Results tagged Scharffen Berger from David Lebovitz

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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Robert Steinberg

chocolate

The first time I ever really tasted chocolate, it was from a man I’d met in a dark alley. Actually, it wasn’t really a dark alley, but in a barren parking lot in a scruffy section of San Francisco.

I had taken a tour of an industrial bakery with a group of local baking enthusiasts, and afterward, a strange man sided up to me, pulled a wad of crumpled up foil out of his jacket pocket, and asked me if I wanted a taste.

Recoiling a bit, when he opened the crinkly foil, in the middle was a small nugget of something dark, sticky, and melted. When I stuck my finger in, then put it in my mouth, there was an explosion of flavor: dark and roasty, only slightly sweet, and very rich. It was pure chocolate, but unlike any other that I’d tasted before. I thought it was delicious.

He told me that he was going to start a chocolate company and make chocolate like this in small batches.

I thought he was insane.

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Devil’s Food Cake Recipe

Whenever an American friend in Paris has a birthday, I invariably offer to make the cake for the big fête. Not that there’s a lack of great bakeries in Paris, but Americans always seem to crave the same thing: a big, tall, all-American chocolate cake with an overabundance of swirls and swoops of chocolate frosting.

And who am I to deny them?

The Icing On The Cake

And what better to make than a dark, moist Devil’s Food Cake with thick, shiny ganache swirled all over the top and smoothed around the sides?

This Devil’s Food Cake is a happy compromise between those richer, flourless kind of chocolate cakes which would be too intense and inelegant stacked one on top of the other, and those jumbo, three-tiered extravaganzas which might shock a few folks around here with its all-American excess.

(Although the Rice Krispy Treats I made a couple of weeks ago were quite a hit. I tried to explain their cultural appeal to my Parisian friends, but decided just to them do the ambassador work themselves. I’m willing to let someone else carry the cross-cultural mantle around here for a while.)

This one has the heft and smoothness of a larger cake without scaring anyone anyway, and will appease everyone with it’s on-the-spot dark chocolate flavor. It’s delicate crumb is perfect when paired with a scoop of homemade ice cream or a pour of super-cold crème anglaise, but it’s also sturdy enough to weather a trip across the Paris, since if you remember, I don’t have very good luck carrying cakes on the métro amongst devil-may-care Parisians.

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Chocolate Cake Recipe

The word ‘consulting’ always sounds like a dream job when you’re stuck working in a restaurant kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, on the line. As a consultant, it sounds like you sweep into a kitchen, where the staff welcomes you with open arm as their savior, and you magically transform the meals coming out of the kitchen into extraordinary feats of culinary magic.

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In fact, it couldn’t be more different.

Restaurants call in consultants when they’ve exhausted all other possibilities, and the kitchen is in such dire trouble that they need to get some poor sucker from the outside to come in a try to fix what they’ve screwed up. The pay seems great, until you walk in the kitchen and realize no one wants to talk to you, no one wants you there, and worse, no one wants to change anything, since it means more work for them (and if they really cared about their work, they wouldn’t have had to call in someone from the outside in the first place.)

I was once a consultant for a corporation that owned several prominent restaurants. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that one of their major problems was that there were a lot of high-paid executives sitting in meetings upstairs, while there were a lot of low-paid people downstairs, in the kitchen, putting the food on the plate. And let’s face it: Customers don’t care about executive meetings, they care about the food.
And that’s basically it.

When I mentioned this discrepancy to the high-paid executives (who hired me to tell them things like that…right?) we had another round of meetings, discussing things for hours and hours, until I told them I couldn’t sit through any more meetings since I had work to do in the kitchen. (Stupid me! What was I thinking? Those meetings were totally cush. Why slave over a hot stove? Maybe those executives weren’t so wrong after all…)

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Chocolatiers and Chocolate-Makers

The other night I was having dinner in a restaurant, and struck up a conversation with the fellow dining at the next table, who turned out to be Swiss. As we talked, the conversation turned to what I did and when I replied that I wrote cookbooks on baking and chocolate. His curiosity was piqued…as well as that of the two Belgian women at the other table.

I knew exactly where the conversation soon would be heading, and of course, I was asked the inevitable question: “Which country do you think makes the best chocolate?”

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Belgian Chocolates

In all honestly, it’s really a pointless question. What if I asked; “What country makes the best wine?” Well, you might answer that there are great wines made in Italy, France, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, etc. And there are lousy wines made in all those countries too.

But is there one country quantitatively better than at making wine than another? Is there some formula that one can follow to show who wins the mantle of Best Winemaking Country in the World? Perhaps one could argue that the soil in one county is better than another, or the weather, or maybe other factors. But for making chocolate couverture, pure, solid chocolate, most of the time the cocoa beans aren’t grown in the countries where chocolate is produced, with a few exceptions.

And is there really a country that makes the Best Chocolate In The World?
Is there some competition going on that no one told me about?

So I answered, “The best chocolate in the world is made in the United States.”

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Theo Chocolate, Hand-Made In Seattle

The man was surprised, and the two women started rolling their eyes and laughing. And my French dining companion just smirked at me, since he knows that I said that matter-of-factly as well, just to irk them. But seriously, I don’t know what was so funny. Maybe they were laughing at themselves for not realizing that there’s very good chocolate produced in the United States.

How silly of them; what were they thinking?

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Dagoba Chocolate Partners With Hershey’s

For those of you whose interest has been picqued by my interview with Frederick Schilling of Dagoba chocolate, Frederick sent me the scoop on his new partnership with Artisan Confections, a division of Hershey’s chocolate.
Here’s an except from that message:

“So, what’s in store for Dagoba now? Well, for the most part, nothing is going to change. Dagoba will remain in Ashland doing what we’ve always done. All the employees, as long as they want to stay, will still be there. We’ll still be able to wear whatever we want to wear to work. I’ll still be in charge of sourcing the cacao and formulating new products. We’ll still be using 100% recycled New Leaf Paper for our wrappers. We’ll still be using renewable energy for our factory. We’ll still be able to do the tradeshows as we want, when we want. We will have manufacturing support from a company that has been making chocolate for almost 100 years, which will be very nice! For those of you who do your own manufacturing, you know that it’s not always the easiest thing. Yet it’s fun to walk back there and see all this equipment and hear the noises… I love it!…”

“…(the) bottom line with the above statements, to answer your question of how we’re going to change-I really don’t foresee you’ll notice anything. I still want us to do what we’ve always done with each other. I’ve told Hershey’s straight up about our inter-industry relationships and they are sacred to me. They support it. They support what we’re doing… what we’re all doing together. And quite honestly, they want to learn from us; and I’m not going to turn away people who want to learn. Our passion and knowledge must be shared and passed on. Isn’t this what we want?”

“I ask that you all continue to keep an open heart for us. I feel this was the right move to continue to make the impact I want to make. And I still see all of us as being…the pioneers in what we do. We are leading the way. We will continue to lead the way. All of our paths will continue to bring us where it brings us and I want you all to know you have my support in all your directions. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here, doing what I do.”