Monday, June 10, 2013

Dark and milk chocolate-covered treats; the best to buy and recipes to try!

When you crave a snack, do you search all your cupboards and see all sorts of snacks, but suddenly find yourself depressed because none of them are covered in chocolate? 

If that sounds like you, here are some delicious chocolate-covered treats that I recently discovered, as well as some suggestions for making your own chocolate-covered whatchamacallits.

Organic Traditions Dark Chocolate Hazelnuts.  I bought these at a little health food store and they are fantastic.  By no means are these sweet because the chocolate is rich, dark and the hazelnuts are just lightly coated in chocolate and then rolled in cocoa powder.  This was more of a healthy mid-morning snack or possibly a pre-workout pick-me-up that also satisfies your dark chocolate craving.

Starbucks Salted Almond Chocolate Bites.  These are dark-chocolate coated almonds with a hint of saltiness that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the dark chocolate.  I keep trying to get a photo of these, but on the last three trips to Starbucks (which is not often these days for a rural girl like me), I have eaten the almond package faster than I can get to my camera!

Organic chocolate-covered cacao nibs at Bulk Barn.  I am not sure who the confectioner is for this product, as they were
sold in bulk, but they were bitter & slightly sweet at the same time, with a nice crunchy kick.

Chocolate-covered pieces of Coconut.  Another Bulk Barn treat sold in bins, this snack is also a filler and a healthy alternative to a Mounds bar, if you are a chocolate & coconut fanatic.

An even better chocolate and coconut treat is the Dark Chocolate Covered Macaroon at Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong, Ontario.  I ate two of these last weekend!  They are light and fluffy and covered in a rich semi-sweet dark chocolate.

When you cannot find chocolate covered treats, do what I do - cover your treats in Chocolate!

Here are some recipes:

Milk Chocolate-Covered Rice Krispie Treats

All you need to do here is find a great milk chocolate (I used Camino's Organic and Fair Trade 41% Milk Chocolate Couverture), melt and temper it, and dip small squares of Rice Krispie in it! Here is the link to the original rice treat recipe.

Chocolate-Covered, Gluten-Free Cornbread: What?!?

This cornbread is yogurt-based and slightly sweet, so it pairs nicely with a milk chocolate.

You need:
  • 1 cup rice flour or gluten-free flour mix (can also be made with spelt flour and regular unbleached all-purpose flour, if you are not worried about gluten).
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I have used fat-free, 2% and 3%)
  • 1 tbsp. organic cane sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 to 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted

1. Grease a muffin pan with butter.
2. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 Celsius).
3. Stir or whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
4.  In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs and yogurt.
5. Add the moist ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed.  Add the melted butter and stir a few times.
6. Pour batter into the muffin pan, filling each muffin cup about halfway.
7. Bake for 14 minutes and check.  To check 'doneness', insert a knife into the pan and if it comes out clean it is done. If not done, place back in oven for three minute intervals until they are golden on top and fully cooked.

Dip in chocolate!
These cornbread muffins taste amazing warm, but if you are willing to wait, let each cool on a cooling rack.  Meanwhile, melt and temper about 8 to 12 ounces of milk chocolate. I melt 8 ounces of milk chocolate to 115 degrees (while stirring a LOT!) in the microwave for 2 minutes on half power, or over a double boiler, then, after removing it from the double boiler and drying the bottom of the bowl, I toss in another three or four ounces of the same chocolate and stir until I reach a temperature of 86 degrees.  The chocolate should be in temper at this point. It should be shiny, easy to stir and have no lumps.

Dip the bottom half of each cornbread muffin in the chocolate.  Let some chocolate drip back into the bowl and place right-side-up on a piece of wax paper.  Pour some tempered chocolate into a plastic snack bag and cut a small hole in the corner.  Squeeze the chocolate out of the bag and create lines or a pattern of your choice on top of the cornbread to decorate it.  (If your chocolate has cooled, just rewarm in the microwave for 5 seconds to get it back to the correct temperature).

Since this cornbread tastes best on the day it is made, plan to make these the same day as you serve them. They are healthy, but also have enough of a sweetness to pair nicely with an afternoon cup of tea or an after-dinner decaffeinated coffee or cappuccino.

Here are a few links to other "chocolate-covered" recipes that I have posted on this blog:

Chocolate Poppers and Chocolate-Covered Popcorn
Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies

Here is another article on a fantastic dark chocolate-covered snack:

Chocolate-covered cacao beans by Camino

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chocolate Cake that Looks Nothing Like Chocolate Cake

Chocolate is my first passion, but making chocolaty cakes that look and taste fantastic is a close second. May was a very busy month for cake orders, so I thought I would share some of the cakes that I have created.

When I was asked to make a Star Wars cake for a boy's 7th birthday party, Darth Vader immediately came to mind as being the coolest, darkest figure that could be created out of cake.  So this was my first attempt at a 3D Darth Vader cake.  The head is made of Rice Krispie treats, molded and covered in black fondant.  The body is a three-layer Moist Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream and Organic/Fair Trade Milk Chocolate Chunks, covered in black fondant.  I used a silver edible cake spray to get the silver accents and the overall glisten and shine on the head and face.  I went with a more current Darth Vader look since the birthday boy is only seven and likely more familiar with the newer look of Darth Vader than the older version. 

So what did I learn from making Darth Vader? Well, although I think he looks great, I would have had slightly cleaner lines over his eyes and made his eyes larger and darker. I also realize that to get a more realistic look on any 3D 'head' figure, I need to learn some woodworking so I can create cake stands with built-in support for the heavy upper-section (Darth Vader had a neck at one point, but the head was threatening to fall over, so I had to remove his neck). But overall, I think it turned out well and my client was pleased.

I made a 'Monster Truck Cake' for a client last week. Using that same trusty old Rice Krispie recipe, I created the insides of the truck and the wheels.  I glued the wheels onto the truck with dark chocolate (did you know that chocolate makes the perfect edible 'glue'?) and covered the truck in orange-flavoured fondant.  The wheels were covered in a vanilla-flavoured black fondant.

The cake itself was a chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream icing. I only use Organic and Fair Trade chocolate and cocoa powder, unbleached wheat flour, real butter, real vanilla, sour cream and cream.

So what did I learn with this creation?  Rice treats can warp in the middle, so when making a thin truck bed, a lollipop stick is needed to support the full length of the truck.  Luckily, I figured that out before I covered it in fondant.  Another option for supporting the middle of the truck bed would have been to dip the entire rice treat in chocolate. That would have hardened and supported the truck, but a lot of chocolate would have been needed for that!

In mid-May I made a Race Car cake. In this case, the client preferred less fondant, so I decorated this one in a vanilla buttercream, but made the accents, like the cars and race track, out of fondant. The interior of the cake is chocolate (what else?) layered with chocolate buttercream and organic milk chocolate chunks.

I was very happy with the result of this cake.  I am used to attaching fondant decorations to a fondant-covered cake, and recalled that the previous time I had difficulty in getting clean lines on the cake because of the soft buttercream.  This time I figured out that refrigerating the buttercream until it is hard, just prior to attaching fondant decorations, makes working with it a lot easier and clean lines can be accomplished.

Some other cakes that I made this month include a Nautical Theme Cake, a small wedding cake with a cupcake display and several buttercream cakes.  A few examples can be seen here and below.

You can also visit Facebook to see more of the custom cakes that I have done in the past. My business, Ultimately Chocolate, is located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada.

I am now ramping up for the summer wedding cake season.  It should be fun!

Whipped dark chocolate ganache surrounding a of milk chocolate truffle centre make these chocolate cupcakes ideal for any chocoholic.

And real Vanilla Buttercream on double-chocolate cake tastes fantastic and adds a wedding flair to a cake and cupcake display.
Seedless Raspberry Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Truffle add a punch of favour to this moist chocolate cake.