June 10, 2010

Chilli hot chocolate and then some

Mmm...I just made a cup of thick hot chocolate with a Mexican twist, compliments of one of the best chocolate companies out there- Taza. And as they say on the back of the wrapped discs: "a small chocolate maker in Somerville, Mass. We use traditional Mexican stone mills to grind this unique, intensely flavored chocolate for eating and drinking". And if that didn't sound good enough...unlike other more well known Mexican-style (drinking) chocolate producers, like Ibarra, Taza chocolate is certified organic, and the company has a Direct Trade relationship with the growers where more money makes its way to the growers than even through the Fair Trade label. They also package it in the form of 2 discs, which makes for easier melting, and for easier snapping in half to make chocolate for one if you wish- and even then just half a disc will suffice. Also, the chocolate comes in fantastic flavours like Guajillo chilli (what I'm drinking now), vanilla bean, and salted almond. 

As I write, the hot chocolate is keeping a really nice, constant heat...but a skin is definitely forming on the top...off skin off! Okay, it's off now. I ate it. And it tasted really, really good. (Not like the skin that forms on top of a latte which for some reason is completely awful). 

So how did we find the Taza chocolate you may ask? Well, I didn't order it online, although always tempted. We actually stumbled upon it while in Santa Cruz for a wedding last September. On the way to the hotel we had the pleasure of stopping by a great local organic shop to pick up some things for breakfast - it had the most incredible selection of chocolate for such a small establishment- I guess the locals must have great taste!? Certainly we can vouch that the local, even home-brewed, wine was excellent...ahh to live in California. This was also where we learned that the infamous Santa Cruz juice actually comes from... Santa Cruz. Well, at least it appeared that way, what with the 30 or so different varieties of juice and juice blends on the shelf- it's pretty safe to assume. Needless to say we drank a litre of the stuff just overnight. And after a wedding...who wouldn't!

I digress...back to the chocolate.  First of all, I wish I had their job- those lucky (and incredibly brave, hard working and dedicated) owners of Taza. My 'get out of the rat race' dream is to have a sustainable, ethical cocao forest of chocolate trees interspersed with rainforest in some tropical paradise somewhere, with papayas and bananas growing within reach throughout the property.

It might look something like Willie Harcourt-Cooze's chocolate farm and factory. Willie's chocolate is only through UK retailers but, lucky for us, they are now shipping worldwide. This chocolate is also seriously good...less refined (more granular but also packed full of flavour) and available in 100% cacao cylinders, which can take a while to use, but I try to grate some from time to time into savoury dishes; this works very well with roast lamb and rosemary in particular. Their very innovative, South American influenced chocolate recipes are available online, and their wonky but 'makes you feel like a kid again' website is great fun exploring- especially the videos of Cooze- clearly a brilliant, uninhibited man with endless energy who would certainly make Willy Wonka do a double-take. 

So, after all this talk, am I going to leave you with a chocolate recipe? Of course!

A rough hot chocolate recipe:

One trick to making a thicker hot chocolate...and celiacs will appreciate this too...is to add about 1 tablespoon white rice flour- whisked in to avoid lumps of course.

Melt 1 disc of drinking chocolate (or make a paste of sugar (to taste) and 2 tbsp cocoa with some milk in a pan) on low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of whole milk to prevent burning and stir in the melted chocolate until there are no lumps. Then add 2 mugs worth of milk - this could be a combination of whole milk and 2% (semi-skimmed) - and heat until heated through. Whisk in 1 tbsp of white rice flour and gradually bring the hot chocolate to a boil, being sure to run a wooden spoon over the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking or burning. Let boil for just a minute, whisk to make it a little frothy, then pour into mugs.

Enjoy as a dessert for 2.

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