I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Dreaming of Chocolate

I may be the  Queen of vanilla, but chocolate rules my life.  Whether dreaming of it, cooking with it, or allowing it to slowly melt on my tongue, savoring the sensations as it moves dreamily from one set of taste buds to the next, I’m surprised when a day passes and I haven’t eaten or drunk something chocolate.  (Okay, I only use chocolate with real vanilla in it.  Better?)

As a child we didn’t have easy access to chocolate, so when a guest brought a box of See’s chocolates during the holidays, we were ecstatic.  My mother made chocolate pies occasionally — woo-hoo —  and of course we made lots of chocolate chip cookies.  In the 1950s everyone did.

But Mom wasn’t big on sweets,  and we lived miles from the grocery store, so we settled mostly for packaged oatmeal cookies  and fig Newtons and the chocolate chip cookies I begged to make.  Except for the time my brother showed me  an unexplained stash of chocolate bars on the top shelf of a cupboard, far too high for us to reach without using the drawers as steps, then  standing on the counter on our toes.  He was quietly siphoning them off, one bite at a time.

The freedom of adulthood and a car changed everything, albeit slowly.   Shameful as it is to admit, I was hooked on milk chocolate and chocolate chips  for decades.  It wasn’t until the truth came out that dark chocolate is good for us, that I slowly worked my way from Heath bars and Snickers to Callebaut, Valhrona and Guittard.  The more I learned, the more I adapted, so that now I’m up to eating chocolate with over 70 percent cocoa mass.  I think when I was younger I was into milk chocolate for the sugar rush; now I like the feel-good high of theobromine.

Which leads to me to my next few blogs.  Down and dirty into fabulous dark chocolate and some extreme milk chocolate too.

When I was at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show in January, my high school friend, Gary Williams, who has worked at Guittard since the summer we were graduated, gifted me with a lot of Guittard’s Single Bean Varietals and Maker’s Reserve chocolate, 65%.  Hot Damn!!

Before you throw a hissy-fit, understand that I’m not exactly hoarding.  I’ve been playing with the stash in order to present you with worthwhile recipes so that you too can play. Let’s face it: chances are, you haven’t yet really explored all the recipes on my site to see what treasures are hidden between the cheesecakes and bread pudding.   So all you’ll have to do now is read my blogs, order some Guittard chocolate and start having fun with the recipes.

First, if you don’t know much about chocolate, I recommend you visit the section on chocolate on my site to learn a bit about Theobroma.  This will set the stage and make the exploration of chocolate more interesting.

To start, let’s talk about tasting chocolate. To really understand the chocolate you’re using, whether for baking or eating, it’s nice to take a piece, put it in your mouth, and let it slowly dissolve.

Check out the aroma, the texture/mouthfeel, the chocolate flavor, the other flavors or overall flavor and the aftertaste.

If you’ve never done this before, you will probably find that taking the time to analyze the chocolate and its primary and sub-flavors  quite interesting.  It also helps to decide just which chocolate you’ll want to use in a recipe.

In this blog I’m going to introduce you to two Guittard reserve varietals that did not come in my package. They’re perfect for the recipe I’m going to share.

4380 Kokoleka Hawaiian 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate. Refreshing and smooth like a fruit smoothie.  Its wild fruitiness is tamed by the intense creaminess of the milk.  Rich and exciting but focused on wonderful chocolate taste.

This is what is known as an extreme milk chocolate.  Much of the so-called milk chocolate on bulk candies is just a confectioner’s chocolate and contains little-to-no cocoa mass.  Commercial milk chocolate bars may have as little as 11% cocoa mass and a lot of sugar.

In the world of artisanal chocolate, it’s quite different.  Milk chocolate can have as much as 44% cocoa mass (or more) and it has much better aroma, flavor and texture.

4550 Kokoleka Hawaiian 55% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate. A bouquet of tropical scents like flowers and tropical fruit, hints of banana and pineapple with a rich passion fruit peak.  Very slight underlying tannic base with a gentle tang.  Just enough sweetness to be deserving of the name “semisweet.”

I admit I didn’t make these descriptions up — they came from Guittard.  But they’re helpful because they give you a sense of the complexity of the flavors of chocolate.  And both of these chocolates would be ideal for a rich, creamy chocolate mousse.   And if you aren’t in the mood for mousse, then either of the Kokoleka chocolates would shine in Dede Wilson’s Extreme Milk Chocolate Brownies .

In my next blog we’ll explore some of the dark chocolates and match them with recipes that help them stand out.  In the meantime, if you have wonderful chocolate recipes and are up for sharing them, please send them along.  You’ll get credit and a link to your site as well.

Patricia Rain
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