Monday, August 31, 2009

Free Nestle Planning Calendar

Sisters and Brothers, not everything in the world related to chocolate is food. Your Chocolate Priestess sees the Sacred Substance on clothing, movies, books and so when I have the opportunity, I will reveal these to you as well.

Via Walmart, determine for yourself whether this is a good or bad thing, you can request a planning calendar which has coupons for Nestle products. This is what the planner looks like to the left. If this looks interesting to you, I believe you can request one here. They are going to ask for an address but also an email address and there are four related questions to answer as well.

The calendar is laid out for four family members to keep track of their days, or at least one big thing they should remember each day so this won't replace a more complicated scheduling system if you currently use one. It covers the months of August 2009, just about to pass by, through July 2010. Along the right hand side is information about a few of Nestle's products and a few recipes that you can make using those products. Over all it is really geared toward packing school lunches and advice to do better in school.

I didn't get this for any of the scheduling potential but for the coupons so let's look at those more closely. Of the $20 worth of coupons, $6 is for this "Aquapod" water which I have a big problem with. Using bottled water in the quantities shown in these coupons is incredibly wasteful. Far better to have your child use a metal bottle and refill it from home. Remember, every bit of land we use as garbage dumps we can't use to grow cacao and that means less potential chocolate. Four of the coupons or another $6 worth relate to a potential chocolate product in the form of Raisinets, Edy's or Dreyer's Slow Churned ice cream, and Edy's or Dreyer's Dibs. Beyond this, if you get this calendar you need to pay attention to the coupons carefully because they have very specific use dates that vary from coupon to coupon.

Overall there are a few coupons I could use and thus it wasn't a waste of my time to request this. If you have kids who like Juicy Juice or you like coffee or use bottled water then you'd get more use of it than I. Remember you can request it here.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hill & Valley Sugar Free Double Chocolate Muffins

Your Chocolate Priestess bought these four muffins you can see to the left on the "day old" rack at Kroger. We've talked about the benefits of day old products from bakeries but do they hold up when they are sugar free?

These were half-priced compared to if I bought them the previous day. These four Double Chocolate Muffins are made by Hill & Valley Premium Bakery a twenty-two year old business in Rock Island Illinois. They create cake, cookies, brownies, pies and muffins and this is the first of their products I've ever tried.

Each muffin equals one serving on the nutritional facts and has 230 calories or as the label puts it, "not a reduced calorie food". Each also has 2.5g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 2g dietary fiber, 19g sugar alcohol, 4g protein, 2% of the daily vitamin A and calcium and adult needs long with 8% of the iron. This immediately raised a question for me: What is the difference between sugars and sugar alcohol nutritionally speaking? I went to the Yale-New Haven Hospital website to find the answer. To summarize what I read, sugar alcohol are also called polyols and come from fruit so they are natural not artificial ingredients. They break down more slowly and do not require much insulin so they are popular among diabetics and contain fewer calories so they are popular among those concerned with weight. However there are some negative side effects so eat in moderation as you should with chocolate any way.

This muffin smells very rich in cocoa though I must bring it close to my nose to smell anything. It is darker on the top than the bottom half as you can see in this picture. The bottom is 2 inches across while the mushroom head blooms to almost 3 inches. Each a few days old it is moist but not wet to the touch as I break it into muffin top and base. While the base does not feel dry it is a bit dry in my mouth. It has a very light sweet taste but primarily cocoa is the essence on my tongue. The top tastes more moisture but also more bitter. As I eat I'm searching for the reason these are "double chocolate" and I can't feel or taste why so I consult the ingredients list and see chocolate chips list. Looking closely at the muffin I can see these but even purposely trying to taste them offers nothing different. While this muffins tastes ok for a sugar free product it doesn't taste doubly chocolate simply chocolaty.

The Double Chocolate is one of nine muffin varieties Hill & Valley makes and the only cocoa type. If you visit the bakery's website you can see if these are available in your area and if so you can print off a coupon and save 75¢ to try them yourself.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, August 29, 2009

Sisters and Brothers, you may recall that on May 9, 2009, your Chocolate Priestess revealed Monica's Chocolates Raspberry Truffles to you all. If not, go back and reread that Sacrament. Today I, with the help of your Chocolate Coconut Acolyte, will reveal Monica's Bonbons Assortment. These, as you can see, come wrapped in plastic and hold six bonbons, individually wrapped in various colors of Mylar and tied with a ribbon, which has to be cut open. The bottom of the bag is labeled and lists the six flavors; there is also a label on the bottom of each bonbon's wrapper, so you know exactly what you should be tasting.

As soon as I open the outer wrapper and take the wrapped bonbons out I can smell chocolate, and these are very tightly wrapped, so that suggests to me that the cocoa content will be high and satisfying. I unwrap them each to see if they differ by any other feature. In terms of color and scent, they are all dark in color and odor. As you can see in this picture, inside the Mylar is a waxed white paper layer that protects the bonbon. Each piece differs slightly in size and texture, which I'll describe as I reveal each to you, Sisters and Brothers. Monica's Chocolate's website has good pictures of each bonbon, but I want to add a few here when what I see seems different from those on the company's site.

Before I get started, your Chocolate Coconut Acolyte will reveal the coconut bonbon to you: "The bonbon itself is visually uninteresting, just a large (5" in circumference) ball of chocolate. A moment later the scent of chocolate tickles my senses. As I lift the bonbon to my nose and inhale deeply, I'm reminded of a Mounds bar in the way that the chocolate and coconut aromas mix. The chocolate feels just slightly waxy in my fingers as I hold it and take the first bite. The shell is soft and thin, making no sound as my teeth sink in. Before I even begin to chew, I can feel the chocolate melting, leaving me with a mouthful of sweet, moist coconut filling. Seconds later the chocolate flavor has completely disappeared, and only the coconut remains. Because of the amount of coconut in this treat, I'm chewing for a long time. A second bite intensifies the flavor even more. Because of the massive size of the bonbon, it takes eight bites to finish it, and every one of them is just short of heavenly. The chocolate is very good, neither exceptionally sweet nor bitter, and I would like to have seen a little more of it and a little less of the coconut. But due to the sparseness of chocolate, I didn't notice the usual buzz until I was finished and savoring the experience. Sisters and brothers, this is an excellent combination of the sacred substance with coconut, and despite the proportions of the two main ingredients, I would certainly indulge in another one if I were given the opportunity. Bright Blessings!"

Thank you, Acolyte, for sharing your experience with us all.

I have five flavors to reveal to you all: Plum, Apricot, Pecan, Walnut, and Almond, all housed in a Peruvian filling, though I can find no information on the website about exactly what a Peruvian filling is. Perhaps it is supposed to be a cultural secret, so I'll just have to see how it tastes.

I'm going to start with the fruit flavors first. The Plum bonbon is wrapped in the green Mylar — a purple wrapper would have made more sense to my eyes, so the green seems odd. It measures 1.75 inches across and 1.5 inches high. It does have a waxy sort of texture, but since there are no artificial ingredients in these, it must be from natural oils. If I take a very big whiff of this bonbon, I still only get the bittersweet chocolate, so I take a bite. The chocolate layer is very thin and makes no sound when I bite through it and right into a very sweet, sticky, and chewy plum. There are a lot more plums here than the website image reveals. They are the top and bottom layer over this caramel-colored, though not caramel-tasting, filling. I have never seen or tasted a plum chocolate of any sort before, so this is a brand new experience for me. I peel back the chocolate, and it looks like this is a full-sized plum that has been stuffed with the Peruvian filling and then covered with the bittersweet chocolate. If that sounds appealing to you, give these a try, because they are a good balance of the various flavors.

The Apricot bonbon is in an orangeish-gold Mylar wrapper, and it is a little smaller than the Plum, measuring 1.5 inches across and 1.5 inches high. Again I only get the bittersweet smell, even when I bring it close to my nose and take a deep breath. I decide to cut this one first to see what it looks like more cleanly. This again looks different from the website image. The piece I have seems less smooth; actual chunks of apricot can be seen to the right in my photo. Yes, biting in to it confirms that there are large apricot pieces here mixed with the filling and covered in the chocolate. The fruit quickly overpowers the chocolate and lingers in my mouth. Some of the fruit is so chewy that it sticks to my teeth and between them, so I have to thoroughly clense my mouth before I can move on to the nut flavors. The Apricot was not personally what I was hoping for, since the cocoa was overwhelmed, but if you really like apricot you will like this.

The Walnut variety is in a fucshia Mylar wrapping; it is bumpy in shape and not a nice round bonbon at all, measuring about 2 inches across at one point and 1.5 inches tall. The bumps themselves have that walnut-half shape to them, so I'm thrilled, since I adore this type of nut, as do the squirrels in my backyard, who enjoy the two walnut trees we have. I'm surprised when I take a hard sniff of this bonbon that again it is only the chocolate I can smell. When I cut it in half it looks basically like the picture on the website, with the filling between walnut pieces. The nuts crunch as I bite, blending well with the coating. Since these nuts are bigger and more separated from the filling, I finally get to taste the filling more; it has a creamy, milk chocolatey essence to it. At the third bite I start to get a bit of a cocoa rush in my head, and I am very pleased by this flavor of bonbon; I make a mental note to hide this one from the squirrels.

The Pecan bonbon is wrapped in red Mylar, and it is a smoother but very tall-looking piece, though it is still 1.5 inches high. It looks taller because it is 1.5 inches wide as well. Finally, a bonbon whose scent isn't just bittersweet chocolate, I discover, as I take a nice whiff of it and the pecan aroma rises with the cocoa into my nose. Cutting it open, I see nice big nut pieces on the outside, covered with the coating and a huge center filling that looks a bit darker than the previous pieces did, though still very much like the website's image. The pecans blend well with the bittersweet coating and allow some of the sweetness of the filling to come out more as well, though in the end the pecan becomes the dominant flavor. It reminds me a lot of the turtle candy you can buy or make, so if you love that, I think you'll love this, Sisters and Brothers.

Finally, in the purple Mylar is the Almond bonbon, which also has just a cocoa scent when I take a whiff of it. It looks very stout compared to the other pieces, measuring 2 inches across and 1.25 inches in height. The outer ring looks like it has almond halves lined up under the chocolate coating. It is difficult to cut because, as the website shows, it has large almond pieces mixed throughout, making this easily the nuttiest bonbon of this assortment. The almond pieces are not as embedded in the filling as the nuts in the previous bonbons were; they tumble out of the filling. I also don't believe that these nuts' flavor was as strong as the walnuts' and pecans', which surprised me greatly — although, since they fall out and take so long to chew, they still become the lingering taste in my mouth. Not as good a blend as the pecans or walnuts, but like the other nut-based bonbons it does allow the flavors of the coating and filling to come out, which the fruit bonbons did not. I'd like to see how a plain Peruvian-filled bonbon tastes without added fruit or nuts.

If these bonbons seem like they would be a good match for your journey, Sisters and Brothers, please do check out Monica's Chocolate. As you can see on their website, you can choose the assortment they sent me, or buy the bonbons individually, choosing between seven flavors. Their website indicates that the business is doing so well that they will be moving to a new store, but will still be in Lubec, Maine.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bargain Chocolate Baked Goods

When people think of chocolate, they often think candy or truffle or something that is primarily chocolate. Good chocolate can be found in baked goods as well. Last night, your Chocolate Priestess went to the Bakehouse, a local place I've mentioned before on The Chocolate Cult, and bought some "day old pastries" that sell for $4 a bag of 3-4 items. I bought a bag of three chocolate croissants, each one of which is larger than the palms of my hands held side by side and which normally cost over $2 a piece. The other bagged goods included the almond and plain croissants as well as a variety of muffins. I noted that there was a piece of almond in this bag so if you have certain allergies, my advice in this column may not work for you.

Here is the advice: Buy day old baked goods.

Yes, there will be chemical changes to the baked goods if they are a day or two old. However, I generally find these to be mild and acceptable such as the butteryness of these croissants feels a bit more greasy but does not taste different. If you like your pastries hot, just reheat them a bit in the oven. I think microwaves result in rubbery or dried out baked goods myself. For our greatest concern, the chocolate, there really is no difference in the taste or texture in just a few days. Even completely organic chocolate will last that long. Any chocolate on the baked good may have melted or been mushed a bit as you can see in this picture, but looks are only one of the five senses and you need to weigh every aspect when deciding what to buy and when. Inside these croissants are two folded layers of pastry covering two quarter-inch thick ribbons of chocolate that I can honestly say are just as good as the freshly made versions I've had some mornings from the same bakery.

There are benefits to buying day old baked goods. First, obviously the price difference. Let's consider that the croissants I bought were $2 a piece, actually I think they are more but this makes the math easier. If I get three for $4 that is a savings of at least .67¢ a piece or over $2 for the trio which is liking buying two and getting one free. If you like your chocolate more melted, again you can reheat the product for a while.

There is a risk in putting off buying pastries. The kind you want may not be available. That's actually a risk you take any day you visit a bakery after the first few hours it has been open. However, you also may feel the cost is reduced enough to try an item you wouldn't have tried before. Perhaps you always get the same one or two items but when you check the "day old" section you discover a scone or a muffin or even a pie you never realized they had. It feels safer to try something new when the financial risk is less.

So give it a try a few times. Visit various bakeries and see what they have in their "day old" section. I routinely get breads and pastries in these categories and I have yet to be disappointed. With the money I save I can invest in higher quality chocolate truffles from time to time or a road trip to a regional chocolatier.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cliff Bars Chocolate Variety #1

Sometimes your Chocolate Priestess's local coop has a sale that I want to take advantage of either because I like the products or because it gives me a chance to try something new. If that something is chocolate, I get to share it with you, Sisters and Brothers. I’ve never had “Cliff Bars” before since their individual costs always seemed a bit high to me. When these went on sale though I bought five chocolate varieties which I will reveal to you one at a time.

Cliff Bars are energy bars, not breakfast or snack bars which simply means their claim to fame is that they will give you energy. I’ve always found this idea very silly. All food containing calories, and I can’t think of a food that doesn’t, will give you energy, that is really what a calorie is measuring. I think that “energy bars” or much like “energy drinks” in that they play on the notion that you need a pick up at some point during your day. Perhaps if people ate more healthy, ate enough, and got sufficient sleep they wouldn’t feel like they needed that pick up.

Cliff Bars are a member of the “1% For the Planet” organization. These companies, less than 1300 world wide, donate 1% of their annual profits to various environmental organizations. I realize that 1% does not seem like much in an era where we routinely hear and read about companies making billions in profits but it is a start. If you think that's a start worth supporting, buy their products but also write to them and let them know it was a factor in your decision to purchase.

The “Chocolate Brownie” Cliff Bar, has 23 different vitamins and minerals listed, each with between 10% and 100% of the USA daily recommendations for adults. One bar also has 240 calories made up of 1.5g saturated fat, 150mg sodium, 340mg potassium, 5g dietary fiber, 22g sugars, and 10g protein. The package says it is 70% organic, made from organic oats and soybeans so be wary if you are allergic to either of those. Chocolate chips are the fifth ingredient on the list; not cocoa, but baking chips so consider the full ingredient if you watch this sort of thing.

As you can see it doesn’t look much like a brownie, more like an unbaked cookie bar would. In fact, that’s exactly what it tastes like, an unbaked, very lightly chocolate cookie. Given the name of this bar that is very disappointing. Primarily it tastes like rice with some fats and little cocoa flavor. It isn’t bad but it isn’t particularly chocolaty or brownie-like either. It has a bit of a crunch mixed in with the chewiness that gives it an interesting and pleasant texture.

Stay tuned for more revelations about the other four chocolate varieties of Cliff Bars I recently tried. Until then, Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chocolate Pictures Help With Healthy Choices

Last week, your Chocolate Priestess saw a post about a Dutch study that claimed women who craved chocolate made healthier food choices right after looking at pictures of chocolate. I went looking for more information and found both a UK Daily Mail article and a Fox News piece. Here is a summary of what these reports state because I couldn't find a scientific report yet -- if you know if this is online yet, Sisters and Brothers, please let me know.

54 women who were "conscious" about their weight were shown pictures of chocolate then asked to choice between a chocolate snack and a healthy one. Most of them chose the healthier food. The psychologists speculate that this is because their cravings and desires were brought to the forefront of their minds, making them more conscious of that craving and thus able to resist it better. Perhaps the photo some how satisfied that craving as well. This same study revealed that women who had a large breakfast including something sweet had fewer cravings during the day for unhealthy choices.

This study is important here in The Chocolate Cult because it bolsters some of my own hopes. I hope that when you read my reviews of products you are given enough information to make better choices. I hope that the pictures draw you in but now I see that they may also serve to make you more aware of your cocoa cravings and aid in your conscious choices. While I want each of us to use chocolate in moderation and with a purpose, I never want you to deprive yourself of the Sacred Substance because that may only lead you to temptation to misuse or overuse it.

I've heard from some people that they are afraid this cult will only increase their desires. I hope it increases their desire to make good choices, healthy choices, and to fully embrace the chocolate they chose to use so they get the most from it with the greatest health and spiritual benefits versus any negatives they could get from over eating or eating poor quality chocolate with fillers and unnecessary fats and calories.

This is my challenge to you all, Sisters and Brothers, come back to The Chocolate Cult whenever you feel a craving and indulge your senses by looking at our post and pictures. Embrace your desire for cocoa by using your other senses and mind. Then go out and make a healthy choice if you still feel hungry knowing that these descriptions and photos will be here for your pleasure and enlightenment. Please, testify here if this Cult has helped your choices in chocolate and cocoa. Remember you can find all of the pictures that have appeared in our Cult here.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Little Chocolate in Low Priced Eclair Pie

Sisters and Brothers, one of the things that helps curb your Chocolate Priestess's chocolate cravings is the fact that I feel it is my obligation to you all to try a wide variety of various products so that you can make a better choice without spending money. Some days I find good products at a decent cost, sometimes poor treats overpriced, and rarely I find something great for very little money. This is something else.

As I've revealed before, eclairs rarely have a lot of chocolate though the amount can vary greatly from a light spread over the top to the entire pastry being encased in chocolate of some type. The ingredients of the chocolate determine the buzz potential even more than the mere quantity of it. As you can see to the left this little pie, measuring 4 inches across, has five curly lines of chocolate frosting over the top. Cocoa is the 11th ingredient on the list and it comes in the section entitled "contains less than 2% of the following". Clearly this isn't a great choice for chocolate but it was $1 for what is a cute little pie.

Aside from the cocoa itself, the pie could taste good and still be worth that dollar for someone who didn't want a lot of chocolate. Shocking I know but, Sisters and Brothers, such people do exist and we should encourage them to enjoy small quantities of the Sacred Substance. The crust was slightly flaky, about what I'd expect for a buck, and the inside had a very thick and firm cream with a solid vanilla flavor, a flavor the ingredients list informs me is artificial. The resulting taste was just acceptable but a review of the nutrition facts was interesting. The pie has 11g saturated fat or 54% of the adult recommended daily allowance. It also has 400mg sodium, 5g fiber (which surprised me), 23g sugars (I suspected it would have more), 4g protein, 6% calcium and 2% iron you should get each day. The problem then is really the saturated fat because none of the other amounts get above 19% of your daily limits or needs.

Finally, who makes this product was a bit difficult for me to determine so I apologize in advance if the link I'm about to give is incorrect. No city or state is listed as providing this pie that I found in my local Kroger. The title is simply "Old Fashioned Baked Chocolate Eclair Pie" but an inside title is "Table Talk Old Fashioned Eclair Pie 3226". I think this is one of 18 flavors of 4 inch pie made by "Table Talk Pie" company in Worcester Massachusetts. If that is so, then they make two other chocolate varieties: Chocolate Creme and Brownie but neither of these was available at my local Kroger.

So this was a cheap mini-pie that tasted fine. It isn't something I'd serve to guests or even buy again personally. But if you like eclairs more for their creme and you have a craving but only a small amount of money, this might be a good choice for you in very limited quantities. Better, cut it in half like I did and share it to cut down on the saturated fat.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, August 22, 2009

This is the second offering from Intentional Chocolate that arrived at The Chocolate Cult for your Chocolate Priestess to reveal to you all, Sisters and Brothers. These “Fine Dark Chocolate Pistoles with Intention” came in a 3-ounce paper bag wrapped in a very eco-conscious fashion. They have two ingredients: chocolate made with five products and the meditations of the folks from the company. Since I already discussed this company not long ago back on July 18, 2009, I won’t go into their details again.

These simple, 68% cocoa discs measure 7/8 of an inch in diameter, and I think they resemble a sort of communion wafer that may be very appropriate for us here. The bag contains three servings with 7 grams of saturated fat, 9 g sugars, 1 g protein, and 2% of the iron that is recommended daily. That is all it contains.

They are cool and smooth to the touch with a wonderful dark cocoa fragrance. The flavor is pure dark chocolate, and if it you let it melt in your mouth it increases the rush of sensations from your tongue into your mind.

Given their shape, I immediately imagine myself surrounded by you, Sisters and Brothers, all your senses attuned to the moment as I place one disc on each of your tongues. I can picture you all holding it there and allowing it to dissolve, and with it your troubles and concerns for just a few moments as you open yourselves up to the Divine. Because of this, I have to say that at this point, I have found the perfect Sacrament for any meetings of followers of The Chocolate Cult, and it is this.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Do You Eat Chocolate?

Most of the time, Your Chocolate Priestess is writing about companies that make chocolate, issues of protecting the land we grow cacao on, labor practices, news items or health information about chocolate, or doing a review that should engage your five senses. Sometimes I'm going to write something more personal and today, I hope you will return that favor with a few comments of your own.

I used to eat chocolate a lot, we are talking thousands of calories worth every week. As a culture, in America we joke about people being chocoholics. That makes light of what can be a very serious problem. I've known for many years that cocoa is a drug and I've known for many years that the usual forms it can be consumed it are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Yet knowing this didn't stop what I now know was an abuse of the Sacred Substance.

I ate chocolate because was a special occasion, something I still firmly believe is a value use of this product in any form. I ate chocolate because I received it as gifts and consuming it reminded me that someone cared; again a good reason to use it. I ate chocolate because I was lonely or bored or angry at myself or disappointed in someone else -- none of these are good reasons to at anything let alone chocolate.

I felt this way because I was raised this way by parents who used food both to reward and confuse me. I literally could be told I was too fat in the morning and then that same evening that I needed to eat more because I was getting too thin; or the opposite, there doesn't seem to have been a connection to reality.

Let's face it, if you eat enough of the poorest chocolate it will eventually give you that buzz, that rush of pleasure, and so because I knew that reaction would happen, chocolate was something I could rely on. It is fine to have things we can rely on in our lives, we need this sense of stability to function well, I believe, but also have to learn to be that stability that you need without external substances to fuel it.

The Chocolate Cult is a manifestation of my own growth toward a healthier and happier relationship with chocolate. I hope that when you read what I write that it does entertain you but I pray it also makes you think. If I do both those things, then I have succeeded.

Sisters and Brothers, please take a few minutes and tell me, honestly, why you eat chocolate. I'm going to leave this up until I get 10 comments or it's time for our Saturday Sacraments because sharing is part of growing together and learning from each other. Please do share your reasons and motivations for eating chocolate.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Time to Mourn Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess was preparing to do an early Saturday Sacrament because I’m going to be out of town again over a weekend. As I prepared the Sacred Substances to be revealed, I looked for the company’s website again. I first reviewed Montana Tom’s chocolates on May 2, 2009 and I finally returned to them this past Saturday in the cycle of offerings The Chocolate Cult has been sent since we began February 21, 2009.

The Montana Tom’s website would not come up and a search for the company revealed it was for sale. This is our first memorial service in The Chocolate Cult. Sadly, it will not be our last, Sisters and Brothers, for a wonderful as the chocolate business is, it is still a business and profits come and go with the tastes of consumers and the flow of the economy.

Montana Tom’s was a conscientious company. The three samples they sent were in a minimal amount of packaging. The ingredients are all recognizable, no artificial addictives or flavors. Their bright simple yellow wrapping and colored foil was easy to read and unwrap. I just got a sunny feeling when I looked at it.

Today, in their memory, I will reveal the “Caramel Bomber Bar” and “Dark Chocolate Bar”. As you can see below, one is dark chocolate as advertised and the other is a milk chocolate. They are also distinguishable by their shape; the Bomber a square of 1.2 oz and the Dark a rectangle of 1.37 oz.

The “Caramel Bomber Bar” is in caramel golden foil wrapper that released milk chocolate scent as soon as I unfolded it. It has a solid weight in my hand when I pick it up, feeling more dense than a larger flatter bar does from other companies. It feels cool, smooth and a bit slick in my fingers as well but again the ingredients are all natural so this isn’t a waxyness or artificial sensation just pure oils and butters at play. Instead each square is a soft center of golden caramel that flows into my mouth when I bite. When I snap off another square, it doesn’t snap cleanly and makes very little sound, the caramel shows it’s thickness by pulling apart slowly into a long sugary line. The milk chocolate tastes fairly low cocoa content and it mixes well with the caramel, neither flavor overwhelming the other. The center is really one big piece of caramel separated by indentations of the milk chocolate so while it looks like four squares it is really just one.

The “Dark Chocolate Bar” is in a black foil wrapper which also releases the scent of it’s chocolate, a good but not overwhelming darker cocoa essence, when I open it. This makes a definite snap as I take a bite into the solid dark chocolate. Immediately I can tell this is a higher cocoa content because of the degree of bitterness and the almost instantaneous rush from my mouth up into my mind. Letting it melt only intensifies the cocoa reactions. Since I am unsure of the percentage of cocoa here I can’t say if this could be a good piece for any health reasons you might want to consume chocolate; remember those benefits start at 80% not lower so chose wisely or eat for another reason. This is just an all around excellent dark chocolate bar, Sisters and Brothers. I’d say this is easily one of the best samples of simple dark chocolate I’ve had to this point in The Chocolate Cult.

Thus I am sad that Montana Tom’s is for sale. Perhaps they will brought by someone who cares and who can continue their traditions. If not, and you didn’t get a chance to try them, you should bow your head now and feel just a touch sad that you were denied that chance. If you have had Montana Tom’s chocolates in the past please leave a comment and share your thoughts during this memorial service.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Are the Strawberry flavored HoHos worth it?

Sisters and Brothers, how many of your recognize this? The HoHo. First created in 1967, according to the Hostess website, this treat was originally a "Swiss-filled chocolate cakes elegantly enrobed in delectable confectionary coating". Beyond the vagueness of this "Swiss-filled" idea, the current HoHo is a cream filled chocolate rolled cake that I'm sure many of you have had.

This Summer, the company is making a strawberry cream filled version of the HoHo and the Twinky. If you haven't tried the HoHo version yet, let me reveal my own experience with it.

First these are the same size as the regular HoHos, 3.15X1.5X1 inches. Three of them equals one serving which raises two questions in my mind. Why are they individually wrapped? Why not wrap them in groups of three if three is a serving size? That would save on the white plastic wrap. Also why did this come in a package of 10 when that isn't divisible by three? Wouldn't a package of nice or twelve be more easily sorted out in terms of the nutritional information for the average consumer?

Here is that nutritional information for a serving, remember that is three HoHos. 360 calories, 13g sat fat (65% of daily allowance), 30mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium, 1g fiber, 41g sugars, 3g protein, 2% calcium, and 10% iron that is recommended for an adult every day in the USA. This is not, by any standard of the definition, a healthy treat but indulging is fine once a week or so if you are moderation the rest of the time.

A definite strawberry scent is released when you open the individually wrapped HoHos. However, strawberry puree is 6th ingredient, cocoa processed with alkali is 8th on list so I'm not expecting either a great fruit or chocolate taste. It does have a solid strawberry taste which is overwhelmed by the unpleasant waxy and bitter chocolate coating. Check out this photograph of one cut open. It shows that the cream is not nearly as pink as on the box so don't expect what you see.

Ultimately I think the Milk Chocolate Acolyte wanted to buy these because they reminded him of a childhood treat. I tried one so I could reveal it to you, Sisters and Brothers, but I didn't want another. Perhaps I've just become more picky since starting down this Path. Being picky can be a good think for the body, the mind, the soul, and the wallet.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Calling for Baker Advice on Baking Soda and Health Benefits of Chocolate

A study by Hershey reports that both antioxidant activity and cocoa flavanols can be retained in cakes if you cut back on the use of baking soda. However, as many of your bakers may realize, using no baking soda often results in denser cakes so Hershey suggests cutting back on the baking soda but not eliminating it entirely.

There are a few problems with this very brief report. First, the write up does not reveal what ratio of baking soda and baking powder works best for maintaining the healthy aspects of cocoa and getting a good texture for your cake. I'm wondering if any of you bakers out there have experimented with this. If you have, please leave a comment and let us see the results of your trials. Your Chocolate Priestess doesn't bake, Sisters and Brothers, unless it is a very special occasion in the warm or hot, and humid months.

Second, this article ignores some basic facts about the healthiness of chocolate. The real benefits start at 80% cocoa as we know. At that level would anything other than a chocolate bar offer us all those potential positives we are constantly seeing these days? Does even the darkest cupcake or brownie come close to that level of purity? Again I'm calling on you bakers out there to share what you know.

Finally, I must confess that all of these claims of healthiness are starting to seem a bit flash over substance. When you don't give specific information, when you ignore the percentage of cocoa in your products, and yet just toss about the idea of flavanols and other beneficial chemicals, I have to say that it sounds like you are more concerned with sales than the health of the consumer.

I sell nothing to you, Sisters and Brothers, other than what I hope is information, an example of rational questioning, and guidance through personal experience and example. So don't just look at a newspaper or magazine article, don't just watch a TV ad, and don't believe everything you hear. Stop, analyze, and consider what is the best choice for your Journey in The Chocolate Cult. If you do that, then you will use the Sacred Substance in moderation and with purpose.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Note: In the future I may have something to sell such as a book or a bumper sticker but it will not be chocolate because as much as I love the Sacred Substance, I am not a chocolatier.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, August 15, 2009

Your Chocolate Priestess has seen Theo Chocolate in our local co-op and natural foods stores for years, so I was very surprised and pleased when they sent me some offerings to reveal to all of you, Sisters and Brothers. The first Sacrament with Theo products was back on April 11, 2009, so if you want to see that product, go and look through our archives. Theo Chocolate makes products that are certified both organic by USDA standards and for fair trade practices. Both of these issues may be of concern for many of you; as you know, I think both are valuable tools in promoting spiritual and economic health in the world.

Today I'm going to look at four of the 2 oz bars Theo sent to The Chocolate Cult, called "3400 Phinney Bars" after the factory where they are created. Our newly elected Chocolate Coconut Acolyte will send me her revelation about a coconut version that I will add to this review later, so be sure to check back in a few weeks. One of the immediate things I notice about Theo's 2 oz bars is the very cute labels with cartoonish figures on them. This makes them stand out on the shelves in the stores, which now, I'm pleased to say, also include mass distributors such as my local Target. Please note that the store locator does not have every place you can buy these, since I can walk to three different stores within half a mile to buy them, but they are not listed on Theo's website.

Of the eight varieties listed on the website, they sent me five. I'll go in order of cocoa content and added ingredients to reveal their full sensory nature to you all. That means our first two offerings will be the "Vanilla Milk Chocolate" and "Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate," followed by "Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate" and "Bread and Chocolate Dark Chocolate." Opening these required using my letter opener, since there is a "use by" sticker holding the two sections together for each wrapper, which would have ruined the nutritional information had I tried opening them the normal way. Under each adorable paper wrapper are matching silver foil and paper wrappers that release the fragrance of each bar when it is unwrapped. You should also note that according to the website, the dark chocolate is at least 65% cocoa and the milk 40% cocoa, so even the milk chocolate product may taste more intense to some of you, Sisters and Brothers, if you are used to lower cocoa products, but the buzz potential from each should be good. Each bar equals one serving for the nutritional information, making it very easy to calculate what you may or may not want to eat. Each bar measures 5 7/8 by 2 1/4 by 3/8 inches and is etched into four identical rectangles if you want to break off pieces.

I'll start with the "Vanilla Milk Chocolate" bar, shown in the photo along with the hazelnut variety that I'll get to soon. I'm showing you the back of the bars because the front sides of the milk chocolate bars look very similar, and the only way to tell them apart is by the traces of nuts on the back.

This bar has five ingredients: sugar, milk powder, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and vanilla. It contains 13 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar, 4 g protein, and 2% of your daily vitamin A and iron as well as 10% of your daily recommended calcium. There is a strong hint of the vanilla when I bring the bar to my nose and breathe in deeply, but primarily it is the cocoa I smell. One of the four sections breaks off easily and with a solid snap as I apply four fingers to the task. The chocolate feels smooth to my skin, and the scent is urging me to take a bite, so I do so. This has a very creamy texture and a taste that reminds me of the wonderful Easter bunnies I used to get as a child, though without the waxiness. Letting the second bite melt intensifies the vanilla of the bar while also slowly releasing the cocoa and helping create a slow burning sensation from my mouth through my head to settle behind my eyes with a gentle rush. The lingering taste of vanilla and cocoa lasts for a few minutes in my mouth.

The "Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate" bar has these cute little hazelnut-headed or -hatted people on it, which makes me chuckle for the sheer silliness of them. They look more sly than romantic as the vanilla couple did on the previous bar. The snap this bar makes when I break off a rectangle is louder, probably because of the nuts, which are one of eight ingredients used in this bar. I can see the tiny nut pieces on the back and in the bar itself, and they have a definite scent when I take a whiff of the piece I broke off. There are enough hazelnut bits that each chew of the first bite makes a crisp crunch. The nut flavor is the primary one in this bar, but the cocoa is also there, with a strong sweet essence as well; all of them blend together. Letting it melt in my mouth is a shock, because the sweetness turns a bit sour, overwelming the nut and cocoa flavors. The nuts are rough on my tongue as the coating over them melts until I'm left with their saltiness, which is also overwhelming. Chew this; don't let it melt in your mouth if you decide to go with the hazelnut type. Each "Hazelnut Crunch" bar contains 14 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 19 g sugars, 5 g protein, 2% vitamins A and C, 4% iron, and 10% calcium.

The two dark chocolate bars are next, and as I wanted to show in their picture, they are identical in appearance, even though they contain a few different ingredients. Both have 70% cocoa in them, so once more eat these for flavor and meditation and not for health benefits, which seem to began at 80% cocoa.

I hope that the "Nib Brittle" bar is a lot like Theo's nib brittle I had back in April, because it was amazing. The bar has an intense cocoa odor when I lift it to to my nose, strong enough to make me sigh. One rectangle snaps off loudly in my fingers, releasing even more fragrance. It feels very smooth to my fingertips, with no oiliness at all. I can barely see the nibs, but they crunch as I chew the first bite, which immediately sends a rush of cocoa into my consciousness, fulfilling the promises the scent made. The second bite melts slowly in my mouth, but does not provide the buzz that chewing helped free until it is almost completely melted, which takes several minutes. I prefer chewing this bar so I can get a more intense rush as well as the crunch of the nibs. Each of these bars has 13 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 21 g sugars, 3 g protein, and 6% iron; it has no cholesterol.

The "Bread & Chocolate" bar has French bread added to five other simple ingredients. These result in a nutritional value for the bar of 12 g saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 16 g sugars, 3 g protein, and 4% iron; it has no cholesterol. One of this bar's rectangles also snaps when I break it off, but I only see a hint of any "bread" in it, though it does have a nice cocoa scent. Oh, yes, there is bread here, and it makes a crispy sound as I chew it, exactly as I'd expect French bread to make. Other than the sound, though, the flavor is really dark chocolate, saltiness and flour, which is interesting, but I don't like it as much as the nib brittle bar of the same cocoa quality. I've never had this type of candy before, and the website does not say, but I wonder if the idea came from spreading chocolate onto a slice of French bread in the past. I've done that myself, spreading chocolate on various things just to see what it is like, and it does taste good depending on the bread and chocolate type.

Our Chocolate Coconut has this to report on her bar. "Greetings Brothers and Sisters. Today I spent time with Theo's Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate bar from their 3400 Phinney line of chocolates. This 2 oz bar has the same dimensions at the others and contains 40% cacao. It contains 14 g of saturated fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 40 mg of sodium, 2 g of dietary fiber, 22 g of sugar and 4 g of protein. It also supplies 2% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin A, 10% of calcium and 8% of iron. The artwork on the wrapper is whimsical, evoking images of India where curry is very popular. The paper wrapper is glued well and tears slightly as I open it. Seconds later my nostrils are assaulted by the scent of curry powder (which is a blend of several spices, all of them in the moderate to hot range) and as I bring the bar closer to my nose, I feel my sinuses clearing. Like the Hazelnut Crunch bar there is a slight texture on the back indicating the coconut. The chocolate is soft and there is no snap when I break off a piece. Curry is the first thing I taste as I take the first bite and the flavor intensifies the more I chew it. There is no coconut flavor and the mild chocolate flavor doesn't quite keep the curry from being overpowering. The chocolate melts on my fingers while I'm chewing the first bite. I lick my fingers before taking the second bite which I let melt on my tongue. The curry, while still prevalent isn't quite as intense this way and once the chocolate is gone, and the coconut is finally noticeable. However, it's been toasted and ground so finely that there is no flavor and the texture is rather like straw. It's interesting to note that after I finished sampling the bar, I left the remainder on the plate and walked away for about 10 minutes and when I returned to the room, it smelled like and Indian restaurant that I used to patronize. And now, 40 minutes later, the curry scent sticks to my fingers but there's not even a hint of chocolate. Bottom line--if you really like curry, then you might find this bar appealing. I, however, prefer a better balance of flavors."

Sisters and Brothers, I have to say that I am impressed by the "3400 Phinney Bars" that I was sent from Theo Chocolate. Considering these are also organic and bought under fair trade conditions, these are a very worthy Sacrament for The Chocolate Cult. Just be aware of the nutritional value of each bar and your own preferences and choose to use these wisely.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Acolyte Named

This morning, Sisters and Brothers, your Chocolate Priestess has the honor of naming our newest official member of The Chocolate Cult. mavido79 is now our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte through the garnering of the majority vote. I will get her first samples to reveal to us all as soon as we can arrange it. Below is a picture of these samples and a list of what she will be utilizing in Sacraments in upcoming weeks.

The chocolate-coconut samples:

Godiva truffle

Donnelly 1.6oz bar

Seattle Chocolates 2.5oz bar

Theo 2oz bar

Monicas Chocolates bonbon

Taraluna vegan truffle

To Spanishbubbles, I want to say thank you for all of your fine work. Please add your valuable comments on our site and keep in touch with me for future official positions which may become available in the future.

Sisters and Brothers, please leave a comment to this entry and congratulate mavido79.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lake Champlain Chocolates Minis

When your Chocolate Priestess went to purchase supplies for the Sacred Tasting Trial, she went to a local chocolate shop in Bloomington, Indiana, called The Chocolate Emporium. They are a retailer which sells products from several different chocolatiers including bars from Lake Champlain Chocolates. Given that I was spending a good deal on the coconut chocolate pieces all ready, I found four pieces of the LCC minis at 75¢ each which I'd like to reveal to you today.

The four 1 inch squares I bought include a 34% cocoa content milk chocolate, a 38% cocoa milk, sea salt, and almonds piece, a 55% cocoa dark chocolate, and a 55% Aztec dark chocolate. The pieces as you can see to the left differ in color based on the amount of pure cocoa they include.

These minis are certified organic products by the QAI or the Quality Assurance International which tests products to make sure they meet certain legal standards to be labeled "organic". This label may be very important to some of you, Sisters and Brothers, so I wanted to mentioned it clearly and provide you with information about this particular program.

My favorite of these four minis was the 55% dark chocolate which had a good bitter start and enough cocoa to create a buzz by the second bite and yet also had a creamy taste. Of course, as I've discussed before the health benefits of dark chocolate only start at 80% so while this may be a great tasting, it isn't particularly healthy for you.

My second favorite piece was the 34% milk chocolate which reminded me of the Easter bunnies I used to get in the spring when I was a child before everything had to start adding wax to the ingredients list.

The other two types suffered from the extra flavors overwhelming the chocolate itself. In the other milk chocolate piece the salt really lingered on crushing both the nutty and creamy essences. The spices, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, of the Aztec also overwhelmed the dark cocoa and the sunflowers in that piece. If you like those flavors, these are great choices but if you want the chocolate first and foremost, I was disappointed.

The Chocolate Emporium is located not far from the downtown square in Bloomington, Indiana. Please note that they no longer has a website, they are a walk in business only now. This is what their store front looks like, it is much deeper inside than this photo reveals. Next time I go back, I'll take a photo of the inside and hopefully get one of the store owners to talk to me more.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Remember today is your last chance to vote for our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte so look at their essays from Tuesday then go the upper left hand side and make your opinion count. Voting is completely secret so no one, not even your Chocolate Priestess will know who voted for which Postulant.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Entenmann's Chocolate Lovers Donuts

This box of Entenmann's donuts contains two donuts of four varieties each covered with or made with cocoa and chocolate. Each type of donut has it’s own nutritional label where 1 donut = 1 serving so your Chocolate Priestess will give that information as I review each one in order of increasing amount of saturated fat. Each donut measure about 3inches in radius.

The “Devil’s Food Crumb" donut is our first type. It is made of a chocolate cake donut with a light glazing and powdering over it and little balls of dough on top which are also glazed and powdered. Each of these donuts has 5g sat fat, 10mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 1g fiber, 20g sugars, 2g protein, 4% calcium, 6% iron, and 240 calories. The donut is actually rather dry and yet because the primary flavor is cocoa and a lot of it, it’s my second favorite flavor in this pack. Be careful though because the little balls will roll around so make sure you are eating it over something.

The second donut in this box is the “Frosted Devil’s Food" donuts is the cocoa buzz winner of these four varieties. From the moment you bite through the thin chocolate coating to the devil’s food inside, you can feel the sensations flowing from mouth up into your head. Moist but firm, this is my favorite donut of the four though as you can see from the nutritional information not the healthiest of the bunch. Each of these donuts has 11g sat fat, 10mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 1g fiber, 24g sugars, 2g protein, 4% calcium, 6% iron, and 300 calories.

“Rich Frosted" donut is the next variety in this box and it is the one which looks like it has long lines of darker and lighter chocolate in the picture. Each of these contains 12g sat fat, 10mg cholesterol, 180mg sodium, 17g sugars, 2g protein, 6% iron, and 290 calories. This donut never ceases to surprise me with the citrus tasting vanilla cake donut of light texture covered with a melt-on-your-fingers chocolate. This unique citrus vanilla taste is what please me most about this variety since the cocoa flavor is very slight though very real, no waxiness in any of these Entenmann products.

This leaves us with the “Rich Frosted Donuts with White Drizzle”. Rich is a good word for them when you consider that each has 13g sat fat, 10mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 17g sugars, 2g protein, 4% iron, and 300 calories.
This is basically the same as the previous donut except the flavor seems more vanilla than citrus to me which may be a function in part of the white drizzle. Like the previous the chocolate taste is not the primary one you get but what you do get is definitely cocoa and not wax.

If these donuts sound good to you, I agree, they are pretty good especially when compared to recent donut brands revealed on The Chocolate Cult. These still are not something you should have every day but they are a nice treat that won't make you feel like you didn't get your money's worth or that you've substituted financial savings for real cocoa products.

Sisters and Brothers, before you leave The Chocolate Cult today, review the postulants for the position of "Chocolate Coconut Acolyte" HERE and then go the top of the left hand side of our blog and vote for your favorite. You determine who your reviewer of coconut and chocolate products will be but you must vote now.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Choose the Chocolate Coconut Acolyte -- Vote Now

Sisters and Brothers, below are the Postulants' essays for you to read and then vote on who will be The Chocolate Cult's "Chocolate Coconut Acolyte." Your votes are necessary for this because unlike other religions we want the full participation of all members, be they formal followers or casual observers.

Below is the Sacred Tasting Trial -- the Chocolate and the Postulants:

mavido79's Essay:

Greetings from a potential chocolate acolyte. So far this path has been enlightening to say the least. I’ve been eating and enjoying chocolate, both with and without coconut, since the Johnson administration but I’ve never experienced it in such an intense manor as taking part in the Sacred Taste Trial. These three pieces of candy all had similar elements and yet ended up being very different and I developed very distinct opinions about them. I’ll share mine here in reverse order of preference.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Truffle—The candy is somewhat large compared to other truffles I’ve eaten, about 1 ½” in height and width. There is an ingredient sprinkled over the top of it that appears to be finely ground toasted coconut but when I attempted to verify this by licking some of it off, the flavor was so bland as to defy identification. The shell is thick, snapping softly when I bite into it and melts very slowly in my mouth. At first the taste is more sweet than cocoa-ish but eventually the chocolate flavor develops. The ganache has the consistency of creamy cake frosting and is very sweet when it first hits my taste buds. The flavor is not 100% cocoa but I don’t really taste coconut nor do I detect its aroma. It takes three bites before the coconut flavor finally emerges and it’s obviously a coconut liqueur as there is an alcohol tinge to it. Given the underwhelming quality of the chocolate and the lack of any real coconut in it, I can’t see myself ever spending money to obtain one of these.

Milk Chocolate Haystack—For those of you who are unfamiliar, a haystacks are made by combining a crunchy ingredient such as rice crispies, chow mien noodles or (in our case) toasted coconut with a sweet, smooth ingredient such as caramel, melted butterscotch chips or (again, in our case) chocolate. The mixture is then dropped by spoonfuls and allowed to harden. Because of the spooning process, no two pieces will look quite the same. This one measured 1 ½” by ¾” and stood just under an inch tall in most places. I closed my eyes and inhaled the mild chocolate/coconut aroma before I took the first bite. The crunch was loud and distinct. It had a wonderful proportion of coconut to chocolate and the crunch continued until I finally swallowed that bite. The chocolate was already melting on my fingertips when I took the second bite. I let this one melt on my tongue for a few minutes before chewing The chocolate was creamy and actually had a slight ‘milky’ taste to it, something you don’t often find in milk chocolate. The coconut flavor wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet thanks to the toasting process and worked nicely with the chocolate. I could start to feel the cocoa rush. The final bite was the best of all. The rough texture of the coconut scraped across my tongue while the aroma released by the melting chocolate traveled through the back of my throat and into my head. Just this side of nirvana in three bites.

Dark Chocolate Haystack—With the darker color this piece reminded me of a chocolate/oatmeal no-bake cookie (which could qualify as a haystack if oatmeal were crunchier). It measured nearly one inch in all dimensions and had a slight indentation down the center, making it resemble a walnut. The chocolate softened quickly as I held it between my thumb and forefinger and the marvelous scents began to tickle my nose. At first all I smelled was the coconut but then the chocolate made its presence known. The toasted coconut plays very well with the dark chocolate. It crunched nicely from the first bite to the last chew. The cocoa flavor became more pronounced on the second bite as I let it melt in my mouth. The coconut flavor came through once the majority of the cocoa had dissipated. After I swallowed I noticed a faint chocolate aftertaste prevailed. On the third bite the coconut had an almost nutty flavor that pushed me straight into the nirvana zone but I mostly attribute that to my preference for dark chocolate.

Thank you for taking the time to read my reviews. As I stated earlier, my love affair with chocolate and coconut goes back many years. So do my own personal critiques of chocolate in general. I’ve learned that expensive chocolate doesn’t always mean good chocolate and that cheap chocolate can be very good (ask me some time about the wonderful 55 cent dark chocolate bar I picked up at Aldi). I know that eating chocolate (with or without coconut) isn’t automatically a spiritual experience but with the right chocolate and the time to put all your senses to work, it can lift your spirits even higher. I’d like you to vote for me so I can direct you towards those chocolate coconut combinations which will do just that."

spanishbubbles' Essay:

Greetings, wonderful followers of the Chocolate Cult! This past Friday I was honored with the chance to participate in a ritual chocolate tasting. I, and another qualified follower, were invited to the home of the Chocolate Priestess where, after a lesson on tasting from the Priestess, we each sampled three chocolates—a dark chocolate coconut truffle, a milk chocolate haystack, and a dark chocolate haystack. I shall review each in turn.

I began with the truffle. It was fairly large, about 1 1/2 by 2 inches, and the top was dusted with toasted coconut. The first smell that hit me was, unexpectedly, mint. I could eventually pick out the coconut smell, subtly, under the mint and chocolate. I took a first bite, and got mostly the hard chocolate shell, which crumbled in my mouth. It was delicious, but not very coconutty. I had exposed the smooth center, which was pleasant to look out. I licked a few times—it had a gel texture, but not much flavor. My second bite I let sit in my mouth, rotating it so that the shell and the gel were alternately on my tongue. The gel had a lovely texture against the roof of my mouth, but was disagreeable against my tongue. I began to feel the chocolate tingle. Overall, this chocolate had insufficient coconut, only the toasted stuff on top. The flavors did combine nicely toward the end of a bite, and the shell chocolate was very good, but overall this was not a sterling example of how chocolate and coconut can combine.

The milk chocolate haystack was a treat. It was about 1 1/2 by 1 inch, and had the lumpy, misshapen look that gives a thrill to every chocolate-coconut lover, and raises a red flag for those as don’t care for the combination. It smelled heavily of both chocolate and coconut. My first bite I can hear the crunch of the coconut as it scrapes against my teeth. I chew, still with an audible crunch, and find the chocolate-coconut to be in perfect proportion. My second bite I hold in my mouth, allowing the chocolate to melt away from the coconut. Eventually I chew, and the coconut that was crisp has turned soft and chewy as I held it in my mouth. There is an almost salty taste as I chew. The last bite I hold in my mouth, trying not to involve my tongue at all. I get very pleasant bursts of sweet on my tongue as I switch the piece from cheek to cheek. The chocolate is creamy as is runs down my throat. A good tingle, and little pieces of coconut remain in my mouth for several minutes. A wonderful candy.

The dark chocolate haystack looks similar to it’s milk counterpart, only, obviously, darker. It smells, surprisingly, somewhat sweeter. I go through a similar process, a bite I chew first, and a second bite I hold in my mouth. This time I begin to chew the second bite before all the chocolate is gone, while the coconut is still rough and crispy. It’s sticky when I actually bite it. It’s very similar to the milk haystack, but it does have the rich, smoky flavor of dark chocolate. Delightful!

Even if I’m not selected for the position of chocolate-coconut acolyte, and I know that I have stiff competition, it has been a pleasure to have the tasting experience. I would love to continue on, enjoying wonderful chocolate and working with the Priestess."

Sisters and Brothers, go to the top of the left hand side of this page and vote for either mavido79 or spanishbubbles. Votes will be counted through Thursday, August 13, 2009, with an Acolyte officially named on Friday, August 14 so she can begin her work of helping us all make the best choice of which chocolate coconut treats are good potential Sacraments for our use and enjoyment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

National Smores Day

In the USA today, August 10, 2009, it is another fun "holiday" that has to do with chocolate: National Smores Day. Your Chocolate Priestess first encountered smores out camping with her family many years ago. That isn't surprising given the history of this treat.

Various websources claim different dates for the creation of smores but all agree it was the Girl Scouts which first published a recipe for the campfire treat between 1927 and 1940. Sisters and Brothers, this must mean that it had become a feature of enough girl scouting events to merit inclusion in the official handbook. The creation of camp fire smores is simple -- roast a marshmallow then place it between one piece of chocolate and two graham crackers. This allows for each individual to get exactly what she wants whether its a barely warm center or blacken chunk of sugary goo. Today you can even choose between flavors of graham crackers and percentages of cocoa in your chocolate as well as type of marshmallow and it's color.

Your Chocolate Priestess was a Girl Scout for several years before her local community became too small to support the troop and we always made Smores when we went camping. But my first exposure was family camping so this treat has become a mainstream of American culture I'd say, at least those Americans who go camping which according to a few different polls I found is about 20% of all Americans every year making camping the number one outdoors activity in America. Thought about another way, we Americans sure don't like to go outside for long periods of time, do we? For me, that has to do with allergies and not any dislike for Mother Nature.

Today if you aren't out camping or have access to a fire you can toast a marshmallow over you have many options for smores. If you consider smores simply to be anything that has the three ingredients: chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, the possibilities are almost endless. A quick search via Google and I found recipes for cakes, brownies, bars, cookies, ice cream, cupcakes, pies, and even alcoholic drinks. Of course all those recipes can be made at home or you can go to almost any grocery store and many restaurants and find smore treats in some form.

In all honesty, there is really is no excuse not to enjoy a smore of some type today, Sisters and Brothers. So leave a comment and tell me how you enjoyed smores today.

Tomorrow I will be introducing you all to our two postulants for the position of Chocolate Coconut Acolyte. Each will offer you a five paragraph review of the Sacred Tasting Trial they suffered through on Friday and then each of you should vote for the one you feel can offer The Chocolate Cult the best guiding view on chocolate and coconut. Voting will only last for three days -- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday -- and I'll announce our newest spiritual leader for our Path.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Hello, Cupcake!" Book Review

Your Chocolate Priestess won the Karen Tack and Alan Richardson book "Hello, Cupcake!" a guide to make amazing looking cupcakes. We made the "Howling Werewolves" cupcakes from pages 176-179 but we changed the type of frosting and cake mix we used. I do not believe that the publisher knew that I'd be doing this review at all!

I also decided that the idea of cupcake moons was silly for two reasons. First in the book you are supposed to use a different flavor of cupcake which means you end up with 1/2 of your mix unused. Yes, you could double the list of decorating ingredients but for a book that is supposed to be good for folks who've never baked or cooked before, I personally think it needs to have more details and use all of a cake mix or use the same flavor for everything. Second, werewolves need to be howling at the moon and they are not as big as it so I thought a central larger round cake made a more pleasing pictures as you'll see below. the Dozen of people who can to the party these were for last night agreed.

The result was what you see to the right -- 12 gray werewolves howling at a center full moon. The guests said that the cupcakes were both beautiful and tasty. The tasty part was a worry for me because on page 218 I was informed I should change the ingredients of your standard cake mix for cupcakes. While they tasted different, the buttermilk and extra egg will do that, the guests said they still tasted great. Obviously the extra binding of the substitute and new ingredients made more dense cupcakes that could balance the heavy decorating you do in this book.

The book is organized into 8 chapters with 50 designs. Some of these designs have more diagrams than others to tell you what to do. This particular design required us to read it over a few times and think spatially to figure out how to cut the marshmallows for ears and muzzle but we did it I think. I would have liked the last chapter on "Cupcakes and Frosting" recipes at the beginning of the book frankly before the designing.

The ingredients you need are not always as easy to find as you might think. We noted it was actually difficult to find a pudding free cake mix in our local huge grocery store, Sisters and Brother. When I saw huge, I mean I've tracked my steps on a normal shopping trip in that store and I cover about a quarter of a mile just walking through it during a normal weekly trip. On another topic, this book suggest you use Ziploc bags as piping bags. On the one hand, we agree that it works better but on the other hand it was very wasteful. Once used, the bag was worthless and these are not recyclable in most areas.

I think this is a great book if you want to put in some extra effort for a special event. It took us, from mixing the cupcakes, baking, letting them cool and then decorating about five hours in all to do what you see above. If I had made the moon as 12 cupcakes that would have added another hour perhaps. Wonderful for special events and with another family member helping, not good for everyday eating or solo work I think. Feel free to make things chocolate even if they say to use another flavor -- frosting can cover so much you know.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, August 8, 2009

Your Chocolate Priestess finally gets to review the "Celebrate Oregon!" bar she was sent from Bursts Chocolates months ago. I wanted to review them earlier, but their website underwent work, and then it wasn't coming up for a month or so after that on my browser. They seem to have solved their problems, so you should now be able to click any of the links I give you — find them online, on FB,  or in the Willamette valley of Oregon itself. We were sent this free bar in exchange for a fair and honest review: no other form of compensation was received.

This "Celebrate Oregon!" bar is 2 ounces of milk chocolate, made as part of the 150th anniversary festivities to mark the western state's political recognition as part of the USA. As you can see, Sisters and Brothers, the candy bar's wrapping matches the colors of this important event. Underneath the multi-green paper cover is a gold foil wrapper as well. Both come off easily. However, there is no information about nutrition on this bar, but that is not uncommon when you purchase something that honors a political event or funds a social cause.

Inside you find a bar with 12 identical sections collectively measuring 5.5 by 2 by 0.35 inches. Getting close to it, I can smell a nice, solid cocoa scent. The sections break apart fairly smoothly with tiny snaps, and the chocolate begins to melt to my touch almost immediately. Both the breaking and melting release more scent as well. The pieces feel smooth to my fingers and against my tongue.

There is a very faint crunch when I chew the first section. It it a bit creamy, though not as chocolatey as I expected from the smell. It does not taste waxy, though it does taste like it must have additives, which I would think you'd almost need for a mass-marketed special event bar that you are selling around the state and even across the country. Letting the piece lie on my tongue allows me to feel the fine lines etched on the top of each piece as it melts over the course of two minutes and releases its essence more slowly, so I start to feel a very slight buzz.

Candy bars sold by organizations and for special events are notorious for not being very good chocolate. We buy them, Sisters and Brothers, because we want to support that group or just have a small token showing that we attended an event, and we cannot deny that we have this pull toward anything chocolate. Bursts' "Celebrate Oregon!" bar is a much higher quality bar than I was expecting given the purpose of this product. It was smooth and creamy as milk chocolate should be; it melted well, seemed to have few additives, and even offered a slight rushwhen I took the time to let it melt. If this is even a shadow of their gourmet chocolates, I hope they send The Chocolate Cult some more, so I can reveal other products of theirs to all of you.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

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