5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

As the holidays approach, it’s time to start thinking about what to get all of the special people in your life. Here are 5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers (or anyone really), because what’s a better gift than chocolate? Nothing? That’s what I thought.

Pana

1. Pana Chocolate

If you are looking for raw, organic, handmade chocolate, Pana has got you covered. They offer creative flavours from hemp and cacao nibs, to rose, to fig and wild orange. Or for the chocolate purists out there, they also make both 60% and 80% unflavoured raw chocolate. Also, all of their bars are made with coconut oil so they melt on the tip of your like no other.

Chaleur 2

2. Chaleur B Chocolat

This artisanal chocolate producer operates out of Quebec, Canada, producing single origin bars from Uganda and Madagascar to name a few. Their Ugandan milk chocolate is creamy and caramely beyond belief. If you can stop without eating the entire bar, power to you.

Sirene 2

3. Sirene Chocolate

Sirene’s bright yellow packaging alone is enough to perk up anyways day as we enter the wintery months. Sourcing beans primarily from Madagascar and Ecuador, this Canadian company produces a variety of single origin, bean-to-bar, award-winning chocolate. You could buy it for someone else, but I won’t judge if you save it for yourself.

Spencer 3

4. Spencer Cocoa 

Spencer offers only 2 bars; 42% milk chocolate and 72% dark chocolate, but it is a classic example of producing a limited amount of product and producing it really, really well. All of their beans are sourced from Vanuatu, a collection of islands in the South Pacific, so if you’ve got someone in your life that appreciates the unique, this is the chocolate for them.

Montezuma

5. Montezuma’s

This UK company is making flavoured chocolates that are well worth crossing the pond for (or if you can’t do that, order them online). From British flavours like eton mess, and treacle tart, to citrusy offerings like sea salt and lime, and white chocolate with lemon and sour cherry, Montezuma’s makes eating chocolate even more fun than it already is.

La Tablette de Miss Choco

La Tablette de Miss Choco

La Tablette 1

A mid-afternoon class cancellation on a Tuesday and a chocolate-less apartment can only result in a single outcome in my world, that is, going to hunt down chocolate. By this I don’t mean a quick jaunt to the grocery store to snatch up a couple of Lindt bars that are on special 2/$6. No, what I’m referring to is a trek across the city at all costs in search of the best selection of single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate Montreal has to offer; and I found it!

Enter La Tablette de Miss Choco, a specialty chocolate shop offering bean-to-bar varieties from all over the world. It’s the exact type of place a person like me should never be left alone in for any extended period of time, but with no one to stop me and a minimal desire to exercise control, I decided to risk it. I make it my mission to seek out chocolate wherever I am, home or abroad, and I have never seen this kind of selection in one place. It was, quite frankly, overwhelming (mainly because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to buy THE EVERYTHING, and didn’t want the pressure of having to narrow it down).

Thankfully they were beyond helpful in explaining the layout of the store and offering samples based on what I described that I liked in chocolate. At La Tablette, you can get bars made in Canada, the US, Europe, or ones that are made specifically where the beans were grown (Vietnam, Madagascar, etc.). I loved the fact that I had never seen 90% of the brands before anywhere else. After tasting Peruvian chocolate that was distinctly reminiscent of dried cherries, virgin chocolate that due to the non-roasted beans was mild and subtle, and a bar from Madagascar that melted luxuriously on your tongue and left the most pleasant, citrusy aftertaste, it was time for the arduous task of deciding which ones to buy and take home with me. I opted for the aforementioned bars from Peru and Madagascar, as well as a 70% bar from Vietnam, and some Willie’s Cacao milk chocolate for good measure (which I may or may not have devoured an entire bar of walking around Prague last summer when I was first introduced to it).

Whether you are as much of a chocolate fiend as I am, or want to begin exploring the world of bean-to-bar chocolate, La Tablette de Miss Choco is a phenomenal starting point. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you like – milk, dark, how dark? Straight up chocolate or other ingredients mixed in? Citrusy, bitter notes or robust berry and smoky tobacco notes? – and they can guide you in the direction of what bars you are most likely to enjoy. They also offer various classes on the chocolate making process, history of chocolate, fair-trade chocolate, and more, if you want to up your chocolate IQ even further. Or just go and taste, purchase, and enjoy, because like good wine, good chocolate is meant to be savoured.

La Tablette 2

La Tablette 3

La Tablette 4

La Tablette 5

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La Tablette de Miss Choco

838 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Montreal, QC
514-394-1958

latablette.ca

Vegan Nanaimo Bars

Vegan Nanaimo Bars

Vegan Nanaimo Bars 1

What scrooge of a person doesn’t love a holiday bake sale, especially when the proceeds are all going to charity? This past weekend I participated in the annual Calgary Food Blogger’s Bake Sale in support of Brown Bagging for Kids, a local charity that provides school lunches to underprivileged kids. People got delicious sweets and the money went to a great cause – it was a win-win situation.

I made two offerings, vegan ginger cookies based on this recipe and even better yet, these vegan Nanaimo bars. Now don’t go running to your mommy at the sound of the word “vegan.” You seriously cannot tell that these squares don’t have a hint of butter or eggs in them. In fact, I think they taste better than normal Nanaimo bars because the use of coconut oil instead of butter just amps up all of the coconut flavour. Make these for dessert at your next holiday gathering and they are sure to be a hit. I won’t tell anyone they’re vegan if you don’t.

Vegan Nanaimo Bars 2

For recipes from other bloggers at the bake sale, check out the following links:

Food Mamma, Candy Cane Bark
Scrumptiously Fit Food, Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Dish N The Kitchen, Salted Pistachio Sables
Heather’s EATS, Butter Tarts
Miss Foodie, Hazelnut Shortbread

Vegan Nanaimo Bars
 
Serves: 1 9x13 pan
Ingredients
  • Base
  • ¾ cup coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp. almond milk
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
  • Middle Layer
  • 6 tbsp. coconut oil, softened
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp. custard powder
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar
  • Top Layer
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
Instructions
  1. To make the base, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, cocoa and almond milk in a large saucepan. Heat to melt the coconut oil, stirring until smooth.
  2. Remove and add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground almond and coconut. Stir until well incorporated and pack into a parchment lined or greased 9×13” pan. Bake at 325F for about 10 minutes. Once it is out of the oven, put it in the freezer to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. To make the middle layer, beat together the coconut oil, almond milk, custard powder and icing sugar until smooth. Spread this on top of the base and chill.
  4. Melt together the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave for the top layer. Allow it to cool slightly. Pour this over the first 2 layers, spreading it evenly across the top.
  5. Refrigerate until everything is set, 30-60 minutes. Slice and serve.

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Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars
Until a couple of days ago, I could not tell you when the last time I had a Nanaimo bar was. In all honesty, it was probably a store-bought one at a piano recital at least 7 years ago. It was the one thing I looked forward to after listening to kids hack away at the ivories for a solid 2 hours, the snacks! It was the same deal with soccer. I would not have gone if it weren’t for the orange slices and Rice Krispie squares. Even as a child my love for food was immense.
What were we talking about again? Oh yes, Nanaimo bars. I am curious, can anyone tell me, can you get these/does anyone make these in the States? I have never really paid attention to whether or not I have ever seen them there. I know that they got their name because they originated in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island but I would be interested to know how far they have spread. As a Canadian, they scream holidays or any get-together where inevitably a grandmother will be baking something.
Ok so here is the Nanaimo bar low-down for those of you who are out of the loop.
1. Crust made primarily of coconut, graham cracker crumbs and cocoa (chopped nuts are optional). Some people bake it, some people don’t. I find that any melted butter/graham crust holds together better when baked so that’s the route I take.
2. Butter icing filling, flavoured with custard powder. Personally, I don’t see what the custard powder adds flavour-wise. I tasted it by itself and it was exactly like cornstarch, blah. However, it does contribute to the eggy, yellow colour. This surprised me as it is bleach white when dry but the minute you add moisture to it, it turns bright yellow. Natural? Perhaps not, but Nanaimo bars would not be Nanaimo bars without a yellow middle layer.
3. Chocolate ganache-like topping. Just melted chocolate with a tablespoon or two of butter, that’s it, that’s all. Unless you are me and then you use Green & Black’s Burnt Toffee chocolate (it was just released in Canada and they sent me a couple of bars to try) to add some crunchy texture and caramel-y flavour. But I guess that is still just melted chocolate and butter. Fancy chocolate, but still chocolate.
Layer it up, let it chill and voila, you’ve got yourself some Nanaimo bars. Eaten right away or frozen for later, they are a nostalgic treat that brings out the kid in any full grown adult. Next thing you know, you will be leaving some out for Santa. Who does that though? You are supposed to give Santa the crappy stuff that you don’t want to eat. The Nanaimo bars, well you keep those all to yourself. It’s worth the risk of getting coal in your stocking.
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo Bars

Makes 25 squares

Ingredients
Base
½ cup butter
¼ cup white sugar
6 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tbsp. milk
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
Middle Layer
¼ butter, softened
3 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. custard powder
3 cups icing sugar
Top Layer
2 bars Green & Black’s Burnt Toffee chocolate (or 200g semisweet or dark chocolate of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter
Instructions
1.     To make the base, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk in a large saucepan. Heat to melt the butter, stirring until smooth.
2.     Remove and add in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and egg. Stir until well incorporated and pack into a parchment lined 9×9” pan. Bake at 325F for about 10 minutes. Once it is out of the oven, put it in the freezer to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
3.     To make the middle layer, beat together the butter, milk, custard powder and icing sugar until smooth. Spread this on top of the base and chill.
4.     Melt together the chocolate and butter in the microwave for the top layer. Allow it to cool slightly. Pour this over the first 2 layers, spreading it evenly across the top.

5.     Refrigerate until everything is set, 30-60 minutes. Slice and serve.
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars

Friday Link Love – Holiday Baking Edition

I’m behind, I have barely started my 2013 Christmas baking. I know, I know, I better get on it. I have finished my Christmas shopping though so I guess it balances out. That being said, the fact that I haven’t really baked anything gives me more time to scour the interweb for delicious recipe inspiration. Here’s a sample of what I have came across thus far!

Vegan Fruit and Nut Ginger Cookies

Cookies

Linzer Cookies from A Canadian Foodie
Turtle Cookies from A Pretty Like in the Suburbs
Sparkling Toffee Cookies from Jelly Toast
Chocolate Drop Cookies from Kitchen Heals Soul
Christmas Card Cookies from The Simple, Sweet Life
Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Kitchen Treaty
Masala Chai Snickerdoodles from Oh Ladycakes
Chocolate Toffee Pecan Cookies from Clockwork Lemon
Gluten Free Lace Cookies from Wheat Free Mom
Merry Cherry Icebox Cookies from Bakersbeans

Bars/Squares

Holiday Lemon Cheesecake Bars from The Kitchen Magpie
Salted Caramel Swirl Brownies from What’s Gaby Cooking
Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Oat Cereal Bars from Bake or Break
Nanaimo Bars from Warm Vanilla Sugar
Toffee Triangles from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen
Dolce de Leche Bars from Buttered Up
Cookie Butter Oatmeal Bars from Chelsea’s Messy Apron
Cranberry Almond Brown Butter Cereal Bars from Lovely Little Kitchen
Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies from Eat Good 4 Life
Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars from TasteFood

Cranberry Pomegranate Spritzers

Other

Gingerbread marshmallows from Joy the Baker
Creamy Crockpot Cocoa from Barefeet in the Kitchen
Chocolate Caramel Tart with Sea Salt from Eats Well with Others
Spiced Nuts from Dinner with Julie
Raspberry Nanaimo Pops from SugarHero!
Buckeye Bark from Chocolate Chocolate and More
Kransekake from Kumquat
Gingerbread Train from Sweet Explorations
Seven Layer Chocolate Truffles from the Kitchn
The Best Almond Brittle from Say Yes to Hoboken