Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger Marc Lieberman of Mink Chocolates: What does it all mean?

Again, I apologize for the lack of posts this week.  I’ve started a 9-5 job in addition t my writing and I’m trying to get on a schedule.  You’ll see more posts, although not daily, in the future.

A friend pointed out that the cocoa was omitted from the Homemade Oreo Cookie recipe.  I went back and checked the blog that I found it on and she forgot to list the cocoa.  It was very un-chocolate goddess of me to not notice the omission.  The recipe has been updated and is good to go.  My friend also asked if you could substitute Black Cocoa Powder (aka Black Onyx Cocoa Powder).  Indeed, you could.  In fact, Madame Chocolat (aka Hasty Torres) told me that Black Cocoa Powder is what type of cocoa powder used to make the real Oreo cookies.  Who knew?

Today’s guest blogger is Marc Lieberman of Mink Chocolates in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You may follow Mink Chocolates on Twitter and Facebook.  Mink Chocolates also has a blog to follow too!

What does it all mean?

by Marc Lieberman of Mink Chocolates

Well into my vacation, I dream that instead of putting the nightly
deposits in the safe, Ben puts five bags of cash in the milk chocolate
ganache and all the deposit slips and till tapes in the dark chocolate
ganache. All the while the machines are spinning and everyone is
oblivious to the shredded bits of banknotes floating in their fondues.

Mink Chocolates (The Greyhound. Same as the cocktail. Fresh zest of grapefruit and vodka in dark chocolate ganache enrobed in dark chocolate.)

He rationalizes it as the equivalent of putting the family heirlooms in
the cereal box because the home invader would never think to look
there. I wake up fretting about whether or not that tactic is food safe.

I tell the story over breakfast to my wife who is trying to feed our 2-1/2
year old. Levi gets to pour a glass of water onto his make believe
rock garden every time he eats a big spoonful of Cheerios. Picking
her battles, my wife is convinced she’s won this one. Between
shoveling processed oats into his mouth, and trying to feed herself, I
ask her if she thinks the dream is indicative of my constant state of
worry that the chocolate shop will be in disarray when we get back to
town.

Mink Chocolates (A bite sized s'more. Marshmallow and Rice Krispy square topped with chocolate ganache.)

She thinks it’s simple; there was too much MSG in the previous
night’s Chinese takeout.

Convinced I’ve foretold a variation of some sort of calamity, I send
Ben a text. “How’s it going?” I’m nothing if not succinct. He’s slow to
reply, which is disconcerting because like all my staff, their iPhones
are in their aprons, set to vibrate, and always at the ready. I assume
the Café has either burnt down, or Ben’s leading a staff retreat at the
Lions Pub.

Mink Chocolates's Chocolate Bars

Soon my BlackBerry plays the opening refrain to the James Bond
Theme, the song I’ve set as Ben’s alert. I like to think of him as an
operative and me as the mysterious benevolent chocolate dictator,
and all our communiqués are top secret. “May I speak?” is his cryptic
text that lets me know he can chat on the phone if I’m available. I call
him up.

We exchange hi, how are you’s, then he’s all business.

Mink Chocolates's Traditional Chocolate Gift Box

“Things are quite good”, he says, “people still want to eat chocolate
even if you’re not here”.

I get the numbers, all the phone messages, and updates on various
staff drama, and am temporarily reassured.

“Cohen’s taken it upon himself to make a merchandising statement in
honor of Pride weekend, using only the Queen Cake chocolate bar”,
Ben tells me, trying to contain his laughter. “You’ll definitely have to
put it into production when you get back”.

Mink Chocolates's (The traditional yellow Wellington rubber boots signifies lemon. A big hit of fresh citrus zest in a milk chocolate ganache enrobed in dark chocolate.)

Queen Cake is Mink’s 70% dark chocolate bar hand filled with
marzipan. It’s my take on some versions of king cake eaten during
the carnival season in the South. Didn’t think of it at the time, but I
guess the cross promotion is self evident.

Ben and I hang up. I’m home in a couple of days. They’ve managed
without me, and done quite well actually, so at my wife’s behest, I’m
going to try and chill the rest of the trip.

I hit the pool. I’m trying to finish Candy Freak by Steve Almond, billed
as a journey through the chocolate underbelly of America. I started
the paperback just after Christmas, when the hysteria of the biggest
chocolate season of the year slowly wound down, but put it aside as
both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the start of construction on the
new Mink A Chocolate Café retail outlet at Morgan Crossing was
getting underway.

I pick it up at the bookmark. Two pages into this candy porn
confessional, and I’m fast asleep. I dream that everyone in the Café
is eating my chocolate bars like Big Walter Horton playing the
harmonica, sliding them from side to side. Ben’s playing boogie
woogie blues on an old upright piano. The keyboard not only makes
music, it can send text messages. I learn the deposit is in the safe.
It’s easier to sleep when there’s nothing to worry about.

Mink Chocolates's Bonbons

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Guest Blogger: Chocri Chocolate on How to Make Your Own Chocolate Bars

How to Make Your Own Chocolate Bars

Making your own chocolate at home has obvious attractions – the smell of melted chocolate, the power over your creation, and not at last the left over chocolate in the forms and on the spoons that just begs to be licked off. But what others like just spells m-e-s-s-y for others, so I’m offering you two ways to create your own chocolate bars in the following: 1) at home and 2) with Chocri Chocolate.

1) Making Chocolate Bars at Home

You need:
* Two or three chocolate bars of a chocolate that you really like. I suggest Lindt or Tcho chocolate
* Anything that you want to mix into or put onto your chocolate bar. Suggestions: M&Ms, Banana Chips, Nuts, Marshmallows, little balls of Marzipan, Sprinkles, Gummy Bears, Granola, you name it.
* If you’re fancy, a molding form – that requires some online ordering or specialty candy supply store shopping. Generally though, you just need a relatively, not too flat form

In theory, you would now temper the chocolate (temper means you expose it to different temperatures in a strict order). However, that’s really tricky to do and really creates a mess because you will need several bowls and you have to keep transferring the chocolate mass from one to the other, so we’ll do the easy version here. If you like, you can also add a very little bit of coconut oil to the mix, which should take care of the blooming (white streaks on the chocolate if it isn’t well tempered).

Now, melt the majority of the chocolate in a bowl that you place over hot water. When the mass is nice and creamy, take it off, and add the rest of the chocolate, which should melt immediately and will cool the chocolate down a bit. Pour the chocolate immediately into the form. When doing that, make sure that you don’t fill as much chocolate in from the start as the form will hold – the chocolate will distribute evenly and fill out the corners even if it doesn’t look like that in the beginning. You will find out how much chocolate you need in the form, but start with little and then increase.

Next, shake the form with small but fast hits against the table, not only for the chocolate to distribute evenly, but also for the air to leave the chocolate. You might even see little bubbles come out of the chocolate. Once it’s evenly distributed, you can mix in your ingredients, or place them beautifully on top of the chocolate bar. That’s the best part! If you’re like me, you’ll find that it isn’t altogether easy to make it look pretty, so don’t fret if it doesn’t look perfect the first time – it will still taste great.

Now place the form with chocolate and ingredients into the refrigerator and let it sit there for 30 minutes. Afterwards, take the form out, cut the borders off and resist the temptation to bite into it immediately before anyone was able to admire your creation!

Chocri Chocolate Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

Now, if this sounds like too much mess and/ or time to you, consider this:

2) Create Your Chocolate Bar Online

Visit Chocri Chocolate and click on “Create a chocolate bar”. Choose a base chocolate (dark, milk ,white or a combination base), and then choose your toppings from a wide variety, spanning across fruit (strawberries anyone?), spices (hm, cinnamon), nuts (pecans!), confections (peanut butter drops), decor (a marzipan rose, so pretty) and grains (coffee and milk chocolate ROCK!).

When you completed your bar, don’t forget to give it a personalized name. It’s not only free, it’s also cute. Add your very own bar to the cart and repeat the process or pick one of our [recommended creations] And then order it and that’s it! We deliver it to your doorstep – without the smell of molten chocolate, but all of the excitement of holding your very own creation in your hands.

We use only fair trade, organic chocolate from Belgium, and our toppings are European quality ingredients. I’m sure you’ll love it! [Try us out!]

Chocri Chocolate's Chocolate Bars

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Guest Blogger Jeff Deasy of American Feast: Theo’s Gourmet Chocolate is Delicious, Eco-Friendly & Fair Trade

Today we welcome Jeff Deasy of American Feast as Guest Blogger! He’s going to tell you about Theo Chocolate.

Theo Chocolate Bon Bons and Bars

Founder and CEO of Seattle’s Theo Chocolate, Joseph Whinney, witnessed the effects of unfair, unsustainable cocoa trading as a conservation volunteer in Central America. That experience led him to pioneer the manufacture and supply of organic chocolate products as the first individual to import organic cocoa beans into North America in 1994. Over a decade later, Theo is proud to be the first to roast organic cocoa beans and the first roaster of Fair Trade certified cocoa beans in the United States.

Theo Chocolate Factory

Food and Wine Magazine honored Theo with an Eco-Epicurean Award for making the world “a better — and more delicious — place.” Theo also won “Outstanding Chocolate” at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in New York City.

Eco-entrepreneurs deserve kudos for the risks they take to start up companies that strive for sustainability. Joe Whinney of Theo Chocolate is among the most deserving, so it’s quite fitting that the popular environmental news site Grist named him one of its top 15 green business founders.

Theo Chocolate Factory

All of Theo’s ingredients are carefully selected to ensure they meet the company’s high standards for social and environmental responsibility. As true chocolate makers, they carefully steward cacao (cocoa beans) through the process of roasting, blending and conching in order to coax out the distinctive flavor imparted by each unique growing region. Theo’s production is guided by their passion for chocolate and their ultimate goal is to lead the industry with the excellence and integrity of their offerings.

The company is located in a beautiful, historic building in Seattle, Washington. They welcome visitors for tours of the chocolate factory at 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm, seven days a week, with additional tours at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The cost is just $6.00 per person. You can reserve a place on the tour by calling 206-632-5100. Tours last about 1 hour and include a thorough explanation of artisanal chocolate making and delicious samples! Theo’s factory is in the Fremont district of north Seattle at the intersection of Phinney Avenue North and 35th Avenue North.

To follow American Feast on Facebook go to: American Feast on Facebook

To follow American Feast’s Founder on Twitter go to: Jeff Deasy on Twitter



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Guest Blogger Paris Patisseries: The Best Pastries in Paris

Today we are starting the guest blogger series.  Isn’t this exciting?  There’s been lots of interest on both ends for this project.  I hope you enjoy it and learn as much as I do! Joining us today, we have Paris Patisseries with an article entitled The Best Pastries in Paris: Top 17 Patisseries.  Enjoy!

What are the best pastries in Paris? After eating nearly 300 pâtisseries from dozens of the most famous pastry shops, I’ve come to an elite list of 17 unforgettable masterpieces. Consider it your shopping list next time you’re here.

If you’re wondering, “Why 17?” That’s simple. There’s more than a “Top 10” of the best pastries, or even 15, and yet there were not 20. This is not an arbitrary list; it’s the culmination of hundreds of hours of savoring and cataloging the great pastries of Paris. This is Paris Pâtisseries’ 17 Best Pastries in Paris for 2010

#1 Hugo Chocolat by Hugo & Victor

The Hugo Chocolat is a pastry connoisseur’s fantasy. Tanzanian chocolate combines with the exotic Venezuelan tonka bean and lime to dazzle your palate and leave you speechless. Not necessarily for those who would prefer an excellent cream puff or classic macaron as their Parisian pastry experience, this is for those in search of the exquisite and the cutting edge.

Hugo Chocolat (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#2 Tarte Framboise Pistache by Pascal Caffet

Ruby-red raspberries, rich pistachio crème, complex and slightly chewy pistachio frangipan, with a hint of curry-like tones, and a sweet tart shell unite for one of the most incredible experiences of texture and flavor . . . ever.

Tarte Framboise Pistache by Pascal Caffet (Photo by Paris Patisseries)

#3 Tarte Vanille Infiniment by Pierre Hermé

Do you love all-things vanilla? Then your life is truly not complete until you’ve indulged in Hermé’s Tarte Vanille. Luxuriously smooth and exploding with vanilla flavor, this is the one pastry on this list most likely to please anyone of any age and any level of pastry snobbery.

Tarte Vanille Infiniment by Pierre Hermé (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#4 Tarte au Caramel Beurre Salé by Sadaharu Aoki

Imagine if a Twix bar were made of the absolute finest ingredients available, contained five times as much caramel in every bite, had its waxen chocolate swapped out for concentric rings of cocoa-dusted silky-smooth milk chocolate crème, and possessed a cookie base that was instead a crumbly buttery expertly-prepared tarte shell. That gives you a vague idea of how incredible Aoki’s Tarte au Caramel is.

Tarte au Caramel Beurre Salé by Sadaharu Aoki (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#5 Alliance by La Pâtisserie des Rêves

A laughably bland exterior hides one of the most elegant flavor combinations. White chocolate mousse, apricot, and hazelnut biscuit are the three simple constituents of this brilliant piece by pastry guru Philippe Conticini. Don’t let the outside steer you away; this is #5 on the list for a reason. It is phenomenal.

Alliance by La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#6 Marie-Antoinette by Carl Marletti

Take one macaron shell, fill it with raspberry syrup, encircle that with fresh raspeberries, add a generous mound of rose-flavored crème, and top it off with another macaron shell sprinkled with candied violettes. Very similar to Hermé’s and Ladurée’s Ispahans, but far better, this version has no litchi, swapping it instead for the aforementioned raspberry syrup.

Marie-Antoinette by Carl Marletti (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#7 Grand Cru by La Pâtisserie des Rêves

There are desserts for people who love chocolate, and then there’s the Grand Cru, the dessert for people who wish it were legally possible to marry a mountain of it. This is perhaps the greatest pure chocolate dessert known to man. Successive layers of Venezuelan chocolate preparations (mousse, ganache and biscuit) rest above an ultra-thin layer of praliné croustillant, which adds just the right touch of character.

Grand Cru by La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Photo by Paris Patisseries)

#8 Millefeuille by Pain de Sucre

An ooey-gooey fantasy millefeullie like you can’t imagine. It’s an absolutely perfect expression of this French classic – and from one of the most fanciful and idyllic pâtisseries in Paris. Go to the shop, stare at their gorgeous ceiling for a few minutes, and walk out with one of these in-hand and in-mouth. It’s a Parisian pastry experience you won’t forget.

Millefeuille by Pain de Sucre (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#9 Belle Helene by Carl Marletti

Much like #2 on the list, Carl Marletti’s Belle Helene is an ultimate expression of texture and balance in flavors. A simple tarte crust, with a surprisingly complex range of flavors in itself, cups chocolate, nuts and pears – all crowned with a dollop of mascarpone. Stunning.

Belle Helene by Carl Marletti (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#10 Fleur d’Oranger Macarons by Ladurée

Like eating springtime. Impossible to explain without experiencing them first-hand, the highly floral flavor and signature delicate frame of the Ladurée macaron make it intoxicatingly delicious. If you enjoy rose or lavender flavored pastries and confections, there’s an excellent chance these will blow your mind.

Fleur d’Oranger Macarons by Ladurée (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#11 Cheese-Cake Citron by Sadaharu Aoki

Absolutely the most controversial item of the list. As a cheesecake lover, you will either adore this or pass entirely – the same as happens with any other cheesecake you eat. Aoki’s take is relatively light and decidedly tangy with a perfectly chosen level of sweetness and pop of lemon flavor. If lighter, more nuanced cheesecake is your preference, this could be one of your all-time favorites.

Cheese-Cake Citron by Sadaharu Aoki (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#12 Victor Fraise Millefeuille by Hugo & Victor

Imagine hundreds of layers of insanely thin pastry sandwiching an intensely flavorful, yet wonderfully delicate and acidicly pert strawberry cream, dotted with strawberries. It contains about 1/3 the sugar of most other strawberry millefeuille, so those looking for a classic strawberry millefeuille are better served by visiting Laduree or Carl Marletti. However, if you’ve ever wanted a millefeuille that felt fresh and satisfying, rather than heavy and overbearing, look no further.

Victor Fraise Millefeuille by Hugo & Victor (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#13 Caramel au Beurre Salé Macarons by Pain de Sucre

While most caramel macarons merely have some flavor of caramel, Pain de Sucre gives you a delicious oozing blob of it between two pumpkin-orange-colored macaron halves, which have a chewy texture and flavor reminiscent of Bit-o-Honey candy. Almost more like a confection than pastry, these are obscenely tasty.

Caramel au Beurre Salé Macarons by Pain de Sucre (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patiesseries)

#14 Lily-Valley by Carl Marletti

Few pastries capture the storybook fantasy of Parisian pâtisseries so well – loaded with violet cream, glazed with violet icing, and garnished with a flare violet-flavored violet sugar artistry. Whether you love anything this color, love eating violet-flavored anything, or love its beautifully frilly looks, you’re sure to fall for the Lily-Valley.

Lily-Valley by Carl Marletti (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#15 Victor Abricot Éclair by Hugo & Victor

Like virtually all Hugo & Victor pieces, the Victor Abricot Éclair is an incomparable expression of flavor. The choux pastry, apricot and crème alone are all that is needed to make the piece magic, but the addition of a fine wafer of white chocolate top it all adds a subtle element of optional sweetness to this new spin on a classic.

Victor Abricot Éclair by Hugo & Victor (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#16 Éclair Sesame Noir by Sadaharu Aoki

With all the off-beat combinations available in Parisian pastry, this stands out more than any other. Black sesame seeds and a sweet creamy éclair might seem like the last two things that should ever come in contact with one another, but the duo is addictive. And while the exterior has a defined eastern minimalism, the interior is bursting with the gorgeous blue-lavender tones and dark specks of black sesame.

Éclair Sesame Noir by Sadaharu Aoki (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

#17 Croissant Ispahan by Pierre Hermé

Regular butter croissants are technically termed viennoiseries, not pastries, but this is not your ordinary croissant. Glazed, sprinkled with candied rose petals, and filled with rose pâte, it can propel any dreams you have of Parisian café life into the stratosphere. Snagging one of these before walking a few blocks over to the famed Luxembourg Gardens is a prescription for an indelible memory.

Croissant Ispahan by Pierre Hermé (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

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You might be curious why Gerard Mulot, Lenôtre, Dalloyau, Stohrer, Secco, Delmontel, Larher and many others you’ve heard of are not on the list. That is because their work, while generally good, is rarely great. Even the fabled Ladurée only makes one appearance, and I ate there practically every single day for months on-end. While it was impossible for me to go literally everywhere and eat everything, in general, it’s not for lack of exposure to their pieces that many of these well-known shops don’t have better representation here.

Des Gâteaux et Du Pain, Jean-Paul Hevin and several others, who produce consistently excellent pastries, are just outside the “Top 17″. Were I to rank the shops based on their entire body of work, as I will one day, rather just individual pieces, that’s when such pâtisseries would begin to appear.

Keep in mind that not everyone will love everything on the list. That is why I’ve included brief descriptions to help you marry the visuals with the taste experience. For instance, the Victor Fraise Millefeuille has very little sugar in it; even though it’s full of strawberries and crème, it won’t taste sticky sweet. The Grand Cru by La Pâtisserie des Rêves is a square made purely of different preparations of dark chocolate; some would kill to eat this – others might find it far too rich. And Aoki’s Éclair Sesame Noir is an éclair filled with black sesame seeds and crème, which is most definitely not for everyone.

Regular butter croissants are technically termed viennoiseries, not pastries, but this is not your ordinary croissant. Glazed, sprinkled with candied rose petals, and filled with rose pâte, it can propel any dreams you have of Parisian café life into the stratosphere. Snagging one of these before walking a few blocks over to the famed Luxembourg Gardens is a prescription for an indelible memory.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

You might be curious why Gerard Mulot, Lenôtre, Dalloyau, Stohrer, Secco, Delmontel, Larher and many others you’ve heard of are not on the list. That is because their work, while generally good, is rarely great. Even the fabled Ladurée only makes one appearance, and I ate there practically every single day for months on-end. While it was impossible for me to go literally everywhere and eat everything, in general, it’s not for lack of exposure to their pieces that many of these well-known shops don’t have better representation here.

Des Gâteaux et Du Pain, Jean-Paul Hevin and several others, who produce consistently excellent pastries, are just outside the “Top 17″. Were I to rank the shops based on their entire body of work, as I will one day, rather just individual pieces, that’s when such pâtisseries would begin to appear.

Keep in mind that not everyone will love everything on the list. That is why I’ve included brief descriptions to help you marry the visuals with the taste experience. For instance, the Victor Fraise Millefeuille has very little sugar in it; even though it’s full of strawberries and crème, it won’t taste sticky sweet. The Grand Cru by La Pâtisserie des Rêves is a square made purely of different preparations of dark chocolate; some would kill to eat this – others might find it far too rich. And Aoki’s Éclair Sesame Noir is an éclair filled with black sesame seeds and crème, which is most definitely not for everyone.

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