Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chocolate? Aaaaah....CHOCOLATE! And coffee, too!

I'm escaping from a hot kitchen for a few minutes and coming into my hermetically sealed office to enjoy the A/C. Thought I'd share with you what I've been doing "out there." I've been playing with chocolate. (This would be the place for a great big emoticon happy face.) Oh, what the heck? :-))))))))

I have been guilty, as most gringos have been, to responding to friends' inquiries of "What can we bring you?" with a vociferous, "CHOCOLATE!!! GOOD CHOCOLATE." It has always been a matter of consternation to me WHY in the country (even before it was a country) which gave chocolate to the Old World it seems impossible to find a decent chocolate bar. There doesn't seem to be even anything on a par with a Hershey's kiss, which is setting the bar pretty darn low. I have hovered lovingly over gifts of San Francisco Ghirardelli's squares, Suchard and Frigor bars from Switzerland, and bags of Dove kisses purchased on sale at Walgreen's in Lubbock. If I exercise self-restraint, I'm faced with the dilemma of storage -- too cold in the fridge and freezer, but getting way too warm to leave them out in the tropics. What's a chocolate lover to do without a local source to satisfy that dark-tinged hunger?

And then I had chocolate fondue at my friend, Karen's, across the estero.

"WHERE did you get this chocolate?" I asked, dunking my second piece of fresh pineapple in a deep dark puddle of almost black chocolate laced with cinnamon, vanilla and almond flavors. It clung to the fruit with just the right consistency. There were also strawberries on the plate, and they were going even faster than the pineapple, but chocolate tends to run off round things, where if you've got a flat surface you can sort of pile it up and get more on.

"At the grocery in town," she answers. "It's those tablets you get in the cardboard cartons, you know the cylindrical ones -- Abuelita, Ibarra, Don Somebody. I just stick them in the microwave with a little cream and stir. That's it."

THAT'S IT??? That's all that's required to reach Nirvana??? When did life get so simple? Those tablets -- and I've seen them for ages in grocery stores in the States -- have always been a mystery to me. Right on the label it says, "chocolate for the table." Hard as a table, I've thought. About three inches in diameter and half an inch thick, they're sectioned into pie shapes. Try breaking them in pieces and they shatter. Bite one, you're liable to break your teeth. You probably wouldn't be inclined to bite one, as the tablets are riddled with sugar crystals and other stuff that looks gritty and inedible. This is a product lacking all the charms of chocolate -- until you MELT it. Ahhhh! Then it gets magical.

There are no paraffin or preservatives in this chocolate. Put some chunks in a teacup with a little water and nuke it for under a minute. It's rich enough you can make cocoa with water or milk. Add Maizena (basically cornstarch), boil some more and it thickens into champurado -- what Mexicans think of when they think hot chocolate, but is more like hot chocolate pudding for us gringos.

Just melted with a little liquid provides you a fudgy paste for scooping up and eating with a spoon. You can drop it in your hot coffee, or add it to smoothies and ice cream. For the last week or so, I've been in search of duplicating George's coffee-shop-in-Guayabitos mochachinno, since he closes from 2-6 every afternoon...and that's when I NEED a mochachinno!!! I'm getting close now, with this chocolate mixture.
I brew cafe de la olla and store it in the fridge. I freeze milk in ice cube trays. When the urge strikes, I pour the cold coffee in the blender, add a scoop of the fudgy chocolate stuff, and dump some milky ice cubes in there. Hit the button and varooom! We are very happy campers indeed. Every recipe needs adjustment for personal tastes, however. And that's what I've been doing in the kitchen this morning. Playing with chocolate and coffee. Hey, I'm good to go....and go....and go.


Laura said...

yay! I feel yummied.

Rahla said...

Hi Luvs - I've been using this chocolate for donkey's years, and love it. There is nothing better for cooking or baking or whatever. Love reading your stuff and keeping up with you all. Hugs from La Canada.
Rahla (and Tom, too, of course)