Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, 23 June 2008 - A few of my favorite chocolate things

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a few of my favorite chocolate things.

In my garden:

- berlandiera lyrata or chocolate flower (place nose near bloom, take deep breath and enjoy the heavenly chocolate scent; mornings are best). Although xeric and deer resistant, this plant did not survive in the front yard garden. So, last year, I bought a few at the annual plant sale and planted them in the backyard. I was thrilled when a few blooms appeared. In 2008, the plants are back for a welcomed encore.

- mentha piperata chocolate mint (subtle chocolate scent and flavor). Only one plant survived the bitter cold winter. It's growing and spreading like typical mint plants. I hope to harvest leaves in a few weeks.

In my stash:

- Chocolove Extra Strong bar

A few years ago, during her annual holiday sojourn to the United States, my older sister told me that she and a girl friend were planning to taste an assortment of chocolate bars. Their quest: to find the best one in their world. Aware of my sister's flair for drama, I felt that her project had Food Network spotlight written all over it. I don't know if she and her friend ever completed the quest. If they did, she didn't share the results (and I never asked). I kept thinking about all those calories!

If my sister had asked for my pick, I would have nominated my favorite Chocolove bar, Extra Strong with 77% cocoa (African and South American cocoa beans). Very dark, rich and satisfying. One square a day keeps the chocolate blues away.

In my recipe box:

- Rich chocolate brownies with toasted walnuts using a Cook's Illustrated recipe.

At lower elevations, my traditional brownie recipe never disappointed. At 6,800 feet, it flopped repeatedly no matter how carefully I tweaked the amounts of sugar, flour, eggs and leavening or altered my mixing technique. Other "tried and true" recipes also failed miserably.

One fateful day, a Cook's Illustrated sampler arrived in the mail. The editors invited me to try the world's best brownie recipe. So, still skeptical, I did. To my surprise, the recipe worked beautifully, ending an embarrassing 20-year streak of lousy homemade brownies.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


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