How to Bake with Craft Chocolate (Plus Bar & Bean Giveaway!)

October 29th, 2013

intensely bittersweet chocolate souffle

Happy (day after) National Chocolate Day! I've been getting plenty of intriguing new chocolate to keep me occupied - perhaps it's a good thing I have a baby to prevent me from eating it all at once!

I was recently contacted by Bar & Bean, a new online shop for small-batch craft chocolate from around the world. Bar & Bean is dedicated to educating people about the qualities and nuances of craft chocolate, and they helpfully include tasting notes for the bars on their site, as well as detailed information about the chocolate makers.

I got the chance to meet Jasdeep, the creator of Bar & Bean, who is passionate about introducing people to the world of craft chocolate. He's brought an impressive roster of chocolate makers onto Bar & Bean, many of whom I haven't heard of or had the opportunity to try yet. Jas recognized that many people are either unaware of all the craft chocolate out there, or intimidated by the plethora of choices. By organizing his site with cocoa percentage and flavor profile searches, and adding tasting notes, he's hoping to demystify the process. Jas has also developed some detailed personal notes on how to taste chocolate, which he shares in his tasting classes in San Francisco; check the Bar & Bean website for details.

As a introduction to Bar & Bean, I received a baker's set consisting of five bars from Poco Dolce, Ritual, Escazu, and Dick Taylor. An early Halloween haul, indeed!

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In Time for Halloween: Pumpkin Spice Caramel Lollipops

October 22nd, 2013

pumpkin spice caramel lollipop

I’m not really a pumpkin spice latte fan. But I do like big mugs of hot, comforting drinks to sip slowly while watching autumnlight dwindle. And a long-handled stirrer to twirl pensively (I’m an inveterate fiddler). So it suddenly dawned on me last week: why not make an edible stirrer? One that might produce a pumpkin-pie-spiced coffee to my liking?

Autumn is for caramel: that cozy golden hue fits the season perfectly. I’ve been cooking a lot of sugar lately, so I’m surprised I didn’t think of spiced, Halloween-appropriate candy sooner.

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{SF} {Chocolate Review} TCHO’s New TCHOPairings Bars

October 10th, 2013

TCHOPairings Bars

Things have been a little on overdrive around here. A baby that can crawl and stand, lots of recipe testing, and the holidays peeping around the corner.

The nice thing about being a new mom, of course, is that people are infinitely sympathetic and kind. “Oh, you must be so busy! It’s ok if you’re late to the party!” “Oh, don’t worry if you forgot to bring the thing! You must have so much on your mind these days!” “You must be totally sleep-deprived – don’t worry about looking tired!” (Wait, what was that again? I look like crap?)

But I’m trying, gosh darn it. I don’t want to use a baby as an excuse to let everything fall by the wayside in a flaming, forgotten ball of fail. It’s just that when you have a baby, and things don’t go well, events tend to snowball much more dramatically.

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Banana Cake with Passionfruit Caramel and Coconut Meringue

September 20th, 2013

Banana Cake with Passionfruit Caramel

I'm all about soft, mushy foods these days; funny how a baby starting to eat solids will change your grocery shopping habits. Isabelle is a little foodie-in-the-making: although at eight months she's still got no teeth (I'm sure the moment I write this there will be one popping out) it hasn't stopped her from taking to solids with gusto. There hasn't been anything she's turned down so far - we're steadily making our way through pears and papayas, to apples and avocados.

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Back to Childhood: Malted Milk Chocolate Pretzel Tart

September 10th, 2013

pretzel malted milk chocolate tart on dessertfirstgirl.com

This has been on my drawing board for a while. The husband is a big fan of malted milk anything so I’d been meaning to make him a malted milk chocolate tart. As I finally got around to making some malted milk chocolate ganache, I thought, hang on, what else goes with malted milk? What about pretzels? What about a tart crust made of pretzels?

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Valrhona and Measured Indulgence: New Lemon Tart

August 27th, 2013

new lemon tart

When most people talk about becoming a pastry chef, it’s usually French pâtisserie they are referring to: puff pastry, buttercream, profiteroles, chocolate ganache. Can you imagine making crème brûlée or pâte sucrée by any other method than the French way? And yet, it’s a French pastry chef who is trying reinvent the classics of French pâtisserie. In July I was invited by Valrhona to attend a special conference on “La Gourmandise Raisonnée”, that promised a modern perspective on making pastries less of a guilty pleasure and more of a measured indulgence.

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