Drinking Chocoalte with Taha’a Vanilla Salt

Dark Chocolate is every bit as complex and satisfying as wine. Each cacao bean reflects the unique genetic heritage, terroir, growing conditions, and horticulture of the Theobroma cacao tree, and every cacao farmer and cacao buyer has a gastronomic perspective and level of skill that hugely influences the resulting chocolate. For this reason, eating a dark chocolate bar is one of the purest, most satisfying ways to experience the unbounded intricacies of chocolate itself.

Another way to experience the power and revel in the versatility of chocolate is to drink it. The history of drinking chocolate dates back to the deepest shadows of pre-civilization; for hundreds of years, and possibly for thousands, French, Spanish, Aztecs, and Olmecs have consumed it as a drink. When melted down, superbly crafted dark chocolate reaches its fullest expression. It is complex and stimulating; an entire jungle of Theobroma cacao chocolate trees spring up from your taste buds, revealing before you unexpected textural dimensions and infinitely varied flavors.

Choosing the bar is your opportunity for adventure. Let your imagination run free and your personal tastes deliver you into the wild. Nothing is off limits here; use your favorite dark or milk chocolate. If you crave intense red fruit and berry notes with a pleasant tartness, try the bold, ripe flavor of Dandelion Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate. If you’re in the mood for intense red wine and tobacco flavors, use the agile Dick Taylor Dominican Republic 74% Dark Chocolate. Melt it down, stir in an artisan finishing salt, like Taha’a Vanilla or Halen Mon Gold, and taste the beautifully deep flavor your favorite chocolate was destined for.  It’s your turn to explore.

 

Drinking Chocolate with Taha’a Vanilla Salt

Recipe adapted from the “Drinking Chocolate with Taha’a Vanilla Salt” recipe in Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes.

Serves 2

 

1 1/2 cup hot water

6 oz dark chocolate, such as Dandelion Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate or Dick Taylor Dominican Republic 74% Dark Chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces

Two 2-finger pinches Taha’a Vanilla Salt, plus more for rim

 

Heat the water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the water begins to steam (you don’t want it to boil), add in the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from heat, let thicken for  5 minutes, and then stir in salt. If desired, rim glass or mug with additional salt, then serve.

 

You can also try The Meadow’s recipe for Hot Cocoa, or find a sweet selection of drinking chocolates from Guittard, Askinosie, Cafe Tasse, and Michael Recchiuti at The Meadow’s online shop.

 

Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs

Cacao from Madagascar has inspired some of the great chocolate makers due to the unique combination of tree genetics, climate, and terrain. Perennial favorites like Patric Chocolate, Dick Taylor, Dandelion and Woodblock know this well, and use cocoa from Madagascar to create some of the most bright and satisfyingly lush chocolate on the market.

Yet one of the only companies committed to sourcing, making, and packing chocolate exclusively in Africa is Madecasse, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Madagascar. Roughly 70% of cocoa comes from Africa, yet only 1% of chocolate is made there. Fueled by their Peace Corps experiences in Madagascar, Madecasse founders Brett Beach and Tim McCollum set out to make chocolate on the island. What they discovered along the way was some of most flavorful cocoa, vanilla and spices, all hidden on the remote countryside of Madagascar.  By partnering with local farmers, chocolatiers, and package manufacturers, Madecasse created a sustainable model that benefits the local economy of Madagascar.

Each Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs bar is made with cocoa from Madagascar, truly some of the best in the world made only better by heirloom ingredients, like cocoa, vanilla, and spices and sustainable farming techniques.  This is a complex, rich, and smooth 63% bar for lovers of dark chocolate with a crunch. A dusting of sea salt opens up the acid and fruity complexity, and the cocoa nibs add an intense crunch to an otherwise smooth finish. The bar is hand-packed in a 100% recyclable paper wrapper and finished off with a tie of raffia. A great tasting chocolate bar and a better life for those who make it.

 

A Sweet Note from Madecasse:

“No one made chocolate in Africa, they said it was too hot or no one was skilled enough locally. But living there, you realize it’s not true. You can make chocolate with love and energy, and Peace Corps helped us realize that. So, by making and packaging the chocolate in Madagascar, we go beyond Fair Trade and enter the realm of Equitrade.”

 

You can find Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs and other Madecasse Chocolate at The Meadow’s online shop.

 

Pralus Mini Pyramide des Dix (10) Tropiques

High quality chocolate is not just for the connoisseur, it’s for anyone who appreciates the resonance of quality products, or who on principle eschews food processed on vast industrial scales, or who simply enjoys lots and lots of flavor.  Anyone who knows they like chocolate, and many people who believe they don’t because it is too sweet or too cloying, will appreciate craft chocolate, and turning such people on to it is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. Yet one of the most common misconceptions among regular folks who don’t consider themselves chocolate connoisseurs is that they are “not sophisticated enough” to appreciate the subtle differences between origins.

I’m sympathetic with them.  I’ve eaten several thousand different chocolate bars and more than a hundred different origins along the way, and I still don’t know what to expect when I eat an origin.  Someone asks, what does Ecuador taste like, and I have to resort to pretty gross generalizations as I try to lump the coastal Manabi region in with inland El Oro or any number of other regions or new powerhouse producers like Camino Verde.  Rather than stumble my way through a complicated explanation to a complicated tapestry of cacao flavors, I hand them the Pralus Mini Pyramid of the 10 Tropics, and let them suss it out for themselves.

This mini version of the half-kilo Pralus Pyramid is comprised of ten Neapolitan-sized squares of single origin dark chocolate, bunched together with a bit of twine.  The bundle invites you on a world tour of many of the different origins produced by Francois Pralus.

There may be chocolate makers whose approach to chocolate making is more suited to exploring the differences of different origins.  Domori, for one, has a lighter roast profile and in general seems to find higher peaks and valleys of flavor. American makers like Rogue or Dick Taylor or Dandelion or Woodblock or Mana really hit it out of the park when it comes to underscoring the differences between origins, yet they don’t have enough origins to take you on a tour all under the umbrella of a single maker.  Other makers like Chocolate Bonnat offer many origins, but they don’t offer a package deal for tasting them, so you’d need to buy ten full-sized bars to take a proper tour. Pralus is unique  in thinking things through for the end consumer and assembling a sampler that costs about ten bucks.

Launched in 2003, the Tropical Pyramid has become Pralus’s flagship product. Embark on a trip to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Sao Tomé islands or Trinidad, Venezuela, Tanzania and also Ghana, Madagascar, Colombia and Ecuador.

Perfect for pure, quick, personal pleasure. These mini pyramids are 75% cocoa, so there is nothing but goodness in each bar.

About François Pralus:

Pralus Chocolatier is one of France’s four remaining bean-to-bar chocolate makers (along with Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, and Bonnat), a true chocolate aficionado. Proprietor Francois Pralus is hunts the world around cacao beans in search of flavors and other qualities of interest.  Pralus roasts his cacao darker than some chocolate makers, making for a denser style of flavors. The hard work, ingenuity, and palate of François Pralus have been rewarded with the most prestigious National and International awards — Pralus won the Grand Prix d’Excellence International du Chocolate in both 1996 and 1997.

 

You can find these mini pyramids, the big Pralus Pyramids and more Pralus chocolate at The Meadow’s online shop.

MarieBelle Aztec Original Hot Chocolate

What I love about MarieBelle Aztec Original Hot Chocolate is that it is actually a damn fine drinking chocolate that whips up like a glass of Nestlé Quik.  It is definitely easy to prepare.  Just mix with boiling water to create a full-flavored cup of European-style hot chocolate.  And it is definitely satisfying: lush, rich, bold, and balanced.  I don’t think it’s the most sophisticated drinking chocolate in the world–for that you need to go to a quality single origin bar or a very fine blend of a higher grad cacao, and make the drinking chocolate yourself.  But not everyone needs the most sophisticated drinking chocolate in the world every day.  I drink seven cups of drinking chocolate a week in the winter and three or four a week in the summer or when I’m travelling, and the vast majority of those I’m just looking for satisfying sustenance with solid flavor.  MarieBelle easily fits that bill, and then some!

Another way to use MarieBelle Hot Chocolate is to mix it with milk to make a more traditional American-style hot chocolate.  It can also be used as an ingredient.  Make the the European version of the drinking chocolate and refrigerate it for a chocolate filling or additive for pies (pecan is super) or drink it as a dark Creme de Chocolat.

Voted Best Tasting Hot Chocolate by Business Week (whoever they are!), MarieBelle Hot Chocolate is made from single origin Colombian Cocoa (63%) and contains no cocoa powder.

Recipe:

Iced Chocolate

Chocolate powder to 1/4 C of boiling water. Stir until smooth and well melted. In a blender, mix melted chocolate with 2 Cups of ice. Blend until ice is well grounded, serve at once. Makes 16 oz.

 

MarieBelle Drinking chocolates and a smattering of their other chocolate goodies, such as the beautiful (to look at) and quite tasty (to eat) MarieBelle White Chocolate Macha is now available for sale at The Meadow.

Patric Chocolate’s Red Coconut Curry

The basic rule of thumb is that a chocolate bar infused with flavors is not as impressive to serious chocolate lovers as a straight up dark chocolate.  Alan Patric McClure of Patric Chocolate disproved that rule some years ago when he introduced his first flavored “OMG” bars such as Mint Crunch and Mocha and PB&J (another rule of thumb is that blended chocolate bars are not as impressive as single origin chocolate bars.  McClure blew that rule out of the water as well with his immaculate  blended bar, but more on that another time).

McClure continues apace with his latest additions such as the limited edition oatmeal cookie chocolate, the most brilliant has of which is the Red Coconut Curry chocolate bar.  Marketed as “coconut, spice and everything nice” it is actually something more than that, not merely a goofy holiday treat. It is refined, complicated, subtle as hell despite the shavings of coconut on the back.

The chocolate bar is a blend of chiles de arbol, ginger, and lemongrass essence. Toasted Thai coconut “chips” lend a chewy crunchy salty fruity faintly umami sweetness.

Additional Info from Patric:

This palate-pleasing bar is made from smooth dark chocolate with chiles, ginger, sea salt, and hints of lemongrass and lime then topped with crunchy, salty-sweet toasted coconut that is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. It’s a one-of-a-kind bar that will make your taste buds sing and dance for more.

The idea for the Red Coconut Curry bar originated from the four hardworking, spice-loving folks that make up Patric Chocolate. This bar was originally formulated to be a limited-edition bar, which is a fun and delicious outlet that keeps our creativity flowing and continually challenges us to bring you the most exciting, new flavors. While chiles and spices aren’t exactly groundbreaking in the chocolate world these days, it’s a tried and true combination that we love, and it was time to take it to the next level.

It didn’t take long, after some serious rounds of taste testing, to decide that Red Coconut Curry was the winning combo. However, figuring out how to convey such complex and distinct flavors through chocolate took a lot of time. Part of the challenge of creating such delicious bars is sourcing the best ingredients that enhance and highlight our incredible chocolate (and lucky for you, we weren’t about to dump a bottle of fish sauce into our refiners).

A large part of our ingredient search was for the coconut. First we tried toasting our own. Then we ordered a bunch (emphasis on the bunch) from other companies. We ordered shredded coconut, coconut chips, raw coconut, toasted coconut, sweetened and unsweetened coconut – we even tried blending coconut oil into the chocolate. Nothing excited us. But then, we struck gold: coconut from a company called, “Dang.”

We went with Dang coconut, because it was the tastiest coconut we had ever put into our mouths. “Dang” is a new company based in San Francisco, and also happens to be the name of the owner’s mother, who grew up in Thailand. This flavorful Thai coconut is gluten-free, perfectly sweet, and has a wonderful crunchy texture from its light roast with just a hint of salt. The crunch of this coconut is the perfect match for the bite of this bar.

We know that you’ll enjoy our latest blend of dark chocolate, Dang coconut, spicy chiles, ginger, and pure lemongrass and lime essences in this chocolaty version of a Thai favorite. When tasting our Red Coconut Curry bar, you’ll probably even exclaim, “Dang!”, yourself.

You can find this and all other Patric Chocolate bars for sale at The Meadow’s online store.

 

Product Feature – Askinosie Davao White Chocolate + Pistachios

In some circles, white chocolate has a reputation of being something other than chocolate. In defense of white chocolate’s chocolate nature, I present exhibit A – Askinosie’s Davao White Chocolate with Pistachios, a must-try for any chocolate enthusiast.

In the United States, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter. But that’s all. As a result, the first ingredient in most white chocolate isn’t chocolate, but sugar. In Askinosie Chocolate’s white chocolate, cocoa butter is the first ingredient. “We have a 34% cocoa butter content, which is one of the highest and is what makes the white chocolate actually ‘chocolate,’” says Lawren Askinosie, the company’s Director of Sales. The cocoa butters used in other white chocolate are also deodorized, a process that removes the natural flavor and aromas from the butter. Askinosie skips this step to preserve the full, rich flavor of the butter.

Askinosie’s Davao chocolate is the first Philippine chocolate the Untied States has seen in a long time. “We wanted to go to the Philippines because it was historic on the cocoa bean trail from the 1600′s, but they had not exported in 30 years so we took that as a challenge,” explains Lawren.

To make chocolate, raw cacao is fermented, dried, roasted and the cacao nibs are separated from their hulls. These nibs are then ground into cocoa liquor, which is composed of approximately 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa liquor, mixed with sugar, is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate.

If you want to make a white chocolate, however, you need to do something radically different – press the cocoa butter out of the liquor. “We were the first small batch chocolate makers in North America to make a white chocolate from scratch,” explains Lawren. “We press our own cocoa butter and that is the main ingredient in the bar.”

Pressing cocoa butter is long and difficult task. “Our white chocolate bars are some of our most labor intensive products because when pressing the cocoa butter, it can take several days to press enough for just one batch,” said Lawren. After pressing out the cocoa butter, Askinosie is left with press cake that is ground into cocoa powder.

The cocoa butter is put in an 85-year old German melanguer, combined with organic cane juice and goat’s milk powder, and mixed for several days. “We use goat’s milk as opposed to a cow’s milk,” says Lawren. “We did this primarily for flavor. We really thought it fit better with our white chocolate than cow’s milk, but also because of sensitivities to dairy.” After the chocolate has reached the right consistency, its poured into molds and salted pistachios, grown on a single farm in Santa Barbara, California, are sprinkled on top.

The bar snaps softly, unlike the crisp snap of a dark chocolate. Askinosie’s non-deodorized cocoa butter combined with the goat’s milk gives this chocolate a buttery and rich flavor, with a tanginess from the goat milk that keeps it from being too heavy. The bits of pistachio strewn on top extenuate the earth, nutty, wheat-y flavor, and have a beautiful color contrast with the white chocolate. Sunrise meets sunset.

Xocolatl de David’s Semi-Secret Recipe for the Best Salted Caramel Sauce

[Below is a re-posting of David's recipe originally posted here in 2008.]

+

Xocolatl de David’s Semi-Secret Recipe for the Best Salted Caramel Sauce

The first step is to make invert sugar to prevent the sugar in the caramel from spontaneously crystallizing.

Salted Caramel Invert Sugar
3 C Sugar
1.5 C Water
1/4 t Citic acid OR juice of 1/2 lemon
Put ingredients in a non reactive pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Caramel Sauce
2 C Sugar
1 oz Invert Sugar
1.25 C Cream, warm
1 oz Butter
Fleur de sel

Put invert sugar and sugar in a wide high sided non reactive pot on high heat. Every minute or so slowly mix in granulated sugar with some that is liquefied. Eventually you will have a paste. Warm Cream separately.
Continue to cook sugar until it begins to caramelize. Using a candy thermometer monitor the temperature of the cooking sugar. The classic caramel stage is around 330-350 degrees F. You can cook it longer for a less sweet more bitter sauce. Do not go above 390 F.

When your desired temperature is reached turn off the heat and slowly and very carefully add the warmed cream in small increments. When the cream is fully incorporated, turn the heat on high and heat the caramel to 230 F. This will go quite quickly. Turn off heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has completely melted. Add your desired amount of Fleur de sel or other sea salt. Let cool.

It will store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Meet a Chocolate Maker: Byrne and Carlson

At the Meadow we are mesmerized by anyone with the audacity and alchemical craft required to turn a humble cocoa bean into a noble chocolate bar, which is why the bulk of our chocolate collection focuses on the work of chocolate producers, rather than chocolatiers. And with good reason. Producing bean-to-bar chocolate gives the artisan the greatest ability to control the taste and texture of his or her chocolate. But there is also skill and craft in confectioneering – the art of combining chocolate made by others with new ingredients. Then through tempering, mixing, shaping and coating a brilliant chocolatier may produce something truly transformative.

Ellen Byrne and Christopher Carlson are such artists. “Everything we make is hand-produced in small quantities,” says Byrne and Carlson co-founder Ellen Byrne. “Each chocolate is hand-dipped, each chocolate bar is produced and decorated by hand. This is a method rooted in the elegant chocolate houses of Europe, and American seaside candy shops alike.”

Ellen founded the company along with confectioner Christopher Carlson in 1999 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Christopher makes Byrne and Carlson’s line of Pates des Fruits, caramels, and chocolates. Ellen, a French-trained chocolatier, creates the designs and hand-decorates the chocolate bars. In Ellen’s hands, the chocolate bar becomes a blank canvas for calligraphic designs inspired by art nouveau botanical motifs.

Because they aren’t wedded to any single method of chocolate production, Byrne & Carlson can take advantage of the many different styles of chocolate produced by bean-to-bar manufacturers. “The couvertures we use are incredibly diverse. We use many different cacao percentages, matching the chocolate with each recipe we are creating.” Byrne and Carlson uses couvertures made by many Meadow favorites, including Valrhona, Michel Cluizel, and El Rey. Their ingredients are sourced from around the world. Cocoa beans in their couvertures come from Central and South America, Madagascar, the Dominican Republic, and West Africa. Other ingredients include Australian glacé fruits, crystallized pansy flowers, Italian hazelnut paste, and mint from their own garden.

Buy Byrne and Carlson chocolate at The Meadow.

Salted Caramel Class at The Meadow

Once again the salted caramel class with Xocolatl de David was a great hit.  Chocolatier David Briggs brought samples bourbon caramel as well, and bite-sized snacks of his famous Bourbon Raleigh Bar. We tasted unsalted caramel, “half” salted caramel, and fullly (to Dave’s taste) salted caramel before setting attendees free to salt on their own. We tasted Pangasinan Star fleur de sel, Bali Rama Pyramid Balinese sea salt, Amabito no Moshio savory Japanese salt, Halen Mon Gold oak smoked salt, and even a nibble of our popular new Fleur de Hell. And yes, then we made a few batches of delicious burnt caramel and drizzled it over chocolate ice cream.

Photograph at left courtesy of David Briggs. Yum.  Looking forward to the next class in the Portland shop, Friday, October 14!

Below is a re-posting of David’s recipe originally posted here in 2008.

+

Xocolatl de David’s Semi-Secret Recipe for the Best Salted Caramel Sauce

The first step is to make invert sugar to prevent the sugar in the caramel from spontaneously crystallizing.

Salted Caramel Invert Sugar
3 C Sugar
1.5 C Water
1/4 t Citic acid OR juice of 1/2 lemon
Put ingredients in a non reactive pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Caramel Sauce
2 C Sugar
1 oz Invert Sugar
1.25 C Cream, warm
1 oz Butter
Fleur de sel

Put invert sugar and sugar in a wide high sided non reactive pot on high heat. Every minute or so slowly mix in granulated sugar with some that is liquefied. Eventually you will have a paste. Warm Cream separately.
Continue to cook sugar until it begins to caramelize. Using a candy thermometer monitor the temperature of the cooking sugar. The classic caramel stage is around 330-350 degrees F. You can cook it longer for a less sweet more bitter sauce. Do not go above 390 F.

When your desired temperature is reached turn off the heat and slowly and very carefully add the warmed cream in small increments. When the cream is fully incorporated, turn the heat on high and heat the caramel to 230 F. This will go quite quickly. Turn off heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has completely melted. Add your desired amount of Fleur de sel or other sea salt. Let cool.

It will store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=23&products_id=349

Åkesson’s Chocolate Sweeps Up at the Academy of Chocolate Awards

At his family’s plantation in Madagascar, Bertil Åkesson of Åkesson’s chocolate grows cacao and pepper and turns them both into delightful chocolate. Three of his bars recently won awards at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London. He faced some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers and came away with a hat trick. Congratulations to Bertil! Here are the descriptions for his winning bars.

Brazil 75%

Our Brazil 75% bar  is made with an astonishing forastero variety of cocoa called “parasinho” that grows in Brazil’s Mata Atlântica – the wild forest with the highest biodiversity on earth – where we purchased a 120-hectare plantation. This chocolate is very smooth and has very expressive notes that evoke wood, autumn scents, and the local pitanga fruit.

Bali 45% milk chocolate & fleur de sel

Our 45% milk chocolate bar is the first Balinese single-origin bar ever made in Europe. This chocolate holds a caramelized flavor resulting from the use of natural sugar produced from the juice of coconut blossoms, harvested by gently slicing the flower. Once collected, the nectar is kettle-boiled into a thick caramel and ground to a fine crystal. With a very low glycemic index, this sugar is a great and healthy match for our Balinese fleur de sel. The cocoa is produced by the Sukrama family on seven hectares in the Melaya area in the western part of the island.

Madagascar 75% Criollo cocoa

Our Madagascar 75% bar has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavor notes that evoke citrus and red berries, the true taste of the very best cocoa beans from Madagascar. Our 2,300-hectare family estate in the Sambirano Valley in northwestern Madagascar has produced world-famous aromatic cocoa since 1920. Besides 300 tons per year of trinitario cocoa, a very limited production of criollo cocoa – two tons per year -is harvested separately

Åkesson’s produces several other bars, including one with voatsiperifery pepper, a wild pepper that grows on creeping vines up to 20 meters (that’s 65 feet!) up in the tree canopy. All of Åkesson’s chocolates are available online from the Meadow and in both of our shops.

Don’t forget to like The Meadow on Facebook to keep up with our latest events, products, and news!

Next Page »