Monday, June 22, 2009

Chocolate and Beer, a toast to Fathers.

Celebrating Fathers Day this year was bitter sweet. Literally. An event hosted by Slow Food NYC at Jimmy's No 43 was event that paired chocolate with beer. The former is my favorite, the later is usually avoided.

At first I thought this ad hoc combination was an attempt to please the mothers and children of the celebrated father. Instead, I was informed that beer and chocolate pairing actually makes more sense than wine and chocolate pairing, since chocolate can over power wine.

The event wasn't just about gobbling up chocolate. We were lucky enough to have Nate Bletter, who has studied and made chocolate for five years, explain the history of chocolate. Bletter plans to open a chocolate bar company soon with two partners called Pure Origins and they will source their ingredients from local farmers. Besides having the knowledge and ample experience, he showed us how simple it was to make chocolate using a double boiler, Cuisinart, and raw ingredients. One bar was made with roasted cocoa nibs, the other bar with "raw" nibs. Although, Bletter loathes to use the term raw because technically the nibs must undergo fermentation for about a week, meaning the temperature exceeds the qualifications of "raw".

The trickiest part he warned us, is tempering the chocolate. Having a thermometer is imperative, better still, one that beeps when temperature is reached.

Dark Chocolate Bar
(makes 4 bars)
Source: Nate Bletter

1/4 cup cocoa butter
5 oz ground raw or roasted cocoa beans or nibs
1.9 oz or 6 TBSP of ground sugar (take regular sugar for a spin the food processor)
1 tsp of lecithin ground
1/4 tsp vanilla or 1 bean
1 square of existing dark chocolate
optional flavorings: a few drops of essential oils (nothing water based!), dried chili peppers, spices (all spice is traditional), chopped fruit or nuts.

1)Over a double boiler add cocoa butter and melt. Put in food processor and then add cocoa nibs, sugar, lecithin, and vanilla.
2)Let your food processor spin for 1hr (yes, 1 hr) the chocolate with be liquid at the end of the hour.
3)Take temperature of the mixture, it should be around 116F-120F otherwise heat it up until it reaches that temperature range. Pour chocolate into a bowl and throw in your 1 square of existing chocolate and whatever optional ingredient you decide to use, unless your a chocolate purist, and stir. Don't worry if the added chocolate doesn't melt all the way, its only purpose is to help with crystallization.
4)Place your chocolate mixture on top of the ice bath and cool the mixture down to 80F. Be careful not to get any water on the chocolate, it will seize up.
5)Then, using a double boiler, re-heat the chocolate mixture to 85F-91F.
6)Pour chocolate into molds or use ramekins and place in the fridge to cool, about 1hr.

Don't expect that smooth creamy mouth feel you get from store bought chocolate, there is still a bit of crunchiness and grittiness leftover from the nibs. However, this is probably the closet you will get to a real bar of chocolate, the kind the Mayans and Aztecs would be proud of, and a far cry from the crap you find in stores.

Thanks to Bletter, I was also explained the whole concept of percentages. When a bar of chocolate says 70% dark chocolate, it's not really saying how much of cocoa is in there. Because that 70% is made up of cocoa butter and cocoa. Meaning lower end chocolate bar manufactureres A.K.A Hersheys "dark" 70% could be totally different from Lindt 70% in respect to actual cocoa content and that is why no two 70% dark chocolate bars taste the same.

Clearly, I have a penchant for chocolate, but what about the beer? Well I have to say that the five glasses I tried were not bad, and they really did go well with the chocolate. Especially the last beer, the stout, was very smoky and complimented the chocolate well. The raspberry beer was my favorite. A beer truly meant for people like me, who want nothing to do with the bitter after taste. I think my dad would have enjoyed this. Cheers men!

Jimmy's No 43
Beer List
Avril Saisson Dupont, Bier de garde, subtle spicing 3.5%

Mahris, Weissboch 7% Dark chocolate and nutty

Lindemans Framboise, Raspberry Lambic (Whole foods)

Green Flash, Triple Beligium style

Nogne O Imperial Stout ,smoky

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