Sisters and Brothers, with a new year I want to start offering you ever more. I hope to do at least monthly interviews with chocolatiers that I know starting with some friends I have who are skilled cooks who can apply their skills to the area of Chocolate. Please give me feedback and let me know what you think of this new category for The Chocolate Cult.
How long have you been cooking and baking?
I've been experimenting in the kitchen probably since I was 5.
How did you learn to be as skilled and creative in the kitchen as I know you to be?
Survival mechanism. Neither of my parents were good cooks, but they loved good food. Needless to say we ate out a lot. Eventually, I took to trying things out in the kitchen. I also watched a ton of cooking shows when I was little. I followed those recipes and the ones in cookbooks around the house. Eventually I learned how to experiment. One day a friend said, "Oh I really don't follow recipes." And I was like, "that's possible?" After that it occurred to me that there were plenty of things I knew how to make by heart and that plenty of techniques could transfer to different recipes. Really it was a trial and error process. Now I read food news and blogs, and of course I still watch cooking shows on TV.
How long have you been working with chocolate and cocoa products in the kitchen?
Probably since I could move around in the kitchen. Despite my mother's lack of cooking skills. She tends to be a good baker. She has made ~100 dozen cookies every Christmas since she was in college. And I have memories of dropping tons of chocolate chip cookies on to cookie sheets and attempting to eat the dough when she wasn't looking.
Given all the mass media concerns about weight and other health issues, it isn’t too surprising that chocolate is often in the middle of the debates, cited as an ingredient to avoid to or use . Have any health concerns affected how you use chocolate in your own kitchen? Why or why not? If so, how has it affected things?
Chocolate is full of antioxidants and isn't bad for you. What's bad for you is excessive amounts of sugar. When I make hot chocolate, I sweeten it with splenda. And when I want a treat, I eat a small amount of dark chocolate which is wonderfully complex and bitter so you really can't eat that much. In general, I don't eat dessert that often though. I probably have a dessert about once every two weeks. So when I do make one, I throw caution to the wind and make it as decadent as possible.
Are there any particular challenges you’ve encountered when using chocolate or cocoa?
I'm sure this has happened to everyone, but I tried making a ganache to dip cookies in back in high school. I washed out the pot, but didn't dry it and of course the chocolate seized. Lesson learned there. Although I wasn't really sure what happened until I snooped on the internet for like an hour.
Also I've burned white chocolate even when it was in a double boiler before. However that only contains cocoa butter and no cocoa solids so I'm not sure if that counts for your purposes.
How do you overcome those challenges?
Make sure water gets nowhere near the chocolate when you're melting it! And don't turn your back on it either. It can burn pretty easily.
Have you ever had a failure with chocolate?
I've had momentary setbacks, but I'm hard-pressed to think of an actual failure. I work hard to block failures from my memory.
What is your greatest success with using chocolate?
Mole! I love mole. It's a very complex sauce, and it's hard to get it right.
Could The Chocolate Cult have a photo of this success or another chocolate creation you are proud of?
Would you be willing to share that recipe with our Followers? (Doesn't this photo look delicious?)
This is a Rick Bayless recipe.
"Simple Red Mole Enchiladas with Shredded Chicken"
Serves 6 to 9 w about 6 cups of sauce
For 1 cup sweet-and-spicy ancho seasoning paste:
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 4 oz)
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½ tsp black pepper
a scant 1/4 tsp cloves, preferably freshly ground
a big pinch of cumin
about 6 c chicken broth
3 Tb vegetable oil
2 oz whole almonds (about ½ c)
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/4 c raisins
5 oz ripe tomatoes (1 small round or 2-3 plum)
scant ½ tsp cinnamon, preferably mexican canela ground
1/4 c roughly chopped Mexican chocolate (about 1.5 oz)
2 slices firm white bread, toasted (or ½ mexican bolillo)
sugar, about 1 Tb
Salt, about 2.5 tsp, depending on broth saltiness
18 corn tortillas
A spoonful or two sesame seeds
3 c cooked and shredded chicken
1. Making paste:
Roast unpeeled garlic on ungreased skilled over medium heat until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 min; cool and peel. While garlic roasting, toast chiles on another side of skillet: 1 or 2 at a time, open them flat and press firmly on hot surface w a spatula. When they crackle, flip them and press down to toast on other side. In bowl, cover chiles with hot water and rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard water.
Combine oregano, black pepper, cumin, cloves in a food processor along with chiles, garlic and 2/3 c of broth. Process. Add a little more liquid if needed to make a paste that goes through blender blades. Press through strainer into a bowl.
2. For mole:
In Dutch oven, heat 1.5 Tb oil. Add almonds and toast about 3 min. Using slotted spoon, remove almonds to a blender or food processor. Add half of the onion to the pan and cook until brown, about 10 minutes. Scoop into food processor with almonds. Add raisins, stir, then scoop in with almonds.
Roast tomatoes on baking sheet 4 inches below hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool, peel, and add to the almond mixture along with the cinnamon, chocolate, and bread. Add 1 cup of broth and blend
Return the pot to medium high and add oil if needed. Add ancho mixture and cook, stirring until darker and very thick, about 5 minutes. Add almond mixture and cook until very thick again. Stir in rest of 4 1/3 cups broth, simmer over med-low 45 min
Taste and season with salt and sugar
Set up steamer; heat to a boil. Wrap tortillas in 2 stacks in heavy kitchen towels, lay in the steamer, and cover tightly. Boil 1 min, turn off heat. Let stand 15 min.
Turn on oven to lowest setting and warm 6-9 plates. Toast sesame seeds in small skillet 2-3 min.
In med-size saucepan, combine chicken w 1.5 c mole and warm over medium heat. Bring remaining mole to a simmer
Make enchiladas by putting 2 Tb chicken into a tortilla, rolling, and placing on a warm dinner plate. Put 2-3 per plate and douse with hot mole. Strew with onion and sesame seeds
You can leave out the sesame seeds if they're not around. And don't' freak out about the raisins they just add a nice sweetness. Oh and you can get away with cooking the tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave :).
To cook the chicken poach chicken legs in water with salt, an onion sliced, some garlic, and a bay leaf. When it's done, shred the chicken off the bones and discard the skin. This will probably take 25 minutes. Skim off any foam that arises.
Finally, do you have a favorite cookbook of chocolate recipes, or do you prefer family recipes?
I don't have a favorite specifically chocolate cookbook. For cookies, I do tollhouse. An d otherwise I like Cook's Illustrated for reliable recipes; sometimes they're a bit fussy though. When I need brownies though, they're a great resource. They have a cookbook that's just on baking that has some really great reviews.
Thank you so much for speaking with The Chocolate Cult today, Bridget.
Thank you, Sisters and Brothers for reading this interview today. Let me know what you think and I hope we can do more in the future.
Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.