Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chocolate "Cooking with Trader Joe's": Guest Blogger Deana Gunn

I shop at Trader Joe's a lot, and I buy their chocolate and chocolate mixes. A few years ago I met Wona Miniati at the Northern California Independent Bookstore Association book show. Her first cookbook co-authored with Deana Gunn was just out: Cooking with all things Trader Joe's. The recipes are fabulous, and you'll want to pick up a copy, as well as a copy of The Trader Joe's Companion: A Portable Cookbook. Since their cookbooks include several chocolate recipes,  I invited them to Guest Blog. You can follow them on Twitter at @CookingwithTJ. Check out their website Lots of tips and recipes.

Guest Blogger Deana Gunn:

Trader Joe’s is a delicious playground for chocolate lovers, full of basic and unique chocolate-centric offerings at affordable prices. If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you’re likely familiar with their French Truffles, portable 100-calorie chocolate bars, milk and dark chocolate Classic Bar, and their famous Belgian Pound Plus ($3.50 for a pound of 72% Belgian chocolate). Their huge assortment of combination candies includes chocolate-covered salted caramels, Mini Peanut Butter Cups, chocolate covered espresso beans, Dark Chocolate Crisps (imagine a Pringles chip meeting chocolate!) and cocoa-dusted almonds. During the holiday season, new treats hit the shelf, from Peppermint Bark to Candy-cane Joe-Joe’s cookies (Trader Joe’s all-natural take-off on Oreos), their addictive Sipping Chocolate (one of the best hot cocoa mixes I’ve had) and even chocolate ornaments! Trader Joe’s frozen food aisle is another place brimming with chocolate desserts such as the Chocolate Ganache Torte, various mousses, and lava cakes.

As co-author of the two original Trader Joe’s cookbooks, “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” and “The Trader Joe’s Companion,” I can say I’ve had the pleasure (nay, duty!) of trying as much as I can. (And in case you were wondering, my co-author and I are independent authors, so our fanatic ravings of Trader Joe’s are with an objective eye!) Trader Joe’s chocolates are generally on the upscale side, usually private label, with high quality and all natural ingredients. This is not to say that they’re pricey – in fact the Classic Bar is a mere 69 cents! In addition to their house brand chocolates, Trader Joe’s carries names such as Scharffen Berger and Valrhona.

Valrhona is not only one of the smoothest and richest chocolates around, it’s also one of the best melting chocolates, making it a noted choice in smooth chocolate recipes such as mousses and puddings. It’s also a free trade chocolate, something we like. We use it here in our simple chocolate mousse recipe, and Valrhona is smooth and never grainy. The mousse is not too sweet and has few ingredients, so the chocolate is really the star. Despite the rich creaminess, there is no heavy cream – the mousse is primarily made with light coconut milk. For a dairy-free version, omit mascarpone cheese.

South Seas Chocolate Mousse

7 oz dark bittersweet chocolate such as 2 bars of Valrhona 71% Cacao
1 (14-oz) can Light Coconut Milk
4 oz Mascarpone Cheese (1/2 container)
2 Tbsp Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum (regular rum is too harsh and not as sweet)

2 cups fresh mango, chilled or frozen Mango Chunks, thawed

1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or use the microwave. Microwave method to melt chocolate: Break up chocolate bars into squares (8 squares for each bar) and place in a small glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. Microwave with 30-second increments, stirring in between until fully melted and waiting a minute to let the heat of the bowl dissipate. Melting 2 chocolate bars should take about a total of 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
2. Add coconut milk, mascarpone cheese and rum to your blender. Pour melted chocolate into the blender and blend right away for about 30 seconds. Pour or spoon mousse into individual cups and place in the fridge for at least one hour. If you will be leaving them in the fridge longer than a couple of hours or making it the day before, cover mousse cups with plastic wrap.
3. Top each mousse cup generously with mango chunks right before serving (about ¼ cup per serving)

Prep time: 5-10 minutes. Make at least 2 hours ahead of time.
Makes 8 mousse cups (1/2 cup each)

(Excerpt from Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati and reprinted with permission from the authors).

This next recipe is a simple 3-ingredient chocolate fudge with the secret ingredient of instant coffee! In chocolate desserts, a hint of coffee enhances and intensifies the taste of chocolate. Soon after I developed this recipe, my co-author Wona made it for her husband’s office party. It was a farewell party for a co-worker who was a chocolate fanatic and connoisseur, and everyone was to bring a chocolate dessert, of which one would be selected as the winning dessert. People spent days preparing complex treats and delightful creations. Wona was shocked when the fudge she had brought was the winner! I soon received a panicked phone call: “Deana, the fudge won and now everyone wants the recipe. After all those fancy desserts, I’m too embarrassed to tell them it’s just THREE ingredients!” We had a good laugh. I hope you’ll enjoy this fudge. Trader Joe’s carries sweetened condensed milk only during the holiday months, but it’s a generic ingredient that you should be able to find it at any grocer.

Chocolate Coffee Fudge

1 (12-oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-oz) can Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Tbsp instant coffee (or espresso powder)
1/2 Tbsp water

1.) Heat the condensed milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2.) Dissolve the instant coffee in the water (it will be thick) and stir into the condensed milk.
3.) Add the chocolate chips, lower the heat, and stir just until melted and smooth (don't scorch it!).
4.) Pour into a very lightly oiled 8x8-inch pan. Chill in fridge until set (about 2 hours).

Thanks so much!


Mason Canyon said...

Yummy sounding recipes. Thanks for sharing.

Thoughts in Progress

Deana Gunn said...

Janet, thanks for inviting me to guest post on your delicious blog!
Mason, glad you enjoyed the recipes!