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.

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