Milk Chocolate And Cranberry

Have you ever thought to use the cranberry beyond the holiday season? The cranberry thrives best during the fall and winter months , but many grocers carry the frozen berry all year round. The cranberry is grown in the bogs of  Southeastern Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. With a tart flavor, ruby-red color and named a “superfruit” due to their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, why not give them a try.

When using the cranberry in a recipe, think of it as the shy sister of the raspberry and blueberry. Now you can imagine why it is so versatile beyond the usual sauce! You may have seen “Craisins” in the grocery store. These are dried cranberries and can be used in many of your dessert recipes. However, this humble whole fruit deserves the spotlight at your next gathering, no matter if it is dried or not.

Milk Chocolate Cranberry Bark

12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (look for high quality such as Lindt or Ghiradellighiradellimilkchocolate

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) dried cranberries

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) pistachios, lightly toasted

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) candied orange zest, finely diced

Melt chocolates, separately, in a double boiler until smooth. Fold the cranberries and pistachios into the milk chocolate. Fold the candied zest into the dark chocolate. Pour the milk chocolate mixture into a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, spreading into an even layer with a spatula. Allow to set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, continue to stir the dark chocolate to prevent it from setting. Pour the dark chocolate over the milk chocolate, making sure to pour all over to minimize the need for additional spreading, making sure to cover the first layer completely. Let set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before attempting to cut. DO NOT cover or refrigerate because any condensation could make the bark grainy. To servecranberrybark break into pieces, storing any leftovers in an airtight container.

Other ideas are a Cranberry Chocolate Pie, Cranberry Stuffed Baked Apples, Cranberry Mousse, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Souffle and a Spiked Cranberry Granita.

Happy Baking!

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A Gift From Heaven

The ancient Mayans believe that chocolate is a gift from the Gods. I tend to agree that chocolate is a heavenly experience. This could be why, when the cocoa tree was discovered, it was named theobroma or “food of the Gods”. But how did this bitter bean make the mysterious jump to the chocolate we love?

The cocoa bean is a large, brightly colored football-shaped pod. Although when tasted in the raw, cocoa is bitter, the inner soft pulp is sweet and lemony. In pre-Columbian cooking, many foods were dried and ground on stone slabs. The same is true for the cocoa bean.

The grinding of the cocoa seeds is done after the pods have been sun-dried. This will release their natural oils and produce a fragrant paste. Over the centuries, with much experimentation, the range of culinary possibilities for the cocoa bean have been numerous. Beginning with Hernando Cortes, the Spanish were the first to add sugar to cocoa to make a more palatable beverage. With the marriage of Anna of Austria to Louis XIII in 1615, cocoa was introduced to the French.  From France to England (1657) , to Italy (1711), and finally America (1755).

The evolution of the process for manufacturing chocolate has been mostly located in Switzerland. The Swiss have a reputation for creating unique blends that reveal all the richness and strength of the cocoa bean. If you are to fully appreciate to flavor and texture of pure chocolate you have to develop your palate. The best experience is to taste a small piece and let it melt in your mouth. Can you tell the difference between a premium chocolate and a pedestrian chocolate?

The next time you make brownies or chocolate chip cookies revel in the fact that the chocolate is a gift from heaven. The best chocolates make the best desserts. My favorite is  an 8585percentcocoa% Excellence bar. Just saying!

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Holiday Spirit

In just a few weeks the holiday rush will be upon us. Are you ready? Getting started early is essential in having those yummy chocolate treats ready for visitors.  Here are some websites that can make the season a little less hectic with some great chocolate candies, gifts and ingredients:

www.mylindtchocolatersvp.com/teamcocoa. Lindt & Sprungli is full of single-origin cocoa bars. Many of the items you find in the RSVP Shop are not found in your traditional local stores. The LINDT Master Chocolatiers have perfected the art of creating the finest chocolate using a selection of the finest cocoa beans and highest quality ingredients.

www.ghirardelli.com. Ghirardelli has the richest heritage of any American chocolate company since beginning operations in 1852. Ghirardelli is one of the few companies in America that controls the entire chocolate manufacturing process, from cocoa bean to finished product. This control over the manufacturing process, combined with Ghirardelli’s proprietary bean blend and unique methods of roasting and processing, ensures that you are rewarded with the highest quality and richest products.

www.guittard.com. Etienne Guittard began his chocolate making business in San Francisco in 1850 bringing with him his knowledge of French traditions. One of Guittard’s earliest and perhaps most important innovations was their proprietary Guittard Sweet Ground Chocolate. Guittard milk chocolate chips, white chips and super-sized chips were other notable innovations as was the idea of truffles, which Guittard passed along to some of their confectionary customers.

Whatever products you decide to use for your holiday table remember that quality is key. Delight even the most discriminating palates on your gift list with homemade chocolate confections or those you purchase from the best!

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