Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Dove Chocolate Valentine's Day

Here on The Chocolate Cult we appreciate every offering that is sent our way and we treat each with identical respect in terms of our sampling and review process.  Acolytes follow my guidelines and know that we need to use and then describe what all five of our senses experienced so you, the reader, can learn more and determine what you might want to try.  However, I must confess that when a big name chocolatier or company sends us something I get an extra thrill.  So I was delighted when Dove Chocolate sent us two offerings for Valentine's Day.

Today your Chocolate Priestess will look at one of these two products so that you have time to go out and see if your local stores have them available. This is the Dove Silky Smooth Select Chocolates in a heart shaped box you see in this photo.  Inside are five milk chocolate creamy caramels, seven silky smooth dark chocolate truffle hearts, and eight silky smooth milk chocolate peanut butter truffle hearts.  That's a total of 20 individual chocolates.  I love this box, the brick red with black accents plus the box is easily reusable.  The shape itself isn't the traditional heart either but leans a bit toward the right as you are looking at it.  Just removing the plastic wrap over the box after taking off the lid allowed a wave of cocoa fragrance to hit me.  When I lift a piece out underneath is the Dove logo plus a short romantic expression though I note these are slightly off center so a letter is covered a bit in several cases.

We'll start with the caramels that are almost round measuring about 1.25 inches across the bottom with a wavy pattern of milk chocolate over the top.  These have a definite caramel and chocolate scent.  Cutting one in half reveals very sticky caramel inside a good thick shell that makes a slight snap as it oozes open.  The tangy sweet of the caramel now overpowers the milk chocolate scent but when I eat one half the two flavors blend in a good balance, the creamy cocoa and the tart caramel never stop being combine even as an aftertaste.  Be forewarned if you have any dental work that the caramel is very sticky.

I wait a while and rinse out my mouth repeatedly before trying the milk chocolate peanut butter truffle next.  This heart shaped candy is about 1 3/8th inches at it's width part and about that long from the tip to the hump of the heart.   This has a light peanut butter scent as well as the milk chocolate before I even cut on open to show to you. It makes a slight snap when I press down on the knife.  The peanut butter is mostly solid and has a strong roasted fragrance.  The peanut butter competes with the milk chocolate after a few chews and becomes the primary aftertaste though the milky chocolate never fades completely. Definitely the choice for the peanut butter lover that isn't one of those sweet peanut butter fans but a hearty, roasted, earthy essence kind of beloved.

Finally we'll try the dark chocolate truffles.  These are clearly different from the milk chocolate hearts in terms of their color but also their scent.  These have only a nice cocoa essence that doesn't change once I cut one in half which produces a soft snapping soft.  As you can see the truffle inside is lighter in color by the fragrance is the same.  This piece actually starts to melt in my mouth before I even have time to take a bite.  As we've learned here in The Chocolate Cult if you can let chocolate melt it increases the buzz of the chocolate and these hearts definitely deliver our wanted rush whether you chew or let it melt.  It was bitter as I expect from darker chocolate but also very creamy at the same time making this an interesting taste experience.

Dove began as a true American business founded by immigrants and now part of Mars, also a family owned business.  From that early candy store to ice cream bars, Dove should be a familiar name to you.  Not only is this good chocolate but the company started promoting substainable agriculture.  The products they sent us came in recyclable materials and the metal box has nothing on it to indicate Dove or Mars so you can reuse it easily if you want to make your own treats.  For all this reasons, this Valentine's Day box from Dove earns the title of Worthy Sacrament.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winner Video -- Chocolate Cake Day

The winner of the King Arthur Giveaway we had back in December 2010, sent me a link to a video he made to celebrate "National Chocolate Cake Day".

Please check it out and leave him some comments either here or on YouTube.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HELP! It's National Chocolate Cake Day

Your Chocolate Priestess had a 2011 plan.  Do you remember me talking about it at the start of the year?  I want to make something for every "Chocolate on the Calendar" day that I can.

"Can" is the key word. 

Today is "National Chocolate Cake Day" and I did make a cake last week, trying the second of the three recipes I've dictated I must at least try from any cookbook before I review it.  It didn't turn out very well but here's a photo of it any way.  I'll talk more about this when I review that cookbook. I'll use the better photo then as well.

I would have made another, was planning on that with one of the Acolytes who loves baking with me, but guess what?  Yup, my entire household fell sick.  I'm focused on getting better because I have a big chocolate related event on Sunday I must be well for and I must have my voice back for.

I need your help.  I need to know what you are doing today to make up for my mess.  What kind or type of chocolate cake will you be making?  Or will you be buying a chocolate cake?  I'm buying one but we won't have it until tomorrow evening for a dual birthday celebration.

Please leave a comment and let me know that some of your "National Chocolate Cake Days" are going well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dagoba Hot Chocolate #1

It's Wednesday and it's cold so that means another hot cocoa review here on The Chocolate Cult.  Today we are going to look at Dagoba Organic Chocolate in their Unsweetened Hot Chocolate cylinder.  I found this at SaharaMart which isn't too far from my house. I had a coupon for another variety of this same brand but not only was this the only variety they had in the store, it was the only hot chocolate mix from this brand at all in the store.  We looked and looked for it.  Luckily the checkout boy let us use the coupon anyway which was good because 8oz of this is close to $8 which is insane as you'll soon learn.

I knew immediately that being unsweetened meant this would be too bitter for the vast majority or people but I wanted to try it.  I had two others to share some with and we each tried it with nothing added then added a few things to sweeten it.  We used 1% milk for this experiment, mixing the chocolate in at 2 tablespoons per servings (3 servings) as per the instructions.  The mix worked very well when I used a whisk to beat it into the warmed milk and it stayed fairly well blended throughout the time we experimented and drank it.

The first thing I added was some marshmallows and I let them melt and melt.

Nope, still too bitter for me.

We each ended up adding in 2 teaspoons of Splenda to the cocoa and that took just enough of the bitterness away that we were able to enjoy it.

This is where the price becomes a serious concern for many of you, I'm sure, Sisters and Brothers.  If you are paying $1 a serving for unsweetened hot chocolate mix when you could (hopefully) find it sweetened for the same amount, why get the unsweetened?  The sugar or whatever you add will also cost money, right?  The only reason is that you have a family with wildly variable tastes for sweetness and you want to have the freedom to individually doctor your drinks.  But if like us, your tastes are about the same, I say try to find the type all ready sweetened.  If I had the choice, that is what I would go with myself.

So you tell me.  Why do you choose unsweetened hot chocolate mix?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Pie

Today, Sisters and Brothers, is "National Pie Day" which means for us here in The Chocolate Cult it must be chocolate.  Originally my plan was to try something from one of the two cookbooks I have on my reviews shelf but my assistant, our own Chocolate Fruit Acolyte, was ill so I tried something I had all the necessary ingredients on hand for.  I used one of my older cookbooks, "Nestle Recipe Collection" from 1987 and published by Crescent Books.  The book had been a gift from my first roommate in college.

I changed this recipe so while I'm crediting it as appropriately to the "Nestle Recipe Collection" I am going to give you the recipe below.  I added more chocolate because I just felt it needed more.  So in place of a traditional crust I used a pre-made chocolate crust from Wholly-Wholesome that I bought at our local food co-op when it was on sale.  We can't use tree nuts here, too dangerous because of an allergy, so I substituted more chocolate chips for the chopped walnuts and the raisins -- the raisins simply because I just didn't think it sounded very good.  The chips were from Oppenheimer which I found on clearance at our local Kroger plus two ounces of left over chips of the store brand variety.

Here's the list of ingredients I use:

1/4 C Splenda Brown Sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
1/2 C Egg Beaters
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of chocolate chili powder
1/2 tsp orange extract
12oz chocolate baking chips
1/2 C quick oats, uncooked
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  In my mixer I beat together sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and orange extra, and cinnamon and chocolate chili powder.  I beat it all for about two minutes.  Then I added in the chips.  Please note that these are a bit smaller than some baking chips and I think that works better in bread, cakes or pies.  Finally add in the oatmeal until it is all blended.  It will be sticky.

Pour into pie shell.  I had to use a spoon to get it all out because it was so sticky. Please note that it almost filled the crust to the rim but was just a tad under that.  Which is good because it rose just a tad as it baked.  Then you let it bake for 45 minutes in my oven at least.  I wish we could afford a better oven but our dish washer's motor has died so we must save for a new one of those first.

This is what it looked like right out of the oven.  You can see that it rose up in the middle but that sunk down as it cooled.  I made sure it was firm but not crisp to the touch before I removed it because sticking a touch pick in it was only coming out chocolate.

We let it cool for 30 minutes and then my husband, our Milk Chocolate Acolyte, cut it into 8 pieces.  He and I split one then I fed my Ghoul gaming group the rest. 

Check out that dark, googy, chocolaty inside.  The top was nice and crisp, the inside a bit sticky but very rich. The crust was a bit too hard but over all it had a good cocoa flavor.  Over all impressions seemed quite positive.

So how are you celebrating "National Pie Day" today, Sisters and Brothers?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kara's Assorted Truffles

Today, Sisters & Brothers, we return to Kara Chocolates for our Sacrament.  You can find a previous review of their truffles around Easter last year since some of them had an Easter theme.  Chocolatiers and companies know that we get many products here and we like to mix things up.  It may be months and months between reviews of their products even if they need to be consumed fairly quickly.  We want to keep things interesting and space out the same creator's products.  This might mean that we write reviews months before you see them which is one of the most wonderful things about computers and backing things up in your Chocolate Priestess's opinion.

The second offering that Kara Chocolates sent us was a box of assorted truffles in four flavors: Chocolate, Orange, Blackberry, and Gingerbread.  That last one is unique to me so I'm looking forward to discovering which one it is.  Discovery is what this will be since they are not described on the website or on the box.  They do have a slightly different color and type of sprinkles or flakes on their tops so I'll use those along with my nose to try and guess before taking a bite.  But if you are regular reader, you know that often just looks and scent can be misleading.  The box has 2.8 servings which makes it a bit difficult to figure out the nutrition but here's my attempt.  The box has 8 truffles so approximately 2.8 of them make up a serving.  That's impossible to divide so let's multiple the information for the nutrition then divide by two since you could eat one of each type call that a serving.  If we do that, then half the box has 294 calories, 7g saturated fat, 7mg cholesterol, 42mg sodium, 2.8g fiber, 30.8g sugars, 2.8g protein and some calcium and iron.  All of these are milk chocolate truffles by the way so there is dairy here along with soybean oil for those of you with allergies.  It also has some artificial colors and preservatives.

Enough of calculating, let's try them starting from the top and working our way down one side.  Remember, I don't eat an entire truffle when I try these for you, Sisters and Brothers, we have assistants who eat the rest as well as friends who love visiting to try something new each week. If I ate every thing I was sent, I'd be around 400 pounds and probably having serious health problems.  Chocolate can be a healthy part of your day but only in moderation and the darker the better.

The first truffle has mostly chocolate flecks on it but also some glazing so my initial guess is that this will be the chocolate truffle.  It has a very sweet scent so I'm a bit concerned it may not be just chocolate before I take a bite.  Nope, this is the Chocolate Truffle with a semi-solid center under a milk chocolate coat that looks very hand-dipped with its uneven texture.  The center grows in cocoa intensity and ends up tasting darker than I expect with a milk chocolate truffle which greatly surprises and pleases me.

The second truffle has orange or red crystals over it with a glaze as well.  I smell a hint of spice so I'm wondering if this is the orange or the gingerbread truffle.  This is the Orange Truffle but it has a tangy, spicy kick to it as well as an intense orange flavor when I take the first bite.  That orange flavor lingers and it remains me of the darker blood oranges I've had.  The result is a surprisingly complex blend of flavors from creamy, to spicy, to sweet and ending with a tangyness.

The third truffle has a sparkly crystal and glaze over it along with a kick of spice to its scent so it must be the Gingerbread Truffle.  Biting into it, I am immediately drawn to several flavors -- ginger and cinnamon definitely but at least one other I can't quite place.  But this tastes just like if I made a gingerbread cookie and dipped it in milk chocolate and dark chocolate without the crunch of the cookie.  The spice lingers but does not overpower the dark chocolate center.

The final truffle must be the blackberry given the purple crystals and glazing over the milk chocolate cover.  Indeed it has a strong blackberry scent but hopefully it won't have those tiny seeds that I really dislike about the fruit.  The center here is much softer than the other truffles but still relatively solid.  The blackberry is there, no seeds, but it blends so well with the darker center that I can just make it out as a sweet afterglow.  For something who isn't overly fond of blackberry this is actually a great thing.  I'm pretty sure the softness comes from the fruit juice used in this.

Kara Chocolates has a success with these four flavors.  I have to give the greatest praise to the Gingerbread Truffle for it's uniqueness and ability to blend spices that could easily over power any other flavor with the milk and dark chocolates in these truffles. All four flavors are good and this makes them all worthy Sacraments.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trio of Milka

Originally, Sisters & Brothers, I wanted to do this post as a review of three types of Milka brand chocolate bars which I found on sale at our local co-op, Bloomingfoods.   However the condition of one of the bars prevents an honest review of anything other than the store itself so with that in mind, please keep reading.

The first bar we tried was the "Alpine Milk" which is milk chocolate.  This is made in Germany but distributed by Kraft.  It had a very creamy and milky flavor and oddly the ingredients list hazelnut paste yet it cause my husband, who is allergic to tree nuts, no problems.  We didn't check, it was supposed to be just a milk chocolate bar after all.  Weird.  It had that strange buttery flavor that we found in the Aldi's chocolate if you recall from that post-Christmas review.

Next we tried the "Bitter Cikolata" bar and here we saw a big problem the store itself caused.  You see, one of the reasons you need to keep chocolate under temperature and moisture controls is that both can cause bloom.  If the bar gets to hot then cools down, fats will start to separate out and raise to the top.  Take a look and see how that affects what the bar looks like in this photo.  Yep, the store had poorly manage temperatures before it put this bar on sale.  Don't believe it if you've read or heard the bloom does not affect flavor -- it does!  Best to use such damaged chocolates for melting.

Finally I enlisted my White Chocolate Acolyte to try the "Beyaz Cikolata" bar from Milka.  He said it was creamy and had a strong resemblance to almond bar; he wanted pretzels with it!  That was odd because this is made with cocoa butter, real white chocolate, and almond bark is not.  For me personally, the white was just too creamy and too sweet for my tastes but you know I prefer darker chocolates.

I'm sure that Milka has more flavors but those are the ones I found on sale at our local co-op and decided to give a try.  Two were worth the $1.99 but the dark one had been far too damaged and shouldn't have even been sold for a dollar.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chocolate Lovers Need to Care about The Ivory Coast

I hope you've all seen in the various news outlets that the Ivory Coast is going through some political problems revolving around their last national elections but certainly not limited to them.


The Ivory Coast or the Republic of the Cote D'Ivoire is a West African coastal country.  Here's a map of the general area if you aren't sure where it is.

So some country in Africa, where most of you do not live, I'm guessing, Sisters and Brothers, has some political troubles.  Why should you care?  Aside from the fact that it might be a good human quality to care about others regardless of where they live or that our globe is actually growing smaller in terms of governmental and political actions, our Cult is really the reason you all might want to care a bit more.

The Ivory Coast produces about 43% of the world's cocoa.  43% making it the leader by an amazing percentage.  The Ivory Coast produces 2.78 times the amount of cocoa from Indonesia which is #2 in every list of cacao producing countries I could find.

We've talked before on The Chocolate Cult about the role of piracy in the price of chocolate and piracy is not decreasing at all as far as my scanning of news and cocoa organization reports can show. Remember piracy not only steals cocoa but also introduces disease and insects into new ecosystems that will harm crops plus captured cocoa booty is most often destroyed and simply removed from the market all together.

Hording in The Ivory Coast in 2010 preceded a jump in cocoa prices, a jump you may or may not have noticed.  Many of the chocolatiers I spoke with in the past year said they were struggling because they worried about rising prices and losing sales yet the materials needed to make their products was going up -- sugar as well by the way.

Now imagine what might happen if political struggles turned large scale and foreign or native military forces started fighting in the country.  We might hope they'd know the value of the plantations but let me tell you that agricultural land throughout history is often a target of armies and smaller forces because it seems like a sound tactic to weaken the other side through limiting their food or their income.  Of course, a military might decide to control rather than destroy.

Either way, chocolate prices go up.

I don't want to sound the alarm as some news articles have by bemoaning this idea that chocolate will cost $100 a 2oz bar within the century. I think that scientific developments, greater understanding of cacao plants, and changing climate conditions might have decreased The Ivory Coast's lead a bit but I think you all best be prepared to pay more for your chocolate in the next decade or so before new countries or increased crops from other areas develop. 

This is why it is important to read blogs or reviews like The Chocolate Cult.  You'll get an idea of what you should or might want to spend money on before you do.  We pledge to never take money for or reviews so that you are assured that we will provide you with as much full sensory information in as unbiased a fashion as we can in our "Saturday Sacraments" and our "Special Sacramental Reviews".   Other reviews will also be as unbiased as we can though they are unlikely to be as sensory descriptive.

So now is the time to start following us, commenting, and getting those you care about to read us, too.  We are going to save you money and help you make the best decisions about chocolate.  That's part of our mission here on The Chocolate Cult.

A large part of today's post was made possible by the following sources:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cocoa & Nuts in Vancouver

Sisters and Brothers, today we will look at the final offering from CocoaNymph, a Vancouver chocolatier.  Previously we looked at their Sea Nymph bar and 8 flavors of their bons.  Today we're going to look at two types of flavored tree nuts, only one of which has chocolate so that is the only one that will get a full sensory review.

The "Bee Stings" are a 200g tub of chocolate, really cocoa covered almonds with honey and sea salt.  No nutritional information came with this so just don't go crazy and eat the entire tub in one sitting but almonds can be healthy for you in the right amounts.  The cocoa was very strong and dark both in flavor and in scent.  Don't take too big of a whiff though when you open the tub or you may be tempted to sneeze; don't worry I turned my head and even stood up to walk a few steps away before I sneezed.  The almonds appear to be both whole and halves or parts of the nuts and since they are fully coated with the cocoa this must be the way the nuts were before treatment.  They make nice soft crunchy sounds with each chew and have that earthly almond essence you expect from the nut.  The honey adds a hint of sweet to the bitter cocoa and there is a salty kick to them.  Primarily you taste the almond itself and the cocoa.

The other tub is "Emilia's Walnuts" which are walnuts covered in a glaze of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  No cocoa or chocolate so I can't really review them other than to say that personally the vinegar was a bit too strong for my personal tastes.  Yes, CocoaNymph, contrary to it's name, does offer confections that are not chocolate.

If you liked the description of the these almonds  from CocoaNymph then you must check them out.  For our reader in Vancouver, please do let us know if you've visited their brick and mortar store at 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma) and what  you thought of it.  Just so you know, the two varieties we looked at today are not on the website. This probably means they offer seasonal nut treats so keep checking back in or visit the store.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TCHO Drinking Chocolate Revealed

With a new year and winter, it is time again for our Wednesday series of hot chocolate drink reviews. Some of these will be regular reviews, products your Chocolate Priestess purchased, some of these will be Sacramental Reviews, products that a company or chocolatier sent to us to review.  2011 starts with a a product we were sent from TCHO and which we waited many months of hot, humid weather until it was the right conditions to have hot chocolate again.

The drinking chocolate came in a 10.6oz silver tin box which contains about 7 servings if you go with the 3T of the chocolate per drink. Some of you may want to go with 4T but I can't recommend 2T unless you like weak hot chocolate.  Just the chocolate pieces in this tin have 240 calories per serving made of 9g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 18g sugars, 4g protein, with 4% calcium and 15% iron.  The tin says that you can use water to make this but I've never been a fan of using water for hot cocoa unless the mix I'm using has dried milk in it all ready.  This does not but given the nutritional contents I wanted to try it with just skim milk.

That didn't taste very good.  Look at what is inside the tin.  See that?  It is simply small pieces of dark chocolate with some sugar and some cocoa powder.  Imagine that in water and you can almost feel your lips and mouth tensing up from the bitterness.  The skim milk didn't offer much to curb what would be a nice level of bitterness to me for, let's say, a truffle, but for something I'm drinking, I want more smoothness.

The nutritional information though is a challenge to wanting that creaminess.  Even skim milk added more calories, fat, sugars and proteins.  I made a compromise and decided to try it again with 2% milk but I needed more people to share it with since we have only skim milk 99% of the time in our house.  A wonderful friend came over and so we had her try it with us.  We thought the 2% had a good balance to the bitter dark chocolate but she wanted a bit more of the chocolate.  That's your choice, the directions say 3-4T but remember that if you go for 4T then the nutritional values go up in all categories.

The tin claims that you can also use this to make a cold chocolate drink.  But take a look at what you have to do with this chocolate.  You need the steaming milk to melt the chocolate pieces.  They start melting right away since they are additive free but you do need to stir them.  To cool it down seems like a lot of extra work to me involving both chilling it and adding ice which of course would water it down and lessen the cocoa buzz.  As a hot drink, this does indeed give us that cocoa rush that you want from good chocolate.

We like TCHO because its straightforward in its approach to chocolate and to packaging.  No fancy colors or boxes, no unnecessary ribbons or difficult to recycle packaging, no new flavors combinations or additives.  Only the basics and sometimes that is honestly all you need or want.  Add into that that they practice fair trade policies and you have a good reason to curl up with a steaming cup this winter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

DOVE Chocolate Discoveries Party

In 2010, your Chocoolate Priestess made a connection via LinkedIn with a woman who worked with the DOVE Chocolate Discoveries network.  Think of them as a sort of Avon or Tupperware party/sells pitch but with chocolate.  I reviewed the samples she sent me and then I sent out a call for another DOVE independent chocolatier nearer to my home.  I also visited and sent a message via the main DOVE Chocolate Discoveries website saying I was looking for someone.  I was contacted by a nice woman named Renee Reed who lives right in my town and we sent up a party.  That's her doing some set up in my house this past Saturday, January 8, 2011.

I had 12 RSVPs for the party, Renee's advice was to keep it fairly small, but we had more snow than we expected and some of the guests canceled at the last minute because of illness or work.  I was worried.  I didn't want our presenter to have made treats and then have no one there and I didn't want to pressure my guests to buy though they were fully aware of what type of party this was.  In total we had 10 people so there were a few leftovers of what Renee prepared but she was pretty close to the right amount.

We set up the living room and our presenter went back and forth from the dining room.  If I do this again, I'm going to move the table closer to the front room or have it in the basement were there is more space undivided by walls.  Renee had the Fall/Holiday 2010 catalogs and pens for everyone and handed those out to begin.  Then she went through the catalog and showed us products, discussing what she liked best, the challenges of working with chocolate, and the benefits of DOVE products.

She began with the "Instant Gratification" products you can buy and eat right from the bag.  Now, the Milk Chocolate Acolyte was a bit disappointed when we talked about what to buy.  He wanted something he could eat without work but he didn't see the DOVE products he was used to in the catalog.  I had to explain again that this was a way to get DOVE products that you just can't by walking into grocery or mass merchandise store.  Renee gave everyone some of the Chardonnay Wine Brittle with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs -- something I reviewed in 2010.  We ended up ordering the Cinnamon Apples a la mode which has white chocolate since it was a new product and we hoped everyone in our household would try it.

Then we talked about drinks.  When I contracted with Renee to do the party, she gave me several choices in the categories she would give out samples from.  I wanted to make sure we did all three major chocolate groups -- white, milk, and dark -- and as much as I could, something I hadn't reviewed for the other chocolatier.  For the beverage category I picked the Aztec Spice.  I received mine in a fancy cup since I was the hostess.  People seemed to like it though some wanted more spice in it.  I know that some folks ordered not the hot beverages but the alcoholic drink kits.

Renee next shared some candies she'd made using DOVE chocolate but also their molds, transfer sheets and a tempering unit you can buy from them.  Unfortunately we have limited three-prong outlets in our house, apparently in 1960 they didn't know about them (?!?!), so she couldn't directly demonstrate it.  But our Chocolate Fruit Acolyte was in attendance and she and I know first hand that tempering can be tricky.

Under Desserts, Renee tried something for the first time for our party: the Chocolate Baking Mix.  This mix isn't limited to only making cakes, or cookies, or breads, but is more like a general mix that contains several basic ingredients. You add this for cake, that for cookies, another ratio for another product.  She made us nice dark cookie.  Then she gave us samples of the chocolate mousse as well to sample.  Now, I was told not to eat the little samples and soon, as hostess, I had this beautiful bowl of the cookies, the mousse, and strawberries in a trifle dessert.  It was very delicious!

Finally we ended the party with two fondues, one milk chocolate and one white chocolate, with dipping treats that I supplied.  That was all I had to supply -- dipping things and the space.  The fondue kits including the warming bowls and trays are also from DOVE Chocolate Discoveries.   It took Renee about 45 minutes to set up and we had a nice chat while she was doing so.

While people were nibbling, they asked questions and browsed the catalog.  Renee didn't pressure people and she was willing to go online and find any special offers or deals that were currently available.  One of our Mocha Acolyte's let her borrow his iPad to get the information.

Most guests bought one or two things.  We bought one and then I qualified for a free gift so I choose 6 packets of the mousse mix since that is something I don't make often but I could see doing several things with.  I also received a little gift bag from Renee with samples of some other products like the chocolate-covered espresso beans, covered nuts and fruit, and some of the more readily available DOVE candies individually wrapped.

Everything that was ordered is going to be delivered to me and then I'll contact the guests and hand out what they bought.  This is wise because it saves on packing materials which as you know, Sisters and Brothers, can be a lot of both recyclable but also non-recyclable materials.

Renee Reed was a good presenter.  She was funny and honest, she tried to engage with each guest as much as the layout of my house allowed.  I would highly recommend that you visit her site and look into hosting your own party or just ordering from her.  I hope that some of my guests also leave comments here giving you their views of the party.  I would definitely consider doing another party in the future but I'd want to make sure it was at a time when some of the guests who couldn't make it this time, could make it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fairytale Start to 2011

Your Chocolate Priestess and her team of Acolytes have revealed candy bars, ice cream, cookies, cake, fancy and mainstream chocolates to you for the past 21 months.  But rarely have we discussed brownies.  Today that changes as we look at a huge sample we were sent by Fairytale Brownies. We learned that not only do they make generous brownies but they support the development of playgrounds for kids.  Getting every one of us up and on our feet for some part of the day is healthier for all of us but especially for children when our lifetime habits may be set.

I had five of our six Acolytes help me with this review because there were a dozen 3oz brownies in this sample.  Each brownie was approximately 5/8 inch thick and 2 7/8 inches square.  Each was individually wrapped with their flavor on the front and clear nutritional values and ingredients lists on the back.  These are made on machines that process peanuts and tree nuts which may be important of those of you with more severe allergies, Sisters and Brothers.  Each brownie is actually two servings so keep that in mind when we reveal the nutritional information.  The brownies varied from very fudgy to more cake like.  We're going to reveal them in the order we sampled them over the course of about two weeks.  Remember that Moderation is very important here on The Chocolate Cult.

The Original brownie had a crisp top with a very fudgy brownie making up about 95% of it.  It has a solid cocoa scent and feels very heavy in my hand.  The first bite is a burst of smooth yet sweet chocolate that lingers on my tongue for some time.  The next bite reveals a buttery essence as well but the chocolate remains the primary component in this simple brownie.  One serving, or half of it, remember to keep this in mind for every paragraph, has 200 calories, 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 100mg sodium, 1g fiber, 17g sugars, 2g protein. In terms of allergens this has eggs, wheat and dairy.

The next brownie was Caramel which also had a crisp top, a fudgy layer, a caramel layer and finally a cake-like layer.  Four texture in one brownie!  It has the same allergens as the Original but with soy as well.  It also has more to think about when you want to snack at 240 calories, 8g saturated fat, 53mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 24g sugars, and 2g protein.  Apparently I didn't note the sodium but I'm 100% sure it must have some.  This Caramel brownie has a sweet cocoa scent but a mixture of flavors starting with a sweet chocolate, a tangy caramel, and a more smooth chocolate.  The caramel is sticky and even adheres to my teeth a bit.

Mint Chocolate was the next variety next, identified by chocolate drizzle on the top and a light mint scent with the cocoa.  This has wheat, eggs, soy and dairy if you have allergies.  This also has two types of chocolate in it -- the Belgian chocolate that makes up the bulk of every flavor plus a semi-sweet chocolate which is likely the drizzle on top.  At 220 calories per serving you'll get 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 95mg sodium, 1g fiber, 19g sugars, and 2g protein.  When you take a bite, the mint essence increases, tickling your nose as the crisp top and fudgy bulk provide you with a sweet chocolate edged with the coolness of the mint.  Eventually the mint overpowers the cocoa and lingers on your tongue for some time.

The Raspberry Swirl as you can see had these sort of chevrons of a raspberry jelly like mixture on the crispy top.    The raspberry scent was very light and the raspberry taste was very mild at first, turning more tart with each bite.  If you focus on a raspberry section you'll get the tartness at a concentrated level but it works well with the sweet chocolate of the brownie.  Our Chocolate Fruity Acolyte thought it tasted a bit artificial and the ingredients say that both artificial and natural flavors were used in the swirl part.  This has wheat, eggs and dairy again and has 200 calories made of 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 95mg sodium, 1g fiber, 17g sugars, and 2g protein.

The Cream Cheese brownie obviously has dairy in it but also eggs and wheat.  Surprisingly this was not the most calories intense weighing in at 225 calories made of 9g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol, 105mg sodium, 1g fiber, 20g sugars, and 3g protein.  You can see the swirls of the cream cheese on the less crisp top and it goes a bit deeper than the raspberry did.  The chocolate is both sweet and very deeply cocoa but the cream cheese sections have a tartness to them which you should expect if you've had cream cheese before.

I had to try the Pecan brownie by myself since the timing of trying it meant that Acolytes available don't like or can't have tree nuts.  Beyond tree nuts, your allergy concerns include dairy, eggs, and wheat.  I counted 7 entire pecan halves on this brownie, mostly on the crisp top layer but some sunk into the cake-like layer.  This has a very smooth chocolate essence that blends well with the pecans.  The pecans are still quite crunchy even though these are created, packed and shipped out.  Refrigerate your brownies for up to a month to preserve their quality by the way, Sisters and Brothers. The nuts are also very tender as well as crunchy, I have to say these are some of the best pecans I've had in a year.  Sadly I ended up eating the entire thing over the course of a day which means I had 460 calories, 14g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 1g fiber (I would expect more with these nuts), 32g sugars, and 6g protein.  EEK!  No wonder I put on weight over the winter holiday season.

After that I made sure I shared these with one to three other people but still this was a lot for me to eat.  The Chocolate Chip brownie has both Belgian and semi-sweet chocolate in it as the Mint variety did.  It has eggs, dairy, soy and wheat as well as 210 calories per serving (1/2 brownie) made of 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 95mg sodium, 18g sugars, and 2g protein.  You can see that the chocolate chips clustered in areas on top of the brownie.  This had the strongest chocolate scent of all the brownies.  The bitterness of the chips set off the mild chocolate of the cake-like brownie.  The chips did crunch a bit as I expect when morsels cool down.

The Walnut I shared with another Acolyte so I wasn't overwhelmed as I felt I was by the Pecan variety.  Obviously this has tree nuts but also dairy, eggs, and wheat.  It also has 230 calories per serving made of 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 95mg sodium, 1g fiber, 16g sugars, and 3g protein.   This has a balance of chocolate and walnut scent when I open the package.  The walnuts are broken up more than the pecan were but the pieces are still very sizable.  The nuts are crunchy and meaty but they fade into the background making the mild, sweet chocolate essence primary in this cake-like brownie.

The Toffee Crunch was indeed crunchy but also buttery if you bite directly into one of the sections of toffee.  The scent was also very buttery but the cocoa balanced it well. This brownie was more fudgy than the previous few brownies I've revealed.  The cocoa had a difficult time competing with the tangy butteryness of the toffee which stuck to my teeth a bit.  The toffee was not made from nuts so I could share this with Acolytes without worry.  Because the toffee pieces are so big, as you should be able to see in the photo, you could eat around them and get the nice mild chocolate of the brownie itself.  Regardless you'll get 240 calories for 1/2 this brownie made of 8g saturated fat, 60mg cholesterol, 143mg sodium, 1g fiber, 21g sugars, and 2g protein.

One of out two Mocha Acolytes came over and tried the Espresso Nib brownie which has dairy, wheat, and eggs in it.  I sent him on with the entire brownie so eventually he consumed 450 calories, 16g saturated fat, 120mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 1g fiber, 36g sugars, and 6g protein.  The brownie was very smooth but the nibs were a bit chewy as well as adding a touch of crunch.  The more you chew, the more the coffee flavor came out.  The nibs added texture almost distracted our Mocha Acolyte from the flavors blending but over all he found it a nicely balanced brownie that was better than he suspected it might be after the first bite.

The Peanut Butter brownie obviously has peanuts but also dairy, eggs and wheat.  One serving of it has 220 calories containing 7g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 110mg sodium, 1g fiber, 16g sugars, and 3g protein.  Are you seeing the trend, Sisters and Bothers?  Added tree nuts or peanuts increases the protein by 50% but oddly does not seem to affect the fiber.    You can see the ribbons of peanut butter on the top crispy layer are thinner than the other swirled or ribboned varieties.  The principle scent when I opened this was the peanut essence.  In terms of the brownie itself, the chocolate is the dominant flavor and the peanut butter has a sweet and slightly salty taste buried in the more cake-like bulk of the treat.

Finally we get to the 12th flavor, White Chocolate, which I obviously shared with our White Chocolate Acolyte. This has actual white chocolate as well as Belgian chocolate in it.  For you who have allergy concerns this has dairy, eggs, soy and wheat.  Half of it has 220 calories composed of 8g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 100mg sodium, 1g fiber, 19g sugars, and 2g protein.  You can see that the white chocolate drizzle covers most of the top but that isn't the only place we found it.  Inside the fudgy brownie were crunchy little bits of white chocolate as well. The white chocolate is very smooth and creamy which our Acolyte really enjoyed a lot.  It blended well with the mild chocolate of the brownie hiding most of the bitterness even milk chocolate can have.  So this is for the white chocolate lover in particular.

The great thing about brownies is that they can cross that border between cake lovers and cookie lovers by being a bit of both.  So if you know someone who loves brownies but doesn't have the time to bake or who lives too far from you to sample your homemade treats, check out Fairytale Brownies.  As you treat them you are also helping children have more playgrounds since part of their profits go toward building such areas for kids.  For for their flavors, texture and forethought, Fairytale Brownies are a worthy Sacrament.

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