Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tree to Bar Chocolate ; Grenada is Leading the Way

If you are familiar with bean-to-bar chocolate, then you may also be familiar with tree-to-bar chocolate. Making chocolate from bean-to-bar, starts with cocoa beans as the raw ingredient. The chocolate maker then roasts, crushes, and winnows (removes the shells) the beans, then grinds and refines them into chocolate, ages the chocolate, and takes the final steps of moulding the chocolate into bars.

Tree-to-bar chocolate starts from the raw cacao and generally occurs in the country of origin and at the cocoa farm. The farmer then ferments, dries and sorts the beans, and instead of selling their beans to cocoa exporters or chocolate makers, they take the next steps of making chocolate from them. This keeps more of the money earned from chocolate production at the farm, and in the country of origin. In some cases, chocolate makers call themselves tree-to-bar when they themselves or their family members grow the beans in one country, then convert them into chocolate in another. Either way, the chocolate profits are being kept within the farmer's family.

Grenada has become a hot spot for both bean-to-bar and tree-to-bar chocolate. With a population falling just short of 110,000 people and land mass of 344 square kilometres, this small Island has big plans for its cocoa beans.

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended the Grenada Chocolate Festival just over a week ago, and was able to see first-hand how chocolate-making-at-origin and tree-to-bar chocolate was done in Grenada. 

I should have started my tour of Grenada's cocoa farming and tree-to-bar chocolate at Tri Island Chocolate on Sunday (May 14th), where cocoa farm rehabilitation is in progress, and on-site chocolate making is at its beginning stages.  Unfortunately I arrived in Grenada a little too late for the day trip out there.

On Monday, the festival brought us to Belmont Estate, a beautiful historical cocoa plantation with a new chocolate factory at the plantation. The following days included two very different trips to Crayfish Bay, one for a tour of the bean-to-bar process, and another where I was able to 'be a farmer for a day'. And to top it all off, there was an amazing day at The Grenada Chocolate Factory.

Today I will tell you about all about The Diamond Chocolate Factory, and then the rest of the week we will explore the other chocolate makers in Grenada. Each day at the Grenada Chocolate Festival was so full of information and rich chocolate experiences, that I feel I need to spend a little extra time and page space highlighting each one.

Jouvay Chocolate and The Diamond Chocolate Factory in St. Marks, Grenada

As part of the Grenada Chocolate Festival, we participated in a tour of Diamond Chocolate Factory, where they make the Jouvay Chocolate brand. The chocolate is made in a former rum distillery operated by French monks in 1774, which was converted to a chocolate factory in 2014. We toured the grounds, where the ruins of the monastery still remain, then toured the factory through its large windows designed for visitors to peek in at the workers making chocolate.

The chocolate making equipment (conche and roll refiner) at Jouvay had quite a good size to them - not as large as you might see at a traditional bulk chocolate 'factory', but much larger than many of the refiners used by craft chocolate makers.  Perhaps it is the mix of cocoa beans used for the chocolate, or the separate conche machine that gives Jouvay chocolate a much sweeter and less acidic profile than the other chocolate makers' products that I tasted on the Island. 

Jouvay offers a wide enough range of dark chocolate, including a 60%, a 70%, a 75% and a 100% dark. Some cocoa butter and nibs and beans were also sold on site.

Jouvay's 100% dark chocolate bar is certainly on the sweeter side of the scale for an unsweetened dark chocolate, and is very creamy in texture. It has a green taste to it, like mixed salad greens or kale, with some splash of green fruit like kiwi and a touch of under-ripe lemon. And it is a complete contrast to the very bold taste of The Grenada Chocolate Company's 100% dark chocolate bar, which is fruitier, has a stronger roast taste and holds more acidity.

I personally enjoyed Jouvey's 75% dark chocolate more the most of their product line-up because it was mild and sweet overall, yet full of cocoa flavour, with floral notes and some fruitiness, low acidity and a slight fruity and earthy aftertaste. Although I suspect that many people who eat sweeter dark chocolate might prefer the 60% or the 70% bars, which were light and creamy with some earthy tones, a medium roast taste, and mild fruit flavours.

Jouvay Chocolate is a farmer-owned chocolate company, which partnered with L.A. Burdick, a chocolate bonbon and truffle maker in the U.S., to create delicious tasting chocolate intended to ensure the cocoa farmers retain more of the profit. 

Jouvay Chocolate bars found in the IGA Supermarket in Spiceland Mall
across the street from the Grand Anse Beach.

The chocolate bars can be found all over Grenada, including in the cafĂ© and shop attached to the chocolate factory, or in the airport shops. I found some at the gift shop at True Blue Bay boutique resort where I stayed, as well as at the large grocery store just across the street from the famous Grand Anse beach.  Be sure to pick up a range of these chocolate bars while you are visiting Grenada, they are tasty and a perfect gift for any dark chocolate lover in your life.

Tomorrow we will take a look at Belmont Estate, a large and lovely cocoa plantation, along with their new micro chocolate factory to create truly tree-to-bar chocolate on the farm.

For now, let's dream about Grenada Chocolate! I know I will. 

Relaxed me, enjoying the tour of The Diamond Chocolate Factory
in St. Marks, Grenada.  Can you tell I was on a 'chocolate high'?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I am at the Grenada Chocolate Fest!

If you are wondering why this blog has been rather 'quiet' for the last week or so, it is because I am traveling...for chocolate! I am in Grenada for the Grenada Chocolate Festival, an annual event organized by the owner of True Blue Bay boutique resort in Grenada. It is a week long adventure of cacao, cocoa farm visits, great food, and wonderful single origin chocolate. I am enjoying this festival thoroughly, which is why I haven't been spending a lot of time writing about it! But don't worry, I'll tell you all about it once I am back. Here are a few highlights to tide you over until then....

On Monday, we took an extensive tour of Belmont Estate, a cacao plantation in Grenada. While there, we learned about different types of cacao, growing cacao, seedlings, grafting, fermentation, drying cocoa beans, and more.

After, we had the most delicious lunch at Belmont Estate restaurant. Beautiful view and chocolate in my food, what more could I ask for?

Belmont then announced their launch of a new craft chocolate factory. Tree to bar chocolate is the way to go! All the ingredients they need to make chocolate are grown and processed right there on the farm (well, except maybe the sugar).

Yesterday we visited the Diamond Chocolate Factory for a short tour. This factory makes the Jouvay Chocolate brand.

Today we are heading to the Grenada Chocolate Factory, and learning all about Mott Green, and his important impact in the world of chocolate, and Grenadian cocoa.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Double Layer Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake - two recipes in one cake!

My birthday was about a month ago. And since it was a milestone birthday this year, I decided not to rely on anyone else to make my cake because - as I've learned over the years - no one makes cakes for a professional baker. Or so I thought. A cake was dropped off at my door on my big day. But I didn't know this before my birthday, so I went ahead and made an epic one for myself. So there was no need for fancy decoration (as you'll see in the photos), because this cake was just for me.

My cake preference is for something super chocolaty and rich. But to make a cake that is rich enough for my taste buds, I really must combine two cakes. And that is precisely what I did.

I LOVE chocolate cheesecake, and I LOVE chocolate mousse cake. So I decided to mix them together!  And I didn't want to bake, so I chose two no-bake recipes and got started.  I used gluten-free flour in the crust to cut down on guilt and just because I thought I'd mix it up a bit. This changed nothing on the deliciousness scale, but you can decide whether yours will be GF or not.

The end result is a delicious combination that is both rich and chocolaty. As a bonus, it can be pre-sliced and frozen, so you can pull out a piece and thaw it in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds (or an hour just left on the counter) whenever you have a dessert craving!

Let's get to it. Here is the 'how-to' for this delicious cake...

Double Layer Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake Recipe

For the crust:

You need...
  • 1/2 cup butter (set aside more for the flour-based crust)
  • 1 package (or 2 to 3 cups chocolate wafer cookies, gluten-free or regular)
  • 2 cups GF or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or another dry sugar alternative

Crust Instructions:

1. Cover the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper and butter the bottom and up the inside sides. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave in a heat-proof bowl or in a saucepan on the stove.
3. Crumble your cookies (if using) and place in a medium-sized bowl or place flour, sugar, cocoa powder in a medium-sized bowl and stir to disperse ingredients.  Add the melted butter to the mix and stir until mix is moist and crumbly. Add more butter as necessary.
4. Press into the bottom of an 8" or 9" springform pan, until smooth and even and covers the entire bottom.
5. Place your pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for just 10 minutes if using crumbled cookies, and for 15 minutes if using flour/sugar mixture crust.
6. Remove from oven and let cool in the fridge for a half an hour or until it feels cool to the touch.

For the no-bake chocolate cheesecake filling:

You need...
  • 2 packages of cream cheese (2 250 gram packages), softened to room temperature (or packages fully removed and microwaved for 20 to 30 seconds on a plate or paper towel to reach room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (organic raw cane sugar, or coconut sugar are fine)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 7 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (you can also use 70% dark chocolate, but you might want to increase the sugar by a 1/4 cup if you do)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla

Cheesecake filling instructions:

1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave for 1 minute on high, or 2 minutes on half power. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Whip the whipping cream in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, until fluffy and stiff (about 1 minute or less in a stand mixer, 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Transfer to another bowl (to free up your stand mixer bowl) and place in the fridge.
3. Place the cream cheese in your mixing bowl and beat until soft and fluffy, stopping every now and then to carefully stir in the bottom to ensure no lumps form.
4. Add the sugar and beat again until smooth (about 30 to 60 seconds), also stopping to stir in the bottom with a spatula so no lumps form. Beat for 30 seconds more.
5. Add the vanilla and beat in for 10 seconds.
6. Add the chocolate and beat in for 20 seconds or so until fully combined.
7. Gently fold in your whipping cream.
8. Pour the entire mix onto the crust ready in your springform pan. Spread around until the top is smooth and even.
9. Place the crust and bottom layer of the cake in the fridge to chill and set, while making your chocolate mousse.

For the chocolate mousse cake filling:
This recipe is modified, but originally comes from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley/Toronto, 2007

You need...
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips (preferably 55% to 65% dark chocolate - Ghirardelli recommends their 60% chocolate chips)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (organic cane sugar works here)
  • 1/4 cup hot brewed coffee or espresso
Chocolate Mousse Filling Instructions:

1. Whip the whipping cream in a large bowl to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (careful not to let any water drops drip into it or it will turn lumpy) or in the microwave for 2 minutes on half power in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until smooth. 3. If over a double boiler, pull off heat while about 1/8 chocolate remains in lumps, so the chocolate does not overheat. Stir until smooth.
4. Whip the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed for about 10 minutes (less if using a Kitchenaid stand mixer), until very fluffy and thick.
5. Stir the hot coffee into the chocolate chips rapidly but until smooth, and then immediately stir it into the beaten eggs, again rapidly. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
6. Pour the mixture over the cheesecake filling in the pan. Spread around until smooth.
7. Place back in the fridge and let set a least 2 hours (24 hours is good too) until ready to serve or to top the cake.

To serve the cake...

Run a knife around the inside edges of the springform pan. Remove the sides. Carefully transfer to a serving plate. Top the cake with chocolate ganache dizzled over it, chocolate shavings, cookie crumble, hazelnuts, raspberries or strawberries or whatever you prefer. Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Or seal in an airtight container (a box with a plastic bag sealed around it works too!) and freeze until ready to serve. Thaws in about an hour.

It's time to impress your friends! Although you might not want to share. :-)