Archive for November, 2008

Poinsettia Festival

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2008 by Brian

“I’ve never seen so many poinsettias in my life!”

That’s what you’re sure to say when you visit the Poinsettia Festival at Fahr Greenhouse in Wildwood, MO. I’ve been told that this is one of the largest poinsettia greenhouses in the Midwest, growing the lovely holiday plants for florists and shops across the country. The Monday after Thanksgiving the folks at Fahr send the poinsettias to the retailers, but the Saturday and Sunday before that they put them out on display.

The Poinsettia Festival is your opportunity to see this sea of red and green (and white, and even pink). Lots of people use this opportunity to snap their family photo for holiday cards, and to stock up on Christmas greens and flowers, and of course to buy poinsettias.

The Festival will have lots of fun things to see and do for the whole family. And Kakao Chocolate will be there as well, selling truffles, caramels, hot chocolate mixes and other chocolate treats. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

The Festival is from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5:00 on Sunday. You’ll find the official way-to-go here.

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Chocolate: The Perfect Gift?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2008 by Brian

Because who doesn’t like chocolate?

Speaking of, before we talk about gifts I’d like to point you to an article about Kakao in the St. Louis Beacon. It’s a relatively new online publication that carries “news that matters,” which is flattering considering they wrote an article about Kakao Chocolate. The article is entitled Sweet success: PR executive quits his job to make chocolate for a living . (This particular former PR executive wishes he could take credit for all the great press Kakao has received…)

Now, about those gifts. Yes, Christmas gifts, of course, that goes without saying.  But you’re also going to attend any number of dinner parties and holiday open houses, and you should bring a gift, yes? And what about Thanksgiving? Are you going somewhere, and the cook has insisted “you don’t need to bring anything, just yourself,” but you really think you ought to bring something, but what?

Chocolate. Handmade chocolate. Kakao chocolate.

There’s also the corporate gift dilemma. You want to give something interesting, and food is always good, but you remember last year when you had a snack table at your own office that was overflowing with “gifts” from partners and suppliers, like caramel popcorn that was popped back when gas was under $2 the first time, and some cookies that may have been made on another continent, and of one or two of those lovely “salami and cheese” assortments.

What if you sent your clients and business partners a box of all-natural, hand-dipped truffles, made right here in St. Louis? Wouldn’t they like that?

And what if it arrived not just in a Kakao gift box, but with a personalized wrap with your company’s logo on it, and a personalized message from you? Like this:

Kakao Chocolate Gift Boxes

Kakao Chocolate Gift Boxes

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Regular gift boxes come in sizes for any budget: a 6-piece box for $9, a 16-piece box for $25, and a 25-piece box for $38. Wraps with a logo and message start at $2 each — send a note to sales@kakaochocolate.com for a quote. And don’t forget our Kakao gift baskets!

One last thought about Christmas gifts. Remember how every year your snack table got more full as Christmas got closer, and as more of the staff took vacation time so there were fewer people to help eat it? By the time everyone got back to the office after the holidays nothing was edible except the “salami” and “cheese.”

But what if you sent your Kakao chocolate early in the season, so it wouldn’t get lost amongst the fruitcakes? Think about it. Because who doesn’t love chocolate?

More Marshmallows, Please

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2008 by Brian

Maybe you’re tired of reading about marshmallows, or the marshmallow pies I make with them.

But they’ve been on my mind this week because I just finished an order of four dozen of the pies, made for a food co-op. (People subscribe to the co-op and get a weekly shipment of food, in this case locally grown produce and locally manufactured foods.) I’ve also been trying to take pictures (with a camera-phone, so apologies to all the professional photographers out there) and include them in the postings.

I’m also mad about these marshmallow pies. I made chocolate and other confections all day, and I of course taste-test everything to make sure it’s on track. All the other stuff I can completely resist, but these pies are irresistible. In fact, someone recently described them to me in one word: evil.

First I start with homemade marshmallow. Beaten egg whites with sugar and vanilla beans, and then combined with cooked sugar and gelatin, and then slabbed out on a bakery pan like so:

Slabbed Homemade Marshmallow

Slabbed Homemade Marshmallow

(Those specks there? Those are vanilla bean seeds. For most of our recipes we use real Tahitian vanilla beans split lengthwise and then we scrape out the seeds. Believe me, it’s a big difference from extract.) 

When that’s had a chance to set, I take toasted pecans — and we’re talking about those small and sweet Missouri pecans that are so incredibly tasty — and tempered chocolate and spread that on half of the slab.

Why half? Because then I take the other half and fold it over like an omelet. I then put some more chocolate on top, and then flip it over and add more chocolate, so it’s a multilayered sandwich. (One might wonder why I call them pies and not sandwiches, but really, who’s going to buy a marshmallow sandwich?)

Cutting Marshmallow Pies

Cutting Marshmallow Pies

Then I cut them up, and dip them in some powdered sugar so they don’t stick to everything.

pic-0119

Where can you get your hands on them? Well, stop by the shop anytime — I always have some on hand — or find Kakao at one of the markets. Or you can buy them at Local Harvest. But seriously, you need to try them. They’re evil.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 12, 2008 by Brian

One of the really fun things about chocolate truffles is figuring out how to top them. You need to find something that will enhance — or at least not interfere with — the flavor of the truffle. You want something that stands out and looks pretty. And you ideally want something that’s easy to use.

So we top our chile-vanilla truffles with bits of cocoa nibs — basically unprocessed chocolate, a bit bitter but still chocolatey, to blend with the three different ground chiles we use in the ganache. The chai tea truffles are sprinkled with cinnamon. And the lavender truffles are topped with lavender buds, of course.

The mint truffles are a bit different, starting with the fact that it’s not a typical mint flavor. Rather than a chewing gum or after dinner mint, it’s more subtle and soft, layered with the chocolate for a unique mint taste. It tastes this way because we infuse cream and sugar with dried mint leaves, and then blend the cream with chocolate and butter to make the ganache. We then dip the creamy centers in semisweet chocolate and top them with…

Candied lemon peel.

The result is a wonderful layer of flavors, with the tart and sweet of the candied lemon melding with the mint and chocolate. A far cry from your typical mint candy.

Remember when I said you want to top the truffle with something that’s easy to use? Not so much with the lemon peels. It takes a bit of doing to make them — because you can’t just go out and buy good all-natural candied lemon peel dontcha know.

Making Candied Lemon Peel

Making Candied Lemon Peel

 

The process is straightforward enough, starting with peeling the lemons. This gives me a nice bowl full of lemon pulp and juice, which would be great for lemonade in the summer but of limited use in the cold fall. (Any suggestions, anyone?). Then you boil the peels, drain, add cold water and boil again, drain, and boil a third time. Something about changing the water gets them nice and soft.

Then a bit of fine work: you need to scrape all the bitter white pith off the peels, which is easily done with a melon baller (notice of melon is an anagram for lemon? huh…). Then you slice the peels into small strips. I started with 10 lemons, and ended up with more than a thousand strips. (Feel free to stop by and count them if you like.)

Two parts sugar to one part water, and boil to a syrup. Add the lemon peels and cook for a few minutes until they’re translucent and you’re ready to go.

Candied Lemon Peels

Candied Lemon Peels

 

I’ll be dipping mint truffles today or tomorrow, so they’ll be ready by Friday — stay tuned for pix of the finished product!

Spicy Bits on Kakao

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 by Brian

No, not spicy bits of Kakao — Spicy Bits on Kakao. Or maybe, Kakao in Spicy Bits.

Spicy Bits is the food and restaurant column in the Ladue News, written by foodie extraordinaire Amy Peck Abraham. And this week, Amy wrote about Kakao.

“…Yours Truly was invited into his chocolate lab on Cherokee Street where he makes his signature ka·ka·o chocolate blend into bars, wonderful truffles and outstanding caramels…”

You’ll find the entire write up here. Thanks, Amy!

The Market is Dead! Long Live the Market!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2008 by Brian

Over the past weeks Kakao helped closed out the summer Farmers’ Markets at Tower Grove and Maplewood. It was bittersweet — and a bit chilly! — but the end of the season was obviously at hand, and it was time to put a wrap on those two great events for the year.

Now we’re on to the Winter Markets! These will be great, with many of the vendors you’ve seen at the summer markets. And Kakao will be there with lots of chocolate, including lots of fun new seasonal treats like hot cocoa, pumpkin truffles, and others that are still in the testing stages. 

Oh, and before I forget, these markets are INDOORS!

So mark your calendars and get ready for your holiday and winter Kakao Chocolate shopping:

St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market
- St. John’s Episcopal Church
- 3664 Arsenal Street, 63116
- 2nd Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- November 8, December 13, January 10, February 14, March 14, April 11

Maplewood Winter Farmers’ Market
- Schlafly Bottleworks Crown Room, 7260 Southwest Avenue, 63143
- 3rd or 4th Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- November 22, December 20, January 31, February 28, March 28

We’ll see you at the Markets!

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