Chocolate is like Fine Wine, or Musings from a Chocolate Tasting

chocolate tasting class
Chocolate Tasting Class

Today’s post is different than my usual high-altitude recipes. I just attended an online chocolate tasting and wanted to share my experience. Never having participated in a chocolate tasting event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course I’ve eaten my fair share of chocolate, but never in so sophisticated a fashion. I imagined it to be like a wine tasting, without the spit bucket.

The monthly Chocolate Club tastings are organized by Boulder Book Store. As this is my birth month, I decided to give myself the gift of a chocolate class. (Self-care at its best!). After signing up and then receiving the chocolates, I went to the chocolatiers’ websites to look over their tasting notes. These are not your average chocolates. With clean ingredients, ideas of “notes of blackberry and cashews,” and suggested beverage pairings, I waited eagerly for today’s class.

John Lehndorff, the instructor, started with a brief discussion of the areas where the different chocolates were made. For some chocolate producers he described how much labor went into the production of the bar in my hand. Next, John explained how to correctly do a chocolate tasting and added some of his own tasting notes.

As a group, we carefully unwrapped our chocolates and savored the smells and tastes. The chocolate bars are chosen as they are special in their own ways, so we took great care to absorb the nuances of each one. As a I held a bite of chocolate in my mouth and let it melt on my tongue, I savored the evolving flavors. One bar had a burst of sea salt; another held nutty overtones; a third was infused with ginger and rose essences. My taste buds were amazed, even after trying several bars, because no two bars were alike. I did not tire of sampling chocolate as the experience was unusual in its complexity.

The concept of chocolate tasting may sound snooty, but it was an excellent learning experience. It doesn’t mean I will never again devour chocolate in a few bites, but I hope that I can try to pause and take wonder at the intricate flavors that abound in a special bar of chocolate.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Halloween Candy Store

Halloween Candy Store
Halloween Candy Store

Thank you for visiting my candy store for Halloween. Today I have several treats for you … and no tricks! I offer you a trio of fairly easy candy recipes. You won’t need a candy thermometer, and you don’t have to laboriously temper chocolate. And, if you are the impatient type (aren’t we all when it comes to treats), the truffles are ready in just a few minutes.

Each recipe that I adapted was already vegan. There is no baking involved, so high altitude was not a problem. Any changes I made were to finesse textures and include ingredients that I prefer. I also chose treats that were a little bit healthier so I wouldn’t get too crazy a sugar buzz. I hope you enjoy these treats, and have a Happy Halloween!

Matcha Nut Truffles adapted from Pistachio and Matcha Truffles

1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
9 medjool dates, pitted
1 TBS chia seeds
1 TBS hemp seeds
2 TBS vegan chocolate chips
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder

Add everything except the matcha to a food processor. Process until well combined, with a somewhat crumbly texture. Add the matcha powder and process again. Pour the mixture out into a bowl. Take a spoonful of the mixture in your palm and squeeze tightly, then roll it into a ball. Place on a dish and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Makes 10-12 truffles.

Chocolate-Covered Caramel Rolls

1.25 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cashews
1 tsp maca powder
pinch sea salt
1 TBS vanilla extract
1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a food processor, combine the dates, cashews, maca, salt, and vanilla. Process until the cashews are broken down to tiny flecks and the mixture starts to form a ball. The mixture will be a bit sticky. If it is not, then add another date or two and process again. Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll it between your palms. Place each roll on the parchment-lined sheet. Put the baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. When melted, remove the chocolate from the heat. Place a cooled roll on a fork, quickly dip it into the chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then place it on the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with remaining rolls. When all are dipped, put the cookie sheet in the fridge until the chocolate is firm. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Makes 24-30 rolls.

candy making ingredients
candy making ingredients

Cool Peppermint Patties

organic powdered sugar for baking sheet
1 TBS raw cashew butter
2.5 TBS refined coconut oil, in solid form
1.5 tsp agave syrup
1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint extract, or to taste
2 tsp organic powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar, and set aside. In a bowl, use a spatula to combine the cashew butter, coconut oil, agave, peppermint extract, and 2 tsp powdered sugar. Place the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes for the mixture to get firm. When the mixture is a scoopable consistency, take a small amount and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, then place the sheet back in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Prepare another baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. When melted, remove chocolate from the heat and let it cool slightly. When cooled, take a large dollop of chocolate and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Swirl it into a thick disc with the back of a spoon. Place a peppermint disc on top of the chocolate, then place another dollop of chocolate on top of that. Swirl the chocolate around to coat the peppermint disc. Refrigerate the coated patties until firm. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 15 patties.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!

Mocha Mousse for Mom

mocha mousse for mom

mocha mousse for mom

Some days I want a treat that doesn’t require turning on the oven. And some days I’m simply out of flour. Today was both of those. But still I yearned for a decadent dessert that was easy and fast and chocolatey, and good for a special occasion. When I make chocolate mousse it’s always a big hit, so I started there.

My tofu mousse is vegan and doesn’t require baking, so none of those changes had to be made. I decided to amp up the decadence and flavor of the basic recipe by adding more coffee flavor. Bring on the coffee liqueur and coffee granules, and say hello to a more adult mousse. A perfect dish for a refined mother.

Mocha Mousse for Mom adapted from my Chocolate Mousse Pie

3 TBS coffee liqueur
1 TBS instant coffee granules
1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
2 12-oz packages silken tofu, drained (firm or extra firm; your choice will affect the texture)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder

Heat the coffee liqueur in a small saucepan. Add the coffee granules and stir until dissolved. Set aside. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler by placing the chips in a small saucepan. Set this pan in a larger pot filled with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Heat over medium heat on the stove and stir the chips until they are melted.

Combine the tofu, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, liqueur mixture, and melted chocolate in a food processor. Process for 5 minutes, or until thick and smooth. Pipe into individual bowls and chill for 15-30 minutes. Garnish as desired.

Happy Mother’s Day, and happy nonbaking!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

A few years ago I attended a workshop on chocolate making. It was interesting to learn how to create chocolate from scratch and the technique for making it snap when breaking it up into pieces. As much fun as the class was, that process is a bit time consuming and you have to be diligent while your creation is on the stove. More recently I have discovered healthier fudge recipes that are less demanding and produce treats that have less impact on blood sugar balance.

Because the recipe I modified was vegan and did not need baking, it required no adjustments for those. Instead, I decided to change up the recipe and create a classic peanut butter and jelly combo. You can use any nut butter and jelly you prefer, but the texture may change. I added extra (yummy smelling) Navitas Organic cacao butter to help thicken up my fudge,

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge adapted from Double Chocolate Salted Freezer Fudge

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 cup + 1 TBS Navitas Organics cacao butter
1/4 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt

Prepare a mini muffin tin with small paper liners. In a medium pan over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and smooth, working to incorporate any lumps. Spoon into the lined muffin tin and place tin in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Let candies sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

fudge ingredients with Navitas Organics

Note: When making chocolate, choose a food-grade cocoa butter such as Navitas Organics cacao butter. Some products are used for making toiletries and may not be pure cocoa butter.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Strawberry Covered Chocolates and Sweetheart Peanut Butter Cups

Strawberry Covered Chocolates and Peanut Butter Cups

Strawberry Covered Chocolates and Peanut Butter Cups

Valentine’s Day is coming up so I thought I’d have some fun making chocolates. For simplicity I went with a rolled variety, where the forming tool is your hands, and a version made in silicon molds, where chocolate tempering is not required.

The first recipe, that I like to call Strawberry Covered Chocolates, is a riff on a truffle from Dr. Gregor’s cookbook. I had coconut sugar in my cupboard, so I used that, but know that this healthy treat originally called for date sugar. To enhance the truffles’ Valentine’s Day status, I rolled the candies in strawberry powder. If you can’t find that in your market, see if you can find freeze dried strawberries. You can run them through a coffee grinder and – presto – strawberry powder.

My other chocolate candy choice is an old favorite that I make. I can’t remember how the recipe evolved but I use as few ingredients as possible to get the boldest flavor. You will find that they are true to the peanut butter and chocolate tastes without any unnecessary fillers.

Today I offer you two recipes, in the name of love and chocolate. Show love to yourself and others with these decadent vegan candies.

Strawberry Covered Chocolates based on Almond-Chocolate Truffles from “The How Not To Die Cookbook” by Michael Greger, M.D. and Gene Stone

1/3 cup chopped and pitted soft dates *
1/3 cup raw cashews soaked in hot water for 3 hours and then drained
3 tablespoons almond butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Strawberry powder, for coating

Combine dates and cashews in a food processor and process to a paste. Add almond butter and process to combine. Add cocoa powder, coconut sugar, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of water. Pulse until well combined.

Pinch a piece of the mixture between your fingers to see whether it holds together. If it’s too dry, add a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture can be shaped into balls. (The amount of water added can depend on the amount of moisture in your dates.) If the mixture is too soft, refrigerate it for 20 minutes or longer to firm up. If it’s still too soft, add a little more cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon at a time. The mixture should be slightly glossy.

Use your hands to shape and roll a small amount of the mixture into a ball and transfer to a plate. Repeat until all of the mixture has been formed into about 24 balls. Put the plate in the fridge for 10 minutes for the balls to dry out a bit.

rolling and dipping chocolates

rolling and dipping chocolates

Place the strawberry powder in a shallow bowl. Roll the chocolates in the powder until they’re coated, patting off the excess powder. Transfer the candies to a plate and refrigerate until firm.

* If your dates are not soft, soak them in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry before using.

 

Sweetheart Peanut Butter Cups

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 TBS coconut palm syrup (you can use agave syrup instead)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 65% cocoa), chopped

In a bowl, mix peanut butter with coconut palm syrup and vanilla until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat. With a pastry brush, apply a generous layer of chocolate inside each cup of a silicon mold. The chocolate cups should be sturdy enough to hold the filling, so coat the bottom and sides but don’t fill them to the top. Place the mold in the fridge for 30 minutes so the chocolate hardens.

coating silicon mold with chocolate

coating silicon mold with chocolate

Reheat remaining chocolate until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 TBS peanut butter filling into each chocolate cup. With a clean spoon, quickly spoon remaining melted chocolate over the filling to cover. Refrigerate until chocolate hardens, for 20 minutes. Unmold hardened chocolates.

Happy non-baking!

Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Valentine's Day Chocolate

Valentine Day Chocolate

For Valentine’s Day I wanted to give you a box of chocolates. The recipe here includes ginger and cinnamon for spiciness and rose petals for romance. When you add in the chocolate you have an additional superfood to inspire passion and stamina.

The recipe I found was already vegan, but I switched out some of the flavorings to accent heat and passion. It isn’t a baked treat, but instead it is made with chocolate molds so you can choose your favorite meaningful shapes. I found an adorable love birds mold and also added extra rose petals to a floral mold. With love …

Valentine’s Day Chocolates adapted from The Herbal Academy
6 ounces vegan dark chocolate, broken up
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 TBS crushed dried rose petals
1 TBS chopped candied ginger
Melt chocolate in a double boiler ensuring that no water gets into the pot with the chocolate. Once chocolate has melted, fold in cardamom, cinnamon, rose petals, and candied ginger. Stir well and remove bowl with chocolate. Pour chocolate mixture into molds, adding extra crushed rose petals to mold first, if desired. Smooth out with a spatula. Keep in fridge until hardened. Once chocolate has set, remove from molds.

Until next time, happy un-baking!

Superfood Chocolates

superfood chocolate

superfood chocolate

It seems I have been slaving over cookie cutters far too much lately, so I went easy on myself with this week’s recipe. Making chocolates is not very difficult and can be quite fulfilling. You can grab whatever is in your pantry to make them savory, healthy, and any taste you choose (I added cinnamon). I also discovered a new recipe twist I had to try – it added probiotics to the mixture for a health-giving extra. Now you can have your sweets and supplements at the same time.

This recipe has no tips for high altitude baking, but I can offer a few insights. In the past I had used Cocoa Butter for making body products. It was from a crafts website and I thought it smelled pretty good because it had cocoa undertones. And then I opened a package of Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Butter. It was heaven. I wanted to eat the nuggets straight from the bag. They are luscious, but be aware that when the melted butter cools it gets almost as hard and messy as candle wax. Another Navitas Naturals product I tried was Maca Powder. It is dubbed an “Incan Superfood” and it has a caramel-like taste. I chose to roll my bonbons in a mixture of Cacao Powder and Maca Powder for extra nutrients and the caramel overtones. Note: I’m not paid to like Navitas’ products, I just do.

Superfood Chocolates adapted from Sea Salt Probiotic Chocolates in Tasty. Naughty. Healthy. Nice.
1/4 cup melted Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Butter
1/2 cup raw agave syrup
1/3 cup Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup + 2 TBS almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
a few grinds of sea salt
2 TBS hot water
1 TBS probiotic powder (I got mine from 16 capsules of Ora Organic vegan probiotic & prebiotic)
1.5 TBS Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder + 1.5 TBS Navitas Naturals Maca Powder, for rolling into
To get 1/4 cup of melted cacao butter, put slightly more than 1/4 cup of unmelted cocoa butter in a double boiler with simmering water beneath. Remove from heat and let cacao butter naturally melt over hot water for 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend agave, 1/3 cup cacao powder, cinnamon, almond butter, vanilla, salt, and hot water. Add probiotic powder and blend again, scraping down sides as necessary. With motor running, slowly add melted cacao butter in a steady stream.
Refrigerate in same bowl, with blade intact, for 1 to 3 hours. If mixture seems too hard, blend it again to loosen it up. Put cacao/maca powder mix in a shallow plate. Roll mixture into bonbons between your palms, then drop into powders. Store in refrigerator. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Until next time, happy non-baking!