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Award-Winning Chocolate Friends

Every year the International Association of Culinary Professionals hands out awards for what they deem are the Best Cookbooks of the Year. Last month in Seattle, I attended the ceremony with a few friends and instead of getting drunk on the free wine and champagne and heckling the winners as usual, I was thrilled when the names were called and not one…not two…but three of my ‘chocolate’ friends won awards!

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
By Mort Rosenblum
Award: Literary Food Writing

When I moved to Paris, chocolatier John Scharffenberger told me that I must meet Mort Rosenblum. He told me stories about what a colorful character he was, living on a boat in the Seine, and being a war correspondent for the Associated Press. Not being very adept at making friends via the ‘cold-calling method’, I worked up the verve and took his advice, and Mort turned out to be one of the most, um, interesting people I’ve ever met! Having spent a lifetime as a journalist, he tackled chocolate in his latest book, researching everything from the working conditions on the Ivory Coast of Africa to the Mexican chocolate culture of Oaxoca, and finally exploring the exclusive realm of chocolate in Paris, including the laboratoire of the elusive Jacques Genin.

Mort also writes of an interesting ‘incident’ about my experience with a certain, er, French chocolate company that wasn’t very, um, nice to me. Even though my mother always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, blah…blah…” (she obviously didn’t have a blog), he coaxed some of the gory details out of me. The rest was a story in my chocolate book, which was later deleted, so you’ll have to wait for my posthumous biography for the real dirt.
Since I can’t keep a secret for very long, you can read about some of my encounters with them in his book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light.

I’ll be leading a sold-out week-long Chocolate Exploration of Paris in May with Mort that promises to be great fun and we’ll be visiting Jacques Genin* himself for a hands-on presentation and tasting. Will report on that in May.

Chocolate Obsession
By Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage
Award: Best Photography and Food Styling

After knowing him for almost 10 years, I think I’ve got his name right. In spite of my mangling his name too many times to count (we’re still friends)…and there’s certainly nothing convoluted about Michael’s sensation chocolate creations. I admire him so much that he’s one of America’s great chocolatiers, and I profiled him in The Great Book of Chocolate. After working for years in restaurant kitchens, he launched his company in San Francisco in 1997, selling his chocolates via local shops. An advocate of using locally-grown ingredients, soon Michael was a fixture at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, and gave out tastes of his chocolates to eager early-morning shoppers. Once the farmer’s market opened their spanking-new, gleaming indoor facility, Michael opened his first boutique and his fame spread far-and-wide. With creations like Key Lime Pears, thinly-coated in bittersweet chocolate, and his do-it-yourself kits for making terrifically-gooey S’Mores (hey!…I’ll bring the marshmallows), Chocolate Obsession reveals many of his secrets and tips for successfully producing chocolate desserts and confections in your own home.
And if you ever get a chance to visit his shop, his chocolate fudge brownies are a-m-a-z-i-n-g…

(Maren Caruso, who won the Photography Award for her stunning photography, and co-award winner Kim Konecny, food stylist, will be shooting my next cookbook, due for release in the May of 2007.)

Chocolate Chocolate
By Lisa Yokelson

This oversized book is almost overwhelming with the variety of chocolate recipes. Lisa likes things over-the-top, everything from Chocolate Pancakes to deep-chocolate bar cookies studded with chips and nuts. Everything here is loaded with so much chocolate that you’ll go crazy.
You may go insane.

You may end up like TomKat.

But I hope not.

*Many of you have asked where you can get Jacques Genin chocolates. A limited selection is available at Pain de Sucre, 14 rue Rambuteau (Tel: 01 45 74 68 92). As far as I know, they’re unavailable in the United States. You can also try to visit his laboratoire at 18 rue St.-Charles. It’s not a shop and normally not open to the public, but he’s quite nice and often he’ll sell his chocolates to visitors if the weather is right, the planets are in correct alignment, and he’s in the mood.

Choxie Lady

Everytime I go back to the United States, I’m certain to spend a good part of one day wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles at Target.

(And can everyone please stop correcting folks when they say “Target”, with “Tar-jay“, which was somewhat funny…about 10 years ago. But we’ve all heard it a zillion times before, and people expect us to laugh in response, but it’s hard to muster a plausable chuckle anymore, so let’s give it a well-deserved rest and go back to calling it Target, please.)

In France, prices for everyday items like towels and bath mats are outta sight and it’s worth lugging back an extra suitcase full of sundries, une valise géante, stuffed with corn tortillas, horizontally-lined notebooks, sunscreen, 12-packs of socks, bottles of Target PM, and a Michael Graves’ designer toilet brush.
Or two. Just in case. I mean, you never know.

One of the newer items at Target is a line of ‘upscale’ chocolates, whatever that means.


I guess it’s chocolate that’s either supposed to be of higher-quality, or has a certain je ne sais quoi. I had completely forgotten about it when I made it to the cash register, my shopping cart overflowing with DVD’s, socks, a pistachio-green yoga mat, mini-marshmallows (I need to count out how many are in a bag for a project, believe it or not), a 2007 monthly calendar (they only have weekly and daily calendars here…and who knows when I’ll be back), when I spotted some colorful boxes of Choxie, which Target states their new line of chocolate bars will “…satisfy the most sophisticated chocolate palates.”

Aside from the people wolfing down corn dogs and gulping down giant Cokes in the snack bar (and damn them to hell…they were out of my favorite: popcorn!), it wouldn’t be stretching the truth too much, nor would I be giving myself a ill-gotten pat on my back, to say I was perhaps the most sophisticated palate in the joint at that particular time of day (aside from my craving for Target popcorn, that is…) I felt like they were talking just to me, and me alone. So I knew I had to use my ‘upscale palate’ for a higher purpose and give those choxie chocolate bars a try.

The first was the hot chocolate bar: deep, dark truffled chocolate with chipotle chili heat.


First off, I have no idea what the heck “truffled” means…so I guess I can’t be all that sophisticated after all now, can I?
*Sigh*, how the mighty fall…

I assumed it suggests some rich heavy cream has been whipped in, but the only dairy item listed was butter “oil”. Sounds kinda greasy.

It was also cautioned on the packaging that my chocolate bars be kept “away from amateurs” as they were indeed intended for only the “most sophisticated of chocolate palates.” Not wanting to sound like a snob, but I think that might preclude an inordinate number of people who were Target shoppers that afternoon, including the girl who held up the Carmen Electra’s Fit To Strip erotic video workout DVD and attempted her own rendition for her boyfriend, who encouraged her, in the video aisle while I, along with several other sophisticated Target shoppers, watched in amusement. (Ok, maybe they were amused. I wasn’t. I don’t know what’s worse; considering buying a Carmen Electra workout video, or performing your own version of her moves in the Electronics Department.)

Getting off my high horse, safely back in the car, I snapped off a bite and took a taste. It was fine. Nice, not too intimidating or offensive. The heat of the chipotle chiles was spot-on; not feeling the heat at first, but the lingering warmth of smoky chili followed shortly afterwards.

Next up was the peanut butter pretzel bar: creamy peanut butter, pretzel twists and roasted peanuts, inside pure milk chocolate. (Apologies about all those lower-case letters, but that’s how they’re printed on the package.)


What should bother you more than writing in all lower-case letters is the words “pure milk chocolate”. What does that mean? “Pure” as opposed to “impure”? If you think about it, milk chocolate itself is actually “impure” chocolate, having been ameliorated, desecrated if you will, with milk. So why not call it as it is? I mean, does anyone buy a Carmen Electra DVD because she’s ‘pure’? Would we buy Fit To Strip if it came with some assurance of purity?

I think not.

Ok, maybe some of us would. Just keep it to yourself.

Anyhow, the pretzel bar was pretty good. The ‘pure’ milk chocolate was truthfully enrobing a nice, gooey filling of peanut butter, encasing the whole pretzel twists tucked inside. It was good, although you could buy a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, slice the whole she-bang in half lengthwise, slip a pretzel in, and call it a day for about one-third of the price. Then you could buy another pair of socks, perhaps. Or another designer bathroom brush.

Finally there’s mint cookie crunch: dark truffled chocolate (damn them, how dare they use the word “truffled” again…there’s so little respect for the truth nowadays) with a cool mint candy and chocolate cookie crunch.


I’m enamored with all things mint and dark chocolate, such as thin mints and Girl Scout cookies. And the last time I was in San Francsico I saw a tribe, or whatever they’re called, of Girl Scouts being rousted by the police for trying to sell their cookies in an ‘unauthorized’ location. What is wrong with a world that punishes cheerful, enterprising young ladies presenting their delicious baked goods in a public venue, yet allows Carmen Electra to make exercise videos and appear on their packaging, in various states of undress, without any regard for public decency, while evoking impressionable young girls, and perhaps a few boys, to follow in her tawdry footsteps?

This minty bar rated not so well on my sophisticated chocolate-palate meter; it wasn’t minty enough for me. I found the quality of the chocolate a little lacking as well. I mean, it’s hard to be so sophisticated, but the chocolate was lame. (Imagine if Carmen feels a bit lacking, having to hawk all those silly videos wearing those ridiculously skimpy outfits. How does that girl do it?)

The Verdict?

If you’re looking for bargain chocolates, you could do worse.
However you could also do better.
Each Choxie bar weighed in at 2.5 ounces and sold for $1.50 to $1.80. But if you lived near a Trader Joe’s store, you could pick up a 3 ounce bar of Chocovic’s Ocumare chocolate (one of the best chocolates I’ve tasted) for $1.79. And presumably they don’t sell Carmen Electra workout videos there either, so think of what else you’d be saving?

But finally the real test. The “If-I-Keep-It-On-The-Counter, Will-I-Pick-At-It-Incessantly-Until-It’s -Gone?” test. Sure enough the chipolte and the mint chocolate bars sit sadly neglected, but the peanut butter-filled tablet is gone.

Now if only I could say the same for Ms. Electra.

Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

I make this every year for Passover. It’s not that I’m all that religious (for some reason I seem to celebrate only the holidays where there’s lots of eating, drinking…and presents, of course.) But I always pick up a box or two of matzoh, which is stacked high in supermarkets this month, plus I love the sweet-crunch of this toffee-like confection.
The only problem is that I haven’t figured out how to adapt it for Easter.
Perhaps you can cut it into ovals with a cookie cutter and try to pull one over on your family.


The recipe is loosely-adapted from baker and cookbook author Marcy Goldman. Marcy’s run a web site devoted to the art of baking since 1997, called In addition, she’s authored a cookbook of the same name with recipes and ideas and funny stories she’s gathered along her life as a mother, professional baker, and consultant.

You don’t have to be Jewish to like or make this (just like you don’t need to be Christian to like Christmas presents) but it’s delicious and super-easy to make…you can keep the candy thermometer in the drawer as well!

Feel free to substitute milk chocolate or white chocolate, and instead of the crushed almonds, to play around with toasted shredded coconut or other kinds of nuts. As I type, I’m thinking wouldn’t pistachios and white chocolate be nice together on top?
Maybe next year…

I spent this morning at my market handing little sacks of this to my favorite vendors (and a few I’m trying to win over.) So if you’re out at a market in Paris this morning and see the lots of butchers, fishmongers, fromagers, and olive merchants snacking on something, you’ll know what it is.


Caramelized Matzoh Crunch with Chocolate

  • 4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted or salted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (firmly-packed) light brown sugar
  • optional: fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Line a 11″ x 17″ baking sheet completely with foil (making sure it goes up the sides) and preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Line the bottom of the sheet completely with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof utensil.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the syrup darkens and gets thick. (While it’s baking, make sure it’s not burning. If so, reduce the heat to 325F degrees.)

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips or chunks. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread smooth with an offset spatula.


Sprinkle with a flurry of fleur de sel or coarse salt, then scatter the toasted almonds over the top and press them into the chocolate.

Let cool completely (you may need to chill it in the refrigerator), then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

mazel tov!

Related Links and Recipes

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch (Recipe Update)

Salted Butter Caramels

Candied Ginger

Candied Peanuts

Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramels

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (Marcy Goldman)

Bicerin Recipe


The city of Torino (or Turin) is one of the great centers of chocolate. In the early part of 1500, a Italian named Emmanuel Philibert served hot chocolate to celebrate a victory over the French at Saint-Quentin. And in 1763, Al Bicerin opened it’s doors and began making a celebrated coffee-and-chocolate drink called il bavareisa. The hot drink was a soothing mixture of locally-produced chocolate, strong Italian coffee, and topped with a froth of whipped cream.

The drink was often served in a small glass, called a bicerin (bee-chair-EEN), hence the name got changed to what we know now today as il bicerin.

Just across the border from France, Torino is the city where chocolate is an integral part of life, and where ice cream on a stick, the pinguino popsicle, was invented in 1935. Now there are exceptional chocolate-makers throughout the city, such as Peyrano and A. Giordano, who still make gianduiotto by hand, selling it at their historic chocolate shop on the Piazzo Carlo Felice.

The Piedmontese region is famous for a few other things than just chocolate and hazelnuts, most notably white truffles, but also for their exceptionally delicious hazelnuts. Back in those days, cacao beans were very expensive and rare, so a local chocolatier named Michel Prochet began blending hazelnuts into the chocolate to extend it, inventing gianduja (gee-an-DOO-ya) and is now perhaps most famously consumed as Nutella, which has become the most popular sandwich spread in the world.

But even now, every afternoon you’ll find the locals stand in one of the city’s historic caffès, sipping a hot bicerin from a small, stemmed glass. Or sitting at a marble-topped table and letting one of the waiters present them with your bicerin, savoring the atmosphere.


My favorite place is the overly-ornate Baratti & Milano, where I like to sip my bicerin surrounded by crystal chandeliers and bronze sculptures. And I always am sure to pick up a few bars of their handcrafted chocolate or gianduja at the gilded-and-mirrored confectionery counter on the way out. Here’s my recipe…

Two servings

It’s important to use a clear glass; you need to be able to see all three layers.

To make a bicerin, warm one cup (250 ml) whole milk in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 ounces (90 gr) of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Whisk the mixture until it begins to boil, then let it boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly (the chocolate mixture will foam up a bit.)
Afterward, remove it from the heat and set aside. Make a small pot of very strong coffee, or good Italian espresso.

Fill the bottom third of a clear, heat-proof glass with the warm chocolate mixture. Pour in some coffee or espresso. (If you want to help it create a definite layer, pour it over the back of a spoon, into the glass.)

Top with a nice swirl of sweetened, freshly-whipped cream.

Places in Torino/Turin, specializing in local chocolates, gianduiotti, or to find an authentic bicerin:

A. Giordano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 69
Tel: 011.547121

Al Bicerin
Piazza Consolata, 5
Tel: 011.4369325

Baratti & Milano
Piazza Castello, 29
Tel: 011.4407138

Caffè Torino
Piazza San Carlo, 204
Tel: 011.545118

via Cagliari, 15/b

Confetteria Avvignano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 50
Tel: 011.541992

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 76
Tel: 011.538765

Corso Vittoria Emanuele II, 72
Tel: 011.5069056

What is White Chocolate?

Some people love it, and others leave it.

It’s White Chocolate, that controversial melange of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk (more on that later). Often there’s vanilla, or vanillin (a synthetic vanilla-like substance) added as well.


Many people will say they don’t like white chocolate, citing a preference for the dark side.
“It’s not chocolate!”, you’ll hear.

Well, no, it’s not. It’s different. A different kind of chocolate.

Dark, or bittersweet chocolate, contains cacao mass (the ground beans), sugar, cocoa butter, and sometimes vanilla and lecithin.
White chocolate has none of the cacao mass, hence the delicate, ivory-like color, which it gets from the cocoa butter. Instead it’s rich with cocoa butter, which gives it that suave, subtle taste, that I find compliments dark chocolate desserts and bolder flavors. I make White Chocolate Crème Anglaise and pour the cool custard alongside a dark chocolate cake. Or I steep fragrant fresh mint leaves when making White Chocolate Ice Cream.

Cocoa butter is derived from the chocolate-making process, or more specifically, when cocoa powder is made. To make cocoa powder, roastedcacao beans are ground into a paste, known as chocolate liquor, then the paste is pressed through a powerful hydraulic press, which separates the cocoa mass from the cocoa butter. The cocoa mass comes out as a solid block, which is grated into cocoa powder (which is why cocoa powder is always unsweetened and relatively low-fat) and the soft, rich cocoa butter is extracted. I’ve been to factories and watched the process, and the smell of warm, fat-rich cocoa butter is intoxicating.

The valuable cocoa butter is often sold to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, since it has the perfect melting point for things like lipstick…and why chocolate melts and releases its complex flavors like nothing else when you pop a piece in your mouth. But it’s also that reason that true white chocolate tastes so good and is loved by many pastry chefs.


Here’s some tips and facts about white chocolate:

  • Both white and dark chocolates are emulsions. Adding small amounts of liquid, like water or milk, will cause the emulsion to break or seize. Therefore, any milk that’s added to white chocolate must be first either dried into a powder or cooked to a paste, removing the water, before it’s used. So you’ll often find the ingredient ‘milkfat’ on the label.
  • In the United States, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa fat.
  • Because white chocolate contains a dairy product, it’s highly perishable. Purchase it in small quantities as needed (unless you’re like me, and use so much you buy it in 5-pound blocks…as shown above.) I make sure to get white chocolate from a reliable source that rotates and checks their stock regularly. Store it in a cool, dark place, but not the refrigerator, since it’s high-fat content makes it a good medium for absorbing other odors…like the stinky camembert in my fridge.
  • White chocolate will keep for up to one year. If you’re unsure if it’s any good, taste it before using (which most of us do when baking with chocolate, right?)
  • Buy only ‘pure’ white chocolate and check to make sure the label reads only ‘cocoa butter’, and no other tropical fats, such as coconut or palm kernel oil.
  • Due to the higher fat and sugar content, white chocolate melts very easily and at a lower temperature than dark chocolate, but more care should be taken when using it. Avoid excessive or direct heat. I like to pour a hot liquid over it and use the heat from that to melt the white chocolate.
  • There’s only a few companies in America that make white chocolate: E. Guittard, Baker’s, and Askinoise. But most of the white chocolate you’ll find is European-made, perhaps since few American bake with white chocolate.
  • White chocolate should never be pure white. Since cocoa butter is ivory-colored, real white chocolate should be off-white as well. Products labeled as ‘white bar’ or ‘white coating’ are often not white chocolate and just tastes plain sugary and should not be used in recipes that call for white chocolate.

Continue Reading What is White Chocolate?…

Organic and Fair Trade Chocolates

I ain’t Mr. Organic.

I’m one of those people where “local-trumps-organic”.
And taste trumps everything.
But I do generally prefer to buy from a local grower if possible, rather than from someone far away. (Unless it’s Target…then all bets are off!)

That’s what I like about daily life in Paris, those things are still important. You need to know the boulanger, the butcher, the fromager, the waiter at your local café, and, of course, the most important person in France: The Pharmacist.
(Next time you’re a guest in someone’s home in France, check out the bathroom. Holy Mother-of-Merck! The average French person gets 80 prescriptions per year.)

In many cities in America, organic has become all the rage.
Fine restaurants and their chefs are touting how organic they are. Boasting about which farms they buy their lavender-colored turnips from, and how tiny can they get their lettuce leaves to be. Branches of baby thyme are carefully draped over free-range quail eggs from birds that only eat peeled (organic) grapes. Everyone’s so chummy with their farmer, smiling from the pages of Food + Wine magazine, but do we really need to know which farmer grows the most special, rarest species of Japanese blueberry blossoms to be dehydrated and sprayed over diners while they’re spooning up their Smoked Lemon Sorbet?
American cuisine seems to be touting organics so much so that several French chefs have come up to me and asked,
“Why is everyone in America so into organic produce?”


I usually respond with something along the lines of “Organic is better since you often buy direct from the grower, there’s no chemicals, it’s better for the environment” etc…

On more than one occasion, their response was,
“Well, in France, we use very little chemicals.”

“Er…um, really?”, I think to myself.

I’m not an agronomist, but I’ve been told the opposite. And just like anywhere else in the world, including the US, I am sure that most commercially-grown fruits and vegetables are sprayed with something or other to make them as perfect and blemish-free as possible.

But eventually I realized that organic here is associated with bourgeouis or upscale. Most organic products are more expensive, and of the two organic markets in Paris, the one on the Boulevard Raspail is full of snobbish clients, pushing you aside with their strollers while they reach for their precious organic turnips (like the SUV-driving folks who run stop signs racing to get to yoga, shoving you aside in the aisles of Whole Foods while they chat on their cell phones, drinking their chai lattes, oblivious to anyone around them.)


But in Paris, the little shops are the most interesting, since you get to interact with the owners and they still take pride in their merchandise and often they like to talk to you. Each shop is like entering someone’s home. A few days ago I was walking down a street near Oberkampf, and passed a nifty little bio shop, an organic shop so clean and modern. Displayed in the window were lots of interesting products and some chocolate bars, but I was in a rush and I kept walking.
But then I stopped, turned around, then went back.

I found inside a small, but rather interesting array of chocolates on offer and I am always looking for new and unusual chocolates. So I picked up a few bars while the owners offered me strips of delicious dried mangoes.

Organic Chocolate
Chocolate, or cacao (the beans ground to make chocolate), is generally grown in very underdeveloped regions quite close to the equator. The climate is inhospitable and the jungles can be very rugged. I would presume that in many of those places, the people are not treated very well who pick cacao pods, nor do they make much money, hence the interest in Fair Trade, where the growers are said to get paid a fair wage for their products. Some of these products are organic, while others are not.

However I’ve been told by one of my most reliable sources for all things chocolate, that most cacao is not sprayed with chemicals and is, for the most part, organic. (In many places ‘organic’ is a term that can only be used if the products are certified and tested, which often requires a hefty fee to be paid. Hence, farmers will often choose to label their products as ‘transitional’ or ‘unsprayed’ even if they are indeed organic.)

But what I like about these organic or Fair Trade chocolates is that the labels are chock-full of information; the region where the chocolate’s grown, the climate, how it’s harvested, what the growers had for dinner last night, how often they go to the bathroom, etc…

It’s all very interesting, and is good for consumers who imagine that chocolate is from some big factory full of test tubes and scientists formulate bars, so it’s nice to see a picture of the happy natives on the packaging.


The chocolates I purchased were interesting, although they were geared more for mass-appeal rather than the rarified palate that someone such as myself has cultivated. (just kidding…)

The Oxfam chocolate bar is made in Belgium. It has 48% cacao mass and it was a bit sweet, but had a nice fruity aftertaste and it would be great for baking. The chocolate is from Ghana (hence the black woman).


Another curious chocolate bar I found was made with quinoa.
Go figure.
Quinoa is an ancient grain, very high in protein. The grains are puffed and toasted, then embedded into the chocolate bar. I liked this one.
The chocolate is from the Dominican Republic, from an organization of 9000 little cacao cultivators. The chocolate was nice and dark (60 percent, for those of you into numbers) and had a nice snap. There was not much of a ‘finish’, no long-term aftertaste, and I wish there were more crunchy bits in there.

Still, what a wacky thing to find: chocolate with puffed quinoa!

Here’s some interesting places to check out on the web about organic or Fair Trade chocolates, with information where to buy and taste some of the products mentioned, as well as a few other brands, some that are available in the United States.

Oxfam Fair Trade chocolate in Belgium.

Dagoba organic chocolate from the United States.

Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate, made in England, available worldwide.

Max Havelaar chocolates and other Fair Trade products online.

Some of the chocolates shown, such as the bar with quinoa, are available here.

A Visit to Bernachon Chocolate

Jean-Charles Rochoux has perhaps the tiniest chocolate shop in Paris, located on an unassuming side street off the Rue de Rennes. It’s hard to see and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But what causes most passers-by to stop are the window displays, filled with intricately-sculpted statues and figures, crafted entirely of chocolate.

M. Rochoux spent many years in the workshop of Michel Chaudun, one of the best chocolatiers in Paris. And indeed, a look around this sleek boutique reveals much inspiration from M. Chaudin, including his version of Colomb, little disks of chocolate studded with cocoa nibs, and Les Pavés, tiny cubes of chocolate ganache that instantly dissolve in your mouth, the lingering pleasure lasting a few precious minutes. Then you decide it’s time for another. I always buy at least six at a time for that reason.

But stacked discretely in the corner are stacks of chocolate bars, and after we had a lengthy discussion on chocolate one day, M. Rochoux handed me a tablet labeled noisettes to take home as a gift. When I got home, I tore open the wrapper and took a bite.
I was completely surprised by what I found inside.


Each individual roasted hazelnut was coated in crunchy, crackly caramel, then enrobed in the chocolate bar. The contrast of hyper-crisp hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate makes this my new favorite chocolate bar in Paris.

Although I love finding something new, sometimes I have the opportunity to discover something nearly forgotten.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon, in the city of Lyon.


Bernachon’s Signature Cake: ‘Le President’

Not only does Bernachon make great chocolates, they actually make the chocolate itself. Let’s say you go to a shop to buy filled chocolates, or bars of chocolate. You’re buying chocolate that the chocolatier has bought (and perhaps mixed to his or her specifications). That’s the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate-maker. There are very few chocolate-makers in the world, only 14 exist in the United States at present. Bernachon is a small shop, but it’s stunning what they’re able to produce.


Piping ‘Couronne Noisette': Hazelnut and Praline Paste Blended with Milk Chocolate

I love Bernachon chocolate, although it’s nearly impossible to find outside of their shop in Lyon. But what great chocolate it is and it’s certainly worth the 2-hour TGV ride from Paris.


‘Les Roches’, Just-Dipped in Freshly-Made Dark Chocolate

Their most famous bonbons are the seriously-rich, ganache-filled palets d’Or flecked with bits of real gold. At the shop, they barely have time to keep them in the showcase, as customers come in, the saleswomen fill boxes directly from the decades-old wooden storage trays.


A Super-Skilled Chocolatier at Bernachon Making Chocolate Ruffles

But when I visit, I stock up on their chocolate bars, which allow me to commune with the pure chocolate all by my lonesome. I like the Nuit et Jour, the Night and Day bar, where one side is bittersweet dark chocolate. Flip it over, the reverse is smooth milk chocolate. Moka is made by grinding roasted coffee beans along with cocoa beans for a double-buzz, and Extra Amer is a super-dark bar of chocolate with very little sugar. It’s bliss for some, and too intense for others.I fall into the first category. But my absolute favorite is Kalouga.


Kalouga is a rather funny name for a chocolate bar. It’s the Basque word for ‘Caramel’ (any scholars of the Basque language out there?) But I found the Basque word for tasty, gustagarri, and that’s what this is. I first tasted one of these bars about 5 years ago, but was dismayed to find they stopped making it since. Too much of the luscious caramel would begin oozing out after the tablets were made and it was problematic to store them.

But I kept asking them to make them, and word got back to them that there was an American living in Paris who was insane for them. And lo and behold, they’re back in production! (Yes, that was the story I was told…whether or not I believe it is another story…)
Either way, you may thank me later…once you’ve tried one.

Once you bite inside, the gooey salted caramel immediately begins spilling out, and it’s hard not to eat the whole thing at once. If you’re the generous type, I recommend opening it when you have a bunch of friends over to share the bounty.

Otherwise, you can just eat the whole thing yourself.

Guess which I did?

Jean-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45

42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt
Tél: 04 78 52 67 77

(Bernachon chocolate bars are available in Paris at A l’Etoile d’Or.)

Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza Recipe

On a recent radio interview that I did, the producer wrote immediately afterward that they were inundated with requests for my recipe for Cocoa Nib Sausage, which I use to top my Chocolate Pizza Dough from The Great Book of Chocolate.


I get a lot of quizzical looks from people when they hear the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘pizza’ in the same breath, but adding sugar to chocolate is a relatively new idea in the grand history of the bar. (Most of us remember how our grandmothers only kept unsweetened chocolate in the house.) And there’s many cultures that use chocolate in savory dishes whose origins go back hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, including Mole. And here in France, it’s not uncommon for many cooks to sneak a bit of grated a chocolate into their Coq au Vin.


Roasted Cocoa Beans Before They’re Broken Into Nibs

Many years ago, I became good friends with Joanne Weir, when we were young cooks starting out and before we knew any better. Now she’s famous with a television career and many terrific books to her name, and we try to see each other when we passes through each other’s town.

My favorite recollection of her is when she came to my house in San Francisco to make pizza. Mostly I remember that there were a lot of empty bottles of Barolo the next day, and a copy of this recipe on my counter that was splattered with garlic oil and a few flecks of parsley. (And my oven was a mess too.) So when I was looking for the perfect topping for my chocolate pizza dough, I adapted her sausage recipe, adding crunchy and unsweetened cocoa nibs which gave it a nice savory crunch, as well as a bit of chocolate flavor.

Cocoa Nib and Spiced Lamb Sausage Pizza

Enough for two 9-inch pizzas, or 1 rectangular baking sheet pizza (approximately 11″ by 17″)

You can use this sausage to top any recipe for your favorite pizza dough if you’d like.

1 recipe for Chocolate Pizza Dough, rolled out onto baking sheets

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • ½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste or harissa
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • large pinch (each) cinnamon, allspice and cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoons red pepper or chili flakes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup roasted cocoa nibs
  • 4 ounces fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil and the minced garlic. Set aside.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions until soft and translucent. Add the lamb, tomatoes, tomato paste (or harissa), parsley, pine nuts, spices, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook slowly for 10 minutes (uncovered).

3. Remove from heat and add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and let cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, stir in the cocoa nibs.

To make the pizzas: Brush top of pizza dough with garlic-infused olive oil. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the dough then spread the sausage over the cheeses. Finally top with the remaining cheese and bake the pizza in a very hot oven until the cheese is bubbling and deep-golden brown.

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Baba Ganoush

Fried Beans with Sumac and Feta

Feta and Cucumber Salad

Quick Coconut-Saffron Ice Cream

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