During the Christmas holidays, local chocolatier Tom Pedersen
dropped off samples of the newest products in his Cocoa Puro
line of delectable chocolate treats. The holidays flew by before I had a chance to try them out and report back on the results. Now that I've had plenty of time to enjoy them at my leisure, here's what I can tell you.
This year's Kakawa Hot Chocolate
mix is a deeply satisfying blend of Venezuelan chocolate, Costa Rican cocoa, and cane sugar with a touch of Chipotle chile powder and genuine cinnnamon for a subtle, warming finish. I used the mix for traditional Mexican hot chocolate and I also added a couple of generous scoops to instant espresso and hot milk for an absolutely wonderful homemade Mocha Latte!
I've also made very good use of the Kakawa Spice Rub
, slatering it on petit beef filets and lamb ribs to savor the rich flavors of ground cacao, coffee, dried porcini mushrooms and other spices as a complement to those toothsome meats.
However, this year's absolute winner has to be Petersen's new Caramelized Cacao Nibs
, crunchy little pieces of roasted 70% dark chocolate beans caramelized in pure cane sugar. Chocoholics will love them right out of the bag for snacking, but I've been so enamored of them as a potential ingredient, I've added them to all the sweets I can think of in the past few weeks. Here's what I've discovered: The nibs are the perfect crunchy, dark chocolate counterpoint to the velvety texture of my annual holiday Chipotle Chile Fudge, but I was disappointed to discover they don't stick too well to the tempered Callebaut chocolate coating on my Butter Toffee. They are great sprinkled on various flavors ice cream and gelato, such as peppermint, salted caramel, Mexican vanilla, and chocolate. Crunchy nibs made a provocative garnish for the Aztec Torte
(flourless dark chocolate and peanut butter torte w/chipotle powder and chile caramel sauce) that I made for a friend's birthday cake early this month. So far, they've been very a satisfying addition to Chocolate Chip Cookies and made a unique filling for Rugulach along with cinnamon sugar. I'm hoarding the last handful while I wait for inspiration to strike again.
Purchase Tom Pedersen's Cocoa Puro products at his weekly booth at the Downtown Farmers' Market
or look for them on the web at www.cocoapuro.com