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?

Chocolate Loves Science

Chocolate pleasures the palate, as it seduces the eyes. In print and on the internet. Which science journo John Bohannon took advantage of when he deliberately used bad science to try and break the internet (and point out to others why covering scientific studies should not be the same as spreading gossip) with the headline kidnapping claim that consuming chocolate can be a weight loss shortcut.

In addition to highlighting gullibility and dream fulfillment yearnings, Bohannon’s stunt also brings to the fore the reality that science and chocolate are often engagingly entwined. Sometime it’s not in a positive way, such as when Arizona Senator Flake mounted his barricades to shrill and (try to) kill a $135,000 grant supporting chocolate’s preservation.

Other times science and chocolate are unattractively meshed in the most attractive of tales (even if they are still kinda heartwarming) such as when empathy among rats was proven with the choice of drowning pals over nibbles of chocolate.

Admittedly, not all science is great science. There are the pseudo-scientists to consider, such as those Australians who put their mouths where their brains are and tested a vegemite — chocolate concoction.

However, there are also cocoa “doctors” (sponsored by Mars) trying to help Indonesian cacao farmers fending off a potential chocolate shortage; there are scientists x-raying bloom (the white dust that can form on a chocolate bar); and there are those scientists in England trying to stave off extinction of cacao species with research that the Flakester is trying to limit.

While keeping chocolate extant rather than extinct is important, you have to admit that it is not as immediately exciting as when cacao and science spark the imagination as they do for Good Mythical Morning‘s Rhett and Link when they harmonize CHOCOLATE POWERED ROBOTS FROM BEYOND THE MOON!

#science #politics #robots #media

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.

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.

Should Today be Chocolate Fast Day?

cacao pods_treeNine April’s 24 hours might best be used contemplating and balancing the idea of good that comes from evil. In other words, deal with the question of (how?) can one enjoy Belgian chocolate (arguably the world’s best while also knowing that historically evil guy, King Leopold II — born today, in 1835 — played an integral part in making that happen. (For the full, horroracious story, brilliantly and memorably told, take a look at Adam Hochshild’s King Leopold’s Ghost.)

Shortcut: no answers here; talk among yourselves, as Linda Richman would say.

Desirous of an empire of his own, Leopold manipulated European opinion into letting him take over the Congo on “humanitarian grounds” and then used his rule to plunder its resources, making money mostly from rubber plantations, but also building an important culinary bridge for his chef by exploiting the cacao resources. There would have been Belgian chocolate without Leopold, as Spain had introduced its pleasures into the country during 17th century rule, but it would probably not be the same today. Of course, there are some who say that great engineers and location and just pure kitchen genius would have produced amazing results, too.

(source: Revisitar)

But that’s not the way history happened and so, oddly, today you can celebrate chocolate infamy with a chocolate king quilt comforter named for the Belgian royal, butcher of Congo, who helped create his country’s chocolate acclaim and leaving a popular legacy of attraction for chocolate tourists.

Perhaps it should be a day to engage in a chocolate fast as a way of acknowledging the suffering? The larger point: it’s too late to change history, but never past time to think about it in order to influence the present and future. So enjoy, thoughtfully.

Chocolate Banana Dinner Menu Fantasy

chocolate and bananaThere is something about a chocolate covered banana that is always decadent, ever-titillatiing to particular sites in the mind. Sadly, that particular stimulation is not always equaled by the gustatory pleasure.

The report that the Philippines is encouraging its banana farmers to diversify their lands with cacao tree plantings encouraged a consideration of the pairing’s limits. If something is good enough for the grower, shouldn’t it be equally providential for the baker (a sauce, goose and gander sort of thing)? And if it is good in one combination, shouldn’t many combinations be even better?

In other words, can you create a whole banana–chocolate meal that might possibly take in all the new production of the Filipino multi-farmers? Turns out we couldn’t, at least not one we’d really enjoy indulging in — which doesn’t mean we didn’t try, although maybe not long enough.

Probably great chefs should turn their minds and palates to solving “the problem” of bringing to savory dishes the taste and healthy benefits of ingredients generally enjoyed from the sweet side of the menu. But so far, while a meal can be created in name, we’re really just talking about multiple dessert courses … not that this would be a wholly bad thing. For example, you could start a meal taking your taste buds from B to C with soup.

Consider the chocolate–banana soup adapted by The Purple Frog Cook from a Jacques Torres creation.

The natural complement to the soup would be the whole what monkey muffins baked up by the suburban Chicago Spanish teacher behind, which she refers to within context as dietetically not completely unacceptable

Why am I calling these healthyish? Well, the low-ish fat and whole wheat flour of course. And the bananas. Fruit makes everything healthy, right?

Entree course could be sushi. Borrowing from the vegan devotees at Vegalicious, the feature would be “Banushi,” a vegan banana chocolate sushi using puff pastry instead of a seaweed wrapper, and in doing so suggests some off-label use in a different context as a delectable, healthy substitute for the banal-if-tasty-to-some cocktail party staple of pigs in a blanket. (Yes, there is an easy joke to be made here about people devouring enough to be “pigs” outside the blanket, but we’ll forego it.)

For liquid refreshment, it is possible to fit with the theme, although The Thirsty Zymurgist, who posted the idea of the banana-chocolate pour combining Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Well’s Banana Bread Ale found it more than a few sips from stupendous.

Dessert — should you even be able to crawl back to the table for this course — will be fittingly represented by a BBQ Banana Chocolate Finisher. The banana is split lengthwise with the peel still encasing it, a quality chocolate is splintered and stuffed in the middle and whole is roasted over dying coals (or a warmed oven) until the peel has taken on a mostly black coat; peel and serve.

Dinner and appetite surely over, even if there is some residual happiness from helping out the Filipino farmers to such a great extent.

Sometimes a Chocolate Is Not a Chocolate

chocolate trainChocolate use is not always about chocolate consumption. It’s almost Freudian that way.

The most recent example of this comes from a media-conscious, progressive, post-modernish arty, activist collective, the Fresh Juice Party, who claim to have sent 5,000 gruesomely rendered soldiers made of chocolate to various opinion-makers as part of a protest of American military policy. They call their confection-conception a FUBAR and claim it is delicious.

Of course, the tastefulness of the actual chocolate is inconsequential, except, perhaps, in service to their political point. It’s similar in that way to all the various things that over the years have been made from chocolate as a way to call attention to themselves … and their creators such as the random assortment compiled on one list of 30 Things Made of Chocolate and another of Amazing Things Made of Chocolate.

The idea of cacao creations being used not for taste but for the ideas conjured in the audiences’ mind can evolve into a nesting doll idea of self-referentialness finding it ultimate — at least to us and so far — when a box of chocolates made of chocolate appears on what Hulu refers to as chocolate television.

Admittedly, it’s a long sidetrack away from making chocolate confections that just taste good for their own sake. But enough of the philosophizing. Back to the kitchen for some and to the sales counter for others.

Elect More Chocolate Sales

NO news to anyone, there is an election going on all around. What is news — at least to stupid us — is that this would have been a great end to a sales campaign.

Report from Maryland’s The Perfect Truffle is that among the states reliably Democratic voters they are selling more Obama-themed chocolate than truffles featuring his opponent. Equally predictably, deep in a very red state the Oklahoma City University cafe is selling more Republican Romney bars than those with the Prez on the wrapper. Oh, and it continues not to be close among voters in Paris [Earlier: Chocolate Not Exactly Key…, in case that should matter.

So, on this election day we learn that we missed the boat on creating a campaign to make some money off current events and we continue to assume that no matter who you, your friends and loved ones vote for, everyone agrees this — a satiric, kicking-around-the-internet look at how an out-of-control bureaucracy would dictate a chocolate chip cookie recipe be written — is a small, chuckleworthy satire:

Bureaucrat’s Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies

For those government employees and bureaucrats who have problems with standard recipes, here’s one that should make the grade—a classic version of the chocolate chip cookie, translated for easy reading.

Total Lead Time
35 minutes

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup softened butter
½ cup shortening
2 eggs
12 oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

After procurement actions, decontainerize inputs. Perform measurement tasks on a case-by-case basis. In a mixing-type bowl, impact heavily on brown sugar, granulated sugar, softened butter and shortening. Coordinate the interface of eggs and vanilla, avoiding an overrun scenario to the best of your skills and abilities.

At this point in time, leverage flour, baking soda and salt into the aforementioned mixing-type bowl and aggregate. Equalize with prior mixture and develop intense and continuous liaison among inputs
until well-coordinated. Associate key chocolate and nut subsystems and execute stirring operations.

Within this time frame, take action to prepare the heating environment for throughput by manually setting the oven baking unit by hand to a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Drop mixture in an ongoing fashion from a teaspoon implement onto an ungreased OGCCU
sheet (see below) at intervals sufficient enough apart to permit total and permanent separation of throughputs to the maximum extent practicable under operating conditions.

Position OGCCU sheet in a bake situation and surveil for eight to 10 minutes or until cooking action terminates. Initiate coordination of outputs within the cooling rack function. Containerize, wrap in
red tape and disseminate to authorized staff personnel on a timely and expeditious basis.

Six dozen Official Government Chocolate Chip Units (OGCCUs).

Chocolate Not (Exactly) Key to Nobel Prize and Election Win

IF only headlines were content and content was always accurate there would be no reason to consume anything that didn‘t start life in a cacao pod.

Recent reports that eating chocolate is all you needed to win a Nobel Prize, according to scientific analysis, and that President Obama has a mega lead in predictive poling turn out to be a bit less than met the eye, or tongue.

Alas, the idea of choco-chomping your way to a Nobel is based on an outsized number of Swiss who have gained neighborly Swede Alfred Nobel’s financial legacy and attention. As for the election results, the poll is self-selected from folks in France buying a box of Paris Chocolate commemorative chocolate images of the Democratic and Republican nominees before clicking their American presidential preference. Company owner Eric Montserrat says it is highly accurate because it worked in a recent French election; we remain dubious, although do note that if you feel differently and care enough there is still time to order your box and vote.

Do the headlines propose the absurd? Yes. Potentially delicious? Yes, as well.

Colombian Coca/Cocoa Conundrum

It’s not the usual policy choice that rises to national political discourse, but where do the presidential candidates stand on the subject of sub-par cocoa versus cocaine? Do they see a third way?

Colombian farmers are being encouraged to convert from coca to cocoa production. Unfortunately, the move from starting the cocaine chain to initiating chocolate is foundering over a slump in cocoa prices worldwide unmatched by the price of raw coca. One solution is to plant the CCN-51 cocoa as the CIA is encouraging Peruvian farmers to take on — a controversial policy as the particular strain is easier to grow, but a “bulk cocoa” far down far down the taste ladder from the native fine white (yes, “fine” and “white”) chocolate.

So —and accepting that one government should be mixing into the agricultural policy of another nation — the problem is whether the United States should be encouraging a non-native, cheaper chocolate species that could eventually drive out a finer tasting domestic? What to do, what to do? (And, no, we are not suggesting solving the problem by smuggling the cocaine in chocolate candy as did one enterprising NYC airport baggage handler.

Mr. Obama? Mr. Romney? Care to comment?