Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Review: Ghirardelli Gourmet Baking Chocolate Line
At the high end of this line, the price is about $8 a pound at the suggested retail price. That seems far too low for top chocolate. If I were to pick up three kilos (6.6 pounds) of a good Valrhona couverature from Sparrow Enterprises, for example, I might be paying about $11.60, and Sparrow is one of the least expensive sources I know for good chocolate, as it's a wholesaler that will also ship to consumers. The tastes are also incomparable, probably because chocolate quality depends completely on the quality and the roasting of the beans. Having a chocolate announce 60 percent cocoa solids doesn't matter if it uses inferior beans.
If you're looking for really good chocolate for baking, go buy some Valrhona or Callebaut or El Rey. It's easy enough to break up and chop the chocolate with a kitchen knife if having small pieces for melting is important to you, and the results will be better.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Drink Iced Drinks When It's Cold? Are You Nuts?
Why don't people actually act that way? Because intuitively, I think, they know that it doesn't make sense. Oh, it might if you were cold and your body wasn't going to react. But the point is that you're already cold, and your body knows that. As you lose heat, the body will work to replace it. Sure, drinking hot chocolate (close to mind at the moment as the temperature is near freezing here) will make the body think that it's warmer and, thus, reduce the amount of heat it needs to produce. But that's because you've just added heat and the body now is warmer. Which was the idea in the first place. And by the time I reach for iced tea in the summer, chances are that I've already been sweating and still hot.
So celebrate the season, and if you're in a colder climate, I'll heartily recommend hot chocolate with a dash of caramel sauce.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Mars and IBM to Explore Chocolate Genome - for the Greenhouse
Computational biologists and supercomputers can drastically accelerate the pace at which promising new strains of cocoa trees come out of the greenhouse, from the traditional length of five to seven years down to 18 months or so, Dr. Shapiro said.That is a huge time and money savings. It's easy to forget that it takes significant time to grow a tree, and that to avoid GM methods, you have to bring plants to maturity and work through a line of generations to get the eventual results that you want. If mapping the genome helps them move through the process more effectively, it takes some of the pressure off switching to more artificial and potentially risky approaches, like swapping genes around.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Cocoa Surges While Mexico Controls Food Prices
The International Cocoa Organisation is forecasting a small supply surplus of 71,000 tonnes in 2008/09, but a poor crop in Ivory Coast could push the market into a supply deficit for a third year in a row.Similarly, Brazil has reported that its sugal crop will be delayed and smaller because of rain, so sugar prices rose by 3.2 percent. Now here's the real interesting part, I think: prices for October sugar are 12.83 cents a pound. How much do you pay for a pound of sugar? Who gets the rest of that money, and what value do they add to justify their cuts?
In the meantime, in another Financial Times story, food prices are hitting hard enough in Mexico that the "center-right goverment" - which I take to mean on the conservative side - has put price controls into place on 150 basic items, including beans, cooking oil, canned tuna, and fruit juice. Prices will remain frozen from now until the end of the year. But given the hefty jumps we've been seeing in the underlying goods, what happens to the merchants and wholesellers? I understand that people with no money are hurting, but this seems to be a short-sighted approach of addressing a problem. The government shifts the burden onto businesses, which might end up losing money in the long run and possible start cutting jobs, because it wants to appear as though it's active toward the problem. But the dynamics don't change, and the effect is to sweep the pain under a carpet and out of site. The eventual price for this approach may be higher and longer-lasting, but, hey, maybe that will be for someone else to deal with.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo
Not only does it lack HFCS, and not only does it have organic ingredients, but it has great taste. I'm finding that both mochas and egg creams are much better than with Hershey's, and, I'm starting to think, even better than with U-Bet. Yes, it's a bit pricey, but then, so is a liver transplant. I can happily recommend what I thought was going to substitute but instead supplanted my former choice.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Product Review: Hershey's Bliss
Hershey's Bliss Chocolate is specially crafted to ensure that every detail contributes to the overall chocolate experience. The slight domed shape of the individual square fits the mouth perfectly allowing the chocolate to melt evenly cascading rich, creamy chocolate notes across the tongue. The finish is satisfying and sophisticated, a lasting reward.For the effective translation, yes, they are small pieces and, yes, they are square with a rounded top. But the chocolate is pretty boring - not bad enough to deserve blistering, but falling far short of bliss. The dark didn't have the bite and depth you might expect for a fine chocolate, and even the milk was dull. Even though the company is "targeting female chocolate lovers," I doubt that a sudden gender change by human hand or divine intervention would change my impression. Although they're holding some promotion that involves a claimed 10,000 home chocolate parties the weekend of April 25, I'd suggest staying in your own home with a good bar of chocolate, instead. You could even cut it up into smaller pieces.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Review: Ghirardelli Filled Chocolate Bars
I actually found that I liked the fillings more than the chocolate itself. The flavors inside over powered those of the coating. I particularly liked the raspberry and even the mint, which is unusual, as I'm generally not a big mint fan. (After a taste, I passed it on to my daughter, who snapped it up so fast that it was a good thing my hand was open. Do you detect a pattern in my family?) The caramel was also good.
Suggested retail price of the bars is $2.29, which isn't bad compared to the price of many higher end chocolate bars.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Chocolate Price Fixing?
American consumers buy about $13 billion worth of chocolate a year, said Susan S. Smith, spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association.The Wall Street Journal's report suggests that chocolate makers might have been trying to offset higher dairy prices. (Sorry, but I think the link needs a subscription.):
On a conference call with analysts on Oct. 10, Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer said the company expected ingredients to cost 5% to 6% more in 2008 because of rising commodity prices, particularly for milk. "We are in the process of implementing price increases in most of our markets to offset these increases," he said.The Journal also underscores the potential seriousness of any charge:
It isn't clear precisely what the Justice Department is looking into or whether the preliminary inquiry will become a formal criminal investigation. Price fixing can be a serious offense, leading to heavy fines and, in some cases, jail terms for executives. While antitrust enforcement has eased generally in recent years, the Bush administration has aggressively prosecuted price fixing in many industries and global markets, from airline cargo to semiconductors.In other chocolate news, Campbell is selling Godiva Chocolatier to Yildiz Holding of Turkey for $850 million. Not that I have any fodness for Godiva - given the prices they charge, I think their chocolates are at best second rate. But it does leave me wondering whether Campbell is just disappointed that no one stormed their doors, demanding a chocolate soup. I was surprised to learn that Campbell had owned the chocolate company since the late 1960s.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Mars Capitulates on Chocolate Changes
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Review: Trader Joe's Celebration Chocolate Cake
The short take is that the cake was surprisingly good. The people assembled - particularly my wife and one of our family's friends, were discriminating and also accomplished in baking. The overall rating was an 8 out of 10, even if compared with home-made. If you compared it with take-out cakes, you hit a 10 and the results were a good sight better than many you'll find in bakeries. Although the size seemed small - maybe 7-inches - it easily could serve 8 to 10 and possibly as many as 12. The cake does come frozen, and as a result has a shelf life in months. You do need to let it defrost at least four hours ahead of time, but, jeez, it's not as though you need do anything serious to have a pleasing dessert on hand. I can recommend it highly.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Update on Choclate Redefinition
Hundreds of people have filed comments with the FDA, with the overwhelming majority seeking to keep it that way, according to an Associated Press review of the file.Finally, interestingly enough, since 2003, the EU has allowed European manufacturers to substitute 5 percent of the cocoa butter with vegetable fat. Time to stick with US chocolate - for now.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Strange News from the Food Front (7/9/07)
- Chocolate in Moderation A recent study suggests that daily dark chocolate reduces blood pressure. Unfortunately, the necessary ingestion is around 6 grams, with the restriction undoubtedly leading to depression. (AP)
- Penguins and Garlic Shanghai zoo keepers are feeding garlic to the penguins to ward off respiratory problems, sutffing a few cloves in each fish the birds eat. For some odd reason, there has also been a sharp drop in the number of people wanting to see the birds. (AP)
- Paris Hilton Goes to Dogs Someone supposedly poked through Paris Hilton's garbage, found a can from some organic dog food, and sold it on eBay for $305. Hopefully they will recycle it. (AP)
- Porn Pizza A western Canadian pizza joint has been putting a pornographic picture in the bottom of each box, under the pizza. The restaurant sold hundreds of pizzas in one week. Do delivery personnel ask if it was as good for the customer as it was for them? (AFP)
- Movie Munching There's a new documentary on speed eating. Get to the theater early - the snack stand lines will be fierce. (AP)
- Really Fresh Fish A chef in Taiwan got into trouble for serving a fish that wasn't quite dead. Boy, and ususally people complain because the fish isn't fresh enough. (AP)
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Product Review: Clif Nectar Bars
As for the taste ... eh. I preferred the cranberry, apricot, and almond to the dark chocolate raspberry because the latter's taste just didn't come up to the standard depth you can fine in a good piece of chocolate. However, it's certainly a better nutritional choice than candy, and not so expensive as to discourage a bit of experimentation.
Friday, June 01, 2007
A Trick for Melting Chocolate
Another writer mentioned also being lazy and doing the same with melting chocolate, which I've also done. But I also mentioned a trick I learned from a book (I can't remember which one). Chop up the chocolate, put it into a microwaveable container, and microwave it on full power for about 60 seconds. Take it out and stir. The chunks that look solid will suddenly break apart and turn into nicely melted chocolate. If that time isn't enough, add more in 30 second blocks, doing the stir test at the end of each block. Eventually you get a nice pool of liquid chocolate with no danger of scorching or having the chocolate seize into a mass harder than a hockey puck.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Mars Uses Animal Products in Chocolate
But forget about them for a moment. So far as I know, chocolate making is by definition supposed to involve cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and sugar. Since when do you add rennet as you do with cheese? Are they trying to create curds from the milk to reduce the amount of cocoa they need? Why are companies always trying to find ways to cut corners? How about doing something well, for heaven's sake? At least the company received 6,000 emails and phone calls after the initial announcement that it would make the change.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Recipe: Frozen Hot Chocolate
- 2 TBS. cocoa
- 3 TBS. sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Chocolate Manufacturers Petition FDA to Redefine Chocolate
Hershey, the largest U.S. candy maker, says that broader labeling is needed to keep up with changing consumer tastes. "The petition would modernize all food standards, increasing flexibility to accommodate changes in technology," Kirk Saville, spokesman for the Hershey, Pennsylvania-based company, said in an interview. "Changes, if adopted, would provide the flexibility to make changes based on consumer taste preference, ingredient costs and availability, and shelf life."Or changes based on profits. Unfortunately, mass manufactured chocolate is so far below the good stuff in quality that many people may have lost the ability to tell whether it is getting even worse. Today is the last day for public comment - use this form.