Archive for October, 2010
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Small Businesses that Help Fuel the Economy
The National Association of Convenience Stores, aka NACS, held their annual conference and expo this month in Atlanta, Georgia. I was one of more than 21,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors that covered nearly 400,000 square feet. The show rotates between three exciting food cities: Las Vegas, Chicago and Atlanta.
NACS is an international trade association representing more than 2,100 retail and 1,500 supplier company members. NACS member companies do business in nearly 50 countries worldwide, with the majority of members based in the United States. The U.S. convenience store industry, with nearly 145,000 stores across the country, had sales of over $500 billion in 2009.
Even though the top 50 convenience stores in the United States are members of NACS, the majority of its members are small, independent operators with more than 70 percent of its total membership comprised of companies that operate 10 stores or less. Sixty-two percent are owned and operated by someone who only has only one store!
Over the last 30 years C-Stores have been transformed from selling cigarettes, condoms, adult magazines and dusty canned goods and emergency supplies to a plethora of immediate consumable foods including a large array of snacks—some more healthful than others—a giant selection of cold beverages—Big Gulps and Guzzles—and coffee bars rivaling the likes of Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Today many C-Stores are contemporary, well-designed road stops that feature everything from fresh deli sandwiches, hot soups and pizza to gasoline, motor oil and windshield wipers.
All of this is a far cry from the earliest “milk stores” such as 7-Eleven with its origins in 1927 Dallas, Texas. It was there and then that an employee of Southland Ice Company, Joe C. Thompson, started selling milk, eggs and bread from the ice dock. Joe and his family went on to become the largest C-Store operators in the United States.
But I digress… meantime back at NACS, I saw a variety of new products that you will soon find at your nearby, neighborhood convenience store.
My favorite was International Delight’s new Flavor Shots… a neat and clean dispenser that adds a burst of true flavor to coffee, tea and soda. I tried the Burnt Caramel, Chocolate Mint and Tahitian Vanilla, but my favorite was the Roasted Hazelnut. These added flavor thrills were also 100% sugar-free leaving no negative aftertaste.
There was also a large assortment of energy drinks, gums candies and even an energy enhancing lip balm. I tried the latter, but it only made my lips a little numb.
While there was plenty of chocolate exhibited at the show, none compared to the wonderful quality back home in the Choclatique Chocolate Studio. And, if you’re looking for convenience, Choclatique is just a mouse click away at www.choclatique.com.
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
From obesity to diabetes, how startling discoveries about the womb are changing the way we think about health.
Women have heard for years all the things that are bad to eat when pregnant, but now we are learning that chocolate may be just what the doctor ordered.
We know childhood diabetes, teenage obesity, chronic depression and heart disease afflict millions of Americans in nearly epidemic proportions. And now, according to Annie Murphy Paul’s new book, Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, we are just starting to learn that those conditions may originate, at least partly, in the womb.
We’ve all heard about the effects of thalidomide exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome, but in recent years, the burgeoning science of “fetal origins” has made some surprising new discoveries about how conditions in the uterus can affect an adult person’s health in the future.
For instance, pregnant women who were close to the Twin Towers on 9/11 and developed post traumatic stress disorder gave birth to babies with low levels of cortisol, a hormone that regulates stress. Women who are depressed while pregnant are likelier to deliver premature babies with low birth weights. These scientific discoveries reinforce the notion that, while a person’s genetic code only offers a template for development, the conditions in the womb fine-tune the expression of those genes. It is the perfect welding of nature and nurture.
Origins investigates the consequences that the nine months of gestation have for infancy, childhood, adulthood and even old age. We get our DNA at the moment of conception, but the way our genes behave and the way they’re expressed, can still be affected by the environment. Now we’re learning that this kind of epigenetic modification, as it’s known, happens most consequentially in the uterus.
And not at all surprising, we are what we eat or you are at least what your mother has eaten 9 months prior to your birth.
The expectant mother should eat fish, making sure it’s low in mercury. And here’s the best part—Moms-to-be should also eat a moderate amount of, you guessed it—chocolate! Chocolate is associated with a reduced risk of preeclampsia (hypertension and related problems during pregnancy).
Expectant mothers should also perform a moderate amount of exercise, because that gives the fetus a workout, too. And, moms and the people around them should help maintain a moderate level of stress because that actually accelerates fetal brain development.
But the bigger message is to keep an open mind. We are constantly learning new information about diet and its effects on our day-to-day lives. It seems that our mothers and grandmothers were correct when they told us “everything in moderation” including a little chocolate in your everyday diet.
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
The LA County Fair
Beginning in the early 1800s, the first agricultural fairs gave rural families an opportunity to see firsthand the latest agricultural techniques, equipment, crops, and livestock. Over the course of the nineteenth century, fairs also incorporated a wide range of educational, recreational, competitive, and social activities into their programs. Within a few short generations, county and state fairs became a quintessential American tradition.
We all look at fairs with different interests. For me, if it’s deep-fried, on-a-stick, battered, breaded or dipped in chocolate you must be eating at the LA County Fair. A few of the new items this year included macaroni and cheese on a stick, deep-fried Oreos and s’mores on a stick.
This year we had to battle 108º temperatures to take part in the annual food fair experience. With more than 300 choices, I have to admit that I had to unbutton the button on my waistband just to drive home comfortably.
My first stop is always the giant cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Oops they weren’t there this year. I passed on the giant breakfast burrito, morning sandwich and the mini doughnuts in favor of Chicken Charlie’s fresh-baked waffles and fried chicken—a new family tradition that introduced a little protein into what would become a hard-packing carb day. No sooner had we finished licking the syrup from our chins than we were ready to move onto The Indian Fry Bread with all kinds of gorpy toppings. Then there were the funnel cakes with ice cream on top, and the endless concessions making fresh-fried Churros. Churros are long, extruded Mexican doughnuts that can be dipped in chocolate or, when it’s so blazing hot, smothered in cinnamon sugar.
When you’re at the Fair, meals and snacks all start to morph together. It’s kind of like being a chain smoker—you barely finish eating one treat before picking up the next stack of goodies with the napkin left over from the last one. I must admit that the fair food even replaced my death grip on my ever-present Blackberry.
We next found ourselves on Birch Avenue at Mom’s Giant Cookies and Gingerbread Treats—the home of Gingerbread-Man-on-a-Stick. The Ginger Bread is made with a little touch of cocoa… so yummy! And Mom’s Giant Cookies next door—always my favorites as a kid—are so packed with chocolate chunks that the dough barely holds them together.
Want BBQ? The secret to Big Bubba’s Bad to the Bone BBQ is a touch of chocolate they put into their BBQ sauce. Likewise, King Taco adds a little chocolate to their Chile Colorado. The chocolate adds depth of flavor and additional richness to both. There was even a little healthier food, such as yogurt, frozen yogurt smoothies, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and salads, too!
Unless you were making deep fried Reese’s Whips or Peanut Brittle, it was tough day to be in the candy business let alone to make chocolate. The fudge was melting, the chocolate-dipped apples were withering—as were we—and if you grabbed an ice cream cone, you had to eat it faster than the quarter horses were running a furlough at the race track next door.
While I look at the LA County Fair through food-colored glasses, it is still a place where people proudly display animals, produce prize-winning baked goods, and of course, there’s plenty of entertainment, games and scary midway rides. Even though the weather was stifling, we still had a great time and enjoyed the new uses of chocolate that we discovered.
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
I travel to Europe at least once a month. No matter how hard I try to avoid Air France the connections through Charles De Gaulle just outside of Paris seem to always be the best. Paris is, well, just so French, if you know what I mean. Something (everything) always seems to go wrong travelling through Paris adding hours to the trip.
One trip it was lost luggage; another had the baggage workers on strike delaying the flight for hours. There was a flight controllers “work to rule,” which did nothing more than delay hundreds of flights over a three day period. A general strike last month closed the airport down for two days. It’s more like flying “Air Chance” than Air France.
Last month was no different—the cabin cleaners staged a one hour strike causing a 2-hour delay. The airline caterer must have been upset about something because the duck used in making my canard a la orange died in vain after being mutilated by a very untalented cook. The questionable chocolate desserts were also a waste of calories… now you know that it’s bad if I don’t eat the chocolate.
So this month I got smart and made a few purchases at the gourmet store at the airport before heading for home. I got a very freshly-baked baguette… still warm to the touch; a tin of pâté de foie gras kissed with Cognac; a jar of marinated white truffles and a small wedge of Camembert cheese. I already knew the airline had an ample supply of good French Champagne and a bottle of 6 year-old Portuguese Port.
I saw nothing of interest for dessert and besides I do need to lose a few pounds. I was very content with my airplane picnic and thought I was ready to go until I spotted a small kiosk selling Ladurée macarons. Ladurée is a luxury cake and pastry boutique brand based in Paris, France. It is known as the inventor of the double-decker macaroon where fifteen thousand are sold every day. They are considered the best macaron shop in the world. When I speak of macarons, I am not referring to macaroons, those mounds of coconut and almond kosher cookies sold during Passover in Jewish sections of the supermarket which can be mistaken for damp paper weights. I am talking about a beautiful meringue-based confection made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectioners’ sugar.
While Ladurée is highly esteemed for making exceptional quality macarons in traditional and creative flavors, other French patisseries such as Pierre Hermé and Fauchon are also well known for their macarons as well. Outside of Europe, the pastry has attracted itself to mostly cosmopolitan cities, notably New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. New York has recently witnessed a surge in macaron shops.
The confection is characterized by its smooth, domed top, ruffled circumference and flat base. Connoisseurs in general and Ed Engoron in particular prize the delicate, egg shell-like crust that yields to a moist and airy interior. The macaron can be filled and held together with a buttercream frosting or jam filling sandwiched between two macaron cookies. Macarons can be found in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, vanilla) to the exotic (truffle, matcha tea) to my favorate—chocolate.
You might think something that beautiful is difficult to make. To the contrary they are quite easy.
Makes about 24 to 30 sandwich cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Assembly Time 10 minutes
fine sieve or strainer
electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment
3 baking sheets
wire cooling rack
1 1/3 cups (5 ounces) blanched almond meal or flour, finely ground
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8.5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened *Choclatique Rouge Cocoa Powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup (3 to 4 large) egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup filling of your choice
- Force the almond meal or flour, along with the powdered sugar and cocoa, through a strainer or sieve into a large bowl and whisk to blend.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment whip the egg whites on low to medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed and continue just until they hold glossy, firm peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Using a rubber spatula gently fold in the dry ingredients in 4 additions. When the dry ingredients are all incorporated, the mixture will be runny and look like a wet cake batter.
- Spoon half the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and, keeping the bag vertical and 1 to 2 inches above the baking sheet, pipe rounds about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refill the bag and pipe macarons onto the second baking sheet. Set the rounds aside in a cool, dry place for 30 minutes to rest.
- While waiting, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat heat it to 425ºF.
- Work with one baking sheet at a time. Dust the tops of the macarons lightly with sifted cocoa powder and put the baking sheet on top of a spare sheet in the oven. Slide the set-up into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350ºF. Prop the door open slightly using a wooden spoon (to reduce the heat as the macarons continue to rise and dry). The heat of every oven will vary; if the oven cools too quickly, do not prop open the door and instead quickly open and close the oven door every few minutes to gently release excess heat.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the macarons are smooth and just firm to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack.
- Bring the oven temperature back to 425ºF and repeat with the second baking sheet of macarons.
- As soon as the oven has been reset, and leaving the macarons on the parchment, lift the paper at one corner and pour a little hot water onto the baking sheet underneath the paper. Tilt the sheet to evenly dampen the parchment and leave the macarons on the paper for 15 seconds. Peel them off the parchment and place them on a cooling rack. Match them up for sandwiching.
- To fill the macaroons: Fill a pastry bag with the filling of your choice. Turn macaroons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macaroons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Pack the sandwiched cookies in a container and refrigerate for 24 hours (or for up to 4 days) before serving. This is how you achieve the wonderful texture.
- Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
ChefsNote: The almond meal (or flour) should be finely ground. If the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar are a bit coarse, process them in a food processor for a finer texture before running through a strainer or sifter. Additionally, if the almond meal feels a bit moist, spread it out on a lined baking sheet and place in a 325-degree oven to dry out, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Choclatique ProductNotes: *Choclatique Rouge Cocoa Powder is our unsweetened lightly alkalized cocoa powder.