Friday, November 28, 2008

temper temper

this was the method me and sarah used when we first started making chocolates at limerick market in 2002. a useful method if you are wanting to temper small quantities of chocolate at home. this is the easiest way we have found for tempering chocolate for decorations and chocolate treats at home without using machines or marble slabs.
1. melt the chocolate
very slowly melt the chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. this is called the bain marie method. make sure the bowl fits tightly to stop any steam from the pan escaping and condensing into the chocolate. it is also important that the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water as this will cause the chocolate to melt to a too higher temperature. it is best to use little chocolate chips as they melt quickly and evenly. stir to ensure the chocolate melts evenly. if you insist on using a thermometer make sure the temperature doesn’t exceed 45˚c.
2. cool the chocolate
as soon as the chocolate is entirely melted remove it from the pan of water and stir well. add in to the chocolate approximately 1/4 of the weight of the original chocolate in fresh unmelted chocolate chips and stir them in. the aim is for all these chocolate chips to melt into the warm melted chocolate. it is very important that these fresh chocolate chips are tempered so make sure they are an even colour and don’t have a grey bloom on them. you want the tempertature to go below 32˚c but cooler than 28˚c and you’ll begin to find it becoming to thick to work with.
3. checking your temper
stir the mixture is tempered by thinly spreading a little of the chocolate on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and popping it into the fridge for a couple of minutes. the chocolate should set to a glossy shine and crack cleanly as you break it. if it doesn’t stir in a few more chocolate chips and test again.
4. keeping your temper
work quickly as the chocolate will set fairly fast once it is tempered. to keep it workable you can dip the bowl briefly into a larger bowl of very hot water and stir well. once again make sure the water doesn’t come into contact with the chocolate. if the chocolate sets entirely you can remelt it and start the process again.


this is a great method for tempering chocolate for dipping homemade truffles or sarah’s fresh market fudge to give them a crisp, brittle chocolate coating to contrast delightfully with the soft and yielding centre.
perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes
great for making chocolate decorations
ideal for getting tempered chocolate for making homemade chocolate lollipops.

it is great method for small amounts but if you use larger quantities regularly and the method above has you losing your temper it may be worth investing in a small tempering machine. they are fairly pricey, about the same as a good ice cream maker. the small, but perfectly formed little machine from vantage house was a great investment and gave us many years of service.

national craft and design fair

head to the rds on 3rd - 7th december and you'll be rewarded with a spectacular christmas food emporium and a crafts and design fair featuring unusual and unique gifts from ireland's finest crafts people. it's the perfect start to festivities at the same time as avoiding shopping centre hell!
the food emporium will be crammed with artisan produce sold by the producers themselves; a chance to talk to those who are truly passionate about the taste and quality of food.

there will be free talks, tastings and demonstrations by some of ireland's leading experts including darina allen, peter caviston and peter ward. demonstrations range from cooking game to christmas cocktails.

you'll find Colm at s 98 where you can get your fix of our chocolates. come and try the christmas tree bar with its heady aroma of norwegian spruce and all the nostalgia and excitement of christmas in a bite! look out on the blog over the next week for our christmas gift guide to skelligs and cocoa bean - we truly believe we have something for everyone from a quirky stocking filler to a box of classic romantic truffles.

come along and get all your christmas shopping done in one festive whirl of irish passion, skill and craftsmanship!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

chocablog review

we are delighted with the review simon recently gave our christmas tree bar on the magnificent chocoblog website. this is indeed a remarkably delicious, incomparably atmospheric chocolate bar that we are both proud and addicted to! still it is nice to hear someone else say it!

Cocoa Bean Dark Chocolate With Christmas Tree
Posted by Simon
Well, we’re only a few weeks away from Christmas, and of course that means seasonal chocolate products are already making their way onto the shelves.

The Cocoa Bean ladies were good enough to send me this rather interesting little number for my appraisal - a limited edition 53% cocoa bar containing (and I quote) “the heady aroma of Norwegian Spruce, the mellow melt of Rosemary, the burst of ginger, the tingle of winter spices and Clementine zest in the air”. Whew, that’s quite a lot to cram into a 75g bar!

It certainly has a distinct whiff of Rosemary and citrus about it, which is no bad thing in my book. I love the smell of Rosemary, and was delighted when I found my first Rosemary / chocolate combination earlier this year. Of course there is always the danger that using such a powerfully aromatic herb might detract from any other ingredient - particularly the chocolate! - so I didn’t hesitate too long before I popped a piece into my mouth for the real test.

The unique way Cocoa Bean make their bars means one can either select a virtuously small square or a slightly more satisfying rectangle. I opted for the virtuous square, and was rewarded with a first flavour of Rosemary that was surprisingly strong. However, it soon softened off as the citrus flavour of the Clementine zest. A glance at the ingredients told me that there was also a hint of clove (thankfully only a hint), cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, oil of pine (making this my second “tree” chocolate) and (but of course) frankincense and myrrh. In other words, there’s been some rather serious experimentation and blending going on to arrive at the final recipe.

The thing is - is this just a gimmicky Christmas novelty? The chocolate itself is excellent stuff. Dark, rich, soft on the palate, and it manages to make itself ‘heard’ above the zesty, spicy, Christmas flavours. The blend of flavours has obviously been perfected (one can only imagine how many hours were spent making THIS happen) and the whole thing hangs together very well. I found mysef admiring the Cocoa Bean sisters for daring to attempt this, and for pulling it off so well. It ought to be a limited edition just because of what it is, but I think it goes beyond ‘gimmick’. Think of it more like a Christmas special - like the seasonal edition of one of your favourite TV programmes. It’s brave, slightly wacky, and very tasty.

Definitely something special for a stocking filler or your Christmas hamper.
Buy Cocoa Bean Dark Chocolate With Christmas Tree Online

the chocolate shop

i love the way that whenever i've popped into the chocolate shop in cork's english market, i end up staying for at least an hour, eating chocolate and drinking great coffee from a nearby stall. nial enthusiastically offers me pieces of chocolate from around the world and we argue the merits of different blends and strengths, sharing our delight or disbelief!

this is a specialist chocolate shop with real charm and character, nestled in cork's historic gourmet food market. nial and his wife, rose, source the best quality artisan chocolate from the best chocolate manufacturers throughout the world. we are privileged to be amongst them. this christmas, look out for skelligs formal collection and cocoa bean's bars available here in the very rare gift pack! also very difficult to find this year are our limited edition chocolate decorations that look fabulous suspended from the new bitter chocolate decor.
'left to my own devices I would rave on about the chilli bar which gets the balance so right!'
rose - the chocolate shop

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a visit to the sea - volume 1

cocoa bean and skelligs started supplying morton's of galway soon after eric morton opened his exciting seaside shop in salthill in 2004. they stock a vast range of speciality products and fresh food and have always been very enthusiastic about irish artisan producers.

emily and i sat next to eric and his wife at the celebration meal on the evening of the speciality food fair in dublin in 2006 and talked about homemade jam and dark chocolate; about artisan bakers, salami, milk chocolate and chutney; about wine, irish cheese, sleepless nights (due to both having young children and running a business) and irish whiskey.

look out for cocoa bean and skelligs in the shop if you live in galway. if you don't live in galway, then go there to do some christmas shopping! it has more than its fair share of fabulous food shops alongside interesting and unusual gift shops and the great sea air.

Monday, November 24, 2008

great chocoholic stockists

over the next few weeks we are going to profile some of the great delicatessen, food halls and gift shops where you can stock up on your christmas supply of cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates and other lovely things...
59 glasthule road, sandycove, co. dublin

emily and I first discovered the delights of cavistons when we took our chocolates for mark caviston to taste not long after we started cocoa bean. famous for its fish, this delicatessen and restaurant manages to excel at everything! alongside the fresh seafood there is organic chicken & game, freshly baked bread, organic spices and of course cocoa bean chocolates!

i recently met an elderly dublin man on a radio writing course in shropshire and found we had a love of caviston's in common. our conversation became so enthusiastic and animated that everyone else now has caviston's down as a must see on any trip to ireland.

the shop has been operating for more than 50 years. it's friendly and welcoming and as soon as you walk in the door, there is a buzz of people passionate about their job and the food they source, both locally and from around the world.

caviston's also have an exciting range of christmas hampers that you can see on the goodies and gifts section of their website: look out for the ones containing cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

chocolate fondue fun

sadly our french correspondent has finished working with us but hopefully guillemette will continue to send us recipes, experiments and records of her chocoholic frolics.

when her mum and sisters came to visit they generously brought us a gift of a chocolate fondue set. a very, very popular gift and a real multi lingual icebreaker. we immediately set about raiding the fridge and cupboards for delights that we could chocolatify.
the chocolate fondue has a ceramic bowl suspended over a small nightlight, little plates for you to store your dipping treats on and a set of lethal looking fondue forks to jab into your quarry to dunk it in the melted chocolate.

the fondue was given a terrifying and hilarious twist by the fruchaud family’s tradition of having to sing a song if the dipping article falls off the fork into the chocolate. given my singing voice this added a certain tension to the event. it also quickly meant that we abandoned the forks and just got our hands in!

it is far more sensible to melt the chocolate in a pan or microwave as the night light candle is only designed to keep the chocolate mixture warm.

chocolate mixture
(how much you need will very much depend on the size of your fondue)
3 parts chocolate (dark really is best for this)
2 parts double cream
a dash of alcohol if you fancy it and the kids are in bed…

melt the cream and chocolate together til they form a smooth mix. transfer to the fondue bowl and light the candle to keep it warm. stir occasionally to ensure the chocolate at the bottom of the bowl doesn’t overheat.

stuff for dipping
whatever you fancy or can find
we used -

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

five little chocolate girls

baby iris joins her sisters, esme and elsie, her cousin lola and colm's daughter, ella as the fifth cocoa bean/skelligs daughter. does this suggest a link between girls and chocolate? i certainly think so!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

welcome little iris!

welcome to the newest chocoholic to be. the brandy plums obviously had some effect as my new niece arrived early sunday morning weighing in at a very healthy 8lb 5oz
iris violet red hehir
mum and baby doing extremely well!