Ungava Cranberry Negroni

Ungava Cranberry Negroni

I’m a big fan of the Negroni any time of year, but its sweet boozy balance makes it the ideal winter cocktail. This version uses Ungava gin, a Quebec product with botanicals like Nordic Juniper, Wild Rose Hips, Cloudberry, Crowberry, Arctic Blend, and Labrador Tea. Mixing it with another native ingredient, cranberries, makes this cranberry Negroni about as Canadian of a cocktail as they come. Happy sipping.

Ungava Cranberry Negroni
 
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Serves: 1 cocktail
Ingredients
  • 1.5 ounces Ungava gin
  • 1.5 ounces Campari
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1.5 ounces cranberry juice
  • fresh or frozen cranberries, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Pour everything over ice, stir, and drink.

 

Chocolate Pudding Cakes

Chocolate Pudding Cakes

Molten chocolate cakes are about as old-school a dessert as they come, but there’s something about them that gets me every time. With Valentine’s fast approaching, if there’s one super-simple chocolate dessert to have in your repertoire when you need to pull out all the stops, this is it.

I decided to call these chocolate “pudding” cakes, rather than “molten” cakes, because they don’t have a clear distinction between a clearly set, cooked-through exterior, and an under-baked, molten centre. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is a very good thing, because the entire cake is the consistency of warm, baked pudding. It’s not quite raw, and not quite cooked, but decadent and satisfying to boot. If you’re in need of comfort food in the dead of winter, make this (or get someone to make it for you and it will taste even better).

Choosing the chocolate you want to use for a dessert that is pretty much entirely comprised of chocolate is always an important step. I opted for Green & Black’s Organic 85% bar, because I love chocolate and when I make a chocolate dessert, I want to taste chocolate. If that sounds too dark for you, their 70% bar is also a perfectly good option.

These cakes come together in a flash, so regardless of whether you are meticulously planning your Valentine’s meal, or are just craving chocolate after a long day, you can get them on the table in 30 minutes or less. In fact, I might just make another batch tonight.

Chocolate Pudding Cakes
 
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Serves: 2 cakes
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 100g (1 bar) 70% or 85% Green & Black's dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp. whole wheat flour
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 350 F and grease and sugar two ramekins.
  2. Melt the chocolate and coconut together in the microwave or over a double boiler.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and salt.
  4. Once the chocolate mixture has melted and cooled slightly, gradually mix it into the egg mixture.
  5. Whisk in the flour to combine.
  6. Distribute the batter evenly between the two ramekins.
  7. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the cakes appear set around the edges and slightly tacky in the centre.
  8. Allow them to cool slightly before unmolding.
  9. Serve with cranberry sauce, ice cream, or the garnishes of your choice.

*The chocolate for this post was provided by Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate but the opinions and recipe are my own.

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

I don’t eat a lot of bread, but when I do, it tends to be the focus of the meal. Enter this granola babka, the perfect breakfast treat. I was lucky to be gifted some Oatbox granola over the holidays. Inspired by their recipe for cinnamon rolls, I decided to use the granola in a same-same-but-different form, babka. Who can’t get on board with sweet, swirled bread dough?

Now the kicker here is that this dough isn’t swirled with just anything. Babka is typically filled with chocolate, but this one rather has layers of walnut butter, brown sugar, and granola. The granola is key because it adds a much-needed element of crispy, crunchy texture. As I mentioned, said granola comes from a Montreal-based company called Oatbox. They are basically a “granola of the month” club. Monthly subscriptions cost $20 and get you two bags of granola. Flavours change from month to month. I used their banana molasses variety in this granola babka. The two flavours for January are buckwheat, almond, and honey, and matcha, coconut, and mulberries. An Oatbox subscription is a great idea for the New Year to help ensure you always have some healthy breakfast (and baking!) options on hand.

As for this granola babka, it’s surprisingly good for you despite its apparent decadence. Walnut butter replaces the butter you’d find in traditional cinnamon rolls. Given the sweetness in the nut butter and the granola, there’s not a ton of extra brown sugar. Otherwise, it’s just a basic white bread dough. You could totally use whole wheat flour instead or throw some bran in if you’re looking for the extra fibre. Pureed dates would also make a great substitution for the brown sugar in the filling.

Whether you need to feed a crowd of people for a holiday gathering, or just want to treat yourself on a cold winter morning, this granola babka will warm you up from the inside out!

*Oatbox supplied the granola for this post but the words and recipe here are my own.

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter
 
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It's easiest to prep this recipe the night before you want to eat the babka. It's a great breakfast treat for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ package dry active yeast (just over 1 tsp. or about 4 grams)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. fine salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil (neutral-flavoured)
  • ⅓ cup walnut butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup banana molasses Oatbox granola
Instructions
  1. Bloom the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and 1 tbsp. of brown sugar.
  2. Once it has activated, add in the remaining ¼ cup of water, flour, salt, and oil.
  3. Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or by hand, kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on what method you use.
  4. Let the dough rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Roll it out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Smear the walnut butter evenly over the rolled dough and sprinkle on layers of both brown sugar and granola.
  7. Roll the dough up tightly into a log, as if you were making cinnamon buns.
  8. Slice the roll longitudinally right down the middle, dividing it into two even halves.
  9. Twist these halves together, forming a spiralled loaf.
  10. Place the babka into a well-oiled loaf pan, cover, and rest it in the fridge overnight. Alternately, if you want to move ahead with baking it right away, leave it at room temperature and let it rise until doubled.
  11. Once the loaf has risen (whether that was in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for about an hour) bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. It should be golden and slightly crusty.
  12. Cool slightly and enjoy. Fresh bread is always best eaten warm!

Izard Chocolate

Izard Chocolate

San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Portland are all places that come to mind when I start thinking about makers of bean to bar chocolate. Little Rock, Arkansa though? I can’t say it even crossed my radar, until I found Izard Chocolate, that is.

Nathaniel Izard founded Izard Chocolate in 2014. At the time it was the first chocolate company, of any sort, ever, in Little Rock. He’s set the bar high for anyone who wants to follow. His lineup of single origin and flavoured bars are stellar, and I was fortunate enough to get to review a selection of them right before Christmas of all festive times.

I tried bars from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Belize, as well as a flavoured Icelandic Sea Salt bar.

Forget leaving the best for last, let’s start with it right off the bat. Now that’s not to say that all of the bars weren’t amazing, but the Dominican one was just so unique I fell in love with it immediately. Imagine a blueberry pie-flavoured chocolate bar and that’s what you get with this one. Vanilla bean is one of the ingredients and it does wonders to accentuate the characteristics of the dark berry flavoured Dominican cacao. You wind up with notes of baked goods and actually have to remind yourself that you’re eating dark chocolate. Two thumbs up.

The tasting notes on the Haitian bar describe it as, “tasting like you’re eating a brownie without actually eating a brownie.” It’s a pretty apt descriptor. This bar is pure cocoa and fudge. As it lingers in your mouth, it is nostalgically reminiscent of Tootsie Rolls. Very low acidity and not a much fruitiness with this one. It’s pure chocolate chocolate.

I’ve tried quite a few Maya Mountain cacao bars from Belize and this one is definitely up there. It was super smooth and melted gorgeously on the palate. Notes of raisin and dried cherries came through on the forefront, with a pleasant acidity on the back end. The Icelandic Sea Salt bar tasted quite similar (I neglected to snap a pic because I was too eager to get it into my mouth given my affinity for salted chocolate).

If any lessons were learned from my Izard Chocolate tasting, it’s that you don’t always have to go for the big guns if you’re looking for incredible chocolate. Some of the best bars are being made in places you’d never expect. Be thorough in your searching and you never know what you’ll find.

*As always the opinions here are my own and I thank Izard chocolate for graciously supplying the chocolate for tasting.

Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Need some stocking stuffers for the chocoholic in your life? Look no further than Cultura Chocolate‘s small single origin bars. At only 23g a pop, they pack a punch. They are small but mighty, some might say.

Cultura is a company out of Denver, Colorado, producing bean-to-bar chocolate with cacao sourced from Belize, Guatemala, and Haiti.

Cultura Chocolate 5

The 75% Belize bar is figgy and rich, with hints of smoky tobacco. It’s definitely best suited for that dark, mysterious friend who you never know what to buy for.

Cultura Chocolate 4

Cultura offers two Haitian bars, one at 70% and the other at 85%. Both have nostalgic notes of malt that evoke memories of childhood chocolate consumption. Such qualities make them ideal for anyone you know who’s a kid at heart (go for the 85% if they’re an especially mature kid with a well developed palette).

Cultura Chocolate 3

Last but not least, the 70% Guatemala is probably the fruitiest of the bunch, with notes of raisin and citrus. For lovers of the acidity of Madagascar cacao, this is definitely a bar to broaden their horizons. It’s for that person in your life who can be a bit sour at times, but is really a sweetie deep down.

Cultura Chocolate 2

Cultura has single origin bars for the entire spectrum of chocolate loving people in your life, but let’s face it, the best gift is getting to taste-test all of them.

*Cultura graciously provided the chocolate for this review but the opinions here are my own.