Sunday, August 2, 2015

Traditional Icelandic Chocolate and Chocolate Glaze Recipe

At HomeSense, I was surprised to find chocolate bars called 'Traditional Icelandic Chocolate', since I didn't know there was such as thing as Icelandic chocolate.

I was even more surprised to see the price. At only $1.99 for a 100 gram bar, these were the most inexpensive chocolate bars I'd seen in a long, long time. The ingredients looked pretty simple and natural, so I decided to buy two: a 56% (the package called it bittersweet, although one could argue that 70% is considered bittersweet these days) and a 45% semi-sweet.

The chocolate was perfectly good tasting. However, both were a little too sweet for my tastes. The 45% was definitely too sweet. Then again, I am used to eating 45% milk chocolate these days, which has less sugar than dark chocolate of the same percentage. I don't really see the point in 45% dark chocolate, because more than half of the chocolate bar is sugar (it should really just be called 'Dark Sugar' in that case).

But all was not lost, as sweet dark chocolate is always great for making chocolate glazes and ganache, or to bake with. I used the 45% chocolate to make a delicious chocolate glaze for an Ice Cream Cake (with a pie inside!) that I made recently. See the end of this post for my glaze recipe.

The website for the Icelandic Chocolate was not in English, but I found info on Wikipedia about Nói Sirius, the company that makes the chocolate. What I found most interesting was that chocolate is a mainstay of Icelandic culture, and, according to Wikipedia, "Eating a chocolate bar at 9 a.m. is culturally acceptable" (ref). So I guess 'traditional Icelandic chocolate' really means something in Iceland.

So overall, the advantages of these chocolate bars is that they were inexpensive, they had only 5 ingredients, and they are great for baking. I found them at HomeSense in Canada.

Simple Dark Chocolate Glaze for Cakes:

1. Mix 3.5 oz (100 g) of broken chocolate pieces together with 1/3 cup of heavy cream and microwave for 1 minute.

2. Stir until smooth.

3. Add 1 tbsp. corn syrup or agave to add a nice gloss and shine. Stir until smooth and pour over the cake.

Too sweet to eat?  Make a chocolate ganache or glaze with your chocolate bar!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with (or without) Chocolaty Inclusions

My daughter likes vanilla ice cream. NOT chocolate ice cream. Vanilla. And although I would prefer to rant about how unfair it is that my chocolate-loving genes were not passed down to her, I decided to accept it, and instead learn to make the best vanilla ice cream possible. And potentially add in some chocolaty bits that would be acceptable to her, and satisfy my chocolate needs.

Truthfully, I like vanilla ice cream. but only when there are real vanilla bean specks in it and when it is rich and creamy.  Ten years ago when I lived in France, I noticed that vanilla ice cream always had specks of vanilla bean in it.  And when I tasted it, it compared to no other that I had tasted before. But when I came back to Canada, it took another few years before some producers on this side of the ocean figured out that real vanilla bean is better.

By making my own ice cream, I can make it healthier and all natural, and I can make it just as tasty as the stuff at the super market. And my little home ice cream maker (I have a Cuisinart), is all I need to make great ice cream.

So after many, many experiments over the last several weeks (and yes, I've eaten most of the experiments, but this stuff really must be healthier because I've lost a few pounds at the same time!), here is my super healthy, real vanilla bean ice cream recipe that has no cane sugar, is all natural, and of course, super delicious.

Please note:  The recipe below can exclude the corn starch and the simmering, so you can simply mix all the ingredients together and pour into your ice cream maker right away (with no waiting time for the mix to cool!), BUT your ice cream will not have the same creamy texture.  It will still be creamy tasting, and quite delicious, but with an imperfect texture. Think 'frosty dairy dessert'.

Recipe: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with (or without) Cookies and Cream or Chocolate Chunks

Preparation Time: 8 hours and 30 minutes (if simmering for a smoother, creamier texture), or 30 minutes if not simmering and excluding the corn starch)

You need:
  • 2 cups of whole milk (homogenized makes it creamy, but you can use skim/fat free if you prefer, it just won't be as smooth and creamy)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup blue agave syrup (use regular or raw sugar, coconut sugar or honey if nothing else)
  • 1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean (or the scrapings of 1 or 2 vanilla beans)
  • 1.5 tbsp. corn starch (exclude if not simmering, see note above)
Inclusion Options: 1/2 cup Crushed Oreo Cookies, 1/3 cup (about 2 oz) milk chocolate or semi-sweet dark chocolate, melted (you can use high quality chocolate chips if you like, or broken up chocolate bars)

  1. Place the milk, whipping cream, agave syrup (or sugar), vanilla bean and corn starch into a medium sauce pan.  Stir with a whisk or an immersion blender until fully mixed. 
  2. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop over medium heat. Then let simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Cover and let cool in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Place ice cream into the ice cream maker for 20 minutes. 
  5. If you are not adding inclusions, either eat immediately for soft ice cream, or pour the ice cream into an air tight container and freeze until ready to use.

For Cookies and Cream Ice Cream:

  1. Crush your Oreo cookies in a sealed zipper sandwich bag and roll over the cookies with a rolling pin or strong cup to crush. 
  2. Pour cookies slowly into the ice cream maker in the last 2 minutes of ice cream making time (see above).

For Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

  1. Once you pour your cream/milk mix into the ice cream maker, measure out your chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. 
  2. Melt it in the microwave for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Place back in the microwave for 20 seconds. Stir until smooth and set aside until the ice cream reaches about 18 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the melted chocolate very slowly into the top of the ice cream maker.  Use a spoon to separate it as it reaches the ice cream or you will have very large chunks. Once it is all in, stop the ice cream maker.
  4. Stir and place in an airtight container with a lid.  Freeze until ready to eat!
Now that you have the basics, it's time to experiment! Next week I'll be changing up the vanilla and agave for maple, honey, caramel, and maybe even peanut butter! 

To learn more about my ice cream adventures this summer, or to try other recipes, view these posts:

Make Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Instant Hot Chocolate Mix
Homemade Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Monday, July 27, 2015

Buttermilk Dark Chocolate Buttons, made bean-to-bar at home

I make up a new batch of 'homemade' chocolate weekly. And by homemade, I mean that I still have no proper equipment for making chocolate from bean to bar at home, except for a blender and a coffee grinder, so my chocolate is not super smooth like you would find in stores. But it is not overly gritty, and it is still pretty delicious. Also, it is lecithin-free chocolate, junk-free, organic, and all natural.

Last weekend, when I was shopping at Bulk Barn, I discovered powdered buttermilk. The wheels in my chocolate brain started turning, and I had visions of buttermilk milk chocolate. So I bought some, and the experiments began. Well, truthfully, experiment. The first batch was very dark and interesting, but reminded me so much of some of the craft dark-milk chocolates I tasted in the winter, that I thought I would share the recipe here.

With 63% cocoa solids and only 18% sugar, these buttons taste like dark chocolate, but they have a nice sweet buttermilk taste that melts in your mouth.  The taste will change depending on the type of cocoa beans you use, and the roast. I used roasted cocoa nibs of Peruvian origin (purchased from Jedwards International), which have low acidity and a nice light roast. Jedwards also sells cocoa butter, but I just learned that Bulk Barn now sells small-ish bags of organic cocoa butter, as well as cocoa nibs in bulk bins. If you are not near a Bulk Barn, your local health food store may have them.

Recipe: Sweet Buttermilk Dark Chocolate Made at Home

Batch size: 11 oz (314 grams)
Time: less than 1 hour

You need:
  • 6 oz roasted cocoa nibs (or cocoa beans). Roasted for 15 minutes in the oven on 320º F, and then, if whole beans, remove shells and break into pieces/nibs)
  • 2 oz organic coconut sugar (you can use raw cane sugar if you like, but I prefer low-glycemic coconut palm sugar)
  • 1 oz cocoa butter (melted for 1 minute & 30 seconds in the microwave)
  • 2 oz buttermilk powder (non-instant)

  1. Place the nibs, sugar and buttermilk powder in a food processor, single-blade blender, or smoothie maker (I use the Ninja blender with the Smoothie attachment) and grind for a few minutes, until the beans begin to melt into liquid. Stop it and stir (stir before, if they are not moving or melting in the grinder).
  2. Add the melted cocoa butter and grind in increments, stirring in between, on and off for a few minutes (feel your blender base to ensure it is not getting too hot and overheating. Let rest if it feels too warm. Also if you detect a slight appliance 'burning' smell, stop immediately).
  3. Pour into a bowl and quickly reduce the temperature by placing over ice or in the fridge.  Reduce until it is slightly cooler than the temperature of the back of your baby finger when dipped in.  My preferred method is to use a digital candy thermometer to ensure it reduces to 82º F.  If it stiffens and the edges 'set' (begin to harden), rewarm in microwave for 3-to-4 seconds and stir. For proper chocolate tempering technique, click here.
  4. Pour into chocolate molds (if you have them) or into mini cupcake pans for small chocolate 'buttons', or a regular cupcake pan for larger ones. Bulk Barn also has flower molds for chocolate and candy, which work great.
  5. Place the chocolate molds or cupcake pans into the fridge for about 30 minutes.  Then flip over onto waxed paper on the counter and tap out of the molds.  Let rest until the chocolate comes back to room temperature and package.
  6. If your  chocolate is white and streaky, it means it is not in temper. Don't worry, you can simply re-melt and temper the chocolate following the instructions here.
If you have questions, please feel free to ask in the Comments below and I'll do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

From Island to Island: Spencer Cocoa's chocolate visits Manitoulin

Sometimes, there is a chocolate that I think I might NEVER taste. That's the type made on the other side of the world, far far away from my little Island in central Canada. But every once in a while, I get my hands on a chocolate that I had lost all hope of tasting.

Spencer Cocoa is one of those chocolate brands. Based in Mudgee, Australia, this chocolate maker focuses on a specific type of chocolate: single origin chocolate made from cocoa beans grown on the Island of Malekula, Vanuatu. Each harvest, Luke Spencer visits the plantation to buy cacao from that season, which he ships back to Australia to turn into chocolate in his factory (ref).

The growers ferment and dry the beans before they are shipped to Spencer Cocoa. What makes this unique, is that in Vanuatu cocoa beans are often dried by wood fire smoke, which creates a distinct taste profile specific to chocolate made from the region's cacao. And this profile can certainly be found in Spencer's unique single origin chocolate.

Some call this method of fire drying the beans 'contamination' or 'artificial drying', but I call it Pure Genius. What better way to infuse smoke flavour into chocolate naturally than to actually smoke the beans? No gross smoke flavour oils need to be added to infuse flavour, just pure, natural, real smoke.

Spencer's 72% dark chocolate offered a boldly smoky flavour that was noticeable, yet quite delicious. The chocolate was perfectly tempered, quite dark in colour, and was lightly creamy. Although texturally, it led with the cocoa beans, not cocoa butter, which was quite noticeable when I tasted it against a high-cocoa butter Pralus chocolate bar. 

I was expecting the smoke flavour in Spencer's to be stronger, after having tasted Soma's limited edition Vanuatu origin chocolate last year. The 'Smoke Monster' bar was just that: a monster-sized flavour of smoke, upfront and in your face, like you'd been monster-slimed with it. It was bold and very much a great teaching bar. However, Spencer's is a little more subtle.  Clearly the smoke flavour is present, a little bold and a little in-your-face, but not abrasive like Soma's was. Overall, it is easier on the palate.

The smoke flavour is certainly milder in Spencer's 42% milk chocolate bar; only detectable in the finish. The milk chocolate was also rougher in texture - nearing chalky but enjoyable none-the-less. The aftertaste of smoke adds an interesting element that is not often experienced when eating milk chocolate.

Overall, I enjoyed my first tasting of Spencer Cocoa's chocolate. And I look forward to my continued tastings of Australia's bean-to-bar chocolates; a market which seems to be growing just as rapidly as the US and Canadian craft chocolate movements.

I purchased Spencer Cocoa chocolate online from La Tablette de Miss Choco in Montreal for $11.99 (CAD) each. Here are the package details of each bar:

Spencer Cocoa
Mudgee, Australia

Milk Chocolate 42% Cocoa, 100g
Ingredients: cocoa mass (Vanuatu), cocoa butter, raw sugar, whole milk powder.

Dark Chocolate 72% cocoa, 100g
Ingredients: cocoa mass (Vanuatu), cocoa butter, raw sugar. Made on our equipment which we also use to make milk chocolate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

barkTHINS back at Costco! This time it's the Dark Chocolate Almond bark!

Last year, I wrote about barkTHINS® snacking chocolate and I have been amazed at the response.  People everywhere have been searching online for more information about barkTHINS® at Costco. The Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark was absolutely delicious, and just as quickly as it was at the bulk retailer, it was gone. So all those newbie barkTHINS® lovers out there have gone crazy trying to find it again.

On Saturday, I ventured into the city for a Costco shopping trip and immediately I noticed barkTHINS being sampled. I asked the sample-giver to lead me to the display and was so excited that I didn't even try a sample!  As it turned out, only one flavour of barkTHINS was available at Costco: Dark Chocolate Almond bark with Sea Salt. So I bought a bag and gave it a try.

The almond bark is very similar to the pumpkin seed bark that I tasted before. I personally preferred the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed bark. Oh don't get me wrong, the almond bark is still just as addictive and quite tasty. It also is 'Packed with Almonds' as promised on the package. For some reason, I have always preferred my almonds whole and coated (panned) in a layer of chocolate, or just on their own. But chopped almonds in solid chocolate seems to be a popular combination, included in many chocolate bars, so other people must love it.  And the hint of sea salt makes it perfectly enjoyable and easy to reach for more.

The dark chocolate has a nice balance of sweet and salty. It is definitely not as bitter as a 70%, but not super sweet like some commercial dark chocolate brands out there (the percentage is not listed on the package or brand website, but I'd guestimate a 55% to 65% dark chocolate). The chocolate is also fair trade certified.

Funny thing, when I tried to take a picture of the bag, I put it in the grass for about, oh, 3 seconds, and a small ant clung on to the bag, and held on for dear life no matter how much I tried to shake it off.  He must have known this was good stuff!

In addition to Costco in Canada, and a slew of other retailers in the U.S., such as Wholefoods and Target, you can buy barkTHINS® online on Amazon for between $10 and $12 US.

Here are package details and ingredients from this flavour of barkTHINS® chocolate:

Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt, barkTHINS® Snacking Chocolate, 482 g
Ripple Brands Collective (Congers, NY)
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Liquor*, Sugar*, Cocoa Butter*, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Dry Roasted Almonds, Sea Salt.
*Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA. Over 65% Fair Trade Ingredients.

Want to make milk or dark chocolate bark at home? Check out my Recipes page for several chocolate bark recipes that you can make in your own kitchen!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chocolate Dipping with The Chocolate Doctor, and the EZtemper!

Summer is a great time of year here on Manitoulin Island.  And not just because it's beautiful in the summertime, or because the tourists are here livening up the place (in winter time it is a wee bit quiet, to say the least). It is also exciting because we get an annual visit from the famed Chocolate Doctor. 

Kerry Beal is a Canadian physician who comes up to Manitoulin Island every summer to work in one of our two hospitals.  In fact, when I first met Kerry, I was at the hospital for a prenatal appointment.  I had no idea that she was a chocolate educator, consultant, and all around chocolate superhero at the time. And she had no idea that I was starting a small chocolate business and blog here on Manitoulin.

Then, four years ago, I attended The Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show and there was Kerry, at the front of a very large group of people, teaching a chocolate truffle-making workshop. I said to my mother, who was attending the show with me, "that looks like a doctor at the hospital on Manitoulin Island!"

I didn't think much of it at the time, but then some time later I needed help with a chocolate 'problem' (ha! like chocolate can ever be a problem!), and posted a question on The Chocolate Doctor's website. Kerry responded with a book recommendation, and said she had extra copies, and then asked where I was located.  I said "don't worry about it, I'm way up here on Manitoulin Island - too far away to just pick it up. I'll buy it online." Needless to say, I was surprised when she wrote back, "I'll be there in the summer, we should meet up!"

So as it turned out, The Chocolate Doctor is also a very real medical doctor, with whom I had an appointment in the past!

And meet up, we did.  Let me tell you, it is wonderful to 'talk chocolate' with someone for several hours without worrying that they will be tired of hearing about chocolate!  Last week, Kerry came to my home and commercial kitchen for lunch.  We played around in the kitchen a little bit with her new EZtemper Seed Generator appliance, which helps small-batch chocolatiers and craft chocolate makers, temper chocolate instantly. I was amazed to see how much time could be saved in making chocolate meltaways.

Then, yesterday, I visited Kerry in her summer kitchen across the Island, and we had a little chocolate dipping workshop. She showed me how to dip chocolate in a new way, different from how I've been doing it. And we tested out her EZtemper to see how it faired by placing chocolate for painting and decorating in it. It worked very well actually. The chocolate that had rested in the machine for 12 hours prior to use was in temper, a little thick but great for painting. Kerry patiently painted out a Santa Claus mold that I brought over, and some fossil chocolate bar molds.

We also dipped giant chocolate marshmallows and some very delicious boozy white chocolate ganache centres, as well as a unique caramelized almond and orange dessert that Kerry recently brought back from Spain.

I am continually amazed by Dr. Kerry Beal. Somehow she manages to juggle a career as a physician, an active family life, an entrepreneurial venture, and a busy career as a super-duper chocolate educator.

If you are looking for recipe development for your chocolate business, or private courses in chocolate, instructional DVDs on how to make, mold and temper chocolate confections, check out Kerry's website at:  For more information on the EZtemper Seed Generator to make chocolate tempering simple and quick,  visit

And now, here are some pics from our adventures chocolate this week...

Bowls and bowls of chocolate for dipping and molding!

Giant chocolate dipped marshmallows with dipped ganache behind it.

Painted and molded chocolate Santa Claus.

Kerry's painted Santa Claus mold.
Dipped ganache in white and dark chocolate.

Fun cocoa butter faces for the marshmallows.

Dark chocolate 'fossil' bars made from molds painted with white chocolate.


That's me! Dipping ganache in chocolate using Kerry's super cool 'clean' method
of dipping with a cake cutting wire over the bowl.
Turrón de Yema a la Naranja (caramelized almond bar with egg yolk and oranges) from Spain.

Turrón de Yema a la Naranja dipped in chocolate

Monday, July 13, 2015

List of Specialty Retailers of Craft Bean-to-Bar Chocolate & Fine Chocolate

All this talk of bean-to-bar craft chocolate in the media recently, and you keep wondering: where do I buy bean-to-bar chocolate? Sure, you can visit each and every website on the U.S. list or Canadian list of chocolate makers, but if you want to try more than one brand, that can be time consuming and costly in shipping charges. But fear not fine chocolate lovers! I have put together a list of specialty shops that primarily sell bean-to-bar craft chocolate, as well as other fine chocolate brands and single origin chocolate.

Join a club! Chocolate-of-the-Month clubs are popping up all over. Get a great selection sent to you each and every month, so you can always satisfy your chocolate curiosity. These 'clubs' and subscription services are also listed below and marked with: *Chocolate of the month club*.

United States:

2|beans (New York, NY) - Selling a large fine chocolate selection in New York City, this brick-and-mortar retailer also offers an online store

Bright River Chocolate (San Francisco, CA) - With Millcreek, Pacari, Raaka, Castronovio, Venchi, Zotter and many more, Bright River Chocolate has you covered. Online shop: Also offers a *Chocolate of the month club*. Order here.

Cacao (Portland, Oregon) - Cacao features a carefully selected range of chocolate from around the world, with a focus on North American craft chocolate makers and Northwest (U.S.) chocolatiers. Location: Portland, Oregon (2 stores).  Online shop coming soon.

Cacao Notes (San Francisco, CA) - founded by Brian Smith, this service offers craft bean-to-bar chocolate packages on a monthly basis. Buy one month or a monthly subscription package. If you buy a monthly subscription package, you can have a personalized consultation before your next package arrives.

Choco Rush (Charleston, SC) - *Chocolate of the month club* A monthly bean-to-bar subscription service.  Will start shipping in mid-September 2015. Twitter: @chocorushco

Chocolate Covered (San Francisco, CA) - A retail shop where you can "discover the best and most unique in premium chocolate".  "a chocolate shop featuring the most delicious small batch ethically sourced chocolate bars in America" @ChocBarSupplier

Chocopolis (Seattle, WA) - This retailer of fine chocolate has both a store front and an online shop offering over 200 artisan chocolate bars from 20 different countries.

Cococlectic (California) - *Chocolate of the month club* Every month, Cococlectic brings their customers a curated selection of single-origin, dark chocolate bars. They ensure the chocolate selected contains five ingredients or less, and is gluten-free, vegan, fair trade, dairy-free and nut-free. Sign up for only one month, or for 6 months at a discounted monthly rate!

Cocova (Washington, DC) - This is a tasting room and boutique store selling over 300 unique chocolate bars and confections from artisan chocolate makers worldwide. Also buy online.

The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA) - retails a "carefully curated selection of the best bean-to-bar chocolate from around the world" in downtown Palo Alto. 

The Meadow (Portland, OR and New York, NY) - This specialty retailer uses a team of tasters to select chocolate bars on a monthly basis to ensure quality and uniqueness. Buy in-store at two locations in Portland, or in Manhattan's West Village in New York city. Also buy chocolate online, over 700 chocolates available


A Taste for Chocolate (Toronto) - Sells fine chocolate through online ordering system, or book tasting workshops if in the Toronto area. Fast and reliable service.

JoJo CoCo (Ottawa, ON) - This specialty retailer sells both bean-to-bar chocolate and specialty artisan chocolate and confections in its shop on Hazeldean Road (Kanata).

La Tablette de Miss Choco (Montreal, QC) - A collection of craft, bean-to-bar chocolate only, ordered in from all over the world. Buy in store or through the new online ordering system! Fast and reliable online ordering service.

The Candy Bar (Toronto, ON) - Offering a selection of fine chocolate, including Venchi, Slitti, & Amedei, as well as bean-to-bar chocolate including B.C.-based Sirene Chocolate and Ambrosia Pastry from London, Ontario.

Xoxolat (Vancouver, BC) - A retail store filled with single origin and estate chocolates, made from bean-to-bar, along with confections. Offers in-store chocolate tasting workshops several days a week at 5:00 p.m. for $25 per person, or book a private tasting event for at least 10 people.


CocoaRunners (UK) - *Chocolate of the month club* Buy a monthly subscription or buy single chocolate bars online, your choice.  This chocolate curator has all of the great bean-to-bar chocolate to satisfy any chocolate lover.


Chocolate Craft (Costa Rica) - buy chocolate made in Costa Rica, such as Sibu and The Beach Chocolate Factory and have it shipped to your door.

Chocolate Journey (Melbourne, Australia) - Appreciators of fine chocolate, particularly single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate.  Online store, coming soon.

All About Chocolate (New Zealand) - Selling fine chocolate from around the world, as well as a selection of fine chocolate from New Zealand's artisan producers. The online store includes chocolate made by Original Beans, Marou, Amedei, Fresco and more.

Know of others? Hey I get it. My list is a little sparse in the 'UK' and 'Other' sections.  If you know of any other specialty craft chocolate retailers in ANY part of the world, please tell me in the Comments below!