Wednesday, January 28, 2009

sign of the times

SFGate reports today that Hershey's is deciding to close the Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt plants and move all production to its PA factories. Having cooked with SB for over three years now I swear I can taste a difference in the stuff I was using when I first got out here and recent batches.

SB 70% is a very unique chocolate. I don't like chocolate desserts made exclusively with it, as it tends to be overwhelming, but it is very distinctive and very good. Or, I should say, Was.

for those interested in working with local chocolate, that cuts the option down to Guittard...which always tends to taste a little waxy to me, though can be quite fine in some things.

There are fine confectioners here...Recchiuti, Poco Dolce, Charles Chocolates to name a few. However, these companies do not focus on bar production but instead on treats, candies, truffles, etc.

Perhaps I should put on my SB t-shirt...yknow, the one that says Extra Bitter?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

taza chocolate chip cookies

Once, on a recent trip back east, I biked out through Cambridge, down by Lechmere, to just over the Somerville line. In a big brick warehouse, Taza chocolate was rumored to be some interesting, delicious local chocolate. I locked my bike up, went inside, and wandered around the warehouse unable to find my destination. Either Taza had stopped having an open factory where visitors could drop by, or I was missing something obvious. I could smell the chocolate, but I couldn't get there. With too many other things to do before leaving town, I got back on my bike and rode away.

So when I found a bar of Taza 70% organic stone ground at Zabar's the other week, I took it home. I was entirely surprised by the chocolate when I tried it. The 70% had a smoky, rich flavor. Whereas Valrhona Caraibe or Guanaja usually calls up fruity and smooth, and Scharffenberger an intense red wine note, this one reminded me more of a black tea. The flavor was delicious. The taste?

Grainy. Sugar crystals, I thought at first. Upon reading up on the company I found out they don't conche their chocolate for an intensity of flavor. I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of this decision personally, mostly because it produces a chocolate that I don't really want to eat raw.

In order to get the most out of the Taza, I thought I'd make some basic chocolate chip cookies and melt the stubborn texture away. I made a simple chocolate pecan dough, chilled it, baked it, and was impressed at how the rich chocolate transformed a simple basic.

My main intent in writing this post was to meditate on what happens when you end up with something you don't quite love. Those perfect pears too mushy, too grainy? Did you try to buy out of season berries? Need to use something up before it goes bad? There are a lot, but a lot, of things that a good cook can make from one ingredient. I could have made a silky chocolate pudding, a rich hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows, or seriously special brownies. Pears can be poached or made into cobbler, and old poached pears can be cooked down to pear butter or pureed for a sorbet base. If you aren't quite happy with something take a minute to think what else you can make with it that you might enjoy better, or that might highlight the potential goodness of the thing.

I knew all along that inside of that bar, there was a delicious chocolate that I would enjoy.

Secondly...and take this to heart. Nothing will give you a better product than buying better ingredients in the first place. From salt to butter to chocolate, if you want flavor, you have to start with something that will give it to you.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

candied yuzu peel

I candied some yuzu today. There are still about 6 left and I'd like to make a yuzu-lemon marmalade for some cookies. But I ran out of sugar. Oops.

I was lucky enough to score the last bag of yuzu at the Berkeley Bowl.

I was disappointed on my last Bowl trip to notice a lot of out of season produce and non-healthy products. There are enough places to get Chilean cherries in this winter. Should that really be one of them?