I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet

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We wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

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

It’s the Holidays — Time for More Chocolate!

My last three blogs addressed some of the current concerns and dangers in our food supply as well as about Vandana Shiva, who is actively pushing back against genetically modified seed crops in India.  Important information, but given that it’s the last day of November I think it’s time to celebrate the upcoming holiday season, so let’s talk once more about chocolate.

There are a few additional Guittard Single Origin and Maker’s Reserve chocolate varieties  that I think you will find interesting.  This first is the Madagascar Criollo 65% Cacao bittersweet Chocolate.  Madagascar cacao is grown in the fertile Sambirano Valley and has a distinctive tart, almost citrus-like undertone to it that is very appealing.  Obviously, it balances well with desserts flavored with citrus, especially tangerine or orange.

Today, however, I am suggesting a very elegant dessert created by Melissa Smith, who is a chef, author and wine specialist.  She has created a triple layer panna cotta that includes a chocolate layer, coconut layer and pandan layer, an exotic leaf from Asia.  In my mind, at least, I think the deep, rich chocolate flavor of Madagascar chocolate with the citrus notes would blend well with the sweetness of the coconut and exotic pandan flavor.  While this recipe is not difficult, it does take some planning.  That said, it definitely is high in the “Wow” factor.  Click right here for the recipe.

My friend Carole Bloom recently sent me a recipe  for Luscious Gianduia Squares from her latest book, Intensely Chocolate.  This recipe calls for both bittersweet and milk chocolate.  For the bittersweet, I would recommend Guittard’s Machu Picchu Peruvian 65% Cacao chocolate.  Last winter I enjoyed this exceptional chocolate as a dessert on its own served with an apple ice wine I got a few years earlier in the Southwest Provinces in Quebec.

The Machu Picchu is described by Guittard as, “exotic and sacred as the valley of the Urubamba River leading to Machu Picchu, an inspirational combination of buttery, floral and banana notes with a grapefruit zest background to stand alone as a ganache center or to enhance desserts.”

I’ll say right now that I will most likely save this chocolate for after dinner eating just as it is, it’s that good.  However, as soon as I have the time, I intend to make Carole’s gianduia squares and I would use this chocolate or the Ocumare Venezuela 65% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate that I believe I described in my last chocolate blog.  It has a lovely, full, traditional chocolate flavor that is delicately spiced.  For the milk chocolate I would use  the Kokoleka Hawaiian 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate, which is amazingly creamy and smooth.

Susie Norris sent her Gift of the Gods Cake from her book, Chocolate Bliss when I asked her to contribute a recipe to this blog.  This is a fabulously rich fudge cake.  It would be very interesting with the Complexite 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, which is a nine bean blend of Criollo, Trinitario and Forestero beans from around the world.  I haven’t tried this chocolate yet, but Guittard describes it as, “Delicate and smooth, underlying base chocolate accented with tart plums, green tea, lavender and earthy spicy notes of toasted anise.”  Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?  If you decide to use a 65 – 70% cacao chocolate with this cake, you will want to add a little more sugar to the recipe as it was created with semisweet chocolate.

Susie’s cake calls for cocoa powder; I suggest Cocoa Rouge by Guittard, described below.  And as the cake also calls for milk chocolate, I would go with the Kokoleka Hawaiian 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate as the 55% Kokoleka would be a little over-the-top.

To frost the cake, Susie sent her special Chocolate Ganache recipe.  Heavenly!

A twist on the rich, butter and egg filled chocolate desserts is a vegan, gluten-free recipe which is remarkably flavorful and satisfying Double Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Torte.  Before any of you anti-tofu snobs turn up your noses, let me say that I didn’t have high expectations when I first began playing with this recipe.  However, the reality is that it is rich, very chocolaty and a great way to have a guilt-free dessert after a rich holiday meal. As I also have family members who have gluten and dairy restrictions, it is a gift for them to have a really tasty dessert.  Best of all, it’s not difficult to make.

I used Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge in this baked torte, which has a robust, rich chocolate flavor and is lightly Dutched (alkalinized).  I also used Guittard’s Ecuador Nacional 65% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate. This single-origin chocolate has a flowery chocolate finish with earthy, nut like flavors.  As this torte depends on a rich flavor, I found the Ecuador Nacional was ideal.

I couldn’t do this blog on chocolate without a recipe from my friend, David Lebovitz.  His latest book, Ready for Dessert, is a compilation of recipes from his career as a pastry chef and author as well as his life in Paris as an ex-pat.  I thought it would be fun to feature his Rich Dark Chocolate Sauce and White Chocolate Sauce, which he sometimes serves together with wedges of chocolate cake, but which is made for ice cream and would be delicious over fresh berries.   I suggest Guittard’s Madagascar or Ocumare Venezuela 65% cacao chocolate for the dark chocolate and Guittard’s 31% cacao White Chocolate for the white chocolate sauces.  It is crucial that you use white chocolate that has cacao mass in it as the cheap varieties will seize and be a disaster.  They also taste cheap whereas Guittard’s white chocolate has a very creamy flavor with hints of citrus and vanilla.

The finale is actually a recipe I featured a while ago but it truly is fabulous,  is easy to make, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like warm, gooey chocolate? (Okay, I’m sure there are a handful of people who don’t, but that means more for us!) It’s my recipe for Molten Chocolate cakes.

Now that you’re set up with a new set of recipes for the holidays, I invite you to visit Guittard’s website. And I really want to thank my friend Gary Williams from Guittard (who also, incidentally, was in my high school class in Belmont, California, and has worked for Guittard since he was 17), for his making my three blogs on Guittard’s single origin and special maker’s reserve chocolates possible.  I’ve learned a lot working with these delicious chocolates and hope that you will experiment with them too.  Please let me hear from you with your favorite recipes as well as the chocolate you most love.  You can leave a comment here or write to me at rain@vanillaqueen.com.

While you can purchase cocoa, chocolate wafers (to use instead of chips) and small boxes of single origin chocolates at the Guittard site, you can also get some of the Guittard products at Chocosphere, or call Williams Sonoma at 877.812.6235 to inquire if they have any of Guittard’s products at a store near you.  If you want to order in larger volume (you can probably get a few friends to go in with you to purchase and use quality chocolate), call 800-HOT-CHOC 468-2462 and ask for the nearest distributor in your area.

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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

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