Archive for December, 2010

Is It Doughnut Day?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Every day when driving to the office I call up and ask my partner, “Is it doughnut day, today?” You see, there’s a Winchell’s Doughnut shop only a block or so away from the Chocolate Studio. I am a sucker, or at least a gobbler, when it comes to eating really great doughnuts.

When I was a kid, there was a Winchell’s at the midway point on my paper route. When I used to collect for the Los Angeles Times, I would divert a little of the dough to buy a lot of the dough. I could finish off a dozen chocolate-covered doughnuts by the time I pedaled home and my mother was never the wiser. That’s when and where I first became addicted to doughnuts.

Doughnuts are very inexpensive. In 1960 a baker’s dozen of the freshly-fried round things used to cost about $2.35. Today it only costs $7.50 and when compared to inflation doughnuts are ahead of the dollar and keeping up with gold pretty well.

When doughnuts are fresh, right out of the fryer, they have a distinctive crunch that can’t be duplicated in any other pastry. If they’re more then 4 hours old—forget it, they’re not worth the calories.

I was told that Vern Winchell (nicknamed the “The Donut King”), the founder of the company that still carries his name, opened one of his first stores with his military separation pay on Pico and La Cienega just a mile or so from Restaurant Row in Beverly Hills. He bought a second-hand Hobart mixer, a fryer, a couple of frosting racks and a display case—all for about $350. I don’t know if he thought there was a bright future in doughnuts, but the company started to grow until it seemed there was a Winchell’s on almost every corner.

I think people love doughnuts because there are so many wonderful flavors from which to choose. There’s warm glazed doughnuts—the flavor that made Krispy Kreme famous—frosted vanilla, cherry, strawberry, maple and even flavors with sprinkles and decoratifs. You can get a cruller, a cinnamon twist or even an apple fritter that is made with all of the extra scraps and pieces layered with canned apple pie filling. And then there are iced chocolate doughnuts.

The chocolate frosting is the cheapest form of chocolate you can buy. It is mostly powdered sugar, a shortening (something akin to Crisco) and cocoa powder. But no matter how cheap the ingredients are, the chocolate is still my favorite doughnut flavor. No matter where I go, Dunkin’ Donuts, Winchell’s, Krispy Kreme or Randy’s near Los Angeles International Airport, I always get the chocolate. You’ve all seen Randy’s. That’s the Coogie-designed building that looks like a huge two story doughnut on top of the small drive-thru through outlet.

Doughnuts hit a rough spot in US culinary history when low-carbohydrate and more healthful diets were in vogue. Doughnut vendors tried to fool us with bagels, but sesame seeds didn’t taste as good as old-fashioned chocolate. Even I—the world champion doughnut eater—spent a couple of years shying away from these doughy little masterpieces, but then thankfully I fell off the bagel wagon and got hooked on doughnuts all over again. I don’t think I can still eat a dozen at one clip, but one or two doughnuts once or twice a month still gets me going in the morning.

So why this sudden interest in doughnuts? At Choclatique we love to craft new flavors in new shapes. We created Moon Rocks for the 40th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, Napa Valley Wine Chocolates in celebration of Northern California’s grape crush and Decadent Desserts—an assortment of America’s finest after-dinner treats where Jelly Doughnut has a starring roll. And now we’ve created a special collection celebrating my favorite round pastry—the doughnut—with all your favorite flavors—strawberry, cherry, apple, maple and chocolate, of course; they will all be available after the first of the year.

A doughnut a day—now that a New Year’s resolution I can support!

Want to make your own doughnuts? Try out my recipe for Chocolate Cake Doughnuts here.

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Chocolate Brownies

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Is there actually anyone out there that doesn’t love a great brownie? The key word there is “great.” There are so many brownie mixes on the market that many people have gone away from even trying to make them from scratch. A really great brownie—usually nothing more than melted chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs and some cocoa, all lightly mixed together with a bit of flour—is a decadent, luscious, yet simple treat. And… the brownie is one of America’s favorite desserts.

The brownie was born right here in the U.S. of A. We just aren’t quite sure when or where, although evidence points to somewhere in New England in the first few years of the 20th century. Although it is baked in a cake pan, the brownie is classified as a bar rather than a cake. There are literally thousands of recipes, both “cake” and “fudge” types. Both are perfectly correct—and delicious.

The brownie got its name from its dark brown color. But as with most foods, the origin of the brownie is shrouded in myth, even though it is a relatively recent entry to the food pantheon, first appearing in print in the early 20th century. The legends are told variously: a chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits…a cook was making a cake but didn’t have enough flour. One tells of a housewife in Maine who was making a chocolate cake but forgot to add the leavening. When her cake didn’t rise properly, instead of tossing it out, she cut and served the flat bars. That theory, however, relies on a cookbook published in 1912, six years after the first chocolate brownie recipe was published by America’s most famous cookbook author of the time, Fannie Farmer, in 1906.

The actual “inventor” will most likely never be known, but here’s what we do know: The first-known recipe for brownies I found was in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue, but this was a recipe for a molasses confection merely called brownies. Larousse Gastronomique, regarded by many as the ultimate cooking reference, writes that a recipe for brownies first appeared in the 1896 The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, written by Fannie Farmer—but that recipe was for a cookie-type confection that was also colored and flavored with molasses and made in fluted marguerite molds. However, as verified by Jean Anderson in The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes Of The 20th Century, the two earliest published recipes for chocolate brownies appeared in Boston-based cookbooks—the first in a second edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Most boxed brownies mixes will never be able to compare or even come close to a homemade brownie, made from quality ingredients and most importantly real melted chocolate. I don’t know about you, but when I read the list of ingredients for my brownies (or any other foods), I would much rather read a list like bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, butter, vanilla, salt, and flour than something that includes any words that I can’t even pronounce, let alone have a clue to what they are. I don’t believe in better living through chemistry.

Choclatique Double Dark Chocolate Brownie MixA great brownie doesn’t even have to involve having a mixer. If you have a couple of bowls, a whisk, a rubber spatula and a little bit of time, homemade brownies can be yours in minutes. You don’t have to be a professional baker or have a mix to prepare basic, delicious, baked goods.

BrowniesThe real keys to successful baking from scratch are simple and finite—use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on and follow the directions.

You can find one of my basic brownie recipes here or purchase a bag of Ebony Dark Chocolate Pastilles or Double Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, made with real chocolate-of course.

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Chocolate Champagne Truffles

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

More people are making their own gifts at home this year and food is the most popular thing to make. What are the most popular home-prepared foods this time of year? During the holidays this season more home cooks are making a variety of wonderful, home-made cakes, cookies, pastries and candies. One of the easiest chocolate confections to master is the chocolate truffle.

A French invention, the original chocolate truffle was a ball of nothing more than rolled ganache—simply made of dark bittersweet chocolate and cream—often flavored and rolled in cocoa powder. It was named after the precious black truffle fungus because of its physical resemblance.

The chocolate truffle was originally created in the kitchens of the famous French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier during the 1920s. As the story goes, one day, as his apprentice attempted to make a pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream over a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg he should have aimed for. As the chocolate and cream mixture set, he found he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball. After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder, he was struck by their similarity to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region and the Piedmont area of Italy.

As the truffle concept caught on, different truffle textures were created by rolling the center ganache in white confectioner’s sugar or finely chopped nuts, and the ganache was flavored with with the likes of Champagne and other liqueurs.

Today, the term truffle is often misused in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing. If you see a box labeled “chocolate truffles,” are you going to get round balls of ganache, or ganache-filled chocolates? Or are you going to get a box of cheap assorted creams and other mixed chocolates?

Choclatique Champagne TrufflesAt Choclatique we take making truffles seriously, because we believe that there is nothing more decadent and indulgent than a luscious Champagne truffle made by our artisans—except, perhaps a whole box of them! Our Champagne Truffles are a wonderfully light, creamy and yes, even bubbly, white chocolate and cream ganache made with Dom Perignon Champagne and then enclosed in our rich, award-winning, Private Reserve Dark Chocolate which is then kissed with a leaf of 24-karat gold!

Choclatique Champagne TruffleOur Chocolate Champagne truffle is molded as a contemporary version of the cork peeking out from a bottle—a design created by the talented designers and artists from Ferrari. A Box of Bubbly is a wonderful marriage of the Grand Crux of flavors from France and the Grand Prix of Italian design.

You can find my simple, original Champagne truffle recipe by clicking here, or purchase a Box of Bubbly—Choclatique Champagne Truffles on our website. We will ship them out to you faster than you can say “Merry Christmas.” So, ring in the holidays with the very best—Box of Bubbly—Choclatique Champagne Truffles.

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Chocolate Cherry Cordials

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

I was always told by my mother, “Eat it all at once or you’ll be sorry.” Sure enough, upon taking a bite of this luscious cherry covered in chocolate, my chin and t-shirt was quickly covered with the white creamy liquid center of the chocolate.

Chocolate Cherry CordialChocolate Cherry Cordials were originally a French invention—chocolate covered Kirsch-soaked, marinated whole cherries which became liquid centers—soon found their way to the United States. In 1864 Cella’s Confections of New York started making liquid center cherries. In 1929 they began large scale production, but The Brock Candy Company (later renamed Brach’s) was well positioned to become a major competitor and steal the market share away from Cella’s.

During the 1930s, Brach’s introduced its own version of chocolate covered cherries, which quickly became a nationwide favorite. That particular candy not only helped the company survive the lean Depression era but would remain one of its biggest sellers for the next 60 years. Eighty years later Choclatique reinvented this famous confection using the original French recipe.

In this 1952 photo of the Brach’s Candy Company in Chattanooga fondant-covered cherries receive the bottom coating of chocolate.

Making Chocolate Cherry Cordials isn’t all that difficult. You don’t have to have a lot of equipment and be a sophisticated candy maker and you don’t have to take a small syringe and inject the creamy liquid inside the chocolate. That’s accomplished by making a sturdy fondant to wrap around each cherry and then dipping them in chocolate. Choclatique's Chocolate Cherry CordialsThis home version of our Chocolate Cherry Cordial recipe I’ve included is the very best I’ve tried and is similar to how we make them here at Choclatique.

Be sure to get a head start on the holidays as it take several days for the centers to become liquid. If you don’t want to go to the trouble and wait for the centers to liquefy you can purchase Chocolate Cherry Cordials directly from our website.

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