Welcome to Chocolate Disorder (the new In Temper)

You may have noticed that I’ve updated the name of this site.

Why? Truthfully, I changed the name because I was tired of having a long wordpress domain name that nobody would ever remember. And the shorter version of my old domain name, intemper.com, was already taken.

Also, whether or not it’s true, I’ve heard that search engines favor blogs with domain names that explain what they’re about. So I wanted my new domain name to include the word chocolate.

But why Chocolate Disorder? Well, I thought the name reflected the somewhat obsessive nature of my preoccupation with chocolate. And it’s a bit tongue in cheek, not meant to be taken TOO seriously — just like the blog.

Also, as you may have guessed, I’m pretty sure I have one. A chocolate disorder, that is. And if you’ve read this far, you probably do too. 😛

Review: Chococurb’s Nano Subscription

Seattle Chocolate's birthday cake confection

I have something awesome to share with you today.

One of my (other) favorite chocolate delivery companies, Chococurb, has a brand new offering that, as far as I know, is unique among the competion: a MINIBAR delivery service. Dubbed the Nano subscription, each delivery contains five minibars for $10. $10!! That’s the price of one Mast Brothers chocolate bar in some cities.

Here’s how it works. You either buy one shipment for $10, or a 6-month or 1-year subscription for slightly less. Each shipment contains five chocolate samples, each of which weigh between 0.2 and 0.9 oz (at least in the shipment I received). Which means you are basically paying $10 for 2 oz of chocolate. Which admittedly is a lot. But you get to sample five new hard-to-find chocolate makers for the price of one Mast Brothers bar. And shipping is included.

This may give you a better sense of the size of the bars:

I think the Nano subscription is a great deal*. Especially for lazy people like me who are happy to pay an extra few bucks to sample lots of hard-to-find chocolate brands without leaving the house.

I also think it’s a great idea from the Chococurb team. As far as I know, Choco Rush, Cocoa Runners and Cococlectic aren’t offering comparable minibar subscriptions — at least, not yet.

Btw, the 6-month and 1-year subscriptions make great gifts. And if someone close to you isn’t a chocoholic (which, frankly, I would find hard to believe), well… it was my birthday last week. Just sayin.

*UPDATE 8/19/16*

Get 10% off your Nano box subscription until September 19th by using the discount code INTEMPER at checkout.

Review: Choco Rush Chocolate Delivery Service

Choco Rush logo

A while back I reviewed two chocolate delivery services I’d tried, Cocolectic and Cocoa Runners. Well, today I have an entirely new chocolate delivery crush: Choco Rush.

Choco Rush is a craft chocolate subscription service out of South Carolina. But… who really cares where they’re based. Let me get to the point: Choco Rush totally rocks.*

Why all the love?

For starters, my first shipment included bars from three chocolate makers I’d never even heard of before, let alone tasted. So major props to them for promoting unsung chocolate makers that don’t yet have a national presence.

Another cool thing: the chocolate curators behind Choco Rush clearly have awesome taste, because two of the chocolate bars in my first shipment were blow-my-mind delicious (made by Durci and Hello Cocoa — find them!!)

Actually there is a third reason to love Choco Rush, now that I think about it, and it’s a really important one. Their customer service is outstanding!

It’s hard to understate how much this matters. If you sign up for one of these delivery services and live anywhere that sees temperatures over 85 F (which is pretty much everywhere right now), at some point you’ll probably find yourself emailing customer service to report some kind of melted chocolate shipping disaster. At Choco Rush, Chris Lacey was incredibly responsive and helpful when I was concerned about my shipping arriving on a particularly hot day (I needn’t have worried — the chocolate arrive unmelted and unbloomed, even in our lovely 95 F D.C. weather).

But what really hooked me on Choco Rush was how genuinely interested Chris seemed in my feedback on the chocolate bars they’d sent me. This is the fourth chocolate delivery service I’ve tired, but it’s the first to reach out to me directly to ask what I’d thought of their chocolate. And being a total chocolate nerd, I loved the opportunity to bounce my tasting notes off an expert who is friendly, knowledgeable and unpretentious. It reminded me once again what a great, welcoming community the chocolate world is.

OK, so here are the subscription details:

  • Each Choco Rush shipment includes four bars from different chocolate makers, shipped at the beginning of every month (so if you sign up for the service on the second week of the month, you’ll have to wait until the next month for your first shipment).
  • Their subscription choices include a month-to-month package for $39 ($9.75/bar), a 3-month subscription for $110 ($9.17/bar), plus a couple of longer subscriptions.
  • You can skip a month or cancel your subscription at any time, and shipping is free in the U.S.

I know $9+ is steep for chocolate, but remember your money is supporting small batch chocolate makers with relatively high overhead compared to large industrial chocolate producers. Plus they often pay direct trade prices (more expensive than fair trade) for their cocoa beans. So I think it’s money well spent.

But the real reason I think it’s worth it to pay $9/bar for chocolate is that Choco Rush takes both the legwork and guesswork out of finding awesome new chocolate makers. Not only will you be introduced to chocolate makers you’ve never heard of before, but the bars you receive will probably be delicious. For me, that alone make the service worth the premium.

Note: I am not a spokesperson for Choco Rush and didn’t receive payment (or free chocolate) for writing this. The views expressed below are mine alone.

Success: Aquafaba Mousse (Chocolate OR Vanilla)

Aquafaba mousse - chick pea liquid mousse

Aquafaba mousse - chick pea liquid mousse

A while back, I tried unsuccessfully to create chocolate mousse out of whipped chickpea canning liquid (aka aquafaba). I had such high hopes. But alas, after several failures in a row, I threw in the towel.

At the time I was making a lot of hummus and chickpea blondies (yes, they’re a thing), and I didn’t want to throw away all that (potentially) useful chickpea canning liquid. So… I saved it. Lots of it. And I tried again. This time, it worked.

What made the difference? I’ll share some tips further down in the post. But first, the recipe:

Recipe:

  • liquid drained from 15 oz can of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup confectionery sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: 1 tbsp cocoa powder (the dutch processed kind, if possible)

Directions:

Throw all ingredients except the optional cocoa powder in a bowl and whip with electric beaters on high for 6-12 minutes. Add the optional cocoa powder at the end, and be careful not to over beat it.

That’s it.

Tips & Suggestions:

  • Chill the liquid before you attempt to whip it.
  • Use the highest setting on your electric egg beaters. If you own powerful electric beaters, you should have stiff peaks in 6-7 minutes (if your electric beaters aren’t so powerful, this may take you 10+ minutes, but it will work… eventually).
  • Use real sugar. Liquid sugars like honey and agave might also work, although I haven’t tried them so I can’t say for sure. But don’t use stevia — it tastes awful in this recipe. Trust me on this one — this is chickpea liquid we’re talking about, it already has a weird aftertaste and stevia seems to accentuate it.
  • Flavor with vanilla extract, even if you’re making chocolate mousse. Vanilla masks the chickpea flavor quite well.
  • Don’t try to bake these. While I know numerous vegan bloggers (and the New York Times) have claimed that these can be baked into meringues, I’ve tried several times with no luck. I’m pretty much convinced it’s impossible. The “meringues” will melt into puddles after just a few minutes in the oven. Low heat, high heat — it doesn’t seem to matter, they deflate into sad little puddles. Then they burn. They smoke. They stink up your whole house. Your husband will shake his head in bemused resignation as he disables the smoke detector (again). Skip the meringues.

 

  • If adding cocoa powder:
    • Add the cocoa at the very end, after you’ve already whipped up a nice mousse. Also, since the cocoa powder will devolumize your mousse, you’ll need to eat this immediately.
    • To prevent over-mixing/deflation (see pics below), make a cocoa paste by adding a little chickpea liquid to the cocoa powder and stirring until smooth. Then FOLD the paste into the mousse using a spatula or wooden spoon. Don’t use electric beaters to do the mixing — you’ll deflate your mousse.
    • Use dutch processed cocoa powder, which is less acidic and dissolves more easily than the natural (undutched) type. Use only the bare minimum amount necessary to develop chocolate flavor (~1 tbsp for this recipe, give or take).
    • Try this recipe with real dark chocolate rather than cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave (you can follow these instructions) and gently fold it into the whipped chick pea liquid. Then chill the mousse for a couple of hours to give the cocoa butter in the melted chocolate time to harden. The resulting mousse will be much longer lasting (and tastier) than the cocoa powder version. Just my $0.02.
Chocolate aquafaba mousse - chick pea canning liquid
Immediately after gently incorporating the cocoa powder
Chocolate aquafaba mousse - chick pea liquid
Over-whipping: 2 minutes later
Chocolate aquafaba mousse - chick pea liquid
Over-whipping: 5 minutes later

My personal feelings about aquafaba mousse? If you’re a vegan and have a killer craving for chocolate mousse, this recipe is for you. Otherwise… my honest opinion is that egg whites are a better foundation for a mousse. Even when pasteurized, egg whites whip faster, plus they hold their shape better when baked.

Today Is World Chocolate Day

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32140431

While every day is chocolate day for me, today was actually World Chocolate Day. Officially.

Excerpt from World Chocolate Day — Cooking without Limits:

World Chocolate Day is every year on July 7. Celebration of the day includes the consumption of chocolate. Today marks 466 years since chocolate was introduced to Europe. References to World Chocolate Day being observed on 7 July have been recorded as early as 2009.

Photo credit: Luisa Contreras via Wikimedia

Intro to layered chocolates: caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond truffles

Caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond truffles

Caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond ganache

Full disclosure: I meant to write about this months ago. Seriously, I think there was still snow on the ground when I first made these delicious, creamy, double-ganache truffles. But at the time I was frantically trying to complete my chocolatier school coursework and didn’t really have time to pull this post together.

Anyway, enough with the excuses. Here it is (finally).

This was my first attempt at making layered truffles. Back in those early days of my chocolate education, I wasn’t exactly working with professional equipment… basically I owned a whisk, a candy thermometer and a lot of patience. I actually used Tupperware containers as my molds because I hadn’t bought a professional ganache frame yet.

ChocoVision Mini Rev Tempering MachineOh but I did own one very fancy piece of very fancy equipment: a brand new (at the time) ChocoVision Mini Rev tempering machine, which I absolutely LOVE and still use pretty much constantly. If you have any desire whatsoever to make your own chocolates, I highly recommend you invest in one of these bad boys. The 1.5 lb capacity model shown below is by far the cheapest small batch home tempering machine on the market.

But more on the ChocoVision Mini Rev in a later post.

Anyway… for this particular truffle recipe I made a caramelized white chocolate ganache for the bottom layer and a dark salted almond ganache for the top. I poured one over the other, smoothed them out with a spatula and let the layers set up at room temperature overnight.

Letting ganache set for 12-24 hours in a cool room (<68 F) gives it a chance to crystallize, which results in a more stable ganache that has lower water activity. To refresh, the lower the water activity, the less water (from the cream) is available to grow pesky microbes and the longer the truffles will last at room temperature before they mold.

Anyway — by the next morning the ganache was firm enough for me to unmold in one solid piece…

…and cut it into 1″ x 1″ squares with a sharp knife.

Here’s where the fun began (and, yes, the mess…)

After tempering some of Undone Chocolate’s amazing two-ingredient chocolate, I dipped each square (this process is called “enrobing”) in the bowl of tempered chocolate, fished it out with two special enrobing forks (although regular forks will work too) and sprinkled it with kosher salt.

I wasn’t working with professional couverture chocolate here, and as a result you’ll notice my shells turned out a little thick — but really they’re not so bad, especially considering my less-than-ideal tools (Tupperware, anyone?) and general inexperience..

Close-up of hand made chocolate truffles

Ever since I started making my own truffles, I’ve started noticing how many low and mid-range chocolate grands produce bonbons with really thick shells. Seriously — check it out for yourself the next time one of your colleagues leaves an old box of chocolates in the pantry at work. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel better if you’re having trouble achieving those wafer-thin chocolate shells that professional chocolatiers love so much.

My official tasters (aka my husband and stepson — and a rotating group of friends) went wild for these truffles. They got raves, which made me really happy. But personally I preferred the salted almond chocolate truffles (on the left in the picture above) to the fancier layered truffles. I just really loved their strong, undiluted almondy taste. But it’s really a matter of personal taste  — they’re both delicious.

Two layer truffle: caramelized white chocolate and dark salted almond

 

Homemade salted chocolate truffles

 

 

What does “70% chocolate” really mean? The answer may surprise you.

Raw cacao seeds and ground cocoa nibs

You know that 70% dark chocolate bar you bought recently? Did some teeny part of you feel pretty good about buying really dark chocolate because, well, dark chocolate is good for us now?

Would you be surprised to learn that there might be MORE good-for-you stuff in a 60% chocolate bar, or even a (gasp) milk chocolate bar, than in the 70% bar you picked up?

I know I was.

Here’s the issue: the cocoa % on chocolate bar wrappers doesn’t actually tell us how much chocolate is in our chocolate (if by chocolate we mean ground-up cocoa beans — the brown stuff with all the antioxidants). In fact, cocoa % is totally useless for that purpose. All we can reasonably expect to learn from the cocoa % is how much SUGAR has been added to our chocolate — and even that is only true for dark chocolate.

Confused yet? Let me try to explain.

What cocoa percentages really mean

First, the basics.

The average chocolate bar has five ingredients:

  • Chocolate liquor: ground-up whole cocoa beans. Contains both parts of the bean: the fat (cocoa butter) and the solids (unrefined cocoa powder)
  • Cocoa butter: extra cocoa butter increases creaminess and fluidity
  • Sugar: because, sugar
  • Lecithin: usually from soy beans, lecithin increases fluidity
  • Vanilla: while old style European chocolate traditionally includes vanilla, there has been a notable movement away from vanilla by today’s chocolate makers

Cocoa % = chocolate liquor + added cocoa butter

Total cocoa percentages include not just chocolate liquor, but also added cocoa butter. The amount of each ingredient need not be disclosed by the chocolate maker, and the ratio between the two ingredients can vary wildly. Dark couverture chocolate, which needs to be highly fluid if chocolatiers are to work with it, often has a nearly 1:1 ratio of cocoa liquor to cocoa butter. Eating and baking chocolates don’t need as much cocoa butter, so their ratio may be closer to 2:1.

Here’s where the confusion around cocoa % becomes an issue for consumers. Say you’re choosing between two chocolate bars with the exact same ingredients, listed in the same order. You’re frustrated because the ingredient percentages aren’t listed on the packaging. But as an experiment, let’s pretend for a moment that they are.

Here’s what you’d see:

Bar #1: 70% dark chocolate 

Ingredients:

  • chocolate liquor (66%)
  • sugar (29%)
  • cocoa butter (4%)
  • soy lecithin (<1%)
  • vanilla (<1%)

Bar #2: 70% dark chocolate

Ingredients:

  • chocolate liquor (41%)
  • sugar (29%)
  • cocoa butter (29%)
  • soy lecithin (<1%)
  • vanilla (<1%)

In both cases, the % chocolate liquor and the % cocoa butter add up to 70%. Both bars have the same amount of added sugar. However, the first bar contains 66% actual ground up cocoa beans, whereas the second bar contains only 41%. That’s a 25% difference. And as a consumer, you have no way of knowing which is which.

As if that’s not confusing enough, consider the ingredients list for this milk chocolate bar:

Bar #3: 60% milk chocolate

Ingredients:

  • chocolate liquor (42%)
  • sugar (25%)
  • cocoa butter (18%)
  • milk powder (14%)
  • soy lecithin (<1%)
  • vanilla (<1%)

That’s right — you could buy a dark milk chocolate bar and get MORE ground cocoa beans by weight than you would’ve if you’d bought the #2 dark chocolate bar above. So if you’ve been buying dark chocolate for health reasons, these numbers may give you pause.

The only way to really know exactly how much chocolate liquor is in your chocolate bar (besides calling the chocolate maker and asking) is by buying chocolate with no added cocoa butter. It does exist — chocolate makers sometimes call it “two-ingredient chocolate,” since this type of chocolate typically also excludes lecithin and vanilla. I like Undone Chocolate‘s two-ingredient bars, although admittedly I’m biased because I’ve spent a lot of time helping out in their shop. But many other chocolate makers make two-ingredient chocolate — Taza, Dandelion, Rogue and Sirene all do, just to name a few. I recently tried a great one — an 82% two-ingredient bar made with Peruvian beans by Maverick Chocolate, from Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find other two-ingredient brands at most good chocolate stores, or check out the selection at Chocosphere.

But here’s a longer term solution to the cocoa percentage problem: chocolate makers should provide consumers with the percentage of chocolate liquor or cocoa solids in their bars, not just the meaningless cocoa %. Giving consumers a breakout of exactly how much of a bar is made from whole cocoa beans and how much is added cocoa butter (which, btw, most chocolate makers buy in bulk from industrial manufacturers, although there are exceptions) would be a more honest, transparent way to market chocolate. It would also discourage chocolate makers from adding extra cocoa butter for the sole purpose of inflating their chocolate’s cocoa percentage.

Another perk: providing information about the percentage of chocolate liquor in chocolate might even boost sales of dark milk chocolate, which is poised to be the next big thing in high end chocolate. But I’ll save that for another post.

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