Central American Chocolate Tour – Part 1: ChocoTalk

ChocoTalkBanner4Central America Chocolate Tour – Part 1
By Bernhard Mueller, Master Chocolatier at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts

Do you follow us on Facebook? If so, you probably would have noticed the posts about my chocolate adventure to Central America; Costa Rica to be specific.

Well, I’m back, and I’m ready to share my new-found chocolate knowledge with you wonderful ChocoTalk blog readers!

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Thursday.  It was 25 degrees C and breezy.  I had a lovely visit with my brother Gerhard who travels to Costa Rica often.  He showed me the sights of San Jose including the markets and local chocolate shops.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

I must say I was most impressed with all the food and not just the chocolate.  Fresh fruit, veggies and eggs the colour of sunshine…Wow! I could get used to that.  I loved walking the farmers market. I wanted to buy everything! I was most interested in a fruit called soursop.  The locals claim this fruit has cancer curing properties. I am not sure if this is true, but I really did enjoy its sour yet subtly sweet flavour…a must try for anyone planning on visiting this region.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

After my brief visit with my brother I headed out on a long venture to the other side of Costa Rica on the Carribean Coast just north of the Panama border.  I was told I must rent a 4×4 in order to successfully arrive where I was headed and wow were they right!  I arrived at approximately 2:30 in Puerto Viejo at my beautiful destination the Mango Walk cacao farm.

The beautiful sounds of exotic birds greeted me as I walked the path to start my chocolate tour with the chocolate maker from Caribeans, Paul Johnson.  This is Paul on the right. He is originally from Minnesota and moved to Costa Rica 12 years ago where he learned the art of chocolate making from bean to bar.  I can’t wait to tell you more about this guy…. But that will come soon.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1

As part of my introduction to the Caribeans chocolate farm we enjoyed a chocolate tasting experience  perched on top of a hill overlooking the jungle canopy with the Caribbean coast off in the distance.  This view was by far one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life!  The sounds of jungle birds, howler monkeys and crashing waves contributed the overall experience.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

It was here in the tasting lounge I felt my chocolate  journey truly began.  I paired delicious single plantation chocolate with spices like cayenne pepper, rosemary, mint, garlic, anise, sea salt and more.   The chocolate was dark, bold and had fruit undertones.  My personal favourite was the cayenne pepper with sea salt combination.

Tasting Pairing Evening

After my tasting experience, I checked into my cabin.  I felt like I was entering the movie Jurassic Park!  My cabin was nestled in the jungle forest….It was beautiful.  All that beauty did come at a cost though…… because when you stay in the jungle, you get the jungle!  I am not going to lie, I was glad there was a cage around my cabin most nights.  Enjoy these pictures of my cabin and the critters that lived with me for 7 days.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

Well that’s all for now.  My cup of Costa Rica coffee and delicious dark chocolate awaits.

In my next blog I will tell you all about the bean to bar experience.  Please stay tuned for more chocolate adventures.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday April 9thth from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of Costa Rican bean-to-bar chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!

A Lesson in Chocolate Tempering: ChocoTalk

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A Lesson in Chocolate Tempering

Ask any chocolatier in the industry what one of the most important skills is to learn and they will likely tell you the art of tempering.

ChocoTalk with Christy's Gourmet Gifts Master Chocolatier | Burlington, Ontario Chocolate and Gift Shop

Tempering chocolate is the art of bringing the chocolate to a certain temperature and viscosity, so that you don’t get ‘bloomed’ chocolate.  Think of cocoa butter and chocolate like oil and vinegar, they desperately want to separate – this creates bloomed chocolate. Tempering chocolate creates a chocolate/cocoa butter utopia, where the chocolate is not able to separate within itself

There are two types of bloom:

Moisture Bloom – Sugar crystals pull in moisture and expand. With the moisture bloom you will see spots throughout the chocolate.

Fat Bloom – Cocoa butter separates from the rest of the ingredients. With the fat bloom you will see a hazy look throughout the chocolate.

Below you will see a photo of chocolate with a fat and moisture bloom, compared to a properly tempered chocolate bar. Which would you rather eat?! ;)

ChocoTalk with the Master Chocolater | How to Temper Chocolate | Burlington, Ontario

How can you tell if you have a properly tempered bar? Even if there are no signs of a moisture bloom (spots) or a fat bloom (hazy), a tempered chocolate will have a tell-tale ‘snap’ sound when you break it.  An un-tempered bar will bend slightly when you try to break it. In addition, tempered chocolate ‘sets’ quickly with a glossy finish, where un-tempered chocolate will ‘set’ slowly and you’ll end up with a dull finish.

Are you interested in learning more about how to temper chocolate? Take a look at the how-to below OR join me at one of our Chocolate Making Workshops!

-Bernhard, The Master Chocolatier

Temper Chocolate – Tabling Technique
The tabling technique is best done on granite or a stone counter top. (Use parchment paper to cut down on the mess). I like doing this method because it gives me a real feel for the chocolate and let’s me see it start to crystallize.

Ingredients
  • Chocolate callets

Instructions
  1. Measure out the amount of chocolate you need. Melt the chocolate in a clean dry bowl in a microwave. Do short bursts of 30-45 seconds, stirring in between until chocolate is totally melted and you reach 45 degrees Celsius.
  2. Cover a countertop with a piece of parchment paper. Pour roughly ⅔ of the melted chocolate onto the parchment.
  3. With a pallet knife or spatula, work the chocolate until it starts to crystallize (the step right before it starts to harden), if it goes too far and begins to get clumpy, you will have to start again from Step 1.
  4. Once it starts to crystallize, put the chocolate from the parchment paper back into the melted chocolate in the bowl. Mix it together and make sure it all blends in.
  5. To ensure readiness: Milk and White Chocolate should be brought to 28-30 degrees Celsius. Dark Chocolate should be brought to 31-32 degrees Celsius.

Notes
*Tip from the Master Chocolatier, Bernhard*
Drizzle some of the chocolate on your finger once you think you have brought it to correct working temperature. Touch your lip with the chocolate. If the chocolate reads cold, it is good to go.

 

You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday February 6th from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of a new favourite single origin chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!

If you’d like a more in-depth introduction to chocolate, join Bernhard at one of our Chocolate Making Workshops on Thursday, February 11th, Friday February 12th or Saturday February 13th. More information can be found at our website: http://www.christysgourmetgifts.com/store/item/?id=162

Stay tuned for a video where we discuss different chocolate tempering techniques.

First Day of School Traditions

The first day of school is a time of excitement, stress and tons of new experiences. It’s a time full of high emotions, but also a time for making memories! In our opinion, the best memories usually revolve around family traditions.

We collected 5 of our favourite ‘First Day of School’ traditions from around the web, to give you some ideas for this year!

1. Photo on the first day of a new school year

Perhaps one of the most popular First Day of School Traditions – taking a photo of your child on the first day! We love the idea of putting all the photos into a scrapbook as a keepsake for when they are older. These cute year-by-year printables from DesignsByNicolina are not only adorable, they help you keep each year photo organized and in order.

First Day of School Traditions 1

http://designsbynicolina.blogspot.ca/2013/08/free-first-day-of-school-download.html

Find the year-by-year printables at DesignsByNicolina.

2. Shop for ‘Study Buddies’

We love this idea for the little ones! What makes homework more fun? Having a partner to work with, of course! One fun idea is to bring each child on a shopping trip to buy a new stuffed animal ‘Study Buddy’. Not only is homework more fun with your study buddy, it adds a feeling of comfort to children during times of transition and change.

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3. First day of School Interview Page

School is all about growth and change, but sometimes we blink and the change and growth happens far too fast! A great way to document changes is to start with this Free School Interview Page printable. Get your child to fill it out every year, and then put them all together or in a time capsule. Keep those memories forever!

First Day of School Traditions 3

Find the Free School Interview Page printable at Giggles Galore.

4. A Sweet Treat

A long hard day of school deserves a sweet treat after school! Surprise them with some Christy’s Crunch, and a pun-ny tag – “Let the Number CRUNCHing Begin”!

First Day of School Traditions 4

5. Fashion Show

Everyone knows that one of the best parts about Back to School is getting a couple new outfits for the year! On ‘School Year’s Eve’, why not have a kids fashion show? Roll out the red carpet and let them show off their new outfits. What a confidence booster for the first day!

Do you have any First Day of School Traditions? Please share them with us in the comments below!