Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate


Earliest Food Memories

One of my earliest and fondest food related memories comes from my early childhood, when my Grandma used to babysit me. I would have been about three years old.

 Every morning we’d walk to the post office and get the mail. We would also pick up the mail for one of her elderly neighbours, “Ms. F-.” 

Ms. F- was always very good about paying her postman. I’d hand her the mail, and she would disappear into her back kitchen, only to return with an old cookie tin. The tin was always lined with wax paper, and always contained homemade chocolate covered raisin clusters. I’ll never forget the smell when she removed the lid, or the taste of those clusters.

To this day, I like chocolate covered raisins, but the individually coated ones you get in stores now are a pale comparison to the ones I ate in Ms. F-‘s sun porch as a 3yr old mailman.

The closest I’ve ever come to tasting those wonderful little clusters again came unexpectedly about a week ago. I had a Toblerone fruit and nut bar that almost had the ratio of chocolate-to-raisin mouth feel dead on. But alas, it didn’t include the old cookie tin that smelled like heaven. Maybe one day I’ll have the good fortune of coming across that Pandora’s box at a yard sale.

I’m sure everyone has similar memories of a favorite food from when they were little and the world was big. So, what’s your favorite food memory?


La Maison Du Chocolat



Ah, mon Dieu! C’est magnifique! Just yesterday I wrote a post about making truffles with a soft center. I somewhat crypticly mentioned that there are other types of ganache, as well.

In this video from La Maison du Chocolat, you can see how they make a slab of ganache behind the scenes at one of the best chocolataries in France.

I just want to point out that, although the kitchen looks big and industrial, and there are a lot of machines helping to do the work, making the chocolates is still very much a hands on process.

Also note that, aside from the flambe for flavouring, the ingredients are simple. Chocolate and cream. This is why I stress using the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on, and using fresh cream.

I once found myself in line at the local grocery store behind the owner of a local chocolate shop. I had learned from a former employee that they used Merckens chocolate flavoured candy coating instead of real chocolate. I therefore wasn’t surprised to see her cart loaded up with cans of evaporated milk.

 The result? Grey imitation chocolate that tastes too sweet and has a gritty mouth feel. What a shame.


Coffee Truffles

I recently received a request from a friend:

Hey Jeremy! I have a request because I know that you know alot about chocolate!! I need a recipe of a soft ganache filling that I can flavour with coffee to pipe inside a chocolate mould to make truffles with runny centers do u know what I mean???

The following makes quite a bit of ganache for piping into shells. You can divide the recipe in half, if you don’t need that many.

For the ganache:

700g whipping cream,

1000g milk couverture,

20g glucose,

This is a good starting point for a pipe-able milk chocolate ganache. As for the coffee flavouring, you can either whisk an instant coffee into the cream just before adding the chocolate, or use a shot of espresso if you have access to an espresso maker. You can also go the coffee flavoured liqueur route, and add about 50g before adding the chocolate.

The strength of the coffee flavour is dependant on personal taste, so feel free to experiment. I’ve also made cappuccino truffles by using white couverture, and increasing the amount by 100g. To use the above recipe for a dark truffle, the cream and dark couverture should be 900g each.

you can change the flavours all you want, but try not to toy too much with the composition. There is a delicate process involved in the recipe formulation that keeps the ganache from separating. Keep in mind that oil and water don’t mix.

Bring your liquids to a boil, then carefully dump in the chocolate. Don’t whisk it at this point! use a rubber spatula to make sure the ganache is blended together, but try to avoid mixing air into it. From here on out, air is the enemy.

Set the ganache aside to cool, and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure there is no air between the wrap and the ganache, you don’t want bubbles. The reason you don’t want air is that air pockets inside the truffle allow space for mold to grow. Being diligent in keeping air out will give your truffles a longer shelf life (they should be good for about 2 weeks).

Once the ganache has cooled to room temperature, it is ready to be piped. Keep it covered if it’s not going to be used right away. Once piped into shells, allow ganache to set, then cap them with tempered chocolate, roll them, and decorate as desired. 


The Chocolate Cake Sutra

I said to my soul be still,

and wait without hope

wait without thought…

so the darkness shall be the light,

and the stillness the dancing. 

-T.S. Eliot

I’ve been reading through a book called “The Chocolate Cake Sutra” by Geri Larkin. I’m enjoying it so far, and although it’s not really a food book, it does have a recipe for chocolate cake on the last page, along with the following tips:

You’ll have to wait for the cake to cool to frost it. Good luck. I’ve never been able to wait that long.

This cake is best eaten immediately with three friends…

Any cake eaten in pure awareness – without the distractions of a cell phone, computer, television, or conversation – is a perfect chocolate cake. This includes cakes that have been in your freezer since last February. I know this.

After reading a bit of the book, as well as those tips, I got thinking about how much we miss out on in our modern world, when we don’t take the time to slow down, share life with those around us, and enjoy what we have. 

Most of my favorite food related memories have less to do with the actual food, and more to do with who was with me and where we were. I remember the first meal I cooked for my wife. At the time she didn’t like fish, so she doused her fish in lemon juice until it was inedible. We still get a good laugh about it to this day. Was the fish good? Doesn’t really matter. The memories are great.



As should be evident throughout my site, I am a big fan of a number of specific food and drink products. Among my favorites are coffee, wine, and artisanal baking. Having said that, there is only one singular ingredient that, at least for me, has created a type of fanatacism. That ingredient is Chocolate.

Chocolate has several similarities to many of the other food products I’ve already listed. It begins as an agricultural product, requires fermentation, and roasting, and produces a product based off of a very minimal number of ingredients that have an infinite number of unique flavour and creative possibilities. The ultimate outcome is based on the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the craftsman.

Much has been written on the subject of Cacao production (within the industry, cacao refers to the agricultural process and product of that process, the cacao pods. Cocoa refers to the products produced from the pod). Although I feel it is important to have an understanding of this process, the average home-based chocolatier will never be involved in this process. Just know that cocoa powder and cocoa butter are two by-products of the refining process, and chocolate is the combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. I may write more about this in a later post.

Chocolate production for most chocolatiers begins with selection of the chocolate they will use. Again, quality is key, so don’t skimp out. Chocolate (commonly labeled as couverture) contains certain percentages of cocoa solids, sugar, and fat content, usually provided by cocoa butter and/or milk (hence the term milk chocolate). There is a product called chocolate coating, which many small chocolate shops (at least in my area) try to pass off as real chocolate. Coatings can not legally be called Chocolate, and contain products not found in real chocolate, such as vegetable fats, bulking agents, and wax. Coating chocolate is used by some places because it is cheap, requires no tempering, and therefore little skill on the part of the chocolatier. If you are familiar with couverture, and how properly tempered chocolate should look and taste, you can spot coating chocolate right away.

On selecting chocolate, there are several different brands available. You’ll find that some people swear by one company, while other people swear by another. Like wine, I think it should come down to personal taste as much as anything. If you like Valrhona, use it. If you prefer Callebaut, use that instead.

Reading the labal on the side of a box of couverture, you will see something like this: 60/40/38. This means that there is 60% cocoa solids, 40% sugar, and 38% total fat content. This would be a dark chocolate. An average milk chocolate example would be 36/42/38. These numbers are important to understand, because the first tells you roughly how dark the chocolate will be, the second will tell you if it’ll be bitter or sweet, and the third will give you an idea about how viscous it will be to work with. The higher the fat content, the more viscous. Keep in mind that it is possible to add cocoa butter to chocolate to thin it out more while working with it. Cocoa butter has a very low melting point. If you put a flake of it on your hand it will melt right away. 

White chocolate, which I haven’t yet mentioned, should be beige or off-yellow. If you come across white chocolate that is snow-white, it’s coating chocolate. The reason for this is because white chocolate contains no cocoa solids, and is therefore mainly cocoa butter and sugar. It takes on the colour of the cocoa butter.

It’s good to keep all of this in mind while working with chocolate. Dark chocolate tends to be much more forgiving while tempering than white or milk due to the higher percentage of cocoa solids, and lower amount of fat and sugar. Because of this, dark chocolate tends to set harder than the other two. When making a multi-layered mousse, for example, you want to have the darkest mousse at the bottom for structural stability.

Selection of chocolate for eating is, in my opinion, another personal choice. If you prefer milk chocolate, eat it. If you are a die-hard dark chocolate fan, that’s fine two. At one shop I worked at, we had a guy who always wanted the darkest chocolate we had, and even then it wasn’t dark enough. We ended up getting some 90% couverture from Michel Cluizel , which to me tasted like cocoa powder. It was sooo bitter, no sweetness to it at all. The guy loved it.

I have also been fortunate enough to catch one of Jean-Pierre Wybauw’s chocolate workshops . This turned out to be a great event for meeting other chocolate professionals in my area. I have remained in contact with a few of the people I met there, and even had the good fortune of working with one of them for nearly a year. As it turns out, she lives two doors down from the house I grew up in. I haven’t lived in that town since I was 17 (which, I’m sad to report, was quite some time ago.) It’s a small world, I guess. – great site for chocolate molds


Top Five Most Useful Pieces of Kitchen Equipment

This is just a list of equipment that I personnally couldn’t do without in a kitchen. I’m sure others will have something to add to this list.

1. A good quality Chef’s Knife.

Proper knife handling technique is crucial in a kitchen, for safety as well as efficiency. A good quality chef’s knife is as important to a cook as a hammer is to a carpenter.

2. A digital scale (the one I have at home does metric and imperial).

Consistency is key when you are doing a recipe you make frequently. A digital scale ensures that you get the quantities right every time. I found that I use the scale more for pastry than cooking, but it makes setting up much faster. Many home recipes are in cups and tablespoons, but I even tend to convert them to metric so I can use my scale. All of my recipes from my professional life are in metric.

3. An imersion blender

Perfect for getting just the right consistency for puree’s and soups, without having to pour a hot liquid into a small blender. No other tool in the kitchen does quite the same job as efficiently, without making a lot more mess (and dishes).

4. A digital thermometer

I learned how to temper chocolate by feel, but there’s no way I’m sticking my finger into a pot of boiling sugar. Temperature is a vital component to getting the results you want, every time.

5. Parchement paper

Probably one of the most under-appreciated tools in a kitchen, it allows you to make a mess with minimal clean-up. Cheap and disposable, it can be cut to whatever size is needed, and rolled into a piping cone for many uses. Tip for the home cook: make sure to use parchement paper, not waxed paper. There is a major difference.


Practice, practice, practice…

Chocolate bags, originally uploaded by adelphos24.

When I was doing my apprenticeship, the pastry pictured above was the one that gave me the most difficulty.
The inside is a cake called a chocolate marquise. It’s a very rich, dark chocolate mousse with a flowing white chocolate ganache center. The outside is a paper thin shell of chocolate, formed by hand, with split second timing and precision.
I had a lot of frustration trying to get this dessert to work for me. The pastry chef who taught me made it look so simple. He could whip up 50 of these in no time, while I struggled with four.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the most useful skill I learned while struggling with this was patience. I worked at it for quite a while, and then one day it just seemed to click. My skill improved drastically after that.
This pastry was one of the most difficult things I had to learn how to do, but it’s now one of the things I’m most proud of.