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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake; a flourless melt-in-your-mouth-truffle-on-a-plate!

This cake is a big melty peanut butter truffle on a plate. It was truly designed for chocolate lovers, and certainly not something you might think of as 'healthy' when you taste it (and when you see how much butter is in it), but for those who need or want to eat gluten-free, it is the perfect dessert.

Recipe: Flourless Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake
Serves: 12-14 servings

You need:
  • 10 oz of milk chocolate (I used organic and Fair Trade milk chocolate), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb (1 cup) butter, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup of organic, raw cane sugar (or white granulated sugar, if that is what you have)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup of natural peanut butter (I used organic, smooth)
  • 1 tsp salt

For the topping, you need:
  • 6 ounces of milk chocolate (5.5 ounces chopped and 0.5 ounce shaved for topping)
  • 1/3 cup of cream
  • roasted and salted peanuts, partially crushed

Instructions:
  1. Prepare a 9-inch springform cake pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper. Then butter the paper and up the sides of the pan to prevent the cake from sticking.
  2. Place your chopped butter and 10 oz of chocolate into a stainless steel or glass bowl, and place over a double boiler (a pot with 1 inch of water nearly simmering in it). Stir with a wooden spoon until melted together. Take the bowl off the heat as soon as it is melted, or better yet, when there are a few pieces of chocolate & butter left and stir until combined (do not overheat, or you will separate your cocoa butter from your chocolate).
  3. Add the sugar and stir until combined.
  4. Add the eggs and beat with a hand mixer or immersion blender just until combined (stop beating if your batter starts to puff and gain volume).
  5. Slightly warm the peanut butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds and stir.  
  6. Add the salt and the warmed peanut butter to the batter, and beat briefly with the mixer, or stir them in by hand.
  7. Pour into the prepared cake pan.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  9. Turn off the oven and let sit for five minutes with the door closed.
  10. After the five minutes is up, remove from the oven and then let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the springform pan and remove the sides carefully. Let cool completely (1 hour, then refrigerate for 1/2 hour), then flip it onto a serving plate, before adding the ganache.
Instructions for the ganache topping:
  1. Place your cream and chocolate into a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on half power (50% or Power 5).
  2. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.  If it is still not completely melted, microwave for 10 seconds more and stir.
  3. Once melted and combined, pour onto the cake and use an offset spatula to spread around.  Push to the edges carefully and drip a little over the sides for a delicious effect. 
Topping ideas:
  • Sprinkle salted, roasted peanuts and chocolate chunks on top.
  • Top with beads of peanut butter.
  • Decorate with a little peanut butter buttercream icing.
  • Top with peanut butter chips and milk chocolate shavings.
  • Squiggles of melted milk chocolate squeezed through a pastry or Ziplock bag.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baroness Chocolate: The Flavours of Happiness

The chocolate scene has flourished in and around Ottawa in the last ten years. With new bean-to-bar chocolate makers and several new chocolatiers, as well as many shops offering imported fine chocolate, a chocolate lover certainly has endless choice in Canada's Capital.

One more chocolatier has been added to the list: Baroness Chocolate. And they may very well be the most unique addition to Ottawa's tasty trove of treasures. By mixing several different Rainforest Alliance-certified couverture chocolates together, including milk and dark chocolates, Baroness has created completely original chocolate bars with inclusions that are made in-house.

I received a box of seven of the newly launched line of chocolate bars by Baroness Chocolate. Without hesitation, I tasted them all. Each bar offered an explosion of flavours new to my palate.

So why were these chocolate bars so good?  For starters, one of my favourite treats is sponge toffee. So I was delighted when I discovered that Baroness Chocolate makes two different chocolate bars with large, delicious pieces of sponge toffee inside of them: Mocha krunhjay and Subversive squirrel.  They were two of the tastiest chocolate bars that I have ever eaten.

I also love cookies dipped in chocolate, and so I was again excited by Baroness's chocolate bar called Tummy Rub, which had large pieces of a very crunchy and tasty cookie inside of a rich, creamy milk chocolate. It was so delicious that I had trouble resisting it.  If you like milk chocolate and cookies (which happen to be gluten free), you will LOVE this chocolate bar.

On a final note, I sometimes cannot choose between milk and dark chocolate. I love them both (I prefer dark chocolate, but milk chocolate was my first love). And with Baroness, I never have to choose.  Most of the their chocolate bars combine milk and dark chocolate.  So no chocolate flavour is too sweet, nor are they too bitter. To be clear about it, they have a little graph printed on the front of the package to show how they fold deep milk chocolate together with medium semi-sweet chocolate and dark bitter-sweet chocolate.

In order, here were my favourites:

1. Tummy rub - Milk Chocolate and Cookies
2. Subversive Squirrel - Dark chocolate, salted peanuts and peanut brittle (oh baby, more sponge toffee!)
3. Mocha krunhjay - Dark, semi sweet and milk chocolate, almonds, coffee and toffee (here is that sponge toffee!)
4. Aiyaaaa! - Chocolate, butterscotch and almonds (oh yum..., seriously nice for any kind of chocolate lover).
5. Dob Dobs - Chocolate, caramel and pecans
6. Love & Blessing - Straight up organic milk and dark chocolate (I am not sure what to make of this one.  It is like dark chocolate, but with a melt-in-your-mouth quality, like that of milk chocolate).
7. Tantric Tiger - milk and dark chocolate with cranberries, almonds and sea salt (this was tasty, but dried fruit in chocolate is not my thing).

All of the flavour inclusions are made by Baroness, including the sponge toffee and gluten free cookies that can be found in my favourite bars.

Owners Kaye Wong and Bill Macy started Baroness Chocolate to honour Ms. Wong's daughter. You can learn more about this in the Ottawa Citizen article written in 2013 (updated May 2014). Their Kickstarter campaign was funded last November and their factory opened in February of this year. Check the website for more information on where to buy Baroness Chocolate.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Spooky Chocolate Bar Just Launched by Seattle Chocolates

Halloween is just around the corner, and what better way to enjoy the spooky season than with a gourmet truffle bar designed for the occasion?   "Devil's Delight" by Seattle Chocolate Company is a dark chocolate truffle bar with a peanut butter and crunchy pretzel centre, and it has a fun packaging design to boot. With all sorts of devilish, Halloween-related words printed all over the package, this chocolate bar makes me wish that Halloween would come sooner.


So besides the packaging, why is this chocolate bar so ghoulishly evil? Well for starters, peanut butter and chocolate is a bit of a 'devilish' combination, don't you think?  Simply because it is so addictive! And 'addictive' is certainly the right word to describe the taste of this particular chocolate bar.

I knew as soon as I took it out of the wrapper and cracked off a piece that my bar would not be long for this world.  It looked delicious inside and out.  Dark chocolate on the outside and a combination of peanut butter and white chocolate on the inside, making the pairing perfectly balanced between sweet, bitter and salty.  I wanted to eat the entire bar in one sitting!


So check out this 'devilish' combination - it will be in stores starting today! It may be just the thing to give to family and friends this Halloween. Or, if you really want to impress your neighbours, go high-end and hand them out at the door on Halloween night!  Everyone will think your house is the 'coolest' one on the block. 


Here are the package details:


Devil's Delight Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Peanut Butter & Pretzels, 2.5 oz (70g)
Seattle Chocolate Company (Seattle, WA)
www.seattlechocolates.com
Ingredients: White chocolate (cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), dark chocolate (chocolate liquor*, cane sugar, cocoa butter*, soya lecithin, natural vanilla), peanut butter (roasted peanuts, salt), pretzels (unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], malt, salt, soybean oil, yeast) salt, natural flavour. Contains milk, soya, wheat, and peanuts, This product is manufactured in a plant that processes milk, soya, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, and wheat products. *Rainforest Alliance Certified (TM) (50% of total cocoa).



Additional Notes:
Seattle Chocolate Company makes a whole range of chocolate truffle bars with all sorts of interesting flavour combinations, such as Lemon Ice - a white chocolate truffle bar with lemon oil and lemon candy pieces, as well as a Birthday Cake Batter Truffle Bar and a Peanut Praline Truffle Bar. And if you like their combination of chocolate and peanut butter that they have come up with for Halloween, they also make a Perfect Peanut Butter Truffle Bar.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The International Chocolate Awards 2014: The Canadian Competition


The International Chocolate Awards are coming to Canada again this Fall. If you are a Canadian chocolatier, get your very best chocolates together and enter by October 1st. Judging takes place from October 5-8th at Vancouver Community College's downtown campus. Winners will be announced on Thursday October 9th at Xoxolat.

Last year, more than 100 products were entered into the competition, and nine companies made it to the U.K. for the World Finals in London. Edmonton's Sweet Lollapalooza, Toronto's MoRoCo Chocolate, Montreal's Christophe Morel and Vancouver's DC Duby and Beta5 Chocolates took home winning medals. Vancouver's Beta5 Chocolates were the first Canadians to win a World gold medal.

So get ready chocolatiers and show your stuff!   Maybe even this year I'll enter....if only my unique chocolates fit into one of the categories (truthfully, I'd rather be a judge, which sounds like the best job in the world!). for more information, visit: www.internationalchocolateawards.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Costco's Tuxedo Cake: Chocolate Mousse Heaven

This combination of chocolate mousse, thick cream, and chocolate fudgy brownie pieces sandwiched between two layers of fluffy moist chocolate cake surprised me with its deliciousness.  Why?  Not because of the combination of flavours - certainly that was well thought through - but because of the type of store that I purchased it from. 

Don`t get me wrong, I love Costco.  It is a store that often carries organic and natural food products at great discount prices (e.g. my great experience with Barkthins chocolate).  But if you have read any of my other articles in the past, you will know that I prefer fine chocolate.  And I also prefer my dark chocolate not to be too sweet (I hate chocolate that is labelled as 'dark' but is actually sickeningly sweet).  And what often happens, is that large grocery retailers sell cakes under their own label or other brands that are made with super sweet chocolate, or chocolate ganache that has had too much icing sugar and artificial vanilla added to it. But that was not the cake with this Kirkland brand cake at Costco. 

There was only the taste of chocolate - no heavy artificial vanilla flavour (although there is some artificial flavour included in the ingredients) - and with just the right level of sweetness. The dark and white chocolate mousses in the centre were rich and not too sweet, and the brownie pieces were not overwhelming and not overly 'chewy', so the experience was completely smooth and enjoyable.

I have looked at this cake on many occasions in the past, but have never made the purchase. I was worried that I would be disappointed, as I have been with many other chocolate cakes sold at retail chain stores in the past. But I am truly glad that I finally found an excuse to buy one.

The cake serves at least 12 people - a great addition to any dessert table at a party, or for a simple birthday celebration. I purchased mine at an Ontario Costco store.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Salty Battle of the Big Chocolate Brands: Godiva vs Lindt vs Wal-Mart

Two of the most competitive chocolate bar brands that can be found on food retailer shelves are Godiva and Lindt. Also, some of the larger retailers sell competitive chocolate under their own store brand, such as Wal-Mart's Our Finest brand. 

What often happens between these competitors is, when one offers a new flavour and it becomes successful, the others quickly follow suit and offer the same flavour. This is precisely what happened with the oh-so-popular 'sea salt (or Fleur de Sel) and dark chocolate' flavour first offered by Lindt, then Godiva and now Walmart came out with their own sea salt chocolate bars.  So if you like your dark chocolate salty, and you just don't know which chocolate to choose, this article is for you!

I started by comparing Lindt and Godiva's chocolate bars. I found that Godiva's 100 gram 50% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar has chunky pieces of sea salt in it, which leaves little bits of savoury salt behind to enjoy once the chocolate has melted away.  Whereas Lindt Excellence's 100 gram Sea Salt Dark chocolate bar offers a smoother experience.  There is slightly more sweetness in taste from the Lindt bar (Lindt's has 47% cocoa solids and Godiva's has 50% cocoa solids). Overall, both bars are on the sweet side.

Walmart's Our Finest SEA SALT SWISS DARK CHOCOLATE is very similar in size (also 100 grams) and in concept, but it was bitter in comparison. So if you prefer your dark chocolate to actually be 'dark', then this one certainly has a higher cacao content (sugar is not the first ingredient).  I certainly must have enjoyed it because the entire thing is gone!

So the verdict?  I compared the taste, the texture and the ingredients lists, and based on that I can give you the following recommendations to help you choose...
  • As for flavour and taste, if you like true dark chocolate (i.e. above 50% cocoa solids), choose the Wal-Mart brand or other brands like Saxon 70% Dark with Sea Salt or Soma's Starry Night or even Montreal's Suite 88 NOIR chocolate.
  • If you prefer a sweeter salty dark chocolate, go for the Godiva or Lindt brands.
  • If you like your salt chunky, choose Godiva, but if you want a very smooth chocolate with no crunchy bits in it, choose Lindt.
  • If you have a peanut allergy, you can choose the Wal-mart or Godiva brands, but NOT Lindt. 
  • If you have a wheat or gluten allergy, you can choose the Lindt brand, but NOT Wal-mart or Godiva.
  • If you have a tree nut or soy allergy, stay away from all three chocolate bars!
  • Lindt's contains 'artificial flavour', whereas Godiva's and Walmart's Our Finest both contain 'natural flavour' - so choose based on your preference.
  • If you choose your chocolate based on where it is made, then I can tell you that Lindt's and Wal-Mart's bars are made in Switzerland (i.e. Swiss chocolate), and Godiva's chocolate is made in Belgium but the salt is from Guérande, a small area in the west of France. Godiva is the only brand that tells us where the sea salt came from. They also tell us that this is one of the purest sea salts in the world and considered the 'caviar of salt'.
I hope that helps!  Here are the package details (so you can compare for yourself) from all three chocolate bars:

GODIVA Chocolatier Dark Chocolate SEA SALT, 50% Cacao, 100g
Distributed by Godiva Chocolatier (New York, N.Y.), but made in Belgium.
www.godiva.com
Ingredients: Bittersweet Chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, butteroil (milk), soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavour). Guérande salt. May contain tree nuts and wheat.

Lindt EXCELLENCE SEA SALT Dark, 47% Cocoa Solids, 100g
Imported by Lindt & Sprüngli (Toronto, ON) but made in Switzerland.
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa buter, milk fat, soya lecithin, sea salt (fleur de sel), artificial flavour. May contain peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Cacao: 47% minimum.

Our Finest SEA SALT Swiss Dark Chocolate, 100g
Imported for Wal-mart Canada Corp. (Mississauga, ON) but Product of Switzerland.
www.walmart.ca
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, butter fat, sea salt, natural flavour. Contains: Milk. May contain: soy, tree, nuts, wheat.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Cookies (Gluten-Free)

These cookies are great for a snack or for breakfast!  They taste fantastic with coffee or tea and they can be dipped in milk, white or any percentage of dark chocolate (dip them in a 70% dark chocolate for a low-glycemic diet or 85% or higher to suit a Paleo diet).

 
To Make the Cookies

You need:
  • 2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 large egg
Instructions:
  1. Melt your butter in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss in the coconut flakes and stir.  Add your sugar and stir.
  3. Finally add the egg and stir until moistened. 
  4. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F until lightly browned (be sure to start watching them at 12 minutes - your oven may be hotter than average).
  5. Let cool completely before dipping.


Chocolate for Dipping:

You need:
  • 12 ounces of either dark (70% or as high as 85%) chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate - whatever you prefer. 
Instructions:
  1. Melt and temper your chocolate. Temper it according to the instructions on this page: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/04/there-is-more-than-one-method-to-temper.html
  2. Dip each cookie half-way or completely in the chocolate. Let cool on a piece of waxed paper until the chocolate is solid. 
Consume at room temperature, or refrigerated.
You can also freeze these in an airtight container for up to two months.

Dip these cookies in a variety of chocolate types
to satisfy every member of your family!