Archive for June, 2009

How To Taste Chocolate

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

I was recently asked to give a simple answer on how to taste chocolate. There is no simple answer. I have been working with chocolate for 35 years and have found there is no right or wrong way to eat chocolate. The most important thing is to use all of your senses.

Smell the chocolateThe first part of the “eating experience” is the “nose.” Smell the chocolate. I am always disappointed when I walk into a chocolate shop and don’t smell the wonderful aroma of melted chocolate wafting throughout the store.

The next thing is the “look.” If the chocolate looks amazing you can pretty well count on it tasting special. It’s as if you’re looking into the soul of the chocolatier. If a chocolatier takes the time to make his or her chocolate look beautiful you can pretty well be assured that the flavor will be as amazing. That’s not to say that the chocolate will necessarily agree with your tastes, but the quality will reflect the combined body of the chocolatier’s work.

What do you “hear” when you bite into a beautiful truffle or bonbon? Do you hear the snap of well-tempered dark chocolate? If the couverture doesn’t have the right break or snap, the chocolate may have been poorly tempered, heat distressed or of lesser quality.

ChocolateWhat is the “texture” like? It is smooth and unctuous?  Is it creamy and velvety? If the answer is “yes,” you’ve discovered the hallmark of good/great chocolate. That means the chocolate has been properly conched—where all of the ingredients (hopefully a limited number of ingredients) are intermingled and completely merged. Conching is like blending but a lot more thorough. It is the marriage of the molecules of the chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla (and milk, in the case of milk chocolate). Choclatique chocolate is conched for 72 hours.  It will always be smooth on the tongue.

And finally, what does it “taste” like? Do you taste fresh rain-foresty flavors or are the cocoa notes dull and over-roasted? Does the milk chocolate give off burnt, overly caramelized dairy notes or is there the flavor of fresh cream and/or milk? How does the chocolate make you feel as you are tasting it? Are you satisfied with just one taste or is your mind coaxing you to eat more.

Try to articulate the flavors you’re tasting, i.e., big chocolate, roasted coffee notes, wine, berry, cherry, tropical-banana, nutty cashew, etc. When comparing different chocolate varieties or flavors back-to-back, you should drink a little room temperature water with a touch lemon to clear the palate. Then swish that water out of your mouth with just plain room temperature water and go on to the next piece. Keep your tasting down to about 4 flavors/varieties at a time. You can always go back for more when you are being less critical and just want to eat chocolate.

All that said, here is how we taste chocolate at Choclatique. When tasting different types of chocolate, we start with low fat varieties and work our way through to higher fat varieties. In other words, start with the dark chocolate, then milk chocolate and then white chocolate. Fat coats the surface of your mouth and can mask some of the more subtle flavors found in good dark chocolate, so if you start with milk or white, you may miss the subtleties of the dark.

We begin by looking at the chocolate to see if it is clean, clear of blemishes, air bubbles and bloom; when chocolate is heat distressed it has a tendency to turn grey-white as the fats separate from the rest of the ingredients. We then rub the chocolate with our fingers to bring it to a warmer surface temperature; this brings out the full value of the chocolate aroma as we inhale. By the way, you should smell the warmed chocolate, not your fingers.

Eating ChocolateSome of our tasters are “bite and chewers”; I am a “melt-in-your-mouth” kind of guy who enjoys “savoring the flavor.” Chocolate should always be smooth on the tongue and coat the inside of your mouth thoroughly.  You want to be sure that it covers all of the sensory taste buds throughout your mouth to get the full impact of the chocolate flavor.  Then swallow… it is a waste to spit out good chocolate.

Chocolate is food from the gods. It is a mood elevator and, some believe, an aphrodisiac. Treat it as the gift that it is and enjoy it thoroughly. As we have discovered at Choclatique, chocolate is a lot like sex. It’s never really bad; some is just much better than others.

Want to experience your own chocolate tasting? Order our Traditional 4-bar Tablet Sampler—Private Reserve Dark Chocolate (64%); Prestige Milk Chocolate 33%; Azteca Mexican Spiced Chocolate 33%; Snowy-White Chocolate (32%)… just $21, plus shipping.

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Grandpa Max’s Peanut Brittle

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

At a Memorial Day barbecue a few weeks back a bunch of us were talking about our parents and families and the passing of generations. The discussion centered on which generation in American history was the greatest. After a long debate, we came to a friendly consensus that each generation since the founding of this union shared in the greatness of America. Our family included.

After my father passed away, I found a box of his “little treasures” that he had kept for years. I never had looked through the box of his personal letters and mementos; they were just there sitting on the top shelf of my closet. I don’t know why, but after the party and after all the talk, I felt compelled to search through his box of little treasures.

 

As I lifted the lid, I found some tiny baby booties. I’m not sure if they were mine, my brother’s or maybe even my father’s. It’s hard to believe that my feet were ever that small. I found an old autograph book—a collection of long-forgotten boxers, baseball players and a wrestler or two. A Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ebbets Field seat cushion autographed by Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snyder from the 1955 World Series. I guess way back then you didn’t have to fork over $1000 for an All-Star Athlete’s signature.

New York Times front pageAnd then I stumbled onto some hand-written, seemingly secret “code” on a back page of the New York Times from 1904. There, scribbled in his own hand, over a picture of my Grandfather Max and none other than my presidential idol, Theodore Roosevelt, was a secret message. Max and TR? Was this story about Max being named an ambassador to some exotic foreign country or to a cabinet post? Was he returning from some secret spy mission? No, it was all about peanut brittle… not just any peanut brittle, but Max’s crunchy peanut brittle that was pictured with Max handing it to TR himself.

 

Grandfather MaxI had heard that old Max owned a moving company way back when the “vans” were pulled by horses. I heard the legend of how he had grabbed onto a rope that had broken away from a safe that his workers were hauling up to the 5th floor by block and tackle; he saved a half dozen kids below. I remember he used to tell us his heroic story showing us the burn scars on his hands. I also heard that he was a gentlemen’s banker, a stock broker, even a tax collector. But now, looking through my dad’s treasured keepsakes, I found out that Max made peanut brittle—not just any peanut brittle, but brittle fit for a President.

Teddy RooseveltAs I read on, I discovered the recipe dated back to the 1870s or ‘80s when Max first perfected his peanut “packin’” stuffed peanut brittle. Everyone, TR included, proclaimed that it was the best on earth. After a few calls to relatives, I found out that Max started delivering his fresh peanut brittle to the Roosevelt family when they lived in New York City. When T.R. became president, Max was asked to deliver his peanut brittle to Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. In fact, rumor has it that his peanut brittle even made to the White House in Washington.

The cryptic, hand-written code turned out to be the recipe—Max’s secret peanut brittle recipe. I couldn’t wait to get to the Chocolate Studio on Tuesday and try it for myself. I started up the fire pot, added the sugars, syrups and butter—just plain honest ingredients—and turned it into a steaming caldron of molten goo. Wow! At 305º I stirred in the Spanish-style peanuts, added the vanilla and then shut off the gas. I got a little help to pour the magic mixture out on to the cooling slab. After a suitable cooling time, everyone agreed I had duplicated Max’s perfect peanut brittle recipe on the first try. Hey, Grandpa, I aced it the first time. Was this good enough to add to the Choclatique Collection? You bet.

peanut brittleWhile traditional peanut brittles tend to be a bit hard on the teeth (filling-pullers) and somewhat difficult to eat, Max’s secret recipe combines an abundance of Spanish, red-skin, US-grown peanuts into a perfectly-cooked, buttery, sugar brittle. The result is a much lighter bite that leaves a long-lasting, wonderful all-natural flavor you’ll never forget.

If you truly appreciate great peanut brittle, you will understand why Max’s customers said it is the very best they ever tasted. We are confident you will feel the same way when you take your first bite of our new Peanut Brittle Bites.

Now you might ask, how do you improve on perfection? Add a little chocolate, of course. Grandpa Max’s peanut brittle has been enhanced with a wonderful, light coating of Choclatique’s Prestige Milk Chocolate (32%) and dusted with crushed peanuts.

Our peanut brittle bites make wonderful gifts for family and friends, not to mention a terrific “personal stash.” They’re also a terrific thank-you or corporate gift. What was once a family secret is now available every day in the original 1870’s recipe and milk chocolate covered, too.

Max’s (and now Choclatique’s) old-fashioned Peanut Brittle Bites are now available all year round at Choclatique.com.

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Napa Valley Wine Chocolates

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Cakebread Cellars had been around for about 15 years when Joan and I first met Dolores and Jack Cakebread and their son Dennis on the “Big Island of Hawaii for the first Cuisines of the Sun cooking event. At that time, Choclatique® was not even a glimmer of an idea. Joan and I were completely tied up with The Food Show (ABC) and our consulting company, PERSPECTIVES/The Consulting Group, Inc.

While we were not yet making chocolate, Joan and I were certainly consuming a lot of it (and we still are, of course). During his afternoon cooking demonstration, Jack was trying to convince all that would listen that wine and chocolate was the perfect paring of nature’s finest foods. I made a comment to one of the other attendees that I had always enjoyed my wine with dinner and my chocolate dessert with a respectful interval of time in between. I was proved to be very wrong. Jack and Dolores changed my mind when I tasted their great Cabernet and Chardonnay with shards of dark, milk and white chocolate.

It was no surprise when we released Box of Bubbly—Dom Perignon Champagne Truffles—last year and they immediately became our second highest selling assortment in the Choclatique line. This popular flavor pairing of chocolate and wine opened the rest of the country’s eyes to wine chocolates.

Wine Chocolate Varieties

California’s wine country is an array of microclimates ideal for growing fine wine grapes and the source of wines used in the making of our Napa Valley Wine Chocolate assortments. We are pleased to offer:

Late Harvest Cabernet (Dark Chocolate)
A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon ganache with the flavors of concentrated berry and plum notes layered with a hint of herbs and green peppers with sparks of smoky oak surrounded by our 64% intense Private Reserve Bitter Sweet Chocolate.

Fall Vineyard Merlot (Dark Chocolate)
A medium-body Merlot ganache with delicate hints of berry, plum, red cherry and currant, with a soft fleshiness of perfectly ripened vines, covered with our 64% Private Reserve Dark Chocolate.

Estate Chardonnay Chocolate (Milk Chocolate)
With the faint aromas of apple, lemon, peach and tropical fruits, the overall flavor is a delicately crisp, flinty flavor with overriding flavors of ripe, fleshy grapes with a buttery quality accented by the flavor of new oak. This full-bodied ganache delicacy takes on many of the qualities of sparkling California wines.

Sparkling Blanc de Chocolate (White Chocolate)
Blanc de chocolate is a dry and crisp white chocolate ganache (33%) made from California “Champagne” with barrel-fermented flavors for added complexity. The wine has aged notes and carries vibrant, fruitful and crisp natural flavors of the sparkling wine from which it is made.

Old Oak Barrel-Aged Port Chocolate (Dark Chocolate)
A big, rich Port wine flavor that is fuller, sweeter and a bit heavier than our other wine ganache. Made from fortified wine it is heavy-bodied, sweet and smoky and holds remembrance of the past and the dreams of the future.

First-Crush Fume Blanc Chocolate (Milk Chocolate)
In memory of an old friend, Robert Mondavi, we dedicate our milk chocolate ganache to the wine he made famous. The flavors of our Fume Blanc ganache are a bit tarter in natural fruit flavors such as gooseberry, honey citrus and green apple, with subtle hints of vanilla and tropical fruits like melon and pineapple and the tell-tale smoky finish.

Zinfandel Cuvée Chocolate (Dark Chocolate)
This elegant Zinfandel ganache has a good fruit concentration of mid-palate dark fruits including raspberry, black currant and subtle pomegranate flavors with white chocolate undertones. The subtle aromas of black raspberry and earthy minerals with a hint of purple violet are evident.

Pretty in Pink “Blush” Chocolate (White Chocolate)
A flirty, yet shy pink rose chocolate ganache with the fruity flavors of ripe strawberry, juicy peach and nectarine. The aroma is a delicate balance of raspberry and black cherry, plus hints of flint and slightly tart cranberry.

Chaîne des RôtisseursChoclatique Napa Valley Wine Chocolates were “un-corked” for the first time the last week in May at the Wine and Hospitality Network event at The Hess Collection Winery in Napa, California and the Wine Country Hilton, Santa Rosa, California for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs—the world’s oldest and largest gastronomic society, founded in 1248.

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