Friday, October 2, 2015

Shortbread Cookies with Reese Peanut Butter Middles!

A few weeks ago, I shared a recipe for a delicious Reese Peanut Butter half-baked cheesecake, made with the new Reese Spreads.  And I still had some left over this week, so I started playing around in the kitchen and came up with these amazing little cookies.  Butter shortbread cookies with Reese spread in the middle.  And since Reese spread tastes just like a peanut butter cup, these little babies were absolutely delectable!

My kids loved them too.  I didn't make a large batch, so I think I will have to run out and buy another jar of Reese soon so I can make more.

The best part of this recipe is that it has only 4 ingredients and is super simple to make. So let's get started...

Recipe: Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Centres

Time: About 1 hour.
Batch Size: Makes about 27 to 28 cookies.

·         1/2 pound (250 ml) of butter, room temperature, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes

·         1/3 cup (80 ml) of organic golden cane sugar, coconut sugar or regular granular sugar

·         2 cups (500 ml) of unbleached all-purpose flour

·         About 140 ml of Reese Spreads or 27-28 teaspoons. 
Baking Instructions:
1. Place flour and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (I use a KitchenAid mixer) or in a large mixing bowl, if you don't have a mixer. 
2. Stir for a few seconds to mix the two dry ingredients together. 
3. Toss chopped butter into the mixer while it is on low so the butter evenly distributes. Mix until it becomes coarse crumbs or all starts to stick together (at least 10 minutes).  If you do not have a mixer, you will have to use your  hands to knead, beat and mix the batter together until it forms a ball - this will take longer but it is possible. 
4. Take the cookie dough out of the bowl and kneed it on the counter using a little flour to ensure it does not stick.  On a lightly floured surface, roll it into a thin ball.
5. Dust your work surface, the dough and rolling pin with flour, then roll out the mixture to about 1/8 inch thick with a large a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter, small round measuring cup (I used a 1/3 cup round measure) or a small juice glass to get the shape of the cookie that you want.  Using a flat lifter, place half of the cookies on a pan lined with a piece of parchment paper.
6. Then place a teaspoon of Reese spread onto the center of each cookie.  Then place another unbaked cookie on top and press the sides to stick the cookies together.
7. Bake in an oven preheated to 350º F for 12 to 15 minutes, or just until the very edges are beginning to turn golden.
8. Let cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then carefully use a lifter to place them on a plate until fully cooled. Enjoy!
For leftovers, seal in an airtight container.  Keeps well for 4 days.  if keeping longer, freeze in a sealed container. 
Note: The product I used in this post was given to me by Hershey's Canada. I was monetarily compensated for one of the two posts I wrote on this product - the other one I did just for my own pleasure!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Askinosie Chocolate Factory: A Tour and Taste Sensation in Springfield, Missouri

Just over a week ago, I visited the Askinosie Chocolate Factory in Springfield, Missouri. Super-friendly Sarah gave me a tour of the craft chocolate factory that was both inspiring and mouth-watering. She not only told me about Askinosie's artisan chocolate-making process, but also the company's beautiful mission to be socially responsible both at home and abroad.

What I learned was that Askinosie not only makes great chocolate, but also that they ensure social and environmental responsibility is included in every aspect of their chocolate making. This is just some of what they do:

  • The wrappers are environmentally friendly and fastened with strings re-used from the burlap sacks that the cocoa beans are delivered in.

  • Local and American partners are used to provide any chocolate inclusions that are needed for their 'collaboration' chocolate product line, giving this company (who requires international trade as part of business) to also be locally focused.

  • Focusing on direct trade with the farmers who grow the cacao that is used to make Askinosie's chocolate.  They also bring this focus to the customers, by placing a picture of the farmers directly on the label of Askinosie's origin chocolate bars. By visiting the farms and paying farmers directly, more money goes to the farm and the workers, so they are not working and living in poverty as many cacao farmers across the world are doing.

  • Affecting communities and schools in both their own city (Springfield) and the villages where they buy cocoa beans. Chocolate University is an Askinosie program that annually takes groups of kids from local Missouri schools on a trip to Tanzania to learn about the business of chocolate making, and to understand how local artisan businesses can help solve world problems. The program also funds projects in the local Tanzanian village where they visit, such as a deep water well and a Sustainable Lunch Program at a local secondary school.

  • Using goat's milk in their milk chocolate bars so that people with cow's milk allergies and insensitivities can enjoy their chocolate (let's face it, this is also benefitting us foodies who love a great adventure for the palate, and for a little wine and chocolate pairing fun).

Askinosie also does so much more.  You can read about other programs on their 'Product of Change' web page:

Touring the Chocolate Factory

As for the factory tour, it was fun.  Being an 'artisan' chocolate factory, it is not a long process to tour the facility, but still informative and eye opening. I was curious about how much equipment is needed for Askinosie, given that in the last month they started selling a custom product line at select Target stores in the U.S., and their artisan chocolate bars are sold to chocophiles all across the U.S. and Canada in specialty shops. The refiner was quite large, and the melangueur was gorgeous.

Askinosie Chocolate Refiner, in which most of the dark chocolate is made!
Shame I couldn't have brought a pail of my own to fill from its massive tap.

Goat's milk white chocolate is churning away in this large sized stone grinder.
That's a lot of chocolate!

The product on the shelves in the wrapping room seemed to reach epic proportions.  I was also quite impressed that Askinosie has its own press to make cocoa butter and powder (cocoa beans are pressed to extract the fat, 'cocoa butter' and the remainder can be used to make cocoa powder). This is a rare activity for craft chocolate makers, but it is worth while because Askinosie can truly make 'single origin' chocolate by using cocoa butter from the same cocoa beans used to make the rest of the chocolate bar.

Askinosie is one of the few artisan chocolate makers who presses their own cocoa butter.
This is where the magic happens.

Overall, it was a fun tour and definitely worth the drive to Springfield, Missouri. The town was also amazing (I could easily live there), and they even had an organized 'wine walk' through the entire downtown area on Thursday night, where wine lovers could pay $45 for a glass and participation in countless wine offerings at various local businesses (Yup, I could definitely live there). We also stayed at the University Plaza Hotel Convention Center in downtown Springfield, which was beautiful, with a very unique layout and a cool social lounge setting in the center of the hotel. It was also walking distance to the local restaurants and pubs.

Enough About the Tour and Social Responsibility, What About The Taste?
As for the taste of Askinosie's chocolate, I can tell you it is fantastic.  Not only is the owner, Shawn Askinosie, famous in the fine chocolate industry for making a quality product, but also for Askinosie's interesting chocolate flavour combinations. I think I have now have tasted all of their products, from the past limited edition chocolate bars to the current chocolate offerings at the factory (I purchased so much chocolate that I broke my chocolate budget for the month - or three - but it was worth it).  And I can tell you from experience that it consistently exceeds expectations.

Most of Askinosie's chocolate is dark, and certainly with a bitterness that appeals to dark chocolate lovers, but also they make a few white chocolate bars, and some collaboration bars with a little more sweetness. Here are my tasting notes on some of my favourite Askinosie chocolate bars:

The 4-Bar Box:
You can purchase Askinosie's line-up of single origin chocolate bars separately, or in a lovely gift pack of four chocolate bars that saves you some money.

The entire series of chocolate bars had complex layers of flavour, with bold roast and bitter tones that were thoroughly enjoyable for the dark chocolate fanatic. I found the acidity to be low in each of the dark origins. Here is a detailed report on each:

Tanzania Origin Chocolate by Askinosie: 72% Dark Chocolate
This chocolate bar was creamier in texture than the other two origins, and to me, had and an instant bitter flavour reminiscent of tobacco smoke, spice and dark roast coffee before it opens up to a berry fruit flavour and perhaps dried cranberries. Also, maybe a hint of dried grass. It is my favourite.

Ecuador Origin Chocolate by Askinosie: 70% Dark Chocolate
This Ecuadorian chocolate is made with Arriba Nacional cocoa beans. It is both bitter and sweet (like honey), with a smoky, earthy flavour and perhaps some nuttiness. I taste no fruit in this chocolate, particularly compared to the other two fruity origins I was tasting it against, but the package says you 'might' taste red fruit. Also, a dark roast flavour is evident, leaving a bitter and wonderful smoke flavour that lingers.

Honduras Origin Chocolate, Askinosie 70% Dark Chocolate
The Honduras chocolate bar has a snappier, stiffer texture, which is instantly noticeable on the palate. It is fruity, with a sweet-and-bitter cocoa taste highlighted by some roast flavours. As for the fruit, it's slightly citrus acidic, but also has red grape and other fruit undertones.

Davao, Philippines 62% Dark Milk Chocolate + Fleur de Sel (Goat's milk chocolate)
This is somewhat acidic, lightly salty, and has the taste of soft goat cheese, not as strong as in the white chocolate, but still very apparent. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes not. It depends on my taste buds at the time. It tastes great with red wine.

CollaBARation Series of Chocolate Bars:

The CollaBARation product line by Askinosie has the most interesting chocolate bar names on the planet.  The flavour combinations are just as intereting.  Here are some of my favourites...

Malted Milky Dark Chocolate... partner with
Jeni`s Splendid Ice Creams
The only milk chocolate made by Askinosie with cow's milk - tart and, well, malted. This falls on the darker side of dark-milk chocolate. It is quite bold, bitter and intense, with a delicious melt-in-your-mouth after-taste. I truly enjoyed it.

'The breathless Mexican sun, vanilla pods echoing in crisp chocolate depths, sings "el rustic!"' - did you get all that? This one is a collaboration with Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan for some of his 'carefully curated' vanilla.  Morsels of vanilla beans are sprinkled on the chocolate bar, adding a chewy, tasty texture to the chocolate, in addition to a crunchy, minimally processed texture. Truly a unique take on a vanilla bean chocolate bar.

Same Home Same Place Chocolate, Chocolate. Coffee.  A Quiet Balance, the Perfect Texture.
This dark and bitter chocolate has the bold and strong taste of coffee thanks to a partnership with Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, and their direct trade coffee.  It is rich, bitter and delicious. If you like dark chocolate (and coffee!), you will like this chocolate bar!

Askinosie has many other flavours of chocolate bars.  They also sell drinking chocolate (hot chocolate mix), and a delicious dark chocolate hazelnut spread.  For more information on Askinosie and their chocolate factory, products, tours and business activities, visit:

For more information about chocolate in Missouri, visit my recent post:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chaleur B Chocolat's Product Line Expands: Fiji & Madagascar Origin Chocolate PLUS Coffee Inclusions

Chaleur B Chocolat is a small Canadian chocolate-maker that has been growing their line-up of chocolate bars recently. I first told you about them back in February, when I purchased Chaleur's white chocolate, 50% dark-milk chocolate, and 70% Uganda dark chocolate.

Owner, Dany Marquis, who trained in chocolate making in Paris, has begun to expand the product line to include more origin chocolate bars, higher percentages, as well as flavoured bars.  The most interesting new chocolate was the Fiji 87.8%

Fiji origin chocolate is not widely available, but some organizations in Fiji are trying to improve that.  The cacao used for this chocolate bar comes from a region (Dreketi, Makuata province) where some of the poorest people from Fiji live*.  Certainly this type of direct trade in chocolate making, can only benefit people and cocoa farmers in this area.

I have never tasted a chocolate made from cocoa beans grown in Fiji until now.  This introduction was certainly a surprising one, with a bitter taste of black olives and prunes. Some nuttiness rounded out the smooth, bold and bitter chocolate flavour.

Overall, the Fiji bar reminded me of a plate of savoury appetizers, to be enjoyed with a dry red wine.

Chaleur's 70% Madagascar chocolate is a bright and slightly bitter fruity tasting chocolate, showcasing the citrus fruit, raspberry and red fruit flavours often found in Madagascar's cocoa beans. It is perfect for a chocolate-tasting line-up when trying to understand the differences in origin flavours.

The new Mokaccino chocolate bar is a 50% dark-milk chocolate with a slight crunch to it, amidst smooth, buttery, high percentage milk chocolate. I have written about dark-milk chocolate extensively, which is a new category of chocolate that has high percentages of cacao (over 50% cocoa solids). Chaleur B Chocolate has created a delicious combination of bold coffee and smooth, rich chocolate with a hint of milk to it - just like the perfect Mokaccino should be.

Overall, I really like the direction this chocolate maker is headed in; his passion for his craft, and his more recent release of new origins and products shows he is intent on remaining unique. You can read more about the Brazil origin chocolate that Mr. Marquis made (in limited release for now)here.

Chaleur's chocolate can be purchased online, via their website at or at La Tablette de Miss Choco in person in Montreal or online. I believe JoJo Coco in Ottawa also carries some Chaleur B Chocolat chocolate bars.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chocolate in Missouri: A Road Trip for the Taste Buds

I just arrived back from a place that was unexpectedly chocolaty: Missouri!  I know what you're thinking. Chocolate in Missouri? It's not exactly a state known for fine chocolate. And if you have ever driven through the state, you'll recall that candy factory signs are everywhere, and BBQ seems to be all the rage. But NOT fine chocolate. Heck, even the locals didn't know what I was talking about when I said I'd visited a chocolate factory.

But kid you not, fine chocolate Missouri has. In fact, two of America's most renown and long-standing bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers reside in Missouri: Askinosie Chocolate and Patric Chocolate.

Of course, the goal of this trip was not to travel for chocolate. It was to attend a true country-themed farm wedding in the heart of Missouri. My good friend, who I met 11 years ago in France, was getting married on his honey and horse boarding farm in Centralia.

Every detail of this farm wedding had been thoughtfully planned,
from the bride, groom and entire wedding party riding in on individual tractors, to the horse stalls being beautifully transformed into lounge areas in the barn.

I did find a little chocolate at the wedding too. Among the large selection of country pies, there was one 'chocolate pie', made by a relative with a passion for chocolate and baking. It was so delicious that I ate two pieces. So if I find the recipe, I will not only make it, but I will post it here for you to try.

But before the pies and the fun festivities on the farm, came my trip to Askinosie Chocolate Factory in Springfield, Missouri. Askinosie makes a range of dark chocolate, dark-milk chocolate, and white chocolate bars with a focus on collaboration with the farmers, the local schools and other organizations who follow the same socially responsible mission as Askinosie. They also make delicious dark chocolate hazelnut spread and hot cocoa mixes.

I will go into detail about this chocolate maker in a later post, but needless to say, I spent loads of money on chocolate and have been on a cacao high ever since.

Before leaving Springfield, I surprisingly found a little chocolate in the Beef Jerky outlet store (I know, an outlet store for beef jerky is awesome right?).

The choices were on the fun and silly side, but I did find one slightly more serious truffle: a 'latte' flavoured milk chocolate ganache with Mexican coffee, dipped in layers of milk and white chocolate. It filled my cravings for something rich and sweet at the same time.

We soon moved on to Columbia, Missouri, where I picked up several Patric Chocolate bars at the Root Cellar, a cool little local-food products store in the centre of the city. Patric Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Columbia, Missouri.  They do not have a store front, but you can buy Patric's award-winning line-up of chocolate at local retailers like the Root Cellar, or at HyVee West Broadway, or sign up for the monthly release newsletter and buy online.

Finally, I made my way to the St. Louis airport, where I thought my chocolate-buying opportunities had come to an end. But surprisingly I found some chocolate made by a St. Louis-based chocolate company called Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company (yup, that's a lot of chocolate).  At an airport store called MAXGA, I found some all natural Nonpareils.  With no artificial flavours or colours and NO hydrogenated vegetable oils, these candy-sprinkled chocolates were a perfect treat for my kids. If you are heading into St. Louis though, there are several locations of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate that you can visit, and at the factory you can take a tour.

And if you only have minutes to spare in a Missouri airport, and just can't make it out to find some fine chocolate, there is always a little to be found at Starbucks.  Those Starbucks gluten-free chocolate cookies are on the sweet side, but they sure are chocolaty and tasty!

So that was my chocolaty adventure in Missouri! Stay tuned for more information on Patric Chocolate and Askinosie later this week or next. And let's not forget about that chocolate pie that I promised to make!

Have a great day folks!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Half-Baked: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cheesecake with Reese

I love no-bake cheesecake. I love brownies made with no flour. And I REALLY LOVE chocolate and peanut butter together. So I put them all together to create the perfect dessert.

This no-bake chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake is made with Reese Spreads - a new spread for toast that tastes just like a Reese Peanut Butter Cup (oh yeah). It is layered on top of a baked peanut butter chocolate brownie also made with Reese spread. And the whole thing is topped with more spread, milk chocolate shavings and peanut butter cups.  Let me tell you, it is heaven on a plate.

So run out and get a jar of Reese spreads, and make this cake for your next potluck or party. You won't regret it!

Here is my recipe:

Half-Baked: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cheesecake Recipe
Bonus: Gluten-Free
Time: Lot's, but its worth it. First 1 hour, then 2 hour cooling period, then 10 minutes plus another cooling/chilling period for 2 hours.


Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350º F and line an 8" or 9" baking pan with parchment paper, then grease the paper and up the sides of the pan.

For the brownie base, you need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup Reese Spread
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

For the no-bake cheesecake topping, you need:
1 cup whipping cream
1 250 gram package of cream cheese
1/3 cup agave or sugar
3/4 cup Reese Spread

Brownie Instructions:

1. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter and 1 cup of Reese spread.

2. Add the eggs and beat until combined. 

3. Mix in the salt.

4. Bake for 50 minutes in an oven preheated to 350º F.

Cheesecake Instructions: 

1. Let the brownie cool fully before making the cheesecake topping.  First, cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. Beat your whipping cream with a stand mixer or hand mixer until it is thick & stiff peaks form (do not over beat - this looks slightly lumpy.

3. Pour into a bowl and put in the fridge.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat your softened cream cheese for a minute or two, while stopping to stir on occasion to incorporate fully. 

5. Add the 1/3 cup of agave and beat until smooth and creamy.

6. Beat in the Reese peanut butter chocolate spread, then gently fold in the whipped cream.

Assembling the cake:

1. Run a knife around the inside of the springform pan, but leave the sides on.

2. Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the brownie base and spread to the edges. 

3. Chill for at least 1 or 2 hours until set.

4. Remove from the refrigerator and run a knife around the inside of the springform pan again, then release and remove the sides.

5. Decorate the top of the cake by using the remaining Reese spread. Place some spread in a small sandwich zipper bag, seal and then warm in the microwave for 10 seconds. Cut a small hole off of one of the bottom corners of the bag and squeeze the spread through in lines or swirling motions -whatever you prefer - to decorate the top of the cake.

6. Top with cut pieces of large or mini Reese Peanut Butter Cups & peanuts or chocolate shavings (see below for a tip).

Chocolate Shavings Tip: 

To get great chocolate shavings, you need to warm the chocolate a little before you grate it. First, get out a cheese grater. Unwrap a milk or dark chocolate bar, place on a paper towel and then in the microwave. Microwave for about 20 seconds or less.  Then shave pieces using the grater.  Press into the side of the cake or sprinkle on top.

Note: This post has been sponsored by Hershey's Canada, for which I am being compensated both monetarily and with product.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Weekly Chocolate Round-Up: It's All About Brazil!

Brazil-origin chocolate continues to mystify me. I have spent many chocolate tastings pondering the taste of Brazilian cacao, and wondering what the unique flavours are that can be discovered with each bite. And I've spent countless hours on Google trying to get my hands on more, in hopes of de-mystifying this unique origin.

My first introduction to chocolate made from Brazilian cocoa beans was by Choklat, a Calgary bean-to-bar chocolate maker. I fell in love with Choklat's 70% Brazilian chocolate, and even more so the 48% milk chocolate, with its bold and distinct taste and high cocoa butter content.

I then moved on to AMMA's range of Brazilian-origin chocolate bars, which left me a little confused.  Some of them have a very unique taste that I cannot pinpoint, perhaps specific to the cocoa plantation and the other fruits and flowers grown in the area (AMMA grows their own cacao) or perhaps the packaging or processing. Eventually I took to Twitter to sort it out, but others said the same thing: there is a strange taste that they just can't put a name to. I purchased the same line-up of AMMA's chocolate again, which ended in the same confusion, until I tasted AMMA's new Gula Merah 70% chocolate bar that is sweetened with coconut sugar from Java in Indonesia.  It was fruity and sweet and very enjoyable.

Next I moved on to Akesson's chocolate, a chocolate company from England that owns plantations in Madagascar and in Bahia, Brazil. Their 75% dark Brazilian-origin chocolate was both fruity and smoky, and quite distinct and delicious. Akesson's packaging explained that the chocolate tasted like the local pitanga fruit. This made me wonder: is that the flavour I taste in AMMA's chocolate?  A local fruit with a distinct flavour that I have never experienced before?

So this week, I stepped further in my quest to understand Brazil origin chocolate. Chaleur B Chocolate, a chocolate company in Quebec, sent me a sample of a limited run chocolate bar made from cacao from Bahia, Brazil.  It had 80% cocoa solids, and the taste was also fruity (like cherries and dried fruit) and a hint of smoky tobacco & roast flavours. I loved it! It truly was a delicious chocolate. So keep a lookout, I think Chaleur may be adding this chocolate bar to their regular line-up soon.

I also tasted AMMA's 100% dark chocolate (that's right, no sugar added, not even the fake stuff!) this week. It, too, had the same unique flavour that other AMMA chocolate bars had.  It was surprisingly enjoyable. 

The flavour of AMMA's 100% chocolate was sweet and nothing like a no-sugar-added chocolate can taste.  Some are so bitter that water is necessary to get them down (ahem: unsweetened Baker's baking chocolate for instance), and others far too acidic to enjoy. But AMMA's was a great introduction to 100% dark chocolate. In fact, I witnessed one addict of sweet milk-chocolate scarf down a piece of AMMA's 100% chocolate and not even cringe.  In fact, I think he enjoyed it.

I found the flavour also to be bright and sweet, with a roast taste, possibly ground cherries, earthy mold, caramel and floral. But whatever the flavour is, I highly recommend you try AMMA's 100% Organic Brazilian Chocolate. And if you have tried it, feel free to comment below and let me know what you think the flavour tastes like!

So now I am thinking ahead to the next Brazil origin chocolate. I am working on getting some of the limited release 2012 Cacao Barry Boa Sentenca 68%. Chocolate Arts in Vancouver also sells a chocolate bar made from this chocolate, if you are looking to try it. Also, here is an interesting photo diary of one photographers visit to the Boa Sentenca plantation in Brazil: It's worth a view!

Have a great weekend!


You can purchase AMMA's chocolate at JoJo Coco in Ottawa and online at La Tablette de Miss Choco. Chalaur B Chocolat's chocolate is also available on as is Akesson's 75% Brazil chocolate. Choklat is available at their store locations in Calgary and Edmonton.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Chocolate TOFFLE™ now available at Salute Coffee Company in Sudbury! Plus: Contest Announcement!

I am pleased to announce that the Chocolate TOFFLE, my signature chocolate product, is now available at Salute Coffee Company! Celebrate the first day of school this year with a delicious dark chocolate toffee wrapped around a chocolate truffle centre, in three delicious flavours: Peanut Butter, Peppermint, and Hazelnut. Samples are available for the next few days, so get there fast before they are gone!

In conjunction with this announcement, we are holding a contest to give away one gift basket packed full of products by my company, Ultimately Chocolate. It includes two gift boxes of Chocolate TOFFLEs, a gift box of eight delectable chocolate toffees, plus other treats, including CacaoCookies and individually wrapped organic chocolates. All of the chocolate is artisan-made, and made with high quality Organic & Fair Trade chocolate.

How can you enter? Online! Enter below for your chance to win! The contest starts today and will run until next Sunday, September 13th at midnight. The winner will be announced next Monday morning, and can pick up their prize at Salute Coffee Company on Armstrong Street in Sudbury. You must be a resident of the Greater Sudbury Area to enter.
Enter Now:
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