Chris was so excited talking about the new line of chocolate, made from certified heirloom Arriba Nacional beans, the chocolate is 70% cocoa and is 100% dairy free. Of course, I then had to learn as much as I could about chocolate production and how it's grown and then made into what we know and love. Chocolate begins as a plant, and I often joke about cocoa beans being a vegetable and see? Chocolate is healthy! In all seriousness, it actually does come from a plant- the cacao tree to be specific, which grows in the warm moist equatorial region of South America. Each tree produces these really colorful pods that contain as many as 50 seeds which are actually the cacao beans. When the pods turn bright orange they are ripe,and they are cut off and the seeds are harvested. The beans are removed by hand and fermented covered with banana leaves. After a thorough drying in the sun you have the cocoa beans we are all familiar with.
Cocoa beans then go through several processes to make chocolate- roasting, removing the nibs from the shells, grinding- to eventually end up with cocoa powder and cocoa butter. You might have heard of cocoa nibs- a lot of pastry chefs use them in different recipes. Dark chocolate is simply cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolate has milk powder added and white chocolate is cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder. The next step in the process is called "conching" and combines kneading, rolling, aeration and heat using a large mixer of sorts called a conche to manipulate the chocolate mixture. The longer a chocolate is mixed in the conche, the smoother the finished chocolate will be. After this point the chocolate is tempered and ready to package for shipment. It can be shaped into bars, cubes, pastilles, chips- whatever the chocolate maker prefers. This is the chocolate the you and I buy in the store. You know, the vegetable *wink wink*.
Testing out the new chocolate was fun for me too. The sinfully delicious chocolate is available in four varieties- pure 70% chocolate, Espresso, Mint and Pink Himalayan Salt. All four chocolates are excellent for eating, perfect for wine tasting and lovely for cooking and baking. The bars come in 50g sizes and are scored for easy portioning. Sampling the varieties was so heavenly. Deep dark chocolate flavor, kissed with a hint of espresso, a whisper of cool mint, the unexpected bite of Himalayan pink salt. This chocolate is amazing you need to get yours!!!
Since that conversation I have been busy thinking. What should I make? Pastry? Cake? Cookies? So many options........
I ended up deciding to go with a classic chocolate dessert- brownies. Melted chocolate makes a much richer and fuller flavored brownie than the cocoa powder recipes and what better way to use Sinful Food chocolate that a totally decadent chocolate brownie? Pick your flavor too- espresso? Mint? Original? Either one is perfect to amp up your brownie recipe.
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teapsoon instant coffee, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 50g bar Sinful Food chocolate, coarsely broken/chopped
Hat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray for baking and set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium bowl- a microwave works great for this step. Microwave for two minutes to melt the butter. Stir the chocolate until completely melted and smooth. Stir in the sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla, coffee and salt, finally, mix in the flour. Stir in the chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to overbake.
These brownies are soooo fudgy and delicious. Resist the temptation to add frosting- you do not need it. You can add whatever nuts you have on hand if you like.
The chocolate is so rich and densely flavored. The instant coffee crystals add a special something to the flavor you can't quite place- you don't taste it, but believe me it adds a backnote of flavor you will appreciate. The broken chunks of chocolate are so rich and add a BIG punch of chocolate flavor and creamy texture.