Results tagged cocoa nibs from David Lebovitz

How to Make Chocolate Bars

When I took pastry courses a number of years ago here in France and in Belgium, I tended to want to focus on the chocolate classes because – well…gosh darn it, I love it so much. We’ve become the best of friends over the years and I am never far from my bin of chocolate that I buy in bulk. (Although at some point, someone is going to have to do an intervention.) But I like cooking and creating with chocolate just as much as I do eating it and homemade chocolate bars are simple and wonderful gifts. And if entertaining at home, it nice to bring out a homemade tablet that you’ve made yourself to serve with after-dinner coffee or glasses of Armagnac or Cognac.

professional chocolate molds

The good thing is that you don’t need fancy – or expensive – chocolate molds to make chocolate bars at home. I have a stack of polycarbonate ones from my professional days of yore. But anything made of plastic will do. Since I can’t bring myself to throw away anything that might be reused, I pulled out a stack of cream cheese containers that are neat little rectangles and I used those this time around.

cream cheese containers

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10 Ideas for Food Trucks in Paris

Pierre Hermé Truck

Aside from a few crêpe stands here and there, Paris isn’t a city known for street food. And malheureusement, that Pierre Hermé truck isn’t open for business…although wouldn’t that be nice.

(However if it was, I would probably race around my house in search of spare change every time I heard it coming toward me, like I did when the Good Humor ice cream truck approached when I was a kid. Or haranguing my poor mother to dig furiously through her purse to dig up 40 cents for a toasted coconut ice cream bar to calm down her semi-hysterical child.)

Sure, come mid-day, the sidewalks of Paris are packed with people scarfing down les sandwichs (sic), which seem to have taken over as the lunch of choice in Paris. It’s nice to see the crowds and lines at the local bakeries, but it’s sad to see the long(er) lines at Subway sandwich shops, which I suspect are because people are craving a little creativity with what’s between the bread. And while the one Subway sandwich I had in my life was inedible – I didn’t realize you could screw up a sandwich…until then – I think the locals are fascinated by the varieties offered. Plus they’re made-to-order, and served warm.

The French do have versions of les ventes ambulantes, such as the pizza trucks parked alongside the roads in the countryside and there are the gorgeous spit-roasted chickens sold at the markets and butcher shops in Paris. But recently an American launched a roving food truck in Paris to staggering success, and a second one followed her lead. And judging from the line-up, it’s mostly French folks angling for a bite to eat.

While I’m happy for my fellow compatriots, and I love a good burger as much as the French seem to (judging from the crowds), I can’t help thinking how kooky it is that American cooks get to have all the fun, and some French cooks might want to get in on the action. Here’s a few ideas I’ve been thinking about…

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Smitten Ice Cream

strawberry ice cream with white balsamic vinegar

Whenever I land in San Francisco, I invariably arrive with a number of places to visit that I want to tick off my list. As I’ve learned from previous experience, it’s just not possible to go everywhere – especially when you have to wait up to 45 minutes for a bus to come, making a round-trip to an ice cream shop a full afternoon event.

I was joking that I need to move back to San Francisco just to see – and eat – everything that I want to see and eat. And adding on to that are the places that everyone kindly recommends that I visit as well. But no matter how many places I do manage to get to, invariably a number of messages come in, beginning with “Oh, but you should have gone to…”

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Gluten-Free Brownies

gluten-free brownies

One of the nifty things about a blog is that you can easily revisit recipes and make revisions, while learning more about baking, and sharing those discoveries, as you go. When I wrote Ready for Dessert, I was able to update my favorite recipes, many created over a decade ago, and I had fun including the changes I’d made over the years.

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

chocolate hazelnut spread blog

I’m probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, because about a decade ago, I met two guys who were planning to start a bean-to-bar chocolate company in America. And I remember thinking, “Hoo-boy, are these nut-jobs going to lose their shirts! Who in America cares that much about chocolate?”

Fast-forward to a few years later, and Scharffen Berger chocolate became a huge hit, challenging, and changing the way Americans thought about chocolate. It was eventually sold for a substantial sum of money, and the rest is history.

And I’m living in a drafty, two room rooftop apartment where getting hot water is a miracle that might happen weekly. If at all. So who’s the nut-job now?

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All-New Menu for Hope 6 Items + Chocolate Treats!

We’re in the final week, the home stretch, of Menu for Hope 6 and I’m thrilled that so many of you have generously bid on items for this important charitable event.

(Update: The deadline for bidding has been extended to December 31, 2009!)

It’s amazing that when so many people contribute even just a small amount, just $10 a person, collectively we can make a major impact.

However I am committed to making this the best-ever year for Menu for Hope, so I’ve rounded up some additional, extra-special surprises in addition to the other fantastic European and UK bid items, most of which can be shipped globally.

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Two American chocolate-experts, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and Shawn Askinosie have offered the most incredible gift baskets for bakers and chocolate lovers I’ve ever seen. (And I’m not kidding, folks.) Speaking of chocolate, if you live or plan to travel to London, there’s a private chocolate tour for you and your guests.

My friends at Ten Speed Press have put together a collection of their best-ever baking books, including one from me. And any frites-lovers out there will certainly appreciate a professional deep-fryer, courtesy of Krups.


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Ginger Elizabeth Hatbox Chocolate Extravaganza

On my last trip to the states, I managed to get through most of the chocolates that people generously plied me with along the way. But I did bring a box of Ginger Elizabeth chocolate back to Paris, which I opened one night after dinner. And after we each plucked one of the shiny brown squares from the box and put in on our mouths, we both fell silent, then looked at each other. Then I just said, “Wow”, and Romain pronounced them “…Better than La Maison du Chocolat“, which is some praise, especially from a Frenchman!

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Askinosie White Chocolate, Kallari Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It

askinoisewhitechocolate

Askinosie White Chocolate

There’s nothing odder to me than people who say, “I don’t like white chocolate…because it’s not chocolate!” Which is like saying, “I don’t like white wine…because it’s not Champagne!”

In each case, both are similar, but entirely different creatures and to compare them is kinda silly. I used the scoff at the losers who liked milk chocolate, until I started appreciating it for what it really was (not dark chocolate), and I joined the ranks and became a loser myself. (Although depending on who you talk you, it started sometime before that.)

Because I was recently scheduled to speak about white chocolate with the Evan Kleiman (who is anything but a loser) on her radio program Good Food, I asked Shawn Askinosie if he’d send me a few bars, via a friend who was en route to Paris, of his new bean-to-bar white chocolate, so I could sample them.

You could’ve knocked me over with a cocoa leaf when I slipped the bars out of their packages, as I wasn’t prepared for them to be so gently coffee-colored; one studded with salted pistachios the other with nibs.

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Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee Recipe

chopped chocolate

Something in Paris has turned horribly wrong. It’s called ‘the weather’, or to be more specific…winter has arrived.

Which means it’s gotten cold, gray, and dreary. In fact, it’s so cold that I refuse to go outside until spring. Believe me, all those romantic photos of Paris you see are taken during the spring and fall are very deceptive and although beautiful, it would take a mighty big levier (crowbar) to get me outdoors.

snow in paris

So when to do when you’re stuck indoors for three or four months? Make candy!

If you’ve never made candy, this one is really simple and incredibly delicious so there’s no reason not to try a batch. And truthfully, doesn’t it make you feel happier just looking at it?

My recipe for Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee is easy: You chop nuts, you make a syrup, and then you pour the syrup over the nuts. Sprinkle some chocolate over it, spread it out, and finish it with more nuts. That’s it. There’s no fancy techniques and the only special equipment you’ll need is a candy thermometer; they’re easily found online, and in most supermarkets. (Yes, really. Take it from someone who lurks in supermarkets, searching for things like candy thermometers, late at night.)

I like to add a sprinkle of fleur de sel, French salt, which gives it a pleasant salty edge which is divine with the dark chocolate and toasty nuts (any coarse salt can be used). Although you can use chips, you can also chop up a block of chocolate, instead.

When making candy, here are a few tips that will help:


  • Read the recipe thoroughly before proceeding and have everything ready.

  • Make sure your thermometer is accurate. If you’re not sure, bring a pot of water to a boil. It should read 212 degrees if you live at sea level. I use a glass candy thermometer, although the digital ones work as well.

  • Be careful dealing with hot syrups. A good precaution is to have a large bowl of iced water handy. If you spill syrup on your hand, plunge it immediately into the water to stop the burn.

  • The best way to clean a caramelized pan is to fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Let stand until the syrup melts away.

  • Every once in a while, candy doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s too humid, or the sugar decides to crystallize (don’t encourage it by overstirring), or the planets aren’t aligned. Don’t get discouraged; it happens even to professionals.

Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

  • 2 cups (8 ounces, 225 g) toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped between 'fine' and 'coarse'
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 115 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • a nice, big pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces (140 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips

optional: Roasted cocoa nibs and fleur de sel

1. Lightly oil a baking sheet with an unflavored vegetable oil.

2. Sprinkle half the nuts into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) on the baking sheet.

3. In a medium heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the water, butter, salt, and both sugars. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the thermometer reads 300 F degrees. Have the vanilla and baking soda handy.

4. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.

5. Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Try to pour the mixture so it forms a relatively even layer. (If necessary, gently but quickly spread with a spatula, but don’t overwork it.)

5. Strew the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes, then spread in an even layer.

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If using, sprinkle with a small handful of cocoa nibs and a flurry of fleur des sel. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.

Cool completely and break into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container, for up to ten days.

Related Recipes and Links

Candy Thermometers

Chocolate FAQs

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch

Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos

Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups

The Great Book of Chocolate