Stephen Fries: Show your Valentine love with fine chocolates
What better way to show your valentine and loved ones how special they are on Feb. 14 than by giving the gift of chocolate truffles, bean-to-bar artisan chocolate, or confections you made especially for them?
Speaking of bean-to-bar, while going up and down the aisles at the Fancy Food Show last summer, I was overwhelmed by the number of bean-to-bar chocolatiers. I predict this is the next movement in the artisanal food world. Like craft beer, specialty coffee and bread before it, this small-batch industry is growing by leaps and bounds. American craft chocolate sales are $100 million annually and growing.
During my food travels, I’ve had opportunities to see how chocolatiers such as Norman Love (yes, this is his last name) Confections and William Dean create their renowned chocolates. I visited Art Eatables in Louisville, Ky., while attending the 2017 International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. Their specialty is matching chocolate that accents the character of bourbons (and there are many, being Kentucky’s most famous spirit) they use to create small-batch bourbon truffles. During my Asheville, N.C., food exploration, a visit was made to French Broad Chocolates (named after one of the oldest rivers in the world, which runs through Asheville). In their small factory, they roast, crack, winnow, grind and temper chocolate in small batches, using cacao that originates from small farmers. This process and relationship with growers create a deeper connection with the sources. At their chocolate lounge I found myself putting my nose to glass cases showcasing their confections made with their chocolates. This is something that I have been doing recently at chocolate shops as Valentine’s Day approaches. I guess I am that “kid in the candy store.”
Most recently, while working on 2018’s Hidden Gems of Florida feature (keep an eye out for it), I visited Castronovo Chocolate Factory in Stuart, Fla. Denise Castronovo has taken home the gold medal several times in the International Chocolate Awards for her bean-to-bar chocolate bars. One bite of the Colombia Sierra Nevada bar, and no wonder it was the gold winner of the International Chocolate Awards World Finals in 2016 and gold winner of the 2016 Academy of Chocolate Awards.
Books that Castronovo has on display caught my attention (in addition to her decadent chocolates), since it was a book I was planning to feature here for Valentine’s Day. A sample copy for visitors to peruse, complete with sticky notes, piqued my curiosity. Those highlighted pages showcased the winning bar and information about this chocolatier.
“Bean to Bar: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution, the Origins, the Makers, the Mind-Blowing Flavors,” by Megan Giller (2017, Storey Publishing, $19.95), is your primer to “everything you wanted to know about chocolate but were afraid to ask.” Her blog, “Chocolate Noise,” was a 2016 Saveur Food Blog Awards Finalist. Megan offers private chocolate tasting classes, hosts “underground Chocolate Salons,” teaches classes at shops across the U.S. and judges at chocolate competitions.
If you are curious about the bean-to-bar movement, she demystifies it and explains the process. I learned what to look for in a chocolate bar and chocolatiers to watch. Wonder how cocoa beans from Venezuela differ from beans from Madagascar, or what is dark milk chocolate, and who makes the best? Giller has you covered. Here’s a fun idea … take her suggestions on how to hold a chocolate tasting, with advice on pairing chocolate with coffee, tea, beer, spirits, bread and cheese. I enjoyed her explanation of why chocolate shouldn’t cost a dollar. Her answer?, she writes, “$14 can still seem like a big investment. However, I’d say that’s a pretty low price point to buy the best food of its kind in the world. The best wines retail for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. Caviar? Forget about it. Spending an average of $10 on a bar that I’ll taste over the course of several days or a week seems well worth it to me.” I must agree with her “food (or should I say chocolate) for thought”; the Castronovo bars that I purchased weeks ago are still being savored. Of course the bars are works of art, but so, too, are the distinctive wrappings, many worthy of framing.
And now, what you’ve been waiting for … the recipes. Several top chefs and chocolatiers have contributed some of the recipes. You just might decide to make one for your valentine. From Champurrado drinking chocolate to olive oil sourdough truffles to Devil Dogs and the recipes below for Ceylon tea fudge sauce and Mayan chocolate mousse, these decadent treats defy expectations of what chocolate should taste like. For recipes for Balsamic Strawberries in Mini Chocolate Cups and Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies visit http://bit.ly/2DP3YnH.
Adapted from Earl Grey Fudge Sauce in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, by Christina Tosi
The headnote says, “Chocolate and Teago together like Beyoncé and Jay Z: great on their own, unstoppable together. That’s why I love this recipe, which uses a tea that pairs well with chocolate to make a delicious fudge sauce with a twist. I based the recipe on one from Christina Tosi, one of my favorite pastry chefs and the amazing force behind Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City. This fudge sauce has a strong tea flavor, so it isn’t strictly necessary to use a single-origin chocolate, as unique flavors will be hidden behind the taste of the tea. If you do, I’d go with something mild and very chocolaty, like Venezuela, but a blend will work just as well. Pour this on top of the next sundae you make and you’ll never go back to that stuff in a bottle again.”
Combine the tea and cinnamon in a heatproof bowl. Heat ¼ cup of the heavy cream in a saucepan just to boiling. Pour the hot cream over the tea and cinnamon and let infuse for 5 minutes. Strain the cream into a measuring cup. Add enough fresh heavy cream to bring the volume back up to 1/4 cup. Pour the cream back into the saucepan and warm over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Combine the chopped chocolate and glucose syrup in a bowl. Pour in the warm cream mixture and let sit for 1 minute to soften. Using a spatula, start slowly stirring the sauce from the center in concentric circles, speeding up as it starts to get shinier and shinier, until it achieves a fudge sauce consistency, about 2 to 4 minutes. Pour over ice cream, brownies, or whatever you desire, and enjoy! The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Do not freeze. Serves 2-4
Recipe from Lauren Adler, chief chocophile, and the Chocolopolis team.
The headnote says, “Lauren recommends using chocolate made with cocoa from Belize (especially Taza’s single-origin bar), though any fruity chocolate will work.”
To make the mousse, combine the cream and allspice berries in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the cream around the edge of the saucepan begins to boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Cover the top of the pan tightly with plastic wrap to hold in the flavorful vapors of the allspice. Set aside for 30 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Then remove the plastic wrap and fish out the allspice berries.
Combine the butter and chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave at high power for 30 seconds. Check to see if they have melted. If not, microwave in intervals of 10 seconds until they are melted. Add the cream to the melted chocolate and mix well.
Separate the eggs into yolks and whites. Set the whites in the refrigerator to keep them chilled. Whip the egg yolks into the chocolate and cream mixture until they’re just incorporated. With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the ultra-fine sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Dish the mousse into six 4-ounce ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
Immediately before serving, make the whipped cream: Combine the whipping cream with the sugar and vanilla in a bowl. With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip or you’ll end up with a butter-like consistency. Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the ramekins. Garnish with a sprinkle of allspice or black pepper. Serves 6
Send your requests: Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, he might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.
5th annual Febtoberfest, Feb. 8, 6-9 p.m., Mattituck Museum, 144 West Main St. Waterbury, 203-753-0381. $35 in advance, $40 at the door. In addition to local breweries, guests will have the opportunity to sample American wine from the region and beyond. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2ncHF5k.
Food & Wine Tasting, Feb. 8, 5:30 p.m., Fletcher Cameron Kitchens, 91 Orange St., New Haven, 203-777-7707. $35. Chef Anne Gallagher, owner of a farm-to-table catering company in Litchfield demonstrates how to make winter soups. An educational guided wine tasting by The Wine Thief will be offered. Info and tickets at http://bit.ly/2Dr7dWF.
CT Craft Beer Fest presented by CT Brewers Guild., Feb. 17, 4-8 p.m. Oakdale Theatre, 95 S. Turnpike Road., Wallingford. General admission $30, designated driver tickets $15. Guests receive a commemorative tasting glass. More than 40 Connecticut breweries. Food available for purchase. Live Music performed by Cleo Blue. Must be 21 or older to consume alcohol. For participating breweries, more information and tickets visit http://bit.ly/2rVPOQk
Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: Feb. 22, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $65 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Preparation of a 4-course meal is demonstrated. Each course is shown, step-by-step, and then served. Learn how to make some of Consiglio’s trademark dishes: Oysters Rockefeller, baby spinach bacon orange pine nut vinaigrette, homemade lobster ravioli plum tomato cream sauce, white chocolate creme brulee.
Wines and More of Milford: Fratelli's 6-course Italian Wine Dinner, Feb. 26, 6:30 pm, Fratelli's Italian Restaurant, 248 New Haven Ave., Milford. 203-876-1600. $75 includes tax and gratuity. http://bit.ly/2nth0k7