Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Delightful and Decadent Seasonal Truffles: Basil & Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe

The basil has been growing in abundance in the back garden all month long and I have been inspired.  My first introduction to basil in chocolate by Hello Cocoa last month was the first inspiration, and then the fact that it was growing everywhere, I just couldn't help myself. I had to make basil-favoured chocolate truffles!

So get outside and pick the last of your basil now before it goes to seed, because this is your chance to make something absolutely delectable! These truffles are both bitter and sweet, a little sweet and savoury, and sooooo creamy.

My recipe is a modification of Alice Medrich's mint truffles from her first book, 'Bitterweet'. I found the basil to have a milder taste in the resulting truffles, so instead of loosely packing the leaves, pack them in tight to your 1 cup measure to maximize flavour.

I also made a second version of these, rolled into balls and dipped in dark chocolate, and immediately rolled in sesame seeds. The crunch was delicious! This is also a great way to cover up any chocolate-dipping imperfections, in case you are new to working with chocolate.

Basil chocolate truffles rolled in sesame seeds.

Basil & Sesame Dark Chocolate Truffles Recipe

Plan ahead: Remember to start two days in advance of when you want to make the truffles!

  • 20 ounce (567g) semi-sweet dark chocolate (I used 56% Camino couverture chocolate, with just three ingredients of cacao, cocoa butter and organic sugar)
  • 360 ml (1.5 cups) whipping cream
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 20 ounces (567g) dark chocolate (I used 70% organic/FT couverture chocolate) for dipping
  • Dried basil for decoration
  • Light sesame seeds for decoration or rolling
  1. Two days in advance: pick your basil, measure to 1 packed cup, then soak in the cream in a small saucepan with a lid. Warm this on the stove and bring to a near-boil. Let cool then refrigerate covered for 24 hour to let steep.
  2. After 24 hours, remove from the fridge. Heat on stovetop at medium temperature.
  3. Chop the chocolate into 1/2" pieces and place in a heat-proof, medium-sized bowl.
  4. When the cream comes just to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate in a circular motion to ensure you touch all the chocolate in the bowl.
  5. Stir with a clean wooden spoon slowly in a circular motion until all the chocolate is entirely melted and smooth with no chunks or smalls solid bits left. Try to keep your spoon touching the bottom of the bowl the entire time you are stirring, to prevent excessive air bubbles. Set aside for a moment while you prepare your frame.
  6. Pour into a small chocolate frame (about 8" x 8"), or a plastic-wrap lined small box (like a shoebox or anything rectangular like a loaf pan about 9" by 4". If you just want to roll truffles, and not make square shapes, just pour into a bowl.
  7. Cover the frame, box or bowl and set aside until set (usually 8 hours or overnight, when resting at a room temperature of not more than 21ºC or 22º C.
  8. Once set, begin melting your dipping chocolate in a double boiler (do not let even one drop of water touch the chocolate!). Temper the chocolate following the instructions at this link:
  9. Cut your set truffle into 3/4" squares using a sharp, long knife. Or roll into 3/4" balls between the palms of gloved hands (kitchen gloves will help prevent your body heat from melting the chocolate, and it is more hygienic).
  10. On a fork or chocolate-dipping fork, dip into the melted and tempered chocolate, let excess drip off and then set gently onto waxed paper. Sprinkle a little dried basil or sesame seeds on the corner of the squares or top of truffle balls, or roll entirely into sesame and dried basil. Let set on waxed paper for 30 minutes or so and place in mini cupcake papers or candy papers.
  11. Consume within 10 days or to freeze: place in a container with an airtight lid and freeze for up to 6 months. Let come to room temperature before you open the container to serve.
Feel free to try this recipe with any other herb or mint leaves for fun flavour combinations.


Monday, August 21, 2017

For the Cacao Adventurer: Crayfish Bay is the Place to Stay!

It's now August and I am still dreaming about my trip to Grenada last May. And when I am thinking about Grenada, the spot that comes to mind most is Crayfish Bay. I want to go back! I want to spend more time. I want to help on the farm. I want to stay in their 'Little House', a rental overlooking the Caribbean Sea. And I want to eat more of the chocolate made on the cocoa farm. And I certainly want to hang out with Lylette and Kim Russell some more.

That's me! On the farm - at Crayfish Bay Organic Estate Grenada.

So who are Lylette and Kim, you ask?  They are the amazing couple who run the Crayfish Bay Organic cacao farm and the onsite, tree-to-bar chocolate factory. Located on the North-West Coast of Grenada, this 15 acre estate is idyllic, and certainly full of flavour. Mango, citrus and nutmeg trees greet you at every turn, and the cacao is simply everywhere.

Kim and Lylette Russell, Owners of
Crayfish Bay Organic Estate & Chocolate Company

While I was at the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I had the opportunity to visit the cacao farm on two separate occasions. The first day was to show us how Lylette and Kim are making chocolate 'on a shoestring' budget. Kim built his own cocoa bean roaster, and many other pieces of equipment to make chocolate with. And Lylette self-taught herself in chocolate making, including how to temper chocolate, and to turn their beautiful and very tasty cocoa beans into a gorgeous 75% dark chocolate. They started small, and stayed within budget, and eventually built up to a point where they could buy a larger chocolate refiner. They have already increased the profit earned from the estate by making chocolate from the beans, and they have a goal of using 100% of their beans in their own chocolate.

From roasted cocoa beans, to cracking, winnowing
and chocolate making, Kim and Lylette did it all on a budget.

During the second visit, our group was able to 'help' on the farm for the day. The farmers took us out and showed us how to pick the cacao from the trees, crack open the pods and pull out the cocoa beans and pulp from inside. I could see how the work could be tiring, but I think I was on too much of a cocoa bean high to notice. The excitement by everyone in the group was visible in every stage of the day. People were taking selfies on piles of cocoa pods, laughing and smiling, and exclaiming with excitement when they found a 'juicy' pod, and sharing with others to eat the delicious pulp (sorry Lylette and Kim, I think we ate a good chunk of your profit that day!). It truly was a wonderful experience.

This pic was taken of me (and friends like Karine (Miss Choco)
by the amazing photographer at the Grenada Chocolate Fest.
See it on the festival Facebook page by clicking here

Taking the beans and pulp out of the pods was very serious business.
This pic came from the Grenada Chocolate Festival.

Afterwards, we ate a delicious lunch made by Lylette and Kim, and enjoyed chocolate cake (made from a Crayfish Bay product: pre-formed balls of organic cacao & sugar that you can buy when you visit the farm). We also indulged in a chocolate tasting. Grenadian rum was also a part of the deal and some yummy cocoa tea (made from a combination of cocoa husks and nibs).

The taste of the chocolate...
Upon opening the last package of chocolate, these two months later, the chocolate smells to me like roasted plums and berries. And as I take a sip of coffee after a bite of the chocolate, the chocolate washes away and a mild charcoal roast taste lingers in my mouth. I am happily in dark chocolate heaven. This chocolate is potent, and there is a distinct fruitiness to the taste, with strong earthy flavours and some distinctive acidity that lingers. The roast is certainly a dark roast, which may have some slight variations among bars, since Kim demonstrated his method of listening to the beans to learn when the roast is done.

The colour is almost a milky-red shade of brown, rich mahogany. When I made a 70% from the same beans grown on the Crayfish Bay farm, the shade was even closer to a dark-milk chocolate. I love these beans and I love the chocolate that they make!

I made my own chocolate from Crayfish Bay beans...
I asked Kim if I could buy a 5 lbs bag of beans from him, and he was willing to part with them. I didn't pay attention to the price or worry about driving it down, because whatever Kim wanted to charge me was fine with me. I figured that he worked out the best possible price for him as a cacao farmer. And I had already tasted the beans on the farm, so I was willing to pay whatever he asked.

Crayfish Bay's beautiful cocoa beans.

When I got back to my commercial kitchen in Canada, I applied a fairly light roast to the beans and then created an 80% dark chocolate. With the level of acidity and fruity flavours the beans naturally had, I found it a bit too bitter, so I took half the batch and created a 70% dark chocolate. The fruit flavours really shined with the increase in sugar, and plum, grape and blackberry flavours seem to be at the forefront, with some citrus, earthy and chocolaty notes. I love my little supply of these Crayfish Bay bars. I am so sad that there are only 11 bars left! Oops, make that 10. I ate one while writing this post.

The chocolate bars I made from Crayfish Bay's cocoa beans.
The entire stock is just for me! Well, I've shared a few...

Craft Chocolate Makers Often Support Each Other, But Crayfish Bay Takes it to a New Level

Kim and Lylette are hoping to inspire other young Grenadians to farm cacao. "We are hoping to set up apprenticeships for young Grenadians who have access to lands and are seriously interested in cocoa." They are thinking about apprenticeships that would last 2 to 3 months and would cover every stage from planting young trees to producing chocolate, including the self construction of buildings and machinery to keep capital costs down. They also want to encourage people to work together as groups to avoid taking loans. Kim and Lylette are still working out the details, but this would go a long way to helping young farmers to get involved in growing cacao, and keeping the profits on the farm by making chocolate from tree-to-bar.

Cocoa pods opened, emptied and nestled into the
trees on Crayfish Bay Organic Estate.
Farming cacao requires collecting wet beans
(with pulp still attached) and bringing them in at the
end of each day to begin the fermentation process.

Crayfish Bay is all about Ethical Business Practices
Kim has given complete control of the land to some of the poorest local people who receive 90% of the highest price available for the wet cocoa and green Nutmeg they pick.  All other crops that they plant belong entirely to them, which they feed their families from and sell in the local market. According to Kim, "this has had a huge impact on their income and also raises self esteem." The other 10% of the price goes to land taxes and capital costs.

The coal used to roast the cocoa beans is also purchased within the community. Kim and Lylette explained, " We buy in bulk, but at regular retail prices, which also has a huge positive impact on some of the poorest people and also keeps the corporates out of the loop." Their goal is to entirely support the Grenadian locals, and not the type of large corporations that move in and care more about tourist-generated profit on a tropical island like Grenada.

One of the cacao farmers cutting the cocoa pods
from the trees at Crayfish Bay.
As far as their strong beliefs in growing organic cacao, they say, "We believe that 'organic' goes way beyond what you eat, but is rather a state of mind where we see the planet and everything that depends on it, including us, as one living organism. If we look after each and everything,including each other and the billions we will never meet, we look after ourselves.......therein lies the profit....".  These are the best kind of cacao estate owners and chocolate makers.

Where can you buy Crayfish Bay Organics Chocolate?
A family company in the UK called 'Lick The Spoon' has just started selling Crayfish Bay Organic chocolate bars online, which is Crayfish Bay's first international retailer. In Grenada, you can find the chocolate at a couple of major hotels, and some boutique hotels like True Blue Bay Resort, and in the  'House of Chocolate', which is in St. Georges. Other locations include: 'All Things Nutmeg' , which is in the GCNA mall on Kirani James Boulevard and 'The Market Place' which is located in Port Louis marina. The company is also in the midst of organizing export to other Caribbean Islands, so watch for this chocolate on your next vacation!

As for the beans, you can still taste those in Pump St. Bakery's Crayfish Bay chocolate bar. They are the only chocolate maker allowed to purchase the beans at this time. Otherwise, you'll have to go to the farm in Grenada yourself to pick up a bag. Kim plans to use as may of his beans as possible in his chocolate.

Where can you stay at Crayfish Bay?
Kim and Lylette have awesomely built a 'Little House' which is listed on airbnb. It is set up on the hill overlooking the bay. There are two bedrooms that you can close up, and a lovely covered outdoor kitchen and patio area for sitting, relaxing and enjoying the surroundings and smells of fresh cacao,  mangos and other tropical fruit.  

The view from the 'Little House' at Crayfish Bay.

You can choose to pay additional to eat with the owners each night (from what I hear, Kim makes delicious fish dinners most nights), or you can buy your own groceries, or eat out on your own. I think you can even follow the farmers around to learn how to be pick cocoa pods from the trees and prepare the beans for fermentation, and perhaps Lylette will show you how to make chocolate. I spoke with two guys from Quebec who were staying in the Little House at the time of my visit, and they did all those things and had a fantastic time. It seems like a truly an amazing tree-to-bar chocolate experience.

Learn more about the 'Little House' on Crayfish Bay's website:

So get moving and plan your next vacation to Grenada! Crayfish Bay's 'Little House' is waiting for you!


This is the many faces of me in Grenada...see how happy I am? I can't wait to get back there someday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Help! My Chocolate Has Melted Part 2: Has my chocolate gone bad?

When you purchase chocolate, you truly want it to be in perfect form. But there are times when you arrive home from the store or your vacation, and your chocolate looks less than perfect when opening it. There are several reasons why your chocolate might look bad, or even moldy, when in fact it is not 'bad' or 'moldy'.

Did you open a new package of chocolate and it looked like this?
This chocolate has not gone bad, it has unfortunately 'bloomed'.
It was made in Trinidad and purchased at the Trinidad airport,
and could have bloomed at the chocolate maker's shop or in transport,
since temperatures are regularly over 30 degrees Celsius in that country.
This chocolate can be re-tempered and 'saved'.

The chocolate has come out of temper, or was never tempered properly in the first place. If the chocolate has a white film on it, this is not mold (or mould as we might say in Canada or the UK) it is 'bloom'; either fat bloom or sugar bloom. This film can have occurred in one of three ways:

1. The chocolate was either not tempered by the manufacturer in the first place, which may be an indication of quality, because it truly is a scientific process of ensuring the correct crystals are formed during melting, tempering and the setting of the chocolate. So the bloom either occurred immediately and was packaged regardless by the manufacturer, or it was seeded with unstable cocoa butter crystals which then transformed to a higher level of crystal over time, so it bloomed some time after it was packaged, which shows on the surface of the chocolate bar.

2. The chocolate is exposed to humidity - either before packaging, with improper packaging, or after it has been opened and exposed to humid air. The bloom in this case is sugar bloom. I have had this problem when trying to make chocolate too late in the summer/Spring season - even when the dehumidifier is running all day!

3. The chocolate has been exposed to heat and fat bloom occurs. This often happens when traveling, or when chocolate is left in the car, even for a few minutes while you are running errands. The temperature in the car can reach 30º Celsius rather quickly once the air conditioning is turned off, and chocolate should be stored in a cool dark place at temperatures of about 18º Celsius to 21º Celsius.

This is a block of cocoa butter or cocoa 'fat', so you can see how the chocolate
would get light-coloured streaks or spots on it when fat bloom occurs.
It is simply the fat rising to the surface of the chocolate.

What to do about bloomed chocolate?

You have two options:

Do nothing: If you are not picky about slight taste differences in your chocolate, you can just eat it as is, or melt it down and put it in brownies, or chop up and use it as chocolate chips in your next batch of cookies.

Temper it: If you paid a lot for your chocolate and really were in it for the natural origin cocoa bean flavours, I recommend you melt and temper the chocolate. It is easy - just follow the instructions at this link: Also, read Part 1 of Help! My Chocolate Has Melted by clicking here for a quick microwave method for melting and tempering your chocolate.

Stay Tuned! An 'EZ' way to temper your chocolate, coming soon to the blog...

I want to tell you how I've been tempering chocolate for the last year. I have the perfect tool to temper chocolate quickly and efficiently, so if you are starting a chocolate-making or chocolatier business, you'll want to stay tuned for this article.