Monday, October 31, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, Octobe 31, 2011; Cake Basics

Let them eat cake, many kinds!
Since the time I started baking in my mother’s kitchen back in Colorado cakes have been one of my favorite things to bake. There is just something magic about the transformation from batter to cake. Then the flexibility of what desserts can be made from the cake; whether it is the simplicity of macerated fruit with a slice of angel food cake or a beautifully decorated wedding cake. 
This week I will be discussing basic formulas of cakes and the methods most commonly used to make them.
The following are the basic cake formulas with the most common methods used in each formula:
  • High-fat or shortened cakes
    • Creaming method
    • Two-stage method
    • One-stage (liquid shortening) method
    • Flour-batter method
  • Low-fat or foam-type cakes
    • Sponge method
    • Angel food method
    • Chiffon method
There are three main goals when mixing cakes:
  • Combine all ingredients into a smooth, uniform batter
Two of the main ingredients in cakes, by nature are unmixable, water (also in milk and eggs) and fat. To achieve the goal of mixing the ingredients smoothly it is important to use the correct fat, have ingredients at room temperature, mix each step correctly, do not add liquids to quickly and add the proper amount of liquid.
  • To form and incorporate air cells in the batter.
Air cells in batters are important for texture and for leavening. A fine, smooth texture is the result of small, uniform air cells, Large or irregular air cells  result in a coarse texture. Proper ingredients, ingredient temperature as well as mixing are vital to creating the proper air cells. Example: Granulated sugar should always be used unless otherwise specified as powdered sugar is not strong enough to support air cell development.
  • To develop the proper texture in the finished product.
Both uniform mixing of ingredients and the formation of air cells are important to a cakes structure. Another factor of mixing that affects is gluten development. Gluten development is affected by the type of flour used (different types of flour contain varying amounts of protein or gluten). It is important to use the correct type of flour called for in the recipe. Under-mixing or over-mixing can also affect the development of gluten.
Adapted from Professional Baking: Fifth Edition by Wayne Gisslen; John Wiley and Sons, Publishers
Now that you know the basics of cake making I will start discussing the methods tomorrow and give you examples of cakes that use the methods.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, October 28, 2011; Spatulas

Lift, Turn, Flip!

How did so many tools in the kitchen come to be known as spatulas? The term spatula is used to refer to various small implements with a broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread and lift food.

Often when mixing food we use a heat resistant or silicon spatula to stir items over the stove as we cook them. The pliable tool allows us to cleanly scrape the sides and bottom of the pot or bowl we are cooking in. These spatulas usually have one 90 degree corner and one curved corner to assist in scraping food from the edges of the pan or dish being cooked in. Some are shaped like a spoon and referred to as spoonulas. They are great for mixing thinner batters and sauces but are not well suited for thicker mixtures like frostings or doughes.

Spatulas are often used when cooking on the stove or grill to turn or lift the food being cooked. These spatulas can be metal, plastic and more recently silicone or silicone covered metal. Plastic or silicone are well suited for non-stick cookware to prevent scratching. Plastic spatulas can melt at higher temperatures therefore silicone versions are quickly taking there place because of its tolerance for high heat. You will also find solid or slotted versions of spatulas, each serves a different purpose depending on what you are cooking. Slotted spatulas allow the food being lifted to drain.

Cake decorators also use spatulas when icing cakes. There are usually two common versions that come in multiple sizes, the straight spatula and the offset spatula. Which one to use is often a personal preference. I have found the straight spatula is best for icing the tops of the layers and the offset is best for icing the sides. An advantage of the offset is that it keeps your hand away from the surface you are icing.

As promised here is a recipe that will use several of the utensils I have discussed this week:

Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Custard Sauce)

Stage 1

12 ea. Egg Yolks
8 oz. Sugar

1. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a stainless-steel bowl. Whip until thick and light.

Stage 2

1 quart milk

2. Scald milk in a boiling water bath or over direct heat.
3. Very gradually pour the scalded milk into the egg yolk mixture while stirring constantly with the whip.
4. Set the bowl over simmering water (bain marie). Heat it slowly, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (or until it reaches 185˚F).

Stage 3

1 Tbsp. Vanilla

5. Immediately remove the bowl from the heat, strain through a wire mesh strainer and set in a pan of cool water. Stir in vanilla. Stir the sauce occasionally as it cools.

For a richer crème anglaise, substitute heavy cream for up to half of the milk. To flavor with a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, first split the bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the pulp from inside the bean with a paring knife. Add the pulp and the split bean two the milk heating in step 2. You can also run a whole nutmeg over a microplane grater 2 or 3 times before heating.
Chocolate Crème Anglaise
Melt 6 oz. sweetened chocolate. Stir into the Crème Anglaise.

And yes I used 4 of the utensils from this weeks posts!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, October 27, 2011; Graters

Grating Can Be Fun...Really?
Do you have that one or two things that just aren’t your favorite things to do in the kitchen? Mine used to be chopping vegetables and fruit until I learned the proper way to do it in school. Now I would have to say that grating is my least favorite task. There are many different grating devices available now and if you have the proper ones for what you are grating it will make the job much easier.

The box grater is what I grew up using for everything that needed grated. It usually has at least four different grating surfaces. A fine blade for grating hard cheeses like parmesan and also chocolate. The course blade for grating most vegetables and softer cheeses. A slicer designed for a variety of vegetables and the last side a ginger grater. I have to admit was never exposed to fresh ginger as a kid so never new how to use the fourth side. The box grater is great for grating smaller amounts of food.

The microplane grater has become widely used in kitchens today. Microplane graters vary in size but the surface is usually the same. There are a series of small raised blades with super sharp edges. As the name would imply this grater is perfect for achieving finely grated product. A microplane is perfect for zesting citrus, grating fresh nutmeg, hard cheeses and garlic.
Tip for zesting citrus with a microplane: Hold the fruit in the palm of your secondary hand, palm up. With your other hand draw the microplane over the top of the fruit using a motion as if you were filing the fingernails of the hand holding the fruit. This will result in the microplane holding the zest and allow you to estimate when you have zested the amount needed.

Most modern food processors and some stand mixers come with attachments for grating foods. These attachments are great for doing large jobs but the process of getting them ready to grate can often take longer than grating on a simple box grater.

Which ever device you decide on grating should no longer grate on you!

As I mentioned yesterday I will add a recipe tomorrow that will use several of the tools I have discussed this week. The one I am thinking will used at least 3 and maybe 4. Can you guess what it is?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, October 26, 2011; Strainers

Got Lumps? Don’t Stress, Strain
There are many reasons to stress in the kitchen but with so many options available for straining, lumps in a sauce should not be one of them. I remember for many years there were only a couple of options available for straining, a wire mesh strainer (also referred to as a tea strainer where I was raised) and cheesecloth. Both still have there purpose in the kitchen but today I will discuss other options. As with many things the ease of transport and availability off the internet have mad these options readily available for every cook.

Probably the best strainer and most likely the most expensive you can buy is the chinoise (shin'-wahz) or chinois (shin'-wah), french for chinese. It gets its name because it is shaped like a traditional chinese hat. It is a conical shaped very fine mesh surrounded by a metal cage to keep it from getting damaged. It gives your purees, sauces, custards or soups a very smooth consistency. Thinner items will strain easily through it but thicker items may need to be worked through with a wooden spoon.

Similar to the chinoise but less expensive and less affective is the china cap strainer. Usually made from metal with small holes punched in it. It is used like the chinois but does not achieve the same smoothness.

Wire mesh strainers are widely available in many sizes and even different gauges of mesh. Because of their economical value and ease of storing they are the most common strainer used in a household. Their effectiveness can be increased by lining them with cheesecloth or a coffee filter depending on what result is desired.

If you are making jellies or something that requires you to cook fruit, puree it and strain the juice, there is a device called a jelly strainer bag. It is a cloth bag that attaches to a stand and can be stood over a pot to catch the resulting juice.

The most economical ways to strain are using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. both require something to hold them so you can pour into them. The advantage of cheesecloth is the ability to gather it and press out the contents.

A couple tips for straining: Used frying oil can be strained through a coffee filter in a mesh strainer or colander for using again. The oil will strain slowly, keep the filter filled as the weight of the oil will help it strain faster. Second, when making fruit purees with berries, puree the fruit in a blender then place in a chinois or wire mesh strainer and press through to get a sauce without the seeds.

Look for a recipe here on Friday that will use more than one tool I have discussed this week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday October 25, 2011; Double Boilers

Don't Get Into A Sticky Situation!

Ever find yourself making a sauce and all of the sudden it curdles or sticks to the pan and burns? What about melting chocolate and it burns? Using a double boiler will help prevent these common pitfalls.

A double boiler allows you to fill the bottom pan with water and put your food on top. The water is heated and the food is gently heated. The process gives you more control over the amount of heat than cooking directly on the burner. Double boilers are usually preferred for cooking sauces that contain eggs, sauces that are high in starch and melting chocolates.
A double boiler is also referred to by its French name, bain-marie. Sometimes cookware sets come with a double boiler insert to use with a saucepan. A simple bain-marie can be made by placing a stainless steel bowl large enough to sit on a saucepan of water without falling in. A metal bowl is preferred over glass as glass can break if heat fluctuates to much.
Two tips when using a double boiler: When melting chocolate do not stir too soon, chocolate will hold its shape until almost completely melted if not stirred. By waiting until the chocolate becomes very shiny you avoid having lumps in the chocolate that are hard to detect. Second, when removing the top of the double boiler to pour contents into another container, always wipe the condensation off before pouring. This will prevent getting moisture in your sauce. It is extremely important when melting chocolate as water will make the chocolate seize.
I hope your sauces are smooth as silk from now on!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Drizzle in the Forecast, Chili in the Kitchen

Once fall hits and the weather stays on the cooler side for extended periods I start feeling like making warm spicy recipes. When the forecast is for overcast and possible drizzle nothing sounds better than a nice chili simmering on the stove. I have made the following recipe since it was published in Bon Appetit in 1993.

Red, White and Black Chili
Bon Appétit | March 1993
Yield: Serves 4
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds Italian sausages (turkey or pork)
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes in puree
1 15 1/4-ounce kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained, rinsed
1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
Sour cream
Chopped fresh cilantro
Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add Italian sausages and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to plate. Add chopped onion to pan and sauté 5 minutes. Add chopped bell peppers and chilies and sauté 1 minute. Add chili powder and cumin and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and beans. Simmer 15 minutes to blend flavors. Cut sausage into 1/2-inch pieces. Add to chili and simmer until cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in vinegar. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 day ahead. Cool and refrigerate. Before serving, rewarm over medium heat.)
Spoon chili into bowls. Top with sour cream and cilantro and serve.

Culinary IQ: Monday, October 24, 2011; Sifters

To Sift Or Not To Sift? That Is The Question.

This week I will take on some of the tools used in the kitchen, some common and some not so common.

Today I am going to discuss the sifter. Why we use it and the different options available.
The main purposes for sifting ingredients is to first mix them together. Second, to remove any lumps that may be present and last to lighten the mixture of dry ingredients so it won’t weigh down the wet ingredients you are mixing it into.
My favorite sifter is the stainless steel crank sifter. I have had one in my kitchen every since I was a kid. I like it because you can put it directly in the container you are sifting into and measure into it. Then you crank the handle to turn the wire paddle inside agains the mesh basket. The sifter holds an adequate amount of ingredients for most recipes but can be too small for recipes with a large amount of dry ingredients to be sifted together.

Similar to the stainless steel crank sifter is the squeeze sifter. I have used this type of sifter from time to time. Most of the ones I have used actually hold a smaller quantity of dry ingredients that the crank type. There is a mechanism on the handle that you squeeze resulting in a pinwheel type metal wheel rotating back and forth against a metal mesh to sift the ingredients. My experience has been that it takes longer than the crank model to sift the ingredients and the motion needed to sift the ingredients is very tiring to your hand.

In researching for this post I also found a sifter that sifts the ingredients by simply shaking the sifter. I have never used this type of sifter before but again the capacity of the sifter looked small and it seems that it could be messy if ingredients are shaken out by shaking to aggressively.

A wire mesh strainer can also be used to sift dry ingredients. Simply place the strainer on a piece of parchment, wax paper, or even foil and fill with the ingredients. Rub the ingredients against the mesh above the paper until completely sifted. The ingredients can then be folded in the paper and added as directed in the recipe. The benefit of sifting this way is that you can use a larger strainer and sift large quantities of dry ingredients.

Placing dry ingredients in a food processor and pulsing will also achieve similar results to sifting. The ingredients will be mixed and any lumps will be removed. The final results may not be as light as the sifted ones.
When sifting ingredients for a recipe it is important to follow the recipe. Usually directions for sifting of dry ingredients are given in the instructions but from time to time they can be given in the ingredient list. Example: 2 cups sifted flour vs. 2 cups flour, sifted. The first 2 cups sifted flour means to sift the flour and then measure it; the latter, 2 cups flour, sifted means to measure the flour and then sift it. Sifting flour changes the measurable volume and therefore not following the recipe can have negative affects on your finished product.
So to answer the question, to sift or not to sift? I say follow the recipe.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, October 21, 2011; Chocolate Brands

What Is Your Favorite Brand?

What is your favorite kind of chocolate to bake with? I have always been a major chocolate eater so when I started baking in my childhood most of the things I baked had chocolate in them. I was raised in the midwest and when it came to availability of chocolate products the variety was limited. For cocoa powder Hershey’s was the only brand available. Chocolate chips were Nestle. Sweet, bittersweet and unsweetened was Baker’s. White chocolate was almost impossible to find.

I assume it was the opening up of the global market that made imported brands more available at more reasonable prices. It has also allowed for more premium brands to be made in the United States. Brands like Valrhona, Guittard, Cacao-Barry, Lindt, Scharffen Berger and Ghirardelli as well as other domestic and imported brands are now widely available at the local grocer and specialty markets. Fair trade and organic chocolates are also available.
I will argue with one exception which I will discuss later that the chocolate you prefer is simply preference of taste and characteristics. Anyone that insists that a chocolate must be imported or from a premium maker is nothing more than a chocolate snob. One of my favorite recipes that I have been making for years is a dark chocolate cake made with Hershey’s cocoa powder. I would pit it against any cake out there. The one exception I mentioned earlier are store brand baking chocolate products. I am convinced the ratios of the more expensive ingredients are compromised in order to make the product more economical to produce.
What ever your preference I hope you keep making chocolate goodies! The world would be a very sad place without them. The following is a chocolate cake recipe from Bon Appetit that I am sure you will enjoy (no it is not the Hershey’s one, I don’t give that one up that easy).
Chocolate Stout Cake
The dark beer known as stout gives this cake an intense, not-too-sweet flavor. Makes 12 servings
Ingredients Cake
2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process) 
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preparation cake
• Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch- high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
• Sift flour, baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl and whisk in sugar to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
• Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
• Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.
Next week I will be discussing kitchen tools. If you have any tools you would like to know about, please let me know.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, October 20, 2011; Chocolate Substitutions

OMG! I Don't Have Cocoa

Because cocoa is the same as bitter chocolate, only with less cocoa butter, it is often possible to substitute one product for the other. Shortening is usually used to take the place of the missing fat. However, different fats behave differently in baking. Regular shortening, for example, has about twice the shortening power of cocoa butter, so only half as much is needed in many products, such as cakes. The procedures below take this difference into account.
Because of these varying factors as well as the different baking properties of cakes, cookies, and other products, it is recommended that you test-bake a small batch when making a substitution in formula. You can make additional adjustments, if necessary. No single substitution ratio is adequate for all purposes.

Procedure for Substituting Natural Cocoa for Bitter Chocolate

1. Multiply the weight of the chocolate by 5/8. The result is the amount of cocoa to use.
2.Subtract the weight of the cocoa from the original weight of chocolate. Divide this difference by 2. The result is the amount shortening to add to the formula.

Example: Replace 1 lb chocolate with natural cocoa.
5/8 × 16 oz = 10 oz cocoa
(16 − 10 = 6) ÷ 2 = 3 oz shortening.

Procedure for Substituting Bitter Chocolate for Natural Cocoa

1. Multiply the weight of the cocoa b y 8/5. The result is the amount of chocolate to use.
2. Subtract the weight of cocoa from the weight of the chocolate. Dived by 2. Reduce the weight of shortening in the mix by this amount.

Example: Substitute bitter chocolate for 1 lb natural cocoa
8/5 × 16 oz = 26 oz chocolate (rounded off)
(26 − 16 = 10) ÷ 2 = 5 oz less shortening

*Methods featured in Professional Baking, Fifth Edition by Wayne Gisslen. © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Of course it always best to use the real thing to get the best results but who hasn't ended up in the kitchen late at night trying to make their favorite chocolate recipe only to find that you don't have the right chocolate? Hopefully this will help you out if you find yourself in a bind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, October 19, 2011; Chocolate and Cocoa

Chocolate and Cocoa
Chocolate and cocoa are derived from cocoa or cacao beans. When the beans are fermented, roasted, and ground, the resulting product is call chocolate liquor, which contains a white or yellowish fat called cocoa butter.
Cocoa is the dry powder that remains after part of the cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor. Dutch process cocoa, or dutched cocoa, is processed with an alkali. It is slightly darker, smoother in flavork and more easily dissolved in liquids than is natural cocoa.
Unsweetened or Bitter Chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate is straight chocolate liquor. It contains no sugar and has a strongly bitter taste. Because it is molded in blocks, it is also referred to as block cocoa or cocoa block. It is used to flavor items that have other sources of sweetness.
Unsweetened chocolate is also known as bitter chocolate. Do not confuse this product with bittersweet chocolate which is a category of sweetened chocolate with a low sugar content.
In some less expensive brands, some of the cocoa butter may be replaced by another fat.
Sweet Chocolate
Sweet chocolate is bitter chocolate with the addition of sugar and cocoa butter in various proportions. If the percentage of sugar is low, sweetened chocolate may be called semisweet or, with even less sugar, bittersweet. Most chocolate used for baking or cooking usually display of percentage such as, Bittersweet 70%. The percentate refers to the percentage of cocoa liquor contained in the product.
Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate to which milk solids have been added. It is usually used as coating chocolate and in various confections. It is seldom melted and the incorporated in batters because it contains a relatively low proportion of chocolate liquor.
Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is the fat pressed out of chocolate liquor when cocoa is processed. Its main purpose in baking is to thin melted chocolate to a proper consistency.
White Chocolate
White chocolate consists of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids. It is used primarily in confectionery. Technically, it should not be called chocolate, because it contains no chocolate solids.
Tomorrow I will discuss how to substitute cocoa for bitter chocolate and vis versa and coming Friday my discussion of various brands of baking chocolates and a delicious chocolate recipe! 

Adapted from: Professional Baking, Fifth Edition: Wayne Gisslen. John Wiley and Sons, Publishers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, October 18, 2011; Production of Chocolate

Production of Chocolate
Chocolate is produced from the seeds of a tropical tree called the cocoa or, mor properly, cacao tree. As with coffee, the quality of cocoa is sensitive to growing conditions, so cocoa from the best growing regions commands the highest prices. Cocoa trees produce large pods full of seeds called cocoa beans.
After the pods are harvested, the beans are quickly removed and allowed to ferment until they lose most of their moisture. There are several  ways of doing this, but the traditional lmethod is to spread them between layers of banana leaves and leave them for several days, turning them often so they ferment evenly
The chemical changes that take place during fermentation turn the beans from yellowish to brown and begin to develop the flavor. The fermented beans are next dried in the open air. The fermented beans are next dried in the open air, because they still contaion a great deal of moisture. The dried beans are now ready to be shipped to processors. A single tree yields only 1 to 2 pounds of dried beans.
Cocoa processors clean the dried beans thoroughly and the roast them. The true flavor of the cocoa develops during roasting, and the temperature and degree of roasting are important factors in the quality of the finished chocolate. After roasting, the beans are cracked and shells removed. The broken particles of cocoa that result are called nibs. Nibs contain more than 50 percent fat, in the form of cocoa butter, and very little moisture.
Grinding the nibs produces a paste and releases the cocoa butter from inside the cell walls. This paste is called chocolate liquor or cocoa mass and is the basis of chocolate production. When chocolate liquor cools, it sets into a hard block. (Chocolate liquor contains no alcohol, in spite of its slightly misleading name.)
The next stage of manufacturing is to separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter. This is done with powerful hydraulic presses that squeeze out the melted fat, leaving hard cakes that are then ground into cocoa powder. Meanwhile, the cocoa butter is purified to remove odor and color.
To manufacture chocolate, the cocoa powder is blended with sugar and in the case of milk chocolate, milk solids. These ingredients are ground and blended together. At this point comes the critical procedure called conching. This is a two-stage process that first removes additional moisture and refines the flavor. During the second stage of conching, cocoa butter is added back and the liquid mass is ground and mixed for hours or even days to develop a fine, smooth texture. In general, higher-quality, more expensive chocolates derive their superior texture from longer conching. Finally, the liquid chocolate is tempered and molded into blocks for sale.

Tomorrow I will discuss dark, milk and white chocolate.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coq Au Vin: Under Pressure

We have been testing several recipes in the kitchen for use in a pressure cooker. We are currently testing 5 electric and one stove top model. It is very interesting to see how they all compare to each other.
We have tested them with chicken stock, a brunswick stew, baked beans, cheesecake and Coq Au Vin. The amazing thing about pressure cookers is how quickly they cook. Everything except the cheesecake has been successful. We will continue to test the cheesecake until we get it correct. One of the most delicious recipes we have tested is for Coq Au Vin.
Look for the recipes and recommendations on the pressure cookers coming in future issues.
Remember to check back tomorrow for my blog on processing chocolate!

Culinary IQ: Monday, October 17, 2011; Source of Chocolate

5 Days of Chocolate! Is It Enough?
Where Chocolate Comes From
Cacao Around the Globe 

Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (also known as a cocoa bean) which grows in pod-like fruits on tropical cacao trees.
Ground up and roasted, cacao beans are the all-natural raw material for the chocolate we love. While there are 5 regions in which chocolate is grown in the world most of the chocolate we eat has its roots in Africa, which generates about 70% of the world’s cacao beans.
Kinds of Trees: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario

There are three main kinds of cacao trees grown throughout the world, each with their own flavor profiles and growth characteristics. There also are hundreds and hundreds of different hybrids.
  1. Forastero: Forastero, the main bulk bean, accounts for about 90 percent of all beans. It has a clean chocolate flavor with low acidity and is prized for its disease resistance and consistent performance.  While Forastero beans do not have fruity or aromatic flavors found in other beans, the bean’s dependability makes it a favorite for large chocolate producers.
  2. Criollo: Treasured for its complex, fruity flavor, Criollo is a flavor bean grown mainly in Latin America. Its susceptibility to disease and low productivity, however, means many cacao farmers have traded its rich flavor for hardier plants.
  3. Trinitario: A fusion of the two strains, Trinitario is believed to combine the best of both- good flavor and hardiness. Also considered a flavor bean, it gets its name from the island of Trinidad where it was first grown. Its flavor notes range from spicy to earthy to fruity to highly acidic.
Factors Affecting Taste: The Origins of Flavor
Like wine, chocolate reflects the distinct flavors of its region. The kind of cacao beans grown, climate conditions, and how the beans are dried and fermented vary from country to country. All these factors play an important role in defining a bean’s flavor characteristics.

What’s the end result? A range of flavors to explore. Consider: Beans from Trinidad have a cinnamon spiciness while those from Ecuador have a floral quality. Beans from Jamaica even hint of pineapple. Eating chocolate can be a never-ending flavor adventure.

Flavors Across the Globe: Tasting Notes by Region
Following is a list of unique flavor notes by region. The list was principally developed by the respected artisanal chocolate company, Scharffen Berger:

Madagascar:  Bright acidity. Light citrus flavors reminiscent of tangerines.
Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire: Deep, classic cocoa flavors.  Lends balance to more complex beans.
São Tomé: Bold, upfront chocolate notes with underlying roasted coffee tones.

Mexico and Central America:
Mexico: Bright acidity
Costa Rica: Fruity with a balanced cocoa flavor.
Panama: Classic cocoa flavor highlighted by subtle fruit and roasted nut flavors.

South America:
Colombia:  Deep cocoa flavor with moderate fruitiness. Slightly bitter.
Ecuador:  Known best for the Arriba bean. Well-balanced floral (jasmine) and fruit notes. Also has herbal tones.
Brazil:  Bright acidity.  Well-balanced cocoa flavors, often with subtle fruity notes.
Venezuela: Complex fruit flavors.  Evokes flavors of ripe red plums and dark cherries. Very well-balanced.

The Caribbean:
Dominican Republic (also identified on bars as Santo Domingo):  Deep earthy flavor. Fragrant tobacco notes. Some beans have delicate red wine and spice notes.
Trinidad and Tobago: Complex fruitiness with appealing spiciness such as cinnamon.  Very well-balanced.
Jamaica:  Bright and fruity, with appealing aromas. Complex and well-balanced.  Often recalls subtle flavors of pineapples.

Indonesia (also identified on bars as Java):  Well-balanced. Appealing acidity balanced with clean cocoa flavors.

Adapted from:

Tomorrow: How do we get the smooth, rich, creamy chocolate we know form the hard rough cocoa pod?