Monday, April 13, 2020

Recipe - Alton Brown's Reloaded Cocoa Syrup

I very much enjoy making my own chocolate syrup. Much like making homemade marshmallows, it elevates it to a whole new level and makes it extra delicious. I also enjoy basically everything Alton Brown does. His show Good Eats has been one of my favorite shows for years. A year or so ago, Mr. Brown started revisiting certain episodes, updating the recipes and techniques, and calling it Good Eats: Reloaded. He's done a few chocolate episodes, and once I got them on my DVR, I refuse to delete them! One of them is The Art of Darkness II: The Reload. In it, he updated his chocolate syrup recipe, and I just had to give it a try!

Here's the ingredients:

3 cups sugar
1½ cup water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground black cardamom

The tricky part of that ingredient list is the black cardamom. It takes a bit of preparation, but please do it!

It's SO worth it!

And no, the cardamom you already have is probably not black cardamom.
Black cardamom is different from the typical cardamom spice shaker found in most kitchens. Regular cardamom is actually green cardamom. I had to order the black cardamom online from a spice company, I grabbed it HERE.

The black cardamom comes as whole pods, so you have to grind it yourself. You can either throw them in a spice grinder, if you have one, or use a mortar and pestle, which is what I have. First I cracked open the pods and pulled off the fibrous husks, leaving only the little black spheres inside. They kind of look like peppercorns. Once you've got them ground in your device of choice, sift them to make sure you get all the little fibrous bits out.

Put the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and get it boiling. While it's heating, in your food processor, put in the cocoa powder and salt. Give it a few pulses to start getting it blended.

Once the sugar mixture is boiling and not cloudy, and with the lid on your food processor, turn the processor on and slowly pour the hot liquid into the feed tube. Once it's all in, add the vanilla and the black cardamom.

Let it cool for 10 or 20 minutes in the food processor bowl, then use a funnel and pour it into squeeze bottles. I was able to fill 3 bottles. You can keep them in the fridge, or even freeze some and thaw them as needed.

Have you tasted it yet? I was tasting it right out of the processor bowl! Wow, it's SO GOOD! The first taste, I was a little surprised at the flavor the black cardamom brought to it, but then I just couldn't stop tasting it. I still can't! Every time I'm in the kitchen, I have a spoonful.

I'm not sure how to describe it. Try to imagine allspice but with hints of mint and clove. I guess that might be close, although it's a bit more complex than that.

I've been making cold chocolate milk with this, the same way I would make chocolate milk with any other syrup. Wow, what a wonderful, spiced flavor! It's also very aromatic, which is a delight when mixing up a simple glass of chocolate milk. Definitely let's you know you've got something special happening. 

This recipe has me so excited, I want to do all kinds of variations on it. I'd like to try one where the cocoa powder ratio is 50% of the other ingredients. I'd like to try one where I reduce the black cardamom by half, and one where I add a touch of cinnamon, or maybe allspice, ginger, or nutmeg. So much to explore!

If you give it a try, please let me know what you think! And thanks, Alton

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Recipe - Chocolate Frog Mini-Cauldron

Well, potions class didn't start very well today. I was late - again. Professor Snape has warned me a bunch of times, but between the Weasley twins having flooded the east corridors and Peeves throwing rotten pumpkins at everyone trying to go down the main stairway, I had no choice but to take the long way around to the dungeons.

Professor Snape was already angry before I even arrived. His hatred of all things Muggle is well known, so when Professor Dumbledore announced that the next couple weeks would be dedicated to Muggle studies across all classes, we all dreaded potions.

We sat down to find chocolate frogs at our desks. Was this some kind of joke, Professor Snape leaving treats out for every student in class? Not a chance. Today's assignment was to create a popular Muggle hot drink that uses chocolate, and since students bringing sweets into Snape's classroom is strictly forbidden, he was forced to provide them for us.

This drink is apparently just thinned, melted chocolate. Professor Snape could barely bring himself to discuss it, instead letting Millicent Bulstrode talk about it to the class. Hermione and the few other students who were raised by Muggles all seemed really happy that the entire class was dedicated to this chocolate drink.

Opening my chocolate frog, I quickly used a simple stun spell to keep it from hopping away. Neville's frog jumped into one of the old dungeon runoff drains, so Ron and Harry both gave him bits of their frogs.

While some of the other students were chasing their frogs around the room, Susan Bones told us that someone in her family owns a chocolate shop in London, and that Muggles like chocolates in a variety of strengths, meaning the amount of actual cocoa bean in the chocolate. Apparently our chocolate frogs are 70% croakoa, which is similar to cocoa and gives the frogs their magical abilities. More importantly, I got a Salazar Slytherin card! So cool, I needed one! Although Ron got a Herpo the Foul card, which is really rare and even cooler!

Chopping up the chocolate frog felt a bit... umm... gross, I guess. I know we usually eat them anyway, but this kind of felt like torture, even though I know they're not really alive. But there was no way I was going to miss this! Parvati felt bad chopping hers up, so Snape charmed it back to pseudo-life and made her do it while it was squirming around on the table! She was in tears. He's so horrible!

We heated milk in our cauldrons, and just before the milk boiled, added the bits of chocolate frog. They melted quickly and smoothly. Seamus Finnegan somehow managed to catch his hair on fire, and Harry, Ron, and Neville had to cut their recipes by a third, which of course confused Ron to no end. Two students from Ravenclaw somehow caused their frogs to puff up like balloons until they popped! We’ve made things much more complex than this, I don’t know how they managed to screw this up.

Mine turned out pretty good! If I had to complain about any of it, I'd maybe say it was a bit too sweet. It was easy to see why Professor Snape hates it, as bitter as he is. Harry and Hermione also complained that theirs were too sweet, and Hermione instructed us all to add a spoonful of cocoa powder too them, which balanced them out nicely. Apparently she's been to Paris and told us about how the chocolate drinks there are darker and stronger. Naturally, Hermione made the best in class, but Professor Snape still took points from Gryffndor for her attitude when she presented it to him.

Off to History of Magic now. I think we’re learning about some Muggle named Houdini.

(Photography by Kristen Kennedy)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Lil' Hot Cocoa Fest - Plush Puffs, Burbank, CA

How exciting is this? Starting on Friday, Feb 8th, Plush Puffs in Burbank, CA, will be having Burbank's first hot chocolate festival, the Lil' Hot Cocoa Fest! I've had the pleasure of working with owner Ann Hickey on coming up with some of the fun and unique flavors they'll be serving, a different one each day.

Some of these recipes I've worked here on the blog, others I dialed in specifically for the festival, and others Ann and her team came up with. It's so exciting to know that people are going to be able to walk in and order some of these amazing hot chocolates! Here's a list of the flavors that will be available:

  • Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa
  • Mexican Almond Hot Cocoa
  • Cinnamon Bun Hot Cocoa
  • Dark Chocolate Kentucky Bourbon Cocoa
  • Sipping Chocolate (using Dandelion Ecuador 70%)
  • Chai Spice Hot Cocoa

Most will be paired with a select flavor Plush Puff's amazing marshmallows, which, if you have never tried, you are in for a treat! In fact, I've featured their marshmallows here on the blog before.

If you can make it to the shop and want someone to chat chocolate with, send me a message, maybe I can swing by and hang out for a little! You can reach me through this blog or through my Instagram.

The Lil' Hot Cocoa Fest goes from Feb 8-15 over at Plush Puffs Cafe & Toasting Bar, located at 3811 W. Magnolia Blvd Burbank, CA 91505. They're open Tues - Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 12-7pm, and closed on Mondays. Hope to see you there! If you go, let me know how your experience was! Wouldn't it be incredible to be able to continue this as an annual tradition? Let's make it a success!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

My Favorite Hot Chocolates of 2018

Since starting this blog, I get asked all the time what my favorite hot chocolate is, or can I please recommend something to get as a gift for someone. Well, yes, yes I can recommend something! Whatever the occasion is that you need an amazing hot chocolate, I'm here to help! Below are my thoughts on some of my favorites and you can decide for yourself which might be the one you're looking for. They are not in any particular order, and I've included a variety of types and flavors, and I'll keep it short and sweet. You just cannot go wrong with the drinking chocolates I've included here! Enjoy!

Bean to Bar Drinking Chocolates

Askinosie Sipping Chocolate
Askinosie is one of my favorite chocolate makers, and I've reviewed their drinking chocolate before. It's a perfect example of what makes bean-to-bar chocolate amazing. Dark and rich, it's a wonderful introduction into the world of bean-to-bar drinking chocolates.

Mutari Craft Chocolate
Mutari only makes bean-to-bottle drinking chocolates, no bars. It's amazing, and if you get a set with a few flavors, you'll really enjoy the differences between them. Not overly sweet, it's perfect for a serious chocolate lover. And I think they may change their flavor offerings, so check back once in a while!

Dick Taylor Drinking Chocolate
Dick Taylor is an icon in the craft chocolate world, and their drinking chocolate is top notch. Before they even offered drinking chocolates for sale, I was making it from their bars. If you like your hot chocolate a little more on the tangy and very rich side, this is the one for you.

Potomac Chocolate
Potomac is my favorite chocolate maker. The whole company is just one guy, Ben, working out of his basement. The flavors he captures in his bars are just amazing, and he's carried that over wonderfully to his drinking chocolates. And the Spiced variety packs a bit of heat!

Gourmet Drinking Chocolates

MarieBelle Hot Chocolate
This is the hot chocolate that got me started on my adventures with chocolate. It was one of my very first posts here on Melting Mug, and is still one of my favorite hot chocolates out there. If you're buying this as a gift for someone, I'd recommend sticking with their original Aztec mix. This one is actually one of my favorites gifts to give during the holidays.

Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate
This spicy hot chocolate is from celebrity chef and world renown chocolatier Jacques Torres. When choosing a spicy hot chocolate for my list, I had a tough time deciding between this one and Chuao. Both are exceptional and have a fiery kick to them, and you can't go wrong with either. You can even get this Wicked Hot Chocolate as a cool gift set with mugs!

Chuao Spicy Maya Drinking Chocolate
Ok, so yeah, I have to include this one anyway. There's plenty of room on this list for two spicy hot chocolates. This was the first spicy drinking chocolate I ever tried, and it's wonderful. It finishes really hot, though, so if you like spicy things, this is your drink!

Powder Mix Hot Chocolates

Chocolat Moderne Kama Sutra
This mix absolutely blew me away the first time I tasted it, and it's still possibly the most relaxing chocolate drink I've ever enjoyed. It's a day at the spa in a can! The spice combination in the Kama Sutra mix is heavenly, and just smelling it will make you want to put on fluffy slippers and settle in next to the fireplace.

Lake Champlain Hot Chocolates
Lake Champlain's mixes are some of my favorites to keep at work, where I don't always have the time to melt solid chocolate in hot milk. Sadly, it doesn't look like they still make their Chai & Mighty flavor, but their other flavors are great, too.

Mexican Hot Chocolates

La Soledad Hot Chocolates
This is as authentic as you can get, so much so that your have to order it from Mexico. I'd advise grabbing either the almond (almondrado) or the cinnamon (canela). Package it up with a traditional molinillo for frothing the chocolate and you've got an amazing gift set! You can read my review of this drink here.

Taza Stone Ground Chocolate
Taza is made the same way traditional Mexican chocolate is, stone ground and organic. They're based in Somerville, MA, so a little bit easier to order than the La Soledad. Their sampler pack has an amazing variety, and each disc is perfectly sized for a mug of drinking chocolate!

Chocolate Syrup

Abuelita Chocolate Cinnamon Syrup
I know, I know - it's made by Nestlé. If you've read my blog before, you know I tend to stay away from the giant corporate chocolate makers. However, the ingredients here aren't packed with chemicals, and the flavor is a wonderful variation when reaching for a chocolate milk. I wouldn't have it on this list if I didn't love it.

Make your own!
A while back I posted a super simple recipe for making your own, and not only is it one of the tastiest I've had, you can use it on everything from hot and cold drinking chocolates to ice cream and pies. Check it out here, and keep in mind you can use your favorite cocoa powder to make it your own. Also, your friends will be thrilled that you made it yourself!


Marshmallow Madness!
If you've never tried homemade marshmallows, oh wow, you NEED this book! Making marshmallows is easier than you might think, and so worth it. And again, it's one of those gifts that your friends and family will be amazed by. I mean, who gives out homemade marshmallows? you do, that's who!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Review - Bottega Louie Fine Cocoa

One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is the diversity and the quality of the restaurants here. While an Italian restaurant isn't actually all that diverse, Bottega Louie is definitely one of my favorites.

The restaurant is very sparsely decorated, with bare white walls and vaulted ceilings. It feels very classy, although once you're seated and enjoying your meal it begins to feel very warm and comfortable. On the wall leading back to the kitchen there's a wonderful pizza oven, the fire inside giving off a warm glow to go along with the amazing aromas.

However, before you get to your table, when you first walk in the door, you are greeted by their bakery and gift shop. Sweets and pastries fill their display windows, along with an unbelievably colorful assortment of macarons. And tucked in there on the shelves among the little boxes of goodies and treats you'll find their gourmet hot chocolate mix and their marshmallows.

I've picked up this hot chocolate mix a few times now, as it's a great one. The package is wonderful and original, as well, and the vivid pink ties into the entire theme of Bottega Louie.

A couple of the ingredients were new to me. The first two are Noel chocolate and Jivara chocolate, and then it's rounded out with sugar, dry milk, Valrhona cocoa powder, and salt.

Doing a little research online shows me that Noel chocolate, or Cacao Noel, is a French brand. "Carefully grown and selected Equatorial beans are fermented and roasted at their factory on the Ivory Coast. A century-old manufacturer completes the selection blending in France. The result is a sophisticated chocolate line with an intensely rich, complex flavor." So there ya go, equatorial beans, roasted on the Ivory Coast, and turned in to chocolate in France.

The Jivara chocolate is actually a variety of Valrhona chocolate. I actually really like that Bottega Louie were so specific on their ingredients list, actually naming the exact brand and variety of chocolates they've used.

I usually make this mix as instructed on the package, which is 1 cup water and 6 tbsp cocoa mix. I've also enjoyed it using milk instead, and while it's a milder drink (typical when using milk instead of water), it's still absolutely delicious.

Made as instructed, it's rich and smooth, and very strong for a powder mix, with a very fudgey flavor. I'd go so far as to rate this sup there as one of the best powder mixes I've had. I really enjoy that rich fudge flavor, almost like you're drinking a warm brownie, so when I find mixes that have that flavor, I really embrace them.

Topped with those amazing, fluffy marshmallows, you can't wrong. Serve more marshmallows on the side, and include those chocolate ones for a super chocolate overdose!

To my surprise, you cannot order their cocoa or marshmallows online. That's a bummer! If you're in Los Angeles, however, it'worth a stop to pick some up, and heck, you could even enjoy dinner while you're there. You can visit their Twitter HERE. Be sure and tell them Melting Mug sent you! ;)