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Thursday, May 26th, 2011
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
It is strawberry season in Southern California. I was at my favorite local farmers’ market this weekend and could smell the freshly picked, ripe strawberries a block away. There is nothing better than the aroma and taste of spring and early summer strawberries. That’s only one of the reasons I choose to live in California, but that could be enough.
Today I was inspired to make Fresh Strawberry Chocolate Shortcake. But, where did the original Strawberry Shortcake first come from? As I was working on my recipe, I wanted to learn a little bit about the origins of one of my favorite desserts.
No one exactly knows when the first strawberry shortcake was made. I’ve heard it may go back as far as 1850 right here in California. Strawberries have been around for more than 2000 years. Records that show that the people in ancient Rome enjoyed them, but putting strawberries and shortcake together seems to be more of a United States tradition.
As with many classic dishes, when the timing is right, the dish becomes a national favorite. We know that shortcake has been around at least since Shakespeare. It was mentioned in his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
A European recipe book in 1594 had a recipe for Short Cakes. The crumbly shortcake, which first resembled the texture and shape of a scone, turned round when the typical triangular shaped pastries kept having the point break off. It was thought that the round shape was more practical.
Strawberry shortcake parties became popular in the United States in the mid 1850s, as a celebration of the coming of summer. Probably the most popular berry back then, people talked of strawberry fever. The railroads became transcontinental and strawberries could be shipped from coast to coast surrounded with ice to keep them fresh. Advertisements and articles about strawberry shortcake caused more and more demand.
The earliest recipe I found for this dessert was in 1847 in The Lady’s Receipt-Book by Miss Leslie. It’s called Strawberry Cake, but it’s very similar to what we call strawberry shortcake. I don’t know what anyone could do to improve on this old-fashioned favorite, but I decided that the only ingredient that could make it taste any better at all was chocolate. Check out my recipe for Chocolate-Strawberry Shortcakes, created right here in the Choclatique Chocolate Studios. We originally started working on it last summer when we were testing all the recipes for my new book, but it was cut when we found we had more recipes than pages to print them on. So, never being one to let anything go to waste, especially with strawberries, I decided to share it with you today.
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup of buttermilk
1 tablespoon crystalline sugar
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup chocolate sauce
For the Strawberries:
- Put about one-third of the strawberries in a medium bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them into a chunky puree.
- Slice the remaining berries 1/4 inch thick and stir them into the mashed berries.
- Add the granulated sugar and let them sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
For the Shortcake Biscuits:
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450ºF.
- Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.
- Cut in the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
- Combine eggs and 1/4 cup cream and buttermilk; add wet mixture all at once to flour mixture and stir until just moistened.
- Gather the dough and knead three or four times. Do not over-mix.
- Using a scoop drop the dough into 6 portions onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Lightly brush the tops with the additional cream and sprinkle the crystalline sugar on the tops of the biscuits.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool slightly on a wire rack.
For the Whipped Cream:
- In a large, chilled, metal bowl and using chilled beaters whip the cream and sugar to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer.
- Add the vanilla and Grand Marnier and mix well.
- Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates.
- Spoon about 3 quarters of the macerated berries and juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms. Don’t worry if some of the berries or juice spill onto the plate.
- Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top.
- Spoon more whipped cream and berries over the shortcake tops.
- Drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve immediately.
Monday, February 21st, 2011
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
In 1926, Paul Helms of New York took an early retirement and moved his family to Southern California and its mild climate. Helms started construction on a building between Washington and Venice Boulevards in 1930 and, on March 2, 1931, the Helms Bakery opened with 32 employees and 11 specially-designed delivery coaches (trucks). By the next year, the Helms Bakery had become the “official baker” of the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics when Paul Helms won a contract to supply bread for the 1932 games. Early Helms vehicles sported the Olympic symbol, and it also appeared on Helms bread wrappers.
Despite having never been sold in stores, Helms baked products soon became known to millions of consumers. The Helms motto was “Daily at Your Door” and every weekday morning, from both the Culver City facility and a second Helms Bakery site in Montebello, dozens of Helms panel trucks, painted in a unique two-tone yellow and blue scheme, would leave the bakery for the greater Los Angeles Basin, some going as far as 60 miles to the eastern San Gabriel Valley. This is remarkable because the network of freeways had not yet been built, so the trip would take an hour or more. Each truck would travel through its assigned neighborhoods, with the driver periodically pulling (twice) on a large handle which sounded a distinctive whistle, or stop at a house where a Helms sign was displayed. Customers would come out and wave the truck down, or sometimes chase the trucks on adjacent streets. Wooden drawers in the back of the truck were stocked with fresh donuts, cookies, pastries and candies, while the center section of the truck carried dozens of loaves of freshly-baked bread. Products often reached the buyers still warm from the oven.
I specifically remember climbing up into the cab and with extra wide-eyes watching the Helms man pull out the drawers marked fresh doughnut and brownies. All of Helms’ products had a distinctive taste, but the brownies were something of a comfort food that I can still taste and smell in my memory. They were a chewy, fudgy brownie loaded with black walnuts and iced with a rich type of butter cream frosting.
As more women entered the workplace, the freeways got more crowded and the bakery’s driver’s union wages became prohibitive. Alas, in 1969 the last Helms truck left the depot and the final whistle was blown as the company’s doors were closed for the last time.
Some of these fond memories were brought back when I was having a nostalgic conversation with one of my clients last week. She told me that her dad loved Helms’ brownies as much as I did and asked if perchance I happened to have a copy of the original recipe. As luck would have it, I did. Now I feel like singing a couple of choruses of Memories.
Helms Bakery Brownies with Butter Cream Frosting
Makes about 12 brownies
3/4 Cup (1-1/2 Sticks) Margarine, Cut in Chunks
3 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
1 1/3 Cups Sugar
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Chopped and Lightly Toasted Walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
- Melt margarine and chocolate together in medium saucepan. Blend in sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and nuts.
- Pour into prepared pan. Bake until it is crispy at the edges and feels fairly firm in the center, about 30-40 minutes. Cool 30 minutes before cutting.
Butter Cream Brownie Frosting
Makes about cup of frosting—enough to frost 12 brownies
3 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
3 Tablespoons Choclatique Red (Rouge) Cocoa Powder (Unsweetened)
1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup or Honey
1/2 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons Milk
- Cream butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small mixer bowl.
- Add confectioner’s sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency.
Monday, September 20th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Soufflés must be the foods of the ancient gods, and Chocolate soufflés must have been personally blessed by Zeus and Athena. Nothing ends a meal better than a splendidly poofed, light-as-air, hot-from-the-oven chocolate soufflé. Many people think they are temperamental and difficult to make, but they’re really not as demanding as all that.
In its most simplistic form, a soufflé is a light, fluffy, baked cake made with egg yolks and lots of whipped egg whites combined with various other ingredients, and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé is from the French verb souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “poof up” — an apt description of what happens when heat is added to this combination of custard and egg whites.
The custard or crème patissiere or a cream sauce or purée is the base for the flavor, and the egg whites, beaten to a soft peak meringue, provide the “lift.” You can use jams fruits, berries, bananas lemon and chocolate. When it gently comes out of the oven, a soufflé should be puffed up and fluffy. It will generally fall after 5 or 10 minutes.
Soufflés can be made in containers of all shapes and sizes but it is traditional to make soufflé in ramekins. These glazed white containers vary greatly in size, are typically, flat-bottomed, round, oven-proof porcelain containers with unglazed bottoms and fluted exterior borders.
Because of its tendency to fall rather quickly at the slightest sound, movement or door slam, the soufflé has been portrayed as very difficult to survive outside the oven for more than a few minutes. Some jest that a poke or a loud noise will make a soufflé collapse and with it, the ego of the cook.
Here is my version of an intense, semi-sweet soufflé which is close to failure-proof. If you follow my directions to the letter, it should never fail or fall. If these soufflés are not rich enough for your tastes, top them with a warm chocolate ganache sauce, crème Anglaise or whipped cream, chocolate or not. Making the Dark Chocolate Ganache is the secret to a faultless soufflé.
FAULTLESS CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ
Makes 8 individual soufflés
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 15 minutes
Skill Level: **
medium, heavy saucepan
plastic sealable storage container
electric stand mixer, bowl, and whisk attachment
8 individual 4 to 6-ounce soufflé dishes
For the ganache: (makes about 1/2 pound of ganache)
Save the unused ganache for the soufflé sauce or a topping for ice cream later on.
5 tablespoons water
1-½ tablespoons light corn syrup (Karo)
1-½ teaspoons unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
Dash of salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least sixty-four percent), coarsely chopped
For the soufflé:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (to prep the soufflé dishes)
4 teaspoons granulated sugar (to prep the soufflé dishes)
¾ cup Dark Chocolate Ganache, softened
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
5 large egg yolks
Directions for the ganache:
- You can make the ganache ahead and hold in the refrigerator.
- In a heavy saucepan, bring the water, corn syrup, cocoa powder and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk until blended. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Immediately add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about 1 hour to cool completely, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the ganache emulsified.
- When cool, transfer the ganache to a rigid plastic or glass container, cover, date, and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Directions for the soufflé:
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Brush the soufflé dishes with the melted butter so that the bottom and sides are well coated. Sprinkle the bottom and sides with the granulated sugar.
- In a metal bowl set over a saucepan partly filled with boiling water and set over medium-high heat, melt the chocolate ganache.
- In another saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the cream boils, remove the pan from the heat. Add the melted ganache and cocoa powder and stir well. The batter should be about the consistency of buttermilk. Set aside to cool slightly. You want it to be still warm to the touch like a baby’s bottle.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. This could take 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat for about 1 minute longer to fully incorporate. Set aside.
- Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk well. When fully incorporated, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, about ½ cup at a time.
- Without wasting any time, fill soufflé dishes to the rim with the batter and level the surface with a metal spatula.
- As quickly as you can, but without rushing, transfer the soufflé dishes to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Resist the urge to open the oven door for the first 12 minutes before checking to make sure they have risen nicely. When you open the oven door, do so slowly and just peek inside. Close it quickly but as gently as you can.
- Serve immediately.
Friday, July 9th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
This is just the news I have been waiting for. According to Dr. Karin Ried, a researcher at Adelaide University, “Just a chunk of chocolate a day could have the same effect on high blood pressure as half an hour of exercise.”
As it turns out, while people have been looking for the fountain of youth, the silver bullet or Holy Grail has been right there on the shelf in the candy aisle of your favorite supermarket or confection store all along.
We now know for certain that chocolate—and especially dark chocolate—contains chemicals known as flavanols which naturally open up blood vessels in the body. That means blood flows more easily and blood pressure drops.
The study showed that for those suffering from high blood pressure the effect of chocolate was so dramatic it could reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke by 20% over five years. Hey, I’ve been eating chocolate for over 50 years. I’m going to live forever!
“You don’t always need medication to reduce blood pressure,” said Dr. Ried who carried out the research. “This [study] shows that there are some [functional] foods that can help.”
Millions of people around the world suffer from high blood pressure–also known as hypertension; around half of them undiagnosed. About one in 10 patients cannot control the condition with medication or cannot tolerate the drugs, leaving them at greater risk. Hundreds of millions face a lifetime on medication to reduce the risk of suffering heart disease, strokes or even kidney failure.
For the latest research, Dr. Ried and her team of doctors and medical researchers combined the results of 15 other studies looking at chocolate and cocoa between 1955 and 2009 covering hundreds of people. They found that for people with hypertension, eating chocolate could reduce the blood pressure by up to five per cent. For those with normal pressure it had no effect. “This is a significant finding,” said Dr Ried.
“We’ve found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure, but not for people with normal blood pressure.”
She said it will take more research to determine the optimal amount of chocolate that was needed to make the most difference. Any volunteers who want to eat massive amounts of chocolate are welcome to sign up here.
She said the studies varied from just one chunk (6g) to a whole bar (100g) a day. People with high blood pressure are seen to have it consistently higher than 140mm Hg systolic or 90mm Hg diastolic. Normal is 90/60. The results showed that chocolate would make it drop 5mm in systolic pressure which is comparable to the known effects of 30 daily minutes of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking or swimming.
Chocolate has been found to have health giving benefits in the past. Research published earlier this year showed that people who eat just one bar a week are 22% less likely to suffer a stroke. Choclatique’s Q-91 may be just the answer to your functional chocolate needs. Q-91 is our super-dark, bittersweet premium chocolate high in cacao mass. One of the most pleasant effects of eating Q-91 chocolate is the “euphoric feeling” that many people experience after indulging. Chocolate contains more than 300 known beneficial compounds including alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which are said to have positive physiological effects on the body, and have been linked to increased serotonin levels in the brain.
Scientists claim that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can not only lower blood pressure, but prevent tooth decay as well. Dark chocolate has recently been promoted for its additional health benefits, including a substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals and reduce the effects of aging. However, the health giving benefits have to be weighed against their contribution to weight gain.
Friday, June 11th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
It’s easy to think of our military as just another “department” of our government or to conjure of images of men and women in their fatigues serving in outposts that most of us couldn’t spell let alone find on a map. But these are “real people”—sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters—serving us and our country. Let’s put some faces to some who are supporting our American efforts over in Afghanistan.
Last Christmas, Choclatique adopted the marines of SOTF-81 from Camp Pendleton, California, deployed to eastern Afghanistan near Herat. The good news is that they are all coming home in the next month or so. The bad news is they have to be extremely careful as the first and last month of deployment are the riskiest times to be “in country.”
Over the last several months, one of our marines (name withheld by request) has shared with us some insights (nothing of a secure nature, of course) that you never seem to hear about on the mainstream or cable news programs. I wonder how many of us could endure for a day what they must live with for months on end.
Early in their deployment their cots were replaced with some makeshift beds. The odd thing was the springs in the beds were positioned sideways. So, instead of getting an up-and-down motion when they sat on the bed, they’d get thrown out of bed when they rolled over in the middle of the night.
The food is pretty standard fare, but a lot of it is fried (maybe Mrs. Obama could focus some attention on military meals, too?). They miss the fresh fruit and all of California’s healthful foods such as avocados, which are a rarity.
The camp was built from the ground up in 2009. The base is small and their unit provides for all of their necessities, but not much in the way of luxuries. And believe me, what they have come to consider a “luxury”, we would consider a necessity. Occasionally, they get to travel to one of the other larger bases which have an actual Exchange with restaurants like Burger King or a Pizza Hut, along with other long missed American items.
The weather in Afghanistan is about as dangerous as the bad guys. In late January, they were exposed to about 120 days of winds that blew every day like a bad nor’easter (not that there’s a good nor’easter). Most of the camp has heating and air conditioning, so even when it does snow or is 120º, they manage to keep relatively comfortable. Of course, all bets are off when they’re out on patrol and exposed to the natural elements of Afghanistan.
Young Americans make friends easily and these Marines feel blessed that the locals have taken kindly to them. The locals are mostly friendly and the Marines see the waves from children as they pass by in the streets. This brings smiles to their faces. It’s described as a 100% experience—50% because they feel like they’re making a difference in Herat and 50% because it reminds them of their homes with neighbors waving as they drive by. Of course, there is a “bad” for every “good.” They must always remain vigilant because the enemy will also have a smiling face right up until they attack. It is very hard not to become complacent.
Our US Marines are serving in a country that is very dusty, rocky, and at high elevations. The water, even though clean and drinkable, has a taste that won’t be forgotten for years to come. They have been working side by side with Special Forces and have told us that as Marines, it has been a pleasure to work with them.
One thing for sure is that no matter what the news reports tell us here at home, these soldiers cover one another’s backs and always feel safe because of the Marines’ special bond. They have told us that the great training they received back in the states and the quality of men and women with whom they are serving gives them confidence to know that they’ll all come home to their loved ones safe and sound.
These volunteers really love their jobs, but one thing they have learned is “the most important thing you can do is to cling on to 3 or 4 memories which you are willing to die for to get back to the states safely. And thankfully, Choclatique Chocolates have become one of the 4 memories which we have that brings us back to what we know is waiting for us.” We are humbled to play a small part in supporting these brave Marines.
Please say a prayer for their safe return and thank them for their service.