Heirloom Chocolate and Spirits Pairing – Saturday, October 22nd 4-5:30 — NYC

spiritofcacao_edited-1-360x257I hope you can attend and please share this with friends, its going to be fun!

Mark Christian, founder of the C-spot.com & Fund Director for HCP will join us to teach this class at Back Label Wine Merchants on Oct. 22nd at 4pm! Heirloom chocolates officially designated by HCP (Heirloom Cacao Preservation) will be showcased alongside spirits pairings by our Spirits Director, Allison Klug.

Creative Director and designer Sharon Klein (www.skgd.net) will also join the conversation to discuss how the packaging of these exceptional chocolates plays an important role.

Alcohol & chocolate go way back … thousands of years in fact. During the Temperance Movement chocolate was used as an alternative to liquor. Why’s that? Moreover, how can the pairing be correctly reconciled, when not all of them go well together?

Find out first-hand for yourself by sampling and learning about why and how the chemistry and gastronomy of this combination work up some incendiary aromas. Expand your mind and your senses, while growing the chocolate spirit in this fun flavorsome kick-off to Saturday night

Back Label Wine Merchants
111 W 20th St, NY, NY
(212) 229-9463 (WINE)
events@backlabelwine.com
backlabelwine.com

“Look ma, no PGPR”

chocolate-ingredients-blog-ins

I actually can’t remember the last time I ate a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. It could be 15 years ago and around the time I began my love affair with dark chocolate. Though it is possible my first taste of “dark chocolate” was when I tried the Hershey’s version. I didn’t buy another bar, but that led me to broaden my horizons and discover Belgian dark chocolate.

Back then I also didn’t think too much about ingredients, I was somewhat conscious  — more than the average person. Now I am interested in what I consume for health reasons and also because my body has become far more sensitive to additives and white sugar.

Nielsen (who studies consumers in more than 100 countries to give the most complete view of trends and habits worldwide) says the current trend is towards cleaner, simpler ingredients in our foods and more transparency in the labeling. “Artificial is out, many of us avoid foods with long lists of ingredients, and consumers are intent on removing the bad and adding the good. A majority of global respondents say that when it comes to ingredient trends, a back-to-basics mind-set, focused on simple ingredients and fewer artificial or processed foods, is a priority. In fact 75% of global respondents say they’re worried about the long-term impact of artificial ingredients. 68% strongly or somewhat agree they’re willing to pay more for foods and drinks that don’t contain undesirable ingredients.”

I remember noticing a strange ingredient PGPR on the Hershey label a couple of years ago and wondered what it meant and whether it was used in other chocolate candy products. Seemed to just wiggle it’s way in. When I asked an expert, I was told that the ingredient was “very” not so good for you. Hmmmm. By using it in their formulation Hershey’s was able to add less cocoa butter (an expensive ingredient) and then sell that same cocoa butter to the cosmetic industry and make an even larger profit.

For this blog I did two things; take took a look at a current bar’s ingredients and finally read up on PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate). I was pleasantly surprised to see the new label shows a simpler ingredient list and the absence of PGPR. Interestingly, Hershey’s website now has sections about transparency and what’s inside their products.

Today’s bean to bar dark chocolate crafters very often use only one to two ingredients; cacao and some form of sugar. That is all you really need to create an amazing tasting bar.

hersheys-label-1900

Below is the Wikipedia description of PGPR and it rings pretty true to what I originally heard. The main ingredient being Glycerol.

Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR), E476, is an emulsifier made from glycerol and fatty acids (usually from castor bean, but also from soybean oil). In chocolate, compound chocolate and similar coatings, PGPR is mainly used with another substance like lecithin[2] to reduce viscosity. It is used at low levels (below 0.5%),[3][4] and works by decreasing the friction between the solid particles (e.g. cacao, sugar, milk) in molten chocolate, reducing the yield stress so that it flows more easily, approaching the behaviour of a Newtonian fluid.[4] It can also be used as an emulsifier in spreads and in salad dressings,[5] or to improve the texture of baked goods.[5] It is made up of a short chain of glycerol molecules connected by ether bonds, with ricinoleic acid side chains connected by ester bonds.PGPR is a yellowish, viscous liquid, and is strongly lipophilic: it is soluble in fats and oils and insoluble in water and ethanol.[3]

Manufacture: Glycerol is heated to above 200 °C in a reactor in the presence of an alkaline catalyst to create polyglycerol. Castor oil fatty acids are separately heated to above 200 °C, to create interesterified ricinoleic fatty acids. The polyglycerol and the interesterified ricinoleic fatty acids are then mixed to create PGPR.[6]

Use in chocolate: Because PGPR improves the flow characteristics of chocolate and compound chocolate, especially near the melting point, it can improve the efficiency of chocolate coating processes: chocolate coatings with PGPR flow better around shapes of enrobed and dipped products,[7][8] and it also improves the performance of equipment used to produce solid molded products:[8] the chocolate flows better into the mold, and surrounds inclusions and releases trapped air more easily.[2] PGPR can also be used to reduce the quantity of cocoa butter needed in chocolate formulations: the solid particles in chocolate are suspended in the cocoa butter, and by reducing the viscosity of the chocolate, less cocoa butter is required,[2] which saves costs, because cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient, and also leads to a lower-fat product.[9]

Safety: The FDA has deemed PGPR to be Generally recognized as safe for human consumption,[1] and JECFA[3] has also confirmed its safety. Both of these organizations set the acceptable daily intake at 7.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. In Europe, PGPR is allowed in chocolate up to a level of 0.5%.[3] Short-term studies on rats and chickens showed reversible liver enlargement as a result of higher doses of PGPR, but those were deemed a result of increased hepatic (liver) workload.[10] In India, PGPR is allowed in specific products e.g. Gums. In a 1998 review funded by Unilever of safety evaluations from the late 1950s and early 1960s, “PGPR was found to be 98% digested by rats and utilized as a source of energy superior to starch and nearly equivalent to groundnut oil.”[11] Additionally, no evidence was found of interference with normal fat metabolism, nor with growth, reproduction, and maintenance of tissue. Overall, it did not “constitute a human health hazard.”[11]

A Taste for Chocolate

a-taste-for-chocolate-blog-li

I recently attended my first Underground Chocolate Salon by Megan Giller of Chocolate Noise at Voilà Chocolat. Voilà is a unique experience on the Upper West Side where you can make your own truffles, bars and mendiants, etc. in dark, milk or white chocolate and get creative with toppings.

Megan is a food/chocolate writer I met at the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP) tasting a few months ago. She has fallen in love with chocolate and invited a group of eleven of us to sample some dark chocolates from around the world made with beans from either Peru or the Dominican Republic. She also recommended a book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum, which ended up on my tasting notes near the roasted beans and the caramelized cocoa nib.

The interesting part of the evening for me was that numerous attendees photographed my tasting notes, which consisted of two small napkins side by side with scribbles and a bite of each chocolate.

I was told that my set up was unique and very organized. The designer in me always comes out in mysterious ways.

After an hour and a half of laughing, tasting and discussing we unanimously chose:

Chocolarder of Cornwall, England – Asháninka 70% from Ene River Valley, Peru

Confusing name for a terrific bar, lucky for them I don’t care what they are called. You can see in the photo their bar has the ultimate glossy shine to it.

Our unanimous loser was:

Hexx – 70% Marañon Peru, made in Las Vegas

And squarely in the middle:

Valrhona – 70% Noir Andoa Peru, made in France

The other makers were:

Wellington Chocolate Factory – 70% Dominican Republic, made in New Zealand

Maraná – 70% Piura Peru, made in Peru

Cool to compare the lighter color of this bar against the Dominican Republic bars.

Dandelion Chocolate – 70% Zorzal, Dominican Republic, made in San Francisco

Fresco – 72% Dominican Republic, made in Washington State

ChocoMuseo – Caramelized Cocoa Nibs, made in Peru

 

How to Date a Chocolate

how-to-date-a-chocolate-blog-li

With my current status being off of processed sugar (except for darkest chocolate and bread), one of my missions is about creating desserts using 100% cocoa and natural sweeteners.

I have discovered that dates are one of those amazing fruits that is very sweet but doesn’t impart a strong individual taste, blending in invisibly.

I found this Paleo Truffle recipe and made my version without the added coffee.

I shared some with friends who instantly fell in love and were all surprised and excited that no processed sugars were added.

For a more decadent version with a minor amount of sugar — enrobe the truffles in a melted mixture of 75 – 100% chocolate bar pieces, then sprinkle them with shredded coconut or roll in cocoa powder.

If you are not a fan of coconut, you can leave that ingredient out and use another fruit oil in its place.

Here’s the recipe…

½ Cup each:

• Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazel Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds

• 6 Dates

• ½ Cup Shredded Coconut

• 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

• 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

• 2 Teaspoons Freshly ground coffee

• 2 Tablespoons Shredded Coconut for rolling

Run the nuts and pumpkin seeds in a food processor or blender until ground into a fine flour.

Remove the nut flour and grind the dates and shredded coconut in the food processor until smooth.

Mix these ingredients together with coffee and cocoa powder according to taste.

Finally, add the coconut oil and mix it all together by hand. Roll the paste into small nibbly balls (about 12) and sprinkle them in shredded coconut.

Dates add the sweetness but also help hold the balls together so if you can’t get the paste to hold its shape, try adding a few more. The coconut oil also helps, add more if you need to.

These snacks should be refrigerated to become firm.

What‘s an Heirloom Chocolate?

… and how do you brand it?

In simple terms it’s the highest quality, most flavorful cacao sourced from around the world that chocolate can be made from.

HCP Logo Blog

 

Our design journey began by creating a fair number of versions with the direction to incorporate a monkey image because most of the cacao comes from the Central and South American rain forest regions — plus they’re cute.

After further discussions with the organization they determined it was paramount to incorporate into the icon the people involved in the cacao process —the farmer as well as the person who buys this special chocolate. The equal importance of the cacao pods on the tree was accomplished by making them oversized and multi-colored as they grow in nature.

The larger design is the final inspirational icon and logo created for the non-profit Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP), a 501(c)(3) organization that works closely with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. It will be used in many forms but mostly to promote on chocolate packaging.

The HCP collaborates with the USDA and together with chocolate industry professionals, chocolate makers, farmers, and chocolate enthusiasts are determined to save the quickly diminishing Theobroma cacao trees that produce the most flavorful chocolate and certify the farmers who grow them and help them receive higher, more consistent prices.

An alternate version of the logo in vertical format within a shield shape, will be placed on all packaging utilizing Heirloom beans designated by the HCP.

We also are consulting with them on their event materials, on-line newsletter and website — see more here.

40 Degrees of Chocolate Separation

Equator Chocolate Blog LI 2

Did you know that cacao trees where chocolate comes from can only grow within 20 degrees both North and South of the Equator? In the Tropical Zone — just below the Tropic of Cancer to just above the Topic of Capricorn. Though it encompasses the entire globe, it’s still a small world.

And I bet you didn’t know that the cacao pods come in almost every color of the rainbow — I only learned that when I started reading more about chocolate.

Interesting new discovery on the island of Saint Lucia — a giant 6.6 pound cacao pod was harvested from its tree at the Rabot Estate plantation on the grounds of the Boucan Hotel Chocolat. It measures 14” long with a circumference of 19”, it may be the largest cacao pod on record. A normal pod is typically 1-2 lbs! My friend Roxanne Browning of Exotic Chocolate Tasting got the chance to see it in person.

The Search for the 1% of 100% Chocolate

1% Blog LI

 

 

 

 

It was about 15 years ago when I was first introduced to dark chocolate. Like most of the world I thought a Hershey’s bars was chocolate, and once tried their “Dark” version to see how it tasted — not so good. I started calling myself a chocoholic and everyone knew I loved and ate some every day, expounding that because of the flavonoids, it was health food.

Time went on and I tried darker and darker, higher cocoa content bars up to 80% and began to recognize that there were flavor differences. I started to hear the term “single origin” beans and understand there were many varieties of cocoa trees, pods and that the taste depended on where the beans were sourced from around the world. An 80% chocolate bar means that 20% of the make up is sugar and possibly other fillers, 70% has 30% sugar — you can figure the rest.

Then 3 years ago I began to struggle with eating white sugar and cut all manufactured sweets out of my system, along with my beloved chocolate. I never thought I could live without it. To compensate, I started making shakes incorporating 100% cocoa and fruit juice for breakfast each morning, keeping chocolate and its health benefits in my life.

Oh joy, I recently started eating chocolate again, but mostly 85% cocoa content and above. So thus began my quest to find 100% chocolate bars that were truly edible and enjoyable, joining the ranks of the 1% who like it.

I’ve only been at this a short while — guided by experts like Mark Christian of the C-Spot and Lisa Ainbinder of 2 Beans and my current picks of 80% + I’ll share with you …

Oialla 100% by Bojesen, Akesson’s 100%, Pralus 100%, Taza Wicked Dark 95%, Guittard Nocturne 91%, Cacao Sampaka 91%, Du Rhone 85%, Madecasse 80%

I’m also including a sugarless frozen dessert made with an optional drizzle of mixed 85-100% chocolates on top — a treat for the senses.

Sugarless Macadamia Nut Frozen Bars

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted, macadamia nuts
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 3500 F

Toast the coconut flakes till lightly browned for 4 minutes.

Line 8×8″ pan with parchment paper. (If you use a plastic container you do not need the parchment paper.)

Process the macadamia nuts and coconut oil in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Add coconut and chia seeds and pulse a few times.

Pour the batter into pan and sprinkle with the salt.

Place pan in freezer for at least 30 minutes. (I make initial cut marks after 15 minutes while it’s still pliable.)

Cut into bars.

Store in freezer.

Chocoholic version

Melt a few pieces of a mix of 75, 85 and 90-100% chocolate and drizzle over squares. Yum!!!

Over-the-Top Chocolate Experience

FCIA HCP ICA Blog LI

Starting last Friday afternoon I had a chocolate tour de force. It began with a press event and Heirloom chocolate tasting with Chocolate Noise food writer Megan Giller and the Heirloom Cocoa Preservation Fund (HCP), the organization whose logo and re-brand I recently created.

HCP is the link between farmers growing cacao and those working with the chocolate. Most cacao trees today are planted to resist infection, mold and produce as much fruit as possible. With that comes a loss of taste. Many of the large chocolate companies then use sugar, flavoring and fillers to make candy that you would want to eat. We learned about the genetics of fine cacao and how the HCP is designating trees and beans from around the world to bring back flavor for the best tasting chocolate. This in turn helps farmers by allowing them to charge more for their beans and improve their lives.

The beans are sent to the HCP from growers to be blind processed by Guittard Chocolate, analyzed by the 9 Member—international panel and possibly selected for the honor of being designated heirloom.

We tasted four bars, and my favorite was #8 from Ingemann Cacao Fino of Nicaragua.

The next day and evening were at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s (FCIA) Elevate Chocolate where I was able to hobnob with the rock stars of chocolate makers and growers. There were six educational table talks. I attended “Cacao Before the Chocolate Maker” with Emily Stone and Maya Granit of Uncommon Cacao, we tried four kinds of chocolate liquor, which is cacao beans roasted and ground (no sugar added). Amazing to clearly taste the differences between the types of beans.

The new logo for the HCP was presented along with a conversation with veteran chocolate maker Fran Bigelow of Seattle whose specialties are served in the White House. Fran was one of the innovators to first add salt to chocolate caramels as a garnish.

Of course I got to taste dark chocolate all night from companies like Guittard, Casa Luker, Dandelion, Mesocacao and Dancing Lion.

Finally, Monday evening after the Summer Fancy Food Show, I hopped on the Path to Hoboken for the International Chocolate Awards at Cucharamama and mingled with North and South America’s growers, chocolatiers and chocolate makers. There was great food, and of course “the best” chocolate out of 600 submissions. For the second year my pick was Palette de Bine of Montreal who won for three of her submissions. Congratulations to all of the chocolatiers! I am so happy to be a part of this creative community 🙂

Food of the Gods at the FFS*

FFS Blog LIAttending the Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javitz Center for the first time Monday was an experience. I had always envisioned it would be too overwhelming — and it was — but in a good way. I decided to narrow the field by concentrating on a list of chocolate companies and in the process stumbled upon some very innovative food companies (plus really great cheese.) Two of the products that stopped me in my tracks were from the Wild Hibiscus Flower Co., which makes both whole hibiscus flowers sweetened to drop into a champagne glass or stuffed with goat cheese and a pink sea salt infused with the dried hibiscus flower.

Most of the chocolates I sampled were small, artisan, bean to bar, meaning that the cacao beans are sourced from around the world then roasted, manufactured and packaged by the maker. This is where the most innovative new business is headed. Some are all about the bean and others may be enhanced with unique flavors like the citrus fruit Yuzu.

A fun example from a regular chocolate producer, Moonstruck, uses Oregon craft beers to flavor the Ganache filling then enrobe and mold it into the shape of bottle caps (including the beer manufacturers logo on top.)

The trend I noticed in my conversations at this show and over the weekend at the Fine Chocolate Industry Assoc. and International Chocolate Award events is that many bean growers are beginning to create their own product and keep more of the profit in their own country. The three that I spoke with are from Bolivia, Ecuador and Madagascar. It will be interesting to see if the taste differs when chocolate is created at it’s source.

*Chocolate — In 1753, Linnaeus designated the tree Theobroma cacao, which translates to “cacao, food of the gods.”

 

Ah! The Sweet Life

I’ve had the privilege since January of working with Alchemy Creamery, the LIC based dairy-free, vegan ice cream manufacturer. The projects created for them were an Indiegogo online fundraising campaign, postcards, posters and new business cards. Their greatest pain point was the re-design for their Smorgasburg booth display menu sign.

Together, we analyzed their previous signage and strategized what would work to help their customer’s user experience. Utilizing that information, I created a sign that is clear, fun, directive and the feedback is 🙂 its working!

In addition, last week I had the pleasure of making ice cream with them at their kitchen. What fun making push-pops in 4 different flavors. YUM!