Saturday, October 18, 2014

Extra Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've had to do a lot of work with our selection of Challengers for this year's 6th competition. Finding a recipe that doesn't require me to go out and buy a lot of ingredients with money we don't make here on The Chocolate Cult feels tiring plus none of these homemade goodies can be given out to trick o'treaters where I live. I thought that perhaps I could do something with the chips of Pascha 100% Organic Dark Chocolate that might please adults.  I tried the final products out at our neighborhood picnic so I had a lot of feedback.

How to test something like this?  I see a bag of chocolate chips, I think chocolate chip cookies.  There is a recipe on the bag but it had a lot of ingredient I simply do not keep on hand.  I don't get paid by the companies who send us products and I don't charge you all money to read this blog so I decided to go with a very basic cookie recipe that I had ingredients of in my pantry.  Was that a wise choice?

Ingredients:
1.5 sticks of margarine
2/3 C light brown sugar
1/4 C Splenda white sugar
1/4 C egg substitute
2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda mixed into 1/4 C water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 C whole wheat flour
1 bag 100% Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate chips

Instructions:
 1) Preheat oven to 375°F and get out a flat cookie sheet; do not grease it, do not use parchment paper on it.

2) Beat together margarine and sugars until the very smooth and you cannot see pieces of any of the ingredients.


3) Add in vanilla, eggs, and water with baking soda.  Beat until you can see very tiny pieces of the margarine mixture floating throughout.

4) Blend in cinnamon and flour until batter is a bit sticky but one consistent color.

5) Mix in the chocolate.


6) Drop by tablespoons onto your cookie sheet, depending on the size  you could get 9-16 cookies per sheet.


7) Bake for 10 minutes.

8) Remove and let cool for 2 minutes.

9) Transfer each cookie to either a cooling rack or paper on your table/countertop.  I love to reuse paper bags from shopping for this like my mother always did.

10) Let cool at least an hour then serve on a plate.


Challenges I encountered while using these chips are as follows.

First the chips being 100% cacao.  This means that the cookie recipe I used wasn't really sweet enough to counter the chocolate. Someone would really need to love dark chocolate to like these cookies.  That is NOT the fault of Pascha but my fault.  However, several of my neighbors said they liked them though one was their limit in terms of darkness. I loved them, I'm crazy about really dark chocolate though, and I think with the cookie the over all cacao level tasted around 85-90%. Another difficulty with the purity of the chocolate was that it melted so much that I had to remove these quickly from the baking sheet so they didn't stick really badly.

Secondly the bag is a smaller amount of chips in terms of weight than let's say your big brand varieties.  I don't think this is much of a problem given how intense the chocolate is.  I didn't do a smaller recipe though in hindsight a larger recipe so that each cookie had fewer chips might have been a better choice in terms of intensity if you don't like dark chocolate.

I see now why the recipe on the Pascha 100% Organic Dark Chocolate chips ingredients like avocado, molasses, and a lot of spices -- to counter the bitterness of the chips.  If you have the ingredients on hand, try that recipe.  Otherwise I'd say use these chips as you would simply pieces of chocolate, melt them into a recipe for fudge, or cake, or something like that which has a lot of sweet or spicy flavors.

The chips themselves definitely earn Sacrament status because they are as pure a chocolate as you can get.  Their purity and their size make them melt very easily without the next to break up, cut up, or bust up a larger piece of unsweetened baking chocolate as you have probably done numerous times. Unless you are allergic to chocolate (so sad) these are allergen free though the recipe on the bag would cause problems for at least one reader and former Acolyte I know because of the spices.  Great job, Pascha!  We look forward to success with your other products in the future.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

American and European Chocolate Recall 10/12/14

This is a first for The Chocolate Cult -- a recall of a product that affect both the European and the American markets.  Normally I see only the American recalls through the FDA but this recall is the same product just different distribution companies.  As always, check the links to the announcement and contact the appropriate officials.

J&B European Distribution Inc. Issues Allergy Alert For Undeclared Milk In Kupiec Rice Cakes With Dark Chocolate

Consumer Contact: 1-718-782-3712

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — October 7, 2014 – J&B EUROPEAN DISTRIBUTION INC. of BROOKLYN, NY is recalling 40 cases of KUPIEC brand RICE CAKES WITH DARK CHOCOLATE, NET WT. 3.1 OZ. (90g), UPC # 5 906747 171742, because they may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

KUPIEC brand RICE CAKES WITH DARK CHOCOLATE, NET WT. 3.1 oz. (90g) were distributed to retail outlets throughout NY, NJ, and PA, and to one retail location in North Carolina. The product was shipped between 6/24/2014 and 7/23/2014.

KUPIEC brand RICE CAKES WITH DARK CHOCOLATE, NET WT. 3.1 oz., UPC # 5 906747 171742, are packed in a white oval plastic package picturing a stack of the rice cakes topped with chocolate. There are 6 rice cakes per package. The product was imported from Poland.


J&B EUROPEAN DISTRIBUTION is not aware of any confirmed illnesses to date in its distribution area; however the FDA has confirmed one such case in the Chicago, IL area.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product containing milk was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of milk. Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by an inadvertent omission on the label by the producer during the revision of the packaging process.

Consumers who have purchased KUPIEC brand RICE CAKES WITH DARK CHOCOLATE, NET WT. 3.1 oz., UPC # 5 906747 171742, are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact J&B EUROPEAN DISTRIBUTION at 1-718-782-3712, Monday – Friday, 8am - 4pm, ET.

------------
Markpol Distributors Inc. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Kupiec Rice Cakes with Dark Chocolate

Consumer Contact: 847-801-5050; info@markpoldistributors.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 3, 2014 - Markpol Distributors Inc. of Wood Dale, Illinois is recalling Kupiec Rice Cakes with Dark Chocolate because it may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Kupiec Rice Cakes with Dark Chocolate was shipped and distributed to retail stores in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut between August 29th, 2014 and September 30th, 2014.

Kupiec Rice Cakes with Dark Chocolate has UPC 5 906747 171742, packaged in white foil with a photo image of the rice cake on the front of the packaging, and the net weight is 3.1 oz. The production date located on the back of the package is 29.05.2014 with expiration date of 29.05.2015. Lot numbers: 149/MA/3 and 149/JP/3. Customers who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk should not consume this product and return recalled product to the retail store and ask for a refund.

There has been one illness reported.

Markpol Distributors Inc. initiated the voluntary recall after the mis-labeling issue was discovered through the reported consumer illness on October 1st, 2014 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 847-801-5050 from 9am-5pm (CST) Monday – Friday or email info@markpoldistributors.com.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Marshmallow Treats for Halloween

Entering into our 6th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge is 240Sweet with a new product in two chocolate varieties: Favor Packs which come in 10-piece bags of petite marshmallows.  Each flavor on their website offers this option, in fact, when I checked the favor pack is the only current option for marshmallows.  We were sent two 4-piece bags in Chocolate Decadence and Chocolate Chip flavors that we tested as a ready to eat treat and in a very basic hot cocoa drink.

The first thing to note about the 240Sweet marshmallows is that they are made with these basic ingredients "glucose, beet sugar, (animal based) gelatin, natural flavorings, water, powdered beet sugar, cornstarch and salt" so if you have an allergy to any of these things, you are now aware.  Then each flavor has it's own ingredients as well such as dark chocolate chips and cocoa in the case of our two flavors.  Finally please note that each of these petite puffs are not the same as the mini marshmallows you might find in stores. Each of these is more than 1X1X1 inch in dimensions so actually a very good size compared to their previous huge puffs that I always cut up to use or eat.  Note: the website lists to different dimensions but I measured the petite puffs for this article.  With this basic information in mind, let's look at both varieties.

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow have Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips in them.  These have a sugary scent with dark chocolate.  They are very soft and sticky.  Very easy to bite into, strong vanilla flavor with intense burst of dark chocolate and sweetness.  The lasting flavor is the semi-sweet chocolate.  Everyone liked them on their own.  In the cocoa it turned more sticky, really adhering to my teeth, and the mini chips were less sweet. An excellent gourmet marshmallow that pleases on every sensory level.

Chocolate Decadence Marshmallow is made with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips, so twice the cacao content of the previous variety.  The dark cocoa scent is very strong from these and they are firmer and not sticky compared to the Chocolate Chip Marshmallows were looked at above.  This makes perfect season given that cocoa should create drier products. These have less mini chips but are really very dark in flavor.  It requires more chewing than the previous marshmallows but isn't sticky.  While we liked these it wasn't as good as the other because there is less texture and contrast in flavor.  These also didn't soak up the hot cocoa as well as the previous.

We'd give the Chocolate Chip Marshmallows Sacramental status but not the Chocolate Decadence Marshmallow in this case.  In terms of Halloween these would be great in kids' mugs at a party.  In terms of handing these out, if you do what my grandmother did and buy special treats for special trick o'treaters then these work as well since they come in sealed plastic bags.  I'd maybe add an orange or black ribbon to the normal purple one to make them more festive. 240Sweet makes gourmet marshmallows by hand and offers a wide variety of flavors with seasonal variety year round, it can take time to make their orders so if you are interested go check them out today.  Currently their website says you can get free shipping so if you'd like to check these out, and we think you need to check out the Chocolate Chip Marshmallows at least, now is good time to do it.

Just got notice of this special 2014 Halloween offer from them...

Happy Halloween Treats

Share our bewitching Stuffer Packs 

Treat your favorite goblins and ghouls to a gourmet treat this Halloween with our new Stuffer Packs.

Each Stuffer Pack contains four Crunchy Cinnamon puffs that you can smell through the bag!
Only available through October 24


Order by Friday, October 17 and save $30 with the code STUFFER14 for all of your party fun.*

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Can You Expect at the 2014 Nashville Chocolate Walk?

If you've never been to the Brown County Chocolate Walk in Nashville, Indiana, today I'm going to talk from experience about it and share some of the updates from the event with you all.  This is an wonderful opportunity for chocolate and pet lovers to connect and support an amazing effective organization that has an incredible out-alive and adoption rate.  You can read our interview with the organizer of this event in our previous interview.

As a group, The Chocolate Cult has been participating in the walk since 2009 when I went with our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte, Lisa.  We had great time and decided we wanted to make this an annual event for us.  We did run into the challenge of "too much chocolate" and large crowds but over the years we've come up with several tips to help make the walk more enjoyable and healthier that I'll share in a few moments.

The next year, 2010, we expanded our group from two to eight and headed off to the event.  Check out our sign... that was our original logo that a reader made for us as a gift.  Same shirt for me, different hair.  Of this group, one joined up with some other friends once we got to Nashville, one couple stayed together, and the other five of us did the walk as a team.  We all met up at a local restaurant at a set time and reflected on the event.

For some reason even though I recall photos being taken in 2011 (Lisa and I again), 2012 (five of us went as a group), and 2013 (four of us went as a group), no one had the photos so now on to the tips for making your Chocolate Walk in Nashville great.  Just so you know, several of the people from the above photo continued to do the Walk they just didn't come with me.

1) Don't do it alone.  Not only is it more fun with more people but they can help motivate you to keep going.  The walk covers a large chunk of Nashville and the crowds can feel overwhelming without a couple of buddies.  That said I wouldn't recommend doing it with more than 4-6 people simply because the stops on the walk tend to be in smaller spaces.  Below is a copy of the map for this year's walk at this time; I'm not sure how much, if any, it might change.


2) Carpool.  Free parking in Nashville is very limited so save your cash for lunch or dinner or even other shopping by taking a small number of vehicles.

3) Eat a small breakfast before you start.  Don't go hungry because as much as we love chocolate here, just having chocolate isn't a very healthy thing to do. With that in mind...

4) Eat a balanced lunch or dinner afterwards.  You can eat in Nashville, I prefer to do that myself, help support the businesses who take part even more, but you can bring a picnic or head back home if you like.

5) Bring containers to save chocolate in.  Bring a bag and lots of baggies or tiny cups to keep the treats you can in to enjoy later.  36 samples is a lot of chocolate. Some of these won't be food -- we've gotten pet products and massage oil in the past -- and some of the food you have to consume right away like the ice creams and drinks.  But if you can save it, do so.  You'll have lots of treats to share back home or to enjoy throughout the coming week.

6) Dress flexibly.  Start with a good pair of walking boots or shoes.  While there are little trains around Nashville you will be walking and walking, up and down hills, in and out of shops, up and down stairs, down sidewalks and through alleyways.  Also wear clothing you can take off and tie around your waist or put into a bag.  We've had all sorts of weather when we've done this so be prepared for different temps, temp changes, and even rain or snow.

7) Keep walking.  While shopping as you walk is tempting, it will slow you down and you may not finish.  As the hours roll by the crowds will build up so try to plan out your route ahead of time and avoid restaurants around lunch and dinner time unless you plan to eat there.

8) Plan some time to relax and shop when you are done.  Once you are finished with the walk and are full of chocolate or full of lunch/dinner, go back and visit those little places that caught your eye. Help support the stores that are supporting the Walk if you have the extra cash to do so.

If you've been to the Brown County Chocolate Walk in the past and have some other tips to share, please do so in our comments section below.  Remember get your tickets soon because they are very likely to sell out again.