Archive for amano artisan chocolate

Tuesdays with Dorky (and the temple of chocolate)

Posted in baking, food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by uglydudefood

Gold, I tell you! Everything I touch turns to gold! I’ve been winning grand awards left and right!

I recently won a contest at Tuesdays with Dorie, giving me a free baking cookbook (and a seat among the hallowed TWD blogroll). TWD is a baking event. Every week, a recipe is picked from the pages of Baking:  From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Then, every blogger and their mother bakes their own version of that recipe.

I’ve not done a particularly good job of baking in the past. Most of my baking is f’aking, and then there’s some that just kind of falls apart (Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper Cupcakes, Amazing Black Bean Brownies).

Until I receive the book in the mail and get to babble endlessly about my failures as a baker and as a human being, here’s a mega-update about my adventures in chocolatey things.

I’m a…hungry girl?  That can’t be right!

In my neverending quest to eat delicious treats that somehow don’t bust my gutline, I stumbled across a newsletter called Hungry Girl. Is it run by a hungry girl? Is it a site for hungry girls? Either way, I’m emasculated by e-mail messages five days a week.

Now that we can put aside all of that macho posturing, I’ll inform you that Hungry Girl is the real shizz. I’ve been perusing years and years worth of bizarre recipes and bookmarking almost every page. The recipes are fast and easy; frequently they are made with junk you have laying around.

My first completed recipe was Yum Yum Brownie Muffins (click that link for the recipe). It’s pretty simple–a box of dry cake mix and a can of 100% pumpkin. I used Pillsbury Reduced-Sugar Devil’s Food Cake Mix, which is sweetened with a mix of sugar and Splenda. In the end, the muffins were each 153 calories. That, my friends, is a drop in the bucket. The muffin bucket.

The muffins were dense, and fudgy. Nothing in the flavor indicated that they were “diet muffins.” They were subdued enough to eat as a breakfast treat, but substantial and chocolatey enough to frost in cupcake form.

Reactions weren’t glowing, but generally positive. My mom and sister scarfed them down, and coworkers enjoyed them too.  For a quick-fix recipe, that’s really all you can ask for!

More photos of Hungry Girl’s “Yum Yum Brownie Muffins.”

Mano Amano

You may remember that I blogged about $21 of free Amano chocolate that I received.  I asked for suggestions as to what I should do with the bars, and I received some interesting ones.  While I considered Conor’s suggestion of intravenously feeding myself, I ended up following Joli’s advice and letting the shizzle dissolve in my mouth.  It’s about as close as I’ll ever get to snooty “chocolate tasting” given my level of patience.

Amano creates chocolate in three forms–Madagascar, Ocumare, and Cuyagua.  All three bars have 70% cacao content.  Texturally, these chocolates were heads above “similar” items from both the mass-market brands and the more widespread organic options.  When it comes to flavor–eh.  Some were better, some were worse.  The Madagascar was revelatory.  Amano says it “includes hints of citrus and berry,” and I’ll be damned if my untrained palate actually found them!  This is by far the best dark chocolate I’ve ever eaten.  The Ocumare was pretty good.  Although the tasting notes mention “hints of plums and other red fruit,” this one tasted (to me) pretty close to a generic dark chocolate bar.  Cuyagua (including “notes of spice”) was my least favorite of the three.  The spice seemed to be nonexistant.  The chocolate seemed somehow blander than the other products.

Are any of these products worth $7 for a bar?  I don’t think so.  I can appreciate the amount of work and care that went into each of these bars, but when you can get a (larger) bar for $2.50 in the organic section of your supermarket it seems like an awful waste to pay triple that for similar quality.

More Free Chocolate Crapola

I received a free sample of Betty Crocker Warm Delight Minis:  Molten Chocolate Cake.  It’s the Easy Mac of cakes!  Just add water, stir, microwave, and you have fresh, steamy cake.

The pack comes with a small packet of cake mix, a condom wrapper filled with fudge sauce, and a small plastic bowl.  Prep was fairly easy, requiring only two minutes of work.  The end result wasn’t bad.  It was cake-mixy and clearly not baked from scratch, but the fact that it was fresh from the “oven” improves the little cake’s value tenfold.

At 150 calories, it’s a nice (albeit expensive) calorie-cheap dessert.  It has trans fats, with partially hydrogenated oils in both the cake mix and the fudge.  Despite its caloric value (which is more a measure of its diminuative size and not its “healthiness”), this is not for the dieter.

More photos of Betty Crocker Warm Delight Minis:  Molten Chocolate Cake

In the near future, you’ll be seeing a lot more failed baking (and, presumably, a little bit of success)

And…well, maybe everything I touch doesn’t turn to gold. I have a feeling there will be a lot of baked goods that turn to black before this strange, mystical journey is over.

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DEAD

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2008 by uglydudefood

Okay.  I’m not dead.  But my car is.

On Sunday, my girlfriend and I were driving down a four-lane highway (2 lanes for each direction of traffic, natch) toward my sister’s college graduation.  As we were passing a tractor trailer (fully in view of his mirrors), he flipped on his turn signal.  He immediately and quickly began to merge into our lane.  I slammed on the brakes, but it wasn’t enough.

My poor car was slammed by the semi in two places–the front of the hood and the rear passenger door.  We were sent careening across a raised median and into the two lanes of oncoming traffic.

The truck driver did not stop.

Since the accident happened, I’ve been known to say, “With the exception of being hit by a tractor-trailer, things could not have gone more perfectly.

1)  We were in a tiny, 1-mile stretch without any walls dividing the highway.  Had we run into a median wall, we would have been killed.

2)  The two impact points directly sandwiched my girlfriend.  If the truck had hit where she was sitting it would probably have been the end of ol’ Rachel.

3)  We somehow, miraculously managed to miss all oncoming traffic.

4)  Despite coming within feet of it, we avoided the guard rail on the opposite side of the highway.

5)  When the car eventually screeched to a stop, we were sitting atop the median, completely out of harm’s way.

I feel incredibly lucky to be here today blogging obnoxiously.  Soon I will be the owner of a brand new car (I’m looking into the Prius at the moment).  At the moment, money is going to be tight and a lot of the more extravagant recipes and foods I have bookmarked to try may not happen as fast as I had planned.  Thank god for $21 worth of free artisan chocolate!

On a related note, when I had to kick the car door open, I felt like an action hero.

Loco for choco

Posted in food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2008 by uglydudefood

I used to love milk chocolate. Then I went on a crazy, obsessive diet and cut all chocolate out of my life for a period of years. When I finally decided to return to the realm of the healthy and the sane, the typical Hershey’s bars (even the Special Dark which contains more milk and sugar than any good dark chocolate bar should) left me with a nasty, saccharine taste in my mouth.

One day I was wandering through the “health food” section of my grocery store–although really, how much healthier is “organic” macaroni and cheese compared to a blue box of Kraft Dinner?–and I passed a rack of chocolates I had never seen before. They all had weird numbers on them and they told me where they were from. What the what? I picked up a 55% dark chocolate Chocolove bar. It was exquisite. Instead of an overload of sugar or almost-artificial creaminess, there was depth to this candy. This candy had secrets.

I couldn’t get enough. As I continued on my journey, the percentages kept getting higher and higher. 70%. 80%. My life changed the moment I put a chunk of Endangered Species 88% dark chocolate in my gob.

But there was a problem.

The numbers stopped going up. My grocery store didn’t carry any chocolate darker than that 88% bar. I wanted more! More complexity! Would I live my life forever chasing the dragon, trying to relive my first 88% cacao experience?

Not if the baking aisle had anything to say about it. I marched right up to the unsweetened baking chocolate rack–which, in hindsight, probably looked pretty silly–and I grabbed a bar of Hershey’s finest 100% chocolate. It had to be good, right? I mean, my experience has done nothing to discourage the belief that higher cacao percentage equals higher deliciousness percentage.

Mistake.

I guess this post is meant to say that I love dark chocolate. I love dark chocolate ever so much. In fact, I may be the only living proof of going retarded over chocolate that you’ll ever actually see.

Amano Artisan Chocolate produces some of the most wonderful, complicated dark chocolate flavors out there.   I was lucky enough to receive over $21 worth of their chocolate for free from BlakeMakes.

Via Amano’s website:  “In a world of mass-produced merchandise, Amano strives to return to chocolate’s roots by making the chocolate slowly and in very small batches while concentrating on developing the finest flavors possible. There is much fine chocolate made throughout the world. Each company or artisan has its own unique vision. We hope that you will share Amano’s vision of quality without compromise.”

Due to the fact that this is probably the most expensive chocolate I’ll ever eat, I feel like I need more ceremony than just chomping on the bar.  Any suggestions on what to do with some really, really good dark chocolate?  Should I use it to bake something? Share it with work friends and gauge reactions in some sort of faux-wine-tasting?  Or should I just chomp on it?