Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recipe - Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates "Ecuador" Hot Chocolate

I've mentioned before that I'm very much a fan of artisan chocolate makers. Many artisan chocolate makers also create their own hot chocolates, and I've even reviewed a few already, like Chuao and Askinosie.

Today we're going to make a hot chocolate using chocolate from an artisan chocolate maker who doesn't yet offer a drinking chocolate. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates is a tiny company in Northern California, and they are cranking out some of the best chocolate being made anywhere on Earth.

The first time I tried one of their bars, I fell in love. Some of their chocolates are fruity, some are much more of a deep, strong chocolate flavor, and many of them have things like coconut or fig mixed in.

Last fall, I attended my first Artisanal LA show here in Los Angeles. It's a small local convention type of thing that is mostly about foods, condiments, and candies. Anything local and edible turns up here.

To my surprise, Dustin Taylor and Adam Dick had a booth there! I got to chat with them a bit and had a great time sampling most of their bars. For every compliment I paid them regarding their chocolate, they returned the favor, praising us chocolate bloggers for helping spread the word about their amazing products.

That's Adam on the left, with the mustache. Dustin is in the plaid on the right.

The packaging they do is just amazing, probably my favorite artisan chocolate wrappers out there. So detailed, on beautifully textured paper, each one is a work of art. Both Dustin and Andy are carpenters and have built and refurbished furniture and boats. That idea of pride in craftsmanship and really creating something by hand, from scratch, is what inspired their ship-building wrappers.

We're going to use their 76% Ecuador bar, which is one of my favorites. Their 72% Belize, however, is a Good Food Award winner and would also make an excellent choice.

Even the bar itself is a masterpiece! The detail work in the molding is gorgeous! It's almost a crime to break it and eat it. Once you taste it, though, you realize the crime would be NOT eating these bars. So delicious!

To make the hot chocolate, I heated 1 cup of water. Once it was almost boiling, I broke up about half the bar and dropped the small pieces into the water, whisking as I went. You can add as much chocolate as you like. Pay attention to the thickness and texture as you go, and just stop adding chocolate when you reach the consistency you prefer. I added a bit more than half the bar, and it made a nice, thick sipping hot chocolate.

I served mine with some Plush Puffs Vanilla Bean marshmallows. If you like to make your own marshmallows, that's the way to go. If not, then these are the ones I recommend buying. Plush Puffs are wonderful!

Wow, what a perfect after dinner dessert! Using water lets the flavor of the chocolate really come through unimpeded, which is exactly what you want when using chocolate like this, chocolate made by hand, directly from the bean, in a small workshop. You can taste every nuance of the bean. I like to add the marshmallows and eat them quickly, as if I just ran them through a chocolate fountain.

Do you have a favorite chocolate maker? Try it out with one of their bars. If you haven't yet tried Dick Taylor chocolates, I strongly suggest ordering some. There is absolutely no way you could be disappointed!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Recipe - Toffee Hot Chocolate

Besides writing my own blog, naturally I follow a few other chocolate blogs. Cortney over at The Chocolate Tourist is doing all kinds of fun things regarding chocolate. Equal parts chocolate reviews, recipes, book reviews, travel blogging, and informational posts, I contacted her a few weeks ago to ask if I could link to her blog from mine. She surprised me by not only agreeing, but asking me to join her for an interview and to present a recipe on her Monday Mug series!

Of course I agreed! What fun! After a little back and forth on what to do, we finally decided on a recipe for toffee hot chocolate. She wanted to post in honor of Father's Day, and her father loves Heath bars.

You can see her post by clicking HERE to head over to The Chocolate Tourist, or you can watch the video right here.

We had a great time hanging out and talking about chocolate. It's great to chat with someone who has the same passion for all of the amazing varieties of chocolate out there in the world.

In the video, I mention a place in Amsterdam that had wonderful hot chocolate, served in the perfect fashion. I couldn't remember the name of the place while we were doing the interview, but the name of the place is Bagels & Beans.

I think it's a small chain of shops there in Amsterdam, and it was definitely one of the best hot chocolates I had while I was there. One of these days I'll have to do a post on every place I visited. There is certainly no shortage of amazing hot chocolate in Amsterdam!

Let's get back to that toffee hot chocolate. In case the video went too fast for you, here's what you'll need:

1 cup of milk (whole or 2%)
2 tbsp toffee
2 tsp cocoa powder

Pretty simple set of ingredients. Heat the milk, add in the toffee, and stir until it's incorporated. It's going to take a few minutes for that toffee to melt, and it's going to stick to whatever you're stirring with. It gets pretty gooey. Just keep going, eventually it will all dissolve. Then add the cocoa powder, top with whipped cream and a crushed up Heath bar (or toffee pieces), and enjoy.

You can absolutely use toffee you buy at the store. If it comes coated in chocolate, maybe add a little more than listed above. However, if you want to really do it right, you can make your own toffee. I spent a week working out how to make some great easy toffee, and it's delicious.

Toffee Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter
1¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp corn syrup

Mix everything together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring. Using a kitchen brush dipped in water, wash all the undissolved sugar from the inside walls of the saucepan. Those crystals will gunk up the toffee later on if you don't wipe them away. Once the sides are clean, put a candy thermometer into the mixture and let it boil until it reaches about 280 degrees.

While you're waiting for it to reach 280, take a small pan and line it with aluminum foil. Dip a paper towel in some butter and grease the aluminum foil with it. Toffee sticks to everything pretty good, this will help separate it later.

When it reaches 280, it should be a slight golden brownish color. Take it off the heat and immediately, very carefully, pour it out onto the greased pan. It is extremely hot, so be careful not to splash it or touch it in any way. Tap the pan on the counter a few times so it spreads out a bit, then let it cool for 30-45 minutes or until its ok to touch.

Because I was using mine as an ingredient in hot chocolate (and as a topping), I broke it into large pieces, put those pieces into ziplock baggies, and smashed it up as small as I could get it.

So try it out, let me know what you think! And check out The Chocolate Tourist. It's definitely a blog worth following!