Saturday, March 29, 2008

Golden Hearth Baking

I discovered this bakery, located kitty-corner across the road from the Farmer's Market in Kitchener, in my Internet Travels, it is called Golden Hearth Baking. Being in town one afternoon, we thought we'd check it out.

This is a small location, with ovens in the back, and when we arrived I think most of their baked goods were already gone, at least their breads, we arrived about 1 in the afternoon, though they offer their breads for sale in a number of locations in Kitchener and Waterloo, check their website above to find a location near you. There were a number of other healthy products for sale as well, one thing we did purchase here was the hummus that I wrote about before. Too bad that they didn't have much bread for sale, I would have liked to try some, but we did pick some sweet baked goods to sample.

This is a dark chocolate with walnuts square that we bought, it tasted great.

This is an almond biscotti that we bought, it tasted good, but not as good as the dark chocolate walnut square.

Fruit King Freeze-Dried Durian

Having tried baked durian before, I came across this recommended dried Durian, from Sunshine International Co., Ltd. in Thailand, in the local Chinese supermarket, though this one is freeze-dried rather than baked.

This can be eaten in many ways, with milk and vanilla ice cream as a shake, with hot milk as a dessert, or just like it is. Durian is a healthy fruit, it is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Because it's freeze-dried, it is 100% durian fruit, as opposed to the baked variety, which has oil added. How does it taste? Smells and tastes like durian, though the consistency is odd, as it is dry and crunchy. Excellent, and one way I can enjoy durian, before I taste it fresh in Thailand.

Lindt Dark Mini Hearts

This 100 g offering, one of many from Lindt for Valentine's Day, contains dark chocolate, rather than the more popular milk chocolate products offered for that romantic day. I would say it just meets the criteria to call it dark, meaning more than 50% cacao content, its ingredient listing has sugar first, followed by cocoa mass, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soya lecithin (as an emulsifier) and artificial flavour (likely vanillin).

How do they taste? If you like the smoothness of Lindt chocolate, especially of its dark chocolate version, then you will enjoy this chocolate. Well, perhaps you might be annoyed by the delay in having to unwrap each individual heart, but maybe that might prevent you from eating them all at one sitting.

Hot and Sour Soup

Every good Chinese recipe has a good hot and sour soup recipe, it's one of those dishes that is common to all Chinese restaurants, and one can judge a restaurant on how tasty their soup recipe is, though I find the quality and flavour of the soups is variable. Most of the time it is thin, and I imagine quickly made with shortcuts. This original recipe, from Authentic Recipes from China by Kenneth Law, Lee Cheng Meng and Max Zhang, called for green peas, but we didn't have any, and I don't know that I have ever seen a Hot and Sour Soup with green peas as an ingredient in any restaurant. This recipe makes a much thicker soup that I am used to, with more chunks throughout, and tastes way better than the restaurant version. Some restaurant versions I have had are much spicier than this turned out, if you want it spicier, add the chili oil at the end, or even a little chili paste. The soup gets its sourness from the vinegar, but also from the tomato, so pick a good tasting tomato, and not a low-acid one.

Hot and Sour Soup
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
1 large tomato, diced
8 oz (250 g) soft tofu, diced
4 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced, or 4 dried black Chinese mushrooms, soaked in warm water, stems discarded and caps diced
2 dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in water and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp cornstarch blended with 2 Tbsp water
4 spring onions, diced
pinch of ground white pepper
chili oil, to serve
black vinegar, to serve

Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt, sugar, ginger, tomato, tofu and mushrooms. Return to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, black pepper and Sichuan peppercorns; stir to mix. Slowly add the beaten eggs into the soup, drizzling over the surface; let sit for 1 minute; do not stir.

Stir the cornstarch mixture, then pour slowly into the simmering soup while stirring gently. Keep on stirring until the soup thickens. Simmer for 1 minute more, then turn off the heat.

Serve hot, garnished with spring onions and white pepper. Add a few drops of chili oil and black vinegar, if desired.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Amatller Cacao Ecuador

I was convinced before that cacao from Ecuador was really good, initial contact with chocolate made from beans from there tasted really good. The more recent ones I have tasted have not been so good, and this is yet another example. Perhaps it depends on the beans, you can get bad beans from any country, and you can't make good chocolate out of bad beans, but you can make bad chocolate out of good beans. This is another offering I tasted from the Spanish chocolatier Chocolates Simon Coll, S.A., their Amatller line features a number of different regional cacaos and different cacao contents. This one is 70% cacao content, and again, the ingredient listing looks good, just cocoa mass and sugar.

How does it taste? Not bad, not as good as I would have liked. A reasonable dark chocolate bar, that I might eat given the choice.

Jones Root Beer Soda

One of the sodas I did like drinking when I was young, one of the few, was root beer. A&W and Hires Root Beer were among the best. This version, from the Seattle, Washington-based Jones Soda, tastes pretty good, though not as good as I remember the root beers tasting. The ingredient listing is like the other Jones sodas I've tried, carbonated water, invert cane sugar, natural and artificial flavours, caramel, phosphoric acid (what makes Coke able to clean almost anything), sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.

German Hazelnut Marble Cake

I often make Marmorkuchen for my Dad, he enjoys it a lot. My beautiful Bride tried Marmorkuchen for the first time the other day, and enjoyed it, and so I wanted to make one for her. But also, I wanted to try and improve it. And, of course, immediately thought of adding hazelnuts. I settled on 1/2 cup, which would mean that the regular recipe would call for 1 cup of hazelnuts, as this is half the recipe compared to the other, but you can play with that. I used spelt flour, you need to add a little more than if you were to use all-purpose flour, due to the lower gluten content; this makes the dough come out much darker in colour, so, if you prefer more yellow, use all-purpose. 1/2 Packet Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar and Baking Powder translates to about 1 and 1/2 tsp, maybe a little more. This tasted really good, of course it tasted the best just after being cooked, it was a little dry later on.

German Hazelnut Marble Cake
125 g Butter
125 g Sugar
1/2 Packet Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar
2 eggs
1-2 Tbsp Frangelico
some salt
250 g all-purpose flour/ 270 g spelt flour
1/2 Packet Dr. Oetker Baking Powder
125 mL of milk
15 g cocoa
12.5 g sugar
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, ground fine
1-2 Tbsp. milk

Stir the butter until it is smooth, then alternately add the sugar, vanilla sugar and eggs. Add the rum-aroma and salt last. Mix the baking powder with the flour, then add it through a sieve, alternately with the 1/8 L of milk (only add enough milk so that the dough falls stiffly from the spoon). Transfer about 2/3 of the dough to a greased Springform pan. Add the cocoa and sugar, again sieved, to the remainder of the dough. Add the ground toasted hazelnuts. Add enough milk to make it of a consistency that it falls stiffly from the spoon. Add the chocolate dough on top of the yellow dough, then draw a fork through the underside dough, twisting the dough in a spiral so that some of the yellow portion comes to the top. Continue this technique all around the Springform pan. Bake at 350C for 75 minutes, the last 10 minutes with the oven off.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Amatller Extra Fine

This latest offering from the Spanish chocolatier Chocolates Simon Coll, S.A. that I tried is a Dark chocolate, in that it has 50% cacao content, different than the 70% that I tried before. The ingredient listing is fairly good, short, just sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, soya lecithin as an emulsifer, and vanillin.

How does it taste? Definitely sweeter than the other Amatller bars I have I eaten, good though, a solid middle-of-the-road chocolate, that you could eat in a pinch.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cinder Toffee

Cinder toffee, also called honeycomb, is really easy to make. The concept is to caramelize sugar, done over high heat, then add the bicarbonate of soda, which will be activated by the heat, and release carbon dioxide, creating bubbles in the sugar. You can see the honeycomb effect in the second picture. There are a couple of tricks to it, one is how to eyeball it that it is golden in colour enough to take off from the heat. The other is that, when it says it whooshes up, it really whooshes up, mine nearly went over the top of my saucepan before I poured it out onto the silicon sheet. I though, too, that I had ruined my saucepan, with the remainders of the toffee sticking to the sides, but it dissolved really easy in hot water. Make sure to stir the caramelized sugar immediately after you add the sodium bicarbonate, otherwise there will be really small patches of undissolved powder. How did it taste? Really good, not too sweet, this went over well as a dessert for Easter Sunday.

Cinder Toffee
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson
200g cane sugar
4 Tbsp golden corn syrup
1 Tbsp sodium bicarbonate

Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat (silicon baking sheet), or line a square baking pan with a piece of greased parchment. Stir the sugar and golden syrup together in a large saucepan, then bring to the boil. When it's a nice golden colour (a couple of minutes), take it off the heat and quickly stir in the bicarb. It will whoosh up. Turn this golden cloud onto your greased surface and wait until it's set (15 minutes).

Bash it up.

Fontaine Santé Roasted Onion Hummus

Hummus is made with chickpeas, and can be used as a spread on bread, to add flavour to sandwiches, or as a dip. This offering from the Quebec-based company Fontaine Santé is one of several new products. The other one we sampled in the story was a spicy version, also as tasty as this one. I like the flavour of the roasted onion, it combines well with the chickpea, and I have tried this combination before in other hummuses.

Overall, very good, but probably expensive ($3), when you can make something just as good yourself.

Thai Son-in-law Eggs

My beautiful Bride made these for me, they're normally served with hot steamed rice as a meal, rather than as an appetizer (as I would have thought). These are best served hot, right after making them, though I have enjoyed them (they taste great) warmed up for lunch the next day. This is a pretty authentic Thai recipe. The challenge of this recipe, to make them taste good, is to make the hard-boiled eggs crispy, a technique that requires practice, and is unusual to Western cookery, frying hard-boiled eggs. We don't know the story behind why these are called son-in-law eggs, that would be interesting to find out.

Thai Son-in-law Eggs
4 eggs
oil for frying
1 Tbsp sugar
tamarind water
4 shallots
1 coriander root
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soya sauce
coriander leaves, sliced, for garnish

Hard-boil the 4 eggs. Make the tamarind water by combining 1 tsp tamarind paste with 4 tablespoons of water. Pan-fry the hard-boiled eggs, until outside is crispy. Take out and set aside to cool. Slice the shallots thinly. Fry on low heat until crispy; take out, leaving oil in pan. Grind coriander root in mortar; fry in oil until fragrant. Add the tamarind juice, sugar, fish sauce and soya sauce; mix well and fry for a minute or two, to make a sauce. Slice the hard-boiled eggs in half when cool; place on plate. Add the crispy shallots on top of the hard-boiled eggs. Pour the tamarind sauce over the eggs. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Taro Fritters

My beautiful Bride likes taro, and wanted to make this excellent fried delicacy, for herself and for me. These turned out great, and tasted wonderful. You should increase the heat of the burner, to avoid the oil decreasing in heat as you add the cooler battered taro, which causes the batter to absorb more oil, and end up being greasy. She had to adapt a recipe that didn't have ingredient quantities, together we puzzled out how much to use of each. They turned out quite fine, I must say. Serve with plum sauce, the kind that you can find in Chinese Supermarkets is fine, add to this ground peanuts and a few chili flakes, with coriander leaves for garnish.

Taro Fritters
1 medium taro root
100-125 g all-purpose flour
1/2 baking powder
pinch salt
oil for frying

Heat oil. Remove the skin from the taro, then slice the taro root coarsely. Make batter out of flour, baking powder, salt, adding enough water to make a thick batter. Cover the coarse taro root slices with the batter. Drop rounded tablespoons of battered taro into heated oil, increasing heat when you add it. Fry till golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Valor Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts

I have tried several of this Spanish company's offerings, Chocolates Valor, S.A., and have liked most of them, I was intrigued by this bar, because it was dark chocolate, it contained whole hazelnuts, and it was so big (250 g) (which cost $7). The ingredient listing leads me to believe that it meets the requirements of being dark chocolate (ie. has more than 49% cacao, but not much more), but otherwise looks good, sugar, chocolate processed with alkali, hazelnuts, cocoa butter, soya lecithin (as an emulsifier) and vanillin (artificial vanilla).

How did it taste? Despite my expectations, it tasted like a dark milk chocolate, "sweet dark chocolate" is how I would describe it. I liked the crunchy whole hazelnuts, which worked well with the chocolate. Overall, I would rate this in the middle of the pack, I would eat it over other bars, but if I had better bars in the house, then not.

Evergreene Instant Ginger Tea with Honey

This instant tea from Taiwan, made from what they call best-grade matured ginger and natural honey, tastes wonderful, very gingery and not too sweet. Good hot, but you can also drink it cold (though I have not tried it this way).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Jones Fufu Berry Soda

This is the second of the Seattle, Washington-based American sodas that I decided to sample, this one is called Fufu berry, which tastes kind of like a raspberry/strawberry mix, certainly it doesn't exist in nature, more in the mind of the marketers at Jones, what they thought would sound "fun". The list of ingredients in this soda is fairly good, carbonated water, invert cane sugar, sugar, natural and artificial flavours, citric acid, sodium benzoate (a preservative), potassium sorbate and colour. Did it bring me back to my childhood? No, not really, but it was fairly good tasting, enough to give other ones from them a try.


This German baked good, filled with stiff whipped cream and topped with coconut and almonds, I got from this European bakery at the Kitchener Farmer's Market (where the proprietor offers all kinds of delicacies).

Jones Blue Bubblegum Soda

I don't really like soda anymore, never really liked it when I was young, well, one or two flavours, and find that the old kind of soda, made with sucrose, is far preferable to the new kind, made with corn-based glucose-fructose or the diet versions made with aspartame. There are healthy versions of soda, which I've written about before, and I was intrigued by this Seattle, Washington-based American series of soda that I came across, which uses cane sugar, a better source of sucrose, albeit it is in an invert form (inverting sugar converts the two molecule sucrose into two single molecules, one of glucose and one of fructose, this is done by either using an acid or an enzyme - honey is an example of a sugar that is inverted, by bees). The list of ingredients in this soda is fairly good, carbonated water, invert cane sugar, sugar, natural and artificial flavours, citric acid, sodium benzoate (a preservative), potassium sorbate and colour.

This did taste amazingly like bubblegum, and I would say that the colour, or colours, in the ingredients make it blue (I suppose it's part of the "fun factor").

Green & Black's Maya Gold

This chocolate bar from Green & Black's, is done in the style of the Maya Indians in southern Belize, which is to say that they flavoured their chocolate with spices, though I imagine that their end product is not as smooth and professional-looking as this one is. The spices that they picked are cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, which is paired or contrasted with orange (never my favourite, but, hey, I keep trying - maybe some day, someone will create an orange flavoured bar that I actually will like - don't take my word for it, lots of other people seem to really like the flavour combination). The ingredient listing, like all of Green & Black's offerings, looks great, organic cocoa mass, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, soya lecithin as an emulsifier, natural fruit and spice extracts (0.1%), and organic vanilla extract. The cacoa content is at 55%, which makes it a Dark chocolate. All the cacao in this bar is FairTrade chocolate, and this particular bar is the first in the UK to be awarded the FairTrade mark, back in 1994.

How does it taste? Better than most orange-chocolate bars that I've tasted, but I still am on the search for the one that makes the grade, makes me say that orange and chocolate is a legitimate flavour combination. The chocolate itself is very smooth and tasty. I doubt though that I would eat this bar again.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gran Bouquet Peperoncino

This Tuscan offering from Slitti I encountered in one of my favourite Italian specialty stores in Kitchener, they were offering samples of various of their chocolates, this one intrigued me the most. The idea of hot pepper and chocolate as a combination is an old idea, certainly it was consumed that way by the Incans and others long ago, but I only recently encountered the combination myself. The idea of spicy chocolate runs counter to the idea of sweet chocolate in North America, milk chocolate everything, but I have noticed more and more offerings containing spicy ingredients, including some from Lindt. When I first tried this, it had a nice kick to it, very spicy but not overly spicy, the chocolate compliments the spiciness well. The ingredient listing of this bar looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, cane sugar crystals, chili pepper and natural vanilla. The cacao content is 73%.

How does it taste? Very good, spicy and chocolatey, but not for one who does not like or can't tolerate the hot stuff. I would buy this bar again, despite its $10 price tag. One pays for the good stuff.

Lindt Thé Earl Grey

Traveling to the Lindt Outlet store in Brampton every once in a while brings new and interesting chocolate bars to sample. This one from Lindt France features the natural acidity of Earl Grey Tea. The cacao content is 47%, it's labelled as dark chocolate, and its ingredient listing is not bad, sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butter fat (I wonder if this is a replacement for cocoa butter that there is so much controversy over in America), soya lecithin as an emulsifier, tea and bergamot natural flavours and vanilla flavouring.

How does it taste? My beautiful Bride likes it, I don't. I will admit that I don't like black tea, so perhaps that is why I don't care much for it. It still has the characteristic Lindt chocolate goodness, it's just the extra flavour that I don't care for.

Pure Labrador Blueberry Spread

Of course, you know I like blueberries, this spread featuring blueberries from Labrador in Canada, which is one of the areas where they grow quite well, others being Northern Ontario and Quebec, is quite good, dark blue in colour, they look to be the wild variety, the better in flavour. The ingredient listing is good as well, sugar, blueberries, pectin and citric acid. It smells delicious when you open the jar, and tastes wonderful, perhaps a little sweet, on toast bread.

Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

I was looking to make some cookies as a gift, and I thought that I would make ones that my beautiful Bride had said she liked, some for her, some as a gift, the remainder to bring in to work. The triple chocolate in this recipe includes white chocolate, I am in the camp that white chocolate isn't really chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, these all were made in Belgium. I made two batches, one with ground hazelnuts, one without. These turned out great, and served well one late night at work installing a new Server. The honey in these make the cookie soft.

Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, slightly softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp honey
white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, enough to make 1/2 cup
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and ground (optional)

To toast hazelnuts, bake whole nuts for 10 minutes at 180C/350F. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Place in tea towel and rub the hazelnut skins off.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, soda and salt; whisk till mixed.

Cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and beat until fully incorporated. Stir in vanilla and honey.

Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture in two additions. Stir in three chocolates. Stir in ground toasted hazelnuts.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies all golden all over.

Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cookies.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Green & Black's Hazelnut and Currant

This dark chocolate bar from Green & Black's is one I had to try when I saw the ingredients; hazelnuts, of course, but I also like and prefer currants (rather than the more popular raisin, and yes, I know they are both made from grapes). The cacao content is 60%, fairly good, and the ingredient listing looks good, all Organic save for the lecithin, cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, hazelnuts (9%), currants (9%), cocoa butter, soya lecithin as an emulsifier, and vanilla extract. This bar I bought for about 3 dollars.

How does it taste? Pretty good, though the taste of the currants is much more predominant than the hazelnuts. Too, the currants had a kind of alcoholic taste to them, not bad, but different, and something that I didn't really expect from a chocolate bar that didn't overtly have alcohol in it. The chocolate itself was smooth and rich and good tasting. A bar I would try again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Amatller Chocolate Negro Cacao Ghana 85%

The second of the Ghana Cacao chocolate bars I tried from Chocolate Simon Coll, S.A. features a cacao content of 85%. Again, there's not much to say about the ingredients, just cocoa mass and sugar.

How does it taste? Better than the 70% cacao version, and it did not suffer from the chalkiness you can get from a high cacao content chocolate bar. It tastes very chocolate-y and smells pretty good.

Weiss Weiche Herzen

These "soft hearts" from Max Weiss are bron gingerbread, shaped in the form of hearts, covered with chocolate (23%). They taste fairly good, the gingerbread is pretty good, the chocolate goes well with it. I'm not really a fan of the ingredient listing, but it's not too bad.

Chinese Ginger Sugar Candy

These appeared on our lunch room one day, brought in, I suspect, by a Chinese co-worker who made a recent business trip to China. They are chewy, almost like stiffer gummy, and are not really very ginger-y (too bad!) nor sugary. But not bad.

Le Chocolat Milk and White Chocolate with Strawberries

Shopper's DrugMart came out with a line of chocolate bars they called Le Chocolat, made with Belgian chocolate. Their press release states that that they use only real cream, butter, fruit, nuts, with no hydrogenated fat. This one is the Milk and White Chocolate with Strawberries, but they also have a Fruit and Nuts, Raspberries and Creme, Milk and Dark Chocolate with Mixed Nuts, and several collections with individual hand-decorated chocolates. The bars go for $5, but I bought this one for half that. The ingredient listing looks good for a milk and white chocolate bar, milk chocolate (made from sugar, cocoa butter, dry whole milk, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin, vanilla), white chocolate (made from sugar, cocoa butter, dry whole milk, soy lecithin and vanilla) and freeze dried strawberries.

How does it taste? The freeze-dried strawberries taste great, I would like to see that in other chocolate applications, the milk chocolate and white chocolate were fairly good, smooth, and complimented the strawberries (though chocolate and strawberries is not a new or unusual combination).

President's Choice Twice the Fruit Strawberry Rhubarb

I love the combination of rhubarb and strawberry, the tartness of the rhubarb pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of the strawberry. Indeed, the rhubarb is harder to eat without it. The two come out about the same time of year as well, perhaps they are meant to be together. Most of the time I have it in pie form, strawberry-rhubarb pie is delicious. Too, I like it when made into jam, and now I see that President's Choice has come out with a new entry to their Twice the Fruits jam product line, Strawberry Rhubarb. And it tastes quite good, and brings back memories of pies I've enjoyed. The only thing I don't like about this jam, is that sugar is the first ingredient, I would have preferred to have fruit first. Not that there isn't lots of fruit, it's very thick with fruit pieces.

More Pictures from Tea House - Fo Guang Shang Temple of Toronto

We were at the New Year Fair at the Fo Guang Shang Temple of Toronto in Mississauga, and we decided to again partake of the wonderful vegetarian fare at the Tea House, simple yet flavourful.

Here is a noodle soup with sauce, the noodles are wheat noodles.

Here is the same as the above dish, except the noodles are made from rice.

Here are two different pictures of the Fresh Fruits tea. See how lovely an orange colour it is.