Friday, October 31, 2014

2014 Halloween Treat Challenge Winner!

And now for the announcement of our 2014 Halloween Treat Challenge here on The Chocolate which earns the creator or seller 30 days of advertising on our site free.  Since we do not allow companies to buy specific ads (yet) this is a big deal.

Let's review the Winners from past years:

Now to review the Challengers this year:

Before I name the winner let me say that this year was a disappointment.  While Baked Goods is one of Categories, Ingredients really aren't yet these were the only samples we were sent this year that seemed useful at all for our 6th Challenge.  Compared to past years this was deeply confusing.  I thought long and hard about simply not declaring a winner but that would be unfair to the companies that sent us something to use and try out for the challenge.  Of the four entries only one really might be useful for trick or treaters and for Halloween Parties...

240 Sweet Favor Packs!

After several years of sending samples our way, always of high quality gourmet chocolate marshmallows, it is a pleasure to see these small packs of their treats available because they can serve as treats in and of themselves without needing to use kitchen scissors or feeling overwhelmed by marshmallow.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

November Harvest Tables Should Include Chocolate 2014

Reminder: Today and Tomorrow are the final days to get your Chocolate Walk tickets before the prices go up! I'm going with a group of 5-7 people and I know of two other groups attending!  Don't be left out of this awesome charity event.

In two days November begins and our Winter Holiday features will begin as well but before then you want to check back in tomorrow to see who is the 7th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge Winner, right?  Today let's look ahead to November and the fun reasons to add a bit of chocolate to your life.

November 5 = Donut Appreciation Day -- Do you remember our mini sundaes made with donuts from this past August? No?  Read it here.

November 7 = National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

November 11= National Sundae Day; National Pocky and Prez Day in Japan visit the article linked to learn more.

At the midpoint of the month we get a flood of fun food holidays. Do you think I should make any of these?  See poll below.

November 20 = National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

November 24, 1615 = marriage of Anne to Louis XIII introduces Chocolate to France

November 25 = National Parfait Day

November 26 = National Cake Day

November 27 = National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

November 28 = French Toast Day

November 29 = Chocolates Day

November 30 = National Mousse Day

Now it is time to vote in our poll and directly influence what you'll write about this month on The Chocolate Cult.  We'll see which treat is the winner by October 15th so I have time to plan.

Which of these November Fun Food Holidays should I honor by making a chocolate version of the named treat?
Peanut Butter Fudge
Bavarian Cream Pie
French Toast
Poll Maker

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Milk Chocolate Pumpkin TCHOcolate Chunk Squares

TCHO is one of our favorite companies here on The Chocolate Cult and today we are going to test another recipe using their 39% Milk Chocolate Discs.  This recipe for Pumpkin TCHOcolate Chunk Squares I found on their website but I've switched out the darker discs for the milk chocolate ones since next Saturday we'll go the opposite direction to test a 100% chocolate chip from another company. The only substitutions to the recipe were Splenda, Egg Beaters, whole wheat flour, and 39% milk chocolate discs from TCHO so if you want to check out the recipe please go here.

TCHO Milk Chocolate Discs are simple -- cane sugar, cacao beans, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, non-fat milk powder, soy lecithin, and vanilla beans; several of these are certified fair trade and/or organic as well.  One bag is 8oz of discs.  For the recipe I tried you are suppose to chop up the chocolate but I find that tedious and, if I had kids, a bit dangerous.  I used my kitchen scissors and just cut them in halves and quarters and that seemed to work just fine.

You add in the pieces of chocolate once you have all the other ingredients mixed in and it looks something like this. You can mix by hand but since the batter was already in the mixer why should I get another utensil dirty?  Surely, so many of these recipes ask you to mix this and that in this bowl, then use another bowl for other ingredients... geesh, folks, I have things to do other than dishes!

The batter baked in about 32 minutes.  I let it cool for an hour before cutting it into pieces.  I didn't use foil like the recipe says to do, I just greased and floured my pan because, once more, why waste a product or use another product that will just need to be recycled when I can reduce the number of steps and the costs of making something without sacrificing quality or health?

This is how the bars turned out?  What do you think?  Do they look pumpkiny enough?

The had a light pumpkin scent and a creamy pumpkin pie texture, they were firm enough to be eaten by hand or with a fork. The milk chocolate was strong enough to stand up to the sweetness and the pumpkin.  I shared them with over 20 people and received nothing but compliments so I know that my substitutions worked resulting in bars with 183 calories each if you cut them in 24 pieces. Everyone who tried it told me that they liked them a lot so I'm pleased and might return to this recipe in the future.

The TCHO 39% Milk Chocolate Discs cut up well and worked well in the recipe. Obviously darker discs would be a more intense chocolate flavor but not everyone likes dark chocolate. As to the Halloween nature of this treat.... eh, for an adult or teen party it might be good but in most places not good for trick o'treaters at l plus you have to spend more money and time to make them. Great, Sacrament worthy discs, not so good for Halloween though you could make them for any delicious dessert between now and the end of the year.

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?

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

 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.