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Archive for February, 2008

A few weeks ago, Sera from Candy Addict recommended a book by Chloe Doutre-Roussel called The Chocolate Connoisseur. I took Sera’s advice, picked it up, and devoured it in a couple sittings- it’s a great read for anyone interested in chocolate tasting, sourcing, and the professional possibilities chocolate offers.

Chocolate Connoisseur

As I read about Doutre-Roussel’s career as the chocolate buyer for Fortnum & Mason, her story began to sound familiar. Sure enough, I had heard it before. It turns out one of my other favorite chocolate history books, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum, spends chapters profiling Doutre-Roussel and her expertise. Here’s the passage in which we first meet her. I love the new French vocab word, and I am going to start using it regularly in everyday conversation:

“Chloe is a chocolate lunatic. The French would call her une chocodĂ©pendante, which means, roughly, a chocoholic with class. This is no literary exaggeration. She wears dresses with discreet kangaroo pouches in front so she can sneak bites of chocolate during long business meetings. At ninety-nine pounds, she is an open-and-shut argument against killjoys who insist that chocolate makes you fat.” 🙂

I LOVE that image of chocolate hidden in pockets during the workday.  Chloe, you are kinda my hero.

In The Chocolate Connoisseur, Doutre-Roussel gives excellent pointers on how to conduct meaningful chocolate tastings to begin to take apart the different flavors and aromas present in different chocolates. The book is also a virtual encyclopedia of quality chocolatiers whose bars should be sampled. Although the overall message is to be open-minded and explore what tastes good to you personally, it’s nice to find a list of manufacturers whose chocolate, when tasted in comparison to each other, have varying dimensions that can help develop your palate.

My only question is whether anyone knows a good source for buying fine chocolate for delivery in the US. I’ve been through chocolatesource.com, but there are still some brands not featured there. I was specifically looking for the Pralus brand, and eventually I came upon World Wide Chocolate. I’d highly recommend this site as a resource for buying European chocolate bars from the US. But does anyone have any other favorite retailers??

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On a recent baking spree, I experimented with all sorts of new recipes for cakes and cupcakes. Soon to be posted are the results of my experimentation. There are some great red velvet cupcakes with a gooey chocolate ganache surprise inside, which would be ideal to serve that special someone for Valentine’s Day. There is also a good old fashioned carrot cake, which I adapted from my famous carrot cake cupcakes. And I also took inspiration from Cupcake Bake Shop and attempted a Japanese chocolate cupcake with sweet red bean filling and green tea icing.

BUT after baking my little heart out, I got to thinking of ways to make cupcakes a little more unique. While the possibilities in flavor and texture combinations is always enough to keep me interested in cupcake baking, sometimes it’s fun to shake things up a bit. I got to thinking of how I would go about making a pyramid cake.

Now, I have to admit my fascination with the idea came from a couple other expert sources. First, Philadelphia’s Naked Chocolate Cafe serves a specialty dessert called the Nudo which is essentially a pyramid-shaped brownie, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Oh. My. Gosh. Having spent many evenings during my college days in Philly at Naked Chocolate sampling their menu, I still get a little breathless thinking of the visual, textural, rich feast that is the Nudo:

nudo

I am also waiting for the right moment to attempt Fran Bigelow’s pyramid cake. Made from cutting up and re-assembling a sheet layer cake, this dessert is visually striking, and I cannot wait to report on my experience with it. You should take a look at her excellent cookbook, Pure Chocolate:

pure chocolate

But how to make a triangular/pyramid cupcake? While there are special molds available on the marketplace, I recently found a more resourceful solution in Gale Gand’s book Just a Bite. Gand explains that she uses the conical paper cups used with water cooler tanks- we’ve all seen them. Isn’t that too clever to resist??!!

Using any cake batter recipe, fill the paper cups up to ½ inch from the top rim. Before filling, the inside of the cups must be well buttered, all the way down to the bottom point. To bake the cups standing upright on their points, you must assemble holders from tin foil. Crumple the foil up and around the point of the cone, and place it inside a muffin tin for support. If the batter rises up beyond the top rim during baking, trim it flat using a serrated knife after it cools.

I cannot begin to imagine all the decorating options here. Gand recommends drizzling with dark and white chocolate. And they’d be perfect witches’ hats for Halloween! Or Christmas trees:

trees

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