Monday, April 28, 2008

Exotic Brownie Sundae

Let's start today's post with a brief lesson in the history of the sundae:

There is currently a heated debate between Ithaca, New York, and Two Rivers, Wisconsin, over which city has the right to claim the title "birthplace of the ice cream sundae." Two Rivers' claim is based on the story of patron of Berners' Soda Fountain asking owner Edward C. Berners to drizzle chocolate syrup over ice cream in 1881. Berners eventually did and wound up selling the treat for a nickel, originally only on Sundays, but later every day. According to this story, the spelling changed when a glass salesman ordered canoe-shaped dishes. Some claim, however, that Berners would have only been 16 or 17 in 1881 and it is therefore "improbable" that he would have owned an ice cream shop in that year.

Supporting Ithaca's claim, is an account in 1892 when John M. Scott, a Unitarian Church reverend, and Chester C. Platt, co-owner of Platt & Colt Pharmacy, created the first historically documented sundae. Mr. Platt covered dishes of ice cream with cherry syrup and candied cherries on a whim. Their creation grew so popular that by 1894, Chester Platt attempted to trademark the term ice cream "Sunday." The later spelling "sundae" is believed to have originated as a less blasphemous name for the ice cream treat.

Regardless of where and when this ice cream treat was first created, I'm a big fan. And last week I realized that I already make everything needed to put together a fantastic EC-style sundae. Just in time for the summer heat, we now have Exotic Brownie Sundaes: your choice of fresh brownie, warmed+vanilla bean gelato+our house-made Vanilla Bean Marshmallow+your choice of either Chile-Burnt Caramel or Blood Orange Olive Oil Chocolate Sauce. Take a look:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Even More Crème Fraîche Cupcakes

Believe it or not, today I have six cupcake flavors. Six, I tell you! Six! They don't really even fit into my pastry case in the way I like to present them. Poor Exotic Brownies... they are crammed onto a fourth of the shelf. Perhaps by the summer, the woodworker that did all of my tables and custom display pieces (the enchanting and talented Steffanie Dotson) will have some time to build me a new cabinet just for these little cakes. We'll see!

In the mean time, we'll just have to make do. I may only be able to display four per day, but six just seemed like a good idea today. Take a look at the two new flavors:

Lavender-Vanilla Bean-Chocolate-crème fraîche cake+50% dark chocolate lavender-vanilla bean filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+vanilla bean sugar topping.

Mixed Berry Merlot-Butter-crème fraîche cake+60% dark chocolate mixed berry merlot filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+fresh strawberry half topping.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cupcakes, Dinner, Baristas, and More!

I never intended to use this blog as a message board. I'm just a simple chocolatier with simple dreams to show the e-community what chocolate can become! While this post breaks my cardinal rule of no posting without mouth-watering pictures, I wanted to share a few cafe-related things with ya'll. Next time I promise there will be something that is eye-poppingly-tasty! In the mean time, some announcements:

Five Course Prix Fixe-
The next Chocolate Tasting Dinner (our upcoming Mom's Day Brunch) is over half sold out! Seatings still available at Saturday, May 10th, at 9am and 1pm, and Sunday the 11th at 9pm. Sign up before its too late. See the menu here.

Crème Fraîche Cupcakes! Wow. These babies are getting word. I'm so thrilled that people are wandering in on personal recommendation. Lotsa lip-smackin' going on around here. I will have cupcakes each day from now on, though if you are looking for them in quantity for a party or gift, I suggest a pre-order. A box of 9 is $27.

Dessert Tasting-
Have you had our Seasonal Dessert Tasting Platter this month? The current collection will disappear soon to be replaced with our Spring Collection by the end of the month. Stop in before it's gone.

Growing Pains-
Many thanks to everyone for all the great feedback and support. My transition from a wholesale chocolatier to a retail cafe owner has been exciting and crazy! The first five months were pretty much a blur. If you're accustomed to visits during the daytime, you may have noticed that I can be a little scattered, though I hope to soon be busy enough to support a daytime barista staff during these months of the "off-season". The high-chocolate holidays are busy enough for someone to work the front counter at all times of the day, but at the moment its pretty much just me during the daytime. Thanks to everyone who wanders in and is patient while I pop my head out from the back kitchen, wash my hands from the chocolatey-mess that is my daytime, and finally arrive to say hello. In the mean time, talk amongst yourselves:)

Barista? Cocoa-tista?-
Speaking of staff... What would you call a chocolate-barista? While I doubt it really matters, what does is that I need more to help out! I am currently searching for two positions:

Wholesale Sales Rep:
I recently placed an ad on Craig's List for this and just wasn't happy with the response. While I received MANY leads, only about 5% of them were from foodies. Well since you all obviously are, it makes sense to poll here instead of elsewhere. Would you like to develop a career in the artisan food industry? Are you in sales now, but find that you'd rather eat a chocolate bar than the medical supplies you tote each day? Perhaps you already have a job or even a full-fledged career but just love chocolate? I'm searching for a driven individual to come aboard and assist with wholesale pastry and chocolate sales for the local, regional, and eventually, national markets. This is very much a self-made opportunity and can be approached in a variety of ways. Interested? Why not start by telling me how you might help us grow:

SWM ISO fine espresso, tea, and chocolate liaison to the masses. Applicants should love food and love to share it with friends. Emphasis on customer relations... smiles go a long way, folks! Email for info:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Crème Fraîche Cupcakes- Part Trois

"More Crème Fraîche Cupcakes!" I hear you all demanding. Well today is your lucky day.

A few weeks ago I began bottling my Exotic Dessert Sauces and Spreads and my mind has been reeling ever since. Certainly these sauces can find their way into all sorts of new cocoa-concoctions, right? While I don't see myself filling a cupcake with Cocoa-nib Butter, I do think the other four are ripe for cake-stuffin'. Chile-burnt Caramel Cupcake? Maybe next week! Until then, here are the next two variations:

Kentucky Bourbon Caramel-Butter-crème fraîche cake+kentucky bourbon caramel filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+toasted pecan topping.

Butterscotch Rum-Butter-crème fraîche cake+butterscotch rum filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+toasted walnut half topping.

These cupcakes will join the other four already in my line-up. Call ahead if you'd like to know our daily offerings before showing up. For the time being, I expect to have four different flavors at a time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crème Fraîche Cupcakes- Part Deux

The first advertised batch of Crème Fraîche Cupcakes went over pretty darn well. I say "advertised" because I've actually been making them intermittently for about two weeks, but I wanted to hold off telling you all about them until they were perfected. Yesterday after my post, I had two different people guy three boxes of nine between them. That was pretty much all I made that day. I never really thought that I would have much to offer people looking for an option for a birthday or special event dessert for a crowd, but a box of these babies seemed to fit the bill.

So today I'm back with double batches and two new flavors! "Hooray", I hear you all cheer! Take a look at the next two options. A special thanks to my foodie friend and hobbyist baker, Adam (to whom I would hyperlink if he had a blog, because he clearly should).

Peanut Butter and Jelly-Butter-crème fraîche cake+peanut butter filling+raspberry balsamic filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+desiccated blackberry topping.

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn-Dark chocolate-crème fraîche cake+raspberry balsamic filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+pink peppercorn topping.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crème Fraîche Cupcakes

Crème fraîche... What a glorious concept. This gift from the French is a heavy cream slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as our standard American sour cream. Very similar to its creamy cousin, its higher fat content and lower viscosity allow it several advantages like its ability to be directly cooked without curdling. This is how it found its way into my Exotic Salted Caramels.

And those little guys are popular! I can't seem to find time in my production schedule to run my next batch before the prior is sold out. Sounds like a good excuse to take a flavor concept and run with it, no?

Ever since I took a trip to Sprinkles in Newport Beach, I've been lamenting that San Diego seems to be the only major US city that doesn't have a cupcake boutique. Well, if you can't find it, create it! So here are my cupcake contributions to the SD foodie scene.

What chocolatier would be complete without the ultimate in chocolate comfort foods? My Crème Fraîche Cupcakes are made from scratch, stuffed with decadent fillings, and baked daily. Each is topped with chocolate ganache glaze and an exotic garnish. Think my Exotic Artisan Truffles, but in cake form! Plus, they are square... good to pack tightly into a gift box!

We will begin featuring daily flavors, but to begin with we are launching with our two signature flavor combos:

Salty Peanut Butter Toffee-Butter-crème fraîche cake+peanut butter filling+dark chocolate ganache glaze+maldon sea-salt and peanut butter praline topping.

Lavender Sea-salted Caramel- Dark chocolate-crème fraîche cake+smoky caramel filling+dark chocolate glaze+lavender-herbed grey sea-salt topping.

They are $3.5 each or a box of 9 for $27.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Salted-Caramel Matzo

Jews rejoice! Eclipse is bringing in the upcoming holiday week in style! Available today though the end of Passover (April 27th) these treats are perfect to enjoy during the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. For those unfamiliar to the concept, the holiday commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. In Israel, Passover is a seven-day holiday, with the first and last days celebrated as a full festival involving abstention from work, special prayer services, and holiday meals. Many Jews observe the Torah commandment of eating matzo bread (a traditional unleavened cracker) on the first night of Passover at the Passover Seder, as well as the Torah prohibition against eating Chametz (leavened products such as bread, cake, cookies, beer, whiskey or pasta) for the duration of the holiday.

So what's a Jew to do during this coming week for sweet treats? Try these on for size. Though these Salted-Caramel Matzo are pretty tasty even if, like me, you're not Jewish. Made from Kosher matzo coated in smoky brittle, each is dipped in 61% dark chocolate and topped with Maldon sea-salt. Not sure about it? Think of chocolate-covered pretzels. Hits the sweet-salty spot each time! These babies are $8 for a quarter pound bag.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cocoa Nib-Almond Rocher

It's been over a week since my last post! "What's the dillyo?"...I hear all you cocoa-cats asking. Just one word: batteries. My suggestion? Never buy a digital camera that relies on non-standard batteries. Not only do you end of spending a fortune on quirky non-rechargeable oddities, but it took me a week (obviously!) to get to a retailer that had them in stock. But I'm back with a chocolatey vengeance!

This past weekend, Ben took a trip to SF and tried all sorts of culinary treats, the experience of which I am most certainly, and deeply, jealous. When do I get to run amok in a foreign city scarfing down everything I can get my grubby hands on? Here's hoping soon, but I think I need to train another barista or two until I can feel comfortable leaving the shop alone for a long weekend or more. Interested? Apply within:) But I digress...

I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful friend such as Ben to bring me back some tasty tidbits and when I picked him up from the airport, he presented me with a little tote filled with pastries from Tartine. He had recently purchased their cookbook, and had I gone a trip to their shop would have been on my to-do list as well. Among his gifts was a little unassuming meringue-like pastry called a rocher. Traditionally made with almonds, Tartine's version was studded with cocoa-nibs. Right up my alley, right? I've split the difference and made my own version with part cocoa-nibs and part almond meal. The result: Cocoa Nib-Almond Rocher has a rich chocolate-nut flavor with a chewy texture from the meal; its toasty on the outside and moist on the interior. A pretty good pairing with a cup of tea, if you ask me!
PS: While I'm on the subject, I recently received a bad review online relating to my obsession with cocoa nibs. Bah, I say! I love nibs and love the subtle toasty chocolate flavors they impart. If you haven't heard me say it before, nibs, which are the unprocessed nut of the cacao pod, are the essence of chocolate and are quite healthy in that they contain no added sugar. A great way to enjoy the flavor of cacao and all the health benefits of chocolate without feeling guilty!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Carrot Gâteau

I've only got three weeks left of this current Seasonal Dessert Tasting Platter and it's time to start recipe testing. This collection will be up for May and June so I'm thinking of summertime produce and flavors. Ben recently forwarded me a curious carrot cake recipe from David Lebovtiz's blog and I was really intrigued. It's a very dense and eggy french-style carrot cake. I tried it as listed and have made a few changes to fit my specific interests, though it's very tasty in it's original conception, too.

This particular cake is very french in that it has less flour content than most you'd find in traditional Americana. Instead, it uses mostly almond flour (which keeps it very moist and dense). I've also doubled the carrot content as well as added some orange zest and vanilla been seeds. Just a few standard Eclipse additions... I mean, when was the last time you found yourself saying "you know, this ____ sure is lovely, but it could use a little less vanilla bean". Personally, I feel that vanilla beans don't make it into desserts more often because they are cost prohibitive, and when you buy ingredients wholesale like myself, it's hard to not take advantage of that.

After it bakes, it's so short and cute and I love how David baked it in rounds and cut it into little wedges. I've decided to panini grill it to order and top it with a little cocoa-nib cream. The final Carrot Gâteau is pretty simple and straight forward in flavor, but charming nonetheless. Look for it on the next platter debuting at the end of this month!