Chocolate

A Quartet Of Chocolates

Recently the culinary world was introduced to a pink chocolate called Ruby Chocolate. It was created by Barry Callebaut, a Belgian-Swiss company, and marketed as the “fourth chocolate” following dark, milk and white. It’s the first new variety of chocolate to be introduced in 80 years. The method of production remains a trade secret but industry suggests that the ruby cocoa beans are unfermented cocoa beans which can have a naturally pinkish colour. There are other things to know about the production method but I lost interest as all I wanted was to get my hands on some pink ruby chocolate!

When I finally got to try some ruby chocolate I was a little disappointed. It didn’t taste much like chocolate. To me it tasted like the yoghurt covered fruit balls I used to eat when I thought I was being healthy. Even though ruby chocolate contains cocoa solids like dark and milk chocolate, it just doesn’t have the taste or feel of chocolate. I didn’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t buy it again expect for creating recipes with a pink theme  – like a naturally pink chocolate frosting for a cupcake. 🙂

But wait there’s more!

Just in time for the holiday season, Barry Callebaut has introduced a new chocolate to the market called Gold Chocolate. While ruby was a new variety of chocolate, gold is a new flavour. The naturally gold coloured chocolate is made by adding caramelised milk and caramelised sugar to white chocolate. A touch of salt is also added. Naturally I couldn’t wait to try it.

San Churro Chocolateria have featured both ruby and gold chocolate on their menus. As a big fan of their churros, I decided to try gold chocolate as a dipping sauce. My platter of churros arrived with four dipping sauces, gold, ruby, dark and milk. I tried each chocolate sauce on its own before beginning a thoughtful dunking process. I began with gold, followed by ruby then milk then dark. The gold chocolate was reminiscent of salted caramel but not as sweet and with a distinct chocolate taste. It felt rich, creamy and decadent. The dipping sauce was garnished with little beads of gold chocolate and these gems were a true delight. I loved it! Surprisingly the ruby chocolate tasted great paired with the fried cinnamon magic that is a churro. The only thing that would have made this a perfect chocolate dipping experience is if there was a bowl of white chocolate. Then I could have enjoyed a pentagram of chocolates. 🙂 

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Barky New Year

February 15th is Chinese New Year’s Eve. It is the night when we say goodbye to the Year of the Red Fire Rooster and welcome in the Year of the Brown Earth Dog. At the stroke of midnight, all doors and windows in the home are opened to let the new year out. It is also the eve of the New Moon in Melbourne so it will be a perfect time to bid a fond farewell to the old year and say hello to the new one.

The Year of the Brown Earth Dog begins on February the 16th and heralds 15 days of celebration which will end on the Full Moon. To pay homage to the new year, and to honour its very special animal, I thought I would make some chocolate bark.

Sometimes when I start thinking of recipes to make for an event, my mind travels a curious path. When I thought of the Year of the Dog I could just picture excited dogs howling and barking to welcome in their year. This of course made me think of chocolate bark 🙂 I chose dark chocolate for its rich and earthy colour although you could use milk chocolate if you prefer. I added peanuts to the mix as they grow in the ground so they are a perfect symbol for an Earth year. They also taste great with chocolate!

Just be aware that these are not dog friendly treats. To make them dog friendly substitute carob for chocolate and use raw peanuts instead of roasted ones. Or you can just give your dogs a spoonful of peanut butter to welcome in The Year of the Dog!

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Bark

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Ingredients
100g good quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

Instructions
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer.
Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Add the chocolate and gently stir until melted, being careful not to burn the chocolate.
Remove from the heat.
Working quickly, stir in the peanuts.
Pour onto prepared tray.
Smooth out to your desired thickness.
Refrigerate until firm before breaking into pieces.

Food For Fools

I remember celebrating April Fool’s Day when I was a youngster at school. Every year we would try and trick each other before noon. As the years went by, the day meant less and less. But then I discovered tarot and the day was reawakened for me with a whole new meaning!

For me, April Fool’s Day is a day to celebrate the spirit of the tarot Fool. As the first card in the tarot deck, the Fool symbolises journeys, adventures and new beginnings. We don’t know if our endeavours will lead to success or failure but we surge cheerfully ahead, hopeful of a positive outcome. The Fool card is the perfect symbol for a new year. As someone who loves Autumn and Winter and looks to them as the times when I am most productive and eager to get out and about, celebrating April Fool’s Day as my personal new year makes sense to me. As someone who loves humour, starting my year on a day dedicated to mischief is just perfect.

One of the ways I love celebrating April Fool’s Day is by thinking about recipes that trick you. Tricking the senses by serving a cold soup when everyone is expecting a hot one or serving a shot of alcohol which turns out to be a solidified jelly shot are some ideas. The names of some dishes can also be tricky, like Welsh Rabbit, which doesn’t have any rabbit in it. Visual tricks are great too and there are lots of examples of savouries made to look like sweets and sweets made to look like savouries. One of my favourite Foolish Foods is a Chocolate Salami which is a sweet made to look like a savoury. When you slice it, the chocolate, cookies and walnuts trick the eye into thinking you are seeing a salami. It’s both a fun visual and a delicious treat 🙂

Chocolate Salami

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Ingredients
100g unsalted butter
3/4 cup double cream
2 tablespoons sugar
100g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g shortbread cookies, broken into various small and medium sized pieces
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped into various small and medium sized pieces
icing sugar for dusting
greaseproof paper

Instructions
Heat the butter and cream in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.
Stir in the sugar.
Add the chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate melts.
Add the cocoa and vanilla. Beat with a wire whisk until combined. If the mixture looks like it has split, don’t worry. Keep whisking and it will come together as it cools.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. You have to allow it to cool long enough so that the cookies don’t turn to mush when added, but not too long or the chocolate will set.
Add the broken cookies and chopped walnuts to the chocolate mixture. Stir until combined.
Place in the fridge and allow to cool. Again, you don’t want to leave it too long or the chocolate will set and you won’t be able to roll it. I check the mix every 5 minutes. You want the mix to be pliable enough to roll but not too wet.
Place the chocolate mix onto a piece of greaseproof paper and roll into a large sausage.
Refrigerate overnight.
Unwrap and sprinkle generously with icing sugar.
You can present it tied with butcher’s string or partially wrapped in baking paper.
Cut into slices.
Refrigerate any leftovers.

Check out last year’s April Fool’s Day post for my tricky Doggie Treats recipe.

Rocky Roads

Spending a weekend away in Walhalla proved more heavenly than I thought possible. Walhalla is a small town in Victoria, Australia. It started as a gold mining town with around 4,000 residents. No longer a gold mining town, it has a population of less than 20. Tourism is the big draw card now. One of the best things about the town is that there is no internet connection and no mobile phone reception. This meant we could unplug and enjoy a stress free weekend.

We stayed at the Brewery Creek Cottage, a quaint little place that had three of my favourite things – a spiral staircase, a four poster bed and a log fire. There was even a witch on the window! We spent the evenings enjoying a drink next to the roaring fire, playing board games and reading. The outside world was forgotten for a short time.

I chose the Brewery Creek Cottage because the path beside the cottage leads to the cemetery. That was something this goth could not resist! The winding and uphill path was challenging but beautiful. The trees seemed to cradle the path from high above. The cemetery, perched on a hill, had views to die for! Graves were dotted up and down the hilly cemetery. I gingerly picked my way along the path reading the ancient gravestones. I could have spent hours exploring but the sun was setting and I really didn’t want to navigate rocky paths in the dark.

Another reason we visited Walhalla was to take a ride on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway. As we sped towards Thomson, one side of the train passed rocky walls that were so close you could reach out and touch them – not that I recommend doing that 🙂 The track on the other side of the train ran precariously high above a forest stream. The drop from the window looked great. I kept jumping from side to side of the train so I could get the best views!

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After the train we went for a tour in the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine. I’m always nervous going into caves as I’m claustrophobic but I also love caves as they make me think of the Underworld and the home of Hades and Persephone. Luckily it wasn’t one of those cramped tunnels were you have to duck and crawl your way through. This tunnel was very roomy so I relaxed and enjoyed the experience and the history lesson.

Inspired by the looming mountains and the paths that have been carved through their rocky terrains, I thought I would make rocky road. Rocky road is a sweet made with chocolate and marshmallow. You can add other things to the mix such as nuts or Turkish delight. I have added glace ginger as a nod to the gold found in Walhalla. If you really want a golden experience, serve the rocky road with edible gold!

Rocky Road

rocky-road

Ingredients
250g dark chocolate
50g white marshmallows, cut in half
25g glace ginger
50g cashews, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Method
Line the base and sides of a square cake tin with baking paper (approx 20cm x 20cm).
Gently melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl combine marshmallows, ginger, cashews and coconut.
Pour in melted chocolate and mix through.
Pour into prepared tin.
Allow to stand for a few hours to set.
When set, cut into pieces and serve.

Slow Chocolates and Warm Memories

As I wind down my reminiscing, I can’t help but think of the warm and nurturing hot chocolates we ended our evenings with at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. To symbolise my slow journey back through my past, I thought a slow cooker hot chocolate would be great. Don’t worry if you can’t drink it all in one go. Allow any leftovers to cool, then refrigerate until cold. It makes a great chocolate mousse!

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Special Equipment:
Slow Cooker
Stick Blender

Ingredients
300ml double cream
2 cups of milk
200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, give the chocolate a good whisk making sure you scrape any chocolate from the bottom and sides into the mixture. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.
Turn off the slow cooker and very carefully blend the hot chocolate with a stick blender.
Serve piping hot.

A Taste Of Roses

When I first came across Samira’s recipe for Almond Biscuits at Sam’s Kitchen blog I knew I had to make the rose water ones. And I did! Wow, what a recipe. These macaroon-like delicacies are so easy to make. I loved the delicate rose water flavour and the pretty pink colour.

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The only changes I made to the recipe were to make half the amount and I didn’t dust them with extra icing sugar. Other than that, this is a recipe that I will make again and again.

I even made my own variation inspired by a Bounty – a coconut chocolate bar 🙂

Coconut and Chocolate Almond Cookies

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Ingredients
125g almond meal
100g icing sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon coconut essence, or to taste
75g milk chocolate
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Method
Preheat oven to 160C / 320F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix together the icing sugar and egg white.
Add the coconut essence and almond meal.
Mix to a soft cookie dough.
Form into 9 crescent shapes.
Place on prepared tray.
Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, melt the chocolate and smooth a dollop on the top of each cookie.
Sprinkle shredded coconut over the chocolate.
You can eat them warm or allow chocolate to set.

A Study In Fours

Cordelia’s Mom from Cordelia’s Mom, Still invited me to play the Four Fact Survey. Basically I give four answers to each of the questions below. So settle down with bowls of my Popcorn Four Ways and have some fun!

Popcorn Four Ways

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Ingredients
8 cups freshly popped popcorn
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions
Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn. Toss to combine.
Place 2 cups of popped corn into each of four bowls.

for Traditional Salted Popcorn
Sprinkle in sea salt to taste. Toss to combine.

for Cumin Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Toss to combine.

for Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of icing sugar. Toss to combine.

for Cocoa Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of icing sugar. Toss to combine.

You can vary the seasonings to your own taste.

Four Fact Survey
Four names people call me other than my real name:
Panda Lady
Purple Haired Lady
Variations of my names
The usual “nicknames” 🙂

Four Jobs I’ve Had:
Bass Player in a Punk Rock Band – It was a very short career
Examinations Supervisor – I was nicknamed the Dragon Lady but that was a long time ago
Producer and Director of two Community TV Programs:
– The Pet & Wildlife Show – where I got to be in an enclosure with 8 Mississippi Alligators
– Eat – where I got to consume great food
Tutor and Lecturer in Cinema Studies – When I screened The Exorcist, half the class didn’t turn up because they were scared!

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once:
Interview With The Vampire
Kung Fu Panda
Nosferatu/Dracula
The Wicker Man

Four Books Or Authors I’d Recommend:
Anything by Anne Belov
Anything by Terry Pratchett
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

Four Places I’ve Lived:
I’ve only lived in Melbourne but I have moved around a bit. The most interesting place I have lived has been on campus at La Trobe University in Bundoora.

Four Places I’ve Visited:
China – to cuddle a baby giant panda
Iceland – for the puffins and the scenery
New Zealand – because it’s totally awesome
Romania – for all things Dracula

Four Things I’d Rather Be Doing Right Now:
Cuddling baby pandas with Justin Trudeau
Dancing with Channing Tatum
Patting my dogs
Spending more time with my partner whilst cuddling baby pandas with Justin Trudeau, dancing with Channing Tatum and patting my dogs 🙂

Four foods I don’t like:
There aren’t many foods I don’t like but I am allergic to the capsicum/bell pepper family which limits my choice. I’m also sensitive to tomatoes and eggplants which also limits my choice.

Four of my favorite foods: 
Alcohol
Cookies
Cupcakes
Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

Four Shows I Watch: 
Bewitched
Buffy/Angel
Hamish Macbeth
Seinfeld

Four Things I’m Looking Forward To This Year: 
Eating and drinking at interesting places
Finishing writing one of my cookbooks
Going to Adelaide (South Australia) to see the giant pandas Fu Ni and Wang Wang again and maybe meeting a coati
Spending more time with my partner and dogs

Four Things I’m Always Saying:
It’s too early to get up
This is doing my head in!
Time for a drink
What’s to eat?

If you enjoyed reading this Q&A and want to join in please do.

I am tagging the witty and acerbic Not Cordelia’s Mom to join the fun. I know how much she will love it!

 

Deathly Delights For Friday the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th again and for some the day is seen as unlucky, for others it means nothing, and for people like me it’s a time to dip into mythology and try out a few recipes!

13 is sometimes considered the Devil’s number, but in a tarot deck the Devil card is actually 15. It is the Death card that is number 13. Ancient Egyptians believed there were 12 stages of life and the 13th stage was death and transformation in the afterlife. For them, 13 was a lucky number. The number 12 is often associated with completion, so it makes sense that the number 13 can symbolise death and rebirth into a new cycle. This is part of the Death card’s meaning – transformation and renewal.

Death

The Dracula Tarot

One of the key symbols in the Death card is the white rose. White roses epitomise purity, humility, reverence and innocence. They symbolise new beginnings and are therefore popular at both weddings and funerals.

For this Friday the 13th, I thought I would play around with the rose from the tarot Death card and the dessert called Death by Chocolate. There are so many ways this could have gone, but I really felt like a nurturing milk drink. I concocted two Death by Chocolate Delights – because I really couldn’t choose between them 🙂

Rose Water Iced Chocolate

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Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon rose water (or to taste)
1 scoop chocolate ice cream

Instructions
Place the milk and rose water in a glass and stir until combined. Add the chocolate ice cream.

Chocolate and Rose Water Milkshake

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Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon rose water (or to taste)
3 scoops chocolate ice cream

Instructions
Add the milk, rose water and ice cream to a blender or milkshake maker. Blend until smooth.

The Year Of The Red Fire Monkey

February 8 is Chinese New Year. We are saying goodbye to The Year of the Goat, Sheep or Antelope and welcoming in The Year of the Monkey.

Chinese New Year is a Lunar Festival that takes place between January and February. Celebrations usually begin on the New Moon closest to the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. In addition, each Chinese year has two components; a zodiacal one and an elemental one.

Most of us know the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The rat is the first animal and is followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep/goat, monkey, rooster, dog and finally the boar/pig. I always assumed this was a 12 year cycle but the yearly elemental associations complicate the system.

Each year also has a corresponding element and each element has a colour; wood (green), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white) and water (black/blue). Each element has a yin year and a yang year so each element has a 2 year cycle making it in fact a 10 year cycle. This 10 year elemental cycle is overlaid with the 12 year zodiac cycle. For the two to come back to the same point takes 60 years.

When I turn 60, I’ll be celebrating the Year of the Green Wood Snake in the Yang phase – the exact same configuration as when I was born. It will take another 60 years for the two cycles to play out and meet up again. I don’t think I will be around for that one 🙂

When we take into consideration the elemental and zodiacal calendars, this year is actually The Year Of The Red Fire Monkey. It is the first phase of Fire which is Yin and the lucky colour is Red. We will have to wait another 60 years for A Red Fire Monkey in the Yin phase to repeat.

To celebrate this Red Fire Monkey year, I have created a banana cupcake topped with chocolate chilli ganache and served in a red cupcake case.

Red Fire Monkey Cupcakes

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Makes 24 mini and 6 large cupcakes

Ingredients
for the banana cupcakes
1 cup mashed bananas, approximately 2 large bananas
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (125g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate), sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon, sifted

for the chocolate chilli ganache
330g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 + 1/2 cups double cream
3/4 teaspoon chilli powder

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 24-hole mini muffin pan with 24 paper cases.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 6 paper cases.
In a medium sized bowl, beat together the bananas and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy and combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add the butter and buttermilk. Beat until combined.
Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon until combined.
Spoon the batter evenly into the 24 mini paper cases and the 6 large paper cases.
Bake mini cupcakes for 10 – 15 minutes and the 6 larger cupcakes for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cuppycake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by placing the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream and chilli powder into a saucepan. Heat until the cream just starts to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for one minute then whisk until smooth and glossy. Allow to cool before refrigerating for 1 hour. Bring out of the fridge and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Place in a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Note:
The ganache has a mild chilli flavour. Add more chilli powder if you would like it hotter!

An Unexpected Delight

On the weekend, I went to one of my favourite places to buy gin – Nicks Wine Merchants. The staff are very knowledgable, friendly and helpful. As I wandered excitedly down the aisles perusing the offerings, a beautifully painted bottle caught my eye. Then I saw the name – Turkish Delight. Intrigued, I read the label. It was made in Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia. I recognised the place immediately! A few years ago my partner and I went to Tambourine Mountain in search of this distillery and much to our disappointment discovered that it was closed on Sundays. I had really wanted to try their Turkish Delight liqueur. Well now I could 🙂 I grabbed the bottle and made my way quickly to the counter, almost forgetting about my gin. But as I passed the gin section I stopped, lured by the promise of piquant juniper libations. The staff were happy to help me choose a very unusual gin, which I’ll be sharing with you soon.

When I got home I didn’t know what to drink first. After much consideration I went for the Turkish Delight liqueur.

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It is a really grown-up liqueur, not sickly sweet, very fragrant and tasty, with a good kick of alcohol. Its light rose colour matches the sophistication of the drink. To accompany it I thought I would whip up a batch of my Turkish Delight Truffles – a fragrant blend of milk chocolate, cream and rose water.

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Ingredients
200g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup double cream
1 teaspoon rose water (or to taste)
cocoa for rolling

Instructions
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and cream to the bowl. Occasionally stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll into balls.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place some cocoa into a small bowl.
Use a melon-baller to scoop chocolate into a rough ball and, working with one ball at a time, roll ball in the cocoa until covered then place onto prepared tray.
Continue until all the chocolate is rolled, topping up with cocoa as needed.
Refrigerate until firm.
Bring to room temperature before serving.