Archive for May, 2010

Gail Ambrosius Chocolates – Day II

May 17th, 2010 by Rosa

Last Friday, I reviewed my free samples of Gail Ambrosius’s classic and tea collection truffles. Today’s review is of her Adventurous Collection, which is presenting quite adventurously in the below photo (courtesy of Gail Ambrosius’s media kit).

The Adventurous Collection includes Machu Picchu, Lemongrass With Ginger, Sweet Curry With Saffron, Rica Organica, Cinnamon/Cayenne, and Shitake Mushroom. That’s right – shitake mushroom. With chocolate.

I originally labeled the below truffle as a mystery one, as it didn’t look like any of the truffles in the guide. I’ve since decided that it’s the Machu Picchu, which is supposed to be topped with “crushed and candied almonds.” I guess my topper missed the crushing step.

It had an airy cinnamon flavor and lots of grit to the texture. The gritty bits were astringent and pulled the moisture from my mouth. I guessed that it was an allspice truffle.

The Machu Picchu’s description says that it included caramelized cacao nibs (the grit), 65% Peruvian chocolate, and “a light touch of cinnamon and vanilla bean.” My tasting notes weren’t too far off!

Lemongrass With Ginger had the prettiest topper, a colorful mix of candied lemon peel and dried safflower. It tasted floral with a bright, sweet lemony fresh flavor.

It managed to be cheerful while avoiding that medicinal floor cleaner effect. I didn’t notice any ginger flavor – I think it got all mixed up with the taste of the lemon zest topping.

Sweet Curry With Saffron is definitely a non-traditional truffle flavor. It tasted strongly of dried spices – cumin was a high note I picked up. The truffle guide also listed coriander, tumeric, cardamom, and saffron.

In this savory truffle, the chocolate took a backseat supporting role, while the curry was the star. All those spices brought a little astringency to the finish.

Rica Organica had a beautiful cacao bean as a decorative flourish. The bean was a solid chunk of chocolate. This ganache had a cool, fatty melt that was at once savory and sweet.

I loved the distinctive flavor of the Rica Organica. This may not be the most feminist-friendly description, but its bold flavor tasted manly (the truffle guide calls it muscular) and assertive before giving way to a bright finish.

Cinnamon/Cayenne was the only rolled truffle of the bunch. It was quite possibly the roundest rolled truffle I’ve ever seen. It had a thin chocolate shell and was rolled in cocoa powder.

The chocolate flavor came through first. It was super smooth, creamy, glossy, and slightly sweet. Then, the cinnamon and powerful cayenne come through. The cayenne burns the throat with its heat, but the spicy tingle dissipates after a few minutes.

The kicky spice makes this not for the faint of heart. It’s not a daily, casual treat, and it’s definitely an exciting adventure.

Shitake Mushroom was another hard one to identify, as the biggest mushroom pieces that topped it had fallen off in transit, so I tasted it thinking that it was the Cointreau truffle.

It started with a bright citrus sweet high not from the chocolate shell. Then, a powerful cream and butter flavor punched through. It had a familiar earthiness that I couldn’t place until I realized that I was eating a mushroom chocolate. Unique and delicious!

Gail Ambrosius definitely has a way with chocolate. The shitake mushroom truffle alone is a taste experience worth seeking, and the rest of the box ain’t too shabby either.

All of the truffles were so packed with flavor that they were extra satisfying. A ZOMG! for the shitake mushroom and Rica Organica, and OMs for the rest.

Category: chocolate, OM, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

Gail Ambrosius Chocolates – Day I

May 14th, 2010 by Rosa

Gail Ambrosius (yes, that’s her real name) is a chocolatier with an eponymous shop in Madison, Wisconsin. There, she makes amazing chocolates (with amazing descriptions; her copy writer is definitely earning his/her keep), mostly with single-origin chocolates from South and Central America.

I was offered the chance to try some free samples, and boy was I glad that I took that offer! Today, I’ll cover the more normal ones from her Classic and Tea collections, and next Monday, we’ll hit up the Adventurous Collection.

Lucille’s Vanilla was the only unadorned chocolate of the bunch, a simple dark chocolate shell with a chocolate ganache inside. The truffle guide that came with the box said it would taste “like a rich spoonful of homemade chocolate pudding.”

The outer chocolate shell had a pleasantly sharp snap, while the ganache was creamy with a luscious, thick melt.

That ganache was the perfect embodiment of chocolate flavor. It was thick and rich and decadent, and it had a lingering finish of pure cocoa. Isn’t it amazing when something so simple can be so delicious?

Raspberry was topped with a sprinkle of cacao nibs. The guide says that it’s a combination of 36% milk chocolate, 65% dark chocolate, and raspberry puree.

The raspberry gave the ganache a sticky, pasty texture, while the cacao nib topping added a nice crunch. The filling tasted super bright and was bursting with fresh raspberry flavor that paired well with its chocolate shell. It was very sweet, but because it was a natural fruity sweet, it was desirable rather than off-putting.

Cognac wore a cap of candied ginger. It tasted of fruity booze with a spicy ginger finish. The ginger flavor is strong and easily identifiable, while remaining understated so as to be harmonious with the chocolate.

Cointreau was originally topped with candied orange peel, but mine fell off in transit, so mine looks like it has a couple of sprinkles of chunky sugar or something. What little was left of the candied peel added a slight grain to this truffle’s taste experience.

It tasted brightly of orange. Such a strong citrus presence would be overwhelming if paired with a lesser chocolate, but the strong dark chocolate shell tempers the citrus flavor quite nicely.

Earl Grey had a pretty little sprinkle of lavender buds on top. The actual Earl Grey tea flavor was mild and just brought a light floral/lavender undertone to the chocolate.

Caramel Sprinkled with Grey Salt was a square of caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with a few grains of fleur de sel. It’s a sweet that’s now made by many confectioners. I now know that Gail Ambrosius makes one of the best versions.

The caramel was wonderfully complex with deep molasses notes. It was smooth and buttery on the tongue if I let it melt and chewy but not teeth-sticky if I chomped it. The sea salt crunched a bit when I got a big grain, and it really set off the sweet complexity of the caramel.

Gail Ambrosius’s truffles were exquisite. The Lucille’s Vanilla, Raspberry, and Caramel were my favorites (yes, that’s half of the ones I just wrote about, which just further underscores how delicious these were) and get ZOMG!s.

The Cognac gets an OMG, while the Cointreau and Earl Grey get Os mostly because I don’t really like floral flavors and have never been much for orange and chocolate combos, and they therefore got overshadowed by their truffle buddies.

Come back on Monday for Gail’s adventurous collection!

Category: caramel, chocolate, O, OMG, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

How to Make Ganache

May 13th, 2010 by Rosa

Serious Eats has a nice step-by-step guide, complete with photo slideshow, of how to make chocolate ganache.

I love that the author is a real chocolatier but is down to Earth enough to show Ziploc bags instead of fancier pastry bags.

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Le Caramel Goodies – Part II

May 12th, 2010 by Rosa

On Monday, I covered Le Caramel‘s Caramel Cream and Caramel Topping (and sort of their Caramel Syrup). Today, I get to write about their new Salted Butter Caramel candies and the new mystery product that they’ve been hyping on their Facebook page. For the record, I got permission to spill the beans!

The Salted Butter Caramels that I got were hand-wrapped in bits of wax paper. Le Caramel just invested in a wrapping machine, so when these babies become widely available, your packaging mileage may vary.

Each rectangle of caramel was about 2 inches long. They tasted super rich and buttery, with a round caramel flavor. The saltiness is noticeable in the finish and really makes the caramel flavor pop and linger.

While it tasted wonderful, I had trouble with the chew. It was very teeth-sticky and worked its way into my teeth – or rather, the space between my gums and my mouth, so that eventually there was nothing left to chew because it had all migrated away from my molars.

To be fair, the Le Caramel brochure that I got touted “the classic way to enjoy caramel: just unwrap and let the caramel slowly melt in your mouth to reveal its wonderful taste.”

So it’s kind of my fault that I tired out my jaw because I was impatient. And letting the caramel melt is a lovely taste experience. But you’ve been warned – the caramel candies aren’t best appreciated through chewing. An OM if you’re patient and eat it the recommended way. An O if you’re not.

And now, the big reveal (unless Le Caramel beat me to it in the time between when I wrote this review and when it posted): Caramel Cream with Chocolate.

The mystery ingredient of chocolate was quite sensible and not altogether unexpected. While the just-caramel caramels smelled of butterscotch, this smells intensely of pure cocoa and dark, almost scorched toffee. It’s brooding and complex and intriguing.

The Caramel Cream with Chocolate is still thick and caramel-like in texture, though it’s slightly less sticky and prone to dripping crazy long strands.

It tastes of deep cocoa notes with a lingering chocolate finish. While the caramel influence is clear in the texture, it’s less pronounced in the flavor, mostly coming through as a rich, buttery-ness.

It gets an OMG for being the best chocolate sauce I’ve ever had. I’ve been told it should be ready for sale within a month or so.

Le Caramel’s products are clearly well made with care and attention. At $12/13 a container (if you’re lucky, you can find it a bit cheaper on Woot), they’re more expensive than a bag of Milk Maid Caramels or a squeeze bottle of “caramel” that’s probably mostly high fructose corn syrup, but I think they’re pretty reasonably priced for an artisinal product that’s full of flavor and decadence.

Category: caramel, chocolate, O, OM, OMG, review | Comments Off

Caramel Recipes

May 11th, 2010 by Rosa

In keeping with Monday’s theme of caramel deliciousness, the Kitchn has a sweet round-up of 5 creative twists on caramel recipes. Szechuan peppercorn and kumquat sounds terrifying, yet intriguing.

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Le Caramel Goodies – Part I

May 10th, 2010 by Rosa

Le Caramel is a new homegrown candy company run by a husband and wife team. They’ve turned up before on Wine Woot to rave reviews, and I got the chance to sample their line-up for free, including sneak peaks of some new products that they’re in the process of rolling out.

I’m covering their current products that are now available for purchase. You’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see what the sneak peak products are, though they may debut on the Le Caramel Facebook page before then.

First up, their Caramel Cream made with Salted Butter. Press notes say that the “rich caramel cream is a blend of butter, sugar, creme fraiche, and just a hint of salt…[cooked]…in a copper kettle imported from France.”

It’s kind of ridiculously luscious looking (I think the below photo may be the food porn-iest picture I’ve ever posted). The caramel is crazy thick. It pours smoothly, yet the drizzle goes on and on. And it smells amazing, like a Werther’s Original on steroids.

The flavor of the butter definitely comes through, along with some deep notes of butterscotch and a sweetness that reminded me of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. There’s a definitely saltiness to it to accent the flavor, and the dark finish is almost bitter (in a good way!).

The Caramel Topping made with Salted Butter was a thicker, stickier, and saltier version of the Caramel Cream (the two had the same ingredients list).

If you look carefully in the below picture, you can see the air bubbles in the Caramel Topping. I think they happen because the more viscous Topping takes longer to settle back into itself.

The Topping had stronger notes of butterscotch and a more pronounced saltiness. Unlike the perfectly smooth cream, I could feel the occasional grain on my tongue. Each one really made the caramel stand out.

I tried these two caramels plain and drizzled over lightly fried plantains. They were excellent both ways and especially dangerous the first way. Eating it straight promotes indulgently rapid consumption and a resulting sugar overload.

I can’t wait to try them with crepes! And cookies, and apples, and ice cream… They both get OMGs. I really hope my roommates help me finish of the jars, mostly so that I don’t end up eating it all.

Le Caramel also makes a liquid Caramel Syrup that they recommend be poured onto desserts or into coffee. Believe it or not, I don’t eat dessert that often (I get enough sweets’ calories from candy), and I haven’t had coffee in years, so I’ve yet to try the Syrup.

I can, however, report that it smells wonderful – clear, sweet Werther’s Original/butterscotch/toffee scent to the hilt – and my roommates seem to have been enjoying it. I left out the full bottle to share a few days ago, and it’s already down to the label line.

Anyone want to invent a cocktail recipe for me, to put that syrup to good use?

If you want a chance for a free sample of your own, Le Caramel is giving away one free sampler pack a month on their Facebook page. And come back Wednesday to check out my reviews of their new products!

Category: caramel, OMG, review | 1 Comment »

Cote d’Or Lait Noisettes

May 7th, 2010 by Rosa

This brick of Cote d’Or Lait Noisettes (that’s milk hazelnuts) was part of my friend Neil‘s Dutch candy haul. It really stood out because it was ginormous. Its size plus its pretty paper wrapper made it look like a fancy bar of soap.

The bar was so thick, in fact, that it was a bit intimidating. I couldn’t imagine how I would gnaw through the thing.

Fortunately, removing the paper wrapper revealed that the bar was actually divided height-wise into two thinner slabs, each foil wrapped and reasonably proportioned.

The underside of the bar was quite pebbly with all the hazelnut bits. The smell of the bar, however, diverged from its nutty appearance.

I found it a bit odd and hard to place – yogurt? or petrol? It wasn’t off-putting, exactly; just strange.

The individual slabs were further broken down into demarcated fingers, each beautifully stamped with the Cote d’Or name and elephant logo. I was impressed at how well the chocolate held its shape, especially since its milk chocolate-ness meant it had a super soft break.

The milk chocolate was absolutely lovely – thick and creamy, as milk chocolate should be. The hazelnut flavors came through loud and clear and provided a wonderful contrasting nuttiness.

I was greatly impressed at how fresh and flavorful this bar was. If only American mass produced milk chocolate could taste so good! An OM.

Category: chocolate, European, nuts, OM, received as gift, review | 1 Comment »

How Jelly Beans are Made

May 6th, 2010 by Rosa

To continue Tuesday’s theme of jelly bean news posts via Serious Eats, a How It’s Made video about how jelly beans are made:

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Haribo Pico-Balla

May 5th, 2010 by Rosa

I got really excited when I saw this bag of Haribo Pico-Balla at the dollar store. They looked like my beloved European licorice pencils that have yet to catch on in the U.S. Could it be that they were hiding in the dollar store of the mall all along?

They certainly looked the part – colored fruit licorice wrapped around fondant fillings. The fillings were even extra fancy, with two colors!

Alas, while they were similar to my licorice pencils, they weren’t quite right.

For starters, the texture of the Pico-Balla was a bit too stiff and plasticy. Licorice pencils should have some bite to them, but these guys involved too much gnawing.

As for the flavors, they were weird and just didn’t mesh for me. Turquoise stuck out because its fondant filling was yellow and purple, while the other three had blue and orange.

The turquoise fruit licorice portion tasted like fruit punch, while the sweet fondant had a light anise and minty finish. It was simultaneously sweet and creamy and herbal.

The yellow coating tasted sweet with a light citrus tinge. Green tasted like the yellow, sans the citrus tinge, and maybe had a light apple finish, but maybe I was imagining it? And red just tasted like generic artificial red candy.

The orange and blue fondant fillings tasted of sherbet. I couldn’t pick out a particular flavor; they were just sweet and creamy and fruity.

I’m not sure why, but to me, the fruit licorice texture and flavors were just completely incompatible with the sherbet-y fondant fillings.

In the end, I found the Pico-Balla flavors and textures to be off-putting. They’re not awful, but they are rather blech, so a .

Category: --, chewy, European, Haribo, licorice, review | 5 Comments »

Molecular Gastronomy Through Jelly Beans

May 4th, 2010 by Rosa

Via Serious Eats, a blog post by Michele Humes recreating Alinea‘s tasting menu with Jelly Belly jelly beans. She makes liberal use of the Bertie Bott’s flavors.

I hope to someday be able to afford to visit Alinea (I have a little foodie crush on Grant Achatz), but until then, Jelly Bellies may be the more affordable route.

Category: news | 1 Comment »