Friday, February 8, 2013

The Black Forest

Of late, my kitchen has been shadowed o'er by a strange and deepening darkness . . .  of chocolate, that is.  My sunny French d├ęcor has taken on a Grimm-like “Black Forest” air as I arm myself with whisk and spoons wooden for this journey into dark, darker, and darkest chocolate met by strange, weirder, and most unusual "sugars." 

Bold and brave, I hunt for the elusive chocolate treasures fit for the health-minded dessert-er.  The fudgiest ice cream and the darkest brownies have been found along this pilgrim’s path.  Truffles lurk around every corner -- and though they improve greatly with age (developing a dark figgy-cherry-red rose-brandy quality of taste and aroma), I am hard-pressed to find a ripening truffle ANYWHERE on the premises!  Alas, the truffle gnomes have made off with every last one!  (Good thing I only made a small batch.)  As I poke and prod all thoughts chocolate, peanut-butter-cup truffles, black-forest truffles, and looming spectres of devil-dark truffles (hint: chili-pepper) swirl in the mists of my wandering mind . . .

. . . but those will have to wait for another day because today I set aside the chocolate, jumped countries, and whipped up a batch of Danish bread-and-butter pickled eggs (made with coconut crystals and cider vinegar – yep, I did it!).  My sister arrives in just under two weeks and she LOVES pickled eggs.  They will be pronounced “Ready” just as she steps off the plane.  

“Note,” I bellow to my pickled-egg-loving family, “No one must disturb this crock of eggs until February 21st.”  

(Of course, I may be caught sneaking a taste now and again in the interest of Culinary Arts and Sciences.)

; )

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chocolat Update: Enter Les Truffles

So, I left off yesterday’s post with a pic of a mass of chocolate spread upon parchment.  

“What did I do with that?” you may be asking. 

Well, first I tasted it and found it darkly delicious.  

[WARNING:  If you adore Hershey’s kisses this will not, I repeat, WILL NOT be to your liking.  If, however, you seek out the darkest, deepest, 80+ chocolate and can be found nibbling cacao nibs in secret so that you don’t have to share, this is your kind of CHOCOLATE.  It’s bold.  It’s dark.  It will scare the chocolate chips lurking in your cupboard.  Be warned!]

Next, I sampled the texture.    



Perfect for forming into nuggets 
which can then be rolled in cocoa powder.   

Et Voila! 

 Le Truffle! 

So, I made a small dish of these “samples” and shared the wealth.

* * * * *

The reactions:


“Ummmm, Mom, these are REALLY DARK . . . ummmmm, REALLY!” 

“[Thoughtfully chewing]  Yeah . . . these are rich . . . and good.”

*POW!*  [Did someone’s head just blow off?]

* * * * *

Later, I made my way into the kitchen and noticed that the truffles had vanished from the dish, the mass of chocolat had visibly reduced, and the straight cocoa powder bowl stood empty.    This build-a-truffle bar was clearly a hit.  Throughout the evening the stock of choc got smaller as the compliments flowed more heavily.   Me thinks they like it.  ; )


**In the interest of journalistic integrity I must divulge that my children have been raised by a certified Health Food Nut, from California, no less.  They have RARELY been served any chocolate less than 65%.  M&Ms, Kisses, and the like almost never cross the threshold, unless gifted to us.  Likewise, white sugar has been mostly taboo.  I make our food from scratch (including grinding my own wheat for bread).  Obviously, fast-food/junk food has been OUTLAWED and the law’s been strictly enforced.  (In fact, my two youngest have never even seen a Happy Meal-type deal.  My older kids were pitied by others who felt the need to “gift” them with a Happy Meal experience, thus they sat politely and stared at the “food” after tasting it and making a scrunchy face.  They’ve been programmed healthy, I confess.)

I share this so that you will understand that this chocolate is a bit on the extreme side even for Health-nut offspring.  Thus it should be approached with extreme caution if you are trying to access that “Chocolate is good for you” trend.  You may entirely invalidate your future credibility in the “Here-try-this” arena if you substitute this for that familiar dish of M&M’s on your counter.  My family regularly follows me on “Food Safaris” of great adventure, and even they needed a moment to process it.

Okay . . . ‘nuf said. 

* * * * *

Final Analysis of Chocolat Mission 1:  ACCOMPLISHED!

Let it be known, the Coconut Crystal Truffles are a hit!

A homerun!

Dare I call this deeply chocolate, white-sugar-free delicacy Health Food?  A vitamin pill, even?  Nah . . . that would be no fun.  I’ll just add it to the list of Approved Foods alongside my goat’s milk ice cream.  (Don’t cringe – it’s FABULOUS and so creamy delish!  You’d never know . . . if I hadn’t just told you.) 

Any recommendations/improvements to note? 

I think I may just ramp up the Anti-oxidant levels by rolling the cocoa-clad truffles in bitter nibs of cacao.  Maybe then the rest of my family will find them simply over-the-top TOO intense for them, and I won’t have to compete so vigorously for my fair share.  I just hate working up a sweat over . . . well, ANYthing!

Now, where’s that truffle I hid . . . I know it’s here somewhere . . . back in this cupboard . . . oooooh! . . . . REACH!  [and the sweat begins to glaze the fevered brow.] 

Healthy Eating:   
It’s a Delicious Adventure!

: D

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There's Something New in the Air at Wisteria Cottage . . .

"What's that smell?  

"What does it smell like?"

"I don't know, but it sure smells good?"

"Here.  Taste."

"MMMMmmmmmm!  What is it?
It's got a kind of figgy, deep richness about it."


[Another enters the kitchen]

"What do I smell?"

[Taste given to newest inquiring mind.]

"WOW!  That's powerful, but really good.  What is it?"


[Enter a third member of the choco-sition]

"Take a taste"  

[I point toward the bottles of dark deliciousness.]

"Does this have alcohol in it?"


As the gentle strains of the soundtrack to Chocolat waft around the room mingling with the heady fragrance of pure, deep, rich, luscious chocolate, I wonder if this is what Heaven will be like?

I have chopped and broken, shaved and melted cocoa and chocolate -- 100% -- with the ever-surprising coconut crystals in place of white sugar.  A bit of water and the richest, most decadent vanilla I can find round out the dark and handsome elixir.  I stir constantly and wait with baited breath.  In the swirling vat I look deeply  . . . and inhale . . . and wonder.  Finally, I set it aside to cool.  (I remind myself that a hasty taste resulting in burned tastebuds can steal victory from a cook's challenge faster than anything.) 

Then I taste . . .

The essence of deep, romantic, woodsy, figgy, magical, POWERFUL, "Spirited" (though the only alcohol came from the vanilla's bourbon) chocolate goodness brings a smile to my face.



* * * * * 

It's been a VERY productive day around here.
I can't wait until tomorrow.

Now where did I put that chili powder . . .

* * * * *

A Demain!

: D