Archive for March, 2010

31
Mar

The History of Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
The History of Chocolate

The origin of this delectable confection traces its roots to Central and South America, where the cacao beans were first grown. The native Aztecs in modern-day Mexico and other civilizations in the area drank chocolate mixed with chilies and achiote called “xocotatl” (bitter water) or “chocolatl” (hot water). Cacao beans were so valuable among the Aztecs that it was even used as tax payments.

It was Christopher Columbus who first brought chocolate to Europe when he explored the Aztec Empire of its riches and introduced the cacao beans to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, but it was the Spanish friars who brought cacao to a broader market.

The Spanish conquest of the Aztecs provided the colonizers an opportunity to export cacao beans to Europe, where it became a favorite among royalty and the aristocrats. The first recorded large-scale shipment of chocolate to Europe traveled from Veracruz, Mexico, to Sevilla, Spain, in 1585. The Aztec version of the chocolate drink, however, was instead sweetened with sugar, milk, and vanilla (a spice that was native to Mexico), while removing the chili pepper to suit European tastes.

Several European empires, most notably the Spaniards and the French, colonized parts of Africa and turned the land into cacao plantations, using Africans as slaves to help manage them. Because cacao was grown on different soil, the taste quality of chocolate changed, thus becoming a luxury item among the noblemen. Nowadays, Western Africa produces two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d´Ivoire growing almost half of it.

England got to taste chocolate in the second half of the 17th Century, with its first chocolate house opened in London in 1657. By 1689, noted physician Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica, which was initially used by apothecaries before being sold to John and Benjamin Cadbury, the founders of Cadbury chocolate company.

In the 1700s, during the Industrial Revolution, machines were able to squeeze out the cocoa butter from chocolate, creating hard and durable chocolate that became modern chocolate bars. From then on, people from all over appreciate the goodness of chocolate in its solid form.

30
Mar

The Origin of Chocolate Easter Eggs

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
The Origin of Chocolate Easter Eggs

Apart from Easter Eggs, the one thing that kids and the young-at-heart excite about Easter is the chocolate, especially the ones shaped like eggs. These are usually given as gifts to close friends and relatives, but do you have an idea how this practice started?

Although Easter is a Christian celebration commemorating how Jesus was resurrected from the dead, the traditions surrounding the holiday are pagan in origin. In fact, the name Easter itself comes from “Eastre” (or Eostre), the Saxon goddess of spring whose feast day falls during the spring equinox. Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, also known as the symbol of fertilifiy.

When the Saxons arrived in Britain during the 5thCentury, they brought along the celebration for Eastre as well. The holiday was practiced through fertility rituals that included eggs, chicks, and rabbits. Christianity eventually covered the land at around 7th and 8th Centuries and the Saxons began celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus coincidentally with the traditional Eastre feasts. The pagan celebrations eventually toned down, but rituals for Eastre are still being practiced. For instance, eggs are used as symbolism for rebirth and have become the representation of Jesus’ resurrection.

The earliest Easter eggs were painted and decorated, which is still practiced today. Meanwhile, the first chocolate eggs appeared in Germany and France. The popularity of chocolate eggs for Easter eventually spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

21
Mar

Leonidas

by admin, in: Belgium
Leonidas

If there is one chocolatier that represents Belgian Chocolate, it is definitely Leonidas. The company, Leonidas Conifeserie SA, was founded by Leonidas Kestekides, a Greek confectioner who moved to the United States in the late 1800s.

Kestekides traveled to France in 1900 to participate in the international food fair as an exhibitor. Ten years later, he represented Greece in the World Fair held in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where he was awarded the bronze medal for his chocolate confectionery and gold medal for his patisserie. Kestekides was also part of the 1913 World Fair in Ghent, where he met and married his wife from Brussels.

Kestekides settled permanently in Belgium and opened tea rooms in Brussels, Ghent, and Blankenberge. He was then joined by some of his relatives in Ghent to help him in creating delectable pralines and began importing fine ingredients like almonds, lokum (a sugary confection also known as Turkish Delight), and fruits confit. Since then, his relatives continued to innovate chocolate confections with the introduction of the Manon (coffee butter cream dipped in white chocolate). They have incorporated the logo of an effigy of Leonidas, King of Sparta, as an homage to the company’s founder.

Today, Leonidas offers over 100 unique chocolate confections, which is sold in over 1,400 retail outlets around the world.

20
Mar

History of Belgian Chocolates

by admin, in: Belgium
History of Belgian Chocolates

Belgium is one of the few countries in the world known for its delectable fine chocolate. How this small country become home of some of the best chocolatiers, however, is not so sweet. It began in the 1880s, when Belgium was ruled by King Leopold II. He laid the foundations in controlling the Congo Free State (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Africa that provided easy access to the vast cocoa grounds. Belgium continued to import cocoa from Congo despite war was raged by the African slaves. It is said that about 10 million Congolese were murdered during Leopold II’s reign.

It was in 1912 when Belgium made a mark in the chocolate industry when a Swiss family based in Brussels, the Neuhaus, created the praline. This confection was the first buttercream-filled, bite-sized chocolate, which was filled either with nuts or cream and coated with milk chocolate. These pralines were sold in a special packaging called Ballotin, deep cardboard boxes with overhanging edges, which has since became a standard in packing different types of fine chocolate.

Today, several well-known chocolatiers traced their roots in Belgium such as Neuhaus, Leonidas, Godiva, and Nirvana. They still create the most luscious pralines, as well as truffles, ganache, and other tasty confections that the whole world enjoys.

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19
Mar

Where to Buy the Best Chocolate in America

by admin, in: United States
Where to Buy the Best Chocolate in America

We may have heard about the finest chocolates in Europe, but do you know that there are also great chocolates that are found in good ol’ USA? The popular periodical USA Today has compiled a list of 10 places across the mainland where you can have the finest chocolates you can either give to your loved ones or savor for yourself.

John & Kira’s Chocolates

Philadelphia

At first glances, their chocolate may look the same thin squares of dark chocolate with squiggles on top, but each ganache has a fresh and distinct flavor. The names for each chocolate is based on the are where its ingredients were sourced, such as all-time favorites Glenn’s Raspberry (with fruits from Glenn’s Farm) and Drew Elementary School Garden Mint (with mint leaves picked from a school garden). Another best-seller is the Chocolate Figs, which were featured in The Martha Stewart Show. Call 800-747-4808.

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier

Minneapolis

This company maintains its tradition of doing everything by hand, from the chopping to the molding. The ingredients were sourced from sustainable programs as well as from local family-owned farms. Each box of chocolates contain a particular flavor like Passion Fruit, Salted Butter Caramel, Chile Limon, and Lemon Blossoms. Contact 612-331-8800.

Jacque Torres Chocolate

New York

Owned by the former pastry chef of Le Cirque, this shop is known for the limited-edition “bean to bar chocolate,” which Mr. Jacque Torres personally makes using vintage machines. His Champagne Truffles—combining milk chocolate, fresh cream, and Taittinger Brut La Francaise—are to die for. Call 212-414-2462.

Recchiuti Confections

San Francisco

This artisan chocolate shop only uses fresh and natural ingredients. Confections are made in small batches. Its array of flavors is an odd mix, such as the Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Dark Chocolate-coated Apples, or the delicate herbs and teas found in its Signature Truffles. Can’t decide what to buy? Try out its 88-piece Platinum Collection, with all of Recchiuti’s signature flavors in one box. Call 415-834-9494.

L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates

Walpole, NH

Apart from its handmade chocolates, this store prides of its Mice and Penguins, those adorable creatures made from dark, milk, or white chocolate. The mice come complete with a colorful silk tail, while the penguins are hand-piped and accented with white chocolate. People with specific allergies or restrictions may enjoy the store’s offering of nuts-free and alcohol-free chocolates. Contact 603-756-2882.

Garrison Confections

Providence

This line of artisan chocolates has intense flavors and beautiful craftsmanship. Let your eyes be amazed and your mouth be enthralled with its beautifully-decorated Seasonal Collection, with each piece containing a flavor from its current collection such as Raspberry Hibiscus, Earl Grey and Mandarin, and Dark Marzipan. Another recommended product is the Ultimate Candy Bar, a chocolate nougat with toasted hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds, topped with caramel and covered with bittersweet chocolate. Call 401-490-2740.

Norman Love Confections

Fort Myers, FL

This shop prides of its hand-painted or airbrushed chocolate creations. It is best to treat each piece like wine, savoring it as you take in the rich bouquet of the likes of licorice, dried plum, and roasted hazelnuts, then take them in as you feel the flavors of fresh lemon, black currants, and grapefruit into your mouth. Call 239-561-7215.

Donnelly Chocolates

Santa Cruz, CA

Donnelly’s truffles should not be missed, each containing surprising flavors like lemongrass, organic lemon, and rosemary. Its small chocolate bars, meanwhile, are handmade and wrapped in Japanese paper with flavors like cardamon, Chinese five spice, rose, and smoky spicy chipotle. Contact 888-685-1871.

Candinas Chocolatier

Verona, WI

Assuring only the finest ingredients, Candinas recommends to consume their signature truffles as soon as possible and it shouldn’t be a problem. The truffles, covered in very thin shells, have a variety of flavors like Jasmine Green Tea, Champagne, Irish Crème, and Dark Hazelnut. Call 800-845-1554.

Bridgewater Chocolate

South Bridgewater, CT

This factory uses only local dairy products with no preservatives, additives or artificial flavors. They may only offer traditional flavors like Hazelnut, Orange, and Coffee, but these classically-made chocolates are bound to take you back to nostalgia. Best sellers include Assorted Truffles and Toffee Assortment. Contact 800-888-8742.

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18
Mar

Storing Fine Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
Storing Fine Chocolate

Of course, you cannot just empty a whole box of fine chocolate in just one sitting. This is why you need to know how to store your fine treats to avoid sacrificing its flavor and color. You do not want to see your chocolates with gray spots once you open them for the second time.

Where to store – Place your chocolate in a cool, dry, and dark place. The storage place has to be cool enough not to soften the chocolate, but not too cold that would condensate the chocolate. Condensation dehydrates the chocolate and loses its texture and flavor. It also causes “sugar blooms,” those unsightly white or gray spots when the sugar rises on the chocolate’s surface. This is why, contrary to popular belief, chocolate should never be stored in the refrigerator. An ideal place, for instance, is the pantry down the basement. However, if you live in a hot and humid climate and you have no other choice but to store the chocolate in the fridge, make sure to place it in an airtight container. Once you take them out, let the chocolate come to room temperature before opening the container.

Keep it airtight – Chocolates absorb the flavors and aroma of the foods stored with it, which is why they should be kept in an airtight container. You do not want your chocolate to taste like onions or fish.

Shelf life – Although fine chocolate can last for a long time, it is much advisable to eat them within a few weeks or up to a month after purchase so the best flavors and texture can still be savored. Meanwhile, properly-stored milk chocolate can last up to a year, whereas dark and unsweetened chocolate could last a bit longer.

17
Mar

Savoring Fine Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
Savoring Fine Chocolate

We may have heard about the rules in tasting wine, but do you know that tasting the finest chocolates also follow certain protocols? Because fine chocolates are made with the finest ingredients, tasters can better appreciate their sweet treats if they follow these tasting tips, as suggested master chocolatiers.

Look at the chocolate – Check each chocolate piece and esteem its appearance. The finest of chocolates should have a consistent color and a natural-looking sheen. It should also be free of any air bubbles and other blemishes. The best chocolates should also have a high degree of craftsmanship in shape and design.

Smell the chocolate – Savoring the aroma of fine chocolate begins with opening a box of these luscious treats. The bouquet of fine chocolate should have a fresh and deep aroma. It should not be overpowering or sugary, which could mean those chocolates are laced with artificial flavors or preservatives.

Taste the chocolate – Chocolate lovers should look for two things once a piece of fine chocolate enters the mouth: flavor and texture. A high-quality fine chocolate should have very intense but refine flavors, an indication that these treats are freshly-made. Its texture, meanwhile, should have subtle nuances. The inside of a chocolate piece is called the filling and is specially intended to complement the flavor and texture of chocolate. Let the chocolate melt against the roof of your mouth and feel its texture. Fine chocolate should be smooth without any trace of graininess. Roll the chocolate against your tongue and allow the flavors fill your mouth. The best chocolates should have a nutty, roasted flavor at the beginning, followed by sweetness and other component flavors. The flavor should have a pleasant aftertaste that lingers on the palate.

16
Mar

What Makes a Fine Chocolate?

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
What Makes a Fine Chocolate?

There are many kinds of chocolate available in the market, but how can we tell fine chocolate from sub-standard ones? The best way to know is to check the labels and read the ingredients. Fine chocolate should contain a standardized set of ingredients, which should never be substituted but can be left out.

Dark chocolate – Its main ingredients should contain cacao liquor, sugar, cacao butter, lecithin, and vanilla.

Milk chocolate – Ingredients are very similar to dark chocolate with the addition of milk solids and milk fat.

White chocolate – Ingredients should include sugar, cacao butter, milk solids, milk fat, lecithin, vanilla.

Chocolate confections – Its ingredients should consist of cacao liquor, cacao butter, milk solids, butter, vanilla, cacao beans, cacao seeds, cocoa powder, nuts, lecithin, and natural flavors that include either fresh fruit, vanilla beans, fresh herbs, fruit purees, or liquor.

Note that some chocolate brands would name certain ingredients differently. Cacao liquor, for instance is also called cocoa liquid, chocolate liquor, or unsweetened chocolate. Cacao butter, meanwhile, also goes by names like cacao oil and cocoa fat. Milk fat can also be replaced by milk, cream, whole milk, condensed milk, or dry milk powder. Lecithin is also labeled as soy lecithin, while vanilla can also be called as vanilla beans (but not vanillin).

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15
Mar

Max Brenner

by admin, in: Chocolatier
Max Brenner
Photograph of the interior of a Max Brenner ch...

Max Brenner is probably one of the most recognizable names when it comes to fine chocolate making. It started in 1996 when Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner joined together to form Max Brenner and opened its first store in Israel. Three years later, it added nine other stores which showed the interest that even people in the Holy Land may have for chocolate.

This love of chocolate went international as Max Brenner became an international chocolatier when it entered the US market in 2006. It has since been associated with fine chocolate making as shown from its wide range of chocolate products. And with the interest in all things chocolate ever growing, Max Brenner has also expanded its product range that now also includes chocolate drinks, cookies and other specialized treats. Unique ingredients have also become part of its various distinct chocolate creations that provide people with a wide range of choices not only limited to the traditional chocolate fare. It all may have stemmed from this chocolatier’s philosophy that chocolate is more than just merely a matter of taste experience but also encompasses a wider range of emotions and aspects of life.

13
Mar

Teuscher Chocolates Of Switzerland

by admin, in: Switzerland
Teuscher Chocolates Of Switzerland

Teuscher of Switzerland is known as one of the finest chocolatiers in the world. Its chocolates have been praised by many chocolate lovers from all over the world. Its well-loved chocolate collection have benefited from 70 years of chocolate making expertise. Teuscher Chocolates started out in a small town in the Swiss Alps sometime in 1932. Dolf Teuscher embarked on trying to create chocolate confections that were not just limited to the traditional ingredients from his Alpine roots.  We sought out for the best ones all over the world to find the best cocoa, fruits and nuts to add into his chocolate creations.

After years of years of experimentation, Teuscher Chocolates has become one of those chocolatiers known for its distinctive chocolate creations and recipes of the finest quality.

Over the years Teuscher Chocolates has grown from just a small store somewhere in the Swiss Alps to having outlets for its fine chocolates the world over. Teuscher is now more popularly known for its champagne truffles but also has a wide range of other chocolate products.