Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chocolate Planner for August 2012

August gets very hot and often humid in ever city or town I've ever lived in.  Other than ice cream not much chocolaty was around but there are several fun food holidays for the coming month that you could celebrate with chocolate either because it is cooler where you live or it is just so hot you might as well use the stove or oven.

August 2 = National Ice Cream Sandwich Day -- Wait aren't we at the end of an entire month for ice cream?  This day must be in the wrong month.

August 5 = National Waffle Day -- I've made chocolate ones, I've added chocolate to waffles, what about you?

August 6, 1826 = Birthday of Joseph Storrs Fry II -- I'll do a post about him.

August 10 = National S’mores Day; also the birthday of Henri Nestlé -- I'll do a post about this man as well.

August 12 = John Cadbury Birthday (1801-1889) -- This one, too.  August saw the birth of several historical chocolate figures it looks like.

August 18 = National Soft Serve Ice Cream Day -- Again another "in the wrong month" fun food holiday.  July, folks, July.

August 20 = National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day -- Here we go, specifically for a chocolate pecan pie... I saw celebrate both days with chocolate.

August 24 = National Waffle Day -- Two fun food holidays with the same label in the same month?  Crazy.  I'll try to figure this out for you.

August 27 = National Pots de Crème Day -- I have never made these.  You know if this date was in the winter I would promise to try to make them.

August 30 = National Toasted Marshmallow Day -- When I think marshmallows I still think chocolate...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

TCHO for National Milk Chocolate Day

Today, July 28th, is "National Milk Chocolate Day" but TCHO is probably not a brand you strongly associate with milk chocolate.  That is because until last year, they didn't make milk chocolate anything.  We've looked at their dark chocolate before but today, in this pre-written feature, we will reveal their milk chocolate in it's full glory.  We have high hopes for TCHO based on their performance with dark chocolate so let's see if they can meet those standards in the world of milk chocolate.  They call their product "SeriousMilk" and I think we'll see why in just a minute.  Note: this feature was pre-written months ago and then scheduled for a later date but it was still written live during the testing of the chocolate.

We can see above that we have two of their bigger bars, "Classic" and "Cacao," as well as a cube of six small bars.  We've featured the four dark bars before, here, so we won't touch on those again.  Please do check out that post though and feel free to leave comments now on it; that's the great thing about the Internet, we can get feedback months and years later.  Your feedback, Sisters and Brothers, is our reward since we do not charge anything for our feature reviews.

The SeriousMilk bars do have whole and non-fat milk powder in them but they are much higher cacao content that I imagine most American readers will be familiar with. The blue wrapper has the "Classic" version with 39% cacao in it.  The larger bar is 3 5/8th inch square and 0.25 inches thick; the smaller bar is the same thickness but 1.5 inch square meaning that is bigger than one of the sections on the large bar.  This had the same flowing hatch pattern etched on the top of the bar as the darker bars do.  It feels slicker and has a creamier scent when I hold it in my finger tips, it even starts to melt a bit.  The bar makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  As I chew I get a burst of sugary, creamy cocoa that turns sweeter but in a tangy, almost caramel like fashion even though no caramel is included. This is the natural reactions of the cacao and other ingredients and the result is a little cocoa buzz with a coated mouth of creamy sweetness.  Letting it melt brings out more of this caramel-like flavor as well as increasing the creaminess.

The brown wrapper holds the 53% "Cacao" bar and this is now pushing into the range that big names like Hershey call "dark chocolate."  Our final photo will compare the two in terms of color but right now I can smell this is much stronger in terms of cocoa, the scent is more earthly and intense.  It makes a slightly louder snap when I take a bite.  Immediately there is chocolate but with each bite it gets thicker and deeper, indeed like fudge in terms of texture and flavor with each bite.  Letting it melt in my mouth seems to create a more hot cocoa like flavor, not as thick and not as sticky for some reason.    For both of these, your Chocolate Priestess prefers to chew rather than let them melt and generally it is the other way around for me.

So there we have it, the relatively new milk chocolate from TCHO. They call these "SeriousMilk" for a reason. The amount of cacao in each is much higher than many of our American readers will be familiar with but also higher than European readers may normally call milk chocolate.  All of this chocolate is certified organic, kosher, and uses no slave labor; important social factors for many of us here on The Chocolate Cult. For all of these reasons, the SeriousMilk from TCHO is as worthy as Sacrament as their dark chocolate has been.  Great job TCHO, keep it up.  Sisters and Brothers, you need to try TCHO, you really, really need to give them a try.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lindt R.S.V.P. Party Report

Way back in May, Saturday, May 12th to be exact, your Chocolate Priestess hosted a Lindt R.S.V.P. Party for eleven people in my home.  You might recall if you have been with us for a while that early in 2011 we had a DOVE Discoveries party at our headquarters as well.  Thus having had two professional chocolate parties now, we will be making comparisons.  Our Consultant was Melanie McCool (how awesome of a name is that?) who had been doing these parties for about eight months at that time.  Her you can see her getting ready for the party that was primarily held in our living room  that flows into our dinning room.  See how happy she looks and wouldn't you be happy too if you had this sort of job.

The party primarily centered around trying different ready made products from Lindt.  In this photo you can see the range we tried as well as other items you could order from their catalogs.  We sampled several different bars and some of the European chocolates you can only get from the catalogs here in the USA.  Melanie did a good job of telling us what was in the bars when we asked so that people with allergies could avoid what they needed to.  Always so sad when allergies prevent you from having chocolate I think.  Part of the Lindt R.S.V.P. program involves trying to educate the guests about chocolate.  One of the downsides of coming to a Chocolate Cult event is that many of the people there will all ready know a good deal about chocolate.  Melanie had no problem getting our guests to talk about their five senses as they sampled.  I felt this threw her a bit because just like any home sells program the vendor has a script she/he should be following but after a few samples and questions from the group she recovered well.

Part of the party is an activity and there Melanie worked with me to choose something more unique.  She sent me dark chocolate and a recipe earlier and I made very dark, low-flour brownies.  Then I set out sprinkles and other decorations along with a chocolate frosting Melanie brought and we had a brownie decorating pseudo-contest.  Only a few of us decorated, most just ate a brownie with or without frosting.  I cut huge brownies so guests had a lot of surface to work with.  This was the only homemade part of the party a stark contrast to the DOVE event where the majority of samples were baked goods and candies the chocolatier made for us.

Here is the winning brownie made by my hubby, our Chocolate Tea Acolyte.  He cut out a little stensil and went for a stained glasses pattern.

One of the most popular items from the catalog turned out to not be available so Melanie had to track down all the guests who ordered this variety.  This was unfair to not just the guests but also to Melanie and LINDT needs to work much harder to keep their consultants in the loop about what is and is not available.  When the shipment came to us I had only the guest copies of the order forms and not the changes.  Contacting the guests and Melanie allowed me to count out the products with one of our other Acolytes -- we were missing bars for several orders.  That required Melanie to go back to the company and we had to wait for another shipment.  Luckily the missing bars arrived in about a week and we weren't charged extra shipping.

One of the later comments I heard from guests as they came to pick up their chocolate was that they felt too much of the catalog were products they could just go to the stores near us to find but looking through the catalog again I think they just focused more on the bars or truffles and not the European only chocolates and other items that were available.  As you see above, I ordered a gift basket (as hostess I earned some money off so I could afford it) as well as a European product so I felt there was a better selection than many guests did. I haven't heard anything negative about the chocolate itself from my guests but I hope each of them will leave a comment and give you their impressions of the party.

In the final evaluation I think that LINDT R.S.V.P. program needs some work to be on par with the DOVE Chocolatiers program.  Their catalogs need to focus almost exclusively on items you cannot find in many stores and the parties should focus on sampling those products and handmade treats to generate sales. Consultants can only do so much with the materials they have and I believe they could so far more if given better tools.  I do want to thank Melanie McCool again and if you order through the LINDT R.S.V.P. program on your own, consider using her site.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cadbury on Ice Cream Bars

Blue Bunny has teamed up with Cadbury to introduce new ice cream bars this summer.  We were sent free coupons form Blue Bunny to try out even more of their products after they kindly hosted a giveaway last summer.  Last year we looked at 1.75 quart and boxes of various frozen treats from Blue Bunny so we're going to continue that this summer, spreading out the reviews a bit more since it is so hot where we are headquartered and I bet hot where many of you are reading, Sisters and Brothers.  Our nearby store didn't have all four varieties of the Cadbury bars so I picked this Caramello bar for two reasons.  I know what a Caramello bar should taste like so I can do a direct comparison between the candy bar and this ice cream treat.  However I also want to see if the chocolate coating can compete with both the vanilla ice cream and the caramel swirls.

Nutritionally I won't lie to you, the Caramello Ice Cream Bar this isn't a treat you should be eating multiple times a day.  The only upside nutritionally might be the potassium in it but then are you really looking at this bar thinking it will a healthy treat?  No, you are looking at this thinking "I like Caramello candy bars, I wonder if I'll like this?" right?  Well, let's take some bites and find out together.

The first thing I notice is that this has a scent that is unusual for most ice cream especially in terms of chocolate since cold in my experience really dulls the fragrance and often the flavor of our Sacred Substance.  This has a vanilla and creamy chocolate scent almost exactly as I get from a Caramello candy bar.  The bar itself is a bit smaller than other such products measuring only 3 inches long and about 1.5 inches at the width section along the bottom.  If you hold it near to the chocolate on the stick it will melt on your fingers as you eat the rest of the bar.

As with most ice cream products you can't just take your sweet time or it will melt so after giving it a good looking over and sniff, I took a bite that made a nice crunch through the coating.  In the photo to the left you can see the top after I bite some off.  The caramel is there but on another day I tried this treat again (I had to, right, so I could be certain for this review) and peeled off one section of the chocolate coating to show the caramel more clearly in the next photo.

The first flavor is the Cadbury milk chocolate that I believe has a unique flavor combination of chocolate, creaminess edging toward buttery, and vanilla.  Then the vanilla ice cream kicks in heightening the vanilla in the milk chocolate and the sweet tang of the caramel strikes next.  To the right you can see the caramel inside teh vanilla ice cream, note how it has a central point and then swirls out in ribbons that you hits with most bites.   Above and around these flavors remains the Cadbury milk chocolate and this results in an ice cream treat that completely resembles the candy bar as you'd want.  The ice cream's softness is an interesting twist on the normal harder chocolate with sticky caramel and in hot weather this is most welcomed.

In terms of chocolate I'm a bit confused by their label.  It lists a "chocolate flavored coating" but it is made of unsweetened chocolate and cocoa butter both so it might be a legal matter of the amount of chocolate versus other ingredients.  At least they aren't claiming to be something they aren't though I'd say for our definitions there are two types of cacao products and thus this is chocolate.  However, there are also a lot of added oils, fats, flavors, and chemicals and this means it isn't pure enough to really earn sacramental status from us.

There you go, Sisters and Brothers.  If you love Cadbury's Caramello candy bars, you will love this ice cream version from Blue Bunny.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Popsicle the Heat Away

I remember Popsicles growing up.  We often choose the cheaper brands or my mother made her own version but I still recall that when we did get them, they seemed better than the other brands or homemade (sorry mom).  My favorite, the Fudgsicle should come as no surprise to you all, Sisters and Brothers.  When Unilever sent us a freebie coupon for any popsicle product we wanted to feature I knew it had to be the Fudgsicle but there are now four varieties of these.  In an attempt to be a touch more health conscious, I wanted to try the sugar free variety in the hope it might taste more dark.  As you may recall I sometimes talk about our need to think of something other than chocolate and about others who may not like chocolate.  So I used this coupon to get a box of the Healthy Bunch so I'd practice what I preach.

In it are 6 Fudgsicles with only 35 calories eat made up of 1g saturated fat (from the cocoa and milk it is made with), 40mg sodium, 2g dietary fiber, 3g sugar alcohol, and 2g protein.  I really like that the nutritional facts are for both the one pop and the two pop serving you might have.  As you can see here, the Fudgsicle comes in a two sleeve pairing like the Creamsicle and the Popsicle in this box.  These two separate pops can be easily pulled apart without damaging the plastic sleeves so if you want to eat less or share with more people you may easily do so.

One Fudgsicle is about 4 inches in length but is not a perfect rectangle with two sides around 0.75 inches and the other two 1.25 inches wide.  It has really no scent as is common for many frozen chocolate treats.  If you wait to let it melt a bit, the fudge flavor comes through more strongly but over all the intensity of the artificial sweetener is fairly strong making this less dark than I had hoped.  The texture as it melts is part ice water and part pudding and that second essence does not change much even if you let it set in your mouth a bit.  However letting it set in your mouth does lessen the sweetness and intensifies the cocoa pudding flavor this has.  Not so much fudge then as pudding but since I find most fudge to be very sweet, I personally prefere this.  Compared to my memories of the original Fudgsicle this seems to hold up quite well; if I'd had two coupons or found a mixed box, I could have compared directly.

The Healthy Bunch is a good choice I think because you can get a bit of chocolate along with ice cream and frozen fruit flavored ice in one box.  I think this sugar-free variety is on par with the original and since it is using cocoa not just artificial flavors, I think it passes and can be a fine Sacrament on a warm day.  Just don't eat too many of them in one day if you have a problem with sugar alcohol in your system but then shouldn't we be practicing Moderation any way, Sisters and Brothers?

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Friend's Chocolate Pecan Torte

I've been so busy, Sisters and Brothers, that I forgot that I wanted to give you this interview and recipe yesterday since it was "National Pecan Pie Day" but better late than never, right?

This my good friend, Emilie Johnson.  I've known here since we moved to our current city way back in the summer of 1997.  We started graduate programs together, she at the master's level, I at the PhD level.  While she had continued to teach in higher education and I've turned to my writing full time, we still try to make time for each other.  You see what she is holding in her hands?  That is her amazing chocolate pecan pie and we'll get to her amazing baking in a while.  Let's just say that she is an award-winning pie maker.

She kindly agreed to not only share a recipe with us all but also tell me a bit about her baking and cooking in relationship to chocolate.  Her words in are italics.

Emilie, how long have you been cooking and baking?

I remember helping the women in my family make cookies when I was 3.

How did you learn to be as skilled and creative in the kitchen as I know you to be?

Practice and experimentation.  I almost never follow a recipe twice, I always change something.  

How long have you been working with chocolate and cocoa products in the kitchen?

Since I was three.  Yummm…chocolate chip cookies!

Given all the mass media concerns about weight and other health issues, it isn’t too surprising that chocolate is often in the middle of the debates, cited as an ingredient to avoid to or use.  Have any health concerns affected how you use chocolate in your own kitchen?  Why or why not?  If so, how has it affected things?  

I firmly believe that one way to health (and, indeed, even a healthy weight) is to eat “real food.”  Not fast food.  Not fake food, even “lite” food.  If I am going to spend hours making an elaborate dessert that I have been craving for days, then I am darn well going to use real chocolate and sugar and butter.  For a while, I used margarine instead of butter for health reasons, but it negatively impacted the taste and texture in almost everything I made.  Now, new research suggests we all would have been healthier eating butter all along!

Are there any particular challenges you’ve encountered when using chocolate or cocoa?

I almost never use a double boiler to melt chocolate anymore, it is too easy to burn yourself with steam or get a drop of water in the melting chocolate (which will cause it to “seize” or clump into useless lumps.)  I melt it in the microwave, carefully, as it is easy to burn chocolate that way.  I do wish that American manufacturers could all agree on exactly how much sugar is included in “bittersweet” and “semisweet” chocolate, so I could be sure of getting consistent results from recipes.  

How do you overcome those challenges?

If I know what chocolate brand the recipe was tested with, I record that on the recipe.  If not, I record what brands I have used with it and their results.  I write notes on my recipes a lot, even those in cookbooks.  If I made a substitution, if something could have been better, if I have an idea to try next time, I record it.

Have you ever had a failure with chocolate?

Oh, too many to count!  I made cookies with “white chocolate” that turned out to be rancid.  I made a chocolate cake with baking powder that must have been old, because it didn’t rise.  I over-whipped chocolate butter cream frosting until it separated.  Just last month, I doubled a chocolate cake recipe and turned out very dry.  I guess it was too delicate to be doubled.  (I am enclosing a picture of this cake, decorated to look like my dachshund.  At least it looked good.)

Her Pies, You Know You Want One
What is your greatest success with using chocolate?

I won third place at the Chocolate Fest in the category of “Perfect Pies” in 1998.  Okay, I confess:  there were only three entries!  But it was a really good pie:  chocolate pecan torte.  Almost too rich to eat!

Would you be willing to share that recipe with our Followers?

Of course, but it is a little bit complicated.  I even suggest you make sure you have a kitchen helper around, because there is a point where everything needs to be done quickly, with things at just the right temperature.

Finally, do you have a favorite cookbook of chocolate recipes, or do
you prefer family recipes?

Family recipes.  But I have always found Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines to have reliable, clear recipes.  I recently made their raspberry cream cheese brownies.  Quite possibly the best brownies ever!

As promised here is my good friend Emilie's recipe and trust me, Sisters and Brothers, this is indeed excellent!

Emilie’s Award-winning Rich Dark Chocolate Pecan Torte 

Pecan Crust:
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces 
vegetable cooking spray

Chocolate Filling:
10 bars (1.5 ounces each) Godiva Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups heavy cream (do not substitute, also called heavy whipping cream)

Cocoa Cream:
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the pecan crust:
. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray side and bottom of 9-inch springform pan with vegetable cooking spray.

. Place pecans, sugar, nutmeg, flour and butter in food processor bowl. Cover and process until nuts are ground and mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.

. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Make the chocolate filling::
. Place chopped chocolate in medium heavy saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in egg yolks.

. Heat heavy cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Slowly add hot cream to chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

. Loosen torte from side of pan. Remove side of springform pan. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.  For this to work, you need to remove the sides shortly after taking the torte out of the refrigerator, not 15 minutes later.  You may need to repair the edges a bit with crumbs from the crust that stuck to the pan.  
Make the cocoa cream: Beat cream, sugar, cocoa and vanilla in large bowl until soft peaks form, using electric mixer at high speed. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip with cocoa cream. Pipe shells or rosettes over top of torte, covering it completely. Or just spread the cocoa cream with a spatula.  

Notes:  don’t have a food processor?  A mixer can fill in, but you may need to process in two batches.  
Don’t have a springform pan?  A regular large pie plate will work, but you won’t be able to remove the sides for serving, you will have to serve from the pan.  
Variations:  I have made this with a graham cracker crust, and I think an Oreo crust would also be nice.  You can skip the cocoa cream or use plain whipped cream.  You can decorate with chocolate curls, chopped nuts, or pecan halves half covered in chocolate.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meet Chocolate Judge Catherine Black

Sisters and Brothers, today I want to introduce you all to Cat Black, a food writer and baking tutor who has also been a judge for prestigious chocolate competitions.  I thought talking with her would be a great way for us to learn about judging chocolate at these events.

Thank you, Cat, for agreeing to our email interview.

First, would you tell us how long you've been writing about food and judging chocolate?

I have been writing about food for the last few years. I have a baking column, a kind of first person narrative, tales from my kitchen, under the name Cookie Bellair. I write that for Cakes & Sugarcraft Magazine. If you look of my website; Chocolate Couverture, I have an archive of those articles on the features page. I have also written for The Spectator, for it’s food supplement Scoff, until that sadly became defunct last year.

As to judging chocolate, formally that is, The International Chocolate Awards this year was my first gig.

How did you get into writing about food?

I have always been a foodie, and taken my cooking, and eating, very seriously. I have cooked for other people, not just in my home, but bringing food to them, for as long as I can remember. About a decade ago that became something I was being asked, and then paid, to do. So for a couple of years I was working quite hard as a private caterer, everything from parties to full blown sugar-rose topped wedding cakes! My strength is really the sweet stuff.

During that time I met Beverley Dutton, whose businesses include Squires Kitchens Cookery School, where I teach baking occasionally, and Duttons Publishing. They publish Cakes & Sugarcraft and various wonderful glossy wedding cake magazines. I have always loved to write, and food is a natural subject for me, so all the while I had been writing about the cooking I was doing. Beverley asked to look at my writing, then rang and offered me my own column the next day.

Is the competition to be a food writer fierce?  How do you get yourself noticed?

Yes the competition is very fierce. I was at the Guild of Food Writers Annual Awards Ceremony the other night, and looked about me at a room full of the great and the good of the industry. There is a lot of talent, and you have to knock on doors really. I was lucky in that I was already working for someone whose empire includes both cookery schools and foodie publishing. And Beverley Dutton is very supportive of those people she feels have talent. I couldn’t ask for a better or more inspiring mentor.

How did you get started judging chocolate for competitions?

Well as I said, I have really only just started. But my special interest in chocolate has been life-long. As a child, particularly when in France where I have family and there was more variety available, I used to buy the best bars I could afford and I would compare them. I think I even made notes!

As an adult, I have written about chocolate for Cakes & Sugarcraft in some detail. I was aware of an increasing focus on it in terms of my interest, I was doing a lot of tasting, going to events, and focusing on it in my baking too. So I launched my website, and I have progressively been meeting and working with more and more people in the industry. They appear to have recognized in me a useful palate. It is on the back of that that I was invited, first to judge the semi-finals of this inaugural International Chocolate Awards, and then even to be involved in the pre-selection rounds.

How many times have you been a judge?

So I have been a judge for the pre-selection rounds, and then the European semi-finals, this first year of awards. I don’t yet know what the rest of the year will bring for me. The Americas round will be held in September, and then the World Final is in London in October during Chocolate Week.

What are the most important qualities in a good chocolate from a judge's viewpoint?  Are these qualities dependent on the competition or the individual judge's standards?

As a starting point nothing would be considered fine if it had any fats other than cocoa butter, or any artificial flavours. Of course any really off notes would be a no-no, for example chocolate ought not to taste of coconut. You also want a good texture and melt, with a small enough particle size. If something is a rustic product, with an intentionally different texture then that might be acceptable. But otherwise texture, and also quality of tempering and a good colour are basic points.

Beyond that, while each judge will inevitably have their preferences, you have to know how to recognize and reward quality. That would mean knowing when the beans have been well treated, not burnt. You need to be able to tell if you have indifferent beans masked with an excess of cocoa butter or sugar.

It is also important, and really of growing interest to all chocolate experts, to be aware of when a chocolate is true to the personality of its type of bean. Maricel Presilla (Grand Jury member of The International Chocolate Awards) has a great knowledge and focus on this. For example a Madagascan chocolate is likely to contain a fair amount of red fruit notes, even tropical fruit flavours. Whereas a Nicaraguan can have olive notes. Both are correct, you might like one more than the other. But a chocolate that is celebrating the true flavours of the bean should be rewarded.

As to your point about competition standards or individual judges standards being important. I don’t know how other competitions are run, but Martin Christy (co-founder) and the rest of the advisors on The International Chocolate Awards have gone to great lengths to develop judging forms and methods that ensure that the achievement of an award, or rejection of a chocolate, is not at the mercy of when, or by whom, it is being tasted. The process is an elaborate one, involving blind tasting, groupings of judges, very detailed forms and the like. It is also all done with absolute transparency, so all to view on their website.

I was very impressed by how much is done to ensure fair and expert analysis.

When you have several chocolates to judge how do you keep your palate fresh so that you can experience each on an equal basis?

I have tried many palate cleansers, and have also been lucky enough to benefit from the work done by Alex Rast on this. He is a scientist and chocolate reviewer for SeventyPercent. His discovery is that the best for really clearing away all tannins and residues is utterly plain soupy polenta. It sounds odd but it truly works. And you need a glass of water on your judging station too!

Prior to the International Chocolate Awards there was extensive test judging, which included palate tests. It was found that 20 chocolates was the maximum for most people before their palates started to go off. So we tasted between 15 and 20 chocolates only per session as an upper limit.

Have you found that your work as a food writer and judge has impacted your everyday enjoyment of food?  If so, would you give us an example of this effect in regards to chocolate?

On my enjoyment no, on my waistline, quite possibly! Actually I think it has increased my enjoyment. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. Firstly in that understanding of an individual chocolate, its beans, its history, how it is made, gives me a great appreciation of it. Secondly, I now know about so many fantastic chocolate makers and producers that I may not have come across if I hadn’t been so focused on it. And there are more wonderful things being produced all the time. I love my job and truly look forward to all the tastes and discoveries.

Thank you so much, Cat, for this interview.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Good Humor to Deal with the Heat of Summer

July is National Ice Cream Month and to start off a summer of ice cream and cold treat features, we have a little something new from Good Humor.  I remember Good Humor as the ice cream brand the neighborhood ice cream trunk carried and until very recently I never saw it anywhere else in the three states I've lived in -- Iowa, New York, and Indiana.  I choose the York variety of the new candy favorites line from Good Humor for two reasons: it has been crazy hot so ice cream is a nice break plus mint tends to make you feel cooler.

Good Humor has a long history, over 90 years of ice cream treats to their name. The ice cream truck though is really how I learned about them and the only place I knew you could get them.  Even though I know that they ship out boxes of their treats to grocery stores, those nearest us, rarely had the brand or only one or two varieties.  Luckily their newest treats, a trio of candy bar favorites including Mounds, Reese, and York, was available in one of our regular grocery stores so I used the free coupon sent to me by their master company, Unilever, to get this free box for today's Saturday Sacrament.

The York Ice Cream Bar has a dark chocolate flavored coating according to the box but the ingredients list chocolate liquor and cocoa both processed with alkali so I'm not completely sure why this is only "flavored" perhaps a legal reason I am currently unaware of but for our purposes, this indeed qualifies as a form of our Sacred Substance.  One bar has a depth of around 0.75 inches and a diameter of 3 inches.  On the bottom you can see that it was riding on a metal grating for the chocolate coating process from the lines and thinner chocolate in some places.

There is a light peppermint scent but almost no chocolate fragrance.  Cold chocolate tends to be less intense over all while room temperature or hotter chocolates tend to be more intense in terms of flavor and scent.  Taking a bite makes a loud crunchy sound that one of my assistants described as "delightful to hear" as he happily munched away.  Inside is a center of peppermint ice cream uncolored by artificial dyes though this is not a claim that the product is 100% natural.  The scent of both the chocolate and the peppermint increase as you eat.  I felt like the ice cream had a fluffy almost marshmallow like consistency, even when it melted it didn't seem creamy like other ice creams do but reminded me of the soft-serve variety of the frozen treat.  The cold from the frozen treat coupled with the peppermint really made my entire body feel like it was cooling off and with temps still in the 90s after dinner this was a good sensation.  The chocolate was definitely on the darker end of the spectrum because it added a nice bitter edge to the treat that also built up with each bite.  This was easily 10-12 bite dessert though it starts to melt in your hands about half way through even indoors.

It has been crazy hot and dry here in Indiana and these York treats from Good Humor are just one of the three candy favorite ice cream bars that the brand now offers.  Of course they offer a full line of other bars as well.  I choose this one because I felt it had the greatest chance of being chocolate tasting and it did well for frozen treats.  Made with both cocoa and chocolate liquor, reasonably priced if you can find it, this six-pack box makes the grade as a Sacrament for these hot summers.  Let me know, Sisters and Brothers, if you can find these and other Good Humor bars in your local stores or if the Good Humor truck makes the rounds in your neighborhood.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chocolate Planner for July 2012

Sorry our planner for July is a bit late, we had a lot of end of June posts.  Remember fun food holidays are for you to use not dates you must celebrate.  All of these you can celebrate with chocolate.  Let  me know if you do.

July = National Ice Cream Month -- Last year you'll recall we have features from four different brands of ice cream, so far this year no one seems interested which I think is very sad.  Blue Bunny even hosted an amazing giveaway. Maybe if you all left more comments companies might be more eager to let themselves be revealed to the world here?

July 1 = Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day -- TODAY! What is the most creative ice cream flavor you've ever had or made?

July 3 = National Chocolate Wafer Day -- Chocolate wafers can be used for so many things.

July 7 = Chocolate Day -- There are several days on various fun holiday lists out there that are call some type of "chocolate day."  Are there too many?

July 8 = National Chocolate with Almonds Day -- Now here's one that is more specific.  What is your favorite chocolate with almonds treat?

July 9 = National Sugar Cookie Day -- Yes, you can make chocolate sugar cookies and you can decorate them with chocolate too.  Just think outside of the label here.

July 12 = National Pecan Pie Day -- I have a friend who makes an amazing chocolate pecan pie... I keep trying to get her to share it with you all.

Third Sunday in July = National Ice Cream Day -- With an entire month celebrating ice cream do we really need a specific day?  Regardless this year this fall on July 15 since the month starts on a Sunday.

July 25 = National Hot Fudge Sundae Day -- That hot fudge will melt your ice cream so be careful how much you add to your bowl in the first place.

July 28 = National Milk Chocolate Day -- We have a Sacrament lined up for this all ready since it falls on a Saturday this year.

July 30 = National Cheesecake Day -- Cheesecakes are versatile, you can add chocolate in so many ways to them.

Sisters and Brothers, I hope this gives you a good head start on July with chocolate.

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