Saturday, August 29, 2015

Recipe: Zebra Cookies with Country Crock

Sometimes I am sent non-chocolate products to test out for all of you and my rule: If I can use it with chocolate, I'll try it. Thus when Country Crock® contacted me about some new recipes they wanted to share in exchange for coupons to get free Country Crock® products, I said "Great!" I used their coupons to get two 15 oz containers of spread -- original and calcium added. I've used the Original Country Crock® before as well as different varieties of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® but the calcium added one is new to me and my family. Normally I don't use spreads in baking instead of stick butter/butter-like products or even applesauce in place of them. Let's see how the Zebra Chocolate Chips Cookies I made turned out.

Let's check out the Ingredients:
Original Country Crock®
Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt
Granulated Sugar and Dark Brown Sugar
12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
12 oz White Chocolate Chips (make sure you check your labels)

What did to be the differences between Country Crock® stick and butters/margarines in cookie making?

1. Country Crock® does not need to be brought to room temperature, you can use it straight from the refrigerator.

2. You still need to beat the Country Crock® and the sugars very well for several minutes to get the mixture light and fluffy.

3. You cut back on the calories depending on what type of butter, margarine, or fruit product you use but I can't say you'll cut a certain amount because I don't know what you normally you.

4. The cookies baked to a golden color more than the butter, margarine, and fruit products I've used for similar cookies.

5. In terms of taste, these are lightly buttery, lots of chocolate, sweetness, and delicious! The Country Crock® is moist enough that I didn't need extra liquid wit my whole wheat flour so that is a big plus for how I bake. It also made fluffy, soft cookies like I love.

Original Country Crock® Spread worked great for making these cookies. I'd have to try a few more recipes to determine how well it works for pies, cakes, or candies but I can say I was greatly pleased by how these turned out.

As the folks at Country Crock say about their recipes on their website: All of these recipes are either made with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® or Country Crock® – buttery spreads that are made with real, simple ingredients including delicious oils, purified water and a pinch of salt. I may not have followed the recipe 100% because of how I cook and bake for particular health reasons and allergy concerns, but I didn't change enough of the recipe to make this a new one. If you check their website you'll find a lot of other great recipes with or without chocolate... but who wants something without chocolate?

Have you used Country Crock® in your baking? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recipe: Easy Bake Minty S'mores

Time for another simple and rare recipe from The Chocolate Cult: Easy Bake Minty S'mores. August is National S'mores Month so before we leave this wonderfully tasty month behind I had an idea that I wanted to share with you all. It involves only three ingredients, a baking pan, and your oven. This is so easy that your children can help you with it and you can make quickly to satisfy your craving for chocolate, mint, graham crackers, and marshmallows. Each two sided cracker creation has 218 calories in it so these are not really a low-calorie treat but they sure are delicious. Ready for the recipe?

Easy Bake Minty S'mores
Created by TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients: (per treat)

2 square graham crackers

1 1.4oz York Peppermint Patty

9 miniature marshmallows


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Line baking dish with aluminum foil. Determine what size of dish you want based on how many treats you want to make. 1/2 of the square crackers need to be able to sit flat on the bottom of the pan on top of the foil for easier cleanup and removal. I picked a pan that allowed a lot of space so I could show you what I was doing but I could have put up to 12 crackers in this pan.

3. Lay 1/2 of the crackers flat on top of the foil, leave a bit of space between them in case the marshmallows bake out a bit. Align the crackers so that the breaklines are facing the same direction and note that for the top layer of crackers.

4. Place 9 mini marshmallows on top of each of these crackers. Make sure you set these with a flat side on the cracker and the other flat facing up so that nothing rolls around. You can use more or less depending on your taste.

5. Unwrap then place one 1.4oz York Peppermint Patty on top of your marshmallows. I placed these topside downward so that the top cracker would have a flatter edge.

6. Top each treat with another graham cracker square aligning it with the first layer. This will make eating the treats less of a crumbly experience.

7. Carefully move your baking pan into the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes. With my oven, I needed 5 minutes but ovens vary so just watch the treats. If you see the white minty filling along the edges of the peppermint patty it is time to remove them from the oven.

8. Remove pan from oven and remove treats to awaiting plates. You'll be tempted to eat these right away as you would the campfire treat but please wait at least 5 minutes because these will be very hot and the fats and peppermint can burn your mouth.

My family loved, loved, loved these. They were easily to make and the foil made clean up so quick.

Did you enjoy S'mores this month? How did you make them?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let the Music Lead You to Chocolate

As a book author, not a blogger, I attend conventions during the year to meet readers and sell books. At Inconjunction in Indianapolis over the Fourth of July weekend this year, I was given several samples from Pied Piper Chocolates. We published an interview with the man behind this fairly new, small independent brand on August 19, 2015, that you can read here. In this first photo we can see the tray of goodies that Mr. Quigney gave me to try out but before we get to the chocolate, here's the background for what happened that surprising Saturday, July 4, 2015. I received no other compensation for our article beyond the free samples.

I came back to the dealer's room at the convention where I'm part of Creator's Ally for those of us who are selling only our own books, artwork, and other nicknacks you might find at a science fiction convention. My husband, the Milk Chocolate and Tea Acolyte, was watching my table and said that a gentleman came looking for the "chocolate goddess" and wanted to know if I'd accept some chocolate he made. I would never claim the title of "goddess" as you well know, sisters and brothers, but I was intrigued so I went and found Mr. Quigney who was displaying his creations at friend's table deeper inside the dealer's room.

We chatted for a bit and then he offered me a selection of his creations that you saw in our first photo. Here is a closer view of what he was selling at the convention. By the way, he told me that he sold everything so if you are a small chocolate maker and there are conventions in your town, try it out, you might get good sells and meet new customers. We'll look at his red velvet rats and mice in October for our Halloween Treat Challenge 2015, but just look at that table. Look how big that one rat is, front and center. Isn't that cool? Back to the chocolate itself.

Mr. Quigney gave us a Red Velvet Mouse (we'll be looking at that on October 3, 2015, as part of our 7th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge), Sugar Cream Pie Bon Bons, Irish Shamrocks, and pieces of various bars he makes. The pieces of bars were in one cup and so I couldn't really sort them out very well and I do have a concern that flavors and scents were mixed a bit. I thought the best combination of flavors were from the Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Cherry bars but there were six different bar pieces in the cup. I will say that the flavors and textures were interesting and if Pied Piper Chocolate can get a better couverture chocolate, they will be able to make great products instead of just interesting chocolate bars.

I'm not an expert in Sugar Cream Pie, which may be the state pie of Indiana depending on who you talk with. But I was lucky that our Coconut Acolyte was also at this convention and she was willing to try these with me. These are a darker chocolate and the bon bons flavor is marked by a swirl pattern on the top. There is a strong darker chocolate and sugar scent to these which is not surprising given what is in a sugar cream pie. The chocolate shell makes no noise when I bite into one of these and inside is a semi-solid sugar cream center that oozes out just a bit. This seems like a darker milk chocolate to my taste buds but there is also a burst of the sugary cream so that might simply be dulling the intensity of the chocolate. As I chewed it there was an interesting caramel twist to the flavor. I really liked these a lot. Our Coconut Acolyte said it is very close to sugar cream pie with a little less sweetness... wow, just how sweet is a sugar cream pied?

The Irish Shamrocks are made with white chocolate, I double checked, and each leaf is flavored a different way -- vanilla (white), citrus (orange) and mint (green). I was able to break these up into their different colors and try them as well as one single piece to see how the flavors work together. First, I'm impressed that he got the colors to separate so smoothly; I struggle with that when I've tried with white chocolate. Together these three flavors/colors make an interesting fragrance that I could see as either Irish or simply springlike. The white has a strong vanilla and cream scent but is not as sweet as you might expect as it melts in your mouth. The orange has a strong citrus scent but this really cuts back on the sweet flavor of white chocolate so that I really got a creamy citrus flavor with an edge of tart to it. The green creates a cooling sensation in my mouth as soon as I place that piece into it then a little burning sensation before the creaminess of the white chocolate kicks in. I liked it because it didn't just taste like white chocolate and I think it would be very neat to serve up on St. Patrick's Day but I didn't want to wait to share it with you all.

Pied Piper Chocolate is working on getting an online presence using Etsy and when that happens, I'll update this article and the interview so that you all can find it.  Are you one of the few folks out there who have tried Pied Piper Chocolate? Or maybe you've helped Mr. Quigney test out new flavors and ideas; a job his friends and co-workers suffer through happily. If so, leave a comment and let us know what you've tried. If you haven't tried them yet, leave a comment to let this new, independent chocolate and candy maker know what you thought about our words today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Meet the Pied Piper of Chocolates

David Quigney
Sisters and brothers in Chocolate, please join me in welcoming David Quigney from Pied Piper Chocolates, a new candy company in Indiana. We will be featuring some of his creations this coming Saturday Sacrament and his creations will be part of our Annual Halloween Treat Challenge but today we want to just introduce you to the man behind the chocolate. As always in our interviews, our questions are in plain font while the interviewee's answers are italicized.

Have you always enjoyed consuming or baking/working with chocolate?

I don't think there is anyone who doesn't like eating chocolate. Working with chocolate, however, didn't start until Easter 1998 after an overload of bunnies and a little curiosity.

How did you decide to start making your chocolate creations?

If necessity is the mother of invention then curiosity was the mother of chocolate. I love chocolate and mint as well as nestle crunch bars. I always wanted a mint nestle crunch bar. I reasoned that if I cannot buy one I would have to make one, so I did.

How did you learn how to make truffles, molded chocolates, and candies?

I was part of a local theater group and we wanted a bar -fight scene so I took to the internet to find out how to make breakable plates and glasses (sugar-glass). The plates were simple enough but the glasses took more skill than I had, and still lack. Shortly afterward my mother bought me a chocolate maker kit that was little more than a double boiler. After the great chocolate bunny overpopulation of "98" I used the double boiler to melt down the bunnies and make  "Bob". The first Bob was the mint crunch-like bars but I was not aware of all the types of candy molds at the time and my attempts at freehand bar making turned into more of a wafer. Bob took many forms before I found the molds to make squares. I have been self taught as far as the molding but the truffles I have found recipes in books and the net. Most of my flavors have been the result of "I wonder if this will taste good"

The name Pied Piper Chocolates, has a story behind it. Would you share that with us?

One of my hobbies is the Society for Creative Anachronism (medieval re-enactment). An event in 2012 based on the apocalypse needed something special for the feast. Walking through a craft store some friends and I seen a large candy rat mold. I made a dozen rats and had them on the counter. Seeing that army of rats put me in mind of the Pied Piper of Hamelin only mine were chocolate.

White Choco Rat
I saw your red velvet mice and rat at a convention we were both attending this summer. These are far more than simply molded chocolates. Why did you decide to go with a filling and the one that you did?

The rat was the first molded chocolate attempt. As a solid piece of chocolate it was between three and four pounds and 8'x3'x2'. Anyone who has tried to cleanly cut a brick of chocolate knows it's not pretty even with a chisel. It was my suggestion that we fill it with something to take down the bulk. I used red velvet because first I like it and secondly I wanted something that would be appropriate for the inside of the rat. After the the first test with the group it was good, but again curiosity hit and I thought how could I make this even better. That is when the layer of strawberry glaze came. Gruesome, yet tasty.  

You also make Bob Bars and there is a story behind their name, would you share that?

In my circle of friends anything or anyone unknown in given the moniker "Bob." The first Bob was was a hand-made endeavor of making bars that turned into wafer thin almost chocolate flakes. I took them into the grocery store and shared them with friends. They would ask me what is it and not accepting chocolate as an answer I just started calling it Bob. Since then Bob has grown from the mint flavor to seven others with a few more always on the way.

Pied Piper Choco Skull
What is your favorite creation so far?

The next one? Flavor wise I have to say the green/white/orange shamrocks (key-lime/white/orange flavored) have been my favorites. For craftsmanship I think the hand and skull I made for a friend have to hold that title.

Pied Piper Choco Hand
What is the most challenging thing about working with chocolate?

I can't say that I have found anything about it challenging. I have had a few failed undertakings of flavor combinations, molding issues, and some early tempering difficulties but when you enjoy what you are doing it's not a challenge.

Right now you do not have dedicated store or a website. Do you have plans to expand in that way in the future?

Yes. I am looking into domains and have a page currently under construction. No date yet for expected launch but will try to be at a few more conventions this year. 

If any of our readers would like to learn more about your products or where to find them, how could they get in touch with you best?

I have a Pied Piper Chocolates Facebook page with pictures of some of the items I have made.

Thank you, David, for speaking with us.

Thank you for the opportunity.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers. A new chocolate maker in Indiana for you all to discover. When they get a website up, we'll update this post for you all.