World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Chocolate

Dirty Snowballs


These are a family favorite.  Being New Englanders we always called them ‘dirty snowballs.” I don’t think that needs much explanation.  They are simple and elegant and most of the work can be done ahead of time.


  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, room temperature (takes about 20-30 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP  flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder diluted in warm water (optional)*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Note:  If you would prefer a peppermint flavor substitute espresso powder for 1 teaspoon peppermint extract.

Step 1

In a bowl measure out the AP flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Step 2

Combine in a mixing bowl the cocoa powder, about 2 teaspoons of the espresso liquid (if using),  granulated sugar and vegetable oil.  It should be well-mixed and glisten, shiny (means the oil is integrated with the dry stuff).

Step 2

Add the eggs one at at time — wait about 30 seconds after adding one before adding the next one. Finish this step by adding the vanilla.

Step 3

Mix the dry ingredients ever so slowly into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined–do not overmix. Go gentle into the batter of night folks. Keep the batter in the bowl, or transfer into a smaller one and wrap the bowl in plastic wrap.  Chill for 4 hours or overnight. This batter is better if made the day before and chills for 8 hours. It never hardens completely it is firm with give.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 350°F,  line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats. Place confectioner’s sugar in a wide bowl as you need space to roll many at a time. Using two spoons get about a rounded teaspoon of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch sized balls using your hands Work quick as you want these firm and cool. Roll the balls in the confectioner’s sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get a dozen or so on each baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool.




Brownie Points @ Work


I have long harbored a cynical baking world view that not as many mothers baked from scratch as we may like to believe.  Lest, I start crushing everyone’s view of motherhood let’s just agreed that if the house smelled like baking what’s wrong with that, right? And while my mother did bake from scratch she also when she returned to the workplace there were brownies from a box. They do fill a niche need.

However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve labored over a cake for a big dinner party or birthday gathering where the cake is devoured but no one says a word about it.  It’s somewhat confidence deflating for the baker. If anyone had someone at home as a child who did bake from scratch they would have an idea about how much effort (not time…it’s really not that much more) went into baking from scratch, certainly the accolades would be running wild. While this may be my ego whining but I started casually investigating this theory over the past few years. 

"Oh yes, I can bring a cake for 30. Certainly, homemade, what else?!"  I willingly volunteered. Brunches, birthdays and office events, wherever, whenever. It’s at gatherings like t his where I’ve been tapped on the shoulder and asked if it’s difficult to bake from scratch.  Usually I would casually wave off the compliment, slightly embarrassed and worried for my baking reputation. Once, however I let my guilt overcome me and ended up gifting a total stranger. I’m not cold. How could I not? It was at a friend’s huge birthday bash one of those affairs that has just the right amount of sophistication. I had agreed to help out a friend pull it all together by lending catering services and prep support.  I baked and simply decorated a 20" chocolate cake. (Yes, I have a pan that big!) . 

Out of the corner of my eye a woman with a huge 2 carat-diamond approached me. 

"I know I don’t know you and I’m sure that this is impossible to bake. Well, really, I don’t bake. But my husband just can’t stop talking about your cake. It reminds him of his mother’s cake. She just passed away last year. He’s near tears over there."  She bit her lip. "It would mean the world if, well, could you…"

My heart went out to this woman. I began to think I could save her husband’s soul memory of his mother not to mention solidify her young marriage.   I certainly didn’t need to have stronger proof of my theory than this.

"Can you keep a secret?" I asked in a hushed tone. She nodded. "Duncan Hines."

"What?" she said, confused.

"Everyone likes to believe ‘mom’ baked from scratch. Truth is that she did but it was from a Duncan Hines cake box."

She grabbed and hugged me and took her leave smiling.

Many years have passed since that day.  But I continue to test the notion. On Friday afternoon I sat in a conference room overlooking San Francisco’s Civic Center waiting for 16 office mates to participate in a Brownie Blind Taste; in front of me where three different brownies made from three recipes and three types of chocolate.  One was a Betty Crocker brownie mix featuring semi-sweet chocolate; another was prepared-from-scratch version made with Nestle Chocolatier bittersweet chocolate (62%) and the third made from Baker’s unsweetened chocolate.

People love chocolate.  Since I had come across a new bittersweet chocolate from Nestle that held up pretty well in a side-by-side tasting against Ghiradelli I thought it might be worthwhile to put it to the brownie test.  There’s no better demonstration of a chocolate’s qualities than this all-American treat. Everyone loves brownies.  The division seems to come in preference to either a cakey or chewy consistency. 

So which brownie won over the crowd?  By an astounding 75%….(drumroll) Betty Crocker.  So while I am smugly reassured that my theory continues to hold up my new favorite is from Nestle.

Oh, and while you may want to do your blind taste panel, the guys and gals in the office of varying ages and places in the States overwhelmingly chose the chewy over the cakey.


Nestle Chocolatier Brownies

Quite possibly this is one of the best brownie recipes around.  The brownie is rich, moist and chewy.  Clearly many mothers did not bake in the style of the "moms" at Nestle! This final recipe shared here is a slight variation from the one on the package and from the product’s website, where there is a cookie recipe that I’ll be trying later this recipe with the 52% morsels. 

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 tbsp water

10 oz. pkg of Nestle Chocolatier 62% bittersweet morsels

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup AP flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

PREHEAT oven to 325º F. Line 9-inch-square baking pan with foil; grease.

HEAT in a double boiler the package of morsels, sugar, butter and water over low heat, stirring constantly, until morsels and butter are melted.  The consistency and color should look like vanilla pudding. Pour into medium bowl. The liquid should be warm but not steaming hot before proceeding to the next step. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until mixed in; add in vanilla extract. Add flour, baking soda and salt;  mix well.

POUR into prepared baking pan.

BAKE for 16 to 20 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool in pan on wire rack. Lift brownie from pan with foil to cutting board. Carefully remove foil. Cut

Making Chocolate Whoopie


Growing up homemade whoopie pies were a treat.  From the vantage point of a 10-year old they seemed rather simple. Why didn’t we have them more often? Well turns out that Mom just made them look that way.  What I didn’t see was the amount of time it took to make the little cakes from scratch, wait for them to cool, whip up the filling and then assemble.  Efforts such as this are what make mothers "moms."

Traditionally made with a  fluffy vanilla-whipped filling surrounded by two round chocolate cakes these cookie-sandwiches are often said to be of northern New England or Amish-County Pennsylvania origin.  According to Nancy Baggett in her All American Cookie Book,  the treat has been traced back to the Depression era. Her source, Peter Schlichting of New Hampshire says that "the Berwick Cake Company, located it the Roxbury section of Boston…seems to have been the first t make them…a retired employee has recalled that the firm began whoopie-pie production in 1926." In fact if you grew up in New England or New York these may remind you of  a high-class Drake’s Devil Dogs

I’ve made my mother’s recipe several times but I’ll be devil dogged if  I can find it in my IBC. So recalling the recipe from memory and flipping through a few cookbooks I determined that I was not going to use hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Well I did end up using it–a trans-fat free Crisco.  I also needed to mix it up with two different fillings, traditional vanilla and peanut butter (quelle surprise!).

The choice of cocoa powder is important here as the contrast between the filling and the cake creates a heightened, smoky, chocolaty taste.  Typically I have Dutch processed cocoa powder on hand.  Although I’ve tried many including Droste and Valrhona but my go-to is Pernigotti.  Keep in mind that Dutch-processed is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Due to this it does not react with baking soda, so it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder. It has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

2 cups sugar

1 cup shortening

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup warm water

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:  In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt.  Mix well and set aside.  In another bowl combine the sugar shortening and eggs. Beat 2 minutes.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Now add the milk and warm water and beat for 2-3 minutes at medium speed. Add vanilla extract and beat again.  These "cakes" cook like cookies.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an non-stick cookie sheet.  Keeping uniformity is important. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees until the center of the cookies spring back when lightly pressed.  Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Assembly: Spread a generous amount of filling on the bottom of a completely cooled cookie. Top with another.

Notes on storage: I learned the hard way that these little cakes don’t keep too long particularly if  you stack the unfilled cakes together. If you can’t bake early in the day and fill them later on  you could assemble and in turn wrap them in plastic wrap.  They keep quite well in the fridge for several days in this method.

Vanilla Cream Filling

2 egg whites

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 tblspns flour

4 tblspns milk

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

Instructions: Beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.  Working quickly combine the other ingredients and beat several minutes at high speed.  Fold in the stiff egg whites

Peanut Butter Filling

2 tblspn unsalted butter

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup milk

Instructions: At medium speed mix the butter and peanut butter together. Add confectioner’s sugar and milk. At high speed mix until well blended, light and fluffy.


Pocket Citrus


"You’ll find that one part’s sweet and one part’s tart: say where the sweetness or the sourness start."

Tony Harrison, ‘A Kumquat for John Keats, 1981

Saturday I fought the elements (hail, downpour, sideway’s rain, cold wind) working at the market. Everything’s a bit out of order as the wet winter weather is holding on longer than usual. One of the items that I was helping Will to sell were kumquats. And surprisingly, many San Franciscans had never tried one before. I found endless entertainment in daring people into trying these little berry shaped citrus fruits. Inevitably, after trying one they would end up buying a handful or two.
Native to Asia, the kumquat is said to take its name from the Chinese, chin kan, or golden orange. Although these citrus orbs are closely related to citrus species, kumquats belong to the genus Fortunella after a plant collector for the London Horticultural Society, Robert Fortune introduced them from Asia to Europe in 1846. Years later the small trees could be found presented to dinner guests in order that they could pick their dessert.

In contrast to citrus which has 8-15 sections, kumquats have only 3-6 sections; also the skin is thin, soft and edible. The fruit grows on an evergreen shrub or small tree with bright green pointed leaves and orange perfumed blossoms.  While there are four different kinds of kumquats, the one you see most often is the olive-shaped Nagami; it’s usually 1 to 2 inches long. This varitety is excellent for cooking with particularly jams as it is bitter.  The other is the egg-shaped Meiwa which is often referred to as the sweet kumquat. They have few seeds. Since they lack the tart-like quality that is ideal in cooking Meiwas are perfect for cold salads or for snacking on. It debuted in the States from Japan around 1910.

Available from December through May when buying kumquats look for a firm skin, bright color and unblemished skin. Grown in China, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe (Corfu, Greece), and in the U.S. Southern California and Florida they are a bit of a indulgence costwise but some of you pay as much for that morning coffee.
Given its hardiness to weather conditions kumquats make for good hybirds. Mandarinquat is the marriage of mandarin orange and kumquat; it has an edible rind and a sour inside. This can be eaten as is or used as an edible garnish. And when a Mexican lime and a kumquat get together you have a limequat, often see as a a pickling or for a tasty marmalade for crumpets or grilled toast.

Aside from the simple joy you’ll discover of popping the delights into your mouth there are many ways to experiment with this fruit. Candied kumquats make an great decoration and topping for cakes or as pour a kumquat-caramel syrup over fresh vanilla bean ice cream or how about as a main course as offered by Jean Georges Vongerichten in his Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Lemongrass dressing, unexpected spicy and sweet. A homemade liqueur of infused vodka from kumquats; a riff on the tomato themed Catalan toast replaces the tomato pulp with a mash of butter and kumquats or as they do in China where the fruit is preserved in salt and then the salted kumquats along with a few teaspoons of the brine and some hot water is offered as a remedy for sore throats.

The chocolate-obsessed pastry chef Marcel Desaulniers (he’s sexy with his East Coast accent with a hint of Southern) features a Ginger Macadamia Nut Cake with a chocolate kumquat mousse filling in one of his many cookbooks. While the cake and the elegant filling are an inspired meeting the mousse can sing all on its own.

Chocolate Kumquat Mousse

from Death by Chocolate Cakes by Marcel Desaulniers

1/2 pound small fresh kumquats, washed and dried

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

Trim about 1/4 inch from each end of the kumquats. Cut each kumquat into 1/4 -inch-thick slices. (The 1/2 pound should yield about 1 1/2 cups sliced.) Pick out and discard the occasional seed from the kumquat slices. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the sliced kumquats and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil again; then adjust the heat to allow the mixture to cook at a slow boil for 12 minutes until the kumquat slices are tender and sweet. Strain the kumquats and discard the cooking syrup. Transfer the kumquat slices to a baking sheet or large plate and spread evenly. Place, uncovered, in the refrigerator to cool.

Finely chop the remaining kumquats with a cook’s knife. Set aside while preparing the mousse.

Place 1 cup heavy cream and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip. Whisk on medium-high for 2 minutes until firm, but not stiff, peaks form. Add about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream to the bowl of melted unsweetened chocolate, and use a rubber spatula to fold together until thoroughly combined. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream, and use a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Transfer 1/4 cup of chocolate mousse to a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip. Add the chopped kumquats to the remaining mousse, and use a spatula to fold them in together until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Refrigerate the mousse in the pastry bag. Pipe into serving dishes or champagne flutes and chill until ready to serve.

Image: A. Vuillon/

National Chocolate Day – Morton’s

“Nine out of 10 people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.”  John Q. Tullius

Today is, National Chocolate Day. The candy wizards over at the National Confectioners Association, celebrates it every year on October 28.  And since the most recent SHF #13 is all about chocolate, well what’s one more recipe. 

Morton’s , the temple to steak houses, is well know for their Godiva Hot Chocolate Cake (photo).  The cake is served 31,000 times a month in its restaurants worldwide, proving that everyone does in fact love chocolate.  This cake has 1 1/2 ounces of hot, gooey chocolate hidden in its center.  It is also served with Haagan-Daaz vanilla ice cream and raspberries.  But I promised a recipe didn’t I?  This recipe was torn from a newspaper from some business trip taken long ago so I can’t source it properly. 

Morton’s of Chicago Godiva Hot Chocolate Cake
Source: Morton’s of Chicago, Phoenix, Arizona

Seek out Godiva chocolate liqueur in the small, 3-ounce bottle, it’ll be all you need.

Butter and granulated sugar to coat pan
8 ounces semisweet chocolate squares
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon Godiva chocolate liqueur
5 egg yolks
5 whole eggs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and generously coat an 8-inch soufflé dish with butter, then dust with granulated sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Stir in chocolate liqueur. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and whole eggs with an electric mixer set at low speed. Pour chocolate-butter mixture into bowl while beating.

In a medium bowl, sift the confectioner’s sugar and flour together. Gradually add this to the chocolate mixture. Mix at high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour cake mixture into soufflé dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tests done with a wooden pick.

Serve hot with ice cream .

SHF #13 – Jacques Torres Mudslides


October’s SHF, #13, hosted by Kelli over at Love’s Cool, was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, well, as it relates to baking anyway!  What chocolate-themed sugar indulgence should I share with all of you?  Well, after tossing and turning in my sleep, I decided to bake a standby in my kitchen.  Now this is no standard standard this is a brownie and a cookie all wrapped up by one of my favorite food fantasy guys–Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres.  A while ago I read that since he only bakes them on Saturdays people line up an hour or two at his Brooklyn pastry shop before they are due to come out of the oven. 

Now bear in mind that this is a rich cookie–in taste and price.  There’s so much chocolate in these it will please the fussiest chocoholic out there.  I made these and shared them with my favorite office folks and now I have several orders. My time for them is I’ve sent them out to buy the ingredients as payment.  It’s simplicity and intensity all in one–and that’s heaven!

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the New York Times.

Makes 20 cookies.

1 1/2 cups unsweetened chocolate, in chips or chunks

8 cups bittersweet chocolate, in chips or chunks

3/8 cup unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup walnuts (optional).

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Melt the unsweetened chocolate and 4 cups of the bittersweet chocolate over a double-boiler (a simple double boiler can be set up by putting a metal bowl over a simmering pot), stirring periodically.

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy and add the eggs one at a time, blending until mixed.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture and mix just until combined.

Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined and stir in the nuts and remaining chocolate pieces. Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray. Put the mixture into a refrigerator for 5 to10 minutes until slightly, but not completely, hardened.

Reverse the sheet or tray onto another piece of parchment paper on a hard surface. Use a knife to divide the mixture into 20 squares. With your hands, roll each of the squares into a ball and evenly space them on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets (leave room for them to spread).

Bake the cookies for 15 to 25 minutes, until crusty on the outside (they should still be gooey on the inside). Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.

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SHF #12 – Nanaimo Bars – Canada


Happy Birthday! Sugar High Friday is a year old!  So in a small tribute to the event’s originator, Jennifer the Domestic Goddess I have selected a Canadian "custard" based recipe. Thanks to Elise of Simply Recipes for hosting this most indulgent event.

Funny how you eat something somewhere else and it’s a new taste sensation. This is exactly what happened last week when I had my first ever Nanaimo bar.  Or what I thought was my first. 

Growing up my mother made brownies often.  But on special occasions, dinner guests, a fundraiser or a special visitor she would embark on making a layered mint brownie.  Well, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, let me tell you, those brownies we’re ‘outta sight’!

So there I am with my friend C, who grew up in Ottawa, at a local coffee shop in Banff, before starting off on the first leg of our road trip back to San Francisco.  You should try one of those, she suggests, points with eyes wide. It was two hours (and one black bear sighting) later before we could stop for tea to go with the bar.  Well, to cut the story short, WOW. 

Quick bit of background on the history of this bar.  It is strongly claimed by Nanaimo, Vancouver, B.C. and to have surfaced in the late 1950s.  Some say it’s a coal miner’s treat from 1930s brought over by settlers from Northern England.  Still other stories circulate that it’s from the Dutch settlers that came through in the early 1900s.  In 1986, a Nanaimo newspaper held a recipe contest to find the best of the best.

So it short there now appears to be many variations on the theme and as many thoughts on the origins of this recipe. My Boston-based mother’s recipe is simply a variation on this theme.  There are, to name a few, mint, espresso, cherry-almond and peanut butter. As it was too late to call the East Coast I just improvished as I didn’t have graham cracker crumbs.

While this is not a true baked or cooked custard as there’s no egg in the custard component of this recipe.  But there is a need for custard powder.  This appears to be some agreement out there that one should seek out the British brand Bird’s.  Being that Sam is enjoyng island life I decided that an equivalent American substitute was Jello pudding mix.  Thanks to the good graces of our host Elise at Simply Recipes for the wiggle room.

This coffee break sweet is not for the sugar intolerant–it’ll send you to the moon where you’ll float among the stars in the chocolate heavens. Oh but what a ride it is.

>>>>Continue to Nanaimo Bar Recipe>>>>>

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Hershey’s High End Binge


After the close of the market yesterday Hershey announced it was acquiring San Francisco-based chocolate maker, Joseph Schmidt Confections. It also closed the deal on Bay Area-based Scharffen Berger Chocolate. The two acquisitions, taking place in less than a month are part of a new subsidiary of Hershey, Artisan Confections Company. The combined value of the two deals rests in the neighborhood of $46.6MM- $61.1MM; combined annual sales are approximately $25 million.

Founded in 1983, Joseph Schmidt’s signature products include high-quality, artistic, handcrafted truffles.  He can shape chocolate as well as any sculptor. He uses a Belgian chocolate for his products. I have fond memories from the time I ran the retail gift shop during SF Ballet’s Nutcracker boutique. To hell with sugarplums, tall chocolate painted soldiers were big sellers.  These chocolates are available in both department and specialty stores and in the company’s own Bay Area retail outlets. 

On the surface it looks like CEO Richard Lenny is looking to gain a share of  the $1.7 billion premium segment. Scharffen Berger is a leader in the high-cacao-content, distinctive dark chocolate arena, while Joseph Schmidt specializes in fine, handcrafted chocolate gifts. The industry defines premium chocolate as any chocolate that is priced higher than $16 per pound. Category leaders such as Scharffen Berger, Ghirardelli and Lindt have become more widely available. 

American tastes have shifted over the years to a preference for dark chocolate and a higher quality milk chocolate.  The smaller premium chocolate, often available in small packages are perfect for snacking or treating yourself.  A recent Mintel survey suggests that 65% of respondents who buy chocolate would rather have a little bit of something really good rather than something that’s just average. (People get paid to quantify and qualify data like this!)

And with the two top chocolate buying seasons ahead (Christmas and Valentine’s Day) Hershey’s will be looking to realize a return on this sweet deal. 

So perhaps our urban landscapes will be populated with Cafe Cacaos across the US.  There will be shelves of dark chocolate bars and marble bars proffering tastings of single origin chocolates next to gift boxes of truffles.  One thing’s for sure, Joseph Schmidt the man, the artist is as much his brand as the chocolate art he creates.  Building this effort out on the scale that Hershey is most likely seeking, as the company has had some recent ups and downs, will be a challenge. Let’s just hope we don’t loose our two local chocolate providers to Pennsylvania, or worse, that the quality suffers. I’m available if the company needs some local marketing assistance–will work for partial trade!

Image:  Rugged Elegance

Willy Wonka

Charlie_4 Now that I’ve seen Batman Begins–and if you haven’t yet–don’t wait, go…the next movie I’m anxiously awaiting release of is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I have mixed feelings on this remake but there’s the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton factor and that’s what will get me into the theater.  But really, the first one was pretty perfect.   

So I was hoping the promotion folks over at Nestle would do the smart thing and build a program around the whole hook contained in the movie.  And well, they have–I know it’s not exactly original but how many of us wanted to be one of those kids?

NESTLE WONKA is bringing the magic of the movie to life, with a real nationwide search to find five Golden Tickets! Beginning in June 2005, kids everywhere will be racing to their local candy aisles in hopes of finding a shiny Golden Ticket inside specially marked packages of WONKA® candy, like the five lucky children in Roald Dahl’s classic story, to win five movie-themed grand prizes worth $10,000 EACH!  Naturally there’s a complex prize structure and gobs of other prizes. The five unique grand prizes are one-of-a-kind experiences themed around characters from the film and tied to specific WONKA® candies– the official Wonka website can fill you in.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Fairtrade The last installment–read Part Two–Melts in Your Mouth and Part One–Ode to Chocolate.

Small family farms made up of 5 to 6 million small farmers generate more than 85 per cent of the world’s cocoa crop.  Most families own 1 to 5 acres where 1,000 cacao trees can produce fruit anywhere from 75 to 100 years. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the crop is lost to disease and pests.  Economic and political conditions of cacao producing countries along the equator (West Africa, Central and South America) can be volatile.  As a result training and equipment can be lacking.

Cocaopro, a unit of Mars, Inc., states, "the issues facing cocoa–the chocolate industry needs a stable supply of raw ingredients; environmental groups seek to preserve the natural habitats that cocoa creates; donor organizations aim to raise rural incomes; cocoa farmers need a dependable source of income, and governments look to support domestic agricultures–most efforts by these groups prior to 1998 were limited in scope, and not coordinated in any strategic or cohesive way."

Since 1998 interested groups have come together around a solution–sustainable agriculture.  Mars. Inc. also got together with the Smithsonian to organize the First International Workshop on Sustainable Cocoa Growing.  The event brought together ornithologists, plant scientists, environmental advocates and chocolate industry scientists to discuss cocoa cultivation system that is biologically, environmentally and socially beneficial.

Chocolate lovers can ease the guilt factor by supporting small family farms in these countries by buying fair trade chocolate.  Fair-trade products aim to eliminate the middlemen and let the farmers deal directly with buyers.  According to TransFair USA, a fair trade certification group, less than 1% of the $13 billion U.S. chocolate market is fair-trade certified, but it’s a growing market, from 2003 to 2004, sales grew 78%.  As a comparison farmers typically get about $160 per metric ton of cocoa, but by removing the middleman fair-trade farmers sell through co-ops and can typically be paid paid $225 to $300 per ton in while also benefiting from the social programs.  Based on some price comparisons fair trade chocolate ends up being about the same cost as higher end boutique chocolate.

Lutheran World Relief has one of the largest fair-trade chocolate programs, selling through parishes and online. The chocolate distributor of choice is the UK-based Divine Chocolate.  The bars are part of local congregation’s fund raising programs.

Divine Chocolate as their fair trade partner website states "beans that go into every bar of Divine Chocolate are grown by Kuapa Kokoo a 45,000 member, farmer owned cooperative in Ghana.  Not only do these farmers receive Fair Trade premiums for their cocoa beans, they are part owners of the Divine Chocolate brand."

Xocolatl One of my favorite organic, fair trade chocolate bars is produced by Dagoba Chocolate founded in 2000 by chocolatier Frederick Schilling.  The Xocolatl (74%) is a combination of cocoa nibs, Peruvian Aji and Amarillo chili peppers with notes of vanilla and nutmeg. The New Moon (74%) is their top seller. Trader Joe’s often has them available for sale or visit Shop Natural.

Sources:  Cocaoapro

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