Recently in Chocolate category

A Visit to Patrick Roger Chocolate (Video)


Recently I visited the laboratory of master French chocolatier Patrick Roger. His shops in Paris are some of my favorite places to swoon over chocolate and it was wonderful to have the chance to step behind-the-scenes and watch him make his extraordinary confections and impressive chocolate sculptures, as well as visit his garden and apiary.

(To view the video in a larger format, you can watch it at Vimeo.)


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Chocolate Mint Brownies

chocolate mint brownie recipe

I know I’m just starting here, but before you and I go any further, I just have to say one thing about these brownies: They’re pretty insane. I made these brownies about fifteen years ago and found it patiently waiting in the back of my recipe files. And giving it a read-through, it all came flooding back to me and I was struck with the urge to make them again.

One of the things I remember most about these brownies is how massive they were and how heavy the pan was. The pan is so heavy that I can’t imagine most people would be able to heft it with one hand. In fact, I was going to weight the pan just to prove it to you but my baking scale didn’t go that high. Yowza.

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Un Dimanche à Paris

chocolate truffles

Even though it wasn’t Sunday, I decided to go to Un Dimanche à Paris anyway. This sleek showcase of chocolate is located in an under-utilized arcade on the Left Bank, near where the saleswoman told me has become “The quartier of chocolate.”

The owner of the shop is Pierre Cluizel of the famed French chocolate family, but he’s striking out on his own. Un Dimanche à Paris features a large chocolate shop, and exhibition kitchen, a tea salon, and a full-scale restaurant. And that’s just on the first floor.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate

I was a little perplexed as to what constitutes authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate. Thankfully a reader from Mexico explained to me that unlike other hot chocolate “drinks” in the Mexican repertoire, it traditionally was a mixture of cocoa beans and sweetener. Yet nowadays folks generally use sweet chocolate bars as a base, which are made from coarsely ground chocolate with a dose of cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes almonds, and are conveniently sold in tablets or bars in Mexican shops.

That chocolate bears a passing resemblance to the coarse chocolate that Mexicans have been grinding up in metates for thousands of years (which I think is why Mexican women have those power shoulders), and today you can find Mexican chocolate quite a bit slicker than the stuff that was (and still is, in some places) pounded for hours and hours. Although I’m not Mexican in any way, I have a deep love of anything edible, and drinkable, that’s Mexican—from horchata, to the twirly green bottle of citrusy Squirt soda that are fun to swill on a Mexican beach, along with a basket of chips and some spicy roasted chili salsa. Or guacamole. Or duck tacos. Or ceviche. Or all of them.

Mexican chocolate cinnamon sticks

The chocolate used nowadays for hot chocolate is classified in America as “Sweet Chocolate”, which is different than what we label as bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

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Homemade Nutella

chocolate hazelnut spread

Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in New York with a group of other cooks, who were mostly women and we were all friends. We’d gather in the cold morning kitchen, working around a communal wooden counter near the warm stove armed with cups of strong coffee as we set about our various tasks while engaging in conversations while doing all the repetitive work of chopping the piles of vegetables we used for soups, salads, and other things that we were going to prepare the rest of the day.

One woman, who I’ll call Mary Smith (and who, for some reason, we all called her by her complete name, “Mary Smith”, rather than just “Mary”), was bookish and almost librarian in her demeanor, and she was attending a local Ivy league institution, getting her doctorate in Russian and Russian studies. She worked very efficiently with no unnecessary movements, and always had perfect posture, like a ballerina, along with pristine skin and straight brown hair pulled sharply back in a tight ponytail.

chocolate-milk and dark hazelnuts, toasted

One quiet morning we were all going about our usual business of silently peeling onions and chopping celery when Mary put her knife down on the counter, looked up, and simply announced, “Who do I have to bl-w around here to get some carrots?”

Startled at the suddenness of her request, as well as the straightforward delivery of it, we all just kind of froze for a moment in mid-action, and stared at her until someone broke the stone silence of disbelief.

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Rogue Chocolatier

Rogue Piura chocolatier Rogue chocolate

I realized the other day while gathering and tabulating receipts for the year, that my expenses for cheese far outweighed my expenses for chocolate. I’ve always been fascinated, and wanted to highlight on the site, some of the great bean-to-bar chocolates being made in America since I know it can be a tough business making chocolate on a small scale. But one that fell under my radar was Rogue, which was started after I’d moved away from the states so I wasn’t able to give it a try.

Also because I thought what all these American bean-to-bar chocolate makers were doing was tremendously exciting. And two of my friends had started a company and I saw how much work and passion (and money) went into what they did. They grew and flourished, but some of the smaller companies weren’t getting the recognition that I thought they deserved, so I decided to profile them. And since it’s my site, I can do whatever I want. So there.

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Hirsinger Chocolate

Jura chocolates

I wasn’t expecting to find a great chocolate shop in the Jura, a region of France known best for its exceptional cheeses, namely Mont d’Or, Comté, and Bleu de Gex. But a friend had arranged a visit for me since he knew I loved chocolate, and I was surprised (yet happy) to see such a sleek store run by a master chocolatier in a lesser-known part of France, where I was visiting.

sesame chocolates French chocolates

It’s a bit unusual to find sophisticated pastries in the smaller towns in the countryside. One of the main reasons is that, as you can imagine, they’re expensive to produce because of the work involved and the ingredients. So many of the chocolatiers and pastry makers set up shop in Paris. But Édouard Hirsinger the forth generation of chocolatiers and pastry makers in his family, who’ve been in business for over a hundred years in the charming little town of Arbois, seems to be doing pretty well right where he is.

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Chocolate Mousse Cake

chocolate mousse cake

There are two things hard about living in France. The first is ….well, let’s not get into that today. The second is getting recipes from French women. It’s not because they closely guard their secrets, but it’s because they frequently use recipes as guidelines rather than making them by rote.

So if you ask a question, the response is often—”Because that’s always the way I did it.” Which was what I was told when I read the instructions on the hand-written recipe I snagged, that said to dip the bottom of the bowl of melted chocolate in a larger basin of cool water to bring down the temperature, where lazy old me would just let it sit on the counter until it was cool. Who wants to empty all those dishes out of the sink?

chocolate mousse cake recette

They often refuse to specify exact quantities. “Just add enough flour until the dough looks correct” is a fairly common response when I press for things like ‘details’, and I keep imagining how much easier writing a cookbook (and a blog) would be if I could give instructions like that.
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