Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pastry Mat Test and Giveaway

Today we are honored to be hosting a giveaway with Wusic Tech of their sili baked! Silicone Pastry Mat that they sent your Chocolate Priestess to try out. This is company contact we made through the Tomoson program we are members of.  I used this mat to make a few items I'm going to show you photos of so that I can talk about how well it works.  If you like what I describe then you can enter to have a chance to win one of these yourself from Wusic Tech. Our GIVEAWAY will go until next Friday, June 6, 2014, when I'll announce the winner at Noon eastern time.  The GIVEAWAY is only open to addresses in the USA; sorry international readers! Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

My mother had a big pastry mat that she used all the time when I was growing up.  I don't know what happened to it but it wasn't anywhere when I was visiting a few months before her death and then again for final services.  So when I saw this opportunity on Tomoson to host this giveaway and test the product, I applied and we were accepted. I will be comparing this to my mother's mat simply because that is the only pastry mat I had any experiences with but I'll also be comparing this sili baked! mat to just using a countertop or table top.

The sili baked! mat is smaller than my mother's but it covers the same amount of room that I normally use on our table where I previously made any sort of rolled out pastry.  Like my mother's mat this one had conversation charts for measurements but unlike hers it also has two basic recipes -- roll out sugar cookies and pie crust.




The sili baked! mat is rolled up with a thin layer of paper that I kept and reused to keep it safely put away when not needed.  In fact I strongly recommend that you do this as well as keep the plastic sheaf both were in and the box.  It doesn't take up a lot of room and it will protect the item.



I recall my mother's mat needed to be held down for a while on the edges after you unrolled it but not this sili baked! mat. Nope, the sili baked! mat unrolls then stays flat and in place because it is slightly textured on the back side but mostly smooth on the front or at least smooth enough that it doesn't leave marks on the dough you roll out.  You will need a bit of flour to help hold the dough in place and I find that a little flour on the rolling pin is helpful as well.

Unlike just using a table or countertop the cleanup was easy -- I just wiped it down and dried it off, set it aside and very quickly was able to dust off the tiny amount of flour that I'm brush off the mat.  Much faster to set up and clean up than just the top of my kitchen furniture plus I didn't have to worry about hurting the tabletop I normally must use.

I made Frosted Orange Chocolate Sugar Cookies for the first test of the sili baked! mat. Here in this photo you see the cookies after baking.  The sili baked! ma worked really well and I think they turned out fine.  From starting to finishing 77 cookies took about two hours total including making the dough, rolling, using a cookie cutter, baking, cooling, making frosting, and apply it.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

You buy the mat through Amazon.com at our link below and help The Chocolate Cult out at the same time if this product would be useful in your kitchen.  Continue below the ad for the GIVEAWAY entry form please.



GIVEAWAY -- one USA reader will win a sili baked! Pastry Mat of your very own.  Please follow the Rafflecopter form to enter and let your friends know so that we get plenty of entries.  FYI -- if you say that you are leaving a comment below, you need to do so because I get a notice with entries and if I don't see a comment associated with said entry points, I can and will delete those entry points thus lowering your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 30, 2014

June Weddings Need Chocolate in 2014

We have to do this calendar a bit earlier, Sisters and Brothers since our final Saturday Sacrament of the month is tomorrow.  June is the "wedding" month here in the USA and I know that when I got married we had a chocolate cake (as well as a vanilla and a marbled one) so I'm referencing that in our silly title this time around.  If you had a chocolate cake at your wedding, please leave a comment and let me know.

But now on to the other holidays you could (and should) celebrate with Chocolate in June.

Image 1
June = National Dairy Month

1st Friday June = National Donut Day

June 2 = National Rocky Road Day

June 7 = National Chocolate Ice Cream Day






Image 2
June 11 = National German Chocolate Cake Day; birthday (1796) of Francois-Louis Cailler, first Swiss chocolatier

June 12 = National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

June 15, 1790 = birthday of Charles-Amedee Kohler, another Swiss confectioner

June 16 = National Fudge Day

June 22 = National Chocolate Éclair Day

June 24 = National Pralines Day

June 26 = National Chocolate Pudding Day

June 30, 1971 = Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie is released

---- Images Come from These Sites ----
Image 1: http://dietitians-online.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-is-national-dairy-month.html

Image 2: http://cailler.ch/

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Everything Promotional for The Chocolate Cult

Every now and again your Chocolate Priestess gets a request to test a product and tell you all about it even though the product in question has nothing to do with chocolate.  Normally I turn such requests down unless I can figure out a way to make them connect to what we do. One of our missions here on The Chocolate Cult is to spread knowledge about chocolate and help you, our readers, make better decisions about what to spend your money on.  So today I'm going to be looking at the process I went through to get some promotional stickers with our name and website address on them through Grandstand Ink, an online event printing company. Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Setting up an account was very easy - name, email, password, the standards of any online business you might use. After signing up at the Grandstand Ink website, I received a telephone call from a representative to discuss what sort of product might work for me.  I mentioned that out of the products I had been offered to review that the stickers sounded the most useful and unique but I couldn't find them online.  This is where the phone call from them was very useful because he listened to me talk, asked a few questions about what I would be using the promotional material for (other than to review), and offered some suggestions.  Based on what we discussed, I decided to go with a large, bookmark size sticker using our logo that I have on our business cards.  In total I received 150 stickers in exchange for writing this review.

After I uploaded the logo pdf I was able to check the product a few days later and approve what it looked like.  Then I waited for about a week before I sent a follow up email since I was supposed to get another check in from the representative.  They said they had been slammed by orders, a good thing from the business's viewpoint, and I'd hear from someone in a few days.

The same customer rep I'd been working with called back in two days. He asked about the website address on the logo and if I wanted any further text placed on the sticker.  I decided to add my email so that it might get companies to contact me more easily but I primarily wanted a clean image. He made those changes and said I would get notice about the printing in a day or so.  I couldn't however check a proof of the product again.

As promised I received a notice that the sticker was going to the printer the next day.  A week after that I got an email notice that it had been shipped along with a tracking number that worked.  I really find it annoying when a tracking number doesn't work with the link provided so this was a plus for me.  On schedule a box arrived with this stack of stickers.

The stickers are 5.5 X 2 inches so nice and large, very much like a bookmark as I discussed with the Grandstand Ink representative that I initially spoke with on the telephone.  They have several places, marked by double triangles, where you can peel back the paper to get the adhesive side of the sticker.  The final product was exactly what I was expecting and the entire process took 20 days from being selected for the testing to the delivery of the stickers.

I really liked the one-on-one conversations with a representative and that I was sent an email for each step of the process.  Being busy is understandable, in fact a sign of good business, and they did a good job of getting back to me when I checked in.  The representative took time to explain things and to make adjustments to the image and text that fit into the color and design scheme.  Being able to check that again would have been a good idea though.  Over all Grandstand Ink provided excellent service and a quality product in the time period promised for a fair price.  If you are doing an event and need stickers, business cards, lanyards, signs, and other materials you should check them out.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Chocolate to Honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is "Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month" and while we don't hear about it as much as we do other cultural heritage months such as "Black History Month" or "Women's History Month" it was created by Congressional order in 1990.  Previous to that it has been a week celebration of Asian American culture since 1978.  While these particular chocolates are not made in any particular Asian nation, the edamame used in them is imported from Asia.  The food, edamame, or soybean, is an Asian stable that can be found in many restaurants today though still mainly in many Japanese and Chinese venues.  I was surprised to see it was incorporated into chocolate now and I'm happy that Praim, LLC, sent a box of the milk chocolate and dark chocolate variety from Sea Point Farms to test and reveal to you all.

Edamame Crunch Milk Chocolate bar is a 34% cocoa bar made with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor along with all natural other ingredients including milk and soy (edamame) if those are allergens concerns for you.  You can see the tiny pieces of Edamame right there in the bars and even a bit through the top.  These have a good, strong chocolate and slightly creamy scent.  Taking a bite didn't not make a sound but each bite into one of the dried Edamame did.  The chocolate starts to melt immediately in the mouth releasing a burst of creamy vanilla along with a saltiness from the crunchy soy.  The salt and the creaminess linger the longest on the tongue. Overall it was well balanced.

Edamame Crunch Dark Chocolate bar is 55% cocoa made from chocolate liquor and cocoa butter but oddly also added butter oil though the rest of the ingredients is identical to the milk chocolate bar.  No, this dark bar is not dairy free, it isn't that dark and it still has soy as well for our readers with allergies.  This bar is so dark that you can't see the Edamame through it but from the side when you break up the sections these are clear.  This has a darker cocoa fragrance and makes a soft crunch when I take a bite.  Contrary to some of our testers I do think there is a large difference in terms of taste between the two bars -- this has a definite bitter edge that isn't unpleasant and less salt from the crunch soy pieces.  The overall result is less balanced in terms of sweet and salty but then again it is dark chocolate and I don't expect sweet.  I wasn't expecting it to be quite as dark at 55% but then this is purer chocolate some some mass produced 55% bars we've had so not that surprising.  I love them but then you know that your Chocolate Priestess loves darker chocolate.

Several of our testers commented that the darker bar didn't taste much darker to them; as I said above, I disagreed.  The percent of cacao in each is 34% to 55% and while that should make a taste difference it won't be as much as we'd expect from a 70% or 25% bars. In this photo we can see that the bars look very different when you place them side by side. Don't expect sweet with your salty in the darker bar and you won't be disappointed; don't eat it though if you don't like dark chocolate.

Sea Point Farms is one of 15 brands of chocolate sold by Praim, LLC. Neither of these bars is low-calorie in any sense, both clock in at over 500 calories if you eat the entire bar but they are large bars at 3.5oz far bigger than the average candy bar you can probably find on store shelves around you.  Our testers really liked these bars and the ingredients are all natural.  For those two reasons, the Edamame Crunch Bars earn Sacrament status!  Well done!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Monkey Bread for National Chocolate Chip Day

Sisters and Brothers, today is National Chocolate Chip Day and I am without a stove... but with the help of our of our good friends here on The Chocolate Cult I was able to make Slow-Cooker Chocolate Monkey Bread.  I also made a regular monkey bread in the slow-cooker to try first and because we have a heretic here in my house who claims he doesn't like chocolate (he'll eat it by the way all the while claiming he doesn't like it; weirdo).  I made several changes to the recipes so I'm going to put my changes below so if you compare you can see the difference.  The result is a treat that is a bit lower in calories but still tastes good despite being made in a crockpot.

Crock-Pot Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread

Ingredients:
2/3 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup zero calorie sugar substitute, the fluffier the better
1 can Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Spray the bottom and about 1/3 up on the sides of a crock-pot or slow cooker.

2. Place white sugar into a plastic bag that you and seal and shake.

3. Cut the cinnamon rolls into quarters and add them 2-3 at a time to the sugar bag. Shake and cover each quarter with the sugar. Toss each quarter then into the crock pot. Depending on the size of your slow cooker you may need to layer the roll pieces but mine were in just one single layer.

4. Cut butter into 8ths and add it and the brown sugar to a microwavable bowl.  Microwave uncovered for two minutes stopping every 30 seconds to vigorously stir it.  Be careful it will get very hot.




5. Sprinkle the dark chocolate chips over the rolls then top with the syrup. The Syrup thickens up quickly so pour quickly.





6. Turn the slow cooker on High for 2 hours.  How long you should cook it depends on the size of your slow cooker and the amount of layers.  To figure that out, turn the dough over about every 15-20 minutes.  Do a knife test to make sure the dough is completely cooked.  The bottom and sides may be a bit hard but I find this to be true of professionally created monkey bread as well.

7. You can turn the rolls out onto a plate or spoon them out.  Let cool for at least 20 minutes before eating because the syrup will still be very hot though most of it should be soaked into the roll quarters.  Number of servings depends on how many quarters you eat but each was around 97 calories so not a low-calorie treat once you start eating them.

8.  Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container but you need to eat these within a few days or they will get hard.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

2 Recalls for Mother's Day 2014

Sadly, Sisters and Brothers, I have to share two chocolate related recalls with you all on this Mother's Day in the USA (and elsewhere it turns out).  Please go to the links and check everything out for yourself.  Protect yourself and your mother!  Any personal experience with the products will be written in italics before.


Consumer Contact: 612-986-3530

General Poparoons, not the recalled ones!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 5, 2014 - ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is notifying consumers that Lily Bloom’s Kitchen of Fridley, Minnesota, has issued an allergy alert for undeclared allergens in five flavors of Poparoons, a macaroon-type confection. The label did not declare milk as an ingredient.

State officials are not aware of any illnesses associated with these products, but people who have a sensitivity to milk should be aware of the inclusion of milk in the flavored coating of these products.

The Lily Bloom’s Kitchen Poparoon flavors that contained milk which was not listed on the label include lemon, key lime, strawberry, blueberry and chocolate dipped in a white chocolate coating. Lily Bloom’s Kitchen is voluntarily recalling the affected products which were distributed in Minnesota prior to May 3, 2014. Poparoons sold on or after May 3, 2014 have been properly labeled.

Consumers may discard the product or return it to the store where purchased.
----------------

Consumer Contact: 800-331-0830

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 3, 2014 - Wells Enterprises, Inc., maker of Blue Bunny ice cream said today it has recalled Blue Bunny Premium Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream sold at retail grocery stores in Kansas, Indiana and Iowa because the product may contain egg not declared on the label. (We've had this type in our house before, served it at birthday parties and events.)

People who are allergic to egg could have a severe reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to egg, there is no safety issue with this product. No customer illnesses have been reported to date.  (Note: For those who don't know, eggs are very common in ice cream.)

The recalled Blue Bunny Premium Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream, sold in 56 fluid ounce packages with LOT #40010 TTT 19115 18:00 4100 and a UPC 070640034123 with a Best Used By Date of 10/9/15, was distributed to a limited number of stores in Kansas, Indiana and Iowa.

Customers in the impacted states should return the product to stores for a full refund or replacement.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Simply Chocolate Chip Cookies from Keebler

May 15th is "National Chocolate Chip Day" and in honor of that I wanted to share a review of a product I was sent months back from Keebler through the Amazon Vine program.  These are the Keebler Simply Made cookies in the Chocolate Chip variety.  The point of this brand is that they are made with basic ingredients no added components that you can barely pronounce or which have questionable health benefits and seem more like cost cutting measures than anything else. The ingredient list here only has: wheat flour, semisweet chocolate, sugar, butter, canola oil, "natural flavor," baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, eggs.  However when you look a bit closer you do see other ingredients like "dextrose" as well as just plain "sugar" in the chocolate so the ingredients are not as simple as what you might be led to believe.  Those chemical names are just extracted forms of what you and I might call "simple ingredients" yet it felt disappointing, but not surprising, to see them at all.  I'm sure many of you reading this are principally interested in the taste and texture of the cookies.

Two cookies equal one serving so your Chocolate Priestess tried two and shared the rest for this review.  Each cookie is two inches in diameter but these are also the thin, crispy variety of cookies not the thick, chewy type I personally prefer.  This isn't about my preference, this is about the chocolate so look first at the amount of chips.  The amount you can see ranges from one or two to nearly a dozen and given the thickness of the cookies there probably are not many more hidden under the flour part of the pieces.  The cookies have a buttery flour scent with hints of slightly bitter chocolate so that's a good sign.  We tested them within a few days of receiving them so they did not feel dry to the touch and made a soft crunchy sound when I took a bite and chewed.  They have a strong sugar taste along with the butter and flour and if you get a chip a burst of semi-sweet chocolate does pop out strongly but otherwise it really is the dough part you are really experiencing but that's true of all plain chocolate chip cookies, isn't it?

What you may also see in our photos are that most of the cookies remained intact during shipping but some did break up.  This can happen in shipping of any type unless you really wrap them well and that adds extra costs.  Since you can find these in brick & mortar stores you should just treat them with the same care as you would with any pre-packaged cookie.  If you've tried these please leave a comment below and let us know what you think.  I wish these were more simply made frankly and perhaps in the future they will cut out some of the other ingredients and truly make this simple chocolate chip cookies.  For a mass produced cookie this isn't bad at all.



Later in the forthcoming week I'm going to try and make a chocolate chip recipe in our crockpot and share the results with you.  Does that sound fun?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cocoa Cinnamon Chile Bars

For Cinco de Mayo, a holiday primary celebrated in the USA it turns out, I decided to try and create a recipe for a dessert item for our pseudo-Mexican dinner tonight.  I was inspired by a gift of Kaokao cinnamon cocoa discs that a friend gave me after visiting Central America as well as the chocolate wafer cake used to test the Equal Exchange baking cocoa this past weekend.  The results are below.

Cocoa Cinnamon Chile Bars
Created by TammyJo Eckhart

Ingredients:
2 cups water
5.15oz Kaokao Cinnamon Cocoa Discs
1/2 stick Crisco Baking Sticks, Butter Flavor
1/2 cup brown sugar substitute
1/4 cup sugar substitute
1/4 cup egg substitute/egg white
1 tsp real vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cocoa chile powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2.5 cups whole wheat flour

Directions:
1. Bring water to a boil then dissolve the cocoa discs in that water.  Set aside to cool down to room temperature.

2. Pre-heat oven to 325°F and grease or no-stick spray a glass 13" X 9" X 2" pan.

3. Beat together Crisco and sugar substitutes.  Add in egg whites and vanilla and beat again.

4. Add in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa chile powder and blend thoroughly.

5. Add in dissolved cocoa and flour by alternating between the two evenly. You will have to scrape the sides of your bowl and make sure it all blends well. The batter will be wet and easy to pour.

6. Pour batter into your glass pan and bake for 30 minutes; the toothpick test should come out clean before you take it out of the oven.




7. Set on cooling rack to cool for at least an hour before trying to cut.







Results:
About 25 minutes into baking there was a very strong scent of cocoa, cinnamon, and chile that infused my home.  It was great and I prayed it would taste as cool as it smelled.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Single Chocolate Recall to Start May 2014

Sadly on this Star Wars Day 2014 we must share a chocolate related food recall for your safety, Sisters and Brothers.  I don't think there was any chocolate in the entire Star Wars universe was there?  I mean, as far as we know it is in a narrow band around our own little planet where cocoa trees can flourish.  As the weather warms up though the number of items we might need to be wary of increases as today's FDA announcement proves.

Two Private Selection Ice Cream Flavors Recalled for Undeclared Allergen

Consumer Contact: 800-576-4377

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 26, 2014 - The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) said today it has recalled Private Selection Chocolate Hazelnut Mascarpone Ice Cream and Private Selection Caramel Hazelnut Fudge Truffle Ice Cream sold at the Kroger family of stores in 31 states because the products may contain egg not listed on the label.

People who are allergic to egg could have a severe reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to egg, there is no safety issue with the product. No customer illnesses have been reported to date.

The recalled Private Selection Hazelnut Mascarpone Ice Cream, sold in 16 fluid ounce packages with a of UPC 1111052101, was distributed to Kroger stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia; Dillons and Gerbes stores in Kansas and Missouri; Baker's stores in Nebraska; Fred Meyer stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington; Fry's stores in Arizona; King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming; Owen's, Pay Less and Scott's stores in Illinois and Indiana; Ralphs stores in California; Smith's stores in Arizona, Idaho, Montana Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah; and QFC stores in Oregon and Washington.

The recalled Private Selection Caramel Hazelnut Fudge Truffle Ice Cream, sold in 16 fluid ounce packages with a of UPC 1111052100, was distributed to Kroger stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia; and Owen's, Pay Less, Scott's, and Food 4 Less stores in Illinois and Indiana.

Customers in the impacted states should return the product to stores for a full refund or replacement.

What Kroger is doing: Kroger has removed potentially affected item from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.

What customers should do: Customers are asked to carefully check their freezers for the recalled product. Any opened or unopened products included in this recall should not be consumed by persons allergic to egg, and should be returned to their local store for a full refund.

Customers who have questions about this recall may contact Kroger toll-free at 800-KROGERS (800-576-4377). For more information, please visit www.kroger.com/recall.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Equal Exchange Cocoa Testing

The folks at Equal Exchange sent us a tin of their dutched baking cocoa and since we have an upcoming fun food holiday involving the invention of the process that creates this type of cocoa, your Chocolate Priestess thought it was a perfect time to try out some of the recipes you can find on their website.  Ready to try Equal Exchange Fair Trade Organic Baking Cocoa with me, Sisters and Brothers?  Great!

I used this in two recipes -- one of mini donuts and one for a wafer cake.   I won't share those recipes here because I didn't change them enough to call them my own and the point of this is how well the cocoa did and what it is like.

The cocoa itself is very bitter as it should be so you will need to use sugar with it though how much depends on your taste.  In the mini donuts I went a bit too little sugar and in the wafer cake just a touch too much but again it all depends on your mouth not mine.

It is dutched so you need to use baking powder not baking soda though you can use both just make sure that you use enough baking powder.  Both of the recipes I chose used either just baking powder (mini donuts) or both (the cake).

I used a fair amount of the cocoa in these two massive recipes but I still had half a can left over so you can make a lot of things again depending on what you make and your preferences.  Now if you check out our links to the product you might think it is a bit expensive but if you check baking cocoa prices and you look at the higher quality brands, this is right in line especially considering how the company treats the cocoa farmers it trades with.  Personally if I can go with a better product or a product of the same quality and only pay a dollar or so more to help the farmers and thus product future cocoa crops then I'm also ensuring higher quality food for my mouth now and chocolate for years to come.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers.  Cocoa from Equal Exchange.  For the quality versus price, for the fair trade practices of the company, and for the ease of use this product earns Sacrament status! If you've used this cocoa let us know in a comment below or tell us what baking or candy making you do that uses cocoa below.