Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Where'd I Go? And What's Up in the Ultimately Chocolate Kitchen?

If you regularly read this blog, or receive an e-mail with my blog articles in it, and have been wondering why my posts seem to be almost non-existent these days, I just wanted to touch base and let you know that I am still here!

My chocolate business (called Ultimately Chocolate) seems to be getting busier each year, and this Fall has surprised me with just how busy I have been. September and October have flown by, and I've been making chocolate truffles, toffees, tarts, TOFFLEs, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin-spiced meltaways, chocolate on sticks, and - as you read in the last post - bean-to-bar chocolate non-stop lately for a variety of events and for my recently expanded list of retailers. Oh, and I've been making some Piecakens too for our Canadian Thanksgiving, and for a restaurant customer.

And I'm not only making product for Christmas, I'm also ordering new Christmas gift packaging, and even thinking ahead to Valentine's Day packaging for February 2017! So I just can't seem to find time to sit down to the computer these days to write. But I have not given up; I still have a lot to share with you about tasting and working with chocolate. I am still tasting chocolate every single day. Moreover, I will be in Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival, so I plan to buy a boatload of chocolate to write about on this blog!

The pictures below are just a few of the chocolate (and dessert) projects I have been working on.

I look forward to writing more, very very soon!  Meanwhile, feel free to touch base on Twitter (@ultimatelychoc) or Instagram (@ultimatelychocolate) if you have any chocolaty questions or just want to chat.

Meet Piecaken. This is a pumpkin pie inside a cheesecake. 
I know, right? This is my other food-related hobby.
Get the recipe on:

My new Buttermilk chocolate bar - made from bean-to-bar!
Available at select retailers and online soon at:

My chocolate at a pumpkin festival in Northern Ontario!

Some small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate that I made
- stay tuned, the Buttermilk bar is launching soon!

Deliciously smooth and decadent hazelnut meltaway truffles.
These will be available in short supply for Christmas,
in cute little red boxes at select retailers.

Freshly dipped organic pumpkin-spiced white chocolate meltaways.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What's Up With Tomric Systems' New Nicaraguan Cocoa Beans? I've Tested, Tasted, and I'm Telling All About It.

The winners of the 2016 International Chocolate Awards were just announced, and Ingemann's Fine Cocoa from Nicaragua is showing up as the beans used in some winning bars. And many chocolate makers are wondering if these are the right cocoa beans for them to use in their chocolate? Well I can tell you to stop wondering! I've been testing four varieties of Ingemann's cacao in my little commercial kitchen and I can tell you: it is fantastic!

Here in North America, Tomric Systems (of Buffalo, NY) has partnered up with Ingemann to sell cacao in 5kg bags - perfect for the small craft chocolate maker or home chocolate making hobbyist. Also, the cacao is already pre-sorted and clean, and packed in air-tight plastic bags, saving one extra step for chocolate makers. Even better, you can buy online and the shipping is direct from a US distribution centre, so it is speedy and convenient, eliminating the worry about importing fees and restraints for American chocolate makers (and Canadian ones too, since I found shipping to be quite simple to my location). But if you want larger quantities, don't worry because Tomric also offers the beans in larger burlap sacks, with quantity discounts for larger orders.

The cacao supplied by Tomric, in partnership with Ingemann, comes in four flavours:

1. NicaFruity, a premium blend of beans from Nicaragua

2. Chuno Classico , a Trinitario-type caco from the Northern Highlands

3. Tenor, beans from the region of La Dalia, Matagalpa region.

4. O'Payo, the certified organic cacao offered by Ingemann and Tomric, consisting of beans from Waslala, Raan, on the UNESCO protected Bosawas Nature Reserve in the northern mountains of Nicaragua.

The tests went very well.  I decided to make 75% dark chocolate bars with a medium-to-dark roast and a 48 hour refining time.  I recalled that Chaleur's original run of sample bars from Ingemann were 80% and on the bitter side, which chocolate maker Dany Marquis had also acknowledged that perhaps a sweeter chocolate would be a better way to showcase the Ingemann beans. So I went a little sweeter, but not by much, to highlight the flavour of the beans and truly understand the taste of each variety.

At times, I wished I had made 70% chocolate bars, since I still found a strong bitterness to some of the chocolate that I made.  Although, once the chocolate had aged a bit, I found some of that bitterness wore off somewhat, and the flavours of each chocolate truly opened up.

I would consider buying any one of the four varieties of beans from Tomric.  As far as an organic bean goes, the O'Payo is quite nice, and offers no strong flavours that might affect the end result of the chocolate, should you be using it to make a couverture chocolate for truffles or confections.

Another great thing about this cacao, is that it comes from a reliable and completely traceable source. At Ingemann, they have helped over 400 producers start cocoa plantations, they use grafting programs to reproduce fine flavour cacao, and they focus on using the best methods of fermentation, drying, cleaning and sorting, and storage. The beans are all Trinitario-Acriollado - a Trinitario with Criollo genes (in case you're not familiar with cacao types, these are two bean types known for fine flavour). To top that off, Nicarargua is one of only nine countries recognized as 100% fine cocoa origin.

My flavour notes are below on each bean, as well as some recommendations on what you can pair them with, or suggested percentages for the chocolate.  Hopefully this helps other hobbyist or craft chocolate makers when trying to decide what bean to choose! 

For more information, or to buy any of these cocoa beans from Nicaragua, visit the Tomric website at Enjoy!

Notes on the Beans:

'Nica Fruity' or the Nicaraguan Premium Blend worked well with a dark roast and a 75% dark chocolate. The resulting chocolate was not in-your-face-fruity like a Madagascar or perhaps a Grenada, but that may have something to do with the dark roast that I applied to the chocolate, which could have muted some of the natural flavours. If I were to work with these beans again, I might go with a light roast to bring out the acidic nature of the bean and highlight the fruit flavours.  Although the chocolate I had made was quite good as a 75% dark roast. But for a different sort of palate, a sweeter 65% might also be nice on these beans to soften the bitterness and bring out the fruitiness. Find more information on the Tomric site here.

The Chuno Classico had a sweeter profile and a nice warm, roasted taste. Raisins and a hint of grape, orange with some taste of cream and cocoa. And also, an olive flavour reminiscent of other chocolate bars that I have tasted before, namely the Fiji bar by Chaleur B Chocolat.  You may have tried a 'Chuno' bean by Ingemann before and found a different flavour profile, but don't be confused! Ingemann produces five varieties under the Chuno name: Classico, Intenso, Esencia, Tradicional and Profundo. The Ingemann website provides information on each type of bean, as well as the length of fermentation and drying time. For instance, the Chuno Classico beans that I tested had a moderate fermentation time (as opposed to long or short) and a moderate drying time. You can also find a flavour profile graphic on the website, to help you along when tasting the beans or writing up a description of your chocolate.

I made a few 70% bars with no cocoa butter added, and it had a creamy texture and taste - and was fruitier - but yet left a dryness on the palate like a dry red wine might. Mouthfeel certainly benefits from the added cocoa butter, but has a robust enough flavour to get away with no cocoa butter to be a nice chocolate in the low 70% range. Overall, the Chuno made a very nice dark chocolate, with a good balance of bitter and sweet with 75% cocoa solids.

O'Payo - There is a bite to this chocolate, but not unpleasant. It is that acidic feel you get after eating a kiwi, which may be why the supplier described it as tasting like kiwi and pineapple. As the chocolate aged, I also started to taste some notes of purple grape. I also tasted this flavour in Tomric's sample 70% chocolate made from the same beans.

The notes of coffee, mentioned by Tomric in their info pack, I'll agree with. This might pair well with a coffee-flavoured chocolate bar, or might be used in an espresso truffle. I used my 75% dark O-Payo chocolate bar to make a meltaway-style truffle (a meltaway replaces the cream and butter in a traditional truffle with coconut oil) and added a dark-roast ground coffee to it, and it was delicious!

Tenor -  For me, it had a slight dried fruit, floral, and mild tangy clementine with an earthy aftertaste. The suppliers found "interesting floral notes with hints of red wine, wood and orange." After tasting it again, the red wine did stand out to me.  With 48 hours in the refiner, it wasn't notably bitter, but somewhat acidic (as compared to 35 hours in the refiner, when I pulled some chocolate out and made a few bars to test the differences (at 35 hours it was definitely more acidic and fruity). Again though, with the acidity, this chocolate might have benefited from a little more sugar - I think a 70% dark chocolate would have been delicious, and perhaps a dark-milk chocolate, and also made into a 60% dark chocolate for red wine truffles.

Summary Notes:

Although all the chocolate bars from Tomric's four beans had a similar theme of high cocoa taste, nuttiness and somewhat acidic, each one featured their own unique flavours. Every one of these chocolates got better with age, and truly all four stood out as interesting chocolate bars.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake Recipe : Double Decker, Double Delicious!

I have been hanging on to a recipe for 'Cheesecake Brownies' for a few years now, always intending to make it but never getting around to it for some reason. But finally, I made it! And I am glad I did. But I felt the recipe did need a little work - with more chocolate brownie and less cheesecake - so I played around with it and ended up doubling the brownie and halving the cheesecake and voila! an amazing dessert was born.  So here is the recipe for Brownie Cheesecake (the end result of my experiments seemed to call for a flipping of the name).

With this cake, be prepared that you need to start at least 8 hours before serving it (or make one day in advance) because you need 2 hours of preparation, including one hour to freeze the base brownie layer and the entire cheesecake also needs to chilled thoroughly before slicing.

The original recipe was printed on a card by Galison New York ( and originally adapted from a recipe by Nicole Kaplan in Baking from the Heart: Our Nation's Best Bakers Share Recipes They Cherish for The Great American Bake Sale, Rosen (Broadway Books), 2004.

The Ultimate Brownie Cheesecake

Time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus cooling time (6 hours) before slicing. Cheesecakes are best made a day in advance of serving, and need to be very cold before slicing.

Brownie Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1o cut/2 cup cup light brown sugar
10 ounces 70% dark chocolate
1/2 cup, plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used Camino organic/Fair Trade brand)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup flour

Cream Cheese Layer Ingredients:
3 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

Chocolate Ganache Topping Ingredients:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream

1. Grease a 9" or 10" round springform pan (I used 10") and line it with a round of parchment paper (to cut: place your pan on top of the parchment paper and draw a circle around the base of it, then cut it out. Grease your pan under the parchment paper and, once you place the parchment inside, grease the paper as well.

2. Place a pot on the stove with 1" of water in it. Bring to a simmer and turn down to Min. or level 1.
Place the first three ingredients of the brownie batter (butter, brown sugar, 10 ounces of chocolate) into either a stainless steel bowl, a medium sized pot (that fits over your pot of water) or glass bowl and place over the pot of barely simmering water on the stove. I find stainless steel works best. Heat and stir until fully melted.

3. Remove from heat, add sugar, eggs and cake flour. Mix with a hand mixer or immersion blender just until smooth.

4. Pour into the prepared pan. Freeze for 1 hour or longer until firm.

5. After an hour, preheat the oven to 350ยบ F. Then combine the cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl, mix on medium until combined and smooth (no lumps), then add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the beaters between each addition. Once combined, scrape the bottom of the bowl, then beat on high for 10 seconds to ensure there are no lumps left.  Pour into your prepared, chilled pan with the brownie layer in it.

6. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the cream cheese layer is golden and only jiggles a little in the middle when the pan is gently shaken.

7. Let cool for a half hour, and run a knife around the sides of the pan. Chill for at least 1 or 2 hours before adding the ganache topping.

To prepare the ganache:

1. Place the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth (add back to microwave for 5 second intervals until fully melted).

2. Pour onto the top of the cake and push to the edges. Let drip down the sides for a delicious effect.