Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm a Swimmaholic, Too: 110,200 Meters of Swimming in May

If you follow me on twitter, or checked out the “pages” bar on the right sidebar, you might be aware of this challenge I took on.

Not a Daring Bakers’ Challenge. Or directly chocolate related, really. What then? The 50k-In-May swimming challenge, where participants work towards swimming 50,000 meters in the month of May. I found out about it through Amy. Talked others into joining me. And went for it. You can see how much distance I got in early on by checking out my page for the challenge.

Where you will notice that I took on the 100k-In-May challenge. Because it was evident after about two weeks that 50k simply wouldn’t be a challenge. Not after Emily met me for several key 6 am swims.

Then I had to start begging for help – and this is where chocolate gets involved. Amy met up with me for a couple of workouts. I bribed her with macarons.

Beth also met up with me, notably, for a 5k workout and a 6k workout – the latter of which, completed on May 29, got me to 100,200 meters for the month. I shared some of those nice lime-sea salt chocolate chunk cookies to express my gratitude.

Whew. This surprised me, because I kept looking at the calendar and figuring that I was going to have to swim a 10,000 meter workout on Memorial Day to get this to happen. And as I finished that 6k with Beth, I was a bit sad that I wouldn’t be doing it.

At this point, a normal person would think of their rotator cuff muscles and quickly escape that sadness. But I’m not a normal person. I dip buttercream frosting in chocolate. And the day after finishing up a 100,000 meter swimming challenge, I…go swimming.

For 10,000 meters. Really.

Help. Send chocolate. It’s good for post-exercise recovery.

I’d swim again today, but the DC pools are closed for a furlough day. Tragedy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lime-Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookies: Put It All Together

Salt. It goes well with chocolate. And in baked goods. So in baked goods with chocolate in them? Like chocolate chunk cookies?


Now what else goes well with chocolate?

Citrus. Lime, specifically.

To cover all the bases, you could make lime truffles AND salty chocolate chunk cookies.

Boring. Combine it all. Lime, chocolate, sea salt.

Lime-Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Zest from 4 limes

Juice from 3 limes

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% cocoa), chopped into ½” chunks

Cream butter, sugars, and lime zest about two minutes on medium speed in a stand mixer. Add egg, vanilla, and lime juice beat an additional minute. Add flour, stir on slow speed until nearly combined, then add salt and chocolate chunks. Stir until uniform, then roll into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° F for 8-10 minutes until just turning golden. Allow to cool at least 30 seconds before eating.

Be nice. Save a few for your friends.

Do you like citrus or salt with chocolate? Which do you like better?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Madame Chocolat: Oh La La (really)

Having been impressed by the superb flavor combinations I experienced with the two citrus-white chocolate pieces from Madame Chocolat, I was eager to move along to another fruit-based concoction: The Oh La La, which included passionfruit.

Oh La La indeed. The piece had strong earthy and fruity aromas, with a smooth dark chocolate shell that featured an earthy flavor with only the tiniest bit of added sugar.

No need for the shell to include much sugar; the intense passionfruit flavor in the dark chocolate-based center imparts exactly the right amount of sugar to the entire piece. It also features a beautiful tart bite and a true passionfruit flavor. One unfortunate issue with this piece is the hard and thick exterior, which results in some minor breakage; the blend of outstanding flavors is worth the mess.

Though I had clearly ascertained that Hasty Torres is skilled in creating fruit-based chocolates, I wondered how she was with plain pieces. Enter: The Noir, which is a plain 60% cocoa chocolate.

A coffee aroma is immediately evident. Time to bite in.

The flavor also features an immediate strong coffee component, along with earthy and woody undertones. The taste is quite complex, especially for a 60% cocoa piece, and little sugar is added to this piece with a slow, smooth melt. The flavor is long-lasting, but I was still left wishing for an entire bar of this concoction.


Have you ever had a small piece of chocolate that you wished was a large piece?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Madame Chocolat: Citrus Chocolates

Since my visit to Los Angeles was nearly four months ago now, you surely assume that I am now done posting reviews of the chocolate I got there, especially after the epic series of posts about the contents of the box I got from the Teuscher Beverly Hills boutique.

Ha. No. I have yet to discuss what I picked up when I dropped by Madame Chocolat on Carl’s recommendation. His case was compelling: the shop is run by Hasty Torres, the wife of acclaimed chocolatier Jaques Torres.

Since I love citrus with white chocolate, or any chocolate, really, my selections included, among other things, the Citron, which was white chocolate with lime.

The piece features a clear lime aroma, and the couverture is sweet and smooth.

The interior features a distinct, but not overwhelming, lime flavor. Flavors of cream, presumably from the white chocolate, and salt also emerge, as does a very slight hint of basil. The complimentary flavors of lime, salt, and basil cut through the sweet white chocolate nicely; put together with a couverture and filling that are well-matched in texture and density, the result is a well-balanced piece that I would certainly eat again.

And again.

But of course, I instead went for variety and moved along do the Jus d’orange.

This piece has an herby aroma with a bit of orange, which reminded me of a Clementine peel, and the couverture is, as with the Citron, quite sweet.

That sweet exterior is necessary to counteract the strong, tart orange flavor carried by the creamy ganache interior. The flavor, while intense, is purely natural in taste, and is meant only for a real orange lover. Though the couverture is just a bit hard compared to the interior and some breakage may occur, the sweet and tart combination more than makes up for it.

Have you ever gone to a chocolate shop based on somebody’s recommendation?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Bakers May 2011 Challenge: Chocolate Marquis on Meringue

Yesterday was a somber day. The writings about my box of beautiful truffles, caramels, and other chocolate treats from the Beverly Hills Teuscher boutique came to a close. What on earth could I possibly write about today? Today, May 27th?

Oh yeah. Daring Bakers. I did that &$&# this month. What, exactly, did I do?

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. Purple They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

One thing I liked about this challenge was that it helped me make a dent in this situation.

Yeah. And that’s just the Scharffen Berger. Some 8 pounds of it. Now, after making this, I’m down to about 7.5 pounds. How’d I get rid of it? By making this marquis.

Chocolate Marquise Ingredients

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70%)

1/8 teaspoon salt

pinch cayenne pepper powder

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

½ tablespoon butter, softened

3 large egg yolks at room temperature

1 large whole eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

2 ½ tablespoons water, divided

Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)

½+1/3 cups heavy cream, divided

Cocoa powder for rolling

Did you notice that this recipe calls for chocolate and pepper and salt? Nice. Very nice.

Now to make it even tastier. By adding fat and corn syrup.

Warm 1/3 cup of cream until hot, pour over chocolate and stir. Add salt, cayenne, corn syrup, vanilla, cocoa powder, butter, and one tablespoon of water. Stir, set aside and cool to room temperature.

Resist the urge to eat it all. Try to only eat, say, a quarter of it.

As the chocolate mixture that you don’t eat cools, whip eggs and egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale. Make a sugar syrup with the sugar and remaining water; when it reaches 235° F, carefully pour it into the egg mixture and whip on high speed until the bowl is cool to the touch. Set aside, whip remaining heavy cream to soft peaks. Briefly whip together chocolate mixture and egg mixture, then fold cream and egg-chocolate mixtures together before pouring into a 4”x8” loaf pan lined with parchment paper.

Freeze for two hours, then cut into 8 pieces and roll in cocoa powder (Scharffen Berger, of course).

Now, this is pretty elaborate, right? Surely I’m done.

No. Emma and Jenny wanted to break us. We had to make some spiced almonds.

Spiced Almonds

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

½ large egg white

¼ cup blanched almonds (I used slivers)

Combine sugar, cinnamon, cayenne and salt, set aside. Whisk into egg white, then add nuts and toss. Spread on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 30 minutes at 350° F.

Pretty and tasty. Now are we done?

Again, no. No rest for your kitchen weary feat. Onto the meringue.


2 egg whites

½ cup sugar

Gently warm egg whites over boiling water, then whisk until foamy, slowly add sugar and beat until glossy and stiff.

OK. That last part. Wasn’t so hard. Done?


Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine sugar and water, heat until a light amber color is achieved, remove from heat and carefully stir in cream and sugar – it will bubble.

Good grief. Did we have enough components to make this month? I think so. Now to plate it.

Pretty, isn’t it? After hours in the kitchen, it better have been. At least in my tired mind.

Have you ever made a recipe with an insane number of steps? What was it?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teuscher Beverly Hills: The Left Behind Truffles

I would be sad today. I really would. Why? Because today’s post features the last of the chocolate from my haul from the Teuscher Beverly Hills boutique.

But I’m not sad. Because I just picked up more Teuscher in Chicago.

I have a problem. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about Teuscher truffles. Like this Bailey’s truffle.

The couverture features two layers, a smooth milk chocolate coating with a creamy flavor and hints of caramel on the very outside, and an interior layer of dark chocolate that offers a bit of a coffee taste. It’s an interesting take on couverture.

I was a bit fearful of the interior, as boozy chocolates generally don’t appeal to me. Fortunately, there was just a slight bit of alcohol in the sugary interior, which was just a bit runny, but not enough to turn the piece into a complete disaster. I enjoyed the balance of sweet and bitter and the slight alcohol kick. This piece may work its way into my regular rotation.

One last piece from this box: the Josephine, which featured milk chocolate and crushed almonds.

The milk chocolate exterior is creamy, and seems to feature a bit of a coffee flavor.

Inside, the perfectly crisp almonds offer a satisfying crunch with the ganache that features caramel undertones. The exterior and interior meld together perfectly, which makes nibbling at this chocolate easy.

Except that it’s so delicious that you’ll want to gobble it all up at once.

Do it. Just make sure you have another half dozen of these on hand. You’ll want them.

Have you had chocolate with Bailey’s in it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teuscher Beverly Hills: The Caramels

Even though I generally favor the truffles and giandujas when selecting pieces at a Teuscher boutique, I have to keep in mind that I’m on a mission to sample every piece of chocolate that they offer. And review each piece for you, my readers. Totally selfless. That’s what I am. And that’s why I picked up two caramels to sample when I visited the Beverly Hills boutique – including the dark sea salt caramel.

The salt in this caramel seems to only be the visible salt on the exterior of this piece, and the chocolate holding that salt is a smooth, dark chocolate with coffee and caramel flavor notes.

The caramel inside is a bit disappointing, as it features very little salt and is dense and chewy, such that the couverture flakes away. That all said, it is made with high-quality cream, as evidenced by the sweet and creamy flavor. The ingredients are all top-notch, but they don’t come together as well as other Teuscher pieces.

Onto another caramel: the honey caramel.

This piece has a strong aroma of earthy dark chocolate; the flavor includes strong coffee notes with hints of vanilla and caramel and a very mild fruity aftertaste.

The caramel interior offers a mild honey flavor, which is mostly evident as the caramel dissolves away. It is quite sweet, but the additional flavor dimension from the honey prevents it from being excessively so. The texture is a bit chewy, but perfectly matched to the couverture so that they don’t break apart one bit. If you want to experience a caramel from Teuscher, this is the one to go for.

Have you ever had a honey caramel?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Teuscher Beverly Hills: Orange and Cocoa Truffles

When I wrote about the Biagio sample day yesterday, did you think I was done writing about my box of Teuscher chocolates from Beverly Hills? Nah. Of course not. It was a big box. So along we go.

After experiencing the wonderful lemon jelly chocolate from the Beverly Hills Teuscher shop, I was sad to part with that bit of citrusy delight. Fortunately, I also had an orange truffle in my box.

The aroma is dominated by cocoa, with a faint note of orange also present.

The interior reveals a bit of orange that is present mostly as an aftertaste, and is firm but not very tart. There’s a bit of added sugar, but the coating of cocoa powder balances it well. The thin chocolate shell between the interior and the cocoa powder has hints of vanilla and a texture that matches well to the firm interior. Though the truffle was enjoyable, I prefer a stronger orange flavor in an chocolate purported to be orange, and would favor Teuscher’s orange gianduja over this truffle.

Having depleted the fruity pieces from my box, it was time to move along to the plain cocoa truffle, which was quite similar to the orange in construction, as it featured a thin shell covered in cocoa powder.

The cocoa aroma is intense. I was eager to see what was sitting inside the thin chocolate shell.

The interior is, like that of the orange truffle, firm and features a slow melt. The dominant flavor is creamy, with a faint hint of coffee. The exterior is exceptionally intense and bitter, and matches well with the exterior not only in flavor, but in texture as well – no crumbling of the shell takes place in any bite. While the intensity of the exterior would make this a treat for dark chocolate lovers only, the creaminess of the interior makes it more universally appealing. If you are selecting chocolates for a friend at Teuscher, be sure to add a cocoa truffle to the mix.

Especially if you are my friend.

If you are buying chocolates for a friend, how do you chose what to put in the box?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Biagio Sample Day: Running Into People Who Read Your Blog

Ah, Monday. The beginning of another week, holding so much promise. Don’t you love Mondays?

Or, maybe now, you hate me. Whatever. You know what would make you hate me more? If you read about the chocolate tasting event that I went to this weekend.

It was the regular monthly chocolate tasting at Biagio, and was the first one conducted by the new owner, Robert Cabeca. To welcome the new ownership, as well as the late-May heat wave, there was iced hot chocolate (?) available.

This drink, which was made with E. Guittard drinking cocoa, was intense but a tad thin. It seemed that the cocoa wasn’t very well miscible with water. I quickly moved along to the main attraction: the chocolate, which included the Michel Cluizel 67% Cocoa Los Ancones single plantation chocolate, which featured a buttery melt with an earthy flavor and just a hint of sugar.

Now, you may wonder how I recall such specific chocolate characteristics after a tasting event. I wish I could say that it’s because I’m just that brilliant, but it’s actually because I take notes. Another woman noted that this was a good idea, and I explained that I did this for my chocolate blog.

“What blog do you write? I think I follow you.”

Yep. It was Rachel, a brilliant guru on agricultural sustainability, who writes at My Munchable Musings. We chatted after the tasting about cocoa-growing regions (she adores Madagascan chocolate), dilemmas of quinoa farmers in Bolivia, and food distribution in general.

But first, we sampled more chocolate, including:

  • The Askinosie white chocolate nibble bar, with goat’s milk and cocoa beans, which I found to be a bit grainy and quite sweet, with a very strong creamy flavor.
  • The Madecasse 67% cocoa bar, which featured coffee flavors and a faint hint of raisin.

I decided to pick up a few items I’d had on my mind, including the Amano Chuao Reserve, which I’d seen Candice review earlier this year, the Madacasse milk chocolate, which Lee gave good reviews to, and the Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix, that David Lebovitz himself found addicting.

I also picked up two items that were out for tasting at the sample day, including the previously mentioned Cluizel bar; I also threw in a Domori Puertomar that I’d found enjoyable.

Another wonderful sample day – this one enhanced by a serendipitous meet up with a fellow blogger.

Have you ever unexpectedly run into a blogger you follow?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Teuscher Beverly Hills: Fruity Pieces

Once I’d ventured into the citrus realm of Teuscher’s treats by choosing two chocolate-covered orange peel pieces for my box, I figured I’d make my visit to the Beverly Hills boutique a truly fruity one. Why not pick up a pineapple pate as well?

There wasn’t any pineapple aroma evident, instead, a faint coffee aroma from the chocolate was notable.

The pineapple flavor was quite muted as well, as it was quite heavily candied. What I noted most was that the interior featured the texture of pineapple, along with a good deal of sugar, but little pineapple flavor. The chocolate is a bit hard for the pineapple, which is somewhat chewy, and breaks away from the pineapple with some bites, making it difficult to appreciate the two flavors together. I’d prefer a tangier pineapple with a softer chocolate coating, but I was forewarned by the staff that the piece was more sugary than fruity.

They sure know their product. Maybe someday, I’ll listen


I tried another sugary fruit truffle, though this time, it was a lemon jelly square, so I was hopeful that there would be a stronger fruit flavor, perhaps some intense tartness from the lemon.

The chocolate is a bit bitter, with earthy and coffee flavors, and is quite smooth.

But the chocolate isn’t really the feature here: it’s the lemon jelly. No question. It’s the perfect texture – soft but not runny, dense but not chewy. There is a precise balance of sugar and tart lemon. A much better balance than with the pineapple. I could eat this straight. No chocolate required.

No chocolate required? Woah. Crazy talk.

Have you had lemon jelly with chocolate?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Teuscher Beverly Hills: Chocolate Covered Orange Peel - Milk and Dark

Though I usually fill my Teuscher boxes with decadent pralines, truffles, and giandujas, I was intrigued by their chocolate-covered candied orange peels during my February visit to the Beverly Hills boutique, most likely because I’d made some myself just a few weeks earlier.

I was confident that Teuscher’s craftwork here would be far superior to mine, but how much? Time to investigate the milk chocolate covered orange peel.

The aroma is creamy, and little citrus is evident. I wondered if there was, in fact, orange in there. Clearly, I had to take a bite.

The peel is there, and is just a bit bitter and not very heavily candied. The milk chocolate is smooth, and the dominant flavor is creamy. The two meld together relatively well, as both are fairly soft, but there is a bit of flaking with each bite. It’s generally enjoyable, though the orange flavor isn’t very intense.

And how would this be with dark chocolate? Hmmm…if only Teuscher also offered a dark chocolate covered orange peel.


The chocolate covering the orange peel is smooth, and carries earthy and coffee flavors.

Unfortunately, despite being smooth, the chocolate is quite hard and breaks away from the soft orange peel. As the flavor of the chocolate is quite intense, the flavor of the orange peel is difficult to tease out, and this piece is not quite as well-balanced as the milk chocolate version. If I were in the mood for chocolate covered orange peel and had access to an entire Teuscher boutique, I’d likely reach for the milk version.

Do you like orange with milk or dark chocolate?