Neither the Chocolate Elephant nor Donkey You Wanted

dead cupidIf you consider the actual choices in political world as a chocolate landscape, then, most sadly, November seems to be shaping up as a United States presidential election that will see a milk chocolate mishmoshed sundae defeat a white chocolate soulless snack.

Regrettably, while there are a variety of chocolate-theme political choices, there is no (metaphor-Armageddon alert) dark chocolate riding to the rescue. Dark chocolate, of course, with its potential in unadulterated form to save your life is the candidate you believe should be running instead of the person you will actually vote for. Neither that person, nor even the other registered presidential candidates but the two of the major parties will be the next POTUS. We’re in the drugstore chocolate aisle, politically speaking, and so suck it up (so to speak) and figure out if you are team chocolate hair or team chocolate mouth.

Hair, or Hillary Rodham Clinton as she is more formally known, is the woman who lists sleep, binge watching House of Cards and (absolutely to the good, although also probably poll-tested) chocolate among her favorite things. Perhaps the highlight of her campaign coverage so far (chocolate-wise, anyway) has been the hoopla surrounding the Mikey Likes It sundae honoring her with a mash up of double chocolate waffle stuffed with Oreo cookies and topped off with a scoop of milk chocolate ice cream, semisweet chocolate chips, marshmallows and a chocolate-covered cherry. It was a far cry from her first entry into chocolate politics, the oatmeal milk chocolate chip cookie recipe that gave her a 1992 win over Barbara Bush in that year’s presidential cycle Family Circle bake off.

Across the great political divide is a man who looks a bit like an oversized (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie version) Oompaloompa with a political and personal philosophy much like a box of Forrest Gump chocolates,

as you never know what behavior or policy you are going to get and it sometimes seems neither does he.

DJ Trump has his own branded, overpriced, and excessively packaged chocolate bars made by Indiana’s DeBrand Fine Chocolates; his candidacy inspired a milk chocolate millionaires shortbread; and (in other chocolate gossip) he reportedly fought with an ex-, Marla Maples, so that their daughter, Tiffany, could enjoy the father’s preferred crappy chocolate rather than the mother’s homemade vegan chocolate. Add it all up — including his role as Hydrox attempted to pump up interest; and there is little choice other than to see the (John) Barron of bombast as a white chocolate Pringle, which is not chocolate any more than it is potato chip.

Months remain until November’s decision day, so ponder your choice, America, sundae or Pringle?

Happy (Chocolate) New Year…soon

chocolate ideal picSkipping over holiday pieces (at least for the time being) let’s talk 2015 and chocolate trends.

This fruit of the gods is a tried and true pleasure, a long-time luxury with an incredible history that has its ups and downs (as in “white” chocolate).

Still, somehow, great is not good enough. The search is always on for the new, the trendy, the tomorrow. Why? Something about human nature not worth trying to understand here.

Anyway, hearing the breath of Janus getting closer, the most important new year news will definitely be that the “we’re running out of chocolate” hysteria is overblown. The world market is changing, but don’t panic yourself into hoarding a domesday supply of drugstore crapchoc in your apocalypse shelter … yet.

As support for keeping calm, Big Chocolate is planning to still go about its business. Barry Callebaut predicts it will be crunch, acidity and shimmer making chocolate pop, and is expanding its sourcing footprint by moving into Chile, among other new growth territories. Cargill posits transparency in labeling, leading to the PR spin highlighting that what was “bad” with chocolate is actually “healthy” for you. Everyone is fighting over the Chinese market, and there is a frothingchocolate and tea trend. Finally, going all in on the mercenary, restaurateurs are focused on how to cobble a few more bucks per 2015 table with the sales pitch that restaurant chocolate is for sharers.

Rather than look to the business world for guidance, the new year could be the time to confront the difficult facts in chocolate’s backstory such as child slavery in the chocolate fields. Not the worst resolution for the new year is — in the spirit of the gods who first planted cacao seeds on earth — to resolve to help in ways big or small.

Perhaps with conscience salved it will make the search for the new and novel even more enjoyable. Trends are, of course, concepts that enough others have discovered so the idea has spread and one can feel like an insider before masses partake and “it’s, like, soooo over, yesterday, deceased, and penny-eyelidded.” Quirky chocolate-related foodish ideas that recently popped their heads out of the corners of cuisine and might (or might not) take off include
cinammon mini-biscuits with chocolate gravy, and cocoa baguettes.

Those wishing to conspicuously consume for 2015, should keep on the lookout for more fancy-schmanzy, you-are-buying-story-much-more-than-taste chocolate bars such as the current $100 and $260 options.

If the trend thing is too much and you would rather not yet look forward and perhaps learn from history in order to repeat/not repeat it, here’s a quick look at where the science and culture of chocolate is so far:

#chocolate #2015trends #HappyNewYear #BigChocolate #foodies

Choco-Tour 2014

cacao poulain posterLike chocolate itself, vacations are a recipe of ingredients both fantastic and real. Getting away, or just thinking about it, should taste of a dreamy unreality that rewards the mind for the body’s slogging through dog days of sun-blanching, humidity-drenching summer or cat (?) days of icy, sleety stormy soul-freezing winter.

This being the time of year when people take their summer or dream of their winter retreats, it seems right to consider traipsing from the more traditional path of choco-tourism (admittedly a naif travel niche) to span the cavernous divide between chocolate consumers such as a few Dutch captured-on-film, who have never seen the cacao fruit

and cacao farmers, who never tasted the “fruit” of their labors (in a report-gone-viral with something of a staged feeling to it)

Let this be a start for your vacation — the one taken or just planned. Consider the variety of options between enjoying the first world comfort of a Hotel Chocolate, a plantation servicing the British chocolatiere celebrating it’s tenth anniversary, that lets you wander the fields and going hyper-native in Brazil, exploring the romance of cabruca farming (an old-fashioned and ecologically sensible style, planting cacao under old growth forest) .

There’s also the socio-politico-economic-historical version of a world choco-tour exploring how the recent world market price increases are creating new market niches, including making specialty cacao a possible Haitian benefit and a causing an ironic turnaround that now has previously dismissed Ghanaian beans smuggled into the Cote d’Ivoire

Not last, not least consider an online or in-person visit taking in something like China’s Chocolate Happy Land

However, if your imagination and wallet can only take you so far and you need something real in your life (and real as in now), fight the dog days of summer (and think about the frozen, sleety winter of 180 degrees on the calendar) by taking a chocolate vacation, courtesy of the classic Serendipity3 Frozen Hot Chocolate recipe, courtesy of ABC’s Good Morning America.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
4 tablespoons of different cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 cup milk
3 cups ice
whipped cream and semisweet chocolate (to taste and encouraged excess)

Combine the sugar, dry milk powder, cocoas, and salt. Blend mix, milk and ice until smooth Pour the milk into a blender. Add the dry mix and ice. Blend until all the ice is crushed and the drink is smooth. Top the drink with whipped cream and shavings from a semisweet chocolate bar.

Ice Cream Done Right with Chocolate

chocolate ice creamJuly is National Ice Cream Month and today, 20 July, is National Ice Cream Day, which is an easy excuse to offer a quick primer on making chocolate ice cream at home as the perfect summer day activity.

Subjectively adding to the newsworthiness of the idea is a recent press release from downmarket ice creamer Baskin Robbins. Their research found that chocolate is the best at bringing the happy. While BR doesn’t bring any real science establishing the dominance of chocolate ice cream, there is enough anecdotal evidence to ease the acceptability of glomming on to this bit of news puffery.brhappy

There is a googleplexplus of chocolate ice cream recipes, but a couple to highlight are the David Lebowitz Easiest Ever, which is used with an ice cream maker, and Beyond the Stoop’s Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate No Ice Cream Maker version

A quick summary for using other ice cream recipes without having the slurry meet its maker is to: Chill completed mixture in a pan filled with ice. When chilled pour into freezer-safe stainless steel bowl which has been in freezer for at least a half hour, cover and return to bowl to freezer. Combine the ingredients for your ice cream mixture following the recipe. Every 30 minutes for three hours stir it up vigorously (if it has become too hard then soften it briefly in refrigerator). Give it at least another hour before eating.

A marvelous demonstration for using a contraption is outlined by the New York Times’ Melissa Clark as she showcases her basic recipe by taking on strawberries, although it is easy enough to use chocolate instead (switch strawberries puree, with seven-ounces shaved 70-75 percent dark chocolate, an additional quarter cup honey, and two teaspoons vanilla extract all eased in during mixing).

And while it is probably too late for starting Chocolate Mint for use this year, consider growing it in the garden or a windowbox as a great add-on for dishes of chocolate ice cream, among other uses.

Brazilian vs. Netherlands Chocolate to Decide Third Place?

futbolA lot of complaints about today’s game to claim World Cup’s third place, featuring despairing host Brazil and The worn-to-a-quick Netherlands. Interestingly enough, among those weighing in is former German star, Der [hopefully only briefly] disgraced and displaced Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer.

No secret: this is a game played for the greater glory of the advertisers and the money that flows into the kingdom of maligned FIFA Godfather Sepp Blatter. Rather than putting the players through another grueling (possibly soul-sucking) opportunity to end their campaign with a loss let’s consider a Choc-off, which, honestly, in many ways makes as much sense as ending a game of fluid and dramatic movement based on the stationary puppet show of the stupid penalty kick shootout. Chocolate reveals the strengths of a nation’s character — along the lines of the popular but discredited theory regarding — as much it can be revealed by eleven folks ability to run for miles in order to kick a ball between some posts and into (or out of, as the case may be) plastic netting.

While it seems to offer the home team a huge advantage, today’s contest should be between the chocoladelletter (more or less a big S for Santa created at Christmas) and the Brazilian national chocolate ball, the Brigadeiro. On the underdog’s side, it would be remiss not to add that we do have the Dutch — specifically chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten — to thank for Dutch chocolate powder and all its contributions to the world of better chewing and swallowing.

Today’s match-up:

The Dutch Chocoladelleter

vs. the Brazilian Brigadeiro

You choose the winner. And, if by chance you wish to prepare for tomorrow’s final by thinking along these same lines, here is an introduction to German and Argentinian chocolate sides. [Quick note for American fans: In case you are checking in for your German Chocolate Cake info, it is American and named after an Englishman, Mr. German, of German’s chocolate.]

Chocolate Wealth Vs. Taste

$1 million chocolateThe focus of much of the world’s attention — at least in terms of chocolate billionaires — is on newly sworn-in Ukrainian (and Roshen’s chocolates) President Petro Poroshenko. Noteworthy: he is not in a financial/taste-satisfying class all his own. Other chocolate billionaires populating the Forbes list of the world’s richest include Italy’s (and Nutella’s) Michele Ferrero, with an estimated $27 billion collection of chocolate moolah, and the Virginia sibs John, Forrest Jr., and Jacqueline Mars (as in Milky Ways,Snickers, M&Ms, etc.) who weigh in collectively at about $60 billion.

Other than making us big-bucks-envious, however, those aren’t the most interesting chocolate billionaires… or based on much of what they have built their fortunes on the ones with the greatest taste. Those with the greatest attraction are usually small blobbish balls of (usually but not always milk) chocolate, caramel and crunch (various nuts, rice cereal); they can also be brownied. There is a bit of tradition that they not just be inflation-adjusted, but actually differ from “chocolate millionaires” in that the millionaires get their crunch with shortbread cookie and not nuts. However, inside “the Google,” recipes for the millionaires and billionaires are all mixed up (something we can never imagine happening on a Forbes list), with pretty much anything involving caramels and chococolate and some kind of crunch .

Oddly, and with what we can only assume is an unintended slight at either very wealthy people (or a particular order of shelled reptile), to some these billionaires/millionaires are also turtles.

Anyway, we’d be happy to be the subject of the generosity of the people, but are currently working on some new recipes … and, of course, the correct naming.

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 …

Will We Call Them Chocoffs?

choco-chipsEveryone, it seems, says they love chocolate. But could America love chocolate as much as we seem to love football … and could we love it in the same way?

What if there were televised spectacularish playoffs for chocolate, similar to our inexorable yearly slog to pro football’s SUPERBOWL next Roman numeral , which will have its shadow money-college bro beginning next year? Can we live with ourselves with one “winner,” particularly if it means we have to face that we prefer crappy to better chocolate?

Would we be happier with a fancy/schmancy competition in the spirit of the International Chocolate Awards — a sorta country-franchised competition whose 2013 winners were high-brow chocolatiere’s from around the globe able and willing to invest in the competition?

Most likely, should choco-playoffs happen, the popular choice will be along the lines of the current football model: big names with the biggest wallets. For this year, maybe a Hershey vs. Cadbury match-up. There could even be a lead-up to the finals in the same way that the NFL tries to dominate all media conscious (and even takes over a Manhattan boulevard for four days as part of the hype) with its competition where technology and buzz is almost as important as taste.

Someday soon we may settle down one winter weekend day or night and be mesmerized as Hershey’s 3-D printed kisses

battles clothing-sensed Cadbury Chocolate

in some sort of reality show chocolate taste test.

Back to the idea of watching playoffs: No doubt, in the running for snacking food will be chocolate guacamole (this CG recipe vegan and gluten free — other than your chips — and courtesy of Amy Layne, @damyhealth).

The Chocolate Freeze

chocolate sorbetIsn’t it only natural the mind would fixate on frozen chocolate given the current weather conditions? It is for us, and thus, to avoid focusing on the freeze, we went internetting for FC news.

… and we discovered that she-of-one-name Giada recommends frozen chocolate chips [at article’s end] as a weight maintenance trick?

… additionally, there’s a mom (author @CarrieMGoldman) trapped in Chicago who used every dish in the kitchen to create a chocolate ice cream and fried cheese meal (“There’s calcium and protein in that stuff, right?” she alibis) for her home-from-cancelled-school children

… also, interviewed by Esquire, Ben admits to killing one of his chocolate children (Dastardly Mash) in favor of another New York Super Fudge Chunk. Strangely, in the interview, neither Ben nor Jerry seem that distraught over consigning the died-too-young Mocha Walnut (which Ben says was his favorite) to the Flavor Graveyard.

… finally, we found inspiration for now, soon and always with the Best Chocolate Ice Cream You’ll Ever Have according to A Cup of Jo. An additional benefit, it can be made without an ice cream maker

… which completes the round-up, although we now can’t get Bollywood’s Chocolate Ice Cream Lime Juice tune out of our head:

Sadly (?) it does not come with a recipe.

Respect the (Chocolate) Bar

nestleWhy is the chocolate bar a drugstore staple and not a bakery highlight? That was growling-ever-louder debate earlier today between Swiss intern Hans Subebraune, our assistant baker Theo Panadero from Honduras and the all-American (as in Archie Bunker American) Grumps that at one point nearly frightened a couple customers out the door before picking up their cakes, worried that fisticuffs were likely to break out and spill out beyond the display cases.

None of the three tell the same story of what started the argument-to-the-death that ended in a draw, at day’s end. Maybe it was just all the recent chocolate bar “news.” A British journo declared the winner of his “chocolate ‘world’ cup” competition was Twirl Chocolate. There was the heart-warming story of a Giant Gourami — which maybe should be renamed a Giant Gourmet-mi — being raised on KitKat Bars in a London aquarium. And one of the her majesty’s 25-year-olds, Aneesh Popat, created chocolate mouth-pop-em, with 20 calories, featuring flavoured waters in a cocoa-rolybit.

In news away from HM’s realm, Mars introduced a vegetarian bar (no eggs, but still milk) into India, M&M debuted its new multicolored mini-M&Ms milk chocolate bar, and pundits weighed in with ideas like Hershey chocolate bar sales could serve as a stock market indicator and that bingeing on dark chocolate bars can sunproof skin.

Probably the only item that was all-positive was that Denver emporium Hammond’s Candies sent six new chocolate bars out into the world this past year and one, Red Velvet Cake, was named “Most Innovative New Gourmet Product of the Year” by the National Confectioner’s Association. (The five Hammond runners-up are Pigs n Taters, Chocolate Crisp, Double Truffle, The Cookie Jar and Caramel Mocha.)

As the argument was raised, maybe our concern should be that instead of continuing to be thought of as drugstore crapchocolate, barred chocolate concoctions are on their way to winning more respect. So, we’re inspired to try and come up with a few Cupid Alley Chocolatieres bars. We like the path Hammond’s Candy (factory tours available) is taking and are also inspired by the idea of a healthy Nestle-Crunch-like bar substituting dark chocolate and toasted quinoa put together by the folks at Diets In Review.

Maybe we should combine a marshmallow/bittersweet chocolate/pomegranate or hazelnut/chia/honey/semi-sweet chocolate bar? Trying to get those recipes right might just result in the taste success we’re looking for, although it will also likely get everyone yelling again.