Death by Chocolate: A Duo of Chocolate Bark

Many, many thanks to all my lovely readers, who have been so patient with me as I have gone on this journey. All photo credit goes to Melinda Strauss of Kitchen Tested

The Inspiration: The start of my artisanal chocolate business,  and a trip to a good friend’s house.

Recently, with a lot of excitement, I have launched Sweet Life Chocolate. I had my first event with Chef Ari White (of Gemstome Catering and Hakadosh BBQ fame). Chef Ari was generous enough to allow me to make chocolate for a recent event he had in Riverdale, and things are slowly taking off from there.  In a few weeks, I will be on a local radio show program (Table for Two with Naomi Nachman on the Nachum Segal show). I also will be submitting a recipe for a future edition of JCreate Magazine, an online cooking/crafting publication (jcreatemagazine.com). There has even been some talk of someone possibly funding my work, but that is still just in the talking stage.

So it was with a serious need for a bit of downtime and a chance to unwind (if I sold some chocolate it would have been alright too, but I knew I was going spend time relaxing) that I found myself at Melinda Strauss’ house last Saturday night. Melinda is the blogger over at Kitchen Tested  and I fondly refer to her as my partner in crime. We speak via Facebook chat at least five times a week, and we share ideas and flavor profiles as other friends may share fashion tips or where to get the latest accessory.  Our idea of unwinding: cooking something interesting.

Chocolate bark is a simple enough recipe: perfectly temper chocolate, lay it on parchment, add some ingredients, let set til hard, break into pieces. It’s a blank canvas, if you will, and we were determined to come up with something truly delicious. It was a collaborative, conceptual effort we knew would work,  it was a matter of getting it done.

The Innovation:  Using ingredients and spices that one would not normally associate with chocolate.

In a lot of ways, Melinda and I are complete opposites. Melinda is trendy,not afraid to speak her mind, loves bright prints and big, bold flavors, and loves to measure her ingredients. Myself, I play more towards classics, love more subtle self-expression and flavor, and cannot stand to measure unless I must.

The one thing we have in common, and what makes us a great team: a love and respect for flavor and innovation. She pushes the culinary envelope much farther than I do, and she inspires me greatly. We compliment each other, and it shows in this recipe.  She brought maple syrup lamb bacon to the table, I added the pecan touch. After exploring (and tasting) raw spices with raw coconut from her spice cabinet, I decided on toasting dried coconut with vindaloo curry powder. She felt it need a bit of something, so in went the  crystallized ginger.

The Interpretation: Chocolate Bark Two Ways: Maple Syrup Lamb Bacon with Hot Hungarian Paprika Pecans & Vindaloo Curried Toasted Coconut with Crystallized Ginger

Bark broken up

Chocolate Bark:

21 oz of best quality semi-sweet baking chocolate ( I used Alprose)

9×13 sheet pan lined with parchment

In a double boiler, break up and melt completely 14 oz of the chocolate til shiny and smooth, stirring occasionally with a rubber or silicone spatula.  Lower fire to lowest setting and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until chocolate is completely melted, then remove from heat. When lifitng the bowl or insert, make sure to wipe the bottom before pouring the chocolate so it doesn’t seize it. Pour onto the prepared parchment lined sheet, leave set for about 10 mins, then top with one of the following recipes.

Maple Lamb Bacon with Hot Hungarian Pecans

6 oz chopped lamb bacon (you could use up to 8-10 oz with good effect)

2-3 oz best grade maple syrup

2 oz chopped pecans

3 generous dashes of hot Hungarian paprika

Lay the lamb bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, cook at 400 for 10-15 mins. Drain grease and add maple syrup, stirring carefully. Return to oven for 5 mins more, then set aside to cool.

In a saute pan, add pecans and hot Hungarian paprika, cook on high for about 3 mins or til you start to smell the pecans toasting. Stir constantly to prevent scorching.

Bark sprinkling bacon

When both bacon and pecans are cool, and chocolate is partially set, add to the top of the chocolate, then refrigerate to set completely. 

Toasted Coconut with Vindaloo Curry Powder and Crystallized Ginger

3-4 oz of shredded, dried coconut

4 generous shakes from a spice container of Vindaloo curry powder

8-10 small pieces crystallized ginger, minced fine.

Add the coconut and curry powder into a saute pan, stir constantly til coconut starts to brown, about 5-7 mins on mid-high heat. Remove from fire and let cool. Add the ginger to the chocolate first, then the coconut.

Bark sprinkling coconut

To serve, break the chocolate with a knife or your hands – the pieces don’t have to be uniform. For best result, store in fridge and bring to room temperature to enjoy.

KFWE2013: The Best Bites

A special thanks to Stephanie Meissner and her associate Ilya for providing me with press passes for both the day and evening events.

Where do I start? I feel like almost everything I tasted should be on this list! But what I listed below really stood out for me head and shoulders above everything else. Let’s get started:

Heavenly Caterers:  Their standout dishes? The vegetable water (which most people seemed to find bitter, but I actually found made a fantastic palate cleanser) their brisket au jus and their rice krispie treats on a stick. These were served during the day.

At night, they had these edible spoons made out of pretzel dough filled with seared tuna and adorable little cones filled with spicy salmon tartar. Delicious!

Flower Water (Heavenly Caterers) : A bitter but refreshing drink of pomegranate, tomato and hothouse cucumber.

Flower Water (Heavenly Caterers) : A bitter but refreshing drink of pomegranate, tomato and hothouse cucumber.

 

 

Brisket Au Jus (Heavenly Caterers. The softest, most tender brisket I've ever eaten.

Brisket Au Jus (Heavenly Caterers. The softest, most tender brisket I’ve ever eaten.

 

 

Rice Krispie Treat (Heavenly Caterers) This was delicious- the peanutbutter with vanilla topping was better

Rice Krispie Treat (Heavenly Caterers) This was delicious- the peanutbutter with vanilla topping was better.

 

Gemstone Caterers: There was fierce debate here: was the polenta really polenta? It had kernels of whole corn in it, and to some was on the thin side and under seasoned. Personally? I took that piece of smoked veal belly, smeared it in the gastrique and polenta and ate one of the best mouthfuls of the day.

 

Herzog Oak Barrel Smoked Veal Belly with corn polenta and blackberry & port gastrique (Gemstone Catering

Herzog Oak Barrel Smoked Veal Belly with corn polenta and blackberry & port gastrique (Gemstone Catering)

I will also mention I got the slightest bit tipsy on the jello shots. I tasted three: the rum-and-coke, the champagne bellini, and the gin and tonic.  For me, it was the champagne bellini that got the gold star – not too sweet, not too strong.

Kedem Champagne Bellini Jello Shot (Gemstone Catering)

Kedem Champagne Bellini Jello Shot (Gemstone Catering)

 

Hakadosh BBQ: Their pulled chicken slider for me was their best bite. The BBQ alone was sweeter than I would prefer (I prefer smoky to sweet) but combined with the bread-n-butter pickle and the soft roll it was nearly perfect.

So delicious - the sweet of the BBQ, the soft roll and the tang of the pickle. (Hakadosh BBQ)

So delicious – the sweet of the BBQ, the soft roll and the tang of the pickle. (Hakadosh BBQ)

Silverleaf Caterers: I went looking for them this year. And just like last year, they didn’t disappoint. This year they rolled out a churrascaria station!  My favorites: chicken thigh wrapped in Jack’s Gourmet Facon, and the flame grilled churrasco beef. The beef, slathered in the best chimichurri I have ever tasted, was a true pleasure to sample.

Churrasacaria Station - the chimchurri beef was delicious! (Silverleaf Caterers)

Churrasacaria Station -L-R flame grilled beef with chimichurri, mojo marinated chicken breast tenderloin and chicken thigh wrapped in Jack’s Gourmet Facon (Silverleaf Caterers)

Wolf and Lamb: Their slow braised veal was wonderful. Another bite where you put a bit of everything (in this case turnip puree, fried shallots and porcini sauce) onto your fork and enjoy.

Slow Braised Veal with turnip puree, fried shallots and porcini sauce (Wolf and Lamb)

Slow Braised Veal with turnip puree, fried shallots and porcini sauce (Wolf and Lamb)

Rolls: I asked the chef for his best, and I was treated to a sashimi plate with the freshest raw white tuna, seared tuna and spicy salmon tartare with a delicious honey wasabi sauce. That’s right – honey wasabi. I intensely dislike wasabi anything, but I loved this sauce.

 

The special sashimi plate the sushi chef from Rolls made for me- it was fantastic!

The special sashimi plate the sushi chef from Rolls made for me- it was fantastic!

Basil: This exhibit provided a bite of food that I couldn’t stop raving about.  Take a homemade kirby pickle. Top with icelandic cod, add a tapenade of grapes and capers. Eat all in one bite.  Try not to jump up and down and act all giddy. I know I wanted to, and could barely restrain myself.

Icelandic Cod Crudo with grape/caper tapenade (Basil)

Icelandic Cod Crudo with grape/caper tapenade (Basil)

 

The dessert that stood out far and away? It was a toss between two, but both from the same exhibit. Susan Sez Say it With Cake. Their lemon squares had me raving for days and their chocolate cake with ganache had me wondering if their cakes were secretly dairy. They’re not- they are just that good. I can say I hadn’t tasted any baked good so delicious since I left culinary school.

Needless to say, it was an experience I will not be forgetting soon, and will be looking forward to next year!