masters of Horror: Chocolate, the unsettling 2005 teleplay of a young divorcee aromatically and psychicly linked to a beautiful, deadly woman. It was written and directed by Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris, director of The Standand The Shining:

Ate Through Any Good Books Recently?

chocolate head_phrenologyPublication of The Mast Brothers collection of stories and recipes Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook is the news in the Venn Diagram of chocolate and book circles. However, it shouldn’t be discounted how much the power of beards, as displayed in their sales video, helps catapult the gourmet chocolatista authors onto best seller charts.

The buzz around the book and authors is a reminder of a fantasy inspired this summer by the news report that the aroma of chocolate causes book sales to pop. Wouldn’t the perfect bookstore (obviously and admittedly one for a small but IMPORTANT niche) would be a bookstore smelling of chocolate and selling only chocolate-themed books?

Turns out that as the weather turns cooler and the gift-giving season nears, publishers are releasing a bunch of titles that would help fill that bookstore’s shelves. There are new, “real” cookbooks, including quasi-royal “Queen of Vegan Desserts” Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate , which features ideas she has been working on for over 20 years.

A complete revision of three-time Cookbook of the Year award winner Alice Medrich‘s Bittersweet paean to chocolate dessert making, published in 2003 (and named the 2004 IACP Cookbook of the Year), has been reissued as Seriously Bitter Sweet with recipes for 150 pies, tarts, cakes and other confections with varying degrees of chocolatude.

Typing chocolatude (admittedly a ridiculous word even if it’s a fetching concept) naturally (?) allows for the segue to Canadian chocolate. Or, even if it does not here’s the place to note the ideas far from the tropical origin of the cacao bean as photographed, and described in Canadian Living: The Complete Chocolate Book. If you can’t imagine Canadians and chocolate, that lack of imagination is all about you.

Rounding out recent chocolate cookbooks that could have stocked the shelves of the fantasy store are The Paleo Chocolate Lovers’ Cookbook with its 80 gluten-, grain-, and dairy-free recipes; and a how-to ebook from Jane Wilson and Richard Johnson, Chocolate Like a Pro , that promises tempering for tyros (no expensive machines needed).

Given the upcoming gift-giving season and quick cash to be raked in with impulse buyers who need a stocking stuffer or safe-but-kinda-sexy office gift exchange item maybe it’s also worth mentioning a few other recent “cookbooks.” There’s Crazy About Chocolate , with recipes ranging from the chocolate martini to cocoa-spiced chili; Chocolate: An Italian Passion with stories and recipes from the chefs on Europe’s boot and the promised quick and easy recipes of Chocolate.

While it won’t be surprising to see cookbooks in a chocolate bookstore, what might be a surprise for hungry eyes will be how large the selection is of chocolate mysteries, most published as part of a series. Heading the category is JoAnna Carl [see the earlier Q&A with the author] and her The Chocolate Book Bandit, which will be the thirteenth of her “Chocoholic Mystery Series.” Sally Berneathy has just released book four in her “Death by Chocolate” series, Chocolate Mousse Attack. And, trailing behind in series title accumulation, Charles Kerns has just released his second choco-themed “Santo Gordo Mystery, Oaxaca Chocolate.

Sibel Hodge has made chocolate the theme of her fourth “Amber Fox Mystery” with Chocolate, Lies, and Murder; Abigail Keam does the same in Death By Chocolate, her sixth “Death by____ mystery”; and Kerri Thomson tries her hand at chocolate mysterifying with The Chocolate Is The Life; Bailey Cates bakes her third “Magical Bakery Mystery” title, Charms and Chocolate Chips; and Nancy Coco debuts a new series, “The Candy Coated Mysteries,” with All Fudged Up.

Last, but certainly not least and most likely right next to the cash register to make sure nobody misses it is Dylan Siegel’s Chocolate Bar, the incredible heart-warming book written by a 6-year-old who wants to save a friend and has used his story to raise over $25,000 for helping treat his friend’s glycogen storage disease 1b.

Which turns out to be even more powerful than the scent of even the best chocolate.

Oh, and there’s also a bunch of erotica created around themes of “chocolate” you can look up for yourself if you’re so inclined. It might make it into the back room, but that probably depends on the cost of the real estate.

 

#Chocolate: Sense and Taste, Not Just Tastebuds

chocolate shreds balls sticksA canyon separates chocolate taster wishing to pleasure his or her soul from self-medicating inhaler attempting to fill psychological divots (or potholes) with the immediate pleasures of cured cacao. A thinner line separates the informed taster from the off-putting snob. (Fair warning: read further, learn, taste and talk elegantly and intelligently of what you imbibe at your peril.)

Every bit of chocolate has its unique flavorprint, reflecting lineage, topography, weather, soil, processing, and post-production care. To get a sense of just the beginning of those complexities, consider the infographic created by artist Sean Seidell.

Chocolate infographic_SeidellTo try and puzzle all that might mean to you — to turn you into your own cacaommelier — you will have to suffer through the tasting a lot of chocolate. To put a little bit of science into it do your tasting (whether just one type or a comparison) in a room free of distractions and complete with a between-taste palate cleanser of water and crackers. Experiment with a piece larger than crumb, but not as large as you would choose if this were just for enjoyment and if you’ve been keeping it cold wait (if you can) until the chocolate is room temperature. Turn on all senses.

Sight
Consider the chocolate’s color, structure and shine. White marks or dustiness (“bloom”) are a sign of poor tempering by the manufacturer. Similarly, there should be no visible air bubbles, or swirling or inconsistencies across the face. The surface should offer at least a slight reflection of light rather than a dull matte finish with a range of “brown rainbow” of hues ranging from tints of pinks, and oranges to purple and black.

Touch
Is the surface smooth, rough, grainy? The former is preferred, although some tongues do have more fun with the extra tingles from the latter.

Hearing
When you break the chocolate does it make the preferred sharp snap? That snap is also likely to be accompanied by the also preferable clean break (no crumbs). A higher milk chocolate content will tamp down the snap and clean break.

Smell
Discover the aromas by holding the chocolate directly under your nose or letting it sit on your tongue and breathing out. The mind may be surprised by hints of honey, vanilla or even flowers or tobacco. If it helps, you can consider this the foreplay prior to the engagement of your full taste sensations.

Taste
And when you are ready begin the tasting, by letting it slowly melt (the flavors should evolve) and wash over all taste sensitive points on your tongue. Find where on the range of flavors — sweet to bitter, spicy, earthy, fruity — your particular piece lives and whether it moves from one point to another. To the extent possible, avoid the temptation to chew and explore for yourself how the flavors evolve from first fruit ethers to lingering afternotes. (If comparing different chocolates, begin with the lowest percentage of cacao and work your way up, comparing between five and 10 different chocolates at any one session.)

With your bite nearing its finish it’s time to note how the flavor has evolved. Is the chocolate bitter? Heavy? Light? What tastes remain and what has vanished from the tongue map? Finally, and nobody else can tell you this, was it the best sensory experience for the moment or did it leave you wishing for a different chocolate love?

(So as not to just get caught up in the experience and perhaps replicate or intentionally improve on it, consider a small off- or online notebook stocked with notes, discoveries and maybe even wrappers.)

If by chance all of this helps you discover a lifelong passion you wish to turn into a profession, the Wall Street Journal helps out with directions on the path that could lead to certification as one of the worlds top cocoa-bean graders:

Read This, Picture That

woman biting chocolate barWe’re approaching the dark days of winter. For some, it is the dream of warmer climates that gets them through. For us, fantasizing over chocolate — “food porn,” as it were — is the true path to salvation from the winter blues, blurs, brrrs and blahs.

We will read and re-read different cookbooks (consider joining us with some of our favorites, of search for “best chocolate cookbooks” and consider other’s lists. We acknowledge that others do prefer their food porn of a slightly more salacious nature  (h/t The Daily Meal)

It’s all harmless (an imaginary chocolate donut, perhaps), until these dark days of winter turn a mind too far toward the dark side … and we don’t mean as in dark chocolate. There are those who will salivate over what some consider Pinterest food porn (sample pics here, here and here).

Food porn can cause overeating or other psychological and emotional risks. There are also those who use the images of food porn to fill themselves up rather than offer their digestive system an actual appropriate complement.

We’re not saying food porn can’t make for some good entertainment. Just be reasonable. Don’t go the mid-winter miseries alone. Stop in for a bit of chat and chocolate. We honestly believe it will make you happier and healthier and even if it is a day when you struggle to get out of bed, we’ll be glad to see you.

Pondering National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

chocolate grasshopperWHAT DO CAKE, CARBURATORS AND COFFINS have in common other than beginning with a “C”? Covered in chocolate, each, theoretically, serves equally as an appropriate icon and celebration today, Dec. 16, National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day — which admittedly sounds like a made-up Hallmark-benefiting holiday

And thus the fork in the road where philosophy and practice diverge. NC-CAD, at first, seems like a sweet idea: just add chocolate and stir up the pleasure. However, in practice adding chocolate to anything can go wrong — even when melding two tongue joys such as in a bacon crumble, dark chocolate cake.

“Thoughtlessly” adding chocolate can end as anathema to the choco-ideal as one person’s good taste is another’s gawdawful disgrace. So, not really fair to either side of the culinary spectrum, we are put in mind that there are vegans who love chocolate and might possibly celebrate today (or any day) with a raw vegan Triple Chocolate (cheeseless) Cheesecake. And there are, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Paula Deen anatics who might find joy today in Chocolate Cheese Fudge or the caramel syrup, packaged cookie dough, cream cheese, heavy cream dolloped, butter laden, nearly two cups of sugar sweetened Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake.

Again, chocolate covering doesn’t have to be about food

It’s just that, generally and always adding at least a dollop of common sense, it will be in and of better taste. (As for our own common sense, we’re just offering the usual today, not injudiciously smearing goodness on anything odd, just to say we have.)

Chocolate Gift Parade Kickoff

Thanksgiving is over, so according to the unwritten rules (that other stores have violated, damn them), it is now okay to start talking holiday gifts.

Today’s food for thoughts about gifts starts with the idea of growing your own chocolate inside. VoodooGarden makes it look easy enough (apparently you just order pods).

Since that is too silly for all but the most delusional of males to consider, we also note the latest high concepts with the imprimatur of the Culinary Institute of America, Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan ConfectionerChocolate and Confections; the quick hits in your kitchen ideas from Swedish pastry pizzazzman Magnus Johansson (with pornfully delicious photos from Fabian Björnstjerna), Cooking with Chocolate: The Best Recipes and Tips from a Master Pastry ChefCooking with Chocolate; and the beginner’s kit for ultimate food decon- and then reconstruction, the Molecular Gastronomy Kitmolecular gastronomy kit.

Happy (beginning of the) Holidays (present shopping tensions)!

No 50 Shades of Chocolate, At Least Not Today

Pornography is overrated, at least as far as we can tell by checking out “chocolate porn.” Search leads to prettily pinned Pinterest pictures here and here, as well as some ridiculously graphic and mostly uninteresting videos (to which we are not going to link).

Maybe this is just the result of a slow Tuesday in the backroom of the store, but we have to admit that chocoporn fails (at least usually) for being nothing more than a time-killing attempt by whoever posted to titillate others by filtering excitement from imagination into some sort of 2D image. It’s like linking to the merging of chocolate and bananas and saying it is all about sex or even sexy food!

Which it isn’t. Trust us.

Just Don’t Let It Bite Back

It’s not that panic has set in yet. However, National Chocolate-Covered Insects Day is coming up (Oct. 14 in the almanac) and there’s more like an onrushing sense of shame. There does not seem to be any sophistication to found yet for making something appropriate.

Around the world thousands of insects (and arachnid that are thrown into the insect category) are consumed. But where are the quality recipes? Pretty much everybody does some variation of clean, drench in chocolate, serve: the basics of which via the from George State College and State University faculty:

1) To clean insects, place in a colander or fine mesh strainer, rinse and pat dry. Dry roast in a 300-degree oven until crispy.

2)Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers: 2 Squares of semisweet chocolate; 25 dry-roasted crickets and/or grasshoppers with legs and wings removed. Melt chocolate as directed on the box. Dip insects in chocolate place on wax paper and refrigerate.

No doubt as delicious as the chocolate you use, but booooorrrrinnnggggggggggggggggg!

But what to do?

We’re not interested in insects found in chocolate by mistake or allowed by the FDA because, well, we don‘t really know because why. We seek a recipe(s) purposefully melding the healthy and taste benefits of insects through texture and flavor with the wonders of what cacao hath wrought.

We’re in the hunt for a quality chocolate covered insect recipe as a highlight for the celebration in the store. Any and all inspirations are welcome.

It does look good to schmear a bug with chocolate, but we have to believe that better can be done and do hope to do so.