Chocolating Up Passover

chocolate matzoCacao, along with religion, are connecting ancient rituals and today’s concerns through chocolate seders. The explored theme is that as part of the Jewish Passover celebration (beginning this evening at Sundown) of Jews escaping slavery in ancient Egypt observants find links from their history to the abuse of children and adult workers  who struggle to survive on the path from harvesting to relishing chocolate.

Among the prominent proponents of the connection is Rabbi Deborah Prinz, author of On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, as well as a supporting Haggadah, generally the libretto for the evening’s seder ritual.

The idea of a chocolate seder is not Prinz’s alone to push.

Nor does the celebration of chocolate and the seder have to be about connecting the tears of yore to the sadness of today. It could also be about the food (and not just in the way of the older religion outdoing Easter chocolate bunnies and eggs of its offspring). It can just be about adding intriguing recipes to family traditions, whether it is chacatzo, chocolate charoset, chocolate mousse pie, matzo meal chocolate chip cake, or a flourless (flour and most other grains are not allowed) chocolate roulade.

The idea is to celebrate, connect family, and enjoy. All of which is made better — as everyone knows — with homage to chocolate.

Chocolating Mardi Gras

galette-rois-chocolat-02For too many people chocolate is only about excess. Even though they refuse to consider subtleties, we still feel compelled to dedicate to them a few words of advice on celebrating Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, and the IHOP co-oped National Pancake Day) with caloric cacao celebrations.

We note that many of this ilk also consider the Mardi Gras parade as an excuse for personal excess. They will do anything to collect a few more plastic beads. However, everyone will be much happier with focus on perfecting a holiday-appropriate Chocolate King Cake, perhaps whipping a fancier sounding (to American ears) Galette des rois au chocolat

Consideration can also be given alcohol infused chocolate covered strawberries, a bit more overt decadence idea courtesy comic/chef Donnie Stykes)

The point is, after midnight Tuesday, it’s forty days of religion-inspired deprivation, although you can spend that time looking forward to the treat of a Chocolate Jesus — a recipe we are avoiding controversy by not messing with — and a miraculous confection on Easter

PS — Remember to leave the chocolate coated drugs at home. Strangely, police are on the lookout.

Easter Chocolate Hot Cross Buns Making More Sense Than Chocobunnies

bunny cartoon2We love the celebration and tradition, but know we do so out of ignorance. No matter how much we try to make sense of it all, there isn’t much that correctly adds up with the sum of making baskets for rabbit (Really? Rabbits laying tie-dyed…) eggs as part of a celebration of the resurrection and eternality of the son of God — all of which is part of the traditional and most reverent Easter.

But maybe it’s just all the chocolate, much of which will never be eaten, that’s so distracting?

For instance, there’s this chocolate Easter egg being constructed by 30 Argentinian kids, the majority with Down Syndrome. Their hard at work in 68 degree temperatures hand-making a projected 19,685-foot-tall, 9,920 pound, record-setting chocolate egg in a warehouse in Miramar.

Then there are the 20 sculptures — a pig to a wave rider — Brazilian master chocolatier Diego Lozano has created for an Easter celebration on display in a Rio de Janeiro mall.

British news is reporting a 56-year-old chocolate egg just hanging out as a family heirloom, which flows into a stream of thoughts on the history of how John Cadbury did a sort of pre-internet viral thing with his chocolate eggs, letting him commercially vault above the German and French competition in chocolate egg creativity and production

At least those eggs are being eaten, which somehow brings us back to the seemingly ridiculousness of bunnies and eggs that begin life as cacao and the extraordinary fertility of even chocolate bunnies, which in Germany are multiplying to the point where they are vastly outselling chocolate Santas.

And not to exhaust the point of why so much doesn’t make sense, but given the chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs that are a part of this celebration, why is there no push for chocolate crosses? The closest culinary confection we’ve come up with — and an idea for some counter-culture in future Easters — is the chocolate hot cross bun. (Outpacing the old chocolate egg is the extant and still uneaten 1821 hot cross bun.)

Given the tradition involved, we expect that we’ll be riffing off Cadbury and the Cadbury Kitchen’s Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Ingredients

Buns

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast (2¼ -2½ teaspoons per sachet)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 350ml lukewarm milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 3/4 cup CADBURY Milk Chocolate Baking Chips
  • 1/4 cup currants

Crosses

  • 1/2 cup plain flour, extra
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water, extra

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar, extra
  • 1/4 cup water, extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon gelatine

Directions

  1. Combine the sifted flour and mixed spice with the yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Add warm milk and eggs to flour mixture. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Add fruit and chocolate. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form soft dough.
  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in warm place for one hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Knock back (punch down) dough to its original size. Knead until smooth then divide into 12, shape each portion into a ball, then place onto a greased tray about 1 cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until buns double in size.
  4. For the crosses: Mix extra flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small resealable bag. Snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake in a moderately hot oven 190°C for 20-25 minutes or until cooked when tested. Allow to cool on a wire rack.i
  5. For the glaze: Combine extra sugar, extra water and gelatine in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for minute, then brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And eat and consider the mysteries of the day … or give in to some toy manufacturer Mattel marketing madness:

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Chocolate Santa Rant (Advisory: Not SC)

chocolate santaIT’S NOT SEASONALLY CORRECT (Can we copyright that? Lawyers?), but Chocolate Santas are mostly stupid. Honestly, how is it still considered festive to participate in a ritual long passed its expiration date of biting the simulated head — and other body parts — of a demi-deity worshiped for bringing joy from the sky?

Now, we don’t loathe the false-idol chocolate Santas with the vitriol of Albert Burneko, a world-class ranter who really, really detests and despises cheap chocolate and is not at all afraid to let you know about it, but we do hate waste.

So, we are giving a pass when Jacaques Torres creates a choco-Nick

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But we’re coming down hard on the excess of a Vegas mega-waste of inedible Chocolate Santa, lovingly crafted as it may be and showcased at the Jean Philippe Patisserie. We are also calling out the unseemly sacrifice of cacoa beans to create an an estimated 2,956,818 calories of inedible white, milk and Disney World chocolate Santa.

Our heart and palates begin to soften when the idea of a 30-pound, three-foot tall (about 270 or so candy bars worth) Chocolate Santa gets raffled for Charity. Still, if you have to create something in Santa’s image, just use legs and make some amusing looking chocolate cupcakes or much better yet, forget sacrificing a man and go hog wild with creativity building upon the yule log of Michel Richard (author of Sweet Magic) with an incredible yule log.

In short, as we say all the time because it’s best for business: leave the fat man alone!

Happy Chocolate Day 2012

IN case you haven’t checked the Almanac lately, we’ll be frontstore tomorrow, 7 July, with a couple special treats, but mostly celebrating Chocolate Day — an international note-taking of the Europeans discovery of the Mayan Goddess Ixcacao‘s cacao drink — by peddling the usual choco-deliciousness.

HOWEVER, for a few special friends who can make their way into the alley leading to Cupid Alley and, thus, our back door, make sure to stop in to see Grumps. As he announced loudly today, he’ll be honoring the day and dealing with the “frickin’ hellacious temperatures” outside by working on his Chocolate-Kahlua Ice Cream recipe in back. He’s mashed together some ideas and let us know that the base he’ll be tweaking all day for our backdoor visitors is

GRUMPS Choco-Coffee Liquor Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
4 teaspoons corn starch
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup evaporated milk (unsweetened condensed milk)
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup brewed double-strength espresso, cold
1/2 cup Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. When at a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder and egg yolks and continue heating for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the espresso, Kahlua and vanilla.

3. Pour into a zip-top plastic bag and submerge in ice for about 30 minutes (add ice if bag gets uncovered).

4. Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker, then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or just knead bag a few times to mix all up one more time and place in freezer, kneading again at least once within first ½ hour).

In case you can’t make it to us, want to celebrate at home, but don’t know what to make, may we recommend perusing from among Martha Stewart’s 55 “Best Chocolate Recipes” [link]. (We like a bunch of them, but find the chocolate ginger cookies, fairly simple and addictive.) Or perhaps you’d prefer to browse Real Simple‘s 50 Best Chocolate Recipes (whose chocolate Ice box cake recently caught our fancy). For those more disciplined among us, there is also Cooking Light‘s suggestions for the 16 Best Chocolate Recipes (and from their list we point you to the Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie)

In any case, whether you stop by or not and no matter with what delectable you choose to celebrate, Happy Chocolate Day … and we remain ever grateful Ixcacao. Thank you!

St. Savannah

It is a horrible tragedy if true, so we are going to pretend that it is fiction that a nine-year-old girl was run to death around the family’s double-wide trailer for lying about taking chocolate.

Story basics are that pregnant step-mom Jessica Mae Hardin, 27, and grandmother Joyce Hardin Garrard, 46, kept Savannah running for three hours. She had a medical condition making chocolate bad for her and she lied about taking it, which seems to have been the catalyst for her “punishment.” It’s too gruesome to be accurate.

So, as a store that celebrates the mythology of the Roman god Cupid, and makes a fair bit of coin celebrating the martyred three saints and Christian/Pagan celebratory mash-up known as Valentine’s Day, we propose that (first) the person who was Savannah Hardin be honored for the life she lived and what it could have been. And then we would like a myth built around her so that hundreds of years from now our great-great-great-great grandchildren running Cupid Alley Chocolates can pick up their share of coin (or whatever the currency is at that time) celebrating St. Savannah’s Day, complete with a story made wonderful and enlightening by the passage of time and embellishment about a magical and ahistoric sacrifice.