Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summertime but Chocolatey 2014

The temps keep going up here in Indiana where The Chocolate Cult is headquartered but that doesn't stop us from enjoying and appreciating Chocolate.  While you may have to pay extra to order chocolate online during this hot months you should check out your local shops and stores for deals and new varieties.  Why?  First of all -- CHOCOLATE, second of all -- Holidays!

August 2 = National Ice Cream Sandwich Day (we'll have a Saturday Sacrament for this one including a link to the very simple recipe)

August 4 = National Chocolate Chip Day; National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

August 5 = National Waffle Day (see the 24th for a related holiday) -- Check out an older recipe idea for Simple Chocolate Waffles

August 6, 1826 = Birthday of Joseph Storrs Fry II who took over his grandfather’s thriving chocolate business in England. (mostly because I couldn’t find an accurate birthday for the chocolate genius that was Joseph Storrs Fry)

August 10 = National S’mores Day -- Check out our last S'Mores feature
                 August 10th is also the birthday of Henri Nestlé, German Confection and founder of the Nestlé corporation along with Daniel Peter who created the Milk Chocolate bar using Nestlé expertise with condensed milk

August 12 = John Cadbury Birthday (1801-1889) -- his company is still around though not part of an international company

August 18 = National Soft Serve Ice Cream Day

August 20 = National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day

August 24 = National Waffle Day (anniversary of the first US patent for the waffle iron)

August 25 = National Banana Split Day

August 27 = National Pots de Crème Day

August 29 is the Saturday before Labor Day this year so that means it is International Bacon Day

August 30 = National Toasted Marshmallow Day -- you could make s'mores again to celebrate

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Lady behind My Chocolate in the UK

Sisters and Brothers, today we are meeting the woman behind the UK company "My Chocolate," Hannah Saxton.  We've done this interview because the UK is our third highest readership here on The Chocolate Cult and we've featured a few companies in the past from the UK and hope to include more in the future. If I should ever make it that way, I hope that "My Chocolate" invites me to an event to review it for you all.  With that in mind, let's move on to the review.

Hannah, would you tell our readers what exactly "My Chocolate" is?

MyChocolate specialises in chocolate fun! We run chocolate making workshops for private parties, team building events, gift experiences, birthday parties and hen dos. 

During the workshops our Chocolatiers entertain everyone with the history of chocolate and the process from cocoa bean to chocolate bar (samples are of course mandatory!). Everyone makes their own giant chocolate buttons, fresh cream truffles and milk chocolate fudge using organic chocolate and oodles of decorations.

We very much focus on playing with chocolate and getting guests to release their inner child!

How did you start this business and why?

While I was studying at the Slade School of Art, I had a Dutch boyfriend so we spent a lot of time in Amsterdam. During one of our visits, he took me to a chocolate workshop held at the back of a tiny chocolate shop. The workshop was brilliant and I realised how interesting (and fun!) it was making chocolate from scratch. 

That’s where the initial idea for MyChocolate came from and I realised the workshops would also be great for corporate events and parties.

When we got back from Amsterdam, I left university and used part of my student loan to set up the company. 

At first I ran the workshops from my flat in West London but after a few years, MyChocolate really took off and I now rent a large kitchen space in Farrington. 

MyChocolate has now been in business for 10 years. 

You have several different types of parties and workshops that you offer.  Could you briefly explain to our readers what these different types are?

As well as the Original Chocolate Making workshop, where everyone samples flavoured chocolates, learns how chocolate is made and makes their own handmade treats, we run the following events:

This is definitely a favourite amongst hen parties. The workshop includes a chocolate vodka martini and truffle making from raw ingredients. 

Apprentice Challenge 
Our Apprentice Chocolate Challenge is the most popular workshops for corporate clients. Each team receives a challenge to make a chocolate product and advert for a certain market niche. 

Luxury Chocolate 
This is the ultimate gift experience! During the three hours event, you get to sample matching wines and flavoured truffles, make exotic flavoured chocolate slabs and blend chocolate martini, all while enjoying a few glasses of Prosecco. 

Check out one of the My Chocolate Recipes here.

Of these various workshops and parties, what is your personal favorite to work on?

The Luxury Chocolate Making! Our milk chocolate vodka martinis and gooey American style fudge recipes are amazing! 

Do you have a central location that you offer our workshops and parties at or do you travel to the individual customers?

We do both. 

We have our own workshop space in Farrington where most of the workshops are run and we work with lots of partner hotels across Central London, including the Hilton and The Zetter.

Most of the workshops we run are completely mobile so we often travel to company’s offices and people houses, especially when we run kids parties. 

What is the largest event you've run?

In the run up to Christmas, we run lots of office Christmas parties which are often for a few hundred people. 

I think the largest event we’ve run so far was for just over 500 people at the Ritz. We organised a ‘round the world’ chocolate making event. Each room was based on a different country with chocolates made using traditional flavours and ingredients from each country. 

Most of our readers are not in the UK so what might "My Chocolate" offer to the non-UK reader?

The workshops are based in the UK (London, Manchester and Brighton) but we are actually just about to launch a chocolate making kit, which is an at home version of our chocolate workshop. This can be posted around the world. Watch this space!

I hope when you get that kit ready you'll consider sending us one to test and write about here on The Chocolate Cult.

Hannah, are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave our readers with?

People often don’t realise how easy it is to make flavoured chocolate bars. 

Melt a bowl of chocolate and stir in spices, herbs or cooking essential oils. Pour the melted chocolate on to a flat surface covered in baking paper. Use a spatula to evenly spread the chocolate so it’s a cm thick. Once the chocolate has set, break the slab into pieces. 

Brothers and Sisters, please do leave a few comments for Hannah about our interview today.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chocolate Chewies Recall

Today I have only one chocolate related FDA recall to share with you all Brothers and Sisters.  I know, I know, one is still one too many, but you are in charge of your health so you must keep on top of these recalls.  We're just here to offer a little assistance.  Please do go and check out the links in the recall.

Consumer Contact:617-492-5500

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 18, 2014 - CAMBRIDGE, MA - Whole Foods Market is recalling "Chocolate Chewies" produced and sold in the Hyannis, Massachusetts location due to an undeclared tree nut allergen. The product was sold in the store between Sunday, July 13, 2014 and Friday, July 18, 2014 in clear, clamshell packaging and has a Use By date of: 7/18/14.

The chewies contain walnuts as an ingredient. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to tree nuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Signage is posted to notify customers of this recall, and all affected product has been removed from shelves.

No allergic reactions or illnesses have been reported.

Consumers who have purchased this product from Whole Foods Market Hyannis may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact their local store or call 617-492-5500 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Raw Organic Cacao Powder from Freedom Superfoods

Today we're going to look at another type of cocoa from the company Freedom Superfoods. Are all cocoa created equal? No, actually they aren't and this goes beyond merely being Dutched or not. This Pure Raw Cacao Powder from Freedom Superfoods is different in two ways -- it is certified organic and it is raw which in the case of cocoa means that it was not initially processed under high temperature.  As I pointed out in an article a week and a half ago, how exactly it is processed isn't standardized or legally dictated so consumer be aware.  If you order this product from the links provided you will get a small eCookbook as well so I prepared two of the recipes to test both the raw cacao powder and the booklet to see if they created treats of equal quality to using traditionally processed cocoa powder.

I made the Cocoa Cupcakes and the Natural Cocoa Brownies with ingredients I had on hand so there were some substitutions but I've been baking and testing for long enough that I'm 99% certain that my substitutions were appropriate. The raw cacao powder itself was dark in color and had a strong cocoa scent to it.  The bag stood up a bit shaky but it resealed very well meaning that it will last for a while but I'd be careful about how long you keep it in the foil bag compared to the standard tins of cocoa powder I normally receive or buy.

The Cocoa Cupcakes seemed a bit dry when I finished the dough and had to be spooned into the cupcake liners. Given what I know about cupcakes this seemed like a 6-cupcake recipe but since I don't want to let the raw cacao powder go bad I doubled it to make a dozen.  The resulting cupcakes were not exactly what I or my testers expected in a cupcake, they had a more muffin texture that was thicker and heartier but they did taste chocolatey, sweet, and a bit salty. Thus they didn't require frosting to enjoy, a big plus if you are are worried about calories because you can simply enjoy without it; you can add frosting too, I'd recommend something more bitter to bring out the chocolate even more.  The next time I try this recipe I'll add a touch more moisture and decrease the amount of salt.

The Natural Cocoa Brownies I also doubled for the same reason above.  This problem was the opposite of the cupcakes -- too wet so I ended up adding in both more raw cacao powder and flour.  I'm just not sure why you'd need so much water, oil, and milk in one brownie recipe!  The results were sadly what I expected -- horrible!  These are so moisture and even though I added in extra raw cacao powder it could overcome the lack of flavor in all of those wet ingredients. To be blunt, we dumped the entire batch minus what we tested into the trash. I cannot recommend this recipe and I won't be trying it again because it was so bad I'm not sure where to begin experimenting with changing it.  I'd use a regular brownie recipe and see how that works.

The recipes I tried were hit and miss but the greatest problem with the eCookbook is that the recipes lack pan size information.  For example how many cupcakes should that recipe make?  6, 12, 18?  Which pan do I prepare for the brownies?  8 X 8, 9 X 9, or 13 X 9?  This makes a big difference especially with cooking times and in planning what you might be baking for.  The recipes also asked for a few non-standard pantry items like flax, spelt, and coconut oil.

The raw cacao itself wasn't a problem, if I'd had time I imagine it would have performed exactly like last week's test product -- different brands, same product really.  I'll continue to use this in the future so when I do I'll be sure to mention it so you can check it out again. If you'd like to try out this raw cacao powder from Freedom Superfoods and to help out The Chocolate Cult, you can click on the image below or use the links elsewhere in this post to order it through the company's preferred link.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers, our testing of the Pure Raw Cacao Powder from Freedom Superfoods.  I received one or more of the products mentioned above for nearly free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.