Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last-Minute Home-Made Halloween Treats!

Want to make a quick Halloween treat for your office potluck?  Simply pull out those Halloween-shaped cookie cutters, and get to work! Here are two methods using cookie cutters to make chocolate shapes.

Method 1:

Step 1.  Lay out a large piece of waxed paper on your largest cookie sheet or flat baking pan.

Step 2.  Melt and temper (see here for tempering instructions) 8 to 12 ounces of milk chocolate (or dark or white, whatever you like!).

Step 3:  Place the cookie cutters onto the waxed paper.

Step 4:  Pour your tempered chocolate into the cookie cutters, careful not to move them around.

Step 5:  If you don't have enough cookie cutters, pour the remaining chocolate into a freezer bag and cut the end - then make these Halloween ghosts on the remaining waxed paper.

Step 6:  Let set on the counter or in quickly the fridge.

Step 7:  Pop out of the cookie cutter and package in small plastic treat bags or add to a Halloween treat platter for your office Halloween potluck!

Method 2:

One other way is to spread your tempered chocolate out onto a large piece of waxed paper, then just as it starts to set (stiff but still sticky, not completely hardened - you'll need to watch it closely and do not put it in the fridge!), use the cookie cutter to cut out shapes. See the picture below for an example of chocolate pumpkin cutouts.

Flavour tip:  Just after pouring, sprinkle on a mix of chunky sea salt and toffee bits (like SKOR). This will add a wonderful tasty flavour and crunch.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An Afternoon of Chocolate Tasting in Sudbury,Ontario

Please note: This event is now fully booked. Stay tuned on this blog for future tasting events!

Are you in the Sudbury area and looking to improve your chocolate-tasting palate?
Join us at the Fromagerie Elgin for an afternoon of chocolate tasting on November 23rd!  Learn about the differences between commercial and fine chocolate, bean-to-bar chocolate, and why single origin chocolate is so special. Enjoy several different chocolate samples, a beverage (a paired glass of wine, or tea/coffee/latte beverage) and take away a tasty gift from Ultimately Chocolate! This event will take place at the Fromagerie Elgin in Sudbury, Ontario, and will be hosted by Lisabeth Flanagan, Owner of Ultimately Chocolate (Manitoulin Island), writer for The Ultimate Chocolate Blog and contributor for Kitchen Daily Canada, an AOL/Huffington Post site.  With more than 10 years of chocolate tasting and five years in business as a chocolatier & pastry professional, Lisabeth knows all the best brands of fine and origin chocolate.  She will take you through a tasting experience you will never forget, and offer guidance for buying chocolaty gifts for the holiday season.

Here are the event details:

Event Name: Afternoon of Chocolate Tasting
Price: $35.00 (only 25 tickets are available.  Advance ticket purchase only.)

Location: Fromagerie Elgin at 5 Cedar Street, with entrance on Elgin Street in downtown Sudbury. Parking available across the street on Elgin.
Date/Time: 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm on Sunday November 23, 2014

Contact:  E-mail or call 705-282-3535 if you have questions or for further information, or to register with another method of payment.

See you there!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Make Your Own Chocolaty Treats for Halloween, like these White Chocolate Ghosts!

Tired of handing out the same ol' mini KitKat and Mars bars for trick or treaters?  Make your own chocolate treats this year!  These Halloween Ghosts look great in cello bags or on Halloween dessert platters at the annual office costume party.

Here is how you make them:

You need:

-340 g / 12 oz (makes 22-24 ghosts) or 16 oz / 454 (makes 30-32) of white chocolate.
-semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (about 70 to 100 pieces).


1. Lay out a very long piece of waxed paper on your counter top.

2. Melt and temper 12 ounces of white chocolate.  (Tempering is an important step to ensure your treats look and taste their best. See here for instructions on tempering white chocolate).

3. Place your chocolate in a plastic pastry bag with a very small round tip, or cut a small hole in the end of the bag.  A sandwich or freezer bag can also be used with a small hole cut in one corner.

4. Squeeze the white chocolate out in a circle, then drop the white chocolate below and squiggle it to the right to make a ghost belly shape and its tail.

5. Let cool and set.  Once completely hard (about an hour) peel off the waxed paper and place in cello bags or on a Halloween Party treat platter with other desserts.

Makes 22 to 30 ghosts (15 grams or 1/2 ounce each).

White chocolate tips:
  • I used Camino brand of organic and fair trade white chocolate, but you can buy large quantities of good quality white chocolate at bulk stores, such as Bulk Barn in Canada. You can also purchase white chocolate online at many sites, such as the CacaoBarry and Callebaut brands, as well as Valrhona at Vanilla Food Company (ships to both the U.S.A. and Canada with low flat rates). At Walmart, Joe's is a good brand of white chocolate to use. Learn about and compare about other brands of white chocolate here.

  • White chocolate can be finicky and hard to work with, compared to darker chocolate. Ensure your room is no less than 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) when working with white chocolate, or it will harden on your before you are done making your ghosts.  As soon as it starts to stiffen in the pastry bag, throw it into the microwave for 5 seconds only and squeeze the bag to mix the chocolate around and re-melt the hardened bits. If you wait too long to re-heat, it will harden completely and you will need to re-temper it. I find the best temperature of white chocolate while working with it is 80 to 81 degrees F (27 degrees C).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Choklat: Delicious chocolate that I tried not to love!

No matter how frustrated you can be with a chocolate maker for their customer service, it is difficult to remain angry with them once you discover that their chocolate is undeniably delicious.  This is precisely how my feelings for Choklat from Calgary have developed over time.

A few years ago, I tried very hard to get my hands on some Choklat chocolate (I was, after all, on a mission to try all of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate).  I e-mailed. I called. I begged. I was not a 'blogger' asking for free samples, I was a customer trying to buy the product and pay for them to ship it to me.  The owner told me flat out: "find a friend in Calgary and have them ship it to you", he even went so far to say that his website gets thousands of hits per month, so, well, the gist of it was that I was not necessary to keep his business pumping, so why bother going out of his way for me? 

Being a former student of business and marketing for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, this did not sit well with me.  Refusing a paying customer, particularly one that might write about your service on the Internet, seemed like a strange business decision. In the time that he spent sending me the long e-mail, the owner could have just slapped a label on a box and taken my credit card number over the phone. Oh, and that was the other thing, the business was cash-only until recently, which was another customer-unfriendly decision that I did not understand. In this day and age, refusing card payments of any type simply does not make sense.

And as much as I wanted to write about all of these frustrating things on this blog, I stayed silent.  My general policy is not to criticize chocolate makers because I know they are passionate about their craft. I simply find the good points about their products. So with Choklat, I decided to wait until I could taste the chocolate.  And one day last February, I finally did.  A friend of mine sent me some chocolate bars.  I tried them all and loved them.  But I was not yet ready to admit it.  So I waited until I received another package of their chocolate bars a few weeks ago, which were purchased at a franchise location in Edmonton. This last package confirmed it: Choklat's chocolate bars are delicious.

So was the owner right to refuse me?  Maybe. I am a business owner myself, and I understand how easy it is to lose focus and waste time on special requests.  But I also understand that one poor interaction can end a customer-seller relationship. He would have lost me if I was not so determined in my mission to taste all of Canada's bean-to-bar chocolate.  And with just two tastes, I will likely be back for more someday....of course, that is if I can find a friend in Alberta.

So here is the down-low on Choklat`s chocolate bars:
  • They make a series of 70% dark bars from different single origin (and in some cases single plantation) beans. The bars also have the same amount of cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, etc., which makes it a lot easier to hold a tasting session and truly tastes the differences between origins. I love this - nothing is more frustrating than when you are trying to compare origin chocolate by one chocolate maker, and one bar has  67% cocoa solids and the other has 72%.  In those cases, the sweetness of the 67% overwhelms your ability to taste the flavour differences of the cacao. So I applaud Choklat for this. And of the four 70% bars that I tasted, I liked the Ocumare the best, but all four were delicious and full of interesting flavours.
  • Choklat makes amazing milk chocolate. Truly a MUST-TRY is their Brazilian 48% Milk bar. It is bursting with flavour and aroma. The Cuyagud (Venezuela) 48% Milk bar is just as delicious and flavourful.  I wish I had 10 more of each bar.  Right now.
  • Choklat puts a lot of cocoa butter in their chocolate.  Except for their intense 80% bar, their chocolate bars generally contain 30% cocoa butter, which gives all of their chocolate a melt-in-your-mouth quality.  The purists (those who make chocolate from just cocoa beans and sugar) may argue this is too much cocoa butter, but I like it.  It adds a rich element that quickly melts in the most delicious way, even in cold temperatures.
  • Choklat makes a range of Venezuelan bars, which allows the taster to truly taste the differences between regions within the same country.
  • The range of truffles were delicious, I found the Key Lime to be my favourite, as well at the Dark Chocolate Buttercream, and the Mint offered an interesting experience (there was perhaps a hint of basil in it...?).  I even enjoyed the Orange and the Amaretto truffle, which are two flavours that I normally stay away from.

And now that I have tasted nearly all of Canada's craft, bean-to-bar chocolate, I can say with certainty that Choklat's products are in the top three or four for taste, texture and quality. It is certainly worth a try, if you are in the Edmonton or Calgary area.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Want chocolate on your pillow? Go for the hotel with the good stuff!

I stayed at the InterContinental Yorkville in Toronto this past weekend, and with the turndown service, chocolate was left in the room.  The best part?  It was Valrhona dark chocolate!  Not only was the service at the hotel fantastic, but they also chose one of the world's best chocolate brands for their guests.

And it wasn't just the brand name, the actual piece of chocolate was bitter, smooth and delicious.

So if you are a chocolate lover and looking for a hotel to stay at, this might be the right place for you!