Thursday, 31 March 2016

Review: Chocolate Making Adventures by Rosen Trevithick

If you’ve been here before, you know I’m a chocoholic and you may have even seen my first attempt at making my own chocolate (the second try over here). When I did that, I had no recipe to follow – I tried to find some info online, but it was rather conflicting and very confusing, and I didn’t know who to trust, so I just proceeded with the good old trial and error (or taste and mix) method.

But now I’ve found this book, Chocolate Making Adventures. The ebook happened to be free on Amazon, so I quickly grabbed it. Now that I’ve had a good look at it, I can say that this is the book I’m going to turn to when I need help with chocolate making.

The author starts by explaining the ingredients you need for making chocolate. This is a very useful section, because you learn the differences between, e.g. various sweeteners you can use. There’s a section about the tools and equipment you need, and the methods are explained thoroughly. Instructions range from how long you can store home-made chocolate to how to attractively package and/or gift wrap them. There’s an appendix with conversion charts (very useful!) and another about troubleshooting. The instructions are clear, easy to follow, there’s a bit of humour while the author clearly knows what she’s talking about. And the recipes! Such intriguing flavour combinations that you can’t wait to try them... plus things like truffles, pralines, fondant eggs etc. What’s more, the recipes are also inspiring: I started coming up with my own ideas for flavour combinations. Oh, and there are gorgeous pictures!

I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but I’m particularly interested in those for home-made milk chocolate. So far, I’ve only made basic dark chocolate (with dried fruit and nuts). While that’s delicious, I’d love to see how milk chocolate turns out! However, I’ve only made the simple sort of chocolate where you just melt the cocoa butter, add the other ingredients, and pour the chocolate into molds to set. The instructions in this book include the method of heating the chocolate, cooling it (by working it on a slab with a scraper) and again heating it. I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of this complex process, and I don’t even have the equipment and tools needed for it. However, I’d like to try that some day, and then I’ll definitely turn to this book for advice.

Chocolate Making Adventures is a great info package, much more than I ever imagine I’d get from an ebook. The author also has a blog where you can find some recipes, beautiful pictures (oooh, chocolate porn!) and even links to where to buy ingredients for chocolate making. If you want to try making delicious chocolate treats but don’t know where to start, or if you want to learn more about the art of chocolate making, I’d recommend this book.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Happy Easter!

Whether you celebrate Easter, Eostre, Pääsiäinen, something else or nothing at all... whether you run naked in the fields, go to church, eat chocolate eggs or dress up as the Easter Bunny (the latter two being what I do)... have a good one! :)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Chocolate making, part 2

I did this quite some time ago already, but somehow forgot to post about it! So, here it is, another try with the wonderful "make your own chocolate" kit - report of the previous one over here.

Last time, I just experimented, didn't measure any of the ingredients, and made two kinds of chocolate. What I learned from that was that even though some recipes recommend using coconut oil, that was not to the liking of any of my family members. The other batch without coconut oil was much more popular. So, this time, no coconut oil.

In addition, this time I did my best to measure the ingredients. I had roughly the same amount of cocoa butter and cocoa powder plus a few teaspoons of agave syrup and just a sprinkling of salt - however, as I tasted the mixture, I ended up adding some more of this and a bit more of that, so... I still can't say precisely how much of what the final product actually contained (that seems to be my method in the kitchen anyway). Interestingly, the mixture had a pretty strong cocoa flavour before we (my daughter worked as an eager assistant) poured it into the mold. Once it was set and we tasted it, however, I thought it could have been more intense! Hmm.

Anyway, this time the result was very tasty! And colourful; my DD wanted to decorate the chocolates with cashews, dried apricots and dried cranberries. Also, there was no sign of the slightly grainy texture this time - the chocolate had a lovely, glossy finish - nor did the chocolate set too fast.

Finally, a picture of my highly professional cocoa butter melting equipment. :D

Friday, 18 March 2016

Friday chocolates

I just wanted to say "have a great weekend" and post this picture of chocolates I made with my daughter. Normally, left over chocolate is not a problem in our family, but sometimes we end up with small shards of chocolate or uneven pieces (when a chocolate bar or a tablet doesn't break into neat pieces) or just single pieces that can't be divided between two or three people. I collect these, then we melt them, pour the mixture into a mold - and it's like entirely new chocolate!

The mold we used now is actually from a dark chocolate box we bought a while back, simply the container for chocolate pieces, not an actual mold. I was afraid that the chocolate would never come out of it, or that it might break apart when we tried to unmold it, but it behaved very well and these turned out quite pretty, if I say so myself. :)

Monday, 14 March 2016

March - the earth month

I can't believe it's March already! But it is, so let's look at the name maaliskuu - March in Finnish.

The word maalis actually comes from the word maa, which means "earth" or "ground". But why on earth (haha) would March be known as the earth month? The explanation is quite simple: in March, we may be able to witness the first signs of spring: snows begin to melt and small patches of earth are revealed between banks of snow. So here is yet another month name that is related to weather or a natural phenomenon.

There are, however, alternative explanations. According to one of them, maalis comes from the word mahla, "birch sap". People actually used to refer to one of the months as a mahlakuu, but as far as I know, it was May, not March... while in Estonian (a close relative of the Finnish language), mahlakuu used to be April. That makes sense, seeing that April is when people usually start to collect birch sap. Another theory links the word maalis with maali, "target" - according to this hypothesis, March was a good time to ski and shoot at targets.

Rather than go out with my bow and arrows, I just walked around and took this picture to go with the first explanation:

Monday, 7 March 2016

Review: Carniola Cokolada: Dark Chocolate with Prosciutto and Figs

I was going to write fewer chocolate reviews from now on, but people actually seem to read them, and this chocolate is something I simply had to review.

My father and his wife brought me this chocolate from their trip to Slovenia. That was very thoughtful of them, so thank you! :) It’s dark chocolate with figs and prosciutto, dry-cured ham – typical products of the region, says the wrapping. That's an interesting idea! Now, I don’t eat red meat, but I do love chocolate, so I was conflicted! To eat or not to eat? Well. I can be very curious, especially when it comes to books and chocolate, so... of course I was going to at least have a bite!

I’ll have to say that I found this chocolate absolutely beautiful. The white wrapping has a pretty, fresh style, but when you look at the chocolate itself... wow! Unfortunately, the thin disc had broken into pieces during its journey to Finland, but I did try to take a picture of the lovely pattern on one side:

And, let me indulge in some more chocolate porn... here’s the other side! With thin slices of prosciutto, crumbled figs and a bay leaf, it doesn't immediately say "chocolate" (at least not to me) but it is gorgeous, isn’t it?

Now that we've feasted our eyes, let's move on to other senses. I expected this chocolate to have a somewhat smoky, perhaps even spicy scent, but, though dark and earthy, the scent is actually rather mellow.

The chocolate has the cocoa content of 72 % which makes it rather dark – it is full-bodied, smooth, intense... very lovely chocolate! The figs are dried pieces drenched in rice flour, they’re a bit sticky and sweet (naturally) but don’t have a particularly distinctive flavour. The prosciutto comes in thin slices that are crumbly and mostly just taste salty. I love the chocolate and salt combination, so I have to say I did enjoy that, even though I am not a meat eater. During our tasting session, I picked the piece with the smallest slice of prosciutto – I had thought of simply picking it out and handing it either to my DH or DD, but then, the experience would have been incomplete that way, so I just went ahead and ate it.

This was definitely an interesting experience – probably the first time I ever tasted Slovenian chocolate, and I have to say that the combination of chocolate, fig and prosciutto was also something I’ve never tried before. I prefer my chocolate without meat, but I’d still say that the chocolate & prosciutto union was succesful. And the chocolate itself was delicious!