Inspiration and Ideas, Uncategorized

Inspiration

Posting from HQ: September 29

The other night we attended Hopelink’s inspiration party for their Reaching Out Luncheon  on October 15th.  It was an amazing gathering of dedicated people.  And such fun to share stories while nibbling on fabulous food by Lisa Dupar and watching the looks of delight as guests helped themselves to their first taste of jcoco!

But the best part of the night was meeting Connie.  She started speaking to the group by saying she considers chocolate an important food group.  So, I guess we were bound to hit it off!  Connie went on to explain that she is one of Hopelink’s Pacesetter donors.  She owns her own business teaching children to swim and has successfully raised four kids all by herself.

But not so long ago she was a Hopelink client, going through a tough divorce and stuck in circumstances beyond her control that meant a slow decline into poverty.  She talked about what it felt like as things around her fell apart.

Connie is clearly a fighter and she credits Hopelink with providing her the lever she needed to begin lifting herself up into self-sufficiency.  Although she is humble and didn’t tell me this herself, I later learned that her incredible tenacity and drive  even led her to winning an Extreme Home Makeover a few years ago!  Today her business teaching children to swim in her own backyard pool has a waiting list of students and she is proud to be putting her two oldest through college.

We were inspired by Connie.  Click here if you are interested in joining us on Oct 15th.  Author Jeanette Walls will be there to tell her own incredible story, and of course you will get the chance to taste some exquisite chocolate!

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Inspiration and Ideas

End Summer Hunger

Posting from HQ:  August 14

We know how lucky we are to spend our days dreaming about and creating fabulous chocolate.  But the best part is sharing it with you.  In fact, connecting with our customers is what inspires us.  That is why we make it a priority to develop and donate products for charity and spend time giving back.

This summer we decided to devote some attention to the hunger crisis that is happening right in our own backyard.  The tough economy has swelled the ranks of American households confronting hunger and food insecurity by 30%.  In King County 306,469 residents are food insecure*.  This means 1 in 6 of the county’s population are unsure of where their next meal will come from.

Seattle Chocolates is proud to support Hopelink and Northwest Harvest in their efforts to ensure school age students who are eligible for the free or reduced price lunch program during the school year do not go hungry during the summer months.  And we hope you stay tuned  to learn more about the fabulous new products coming this fall that will make it possible for us to continue providing healthy food to people who need it most.

We can’t wait to make our giving dreams a reality!

*According to study conducted by Food Lifeline and Feeding America.

Recipes

S’more Pie

Posting from HQ: July 17

This pie is scrumptious and can be put together in a snap.  Inspired by our Campers S’more Truffle Bar,  it combines chocolate and marshmallows in a graham cracker crust that will have everyone licking their fingers!

For the Pie:

12-18 graham cracker squares

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 Dark Chocolate Truffle Bars, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1/2 cup milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

Preparation:

Using a rolling pin, crush graham crackers to a fine crumb.  In a large saucepan, melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, add graham crackers and combine completely.  Press the mixture firmly into a pie pan, covering the bottom and sides completely.

In a double broiler, or heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate, marshmallows and milk, stirring constantly over low heat until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Cool to lukewarm.  (Cooling is crucial for getting the filling to set properly.  So if you skimp on this step, your pie might still taste good, but it won’t look so great!)  Fold in whipped cream.  Pour into pie crust and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Recipes

Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Posting from HQ

This cupcake was inspired by our summertime favorite Lemon Ice Truffle Bar.  The simplicity of the cupcake, topped with a smooth lemon and white chocolate frosting, makes a delicate treat on a hot day.  Or … you can turn up the volume like we did here, by flipping the cupcake upside down and frosting the bottom and the sides to feature the flavors that make this such a fabulous desert.  Finish with some shaved white chocolate and a twist of lemon – it’s a stunner!

For the Cupcake:

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Frosting:

4 Lemon Ice White Chocolate Truffle Bars, coarsely chopped

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

For Pizzazz:

Lemon Zest

Shavings of Lemon Ice Bar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 12 cupcake liners in a 2 1/2 inch muffin pan.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and creamy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Beat in the lemon peel and vanilla.

Beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture, scraping sides of bowl as needed.  Gradually add in the buttermilk and then the remaining flour until all ingredients are mixed.  Divide batter among muffin cups, filling to about 1/2 full.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely.

And now for the frosting.

In the top of a double boiler, melt chopped Lemon Ice Truffle Bars with 1 tablespoon butter.  Once smooth, set aside to cool until lukewarm.

Have the cream cheese cold and the remaining butter at room temperature.  In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the confectioners sugar one-third at a time and mix until combined.  Slowly add the melted white chocolate and mix until smooth.

Frost and decorate as desired, or remove the cupcake liner and place cooled cupcake upside down on a dessert plate.  Generously frost the bottom and sides.  Then press shavings of white chocolate into the frosting and top with a bright twist of lemon peel.

Holidays, Inspiration and Ideas

Ideas for Dad

Posting from HQ:  June 1

We love gifts.  That is why each truffle that leaves our factory is made with pure ingredients and dressed up ready to give!  But Fathers Day gifts are hard.  Grilling tools feel equivalent to giving Mom an appliance (and we know that’s a bad idea).  And who really needs more golf club covers or a beer making kit?

We think a more original way to honor Dad would be to give him the gift of good health.  Happily … dark chocolate qualifies!

A lot has been written about the health benefits of chocolate.  Dr Andrew Weil has published a useful anti-inflammatory food pyramid with chocolate sitting at the very top.  A recent article from health.msn.com suggests dark chocolate may lower the risk of heart disease.  And Beth Reardon, director of Duke University Integrative Medicine, talks about chocolate’s ‘health halo’  for it’s association with everything from improved vision to easing a chronic cough.

Yippee, we say!  Pair it with a nice bottle of (antioxidant rich) red wine.  Remind your Dad that when it comes to premium quality, a little satisfies.  And you’ve got yourself a meaningful fathers day gift!

Recipes

Salted Caramel Brownies

Posting from HQ:  May 22

Chocolate with salt and caramel is a truly exquisite flavor pairing and we think it works beautifully in these brownies.  Although we use dark chocolate here, this recipe was inspired by our customer favorite San Juan Sea Salt Truffles.

But be warned, these are nothing like what you and Betty Crocker might whip up for a quick treat.  This dessert is all grown up and could easily be served a la mode at your next dinner party or as a special Father’s Day surprise.

For the Brownies:

6oz Dark Chocolate Truffles, coarsely chopped

3/4 cups Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces

1 cup Sugar

3 Eggs

1 cup Flour

For the Caramel Glaze:

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

1 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Water

1/8 cup Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13 in. pan with butter or baking spray.  In the top of a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate and butter stirring until melted.

Add sugar and stir gently until combined.

Remove from heat.  In a separate bowl, gently whisk the eggs.  Drizzle the eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly.  Then add flour and stir until combined.

Pour batter into greased baking pan and spread to even out the surface.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove from oven and cool completely in the pan.  We recommend giving these the full cooking time so that the brownies come out slightly crunchy – a base that will hold its own with the sweet, gooey caramel top.

Now comes the hard part  – the caramel glaze.

The flavor is determined by two things:  the cooking time of the sugar and water, and the amount of salt you stir in at the end.  Overall, we strive for a smooth, delicate flavor where no single element overpowers.  But if you like a more roasted flavor, increase the cooking time of the sugar and water.  And of course, you can kick up the salt by dusting the top.

If that just confused you and now you feel the need for moral support, check out Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman blog while your brownies cool.  She is funny.  She goes for it.  (We like that in a girl!)  And, for all her time on camera at the Food Network, we were relieved to see that she too has to finesse the caramel to make it cooperate.  Check out her slightly different version of this recipe!

OK.  Back to the glaze.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the heavy cream.  Do not boil.  In a separate tall saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Do not stir.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Cook until the sugar and water mixture turns an amber color.  It takes a while so be patient.  But once it darkens remove immediately because it will start to taste burned long before it looks burned!  Should look about like this.

Now add warm cream, butter, and salt.

It will bubble up slightly but stir gently until mixture is smooth and well combined.  When it is smooth, stir in water.  Cool ever so slightly and pour over completely cooled brownies.

Allow to set completely.  Cut, serve (don’t be afraid to scoop a little vanilla on there).  Enjoy!

Holidays

Happy Mother’s Day

Posting from HQ:  May 13th 

Thanks for coming to the Mother’s Day event at the retail store yesterday.  We hope your Mom enjoys her treats!

At Seattle Chocolates we have a great appreciation for this day because an overwhelming number of us are Moms.  That includes our fearless leader Jean, who took over as CEO shortly after her youngest started kindergarten.  Ever since, Jean has created the kind of culture that understands the amazing juggle, the crazy compromise, the irreplaceable gift that is motherhood.  So when it comes time for that 2nd grade piano recital, or it’s the day of the senior class presentation, we get to be there.  Which makes the time we spend at Seattle Chocolates even sweeter.

So we thought today would be a good day to say thank you, Jean.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Inspiration and Ideas

Goodbye Norma Jean

Posting from HQ:  May 11

…and farewell Chicago, after a busy couple of days at the Sweets and Snacks Expo.  Like us, Marilyn left town this week, having been installed last July.  So we dashed out to snap her picture after setting up our booth at the beginning of the week.  City was abuzz about seeing the super-sized starlet go.  And none too sad we noticed!

Trip highlights:  Finding Eno Chicago Wine Bar still open after our late arrival on Monday – a great wine, cheese and chocolate taste experience.  And somehow a fitting start to our week of conversation about crafting unforgettable chocolate combinations.  Jean and Niel attended the NCA’s Chocolate Council Meetings.  Jean led tours of culinary students through the show and Niel spoke about finding the delicate balance between different ingredients and types of chocolate.  (That deserves its own post – so stay tuned for more on that soon!)  Niel was also interviewed live by WGN radio about translating his engineering background into chocolate making.  A fact that is certainly one of the best kept secrets of our success!

Whew, what a great week.

Trends

Your Snacking Priorities

Posting from Chicago:  May 9

Hello from the Sweets and Snacks Expo!  Every year we head to Chicago to be part of this great event and we love the chance to step back and scan what’s going on in the industry.  There are hundreds of companies represented and products that range from outrageous to gorgeous.  And just think, all of it is coming to a store near you this fall.  So we thought we’d give you an idea of what to expect. . .

As reported by the National Confectioners Association, the major trends of 2012 include;  1.  Sweets made for sharing, 2.  Sweet and salty pairings remain strong favorites, 3.  Flavor influences coming from around the world, and 4.  An increase in healthy snacking.

Interesting.  But what we’d really like to know is what YOU think!  Given what we are seeing at the Expo, we’re curious to hear about your snacking priorities when it comes to Seattle Chocolates.

Thanks!

Inspiration and Ideas

Throw a Truffle Party

Posting from HQ:  May 4

The next time you entertain, why not make it a truffle tasting party?  Put down your kitchen torch, forget that Cuisinart and dial up a dessert that is sure to create conversation and be a treat for every palette.  All you need to do is decide your style.

A tasting paired with coffee, tea or wine? 

If this is your style, we recommend brewing a dark french roast or espresso blend paired with any of our truffles including nuts, salt or toffee.  We think colorful glassy baby drinkers make it an occassion!

If your guests prefer wine after dinner, decant a full-bodied red to sip with our dark chocolate truffles.  A sweet dessert wine pairs well with our extreme dark or blackberry truffles.  It’s worth checking out Sunset Magazine’s wine editor Sara Schneider’s occasional musings about wine and chocolate pairings.

If your plans call for a more relaxed event, or you want to serve up a festive Mom’s Day surprise, a selection of truffles makes a pretty centerpiece.  And it’s fun watching everyone nibble their way to their favorites!

For more ideas, head over to Curtsy Bella tomorrow.  Those creative ladies are throwing their own truffle party this Saturday from 10-8:30!