Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Treat Challenge Winner 2013

This evening starting around 5pm and running until 8pm we'll be answering our door over and over again as trick o'treaters arrive in their costumes looking for goodies.  None of the Challengers we had this year are appropriate for giving out to the masses but all of them could have had a place at your Halloween party and we'll be enjoying the left over from our testing this evening with any friends who want to drop by to watch the kids and just enjoy the holiday. Which of our four challengers were the best of the group and therefore earned the title of Winner for our fifth year of doing this competition. The winner will have the right to send us html code to put up on our front and special offerings pages for 31 days so you all can readily find their creations for any time of year.

Let's review the Challengers.  With only five of them and the two in the same category from the same brand, it seemed rather pointless to name a "best" for the various categories we could name winners in so we'll stick with the over all "BEST" for 2013.

TCHO's baking products made awesome cupcakes that we decorated for the season.  The plusses with ingredients is always choice and multiple uses.  Let's face it, a piece candy shaped like a skull only works for a select number of occasions.  The downside is that you have to make your treats and, sadly, in this current environment unless you are having a Halloween party very, very few parents are going to let their kids eat your creations.

Magic Choc was a fun and safe product to use with both kids and adults.  Again this really works best as a Halloween party treat not a trick o'treating handout unless you are amazing wealthy.  I suppose you could give it as treats for select family members but this product really works best I strongly believe as a shared activity.  That said just like the ingredients this can be used at any time for any occasion plus you don't need to really worry about your kids hurting themselves (or you depending on how skilled you are in the kitchen).  Given this is real chocolate -- white, milk, and dark -- with few additives this is a strong contender in our Challenge.

Cheryl's Boo Box had a bunch of treats but really not enough chocolate to compete very well this year.  Given that other gifts of theirs had more chocolate I was and continue to be very surprised that they'd enter this one.  What chocolate this was good and it if you could get it in bulk, let's say 100 pieces for under $10, it would be a great handout for trick o'treaters.

Fannie May's double gifts in either bag or box form offered several chocolate treats for you, your party, or a friend/loved one you aren't seeing tonight. The Frankie Bag was filled with treats in 1-2 serving sizes and the majority of these were made with real milk chocolate or real dark chocolate. Great for a gift to one individual or a smallish family.  I'm reusing the bag itself to hold some of the 483 pieces of candy we'll be handing out to 150+ trick o'treaters who will come to our door tonight.  The Frankie Delights box was almost entirely chocolate and what we had tasted good but it wasn't great tasting and the lack of information about specific ingredients per variety is an allergy problem just waiting to happen.  Multiple pieces in the Delights treat means you can share it further but it probably is not wise to hand these out given the lack of labels for allergen checks.

Weighing the results of all out testing and the events of the holiday, our 5th Winner of The Chocolate Cult's Halloween Treat Challenge is...

Magic Choc!

This is real chocolate that you can play with and our test party loved it -- kids and adults.  While it may not be the best tasting chocolate for the spooky holidays this would be the most fun at any Halloween Party.  Currently is it not available in the USA though I'm told it will be soon.

We'll be looking at another product from this same company for the Winter Holidays 2013 so come back and see how that compares.

Please let a comment below and tell us what chocolate (or other candy) you have been using to get ready to celebrate today!

UPDATE: We had a total of 180 trick or treaters at our house but the event was postponed until November 1st because of weather.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two Fannie May Scares

For our final Saturday Sacrament in our 5th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge we have two Fannie May gifts sent to us by 1-800 Flowers.  Both look like a fun Frankenstein's monster face but the gifts are different.  The box has "Delights" which is a collection of several different chocolates individually wrapped.  The bag has eight different candies, seven of which are chocolate. These Halloween boxes do not appear on the brand's website so the designs you see in our photos come from 1-800 Flowers (who owns the brand by the way) and we'll link to each as we look at them.  I want to thank all of my assistants who helped me with the testing.

Let's start with the bag of goodies called the Frankie Treats Bag.  Light, almost lime green paper fills the top quarter of the bag and it can be recycled which we did (remember we are the only planet with chocolate, protect it!)  Inside are eight types of treat, six of which are chocolate!  The only ones that aren't chocolate is an 8oz bag of Jelly Pumpkins that make me remember the cupcakes I made to start of the Challenge this year and two white Halloween Pretzels that are not white chocolate only white candy coating.

We'll look at the chocolate treats one at a time but above is a photo of them together just to spark your interest, Sisters and Brothers.

Two mix chocolate Halloween Pretzels are included in the bag and you can see the orange strips on them.  Here in our photo I've included one of the white covered pretzels, too, so you can see they each have the light orange drizzle over them. These have a very sweet, tangy scent with an undercurrent of cocoa.  These make a loud initial snap then a soft crunch as you chew because of the hard pretzel inside. At first there is a burst of sweet cocoa then the carb pretzel followed by saltiness that lingers for some time after you finish a bite.  I think a darker chocolate would have been better able to compete with the carbs and salt.

Two Halloween wrapped Milk Chocolate Pops on sticks were included, each has a different design but is the same treat inside made of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor.  Each pop is 1 oz and as you can see a large round block of milk chocolate on a stick but there is no specific design on the candy.  This has a tangy sweet, creamy cocoa scent and is a good heft when I lift it up. It makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  The flavors mirror the fragrance -- at first a sweetness with a slight caramel like tang, then a burst of creaminess, a cocoa build up that fades into a sweeter chocolate remnant in my mouth.  Eating it on a stick is fun and I could see kids especially getting a kick out of this but putting the chocolate on the stick also makes sure your hands are not messy if it should melt while you eat.

There is a Milk Chocolate Bar with a Halloween wrapper wishing us a "Happy Haunting" and a witch flying across the full night moon is nestled into the bag. This is the largest treat in this gift bag at 2oz and two servings according to the label.  This is very much a real chocolate bar with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor but the nutritional values on the wrapper do not quite match the gift bag insert for some reason; not off by much, only 10 calories a serving but it might be important for some of you and Fannie May should be aware of this difference, too.  The bar on the gift tag list also is a 4 not a 2 ounce milk chocolate bar making me wonder if the wrong bar was included in the bag.  The bar has a darker than expected fragrance with an underlining sweetness to it.  I snap one of the six sections off and it feels cool in my fingers starting to melt right away.  Biting it makes a sharp snap but chewing is silent.  The flavor is at once this darker, creamy chocolate with a hint of almost tangy sweetness.

Beyond the Halloween wrapped or decorated items are two Milk Squares each 0.8oz wrapped in white with lettering in red.  The two Dark Squares are also 0.8oz each as well but with a wrapper inverted so a red wrapper with white lettering.  This, like the Milk  Square,  has both chocolate liquor and cocoa butter so this is real chocolate in every sense.  As the photo shows the dark is clearly darker in color but otherwise the squares are identical.  The darker square has a more intense cocoa scent but also a weaker one.  Both are cool to my touch and start to melt slightly if I hold them for more than a few seconds.  The Milk Square has a lightly sweet flavor, a touch of creaminess that is slightly buttery, and then a burst of cocoa flavor that is more intense if you let a bite melt in your mouth which will coat your entire mouth for a long-lasting pleasure.  The Dark Square has a much stronger cocoa flavor that is immediately there when I take a bite that makes a soft snap.  There is a tartly sweet flavor that underneath the dark chocolate that is much weaker if you let your bites melt in your mouth.

A 3-piece bag of Mini Pixies is included and just like the previous two types of candy there isn't anything particularly Halloween about these but they are also made with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor so they are real chocolate but unlike the other chocolate treats in this bag they also have a lot more added ingredients and tree nuts so that might be a concern for some of you.  The look very much like the average "turtle" don't they?  When I take a bite it barely makes a sound since there is a lot of buttery caramel inside; the only sound is when I hit a piece of pecan which is often since they line the bottom of each piece.  The chocolate blends well with the pecans and caramel, that tangy sweetness of the other milk chocolate candies is missing, balanced out by the buttery caramel I think and the nuts.  There is nothing particularly Halloween about this but the three pieces in the bag are also loose, not individual wrapped which I personally think is a good thing since that is less trash to dispose of.

The other Fannie May Halloween gift we received to test and review for you all was the Frankie Halloween Delights box.  Inside are 35 individually wrapped pieces of chocolate of seven different varieties. The only one variety is labeled -- the White Peanut Cluster -- and I can only assume that is it made of the same candy coating as the White Pretzels in the box of Halloween treats so we won't focus on these but turn our attention to the other 28 pieces.

Figuring out what these six chocolate pieces were was a bit of a challenge since I could only find a nutritional guide that listed them all and this was without photos.  Because of this I'm just going to talk briefly about them in the same turn as you see in this photo to the left by starting with the top row on the left, going to the right, then back to the bottom row left to right.

There are three of what appear to be clearly truffles of some type.  The scent is simply milk chocolate but my eyes flew open wide when I took a bite that crunched and yet was soft. Inside was a crunchy yet very soft, rather creamy but not particularly well flavored center.  I have no idea what flavor this might be at all to be blunt but it covers the milk chocolate.

Four of the shorter dome pieces with the ridged edge around it were in the bag.  There is only a light cocoa and sweet scent to this and when I take a bite I'm surprised to find this is solid milk chocolate given that the edging often appears on peanut butter treats. It reminded me a lot of the milk chocolate bar from the Frankie Halloween box.

The large rectangular pieces were only three in number.  This one surprised me because once I bit into it I discovered a very buttery and thick caramel that allowed the milk chocolate to come through well.  This is better than the next smaller piece.

These square pieces, which are softer than the previous ones, were also three in number.  I think these are the milk chocolate dipped caramels and they have a good balance of the milk chocolate and the tangy, buttery caramel though the caramel is the lasting flavor here. I preferred the larger ones with the less tangy and more buttery caramel because it let more of the chocolate through.

The only dark chocolate piece is this molded square one made up to look like a gift box itself totaled six pieces. This cool feeling piece has an undercurrent of sweetness and a light yet darker cocoa scent.  It is a solid bittersweet chocolate that grows but more bitter and more sweet with each chew and with each bite.  Definitely not the best tasting dark chocolate we've been sent to review, very candy light versus pure.

The final one looks a lot like the Pixies from the Frankie Halloween box we've all ready looked at but I double-checked for all of you, Sisters and Brothers.  There were nine of these in all.  This was a less pecan version of the Pixie it seemed like, much sweeter in flavor over all with less milk chocolate getting through but a more tangy caramel, too.

Fannie May goes back to 1920 with a single shop in Chicago but today you can find their creations in gifts shops and online.  1-800 Flowers offers holiday specific designs and gifts using Fannie May that you can't find in the shops so if these two packages interested you, you'll want to hurry up and place an order before the spirits, ghouls, and monsters report for duty on October 31st.  All of the milk and dark chocolates in these two gifts are made with cocoa butter and chocolate liquor but none of what you think maybe white chocolate meet the legal definition in Europe or the USA.  But then not everyone likes or can even eat chocolate -- shocking but true -- so having these non-chocolate options mean more people can share the gifts.  The products in the Frankie Treat Bag were more chocolate in terms of flavor and seemed higher quality for some odd reason.  Furthermore the Frankie Treat Bag has all the information you need about what is included if you have allergy concerns or merely want to know the calories.  Thus the Frankie Treat Bag is superior to the other item in all ways as far as we are concerned here on The Chocolate Cult.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Turkey Hill Ice Cream Recall 10/20/13

This recall makes me particularly sad, Sisters and Brothers, because we have featured Turkey Hill in the past and they have always done very well in terms of chocolate in ice creams as well as a fair price.  Carefully read where the stores are where the products were sold and carefully check the product information. This is not wide spread across the USA but it does affect a nice chunk of you.

Turkey Hill Dairy Issues Voluntary Recall

Contact Consumer: 1-800-693-2479

Media: Melissa Mattilio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 4, 2013 - Turkey Hill Dairy of Conestoga, Pa., is recalling specific packages of 1.5 qt. (48 oz./1.42L) of Fudge Ripple Premium Ice Cream and 1 Pint (16 oz./473 ml) packages of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Premium Ice Cream, and Moose Tracks® Stuff’d Frozen Dairy Dessert due to the possibility that some packages may contain metal shavings.

Specific Product identification:

Turkey Hill Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Premium Ice Cream
          Size: 1 Pint (473 ml)
          UPC Code: 0-20735-42005-8
          Sell By Date: 10/04/2014  42-092

Turkey Hill Fudge Ripple Premium Ice Cream
          Size: 1.5 quart (48 Ounce)
          UPC Code: 0-20735-11011-9
          Sell By Date: 09/30/2014  42-092

Turkey Hill Moose Tracks Stuff’d Frozen Dairy Dessert
          Size: 1 Pint (473 ml)
          UPC Code: 0-20735-42025-6
          Sell By Date: 09/27/2014   42-092

There have been no reports of any foreign objects being found or any injury/illness occurring.

The recalled items are limited to packages sold at select Turkey Hill Minit Markets in Pennsylvania, select Wal-Marts in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and other small grocers and convenience stores in Maryland and Pennsylvania. All affected stores are directly delivered to and serviced by Turkey Hill Dairy and have been instructed to remove the product from their shelves.

All affected containers would have been purchased by consumers after October 1, 2013.

Consumers who have purchased affected packages of the products listed with the code cited above can return them to the place of purchase for a full refund or contact Turkey Hill Dairy at 1-800-MY-DAIRY (1-800-693-2479).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Boo! from Cheryl's to Your Door (Plus Giveaway)

We received via 1-800 Flowers a box of Halloween treat from Cheryl's labeled "Boo to You!" that turned out to be a purple cardboard box with that phrase on it barely containing the treats in side.  The treats are primarily soft, decorated sugar cookies, a bag of chocolates, and a $5 gift card to Cheryl's that you or the person you send this box to can use on a future order.  We here on The Chocolate Cult will give our $5 gift card to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below telling us which Cheryl's product you'd like to try. (The Rules: You need to live in the USA, be a member of this site through FB or one of the other two ways you can follow us; you earn an extra entry if you share this post on FB or Google+ on the announcement post for today's Saturday Sacrament.  Also many sure I can contact you to let you know you've won because if I can't contact you in 48 hours I'll draw again for the winner.  Entry good through October 24, 2013, winner announced October 25.  Think of this as a way to get a little help shopping for the holidays in November and December of 2013.)

Inside the purple stripped box are a bag of 1.5oz milk chocolates with crisp rice round candies with jack o'lantern wrapper, one crunchy sugar cookie with "BOOO!" on it in purple frosting on a salmon frosted background, two ghost shaped buttercream frosted cut-out cookies, six pumpkin shaped buttercream frosted cut-out cookies, 1 jack o'lantern shaped buttercream frosted cut-out cookies, and three yellow frosted with black bats and white ghost candies buttercream frosted cut-out cookies.

We can only test and report on the chocolates themselves here on The Chocolate Cult.  The first thing to note is that these are real milk chocolate made from chocolate liquor and cocoa butter and no added oils or fats, and no added artificial flavors.  It does have dairy and rice if either are allergy concerns for you.  The pieces are round with a circular pattern on the top and that was a touch disappointing since I was hoping to see the jack o'lantern from the wrapper repeated but that suggests these chocolates are made year round and wrapped for specific holidays.  The tops are smooth but the crispy rice is visible and feelable on the bottom.  There is a darker than expected chocolate scent from the top but a milkier fragrance from the bottom probably because the rice affects everything about candy bars -- flavor, texture, scent, look, even sound -- this insight was voiced by one of our volunteers who helped me test these.  These make a soft sound when I take a bite and continue to be crunchy as I chew.  You can certainly taste the sugar and the dairy here but as the top scent suggested this is a darker than average milk chocolate flavor for the USA reminding me of some European milk chocolates.

While most of the treats in this "Boo to You!" box were not chocolate, the chocolate that was included  was better than I had hoped for and frankly had there been 50+ of them they would make a viable treat for the kids who are going to come calling at my house on October 31st. There are other more chocolatey Halloween treats from Cheryl's if you'd like to check them out but we can't say how good they are since we did not test them.  I really wish they would have sent a product with more chocolate but we deal with the samples we get as best we can, Sisters and Brothers.  We do recommend the Cheryl's milk chocolate rice crispy candies and give them a rightly earned Sacrament Status.

Leave a comment below telling us which Cheryl's product you'd like to try and one of will get the $5 gift card we received in the box shipped directly to your home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Supporting Boyscouts with Chocolate

We report on charities related to chocolate several times a year here on The Chocolate Cult.  Sometimes these are events that we are invited to join, sometimes these are products we are sent to review and promote, sometimes these are things we just happen to discover on our own and want to share with you. Last year I tried to support a friend's son who is in Boy Scouts by buying their Chocolate Lover's Box for their annual popcorn sales that help support local chapters.  Unfortunately our friend lived in another city and the Boy Scouts didn't accept our credit card so we couldn't do it.  This year a boy from our neighborhood came by and so we were able to support Troop 100 with a purchase.

The box comes with four types of "chocolate" products -- milk chocolatey pretzels, white chocolatey pretzels, chocolatey caramel crunch, and white chocolatey caramel crunch. As you can see we haven't opened them yet because with Halloween approaching we really don't have time (or calories) yet to enjoy these. We still have two huge scary treats we've been sent to test out so until that the popcorn will need to wait.  But you may have the chance to order popcorn from your local Boy Scout so I wanted to discuss whether or not this particular product is a good choice.

Even without tasting it I can say that if you want chocolate then this isn't a best choice in terms of chocolate but it is the only one from this year's offerings that we saw when our neighborhood boy came to visit.   The key word that tells you this is "chocolatey" in the names of the products because legally there are restrictions in the USA and around the world on what can be called chocolate in all of its forms but chocolatey is far more vague of a term.  The white products are not chocolate, not even close because they don't even contain cocoa butter; the other two products contain cocoa powder so just enough that we might consider them chocolate here on this site but not chocolate liquor (mass) or cocoa butter that are widely part of the legal definition.

So buy something from the Boy Scouts if you support them on a local level, 70% of what you give these boys and young men will go back into their troops, but don't buy because are looking for great chocolate.  Next year we'll probably skip the "chocolatey" and go for simple straightforward popcorn.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Playing Around with Chocolate for your Halloween Party

Halloween is not just trick or treating, not just dressing up, not just a month of horror specials on TV.  I'm sure many of my readers in the English speaking world have also been to a Halloween party at least once because the spooky holiday is now celebrated around the world.  Today we're going to look at one possible chocolate treat that could function as both food and activity for your Halloween party.  From the UK we have Magic Choc Starter Packs.  If you'd like to see some models of what can be made you can check this link or just look at our creations in this review.

I had five helpers for this test.  Everyone please say hello to my helpers Tom, Elizabeth, Josh, A, and E. (I'm not going to include the children's names simply because I don't think that is appropriate online but their father gave permission for the photo of all the helpers.)

This is a moldable chocolate that is real Belgian chocolate without unnecessary added fats though it does contains glucose syrup as well as milk and soy if any of those are a concern for you.  Each box has 50g milk chocolate (24% cocoa solids), 35g white chocolate (21% cocoa solids and real cocoa butter, too), and 15g dark chocolate 36% cocoa solids), 1 anti-bac handwhip, and a little booklet with two model ideas -- puppy and rocket. There are also guides to making different types of animals and objects on the main website if you need inspiration (we used the ghost model for this halloween feature) and activities kids may enjoy online.

There are three steps listed on the front of box and the website but really there are five steps to using the kits that you find on the back of the box.

1) Wash your hands well with soap and water.  You'll want to repeat this as you make models we discovered.

2) Use the handwipe to clean your hands.

3) Squish the chocolate discs in your hands but don't mix them together especially if you are using the model guides that came in the box or you got offline or it will be difficult to figure out how much of each variety you need.

4) Shape the chocolate into 1-4 models, ideally you get 4 creations but really it depends on how big you make them, doesn't it?  We averaged around 3-4 models and this was with sharing the discs as someone wanted an extra dark one or didn't want their white ones.

5) Eat them!

Everyone had fun, a lot of fun, in fact, I think the adults had more fun though they also took the modeling more seriously requesting a butter knife at one point to help with the detailing.  Let me share some of our observations and suggestions after using these in a party setting.

Make sure you use a wipeable tablecloth or table over a washable floor because it does make a bit of a mess and you will drop pieces.

Winning Model voted my Testers
Sit down so you don't get tired out and have some water handy to take sips of but don't add it to the chocolate.

Share your extra discs and help each other out. This is especially important with younger children who may find the disc squishing a bit of a challenge in their smaller, weaker hands.

Form the white chocolate pieces of your creations first because the milk and dark chocolate will discolor them otherwise.  Wash your hands between models.

If the modeling chocolate gets too soft just let it set for a few minutes and you can use it again.  Make sure you squish even if the images looks like it uses a single disc for part of the object you are making or the pieces will not stick very well.

The dark and white chocolate tasted the most chocolatey but they all had a sort of Tootsie Roll flavor and texture to them.  The chocolate tastes best after being used to model so don't eat just the discs.

If our Magic Choc party test sounds like fun to you, you can buy this product online or in a few stores at this link.  It was a lot of fun and since it used real chocolate without too many added ingredients it earns a Sacrament Status over all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just 1 Month to Join The Chocolate Walk

Only one month until The Chocolate Walk for the Brown County Humane Society, just 23 days before the prices rises from $20 to $25 per ticket.  In this month's reminder let's talk about advice for attending the event.

1. Plan to start when the event opens at 10am because with each passing hour not only will you have more and more chocolate walkers to deal with but very likely other tourists checking out the trees and enjoying Nashville's art colony offerings.  Note: you can pick up your tickets starting at 9:30am at at the Brown County Art Gallery located at the corner of Artist Drive and Main Street (1 Artist Drive, Nashville, IN).

2. Wear layers of clothing and have something to pack the extra in.  Who know what the weather will be like come the 9th of November.  One year we needed jackets, another I was in a tank top, and yet another year we needed umbrellas.

3. Expect to walk... a lot!  Parking will be very tight and yes it will cost you a bit of money so bring around $4 to $10 just for parking.  Wear shoes that will support your feet. Walking at a good pace like we do it still takes a good 3 hours to walk the entire route.  If you get sidetracked and stop to show you'll be on your feet even longer.

4. Bring bags or containers for the chocolate.  You might think you love chocolate, you might think that there has never been a chocolate you didn't want to pop in your mouth but the samples are going to be a good size and you will become overwhelmed. You just will.  Last year our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte brought bags to share with our group and we all took advantage of it. If you think you might want to go back to your car and stow your chocolate there while you go to eat or shop make sure you bring ice packs and an insulated container to hold them.

5. Bring a small bottle of water.  Too large and it will weigh you down so bring something you can refill at public fountains if you need it.  Water will cleanse your mouth without interfering in your enjoyment of the chocolates.  Given how long you'll be outside walking I can't recommend alcohol at all.

6. Bring another person.  Sure you can walk this yourself but how much more fun is it with others?  A lot more fun.  Now we've done it with just two people, five people, and once with almost a dozen folks who split into two groups then met up for lunch.  Not only will you have more fun but you'll have others to urge you on when feel tired or to talk you into taking a sit down for just a couple of minutes when you want to push ahead.

7. Eat a little something before you walk and after.  Yup, you can't go on fumes and as much as we may love chocolate we aren't fools, we know it isn't the fuel you need to function well. Every year we've done lunch after somewhere in Nashville, Indiana, and I always grab a small bit of breakfast before as well. Remember if you brought little bags or something to store the extra chocolates in you'll have room for lunch and in terms of nutrition you should get lunch.

8. Be polite and patient.  Let me be blunt -- some people are not very good with crowds and are not very polite when they find themselves in one.  Don't worry, the stops have plenty of treats to share, they won't run out after five years of doing this.  Also if you have physical difficulties or small kids I'm going to advise you to think twice about coming.  Many shops which are the stops for this walk have small doorways and some are up flights of stairs.  With so many people you'll struggle to keep track of your kids and it isn't anyone else's responsibility to do so for you. So many it a date thing or a "girls" thing or a "guys" thing that you do with friends or lovers.

You don't want to miss The Chocolate Walk, Sisters and Brothers, come and join us and eat a lot of chocolate to help the Humane Society do an even better job than the wonderful job they do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Double TCHO Cupcakes

Our first Challenger in our 2013 Halloween Treat Challenge is TCHO.  They sent us five different types of products that one uses for baking, candy making, or drink creation so we in turn used two of these products (Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs) to create this original cupcake recipe that could be used for Halloween or for any holiday.  This recipes takes the basics of cupcake construction and then adds in cocoa, nibs, and flavors in the specific amounts listed below.

Double TCHO Cupcakes
          2 Cups Whole Grain Flour
          1.25 Cups Sugar Substitue
          6 Tablespoons TCHO Cocoa Powder
          6 Tablespoons TCHO Cocoa Nibs
          1 Stick (1/2 cup) I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Stick
          1/2 Cup Egg Substitute
          2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
          1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Skim Milk
          2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

          2 Cups Confectioner's/Powdered Sugar
          5 Tablespoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Stick
          3 Tablespoons Skim Milk
          1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
          6 Tablespoons TCHO Cocoa Powder

     Cupcake bake pan(s)
     18 foil cupcake liners
     2 large bowls
     1 scraper
     1 large spoon
     Electric handmixer
     Measuring cups and spoons

1. Set the butter out to warm up to room temperature as you do the basic prep for this recipe.  Preheat oven to 375 F and fill cupcake pan with 18 liners.  I used back and white ones for a slightly spooky look.

2. Stir together all of the dry ingredients (except cocoa related ones) until well blended.  Add in the wet ingredients and mix on low setting.  Then cut in the butter and mix on high setting until mostly smooth.

3. Blend in the cocoa powder 1-2 tablespoons at a time, scrapping the sides to get it thoroughly mixed through.

4.  By hand stir in the cocoa nibs until they are well blended into the batter.

5. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and place the baking pan with them into the oven for 20 minutes.  Check with toothpick to see if they are done; toothpick should come out clean and dry when they are.

6. Allow cupcakes to cool away from the oven for five minutes before removing them from the pan and setting them on a wire rack to finish cooling.

7. Mix together the frosting ingredients until you get a relatively firm frosting that seems easy for you to spread without worrying about it running.  Your taste in texture may require additional sugar or cocoa powder so add these ingredients slowly.

8. Wait until cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting.  Add any decorations you wish to the top -- I used a mixture of fall/Halloween style sugar candies adding a touch of frosting to the bottom of each to help hold it in place.

9. Place cupcakes on a cookie sheet and let cool in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Cupcakes should keep covered in frig for 2-4 days if you don't eat them all before then.

Using all of the ingredients exactly as I did, the cupcakes came in at 230 calories each, that includes the candy toppings.  If you used real butter, real sugar, real eggs, and/or 1% or higher milk then that calorie count will be higher for you.  But these are special treats not everyday snacks so don't worry too much about it.  I just used the ingredients I always have on hand.

We'll continue to use the Cocoa Powder and the Cocoa Nibs in other creations but go check them out and see if you might be able to use them for your own creepy creations this Halloween 2013.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chocolate in 17th and 18th Century England

Today, Sisters and Brothers, I want to share an email interview I did with Dr. Kate Loveman from the University of Leicester about her recently published article "The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640–1730." You may not be able to find the article yourself, I recommend checking university libraries near you often even if you are not a student or member of the faculty you can explore their collections, but she was willing to give us some basic insights.

Now you may read the article yourself by going through Dr. Loveman's university page and looking down a bit.
Dr. Kate Loveman
Dr. Loveman, what is your field of study and your degree in?

My field of study is English literature and history between 1600 and 1750. My PhD was in English with strong elements of social and political history.

Where do you currently teach/research?

I’m a lecturer in the School of English at the University of Leicester, UK.

How did you get interested in the question of chocolate in England?

My research into chocolate developed from a book I’m writing about the Restoration diarist Samuel Pepys. 

I went to look at the manuscript journal of Pepys’s patron, a man called Edward Mountagu who later became the first Earl of Sandwich. In the journal there is a long section on chocolate written in 1668 and 1669 which struck me as curious. I’ve previously done work on coffee-houses in seventeenth-century England, so I started researching to find out how unusual this manuscript on chocolate actually was.

What types of evidence did you draw from?

My main source was Sandwich’s journal and information it contained from his contact in Spain, John Werden. In order to put this information in context, I looked at a range of other sources from the period 1640 to 1730 including early print advertising, recipe books, plays, periodicals, and Customs records.
Dr. Loveman tries the freezing process

I also looked into early scientific and culinary work on freezing, since Sandwich and Werden both wrote about making frozen chocolate treats. Basically, the manuscript explains that you put a vessel of chocolate drink (made with chocolate, water, and sugar) into a mixture of snow and salt, and then stir the chocolate to make it ‘all ice’. It turns out that this freezing method was not at all well known in England in the 1660s and it required considerable investment and expertise to do it in summertime.

What was the greatest challenge posed by the evidence?  Did you use a particular theory or approach to overcome this challenge?

In the mid-seventeenth century, English men and women were still deciding on the merits of chocolate and how it should be consumed. The main challenge I faced was that the discussions of chocolate in this period touched on such a wide range of topics that it required researching in a range of fields -- trade, science, and medicine among them. I had the benefit of being able to draw on existing research in these areas, but it was also often a case of finding new seventeenth-century sources to help make sense of the others.

What were the common facts about the introduction of chocolate into England that your research confirmed?

Earlier research had pointed to the 1650s as a key time in marketing chocolate in London. This was when the first coffee-houses opened where chocolate was sold along with other exotic drinks such as coffee and tea. I was able to add some detail to this picture, and also to explore the development of elite ‘chocolate houses’ in the 1690s.

In brief, what new information did you uncover and what new understanding were you able to draw from this evidence?

I identified social and commercial factors which allowed chocolate to move from being an exotic, risky import to an established part of English culture.  People adapted this foreign product in some ingenious ways.  By the early 1660s, it was noted that the English had a taste for ‘milk chocolate’ – meaning the chocolate drink was often made up with milk, rather than using only water which was the method reportedly common in Spain and elsewhere.  

I also found some of the earliest, and certainly the most detailed, English recipes for frozen foods. The recipes for frozen chocolate in the Earl of Sandwich’s journal are almost exactly contemporary with the first known English recipe for ‘icy cream’, and 50 years before the first known printed recipes for ices in English cookbooks.  

Historians have wondered why chocolate was not as successful as coffee or tea in England – tea in particular became a major trading commodity and was practically the national drink by the end of the eighteenth century. My research suggests that chocolate did not become as widely consumed as tea or coffee because it was more expensive and harder to prepare – but it did benefit from eighteenth-century government policies to support chocolate manufacture in Great Britain.

How have your new interpretations and conclusions been received in your field and perhaps the mass media?

The article on my chocolate research is only just out, but my presentations at conferences have gone down well (though I do wonder if people were turning up expecting free chocolate samples). 

The media reporting tended to focus on the method for freezing chocolate in Sandwich’s diary. This was partly because one of the first Earl’s descendants allegedly invented the sandwich – making it two food “firsts” for that family.

Some of the reporting did get rather garbled: for the record, I don’t recommend putting the salt directly into the chocolate instead of into the ice, unless you’re a fan of slightly chilled, salty chocolate gunk!

Will you continue to investigate the promotion of and use of chocolate in England or other parts of Europe in the future?

I’m not planning any further academic research into chocolate – just personal research from now on. 

Finally is there one or two facts you'd like our readers to know about chocolate's earliest years in England?

There’s a pithy quotation that captures the difference in attitudes towards chocolate then and now: one advertiser in 1652 boasted that frequent chocolate consumption made people ‘Fat and Corpulent, faire and Amiable’. 

These were all admirable and attractive qualities as far as many seventeenth-century readers were concerned, but it’s not a boast you’ll hear from advertisers today.  

The same writer also claimed that chocolate protects against ‘all infectious Diseases’.  Readers might want to test that claim next time they feel a cold coming on.

Wasn't that interesting, Sisters and Brothers?  Please do leave a comment believe or a question and perhaps Dr. Loveman will reply.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 2013 Fun Chocolate Holidays

I'm off to Las Vegas this month so please look forward to a few reports on any chocolate we find while we are there, Sisters and Brothers.  If you have some suggestions, leave a comment and let me know.

October = National Dessert Month, National Cookie Month

October = first full week is National Mental Health Illness Week

October 1 = National Homemade Cookie Day -- That's today!  What cookies did you make?

October 7 = National Frappe Day

October 9, 1797 = Birthday of Philippe Suchard, founder of what was once the greatest chocolatier in Switzerland, creator of the Milka bar

2nd Thursday = National Dessert Day -- this falls on the 10th that has two other holidays of note for us

October 10 = National Angel Food Cake Day; World Mental Health Day -- don't stress about these three holidays today, please!

October 14 = National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day

October 16 = World Food Day -- find some chocolate related food from a country that isn't your own today and try to make it something other than candy; bonus if you make a recipe from another country today with chocolate!

October 18 = National Chocolate Cupcake Day

3rd Saturday in October = Sweetest Day -- falls on the 19th this year

28 = National Chocolate Day -- in the USA this means to go find a local chocolate company or candy shop that makes the candy and get some

October 30 = Buy a Donut Day

October 31 = Halloween; National Candy Apple Day

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