SHF: Chocolate by Brand
I may be able to just squeeze this entry in under the wire so I’m typing as fast as my little fingers will go!
Last Friday was Sugar High Friday hosted by David Lebovitz. The theme was "Chocolate by Brand". I loved this idea as I’m really trying to learn my brands and tastes and develop a repertoire of what works best when. I decided to combine my entry for Sugar High Friday with a dinner party I was having on Saturday. And my first idea was to have everything put together on Friday so that I could write about it and also be all ready for my party. Well – you know that thing about best laid plans…
I reviewed my Pure Chocolate: Divine Desserts and Sweets from the Creator of Fran’s Chocolates cookbook, written by Fran Bigelow a local chocolatier who I love. While she is now known for truffles, salt caramels and her Gold Bars among other things, she actually started her business with a bakery and this cookbook has many of the treats that were part of that first endeavor. My dinner party was a thank you for my friends who would be helping me at the Northwest Harvest warehouse earlier in the day. And, while I don’t like to make these meals too elaborate considering that we’ve just been working for a foodbank, I thought a little extra special treat at the end of the meal would be warranted. So I found the perfect idea. I’d make Fran’s Pure Chocolate Sorbet and place scoops of that in Chocolate Tuile Cups.
For the sorbet I selected two types of bittersweet chocolate, Guittard and Callebaut. They are both good brands and just happen to be carried by Big John’s PFI, where he has them priced well below what you’d pay other places. Mostly because he buys the big 22 pound blocks then breaks them into smaller pieces but sells them at the big block price. Both are 72% cocoa.
I first made the sorbet with Callebaut and had to sneak a little taste even before it was frozen. Amazingly, chocolatey and rich with just a hint of sweet from the sugar in the recipe. I noticed when I checked it after it had been in the freezer awhile that it froze really hard! Which would make sense as the only ingredients in this sorbet recipe are sugar, water, Dutch-processed cocoa and the chocolate. And with nearly a pound a half of chocolate and only 1/2 cup of sugar the ratio was too low for the sugar to keep the mixture soft.
Next I made a batch with the Guittard. I was surprised that the Guittard was actually a bit sweeter. Not sweet by any stretch of the imagination but definitely there was more of a lingering hint of sweet.
Both sorbets, although rich, were almost palate cleansing since sorbet does not contain any dairy product. I had actually planned to serve both at the party but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Next up were the Cocoa Tuile Cups. These were the little critters that delayed my entry. I had both sorbets made on Thursday but Friday got away from me and these cookies were not complete. I got up to make them early on Saturday. They mixed up beautifully and then I started baking them. Well, Fran’s baking times were off. And although I’ve made tuile cups in the past I was having a hard time telling when they were done because the chocolate made them so dark it was hard to get a sense of "done". And to be honest, I was also trying to assemble lasagnas – yes multiple pans of – at the same time and so maybe I wasn’t quite as focused as I should have been….
Anyway, although I made several batches successfully, it was just taking too much time and effort to get the consistency right so they could be shaped into cups. I made an executive decision to just bake the rest of the cookies as flat cookies and then I’d break them into wedges to serve in the bowls of sorbet. Oh, the chocolate used for the Tuiles was Dutch-processed cocoa. Now I have to admit that every time something calls for Dutch process I have to remind myself what makes Dutch process cocoa different from other cocoa. This type of cocoa has been treated to neutralize the acids. It has a mild flavor and dissolves in liquid easier than "regular" cocoa. However, because it has been neutralized depending on the recipe you may need to make sure something else compensates for the lack of acid. In baking that is often baking powder. There is good information on both types of cocoa on the JoyofBaking.com. The "brand" I use for Dutch-processed is generic. I buy it in bulk from my local Central Market. Next time I’m in the store I’ll need to see if they have a brand on the bin label but I don’t believe they do.
Okay, so now I have the cookies and two batches of sorbet. I go off to the warehouse to do a couple hours worth of work and then we all come back to my house for late lunch/early dinner at about 3:30. In the rush to get the meal on the table I completely forget that I had planned to take the sorbet from the freezer and let it sit in the refrigerator during the meal so that it would be soft enough to work with when I was ready to serve it. Uh oh.
We clear the table and then I remember. I pull out the sorbet and attempt to scoop it, knowing full well that I must be crazy at this point. Maybe if I let it sit 15 minutes or so. I return to the dining table and chat for awhile and then go back to try again. No go. I thought about shaving it into granita-like ice. I pile of brown flakes doesn’t look too appetizing, though. I thought a little more and came up with a great plan – but would it work? I had to try.
I ran water over the container of sorbet – just enough to slightly warm the edges so that it would slip out of the storage container. I dumped it out and then sliced it into small cubes. They were kind of cute! Then I placed the cubes in these tiny bowls that I have and tucked in a wedge of cookie and a demitasse spoon. It actually looked pretty cool! The photo doesn’t really do it justice as at this point setting up a great photo was not my primary objective!
I served them and they were a hit. I brought out a second round of "cubes" and a plate of cookie wedges for those who wanted seconds. It was fun. I only ended up serving the Guittard sorbet. The Callebaut, while I like it very much, is just a bit more intense with that slight bitter edge and this is not a taste that all people appreciate. Especially since I had a couple kids at the table and I wanted them to enjoy the dessert, too.
So I’d make all of these recipes again. However, next time I’d allow more time to actually focus on the tuile cups and figure out what the best baking time really is. I also might adjust the sorbet recipes a bit by adding coffee or chocolate liqueur which would help keep it from freezing so solidly. They might take a bit of experimentation. But I think there is a lot of promise here!
I’m really glad that I made the two batches, too. Now I have a better idea of the differences in flavor between the two brands. It was a good education!