Joan and I left Los Angeles on the “Windstar Express” carrying a load of chocolate at about 6 am on Friday morning headed for our favorite chocolate show—The Fourth Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon held at Fort Mason. We knew that we had won several more awards that had been pre-judged and already announced. On the trip up, I spoke with my editor, Geoff Stone, about the new adventures of Old Ed—an editorial device that is another way to describe some of my world travels in search of great chocolate to be featured in the upcoming Ed Engoron’s Choclatique by Running Press.
After checking in at the Hilton on Fisherman’s Wharf, we met up with my brother Roy and chef Wayne, fielded telephone calls from clients, customers and the office and finally took some time to have a great dinner at North Beach Restaurant and then to bed to prepare for the morning onslaught of chocolate lovers. The alarm went off at 5 am and it was up and at ‘em to set up for the salon. The doors opened and we served nearly five thousand pieces of chocolate and sold many more between 10 and 6. Then it was time to break everything down and pack up. Before collapsing for the night, we had a horrible dinner at Castagnola’s on the wharf—disgusting food and despicable service. After all, it is a tourist trap. What were we thinking?
Sunday morning we were on the road back to Los Angeles, arriving at 3pm, just in time to get caught in the Los Angeles Marathon traffic. When I got home, I had just enough time to change and repack my suitcase for two weeks in Portugal.
Monday morning Joan and I arrived at the office at 7am and spent the whole day taking care of everything that we didn’t do the week before while preparing for our client meetings in Lisbon. It was an all nighter on Air France to Paris and another two and a half hours to Lisbon. We had just enough time to check into our hotel rooms, clean up and meet our client for dinner.
I brought samples of CHICKS and Chocolate Almond Butter Toffee Bites—our best in show toffee. The next morning it was back-to-back meetings for nearly 12 hours. Our clients like to get their money’s worth. We visited Colombo, a beautiful upscale shopping mall for dinner before retiring for the night.
The next day and each succeeding day it was store visits, kitchen inspections, checking the competition and eating lot of traditional Portuguese food from the far north to the south like Duck Rice, Cozido (don’t ask) and Bacalhau. Bacalhau is made from salted Icelandic cod. The Portuguese claim that there are 1001 ways to make Bacalhau, but oddly enough, none of the recipes include chocolate.
On Monday we headed up to Braga near Porto to see their newest hyper store—a 3-hour drive in each direction. The entire trip was peppered with chocolate from Hustle, chocolate mousse from Pingo Doce and other chocolate delights from flans to brûlées and from truffles to tablets—everything chocolate.
The last day was preparing for a board meeting in a picturesque fishing village, Ericeira, about 30 minutes outside Lisbon. Many Portuguese families have summer homes there and why not… it is just what you would think Portugal should look like. We feasted on a lunch of Tiger Prawns, locally-caught steamed prawns, and char-grilled Dorado which my client claimed tastes just like lobster. It didn’t, but was good just the same.
The board meeting was cancelled at the last minute, but undaunted, my client and I found time to check out two more supermarkets and then find a great pizza joint that served wonderful Italian wines, fantastic chocolate tiramisu and a wheat berry cheese cake, better than Mario Batali’s; The only thing that would have made it a little better would have been a drizzle of Choclatique Prestige Milk Chocolate. Oh, by the way, the wood-fired pizza was pretty terrific, too.
Italian Wheat Berry Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
This lattice-topped pie is a left-handed relative to a traditional Italian Cheesecake. It is served in the spring around Easter, but, take it from me, it is great anytime. The wheat berries and Fiori di Sicilia are what gives this special dessert its unique flavor. If you must, you can substitute the Fiori di Sicilia with orange-flower water. You can usually find Fiori di Sicilia in specialty baking stores and catalogues. Orange-flower water can be found in the ethnic food section in most supermarkets.
Makes one 9-inch cake, serves 10
Ingredients for the Filling:
1/2 Cup Hulled Soft Wheat Berries (1/4 Pound)
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Unsalted Butter, Cut Into 1/2-inch Cubes
1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Orange Zest
2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Zest
2 Cups Ricotta Cheese, Mashed
4 Large Eggs, Lightly Beaten, Room Temperature
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Fiori di Sicilia
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2/3 Cup Choclatique Dark, Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips (4,000-count)
½ Cup Candied Orange Peel, Finely Chopped
Ingredients for the Pastry Dough:
3 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Sticks (3/4 Cup) Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 Cup Confectioners’ Sugar
1 Large Egg
2 Large Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon Fiori di Sicili
1 Tablespoon Fresh Orange Rind
Soak the Wheat Berries for the Filling:
- Cover the wheat berries with cold water in a bowl; soak, covered and chilled, at least 12 hours or better yet overnight.
- Drain in a sieve and rinse with cold water.
Chef’s Note: In a pinch I have used a pressure cooker to soak and cook the berries in about an hour.
While the Berries Are Soaking, Make the Dough:
- Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in the whole egg, yolks, Fiori di Sicilia, and rind until smooth.
- Reduce the speed to low, and then add the flour mixture and mix until just barely incorporated.
- Gather the dough into a ball (it will be soft) and quarter. Form one quarter of the dough into a 3-inch disk, and then form the remaining three quarters (together) into a 6-inch disk. Chill the disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
- The dough can be held refrigerated for a day or two. Bring to the dough to room temperature before rolling out.
Finish the Filling:
- Cover the soaked berries the cold milk in a 2-quart saucepan and simmer, covered, until the wheat berries are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the milk, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the butter and zests.
- Cool completely before using, about 15 minutes.
- Beat the ricotta, eggs, sugar, Fiori di Sicilia and cinnamon until smooth.
- Fold in the chocolate chips and orange peel in a large bowl, and then stir in the wheat berry mixture.
Assemble & Bake the Cake:
- Put the oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
- Roll out the larger disk of the dough into a 14-inch round on floured parchment paper with a floured rolling pin.
- Using your rolling pin to transport the rolled dough, place the dough into the springform pan, pressing the dough all the way up side to the rim of the pan (the dough might crack a bit—don’t worry, it’s easy to patch any cracks). Chill until cold, about 20 minutes.
- Roll out the remaining dough into a 10-inch round. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide strips and place on a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate.
- Carefully spoon the filling into the chilled pie crust (filling will not reach the top).
- Arrange the dough strips parallel to each other on the filling (1 inch apart), pressing the ends of the strips into the crust. If the dough becomes too soft to handle, chill until firm again.
- Arrange other strips diagonally over the first ones to form a lattice. Fold the edge of the crust over the ends of the lattice strips, pressing to seal.
- Brush the top crust with egg wash.
- Bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is puffed and set, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
- Run the blade of a thin knife around the edges of the cake and remove the collar of the springform pan. Cool the cake completely on the rack for about 2 hours.
The cake can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then covered and held in a refrigerator. Bring the cheesecake to room temperature before serving.
So, after over two weeks on the road, here I am on Flight 063 Paris to Los Angeles, writing my adventures before I forget any of the details. Tomorrow it will be business as unusual (as it always is) and, of course, no day is ever complete without a visit to the Choclatique Chocolate Studios and a tasting of our latest production. This job is tough, but someone has to do it. Welcome home, Ed!