Sunday, November 29, 2015

Win a Gift Basket of Chocolate!

This contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! The winner was randomly selected this morning using Rafflecopter's automated tool.  And the winner is....
Lori Lewis! (Twitter: @Miss_Elles).  I will be contacting you to find out where to mail the basket.  Stay tuned for more contests on this blog!

Do you need a chocolate fix RIGHT NOW? Here is your chance to win a gift basket of products by Ultimately Chocolate, my own chocolate company. Enter for your chance to win a gift basket including the following:
  • A gift box of three delicious extra large milk chocolate and peanut butter truffles
  • 10 individually wrapped chocolate TOFFLEs in three flavours: Peppermint, Hazelnut and Peanut Butter
  • A package of 2 gourmet salted dark chocolate toffees
  • A package of 2 gourmet milk chocolate toffees
  • 3 CacaoCookies - made only with cocoa beans, coconut sugar and an organic chocolate coating, these 'cookies' will make you forget that cookies made with flour ever existed. Three flavours: Espresso, Original Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Dipped.
  • 71% Dark Chocolate Bark, made with organic and fair trade dark chocolate.
  • White chocolate candy cane bark
  • Festive gift box

The contest runs from November 30, 2015 until December 7th at midnight. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. One lucky winner will be announced within 1 day of the contest closing, and the basket will be mailed to the winner within five business days.

Enter now: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for upcoming contests like this one!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Best Chocolate Brownies Recipe EVER

I have been making brownies off and on for years, but I have never found a recipe that I truly like.  My baking is sold through restaurants and cafes, and usually includes chocolate layered cakes, cheesecakes, flourless chocolate cakes and tarts filled with chocolate truffle.  Plus I make packaged chocolate confections, so I just don't have that much time to experiment with brownie recipes.

But as soon as I saw the brownie recipe Megan Giller posted on her new website, I knew I had to try it. It was full of single origin dark chocolate, butter and more dark chocolate, so it looked like it was right up my alley. I was worried my family wouldn't like all the bitter chocolate in it, but the sugar certainly took care of any bitterness. In fact, since we ate the last piece three days ago, my kids have been begging me to make more.

The brownies were lightly crispy on the edges and super moist and fudgy on the inside. They were sweet and yet rich in chocolate flavour.  And the melted chocolate chips in the middle made all the ooey-gooey difference. Overall, they were DELICIOUS.

I made minor modifications to the recipe, such as choosing to use a smaller square pan instead of the larger one recommended, which increased the baking time. But it turned out so beautifully that I think I will stick to my version.  I have written the recipe below, but you can find the original one here, which will tell you why Dandelion Chocolate recommends using single origin chocolate for brownies (yup, so they can make a 'brownie tasting flight', BEST. IDEA. EVER. right?).

For the chocolate, I used a Camino brand Peruvian origin chocolate by La Siembra Co-Operative, which also happens to be organic and Fair Trade certified.  Under the Cuisine Camino brand, there is both 71% dark chocolate chips and baking chocolate of the same percentage. This chocolate has quite a distinct flavour that I find works well in desserts - it is sweet and bright, with a standard chocolate chip flavour, but also a slight sharpness that makes it interesting to taste. I tried the recipe one time with another 71% organic chocolate, but it was much more bitter tasting. So I think I will stick with Camino for this recipe in future. If you can't find that brand, don't worry, you can still use any 70% dark chocolate.

The Best Ever Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from

Time: Takes about one hour from start to finish.

You need:
  • 1 cup of about 70% dark chocolate (I used Cuisine Camino 71% Baking Chocolate), chopped into 1 to 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup of butter, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar (again, I used Camino brand for the sugar - it's golden cane sugar that is both organic and fair trade and not bleached!)
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tbsp. unbleached flour
  • pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 cups of 70 or 71% chocolate chips (for something a little sweeter, go for 55% or 56% semi-sweet chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl over a small pot of simmering water. If you prefer, use a heat-proof plastic or glass bowl to melt them together in the microwave for 2 minutes on half power. Stir until melted and smooth (do not overheat, just melt until you can stir the mix smooth and no longer or the cocoa butter will start to separate from the chocolate).
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together the vanilla, eggs and sugar. Once combines, add to the chocolate mixture and stir.  An immersion hand-held blender works well for this step.
  4. Gently fold in the flour and salt and stop stirring once mixed.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes in a square 9" x 9" pan. Add five minutes cooking time if using an 8" square.
  7. Let cool before serving.  Cut in squares and serve at room temperature.

Baking times for alternate pans:

If using a large snowflake pan, like I did on my second batch of brownies (which I purchased at HomeSense, also bake for 25 minutes. 

If using a larger 11 x 8 inch sheet pan like in the recipe on, then bake for 14 to 16 minutes as recommended.

Optional Topping: Shredded Coconut and White Chocolate Ganache

Although these brownies are lovely with a lightly crispy top to them, you can also make them festive for a holiday potluck or party by topping them with coconut.  To get the coconut to stick, make up a small batch of white chocolate ganache by combining 3 tbsp. of whipping cream together with 4 ounces of chopped white chocolate in a bowl, and microwave for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth and spread over the brownies, then sprinkle an abundance of coconut on top of the ganache.  Let the ganache set on the counter or in the fridge for 1/2 hour.  I also used Camino organic and fair trade shredded coconut for mine, but any will do!

Note: I was not sponsored/paid by Camino to write this post. I already use Camino brand of couverture chocolate, and raw cane sugar in my business because I believe in using organic and fair trade chocolate and ingredients as much as possible. Camino did send me a care-package of the Cuisine Camino products to try out, and this is what I decided to make with them! And as usual, I just love to tell you about quality ingredients and chocolate that I review.

Happy Chocolate Baking!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Chocolate from Austria, Zotter-Style: and the Most Interesting Dark-Milk Chocolate EVER

A few weeks back, I ordered the Zotter 'hand-scooped' line of chocolate bars, and a few bars from Zotter's Labooko line of 'pure chocolate'. I've been wanting to taste Zotter chocolate for years and finally got my hands on not one, but FIVE of their chocolate bars.

Zotter is an Austrian bean-to-bar chocolate maker, founded by Josef Zotter in 1987. The company's motto is "quality, creativity, sustainability" and they focus on making Organic and Fair Trade chocolate.

Zotter promotes that they offer over 300 different kinds of chocolate, making this one of the widest offerings of chocolate flavours that I've ever heard of! I could devote an entire blog to tasting a Zotter chocolate!

Of the mere five chocolate bars that I tried, I found new favourites, and certainly a few that I will NEVER forget.
My passion for chocolate was sparked yet again (truthfully my passion for chocolate is sparked each and every day, but it really was special this time) when I tried the Labooko 'Milk Chocolate "dark Style" 70% without sugar bar'.  That's right, it is without sugar.  That does NOT mean there is a sugar substitute like maltitol, aspartame or stevia added to this chocolate - it means that there is ABSOLUTELY. NO. SUGAR. ADDED.  And yet it is milk chocolate. Genius!

While researching dark-milk chocolate earlier this year, I thought about making milk chocolate with no sugar added.  I wondered why no one else was selling it, and thought perhaps I might be the first.  But sadly (or rather happily) I was wrong. This chocolate bar by Zotter has all the creaminess of milk chocolate, and all the bitterness of dark chocolate.  And once you get over the first bold and bitter bite, the creaminess takes over and a savoury crème fraiche flavour of deliciousness sweeps over you. It reminds me of my sour cream truffle recipe, only much more savoury. I think every foodie and dark chocolate lover should try this bar.

The Labooko 100% Peru chocolate bar by Zotter had a quite distinct roast flavour, with something perhaps floral.  There was very low acidity, especially when I tasted it up against a bean-to-bar 100% chocolate of Brazilian origin. However, it may not just be in the processing and the 34 hour conche; the packaging says this is the "mildest cocoa" Zotter has ever encountered (cultivated by the El Natanjillo coopertaive in Peru), and also describe the chocolate as "Mild, balanced and original."  And that is definitely a true statement for this chocolate bar by Zotter.

Of Zotter's 'hand-scooped' chocolate bar line, my absolute favourite was the BitterClassic Mousse. This had a beautiful straight-up taste of dark chocolate, with a lovely fluffy-melt-in-your-mouth centre.  The flavours were real (I suppose that's because there are NO vanilla or artificial flavours in this product) and there was a lovely mild heat after from just a hint of chilli spice that Zotter included in the mousse.  

I was also excited that the ingredients were simple and NO hydrogenated oils or modified palm oils were added to the product. I have found other commercial 'mousse' chocolate bars often have unnatural ingredients, so this was a nice change.

Zotter's 'hand-scooped' Espresso dark chocolate bar was also quite tasty, although not my favourite of all time.  And the Hazelnut bar was interesting, with a strong flavour of real honey, yet not very sweet at all for a milk chocolate.  It was not one I would re-visit, but I think the slight alcohol taste and crunchy hazelnut would appeal to Europeans or people who like European-style desserts with low sweetness and ground hazelnuts.

Overall, my first experience with Zotter was pretty amazing.  I look forward to tasting the other 360 flavours! There are some very interesting flavour combinations that should definitely be tasted.  Check out the list here.

You can buy Zotter chocolate in Canada from Cook Culture, in the U.S. online from the new Zotter USA website at  or in the UK at: . Or check out the company's main website at:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Chocolate Buttercream Icing Recipe for a Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

I have tried many chocolate buttercream icing recipes over the years, and I have not yet settled on one recipe as my favourite (this might be obvious, but I usually choose to use chocolate ganache instead of icing!). But last week, I tried a new one that might just be a contender for my favourite 'best chocolate buttercream' recipe. 

I was making a Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, and wanted a chocolate icing that could pair nicely with salt and caramel sauce. So when I began my search for a new chocolate buttercream, I stumbled upon the and tried the Chocolate Buttercream Icing recipe by blog author Karlynn Johnston.  I made a few minor changes based on my past experiences with buttercream icing, and this is the final recipe that I came up with:

Salted Chocolate Buttercream Icing Recipe:

  • 2 cups salted butter (or 1 full pound)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, melted, then cooled (I used the Cuisine Camino brand of organic and fair trade semi-sweet chocolate with 56% cocoa solids, for baking)
  • 6.5 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil to 1/2 cup canola oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp chunky sea salt

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes on half power, and stir until smooth. If it is not fully melted, continue melting for 5 second intervals in the microwave until fully melted.  Let cool.
  2. Whip the butter in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until light and fluffy - stir often to ensure every un-whipped portion of the butter is incorporated.
  3. Add in the cocoa powder and beat until it is combined.
  4. Add the cooled chocolate to the butter/cocoa powder mixture.
  5. Add the icing sugar. Sift in if lumpy. Stir regularly until combined while mixing with the mixer.
  6. Add the canola oil and beat until combined.
  7. Sprinkle in the sea salt.

Spread between layers of moist chocolate cake. Top each layer of icing with salted caramel sauce or dulce de leche caramel sauce and sprinkle with chunky sea salt. Delicious!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Organic Cocoa Beans from Brazil: A Review of the Beans, Where to Buy Them, and Recipes to Try!

I started exploring Brazil-origin chocolate a few years ago, and what I found then was nearly no chocolate of that origin in North America  Since then, some very different chocolate bars, with varied and unique flavour profiles, began to pop up here and there.  But now, Brazil origin chocolate seems to be making a splash among chocolate makers across North America and Europe.

One of the reasons* for the recent increase in Brazil-origin chocolate bars is likely due to a recent increase in access to cocoa beans from Brazil.  They are emerging direct from the farm for many of the bean-to-bar chocolate companies to convert into chocolate.  In fact, I received a wonderful sample of cocoa beans from Cacao Bahia, the global sales and marketing arm of a picturesque organic cacao farm called Fazenda Camboa. The farm is located alongside the Almada River in the southern part of the State of Bahia, Brazil. The cacao trees grown on the 500-hectare farm are mainly sun-dried Trinitario and Forastero type.

I had tasted samples of chocolate made by Chaleur B Chocolat, who also used Cacao Bahia`s beans to create a wonderful 80% dark chocolate bar. I LOVED what chocolate maker Dany Marquis did with those cocoa beans (see the post here).  The chocolate was fruity with a hint of roast and smoke flavours.

So when I received the beans, I decided to do something different.  I experimented a little, and turned them into rustic-style chocolate (think stone-ground chocolate, except due to equipment limitations it is really 'blender ground' chocolate for me). I made a sweeter dark chocolate, one with 70% cocoa solids, and I also made a 62% dark-milk chocolate (see below for the recipes and the measurements that I used).

These turned out beautifully.  There was little acidity compared to other chocolate that I have made (since I do not have the equipment to conche the chocolate, I have to choose beans with low acidity or the chocolate will be too acidic to be palatable!).  The fruitiness was certainly there, and the flavour overall was nice in both the dark-milk and the 70% dark chocolate bar.

Overall, I've been very pleased with these cocoa beans from Cacao Bahia. Also, the information provided from the company was detailed on the quality control, and the processes for fermentation, drying, testing and harvesting at the farm. The company's information kit also explains the working conditions, mentioning that the farm pays their 65+ workers above-average wages for the region.

If you are looking for Trinitario or Forastero cocoa beans from Brazil - single origin and particularly from a specific farm, contact Cacao Bahia at  or visit their website at:

*Short History of the Brazilian Cacao Industry and the Fazenda Camboa farm:

In the late 1980's, Witches' Broom disease infected and killed the leaves of cacao trees all across Brazil.  This reduced the yield of the trees until they no longer produced cacao. In the early 1900's Brazil had been the largest producer of cacao in the world (ref) and was the second-largest pre-1989 (ref), but Witches Broom changed that drastically and caused the collapse of the cacao industry. That year, output went from 380,000 tonnes per annum to 90,000 tonnes per annum less than 10 years later (ref).

Bahia is one of Brazil's 26 states, and it was where Witches' Broom began. Farms like Fazenda Camboa were devastated by the disease, and family cacao businesses folded, causing many of the family members to move into other industries. Two members of the family that owned Fazenda Camboa began revitalizing the farm and applying methods to combat the disease.  They have been successfully reclaiming sections of the farm ever since. The farm is now focused on organic production and on producing higher quality cocoa beans for the fine chocolate industry.

Recipe for Rustic Style Chocolate Made with Brazilian Cocoa Beans

70% Dark Chocolate
  • 6 oz roasted and shelled* cocoa beans
  • 1 oz cocoa butter (see here for methods to extract cocoa butter if you want cocoa butter from the same beans)
  • 3 oz sugar

62% Dark Milk Chocolate
  • 6 oz roasted* and shelled* cocoa beans
  • 1 oz cocoa butter
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1.25 oz skim milk powder (or coconut milk powder if making vegan milk chocolate)

  1. Melt your cocoa butter over a double boiler or in the microwave until liquid (about 2 minutes in the microwave).
  2. Grind all the ingredients in a blender, smoothie blender attachment, or food processor until they begin to look wet and melt. Stop to stir often and be careful not to overheat the motor on your blender. For the milk chocolate, leave the skim milk powder out until you've melted the chocolate.  Add the melted cocoa butter and continue grinding until chocolate is fully liquid and as smooth as you can get it (about 10 to 20 minutes total). If adding, add the skim milk powder now and grind for another minute or so.
  3. Transfer the chocolate to a bowl and temper it. For a guide on how to temper chocolate, click here.
  4. Pour into molds. You do not need to spend money on fancy molds, for instance, I used a silicon snowflake baking pan as my mold for the dark chocolate - you can also use simple cupcake pans for round discs.  I also used a washed and dried chocolate bonbon tray from a gift I had received previously, for my dark milk chocolate - see the top photo for those.
  5. Let set for a few hours on the counter, or in the fridge for just a few minutes (not longer than 15 minutes or humidity will affect the chocolate).
  6. Pop out of the molds and enjoy! These can keep - well sealed - for about 1 year.
*To roast the cocoa beans and remove the shells, place them on a good quality cookie sheet in the oven, and spread evenly.  Roast at 325 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, stirring and turning them over halfway through roasting. When they smell like baking brownies, they are ready! Let cool, then remove the shells by hand, or place in a plastic zipper freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin, then place in a large bowl and use a hair dryer to blow the shells off  (best if this is done outside). Ensure all shells are removed before using to make chocolate.

Explore Other Brazil-Origin Chocolate:

Certainly Akesson's, who I wrote about earlier this year, has contributed to the popularity of Brazil origin chocolate. The company owns a plantation in Brazil and their fine origin chocolate has highlighted unique flavours that Brazilian cocoa has to offer, including that of the local pitanga fruit. Learn more about it here:

And if you didn't already click on the link above to my article on a round-up of Brazil-origin chocolate, you can find it here:

Happy Chocolate Tasting!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

President's Choice Black Label Chocolates: A Great Choice for Holiday Gatherings

I was recently surprised with a lovely gift basket of President's Choice chocolate products.  It was quite a mix of chocolate, from the high-end Black Label brand of chocolates, to the everyday milk chocolate caramels and chocolate-covered raisins.

My husband attacked the chocolate caramels and raisins so quickly that I could barely have a chance to asses them.  In fact, I did not even get one PC chocolate-covered raisin before the bag was gone!  But they must have been good, since I have never seen him eat chocolate-covered raisins before and he really liked these.

The caramels were also pretty good, but sweet stuff isn't my thing. Again, with the rapidity that my husband ate through the bag, I feel that they must have been delicious for a someone with a chocolate sweet-tooth!

I set aside the Dark Chocolate Cashews and the PC Maple Brown Sugar Caramels for me.  I had not seen either of these products in stores before, but they looked beautiful and delicious, and I was delighted to taste them.  I LOVE the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews, which were not too sweet like some chocolate-covered products can be, and the salt was balanced perfectly.  The ingredients were pretty good and there was NO artificial vanilla flavour - something I always appreciate in PC products.

Also, my family and I really enjoyed the Maple Brown Sugar Caramels.  They were flavourful, again without being overly sweet.  And yet they were also a little chewy, but not hard.  I liked the very Canadian addition of 'maple' - and who doesn't want a brown sugar anything this time of year? I truly think these can be called 'comfort food'!

The way I see it, the PC Black Label chocolates are great for adding to dessert trays at your upcoming holiday parties. Little dishes each containing a different kind, with a small spoon in each dish to serve, all on one serving plate or spread throughout the dessert table would be great at any party. They would also make a nice gift basket addition for a gift for a chocolate lover.

I found the PC Black Label Collection at an Independent Grocer in Northern Ontario, but they are available at Loblaws or any Loblaws store, and likely anywhere that sells PC products.

Ooh, and don't forget to add the delicious President's Choice Chocolate Sea Salt Fudge to your party mix.  I bought a bag earlier in the year and told you about here.

Happy Holiday Partying!!!

Note: although PC sent me these products for free, it was my choice to write about them!  I thoroughly enjoyed the package of President's Choice chocolate products, and I love to tell you about great products that have natural ingredients, no artificial flavours and are all around tasty.  PC, in my opinion, delivers on all of these important aspects in their Black Label selection, as well as their line of sweet milk chocolate treats.