Tag: cocoa nibs

It’s not a Sundae

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This is the realization of an ice cream dream flavor.   Presented above is yerba mate ice cream, fernet spiked fudge, fresh mint candy, candied cocoa nibs, and creme chantilly.

The vanilla ice cream base is infused with mate tea before it is spun.  A rich, thick, gooey dark chocolate fudge is finished with a moderate hand of fernet- a minty herbaceous digestif that is a staple in the Argentinian liquor palette.  Here I combine two flavors that demonstrate a large culinary influence in Argentinian culture.

The ice cream is complimented with two crunchy textural items- a crumbly mint candy and the harder cocoa nib.  The mint candy is a simple ingredient that I am very proud of.  It is a method that I contrived by trial and a small dash of non-intention, or coincidence perhaps.  I wanted to make a candy cane concept that was crushed.  The main issue is that when you crush sugar candies they leave sharp shards that can impale the tongue.  I figured that candy canes must be made from pulled sugar, and from there I intentionally created sugar crystals.  Normally the crystallization of sugar in an end product is a mistake- it changes the entire texture to that of a sandy nature.  I took that effect and manipulated  it into a desirable form.  These large crumbles have a strong flavor of fresh mint leaves, that quickly dissipate after a few rounds with the teeth.

I am pretty much obsessed with candied cocoa nibs- they are just divine.  This very rich and bitter little nugget of raw cocoa responses alarmingly well to a dose of sugar-coating.

The final touch to the dish is a dollop of whip cream, a refreshing cloud of creaminess to lift the dish up, to add some air to the web of flavors and textures.

 

3 Leche Spring

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Because the concept of the 3 leche cake- a Latin American iconic confection, a cake soaked with 3 types of milk until soggy, is limited to white cake and milk soak.  I love this concept and I want to build upon this classic dessert with a curious twist, with fanciful flavors, and whimsical undertones.

In this rendition, I made a cajeta sweetened cake (cajeta is goat’s milk and sugar cooked down to a caramel flavor and consistency- when it is cooking it fills the entire restaurant with the scent of snickerdoodle cookies.  This is a heavenly smell and produces an equally heavenly end product) that is then soaked with the traditional 3 leches, but with goat’s milk replacing the cream, and further fortified with chocolate to make a unique chocolate milk soak.  This lightly sweet, slightly chocolaty and caramel cake is served with Brazil nut streusel (for crunch and a nice nut flavor that resembles the Macadamia nut), acai purée (a small dark purple berry valued for its high nutritional content and subtle blueberry flavor), candied cocoa nibs (a pure form of chocolate) to enhance the chocolate notes in the dish, and cajeta chantilly (whip cream sweetened with cajeta) to balanced out the heavy liquid with a cloud like aura.

This dish is reflective of the season.  This is a spring dish in the ingredients used, the textures represented, and the earthy presentation.  This dish is modeled after the soggy spring, with lush, muddy ground waiting to sprout new growth.  The chocolate soak mimics the wet and fertile ground.  The streusel mimics broken up, freshly tilled soil in appearance and texture.  Because of limited local seasonal availability,  I used the hard to source acai berry to add a fruity flavor that interacts very well with the established flavors of the cake.  Early spring, right off winter, is the season to focus on frozen and preserved foods, and highlight them in the menu when you have the chance to search to globe for ingredients.  If you are going to use a frozen product, you mind as well use one that invokes curiosity and is not readily available to the average person.

Finally the whipped cream adds such a soft touch, light as the spring’s warmth, to round of the overall mouth feel.  The flavors are not too bold, except for the tiny explosion of flavor in the cocoa nibs- as a final lasting impression.

 

 

Basic Inspirations, Take 2

Part II, Chocolate

Like vanilla, chocolate is also a labor intensive and highly refined product.  While vanilla is the most fickle during the initial growing process, the science behind chocolate shines in the post growing production.  Also similar to vanilla, chocolate will only grow 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

Long before chocolate became a common ingredient, the Aztecs believed the chocolate was food from the gods, given to the humans by a rouge deity who later got punished for introducing this amazing ingredient to the humans.  How this myth got started is very believable, considering how non appealing the fruit growing on the tree it.  It looks like a giant papaya, the natural fruit looks nothing like the final product.  It is hard to believe that humans figured out this process without divine intervention.

Chocolate was used as a form of currency in ancient times and as soon as the revolutionary war.

Chocolate is the final product made with cacao as a base. In raw form, cacao is very bitter and needs to be fermented to develop taste.  After the fermentation process, the beans are dried and roasted to further develop flavor.  The shell is then removed, separating out the cocoa nibs.  The Mayans used part of the outer shell as a fermented sugar to make liquor, a  tradition that has stopped with the demise of the civilization.  I bet this liquor was delicious.  Chocolate was served as a frothy bitter beverage, flavored with vanilla, used as medicine and valued for its aphrodisiac properties.

Although this process has largely not changed since ancient times, this is where the development of chocolate stopped until it was introduced to the Spanish, who took it one step further.  The Spanish added sugar, segueing chocolate into the confection that we know today.  In 1815 a Dutch chemist figured out a way to make chocolate less bitter by adding alkaline salt.  In 1850 a Quaker figured out how to add melted cocoa butter back into pressed chocolate, giving chocolate the solid form that we know today.  In 1875 a Swedish man added milk and mild powder to chocolate, forming the Nestle company and really changing the face of chocolate.

After the cacao is shelled, the cocoa nibs are further broken down to create cocoa mass and cocoa butter.  These are then recombined to create the ideal blend of mass and butter for mouth feel and structure.  After the chocolate is blended, it goes through a process called conching.  A container is filled with metal beads that act a grinders, making the chocolate and sugar granules so small that the tongue cannot detect any particles or grittiness.  This process can take up to 72 hours.

After this step, the chocolate must be tempered so that the fat crystals align in such a way to create a uniform structure.  This is done through a particular formula of time, temperature, and movement.  This process is one of the steps that makes working with chocolate so difficult.  Once chocolate is melted down, the crystal struck has collapsed.  It must be built back up again with this closely monitored system.  If not done properly, the chocolate with crumble instead of snap, very important for mouth feel and structural integrity of the final product

The different percentages of chocolate and the corresponding bitterness is a result of adding back in cocoa butter, sugar, milk.  These are then recombined to create different percentage of chocolate, the most popular being unsweetened, semisweet, dark chocolate 65%, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.

Although native to Mexico, West Africa grows 2/3 of chocolate, half of this coming from the ivory coast.  Given how laborious and long the process of making chocolate is, there is no surprise that slavery plantations sprung up to deal with growing demand of this amazing product.  Although slavery is now demeaned inhumane, we currently still have a problem with child slavery.  There are some chocolate products labeled fair trade, but surprisingly, child slavery still exists.  The demand for cheap and available product has created a situation that is beyond immoral and very upsetting.

Outside of a tasty confection, chocolate has long been used as a form of medicine.  It is high in antioxidants, reduces heart burn, and is an anti inflammatory.  Not only is chocolate delicious, its history complex, the uses for chocolate are seemly endless.