Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Complete Guide to Chocolate

We all love chocolate, how could you not?! Chocolates in all forms from chocolate bars, hot chocolate, chocolate sauce, chocolate milk, chocolate biscuits…there are just so many amazing things made with chocolate! However, not all of us know a great deal about this amazing thing that we eat so often. So, let’s get ready to learn a little bit about this amazing ingredient!

A Brief History of Chocolate

Chocolate itself comes from the cocoa tree that has been growing for over 3 million years. Records show that chocolate initially was used as a beverage around 1100BC in Mexico by the Aztecs and Maya. The cocoa beans were originally fermented and made into a type of alcoholic beverage. The Mayan’s were the first on record to serve cocoa warm mixed with chili peppers and corn meal- an original hot cocoa!

Cocoa beans were even as currency during the Aztec period and chocolate was considered to be a gift from the God’s. But something this good wouldn’t stay a secret for long and in the early 1600’s, the chocolate drink made its way to Spain and became extremely popular among royalty and the wealthy (the only people who could originally afford such a luxury item). From there, the evolution of chocolate continued to expand and when the industrial revolution came about, it became faster to roast and produce chocolate which made it far more affordable to everyday people.

Today, about three quarters of the worlds chocolate is produces in West Africa and cocoa is still, to this day, an amazingly popular and desired taste. Now that you know a little bit about how chocolate came to be, let’s look even more in depth into the world of cocoa!

Types of Chocolates

There are numerous types of chocolates found in the marketplace of today. Chocolate will vary based on many things from being produced from cheap cacao or being roasted from the highest quality specialty cacao beans. Its flavor and price may also vary with the kind of cacao has been used and the types and amount of additives that may have been added.
All chocolate is made by first fermenting and roasting cocoa beans. The shell is then removed and the cocoa nibs, the part remaining, is ground into a paste. The paste is then heated, this melted form is called chocolate liquor, and separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. These two parts of the chocolate are usually sold separately in mass production as the quantity of each will vary from brand to brand, and from type of chocolate to other type of chocolate.
Here are the most common types of chocolates:

White Chocolate

White Chocolate is made by combining cocoa butter with sugar, milk solids and flavorings like vanilla. When processing chocolate, the dark colored solids of the cocoa bean are separated from the fatty parts of the bean. This cocoa fat is then used to make white chocolate and as most of the cocoa solids have been removed, white chocolate has an off-white, beige color.
Due to the fact that most of the cocoa solids have been removed, white chocolate lacks the antioxidant properties of darker chocolates and many do not consider white chocolate to really be “chocolate”. However the subtle, creamy flavors of white chocolate are still quite appealing!

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate is simply made from cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter added to milk or milk powder. The U.S. government dictates that milk chocolate contains at least 10% pure cocoa solids while the European Union requires at least 25% cocoa solids. So Milk chocolate from a European country will be much darker than a milk chocolate bar from the United States. Milk chocolate is very common in candy bars as it has a less bitter taste than dark chocolate but is richer than white chocolate.

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate is a sweetened chocolate that contains high amounts of cocoa solids and small amounts of milk. Unlike milk chocolate, there are no regulations for what percentage of cocoa solids need to be used in dark chocolate. Because of that, based on the ratio of cocoa solids and sugars used dark chocolate my either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. Dark chocolate is usually labeled with a percentage right on the package which will tell you how much cocoa is in each type. 60% cocoa would be pretty dark chocolate but get up to 90% cocoa and you are about to try a very dark and bitter chocolate bar!

Dark chocolate is great for baking or eating. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and has much less sugar than milk chocolate or white chocolate and is deemed the healthier chocolate. Dark chocolate was recently declared a “super food” and this title has cause global demand to rise. Go dark chocolate!!
Subsets of dark chocolate are as follows:

Sweet Dark Chocolate – Contains 35 to 45% cocoa solids and has added sugar

Semi-sweet Chocolate – Contains approximately 40 to 62% of cocoa solids and is commonly used in cakes, cookies and brownies. It is considered as dark baking chocolate that is readily available in grocery stores.

Bittersweet Chocolate – Contains 60 to 85% of cocoa solids and is low in sugar giving the chocolate a rich and intense bittersweet flavor. Bittersweet chocolates are commonly used in baking and cooking.

Unsweetened Chocolate – Contains 100% of cocoa solids and half of it is fat. It is not suitable for eating because of its bitter taste. It is frequently used in baking.

How to Store Chocolates

Ideally chocolates should be stored away from other foods since they absorbs odors and aromas of other products. You don’t want your chocolate to taste like garlic, that’s for sure! Try to store chocolates in a cool, dry place at a consistent temperature of below 21 degrees C and a humidity of less than 55%. Sealing chocolate in an air-tight container is very helpful in keeping them fresh and flavorful and keeping chocolate away from light will also help preserve the flavor. Oxygen and artificial lights can cause unpleasant flavors and odors to chocolates.

Chocolate typically doesn’t contain additives and preservatives which is why they are better eaten fresh. If you have a significant supply of chocolates and you want to preserve them for an extended period of time you can refrigerate them to increase the shelf life. Furthermore, you can store chocolate for 6 to 12 months in the freezer. Before freezing chocolates, wrap them tightly to protect from odors and condensation. But always consume your chocolate at room temperature as that is the best for tasting the true essence of chocolate!

Cooking with Chocolate

Cooking with chocolate or making chocolate truffles themselves can sometimes be really tricky but it’s worth the effort to perfect the process. As we all know, chocolate desserts are the best desserts! Here are some tips for cooking with chocolate.

Add Shortening to Chocolate

baking with chocolateWhen making chocolate truffles or candies, adding shortening to the melted chocolate can help create a smoother and manageable consistency as compare to melted chocolate only. With this trick, it is much easier to evenly coat a product that you are dipping in the melted chocolate. Using the ratio of ½ teaspoon of shortening to each 25 grams of chocolate will result in a beautiful consistency.

How to Melt Chocolate

Always melt your chocolate slowly over a low heat. Chocolates typically melts at 30 – 32 degrees C. Don’t over melt chocolate because it will become grainy and too thick. Chocolate can burn quickly and become very bitter if melted quickly over high heat. Be gentle to your chocolate!

Chocolate for Baking

Baking chocolates are typically the unsweetened and bitter kind of chocolate that contains about 50% to 58% of cocoa butter. Baking chocolates are usually used in making brownies, cakes and frostings. You may need extra sugar (which is usually in baked goods anyway!) to make your chocolate taste delectable rather than overly bitter.

That’s Chocolate!

So now you know a little bit more about the detailed world of chocolate. Did you also know that every second, American’s collectively consume 100 pounds of chocolate? So join the crowd and go grab yourself a delicious chocolate bar!

Chef Jason Galletti’s passion for exceptional and unique catering experiences inspired him to bring together G`Day Chef to life in 2005. For over ten years now, Jason and his team has provided Melbourne with catering and event services that use the very best Victorian Produce, delivered with consideration of the newest and most delicious culinary trends.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crafting The Perfect Juice (Using a Juicer OR Blender)

home juicing

Today I want to talk about juicing. When people ask me about healthy cooking and how to incorporate more nutrients into their diet, juicing (either with an Omega Juicer or Vitamix Blender) is one of the things I always suggest first.

Think about it. With just a few ingredients and in no time at all you’re getting all the great nutrients, all the great vitamins, and all the wonderful taste of the garden in a drink. So let me go over you what I do and how I build out a great juice.

The Components of the Perfect Juice

I always like to start with a base. For this I use either celery or cucumber, but it’s up to you. You simply want a watery vegetable. So that’s the first ingredient I’m always going to put in my juicer.

After the base I’m going to go to the meat of the juice, which I like to call the bulk. For this I typically use dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. That’s the meaty base I’m going to put in with the other part of the vegetables and makes for a great start.

After the base, I personally like to finish it off with fruits or vegetables that contain a lot to flavor like carrots or apples. So typical I’ll add some apples, some carrots, or strawberries to my juice, which makes it taste awesome and is a good way to finish it off.

To make your juices last longer, my secret tip is to add some kind of citrus. My favorite fruit for this is grapefruit, but any citrus will work.

Juicer and Blender Tips

One thing you want to look for in a juicer is something that isn’t loud, and something that’s easy to clean. A lot of people will make the mistake of buying a juicer, finding out it’s too loud, and never using it. So do your research beforehand, and make sure that you don’t fall into that group! Blenders can work also work well for this, but they do tend to be much louder.

In our house, we like a good Omega masticating juicer, because they are super simple to put together, very simple to clean, and very quiet.

Fresh Juice Vs. Store Bought

A lot of people ask how making your own juice at home is different than buying a ready-made juice from the store that comes already bottled. The main difference is that you need to use a lot less fruit when you couple it with other vegetables. This means less sugar and more nutrients coming from other sources, as opposed to just straight juice.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kitchen Experiment: How Wild Salmon Differs From Farmed Salmon and the Best Way to Cook It

wild caught salmon compared to farmed salmon

Most home cooks pay close attention to internal temperature when cooking a steak, where know just five degrees means the difference between rare, and medium rare. But few people pay that much attention when dealing with fish, which is really too bad, because even fatty fish like Salmon, can go from tender and moist to chalky, and dry in a flash.

The Experiment

wild vs farmed salmon comparedIn our kitchen, we used an instant read, digital thermometer to tell when Salmon is done. And we’ve always preferred it cooked to 125 degrees, that the ideal balance of firm, yet silky flesh.

The majority of salmon we cook is farmed atlantic, but as we’ve cooked more wild species, we started to wonder if 125 was maybe a bit too high. To find out, we bought multiple filets of the foremost common species of wild pacific salmon. King, also known as Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, and Chum. We cooked samples of each to both 120 degrees, and 125 degrees sou vide, or sealed in a plastic bag, and cooked in a temperature controlled water bath. We also did the same for samples of farmed atlantic salmon.

We then asked tasters, blind to the differences in internal temperature, to pick which sample had the best texture. Everyone preferred the Coho, Sockeye, and Chum samples cooked to 120 degrees. And the farmed atlantic, cooked to 125. While a few folks preferred the King sample at 125 degrees, the majority preferred 120. These results may sound surprising. After all, salmon is salmon right? Well, not exactly.

Conclusion

salmon filletsIt turns out that farmed atlantic salmon differs in two important ways, from the half dozen commercial wild varieties caught in the Pacific ocean. One, due to their sedentary life, the collagen protein in farmed atlantic salmon contains less chemical cross links, than in wild varieties, which translates into softer flesh. And two, farmed atlantic salmon contains more fat than any wild variety, and up to four times as much fat, as the leaner species. We know that fat provides the perception of juiciness when cooked.

So, with naturally firmer flesh, and less fat to provide lubrication, wild salmon can have the texture of overcooked fish, even at 125 degrees. By cooking wild salmon to just 120 degrees, the muscle fibers contract less, and stay moist and tender.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Manual vs. Electric Coffee Grinders: Which is Right for You?

Electric coffee grinderThe coffee you drink is only as good as the grind you make and the difference in taste when you brew a fresh cup of coffee is immeasurable. Then there’s the all-important question every home brewer started with: Manual or electric coffee grinder?

To be able to answer this question, you first need to know what you are looking for from your coffee grinder. How much money are you willing to spend? How much work are you willing to put into brewing your coffee? Do you need an appliance that doesn’t make a lot of noise? Do you want the grinder to achieve a super-espresso grind?

Once you know what you’re looking for you can make a decision. This article explains what the two different types of grinders can offer you and your brew. By the end of it, you should be able to make up your mind and decide on the right grinder to fit your daily coffee ritual.

Manual Grinders

A manual coffee grinder requires a little extra work. You provide the power needed to grind the coffee through winding the swivel arm which grinds up the beans. If you’re looking for a fine grind, you could be spinning away for a while, but a coarser grind isn’t going to be as much work.

Manual grinders are portable and easy to travel with and usually smaller than electric. Meaning if you like your coffee ground to perfection at work, as well as at home, you can take it along with you without a problem.

The price range of manual grinders is also significantly less than electric, leaving you with more money to spend on luxury coffee.

Manual coffee grinder pros

  • Simple
  • Sturdy
  • Consistent
  • Portable
  • Low-priced

Manual coffee grinder cons

  • Require effort
  • Grind size limit
  • Extra labour

Electric Grinders

One word comes to mind when we begin talking about electric grinders, convenience. If you have enough to do in your day and cannot take the time to grind your own coffee beans, then an electric grinder is for you. They are easy to use, just a flip of a switch and a choice of settings and you can let the machine do all the work. You can choose from a variety of coffee grinding sizes.

They do, however, make a little more noise than the manual grinder, so if you are planning on a brew before the kids wake up to sustain your sanity before the day starts, electric grinders may just put a flaw in that plan.

They are usually also more expensive than manual coffee grinders, but the convenience is worth every penny. No elbow-grease required and more time to sit back and enjoy your perfectly ground brew.

Electric coffee grinder pros

  • High performance
  • Convenient
  • Multiple size settings
  • Hard-wearing
  • Long lasting

Electric coffee grinder cons

  • Loud
  • Requires electricity
  • Large
  • Expensive
  • Not easily portable

Think back to what you were looking for in your coffee grinder and filter through the pros and cons provided to make your decision. Go for the manual coffee grinder if you want a great tasting brew and a worthy coffee experience, but you want in on a budget. If you don’t mind a little elbow-grease and want the availability to grind coffee anywhere any place, this is the grinder for you.

If you’re able to invest a decent amount into your coffee experience, then you will want to go for an electric coffee grinder, providing you don’t mind a little noise and are happy leaving the grinder in one place. If you value excellent coffee and want it conveniently then this is the perfect grinder for you.

Whichever process you choose to grind your coffee, you’ll still experience the great taste, flavour and smell of home brewed coffee. When you home brew once, you’ll never go back, so get ready for an exhilarating coffee experience.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Do You Need to Wash Your Quinoa Before You Cook With It?

rinsing quinoa

Quinoa has a high protein content, contains all nine essential amino acids, and cooks up quickly with a firm, satisfying texture. The only real downside to quinoa, some batches can be unpleasantly bitter. This bitterness is due to a concentration of compounds called saponins, and they’re found on the surface of the seed. These saponins repel birds from eating the seed before harvest, which is a good thing, but their mild toxicity can cause stomach distress for some people, and that’s not such a good thing.

The Quinoa Experiment

washing quinoa before cooking itTo get rid of the bitter coating, many brands of quinoa come pre-washed, but not all of them. To find out if pre-washing guarantees less bitter quinoa and if you should still rinse the pre-washed stuff, we ran an experiment. We purchased all available brands of both pre-washed and unwashed white quinoa and rinsed half of each under cool water in a strainer for one minute while leaving the other half un-rinsed. We cooked each sample using 1-3/4 cups water to 1-1/2 cups quinoa and tasted them blind, side by side.

Tasters were asked to write the samples according to level of bitterness. There was no discernible difference in bitterness between pre-washed quinoa that we did not rinse and unwashed quinoa that we did rinse. Both of these samples fell in the middle of the pack in terms of bitterness. The pre-washed quinoa that we rinsed was deemed the least bitter while the unwashed quinoa that we did not rinse was by far the most bitter.

The Verdict

Our results show that making the best tasting quinoa begins at the supermarket where you want to buy brands that are labeled as pre-washed, but your work isn’t done yet. Even pre-washed quinoa benefits from a quick rinse in a fine mesh strainer to produce the least bitter, best tasting pilaf. Happy cooking!

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