Archive for the 'Chocolate Happenings' Category

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.]

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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.

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.

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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.

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The Ultimate Salted Caramel Recipe

Last night was the second of two salted caramel classes with David Briggs of Xocolatl de David.  We tasted Flor de sal de Manzanillo fleur de sel, Bali Rama Pyramid Balinese sea salt, Rosemary Flake sea salt, and Iburi Jio Cherry smoked Japanese sea salt.  Fantastic, and fun.  At the previous class we tried a similar format, but tasted Pangasinan Star Philippine fleur de sel and Grigio di Cervia Italian sel gris, as well as the wild and unexplored crunchy wierdness that is Takesumi Bamboo, one of my favorite new salts.  Below is a re-posting of David’s recipe originally posted here in 2008.

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For the last month or so we have offered a class on the making of salted caramels at The Meadow.  Our friend and master confectioner David Briggs of at Xocolatl de David led us through the various stages of caramelization and saltiness.

Below is the Ultimate Salted Caramel Recipe as perfected by David Briggs of Xocolatl de David.

The format of the salted caramel class was the usual: Attendees (we had over 32 last night!) were given a glass of wine to help keep their palates lively as we moved through a somewhat rigorous tasting format.

  • Mark Bitterman gave the selmelier’s mini-lecture on the four types of sea salt currently used in the assorted salted caramels offered in the shop.
  • Halen Mon Gold oak smoked sea salt from Wales – oaky and warm and mellow with hefty filo dough like flakes
  • Iburi Jio Cherry cherrywood smoked deep sea salt form Japan – heady and bacony and silky at the same time
  • Amabito no Moshio seaweed salt from Japan – a round and mild mineral-rich salt with lots of savory brothy (umami) flavors.
  • Pangasinan Star fleur de sel from the Philippines – brambly and warm and delicately sweet with outsized yet delicate white crystals.
  • The David Briggs talked about how he formulates the salt-levels of his caramels as people tasted:
  • Unsalted burnt caramel cubes
  • Lightly salted caramel cubes (the light is Briggs’s term, as the man loves salt)
  • Fully salted caramel cubes (whoa Bessy!)
  • Then Dave demonstrated how to make a salted caramel sauce (note: Dave declines to go by the title of caramelier either because he thinks a caramelier fellow in France will be offended or because he worries it might constrain future projects involving bacon or ice cream—or maybe both).
  • We took a vote and let the guests choose which salts to put in the caramels based on their tasting.  Every class has been different.  This time the choices were Halen Mon Gold and Pangasinan Star.
  • Last, Dave served up home-made chocolate ice cream and guests were allowed to ladle out the salted caramel sauce (or sauces) of choice onto the ice cream.

Jittery, maybe a little buzzed, the crowd at the end of the evening was slow to drift off, doubtless uncertain as to whether dinner, bed, sea kayaking, or something else would be the best outlet for their energy.

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.

Salt on Chocolate, Chocolate on Salt, Chocolate Fondue

block of himalayan salt with chocolate and strawberriesFruit and chocolate go well together, as anyone who has found themselves psychologically tethered to the chocolate fondue fountain at one of those random high-right institutional mixers we all seem to find ourselves attending, unexpectedly, at least once in a while.  Chocolate fondue fountains exist but for the purpose of getting us to eat something fresh with our chocolate.  Banana.  Strawberry.  Apple.  Fig.  Pineapple.  Dip a chunk under the curtain of chocolate cascading from the lip of a multi-tiered chocolate fountain and something inside says: “Hey mister, I’m really happy right now!  So don’t move.  Not even to fetch a glass of faux champagne.  Not even at the risk looking like a pig in front of ravishing women in diaphanous and clingy evening wear.  Don’t move.  Just eat.  Try the papaya.”

Sadly, some people don’t listen to their little voices, so setting up camp at the chocolate fondue area of the party makes for only the most fleeting of intercourse with others.  While that may have its advantages, I can’t shake the feeling that there is something failed in a chocolate fountain that doesn’t break down every semblance of the social façades that propel us through parties on unending undulations of stiflingly pedestrian conversation and gushy niceness.

What makes fruit taste better?  Salt.  What makes chocolate taste better?  Salt.  What makes fruit and chocolate taste better another?  What makes chocolate fondue something you might actually eat on a regular basis?  Stumped?  A Himalayan Salt Block.

First: My favorite salts for chocolate these days, or at least some of the artisan sea salts I’ve found myself returning to again and again when dabbling in salted chocolate are:
Grigio di Cervia Italian sel gris
Iburi Jio cherrywood smoked
Pangasinan Star fleur de sel
Halen Mon Gold oak smoked flake salt

Chocolate on salt blockMany, many salts work well with chocolate. Far fewer chocolates work well with salt.  I’ve tasted hundreds, and most leave me with a freaked-out feeling, which in itself isn’t so bad, but could be improved.  The beautiful, super-silky Cru Sauvage wild harvested salt from Bolivia, is just awful with salt.  Most of the more well-known all around crowd pleasers are good, but not perfect, perhaps because they are all about delicacy.  Michel Cluizel, for example… Not good.   The bigger chocolates take the salt much better.  Venchi is superb.  Claudio Corallo, magnificent.

Here’s bewilderingly delicious way to bring salt together with fruit and chocolate with ease, grace, and visual pizzazz.  First, warm a plate or brick of either tableware grade or cookware grade Pink Himalayan salt on the stove at low heat for about 3 minutes (go for 110, which is basically just a touch warm to the touch.  This is warm enough to melt the chocolate and also gentle enough on the salt block to permit use of less expensive Tableware Grade salt blocks).  Set the salt block on a trivet or plate.  Arrange chocolate bars on a slab of Pink Himalayan Salt.  Slice some fruit (any of the ones mentioned above will work) and arrange on the salt block alongside.  (You can also serve a platter of fruit alongside, and then just transfer a few piece at a time to the salt block.)  Serve with a dish of excellent finishing salt. Dip fruit in chocolate, or scoop chocolate onto fruit.  Eat some straight up.  Sprinkle some with salt and then eat.

salted chocolateThe thrill of serving fruit and chocolate on a block of salt and then sprinkling with some salt at your discretion is that the salt come into the field of play from two different directions and in two vastly different forms.  On the salt block, the luscious liquid heart of the fruit picks up a touch of salt, bringing out the sweetness, accentuating fugitive fruit notes, but interacting only in briny simplicity with your tongue because all the salt on the fruit is dissolved.  Because the chocolate is mainly fat, and salt is not fat soluble, the salt block bring zero salt to the chocolate.So, take a bite.  The salted fruit liquid is doing the salting for the chocolate.  Then drop a flake of salt on top of the chocolate and munch with a bite of the fruit.  Now you get brilliant sparkle of salt dancing off the chocolate, commingling with its dark richness, penetrating through all the way to the fruit.  The variations of salt and fruit and chocolate are geometric, crystal salt, liquid salt, salted fruit, salted chocolate, chocolated fruit and salt, fruited chocolate and salt, etc.  Summed up as: yum.

To clean up, rinse the pink Himalayan salt block under warm water, pat dry with a paper towel, and you’re done.

Chocolate and Salt Class with Michael Recchiuti and Mark Bitterman

Rosemary pistaccio bamboo salt palletteDoing an event with Michael Recchiuti is a little like surfing on the back of a dolphin.  Constant movement, sort of an ongoing momentum toward an unknown something or other, and a near constant rush.  Though “dolphin” isn’t very Recchiuti like.  There is nothing particularly aquatic about him.  But I want to hold on to the surfing metaphor.  Maybe surfing on the back of a beaver.  A marmot?

I was there to talk salt for a chocolate and salt class for 30 people at Recchiuti’s factory in San Francisco.  While there, I took it upon myself to assume the role of in-house naturalist.  Below are a handful of examples of my attempt to capture, with a cell phone camera, Michael Recchiuti in action.  For my own purposes, I also tried to soak up as much information, technique, and ideas as possible.  I’m still processing the experience, but this is sort of how it went:

Candied pistachiosMe just off the plane from Portland, he just out from a marathon morning at the chocolate factory, we meet at Piccino, share a bitter salad and a pizza with mildly junipery speck, chat and share a bite of burnt caramel ice cream (made by Recchiuti) with two beautiful women at the table next to us (who introduce themselves the moment the ice cream arrive), then race off to buy glasses for the salt and chocolate class, scheduled for the following day.

Returning to the factory, located in a huge industrial building in the uber hip Dogpatch district of San Francisco, I park my luggage at the door and am introduced to everyone in the “kitchen,” then everyone in the office.  The “kitchen” has mixers, temperers, coaters, conveyor belts, warm rooms, cool rooms, and giant kettles reminiscent of jet engine parts.

Michael Recchiut caramelizing apples in butter and sugar for tarte tatinWe survey the presentation area, chat over ideas about how to seat people, how to present salted caramels (there will be a flight of eight with six salts), where lights should go, where the tent went that was supposed to be here already, where homemade graham crackers can be set out alongside palettes of chocolate melting atop a Himalayan salt block, the general drift of how people will arrive, how they will dredge said graham crackers in said chocolate atop said Himalayan salt block and then find a seat.  How all their knees are going to be touching because the event is fully booked.

Then Michael starts disappearing.  He’s in the humidity controlled walk-in.  He’s rummaging for tubs under a worktable.  He’s grabbing something from a file.  He’s tossing a heavy cast iron pans on a counter top and pouring sugar over butter.  He is up on top of the giant walk in fridge fumbling with octopus plugs.  I intersect with him from time to time, busy either wondering what to do, brainstorming about something that will or will not happen, helping with some random task, photographing something.  We do this for two days together. Michael and his team had been working on it for a least a few days prior to my arrival as well.

I realize that somewhere along the line I’d started eating things.  Michael throws me a cherry bomb, I pluck a caramel-encrusted pecan from a tray, snack on a few real-mint-junior mints, dip my finger in some apricot, gouge a glop of sorbet from the spout of the ice Sel gris on crust of tarte tatincream machine, gouge a glop of sorbet from the spout of the ice cream machine after some egg white has been added, sprinkle some bamboo salt or sel gris or fleur de sel or smoked salt on each of the above and try them that way. (I’m also not 100% sure that it’s okay for me to be tasting things; this is, after all, a real factory, with spoken and unspoken codes of behavior, defined economies, ongoing production streams, etc.)  But I realize that I’ve already learned something from Michael: eat what you preach, and eat it often.  Which may be simplified as: eat.

(This is not to say that we relied exclusively on chocolate as a fuel source for the long days leading up to the salt and chocolate event.  Recchiuti has just bought a new espresso machine, and he is eager to try it out at every opportunity.)

chocolate salt cupsBut by now everything was coming together, which has a soothing effect on me and an intensifying effect on Michael.  Now he is almost impossible to see.  Suddenly spun sugar appears on a tray.  Tarte tatin appears in neat squares.  Marshmallows of flash frozen lime foam glow mysteriously on the counter.  The dish washing station is piling higher and higher with bowls, spatulas, knives, molds, beakers, trays.

I am taking pictures, still, and helping where I can.  I rim glasses for malted milk in powderized cocoa nibs and smoked salt.  I roll chocolate swizzle sticks in flaky salt.  I eat.

The guests arrive, we serve cocktails, and soon, the event is under way.

Menu:

Welcome Cocktail
Champagne Apricot Freeze made with Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs, celery and radish juices, and a salted chocolate swizzle stick.

Dip-It-Yourself Breadsticks
Recchiuti’s housemade graham crackers and single origin chocolate on a Himalayan salt block.

A Classic Opening
Tarte Tatin baked with Sel Gris de L’ile de Noirmoutier and finished with a suspended animation sprinkle of Okinawa Snow salt.

“Palette” Cleanser
Single Origin “Ocumare” by Amano Chocolate. Topped with pistachios, rosemary foraged from Michael’s street and 3x Roasted Korean Bamboo salt.

Frosty Beverage
Chilled Chocolate Malt drink made with El Rey 41% Milk Chocolate and organic roasted barley malt from Oaktown. Finished with a rim of Iburi Jio Cherry salt.

Intermission
Recchiuti factory tour.

Salt Flight
A comparison of six artisan salt caramels: Pangasinan Star, Kona Deep Sea, Shinkai Deep Sea, Halen Mon Gold, Amabito no Moshio, Cyprus Silver.

One Last Dance
House-churned Burnt Caramel Ice Cream (the same one that elicited the attention of the two women at the restaurant the previous day). Garnished with a drizzle of Stonehouse Olive Oil and Haleakala Ruby Salt.

And to take home…
A box of salt caramels to share (or not) with friends.

Two articles I’ve found on (or relating to) the Recchiuti Bitterman Chocolate Salt event so far:

http://www.foodporn.com/pescygourmet/2009/05/recchiuti-salt-and-chocolate-tasting.html
http://www.thedinnerfiles.com/?p=1089

Busy Days of Chocolate Tasting at The Meadow

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about chocolate, and a lot has happened.

The main thing is that we have been eating (ahem, I mean tasting) a lot of chocolate bars.

Sahagun Salted CaramelsOur Meadow Salted Chocolates were back in stock for a short while!  But no, they are gone again, darn it.  If anyone knows a great, secret local chocolatier who can mold and package our salted chocolate, please do tell.

Also made locally, we now carry Sahagun Handmade Chocolates‘ legendary fleur de sel liquid caramels, and an expanded collection of her lovely “barks.”  There is the Palomitapapa, the Pepitapapa, the Oregon Bark.

Michael Recchiuti fleur de sel caramels have also landed on the shelves, along with boxes of his wild and delicious chocolates.  I confess that part of the reason does not have to do with the fact that his caramels are ridiculously, annoyingly good.  Part has to do with the fact that we just love Michael and his wife Jackie so much, we want to be feel their presence in the shop.  (I’ll post something on a Japanese fusion salt-festooned dinner we all shared at the Heathman not long ago on Saltnews.org sometime soon!).   Local chocolatiers include Sahagun, Xocolatl de David, DePaula Confections, and Lulu’s Chocolate!

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Xocolatl de Davíd Dinner at Park Kitchen

I really have nothing against chocolate.  In its bar form, in fact, it is something I enjoy with all the savor and associations of great wine.  In it’s bar form I probably eat half a pound a day, or maybe more when the stars are in alignment.

But chocolate as a theme, as a concept, as a pattern, a fashion, a mode — no.  Nay.  I do not like it.  My initial, invertebrate response when my personal friend and professional chocolate supplier David Briggs said he was making a chocolate dinner was to recoil into a dark crevice somewhere, staring through the briny depths of my eyes with octopus horror.  Sucking cold brine through my gills, my brain is reduced to its bivalve origins.  Chocolate, my dear friend, is a food.

But immediately after that my knowledge of Dave, who owns and operates Xocolatl de David and is also Sous Chef at Park Kitchen, returned to assure me.  Mr. Briggs’s unassuming manner cloaks a sophisticated palate, unflinching creativity, and an ever-expanding set of skills .  So why not?  A seven course chocolate-based meal paired with seven beverages, served at Park Kitchen, one of Jennifer and my favorite restaurants in town, and a place we freely recommend to out of town visitors and locals alike who visit The Meadow.

If Jennifer had qualms she didn’t express them; she just grabbed my hand and dragged me to Park Kitchen where 14 people (two cowardly louts failed to honor their reservation) were seated with the preliminary awkwardness that inevitably attends such public-private group encounters.

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Dinner with Michael Recchiuti

Okhotnichya VodkaYes, Mike and I just hung out for the evening, exchanging witty observations about the trade. Tucked in a mellowly lit booth at the Heathman Hotel’s Tea Court, we sipped a vodka martini made with Okhotnichya — an old Soviet-era “hunter’s vodka” — that Mike had crafted himself from the mucilage of cacao pods and various findings at the Portland Farmer Market earlier that day ,and gifted to the bar keep in a beaker hand cut from a thrift store vase. Philippe Boulot, Executive Chef of the Heathman, Chocolate Gourmandiseplopped down in the booth beside us from time to time, soliciting our opinions of various amuses gueules involving foie gras, chocolate, fleur de sel de l’Ile de Noirmoutier, and grape must. We were later graced by the presence of Boulot’s lovely and talented pastry chef wife Susan Boulot, bearing miniature plates of her legendary Chocolate Gourmandise produced from the aquatic criollo beans she harvested on a scuba expedition Flowers of Theobroma cacaoto the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan beneath the azure waves of lake Texcoco. The bouquet of flowers plucked by Florist/Sommelier/Wife Jennifer Turner Bitterman from our own, private, greenhouse-coddled cacao tree filled the room with its intoxicating aroma, attracting various non-native lepidopterous insects that glowed and chattered about our heads.

Actually, none of this happened.

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