Monday, March 31, 2014

Raining Down Chocolate for April 2014

The silly "Chocolate on the Calendar" titles continue until some of you leave comments telling me to stop it... or if you encourage them your Chocolate Priestess will try to be be more clever with them.  But then you didn't come for this commentary did you, Sisters and Brothers? You came to find out how you can celebrate April with our Sacred Substance: Chocolate.  Let's take a look and see.  If I've left out a fun food holiday or a serious holiday please let me know.

April 2 = International Children’s Book Day in honor of Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, celebrated since 1967.  What can this possibly have to do with chocolate?  There are tons of books out there for kids about chocolate and today could be a great day to read with your child and teach them how chocolate is made or the history of it or merely laugh together at some wacky adventures with chocolate.  Here are some suggestions for your reading:

The Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale (On My Own Folklore)

Smart About Chocolate: A Sweet History (Smart About History)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

April 3, 1892 = date of the creation of the Ice Cream Sundae and as you know you want chocolate fudge topping with that

April 3 = National Chocolate Mousse Day -- just check out the title, can't celebrate without cocoa at least

April 5 = National Caramel Day  -- add some chocolate in some form to help you celebrate

April 9 = National Coffee Cake Day -- best coffee cake I ever had had chocolate pieces added to it... I made it and shared the recipe with you all here

April 14 = National Pecan Day -- again why not add chocolate?

April 20, 2014 = Easter -- this is probably the big chocolate day for the entire month and certainly one of the top five in most Christian and/or western influenced nations.  The exact date of Easter generally varies between different Christian communities but this year, 2014, April 20th is the day in all of the major denominations that I could find.  If you celebrate it on a different day please leave a comment and let me know plus tell me if you use chocolate that day to help you mark it.

April 21 = National Chocolate Covered Cashew Truffle Day -- this is just too decadent... or is it?

April 30 = National Oatmeal Cookie Day

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2 Final Food Recalls for March 2014

Well, darn!  Here your Chocolate Priestess was hoping that there would be no more chocolate related recalls for this month but we have two to share with you all.  Remember to check the links in the titles for each, read the information carefully, and don't panic, just do as recommended if you live in the USA.  For our readers who do not live in the USA, contact your own food and health authorities and see if these products are in your area, too.

BBM Chocolate Distributors, Ltd. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in "CHOCOLAT Alprose 52% CACAO PREMIUM DARK CHOCOLATE, Alprose Swiss Chocolate Dark Chocolate and CHOCOLAT Alprose NAPOLITAINS SWITZERLAND”

Consumers Contact: 718-522-0689

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 27, 2014 - BBM Chocolate Distributors, Ltd. of Brooklyn, NY is recalling “all lots” of CHOCOLAT Alprose 52% CACAO PREMIUM DARK CHOCOLATE, Alprose Swiss Chocolate Dark Chocolate and CHOCOLATE Alprose Napolitains 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.

The three chocolate products were distributed nationwide to retail stores from January 2013 through March 2014.

The chocolate product is packed in the following three ways:

CHOCOLAT ALPROSE 52% CACAO PREMIUM DARK CHOCOLATE, within stand-up maroon colored gift box. NET WT 3.5 oz (100g). The UPC is 689423025038.

Alprose Swiss Chocolate Dark Chocolate within a gold colored pillow gift box. NET WT 3.5 oz (100g). The UPC is 689423027308.

CHOCOLAT Alprose NAPOLITAINS SWITZERLAND, bulk product within clear plastic bags of 230 pieces. NET WT. 1 Kg (35 oz). The UPC is 712963000354.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recall was initiated after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency discovered that this dark chocolate product contained milk, was distributed in packaging that did not list the presence of milk.

This does not affect the product's "KOSHER PAREVE" status.

Sale and distribution of these products have been halted, until FDA and our company is certain that the packaging of this product is corrected to list the right allergy information.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at (718) 522-0689, Monday through Thursday between the hours of 9:00am-5:00pm EST.
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Macadamia Nut Allergy Alert and Voluntary Recall of 15-Count Boxes of Chocolate Chunk LUNA® Bars Due to Package Mislabeling

Consumers Contact: 1-888-851-8456

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 27, 2014 - Clif Bar & Company is initiating a voluntary recall today of a small amount of 15-count boxes of Chocolate Chunk LUNA® Bars that were shipped to limited stores nationwide. These 15-count boxes include Chocolate Chunk LUNA® Bars made with macadamia nut butter, but the wrappers do not include macadamia nuts in the ingredient list or allergen statement. The wrappers do contain advisory allergen labeling, which states that the product may contain traces of other tree nuts. Clif Bar & Company is taking this precautionary safety step for people who are allergic to macadamia nuts. People with an allergy to macadamia nuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction.

The voluntary recall applies to Chocolate Chunk LUNA Bar 15-count boxes or individual bars meeting the following criteria:

Bar UPC: 7-22252-10068-9

15-Count Box UPC: 7-22252-20068-6

'Best By' Dates:
11NOV14
14OCT14

No other LUNA Bar products, pack sizes, flavors or 'Best By' date codes are affected.

The company is strongly advising consumers who have macadamia nut allergies not to consume these mislabeled bars. No allergic reactions have been reported to date.

For more information or to request replacement coupons, please visit www.lunabar.com/lunachocchunk or contact 1-888-851-8456, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. PDT, Monday-Friday.

Clif Bar & Company cares deeply about the health and safety of consumers. We apologize for this inadvertent labeling error.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tiramisu Gelato Time

The end of March is an odd time to do an ice cream, gelato, or frozen yogurt feature when you know focus on cold treats starting in July but your Chocolate Priestess was approached by the Breyers company and asked to try out their new Gelato Indulgence line and write about about it before too many weeks passed by.  Since I needed to get this in before our Easter features begin (I hope we have some for you, Sisters and Brothers, because companies and brands have been weird this 2014) so I arranged for two of our volunteers to come and try it out.  You'll see Elizabeth (normally one of our Alcohol Chocolates Acolyte) and her partner Josh in one of the photos below plus their hands in another photo; our review is combination of their opinions. Note: Elizabeth loves Tiramisu but Josh only tolerates it so please keep that in mind as you continue reading.



Immediately Elizabeth commented that the gelato looked like a tiramisu so what do you all say? As you can see the cocoa dusting on top and the off-white coffee flavored ice cream.





Both testers said it tasted a lot like the tiramisu though the ladyfingers were too tiny and really found only in the bottom layer.  The fragrance is very cocoa and coffee blend while the gelato minus the chocolatey ribbons are just coffee. These ribbons and the cocoa dusting are made from cocoa and cocoa processed with alkali. When you try it all together the flavors blend well.

As gelato this is smoother and lighter than ice cream which our testers said was dangerous because they could eat the entire thing in one sitting.  This photo to the left shows how quickly their first test went; they scooped up a second sample for thoroughness...

Now surprisingly Josh really liked this and Elizabeth said it is delightful and I liked it a great deal. Don't they make an attractive couple sharing this?  They did tease each other about eating the rest when the other wasn't looking however so I think that is also a testament to how much they enjoyed it.



They each though really wanted more ladyfingers and thus could not give this a perfect score. When they compared this Breyers Gelato Indulgence Tiramisu to the traditional tiramisu dessert and coffee ice creams they'd each had in this past this was was the best.  Overall for the quality of the product and the chocolate ribbons and cocoa topping, we can name this Sacrament worthy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Chocolate Crosses Distress Me as a Christian

WARNING: I'm about to write what may be my most controversial article here on "The Chocolate Cult." My opinions are mine alone; they do not necessarily reflect those of "The Chocolate Cult" or any of our volunteers who help test and reveal products to you all.  You are free to comment, but vulgarities, threats, or personal insults will be deleted and the commenter banned from this forum.

Before we start our features and regular product reviews for Easter this year, I wanted to say a few words about a trend that distresses me as both a Christian and an ancient historian: chocolate crosses.  In this photo you can see an example from Russell Stover, which I found last year during post-holiday sales, but they are not the only company to make chocolate crosses.  I've been seeing them for years now, first at our local Kmart, then at the CVS, Target, and even grocery stores.  At least this Russell Stover one was real chocolate and didn't have a ton of artificial ingredients, but the quality of the chocolate is not the issue today. Today the issue is the message and how it may not be Christian at all, on several levels.

I fear this is a belittling of a religious symbol, and that offends me as a Christian.  When I walk through a store and see the selling of faith, it offends me.  Can you imagine Jesus saying, "Buy this T-shirt, kids, to brag about your faith?"  I can't.  Indeed, if we look to Jesus's words as recorded in our sacred books, time and again he tells us to be humble, to be focused on the belief and our fellow human beings, and not to proclaim our faith or do good deeds in order to shine in the eyes of other people.  Matthew 6:1-15 is one of my favorite passages from the Bible because it demonstrates how our faith is to be private and not exclusive. It comes from within a larger context of how his followers were to behave and believe differently from those around them.

You don't need a chocolate cross to show you are a Christian, because this is not something that is supposed to be shown so that others will praise you or perhaps even to acknowledge your faith.  Your faith is a private matter, not one that is any of my business, frankly, which is why I'm not going to end this post by telling you not to buy a chocolate cross.  I'm only sharing my feelings, not preaching.

Furthermore, buying this symbol is really feeding into the marketplace mentality of our world.  I'm sure this sort of monetization of Christianity has been happening for centuries, but I do not believe the God I worship and was raised to respect would approve. Capitalism is NOT Christianity, and if you believe otherwise, I fear you have been tricked big time by businesses who want nothing more than profit and couldn't care less about your soul.  This purchasing of objects to display faith offends me at all levels, not just in the form of chocolate crosses, but Easter is approaching, so this is on my mind.  So if you must ask "What would Jesus do?" I personally believe that buying X product is never going to be the correct answer.  Buy whatever you like, just think about whether or not it has anything to do with following Christ or merely just being a human being who likes stuff.  All human beings like stuff, and many of us like chocolate.

Furthermore, I'm also offended by these chocolate crosses as an ancient historian, because I think they downplay historical reality.

Crucifixion is probably one of the most horrible methods of execution ever created by humans.  It was actually unusual for the executioner to nail the crucified person to the cross, since that wouldn't hold the body up very well, and the metal used to make the nails could be used for better things when ropes would do the job.  This doesn't mean that they never nailed victims to crosses, but ropes are a more reliable and cheaper way to do so.  Regardless of the method, though, it often took days for the condemned to die as they baked under the sun without water or food, their body in a very stressed position that added even more suffering to the slow death spiral.

I feel like eating a model of this instrument of horrible death belittles the suffering of those who died on it.  Does it seem Christian to belittle how people die?  I thought Easter was supposed to be religious, or is the so-called war on Christianity all a big-media lie? The earliest Christians didn't even use the cross as a symbol, edible or not, so your eating it in the form of chocolate isn't following some ancient tradition.  In fact, the cross was used to belittle Christians in ancient times, as we can see in the so-called "Alexamenos Graffito," shown to the right.  It was found in Rome and has been dated between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

I'm sure I've offended some of you who are anxious to run out and get your chocolate crosses.  If you must buy one, Russell Stover's version is just like their milk chocolate bunnies, just a different shape.  But please think about the reason for the holiday if you are Christian, and ask if there might be a better way to celebrate than eating the method of our Lord's execution.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chocolate Recalls for March 22, 2014

Sadly Spring starts here in the USA with some recalls involving chocolate. Remember to always look to the title links for the full information but also even if you aren't in the USA, if you have seen these brands or products in your own country, check with your authorities to see if they have issued similar recalls.

Fannie May Issues a Voluntary Recall of 89.08 Cases of 14.0 oz. Spring Wrapped Assorted Chocolate Box Due to Undeclared Peanuts

Consumers Contact:
330-494-0833

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 17, 2014 - Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. (“Fannie May”) is recalling 89.08 cases of its 14.0 oz., rectangle box of spring wrapped assorted chocolates because the box includes one piece of candy that contains peanuts, a known allergen, and the food ingredient label on the box did not state that the product contained peanuts. Fannie May decided to recall the products after this was discovered during an internal review of product.

Individuals who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they come in contact with or consume this product.

The product being recalled is a 14.0 oz., rectangular gift box measuring 9 1/2” by 7” in size that contains 24 pieces of assorted chocolates including one caramel/peanut candy. The light purple with spring flowers-wrapped rectangular-shaped box contains an orange-striped band. In the center of the orange-striped band is a white rectangle with a picture of 5 chocolate pieces and the name “Fannie May”, product type “Assorted Chocolates”, and product description “rich dark & milk chocolates & pastels with an assortment of decadent fillings” in brown lettering on the band around the box. Also, the front-bottom of the orange-striped band states “NET WT. 14 OZ. (396g)”. The back of the box has a full nutritional label which also states: “This product has been produced on equipment shared with peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, milk, eggs and wheat”.

The item is identified as SKU #75032 with the UPC number on the label of 0 52745 72804 6. Lot information on this product is 14058 or 14059.

The box of candy's front cover looks like this:


With this back cover:


Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. determined that the 89.08 cases of chocolates were available for sale beginning March 3 in specific retailers in seven (7) states: Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Arizona. Retailers that sold the product include, but are not limited to, Walgreens, Hallmark Gift Shops, CVS and other independent retailers.

To date there has been no incidences, nor have there been any reported illnesses.

This voluntary recall does not affect any other products from Fannie May Chocolates.

Consumers that have purchased the Fannie May 14.0 oz. rectangular spring box of assorted chocolates are urged to dispose of the product.

Fannie May is working in cooperation with the FDA. Information on the product recall can be found on the home page of the Company’s website located at: www.fanniemay.com. Consumers with questions may contact a dedicated customer service representative at the Company by dialing 330-494-0833 Extension 193, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST or email customerservice@fanniemay.com.

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Simply Natural Foods, LLC Issues Allergy Alert for High Levels of Milk Protein in Simply Lite Dark Chocolate Bars

Consumers Contact:
1-866-923-1549

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 17, 2014 - Simply Natural Foods, LLC of Commack, N.Y., is voluntarily recalling its 85g (3oz) Simply Lite Dark Chocolate Bar, because FDA testing indicated that bars from certain lots contained high levels of milk protein, while the label of the product stated that it may contain traces of milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk protein may risk serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Simply Lite Dark Chocolate Bar was distributed in Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, California, Washington, New York and Florida for sale to consumers in retail stores.

The product is packaged in plastic foil packaging containing 85gms (3oz) of dark chocolate with the product name of “Simply Lite Dark Chocolate,” with the lot numbers 01182015A and 01192015A. Both regular and sugar free versions seem to be in this recall if the photos on the USDA site are examples of the product but none of the bars that have added ingredients like almonds appear to be part of the recall but double check, Sisters and Brothers, to be safe!

No illnesses or injury of any sort have been reported to date and this recall is being initiated in an excess of caution

This voluntary recall was initiated after it was discovered that the Simply Lite Dark Chocolate Bar was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of high levels of milk protein. The current packaging states that “The product may contain traces of milk,” wherein greater levels, in excess of trace amounts, of the milk protein have been discovered through analytical testing. Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by a source of chocolate having greater than trace amounts.

Consumers who have purchased Simply Lite Dark Chocolate Bars from the affected lots are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company toll free at 1-866-923-1549, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, ET.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Can South Beach Bars Satisfying the Chocolate Craving?

There are some South Beach diet foods whose chocolate creates a good tasting treat and others that are simply a waste of time and your taste buds. Today we're going to look at three varieties of their bars received directly from the company (via the Amazon Vine Program I am a reviewer with) or via two consumer programs (Kroger Card and Pinch Me) that I routinely use so that I can find new chocolate products to let you all know about and to save some money.  We have the Chocolate Chunk Gluten-Free Chewy Nut Bar, the Chocolate Caramel Nut Snack Bar, and the Chocolate Chunk Meal Bars.  Ready to see how they compare to each other and how their chocolate adds to or detracts from each bar?  Good, let's go do this.

This Chocolate Chunk Gluten-Free Chewy Nut Bars one of the better South Beach chocolate products I've tested though it still has some problems.  I received this bar through the Amazon Vine program months ago and I pre-wrote this feature then after trying it, now sneaking it into our schedule for those of you looking for a bit of chocolate with less calories or more nutritional value. This has almonds and peanuts so not safe for anyone with tree nut or peanut allergies.  Likewise it has soy protein nuggets that might be a problem for others.  The chocolate is real and in the form of unsweetened chunks that create a burst of bitter sweet when you encounter one in the bar.  The bar is easy to chew yet makes a continual crunch as well as you do so.  The sweetness found in several different types of sugars and syrups does overwhelm the chocolate chunks and frankly needs to be toned down a bit.  Doing so would reduce calories as well as let more of the nuts and chocolate flavors through.

With my Kroger Card I received an entire box of Chocolate Chunk Meal Bars in February 2014 that had five bars in it.  You can see there are two types of chocolate -- the chunks are darker in color than the coating on the bottom ---- and the ingredients list tells us that these are made with unsweetened chocolate and cocoa processed with alkali.  It has a lot of other natural and human-made ingredients, too, in part I suspect to increase the shelf life, cut costs, but also add in a lot of the vitamins and minerals you'll find on the nutritional information.  The bar has a chocolatey scent especially from the bottom where it is coated; no sweet grain smell that I'm used to with South Beach bars so this is an improvement.  It has a firm but not hard texture and makes a fairly loud crunch as I chew it.  The first flavor if I eat it chocolate coating down is chocolate but that is quickly covered by the grain and light sweetness, much less sweet than the previous bar we looked at for this article today.  If you don't eat it coating side down on you tongue though you really don't get chocolate because the little chunks aren't very powerful unless you get three or more of them in a grouping.

I haven't been using Pinch me for long but so far I've found two items to test and share with you all.  The first of these was the Chocolate Caramel Nut Snack Bar from South Beach.  This is only made with cocoa processed with alkali.  This has a very strong peanut and zero chocolate scent before and after I tore it open.  As you can see the caramel is a large part of this bar and it is nicely thick.  There is a firm and crunchy bottom to this bar but the majority of it soft and sadly not sticky at all as I was expecting from tearing it apart to show you all.  The caramel is more tang than sweet, the peanut is very light, and the dominant flavor is generic grain; I don't taste the chocolate at all so this is deeply disappointing.

Ultimately not a great chocolate treats or cereal bars but the first two bars we looked at today are definitely among the better ones from South Beach diet. I really appreciate that the bars look like the photos on the packaging because often the image you see on the box or bag or in commercials is very misleading.  I think they can do much better by not adding in palm oil or other fats and all of those chemicals on the ingredients list.  I urge the company to do so for their consumers and for the planet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview: Clay Gordon, He Lives the Chocolate Life

When I started The Chocolate Cult I made sure no one was claiming that title for a blog or group because I didn't want to step on anyone's toes.  I found a lot of other chocolate groups and blogs and one of these is called The Chocolate Life operated by Clay Gordon.  Today I'd like to introduce you all to him and to the group he runs.


Have you always enjoyed chocolate and cocoa treats since you were a child?

I have always enjoyed them but they were not something I ever craved. My family did have special treats chocolates, though. We always got my mother a box of See's Victoria English Toffee for her birthday and a box of Bauer's Bavarian Mint Meltaways for my father's birthday.

You mention in your online profile at The Chocolate Life that you had this pivotal experience that made you want to learn more about chocolate.  What was different with that chocolate you had compared to all the other chocolate products you had consumed in the past?

The chocolate itself was not what I first saw. My first chocolate tasting with Bonnat single-origins caused me to think about chocolate in a new way. Every single one of us at the tasting had a different favorite, but for different reasons. 

Upon reflection, what I saw was an opportunity to do something that no-one else was doing. There were no professional chocolate critics back in 1994 so I decided to become one. The first. That was the original impulse. Over the course of my learning enough to be credible as a critic I learned to love chocolate. 

You turned this experience into a career as a Chocolate Critic.  Would you explain to our readers what this means?

It's probably more accurate to say that I started out my career in chocolate as a critic. I don't self-identify that way now. That's because it's impossible to make a living just as a critic. You have to have some other source of income. Like selling chocolate. Or a day job.  

You spent seven years educating yourself about chocolate before you started writing about it.  What exactly did you do to educate yourself?

I read everything I could find on the subject of chocolate. much of it on-line. I worked for the US importer and distributor of Cluizel and Domori off and on for several years starting in 1998 and that was a huge learning experience for me, selling chocolate to top restaurant chefs in NYC. I started corresponding with people around the world - early contacts include Martin Christy and Alex Rast.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to create a rating system for chocolate that didn't require a calculator. In the end, my rating system was not numerical at all. I divided the market up into styles and price ranges and talked about value. Chocolate X is in the French style and it's in the Prestige price category. It is an "Excellent" example of the style at the price. 

First I had to define the different styles, but I used industry-accepted definitions for the price categories. Then I created a seven-step scale from Bad to Superior. This made it easy to organize by price and style and to compare all the chocolates that fell into each box in the matrix.

Getting to the assessment part required tasting lots and lots and lots of chocolate ... and thinking very hard about what I was tasting. Usually on my own because there was no-one nearby to work on this with me.

Do you consider education an ongoing journey as you work with and on chocolate?

Every day I learn something new. My particular skill is in taking complex subjects, breaking them down into simple components (with several different ways of making the same point to appeal to different audiences) , and present the information in a way that they can personally connect with and getting them to care. 

I also see connections between things that others don't see, and I had a real good track record during my high-tech career of accurately predicting what was likely to happen.

If someone wanted to learn more about chocolate but didn't have the years or the finances to undertake a similar educational program what would you advise them to do in order to learn more?

There is no shortcut for personal experience. There's this adage that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at something if you really want to master it. We're seeing that now in chocolate as people are now starting to have 5 years' experience. There's been a remarkable improvement in quality among the earliest craft chocolate makers here in the US in the past year or two .

If you don't have the time or the finances you can do several things. One of which is that you can just do it anyway and you'll find a way to do it. Or it's a very nice hobby.

To truly know chocolate, you have to eat it - a lot of it. And you need to think about it in an organized way.  You have to develop confidence in your sense of taste and you need to develop a memory for tastes and smells - and then integrate all that. And that's just the start because then you have to learn how to  verbalize to others experiences that are very hard to verbalize. 


You have to visit chocolate factories. You have to visit cacao farms. If you don't, your understanding of chocolate is incomplete.




Would you tell us more about The Chocolate Life?

The idea for the name came to me listening to a Ricky Martin song on the radio. Living La Vida Loca became Living La Vida Cocoa, which became The Chocolate Life.

I started working on TheChocolateLife as I was promoting my book, Discover Chocolate. Publishing the book caused me to look at how the world of chocolate had changed from May of 2001 when I started my blog, chocophile.com, and October of 2007 when the book was released. The biggest change was the rise of the citizen (or hobbyist) food blogger. They were willing to give it away for free and I was trying to make a living doing it. 

It's impossible to compete with free.



I know that well as an author myself.  Please continue.

So I made an assessment, closed down chocophile.com and started TheChocolateLife because I reasoned the one thing I had that none of the hobbyists at the time had was my farm to mouth knowledge (everyone else was just re-presenting what they learned from reading books and other blogs, including chocophile.com). One of the things I wanted to do was to crowdsource the answers to questions and that required nurturing a community of chocolate lovers of all flavors. It was very slow going at first but now TheChocolateLife has about 8500 members in over 160 countries on six continents. I think my biggest achievement there is not those numbers, but in the diversity of the membership - from cacao farmers to celebrity chefs to everything in-between.

The key realization that led to this was an understanding that it's not all about me. Blogs are about the author or editor. In order to make TheChocolateLife successful I need to create a place where members felt comfortable asking and sharing, and not make it all about what I think.

The way I say that now is that The Chocolate Life is a metaphor for connecting with a true inner passion and using that connection in a purposeful way to drive personal and professional growth and to inspire The Chocolate Life in others.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for chocolate both as a product and as a craft or art today?

I was a panelist at the Academy of Chocolate meeting in London in 2012 and said that the industry needs a $100 bar of chocolate. By that I mean a bar that professionals collectively agree is worthy of that price and that it's worth spending that amount of money for the experience.

It's like having $1000 bottles of wine. They don't cost all that much more to make than $50 bottles of wine so that leaves enough money in the system to pay for professionals to educate people on why it's okay to spend $1000 for a bottle of wine. If all wine was $10 jug chablis you wouldn't need sommeliers and there would be no economic payback for earning a Masters in Wine. 

There's no money in the system to pay for chocolate critics. People think that $10 is a lot to pay for a bar of chocolate ... and that really doesn't reflect the true cost of production because cocoa beans are horribly underpriced. People who are willing to pay $100 for a lackadaisically present tasting of mediocre wines are loath to pay $35 for tasting of epic chocolates.

That's what has to change in order for the true potential of the craft chocolate market to be realized.

If you had one piece of advice of the consumers of chocolate who read our site, what would it be?

The most important thing to bring to a chocolate tasting is your sense of humor: Relax, it's just chocolate. You're not solving for world peace or poverty. You can take the chocolate seriously, but don't take your self too seriously.

Thank you, Clay for your time today.  Sisters and Brothers, please leave any other questions you might have for Mr. Gordon in a comment below.





Notice: All photos in this interview come from his personal account on The Chocolate Life with his permission for us to use them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guinness Stout Cake with Gina

Today in honor of St. Patrick's Day, which is probably a larger "fun" holiday in the USA than anywhere else, we have a recipe courtesy of a chef I know.

Chef Gina Brown, would you please tell our readers your name and your profession?

I'm Gina Brown and I am an adjunct Culinary Arts Instructor. I’ve also recently started a small consulting business. I want to get people back in the kitchen.

How long have you been a chef and teacher?

I’ve been in this business in one form or another for over 30 years. I’ve been an instructor for 12 years.

How did you get into making desserts?

Well, honestly I was never really that into making desserts. I’ve always loved breads. And I always thought they would be my focus. My degree is in Baking and Pastry, but I’m not much of a dessert eater. 

How long have you been working with chocolate?

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with chocolate. I complained once when I was a student to my chef. I said, ‘Chef, I hate working with chocolate. It’s so messy.’ He said, “Chef, it’s not the chocolate that’s messy”

What is the easiest thing about working with chocolate?

That it favors and enhancing so many other flavors. It’s always fun to pair it with savory ingredients.

What is the most difficult thing about working with chocolate?

Although I know that Chef was right, but I still think it’s messy!

When you aren't teaching do you work with chocolate just for your or your family's own enjoyment?

I hate to say it but no. It’s like the Cobblers children who have no shoes……

I hear you have a recipe you'd like to share with our reader for St. Patrick's Day this year?   Is this an original recipe or a family favorite or something in between?

Actually it’s from Nigella Lawson, although I’ve changed it up a bit by adding spice to the recipe, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper and ¼ ginger. It adds a different flavor profile. The cayenne really enhances the ginger.

Guinness Stout Cake (From "Feast" by Nigella Lawson, Hyperion, 2004.)

Ingredients for the cake:
1 cup Guinness 

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups superfine sugar

3/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ginger

Ingredients for the topping:
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Seen in the photo:
Chocolate Shavings
Strawberries

Method

Preheat the over to 350 F, and butter and line a 9 inch  springform pan.
Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter — in spoons or slices — and heat until the butter's melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsifted confectioners' sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.

Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Makes about 12 slices.

Finally I hear that you are starting/have started your own business.  Would you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes! I have started a food coaching/consulting business. My goal is to help folks to enjoy their kitchen again. I think we have become so busy that we’ve gotten away from cooking. Folks don’t even know where to start. And there is so much information out there! I hope to help folks feel a little more comfortable around a sauce pan. You can find me at Everyday Fresh with Gina Brown.   
I hope once it gets going we might be able to feature some of your creations here on The Chocolate Cult for our readers.

Thank you, Gina, for talking with us today.

Thank you Tammy Jo! I’m honored to be interviewed on your site.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

V8 in a Bar with Chocolate?

After a long winter with holiday after holiday after holiday, your Chocolate Priestess is betting you are looking for something healthier and maybe something to help you get in shape for summer.  Am I right?  As you know companies send us products to test and then feature here on our Saturday Sacraments.  Most often these are directly from the companies but sometimes a retailer sends something our way or I get something from the Amazon Vine program -- today's focus is on the V8 Complete Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Peanut Butter variety, that I was sent through that reviewer program.  I have to tell you that I was both curious and wary so let's see how this bar turned out.

Chocolate coating is the first ingredient on the wrapper but it is made from palm oil and cocoa processed with alkali -- disappointing really -- but later on chocolate liquor is listed as well probably for the chips you can see on the top of it.  There are a lot of chemicals on this ingredients list, too, so immediately this bar is taken out of the running for any sacramental status.  It has a strong cocoa fragrance with a sort of odd sweet scent as well.  The bar's bottom half has been dipped or coated with the chocolate coating while the top has a few thin lines of it along with the chips.  You can see the crisp rice pieces and perhaps peanut pieces as well.  Taking a bite produces a soft crunch as does each bite.  I take the first bite from the bottom up so the part that should taste most like but I'm primarily getting that sweetness the scent hinted at along with rice and then an aftertaste that I don't really like.  Taking a bite from the top down tastes even less like chocolate indeed the only real chocolate is really in the chips.

It is true that this bar has a decent amount of fiber and protein and a good start to vitamin and minerals that you need each day.  Both the chocolate and peanut butter need to be much stronger flavors in this bar to be enjoying to eat and to live up to the variety name on the wrapper. Perhaps V8 will work and improve these or perhaps they need to stick to drinks.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ice Cream Recall for Aldi Shoppers, March 9, 2014

Where I live it seems early for ice cream but just in case you have been buying or eating ice cream this recall is for you.

House of Flavors Issues Voluntary Recall Due to Possible Undeclared Nut Allergen in Belmont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Ludington, Michigan-based Company Issues Allergy Alert


Consumer Contact: 1-800-930-7740 x 2229


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Belmont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream because it's ingredients may include an undeclared nut allergen. Consumers who may have an allergy or severe sensitivity to nuts run the risk of serious or life- threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product. The Belmont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream was only distributed in Aldi stores in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The recall was initiated after receiving two complaints of chocolate covered nuts found in the product and included associated allergic reaction from consumers allergic to nuts. The company is working to determine the type of nut allergen and conducting an internal audit to determine possible cause.

March 5, 2014 - Ludington, Michigan – House of Flavors Ice Cream Company, based in Ludington, Michigan, is recalling its

Only Belmont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream packed in 1.5 quart containers stamped with UPC code 4149816310 and date code 13340 and 13341 and marked "Best by Date: Dec. 7, 2014" are affected by the recall.


No other Aldi products or are any other Belmont Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream or other Belmont Ice Cream products are affected by the recall.

House of Flavors it is taking precautionary steps, including removing all potentially impacted products from retail store shelves and the entire distribution system.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. Anyone requiring more information should contact House of Flavors consumer affairs at 1-800-930-7740, extension 2229, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. until 5 pm. (EST).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day

There are many ways to celebrate any of the fun food holidays we tell you about each month.  You can make something specifically for your use or you can buy something related to the holiday or something made just for that holiday depending on how "big" of a day it is where you live.  March 19th is "National Chocolate Caramel Day" so it seems like an ideal time to test and reveal these Sjaak's Chocolate Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels.  Sjaak's Chocolates use organic ingredients and they have vegan varieties though this particular set of four does not claim to be completely dairy free.  Don't let the name or the holiday fool you: our sample had four flavors that we're now going to reveal to you all.

The box these came is is transparent so you can see the four 60% chocolate covered caramels inside.  The box has a label on the back with all of the ingredients as well as a gift giving tag tied to the front with photos of and the name of the caramels inside but if that isn't enough they are ordered to match the listing of flavors on one long side of the box.  No reason to eat a variety you don't think you'll like or which you have allergen concerns about this way.  That's both clever and useful packaging. I'm going to look at these in reverse order so we build up to what I suspect may be strongest non-chocolate flavor.

The Hazelnut Sea Salted Caramel has three raised lines of dark chocolate along with a few salt crystals on the top.  There is a salty and tangy caramel fragrance with just a hint of dark chocolate when I take a deep whiff of it.  Taking a bite makes no noise because it is a firm yet soft caramel that sticks to my teeth as I chew.  The immediate flavor is the dark chocolate and a lightly tangy caramel that turns to a roasted hazelnut and dark chocolate mixture that lingers for a while in my mouth; the salt is just there in the background adding a hint of complexity.  The result is a very well balanced flavor experience that was fun to chew and work off of my teeth.

Next is another nutty version in the Almond Sea Salted Caramel that has single diagonal dark chocolate line with crystals along one side of it that have a light purple hue to them.  This has a stronger salt scent with a light almond edge and definite dark chocolate.  The salt is the first flavor I get then it fades as the sweet almond, tangy caramel, and chocolate start to work their way through it.  The sea salt crystals here a bit large and they infuse everything.  I knock off the single crystal on the other side and eat that solo which allows the chocolate, the roasted sweet almond, and the tangy caramel to shine on their own and blend together to the very end.  I think this one is a bit too salty so I'd recommend knocking off a few of the crystals before eating.

Orange Sea Salted Caramel breaks the tree nut line and has milk chocolate waves on the top underneath very small sea salt crystals.  This has a strong orange fragrance with a hint of sweetness as well as the dark chocolate, the salt scent is very slight. This is a touch less sticky on my teeth and also a bit softer to bite into.  Immediately the tangy caramel is revealed to my tongue but very quickly this is followed by the orange that remains as the caramel lessens and lets the salt then the dark chocolate forward.  While the blend is good I wish the dark chocolate was either a bit more intense or the orange a tad less intense but over all I really like it.

Finally we get to the Ginger variety that has a long, winding dark chocolate line from one corner to the other with tiny sea salt crystals.  The main scent I get from this piece is the dark chocolate then the ginger and the salt.  This is interesting because now I wonder if the orange will turn out to be the most powerful non-chocolate flavor in the collection.  This caramel is very sticky and the initial flavor is the chocolate then the ginger that turns into a buttery caramel before fading into a salted dark chocolate.  This is unexpected and yet very well blended.  I really love this one.

My preferences in order have to be the hazelnut, the ginger, the almond, and finally the orange.  All of these were really good and it was more a matter of balance than anything else. All had good chocolate and with the organic nature of these as a bonus, these earn Sacrament status here on The Chocolate Cult.  If these Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels sounded wonderful to you, Sisters and Brothers, you have time to check them out and even order them for "National Chocolate Caramel Day" on March 19th.