Eat Local: Celebrating National Chocolate Day in the 650

October 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here at 650Food we’re keepin’ it local for National Chocolate Day. Looking for a  chocolate indulgence made right here in the 650 to celebrate this essential food holiday? We’ve gotcha covered! (And pssst: most of the treat-makers listed below use locally and regionally produced ingredients to craft their chocolate indulgences.)

Chocolate Confections

Her Coconess Confections (Belmont): Are you a caramel lover? Then award-winning, Belmont-based Her Coconess Confections are for you! Owner Shelly Seward handmakes her elegant caramels (infused with vanilla, espresso, or chipotle), enrobes them in dark chocolate, and finishes each one with a sprinkle of flavorful salt.

Trio of Her Coconess salted caramels (left to right: Vanilla, Chipotle, Espresso)

Trio of Her Coconess salted caramels (left to right: Vanilla, Chipotle, Espresso)

If an assortment of handmade, buttery caramels weren’t enough, she also makes a Bittersweet Nibby Rocky Road that nestles roasted almonds and cocoa nibs against handmade vanilla marshmallows and covers them in a blanket of Guittard chocolate. Indulge away!
Where to Buy:
You can find Her Coconess confections at the Downtown Palo Alto Farmer’s Market and the Menlo Park Farmer’s Market (November to May) or order through the website for pickup at the commercial kitchen in Belmont.

Neo Cocoa (Belmont): If rich, fudgy chocolate ganache is your thing, then try Neo Cocoa’s “Hearts of Chocolate Truffles.”

Neo Cocoa's "hearts of chocolate truffles";

Neo Cocoa’s “hearts of chocolate truffles” (shown: Crushed Cocoa Nib and Toasted Coconut)

Eliminating the truffle’s chocolate shell, owner/chocolatier Christine Doerr has opted to focus on the inside of the truffle, by creating smooth, flavorful ganaches infused with real coffee, spices, or citrus zest. With plenty of accolades behind her — including a slew of awards and outstanding reviews — Christine is definitely getting to the hearts of chocolate lovers! The Neo Cocoa line includes 10 different flavors of infused ganaches, and there’s something for everyone. Flavors to try: Zested Lime, Almond with Smoked Sea Salt, and Toasted Coconut. Like Her Coconess, Neo Cocoa keeps it local by using Guittard Chocolate, which is made right here in the 650 (in Burlingame).
Where to Buy: Various Bay Area retailers or online. See the website for more information.

Timothy Adams (Palo Alto): Timothy Adams Chocolates is a newcomer to the 650, taking over the Bryant Avenue spot previously occupied by Monique’s Chocolates. The shop’s name is a combination of the names of its two co-owners: Timothy Woods and Adams Holland. Timothy Adams relies on local and seasonal ingredients to make their fresh, hand-rolled truffles. Truffle flavors change often, so call ahead if you’re looking for something specific. Seasonal flavors you might want to try: Apple (white-chocolate, spiced-apple ganache), Quince (housemade quince marmalade) and Pecan (housemade dark-chocolate pecan praline); all are hand-coated in rich, dark chocolate.

Timothy Adams' handmade truffles (clockwise, from upper left: Pecan, Cinnamon, Quince, Apple)

Timothy Adams’ handmade truffles (clockwise, from upper left: Pecan, Cinnamon, Quince, Apple)

If you prefer your chocolate in liquid form, Timothy Adams offers Sipping Chocolate for all tastes, from the milkiest milk (31% cacao) to middle-of-the-road dark (58% cacao) to darkest-of-dark (99% cacao).

Chocolate Ice Cream

Gelataio (Palo Alto): Craving a less-fat, creamy, dark-chocolate indulgence? Then Gelataio has what you need! Their locally made, authentic-tasting gelato has a rich, dark, cocoa flavor that isn’t cloying or powdery.

Just some of the gelati at Gelataio in Palo Alto: Chocolate, Vanilla, Stracciatella (chocolate chip)

Gelati at Gelataio in Palo Alto: Chocolate, Vanilla, Stracciatella (chocolate chip)

Prefer the chocolate in your gelato to come in chip format? Then try the Stracciatella, a rich-tasting vanilla gelato studded with chocolate chips. Or, try the chocolate-hazelnut combination, Bacio (think: Nutella meets gelato). If you need to bump up your chocolate-gelato experience, then try the chocolate-dipped gelato “pops” on a stick.

Tin Pot Creamery (Palo Alto): I’ve written previously about Palo Alto’s small-batch ice creamery, Tin Pot. Not only do they make their own ice cream at their Town & Country location — using local, organic ingredients — they also make their own sauces, cookies, and brownies! Want to indulge in a pure rich, dark-chocolate ice cream? Then go for the Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards.

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards (shown with Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl)

Rich Chocolate with TCHO Shards (shown with Sweet Cream with Honey Balsamic Swirl)

More of a milk chocolate fan? The Malted Milk with Milk Chocolate Pieces might be for you. Vegans aren’t left out either — there’s a dairy-free ChocoCoco ice cream made with coconut milk.

And if it’s baked goods you’re craving, try the Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt, Gooey Brownies, or Chocolate Walnut Cookies (gluten- and diary-free).

Speaking of baked goods… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite chocolate addictions indulgences, even thought it’s actually made in San Francisco and transported down the peninsula.

Chantal Guillon Macarons (Palo Alto): Oooh, my little macaron, how I adore you! Crispy, chewy, creamy, and chocolately — what more could a girl want from a chocolate indulgence? What I love about well-made macarons, such as Chantal Guillon’s, is the combination of flavors and textures. Back on National Macaron Day, I wrote a detailed post about macarons and why I love them. If you haven’t tried these sweet babies yet — get on over to CG!

Chocolate macarons from Chantal Guillon in Palo Alto

Chocolate macarons from Chantal Guillon in Palo Alto

Phew! I’m gonna need a chocolate detox tomorrow. What’s your favorite local chocolate indulgence? Post it here in the replies or on our Facebook page.

Hit the Road!

June 5, 2014 § 3 Comments

It’s been one of those weeks: delays, fixes, and do-overs. Nail in the tire of my car (amazingly, same time as last year’s nail in the tire — what’s up with that?!). Clogged drain. Leaking shower. Browser that keeps screeching to a halt, forcing reboots. You get the idea: one step forward, two steps back. If you subscribe to theories about the state of the Universe and all that, Mercury retrograde is already in effect. Yeah, it’s been a bit of a rocky road this week — especially with the nail in my tire. So, in the spirit of re-visits, re-do’s, and fixes, I’m fulfilling a reader request for the recipe for my Easter Rocky Road.

Easter Rocky Road: Passion fruit marshmallow pieces, dried sour cherries, roasted almonds, and 66% dark chocolate

Easter Rocky Road: Passion fruit marshmallow pieces, dried sour cherries, roasted almonds, and 66% dark chocolate

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, if you’ve got tempered chocolate, marshmallows, and roasted nuts on hand, you’re good to go. I like to add a little dried fruit to the mix for flavor and texture. You can buy or make the marshmallows, all you need to do is cut them into smaller pieces. You can also buy already-roasted nuts, or roast them yourself. The only real prep work you need for rocky road is to temper the chocolate. If you’ve tempered chocolate before and are comfortable with the process, then feel free to skip ahead to the recipe. If not, you can follow the tempering instructions on food writer Aleta Watson’s blog (adapted from a class I taught at Gamble Garden House).

The process of tempering chocolate could take up a post all unto itself (which is why I’ve referred you to Aleta’s), but if you’re new to tempering chocolate, have no fear! It’s something that you can easily learn to do with practice and patience. What is this thing called “tempering chocolate?” you might ask. In short, it’s the process of heating and melting chocolate to a specific temperature, then cooling it to a specific temperature while stirring, so that you can mold it or coat other ingredients with it. That’s it! You’re basically using time and temperature to change the structure of the chocolate so that you can shape it the way you want. (You gotta break it down to build it back up.)

Summary of the geeky, science version? When you melt chocolate, you change its crystalline structure and its physical properties. It becomes “unstable,” losing firmness, shine, and snap. Tempering is the process of re-establishing a stable crystalline structure that returns those properties of shelf-stable chocolate: crispness, shine, and snap. Want more details about the science of chocolate? Check out this article by my favorite food scientist, Shirley Corriher.

Ok, enough about tempering chocolate. Let’s hit the road!

Recipe: Easter Rocky Road
Yield: 16 pieces (2″ square) or 64 pieces (1″ square)

What you need:

Parchment paper
8 x 8 baking pan
Instant-read thermometer
Rubber spatula

Ingredients:
Note: When it comes to working with chocolate, I really recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients, rather than relying on volume measurements.

1¼ pounds of dark chocolate, 61 – 70% cacao
4.5 ounces (about 2 cups) dried sour cherries
4 ounces (about 1 cup) roasted almonds
4 ounces (about 2 cups) ½-inch marshmallow pieces (vanilla or passion fruit)

How to:

  1. Roughly chop the cherries and almonds. Cut the marshmallows into approximately ½-inch pieces.
    You’re not going for perfection here, just aim for ½-inch pieces or slightly smaller. Marshmallow pieces sticking together? Dip them in potato starch or corn starch, then shake off the excess powder in a sifter or sieve.

    Roasted almonds, dried sour cherries, passion fruit marshmallows

    Roasted almonds, dried sour cherries, passion fruit marshmallows

  2. Cut two (2) pieces of parchment paper: 8 inches wide by 12 inches long.
  3. Fit one piece of paper into the baking pan so that two sides are evenly covered.

    Pan lined with one piece of parchment paper

    Pan lined with one piece of parchment paper

  4. Turn the pan 90 degrees and fit the second piece of parchment paper into the baking pan, making sure that the sides are evenly covered.

    Pan lined with second piece of parchment paper (all sides are covered)

    Pan lined with second piece of parchment paper (all sides are covered)

  5. Temper the chocolate.
    Use your instant-read thermometer to make sure that your chocolate is at the correct working temperature (generally, 89-91ºF). If you need to, test that your chocolate is in temper by wiping a bit of liquid chocolate from the tip of your spatula onto a piece of parchment paper. The chocolate should set up firmly, with shine, within 3-5 minutes.

    Tempered chocolate at working temperature

    Tempered chocolate at working temperature, ready for the nuts, cherries, and marshmallow pieces

  6. Fold the nuts, dried fruit, and marshmallows into the chocolate with a rubber spatula, until combined.
    Keep in mind that the temperature of your ingredients — cherries, almonds, and marshmallow pieces — will be colder than the tempered chocolate. Once you add these ingredients to the chocolate, the chocolate’s temperature will drop, which means it will start to set up. Work somewhat quickly, but don’t rush. You need to combine the ingredients and transfer everything to your pan before the chocolate gets too fudgy, or you won’t be able to spread it evenly in the pan.
  7. Transfer rocky road mix to the prepared pan.
    You can see in the photo below that my mix is already starting to get fudgy along the edges — that’s the chocolate setting up (cooling and becoming firm).

    Rocky road mix in the pan

    Rocky road mix in the pan

  8. Holding both sides of the pan, bang the pan on your work surface to even out the mixture and release air bubbles.
    Seriously, pick up the pan and with a bit of force, tap the bottom of it on your work surface a couple of times, while holding onto the pan. Don’t drop it from four feet up, à la Emeril. Don’t get all medieval on its ass. Just hit it hard enough to help distribute the rocky road mixture evenly and remove any air bubbles.
  9. Put the pan in the refrigerator (top shelf) for about five minutes.
    You’re helping the chocolate set up to a point where it’s less liquid and more fudgy because you still need to cut the rocky road before it hardens.
  10. After about five minutes, remove the pan from your refrigerator.
    The rocky road should be firming up around the edges and fudgy in the middle.
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut the rocky road into either 16 pieces (4 x 4, or 2 inches square) or 64 pieces (8 x 8, or 1 inch square).
    The chocolate will continue to harden as you work, just keep that in mind as you cut, so don’t dawdle. Again, no need for perfection. Also, if you need to wipe down your knife in between cuts, make sure the blade is dry before making additional cuts. Getting water (even a small amount) in your chocolate can cause your chocolate to seize. You don’t want that.

    Cutting 2-inch squares of rocky road in the pan

    Cutting 2-inch squares of rocky road in the pan

  12. Once the chocolate seems firm (but not hard) in the center, remove the rocky road from the pan.
    Hold the sides of the parchment paper and pull the rocky road up and out of the pan. It should come out in one piece. out-of-pan-1
  13. Again, using a sharp knife, go over your cuts, making sure that the knife goes all the way through, and that you can separate the pieces.

    Almost finished and ready to eat!

    Almost finished and ready to eat!

  14. If your kitchen is on the warm side, put the pieces on a sheet pan (cookie sheet) and return the rocky road to the top shelf of the refrigerator for five minutes to help the chocolate finish hardening.
    Otherwise, let them continue to harden on your work surface. Or, you know, start enjoying them now. Just know that the chocolate will continue to harden.
  15. Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to four weeks.

 

Shop Local: Palo Alto Farmers’ Market

May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

The Downtown Farmers’ Market in Palo Alto is one of my favorite weekend markets in the 650. It’s a small market, but with an abundant selection of local produce and hand-crafted foods. For many years it was my go-to market on Saturday mornings from spring through late fall. During the Gâteau et Ganache years, my first stop was always Full Belly Farm for organic lemon verbena and peppermint for Gâteau et Ganache’s spring/summer collection bonbons, and then Green Oaks Creek Farm for sweet, juicy strawberries. If there was time, I’d run by Blue Heron for baby lettuces and broccoli, just to be sure that I had some fresh dinner food for the week.

Checking out what's fresh at the PA Saturday Farmers' Market

Checking out what’s fresh at the PA Saturday Farmers’ Market

Now that I’m getting a regular CSA delivery, and my little garden is starting to flourish, fresh food is basically on my doorstep. I don’t need to get out to farmers’ markets as often, and yet, that’s still where I want to be on a weekend morning. There’s something about a sunny spring or summer weekend morning that just about requires spending some time at a farmers’ market — admiring beautiful, fresh produce, chatting with food producers, and fantasizing about new dishes to make at home. Maybe farmers’ markets are for cooks what music stores are to musicians: a place full of possibilities.

This past Saturday I was up at the crack-of-way-too-early-for-a-holiday-weekend, but with good reason: I was waiting for the delivery of my new dishwasher. (Yay, no more resetting the breaker to make the machine go! No more re-washing dishes that didn’t get clean the first time!) Fortunately, the delivery guys arrived on time and completed the installation by mid-morning. Perfect timing to head to Palo Alto to get my market fix. With no shopping list and no schedule, I was able to just wander the market, enjoying the experience. Here are some of the highlights.

Eat the Rainbow
Color was everywhere — fruits, vegetables, flowers — and it felt like summer already! Full Belly had a pretty display of lettuces, rainbow chard, and kale. Gorgeous? Sure — and good for you, too. If you need any incentive to eat more veggies, here ya go:

Colorful organic greens from Full Belly Farms

Colorful organic greens from Full Belly Farm

Herbalicious
Fresh herbs can make the difference between an ok dish and something really flavorful and special. Lemon verbena (one of my favorites!), rosemary, oregano, and chives — just for starters — are plentiful right now. Full Belly and Coke Farm had good assortments of fresh, organic herbs.

Fresh herbs from Full Belly Farms

Fresh herbs from Full Belly Farm: Lemon verbena front and center

There’s a Mulberry Guy
The Mulberry Guy has taken over the spot where Green Oaks Creek used to be. *sigh* I really miss those strawberries, but hey… mulberries? That’s new and intriguing. Unfortunately, I arrived after the mulberries had already sold out (turns out they’re really popular and had sold out within the first hour or so of the market opening), but stayed to chat with business owner Kevin Lynch. I love the story of this business: the mulberries are grown locally — within a mile of the market location — and like most small food businesses, it’s a labor of love. Talk about Grow Local — Buy Local — Eat local! If you’re a fan of mulberries or just want to know more, clicky on over to themulberryguy.com.

The Mulberry Guy: locally grown mulberries (as in: a mile from the market)

The Mulberry Guy: Palo Alto-grown mulberries, jam, and honey

Hail Her Coconess
One of the cool things (for me) about spending time at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market is getting to visit with other artisan food producers. I met Shelly Seward, creator-owner of Her Coconess Confections, several years ago at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, when we were both exhibiting at the show. Shelly hand-produces award-winning, classic treats such as Rocky Road and Salted Caramels in a facility in Belmont and sells them throughout the Bay Area. (Yep, that’s right — Her Coconess is home-grown in the 650!)  In case you’re wondering: yes, there are samples. Be sure to try ’em. Want to know more about Her Coconess? Check out the website.

Shelly Seward: Owner/confectioner/creator of Her Coconess, award-winning confections

Shelly Seward: Owner/confectioner/creator of Her Coconess, award-winning confections

Aw, Nuts!
After some sweet samples and catching up with Shelly, I stepped “next-door” to visit Nut ‘n Bean to try something more savory. Nut ‘n Bean is a young Hayward-based business making nut butters, dips, and spreads. While chatting with co-owner Katie Griffin, I tried the Blueberry Almond and Orange Honey Cashew nut butters. Both were delish, with a nice balance between the toasted nut and fresh fruit flavors, without being too sweet (Katie says the nut butters have very little added sugar). Knowing that I still had a few nut other butters in the fridge at home, I moved on to  try the Chipotle Lime Almond Dip and the Jalepeno Cilantro Cashew Cheese. Oh. My. Yes, please!

Katie of Nut n' Bean nut butters, dips, and spreads

Katie Griffin of Nut ‘n Bean with the goods: nut butters, dips, and spreads

The Chipotle Lime Almond Dip has the consistency of a whipped cream cheese, with a nice nutty, smoked-pepper flavor that’s got just the right amount of spice. It’s perfect with rice crackers and sweet potato corn chips (or, erm, a spoon, right out of the container). The Jalepeno Cilantro Cashew Cheese has a softer, more sauce-like consistency, and while it works as a dip, is fabulous as a sauce on grilled wild salmon (or seared tofu or baked chicken or…). Nut ‘n Bean has a serious product line, and something for every taste and diet. Vegan? Paleo? Gluten-free? You’ll love Nut ‘n Bean. Check ’em out at the market or online.

Nut n'Bean: Cashew Jalepeno-Cilantro Dip and Almond Chipotle-Lime spread

Nut ‘n Bean: Cashew Jalepeno-Cilantro Dip and Almond Chipotle-Lime spread

Overall, a fun trip to the market. And yes, I came home with enough food to make plenty of dirty dishes and try out my new dishwasher — booyah!

Details
What: Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market
Where: Gilman Street & Hamilton Avenue
Directions: Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market website
Saturdays, mid-May through mid-December: 8am-12pm
Parking: Street and nearby lots

Marshmallows and Chocolate, Oh My!

April 20, 2014 § 3 Comments

I was feeling a bit nostalgic for Easter treats this week and decided to pull something from the Gâteau et Ganache archives: passion fruit daisy marshmallows. For years I made a spring trio of fruit marshmallows — strawberry, passion fruit, and lemon — cut into daisy shapes and finished with a button of dark chocolate in the center. They’re super-cute, easy to make, and one of my favorite treats for Easter. (Plus, they make nice gifts!)

Passion fruit marshmallows with a dark chocolate button

Passion fruit marshmallows with a dark chocolate button

Unfortunately, cutting those fun shapes leaves a lot of marshmallow “waste.” What to do with the leftover marshmallow bits — the pieces in between the daisy cutouts — not to mention the extra pound of chocolate I’d tempered? Oh sure, you could eat them, but I wanted a creative food-waste solution. And then it came to me: Rocky Road! I’ve always thought of Rocky Road as a classic American confection, but according to Wikipedia, it was created in Australia. Who knew?! (Hey, necessity is the mother of invention.) I know, Rocky Road isn’t exactly a typical Easter confection, but it does have the key elements: Chocolate and Marshmallows.

While not much in the baking and confection world can be done on the fly (one of the things I love about the sweet kitchen: precision matters, generally), Rocky Road is one treat that doesn’t really need a hard-and-fast recipe. If you’ve got tempered chocolate, marshmallows, and roasted nuts on hand, you’re good to go. By the way, tempering chocolate at home is absolutely do-able, and there are plenty of instructions out there on the internet. Need a place to start? Try food writer Aleta Watson’s Skillet Chronicles blog, in which she adapts my tempering instructions from a chocolate class I taught. (Thanks Aleta! 🙂 )

Ta-dah! My Easter Rocky Road made with 61% dark chocolate, passion fruit marshmallows, dried sour cherries, and roasted, salted almonds. The result is a treat that combines textures and flavors: soft, sweet, fruity, tart, salty, crunchy, nutty, and of course, chocolatey. Yep — all that in just a couple of bites (not to mention a solution for those marshmallow leftovers)!

Rocky Road with passion fruit marshmallows, dried sour cherries, and roasted almonds

Rocky Road with passion fruit marshmallows, dried sour cherries, and roasted almonds

That’s what I’m enjoying for Easter this year. What are your Easter indulgences or nostalgic Easter treats?

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