Friday, November 13, 2009

Kansas Travel - Emporia's Granadas

Mother, Kim Redeker, and daughter, Toni Bowling, saw a perfect spot to open the chocolate business they had dreamed of, beside Emporia's Granada Theater. In anticipation of the theater's restoration, these budding chocolatiers opened The Sweet Granada - A Chocolate Cafe next door. By the time the theater's magnicent interior restoration was completed, about 18 months ago, the women already had several successful years of operation under their belts.

Redeker and Bowling have tantalized sweet tooths with a wide variety of luscious chocolates and other confections since the 2004 holiday season. Today they get rave reviews for their fudge, from creamy Amaretto Chocolate Swirl to a highly unusual Lemon Meringue variety, made with marshmallow cream. They also douse huge strawberries in chocolate, and double dip cherries so it looks like they're wearing tuxedos.

Being chocolatiers was a new venture for both ladies, who spent a year studying how to make chocolates before they opened. And their efforts have paid off in the form of multiple awards, including 2006 Emerging Business of the Year, from Kansas Small Business Development.

The pair uses only Guittard white, milk, dark, or extra dark chocolate, and hand-make every item, from chocolate covered popcorn to hand-dipped Oreos and Champagne Truffles. Visitors also can pick up assorted goodies in the shop or order online - The Sweet Granada will ship anywhere. And that's a very sweet option.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chocolate Lover's Pumpkin Pie

When I first thought of infusing pumpkin pie with a large dose of chocolate, I wanted to make a chocolate graham cracker crust. But I couldn't figure out how to combine what is typically a no-bake crust with a filling that clearly needed plenty of baking time.

That's when melted chocolate entered the picture - not once, but twice. There's also plenty of crushed chocolate in the light and fluffy filling, without totally overpowering the traditional pumpkin pie flavor. And I doubled the amount of spices in a typical pumpkin pie filling to help it stand up against the chocolate.

This Thanksgiving, there's a way to satisfy tradition and your passion for chocolate in the same luscious dessert.

Chocolate Lover's Pumpkin Pie
Makes 12-16 servings

one 9-inch pie crust
1/2 cup dark semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in double boiler

1 can pumpkin puree
1 can lowfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dark semi-sweet chocolate chips, ground fine in food processor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust 10 minutes while melting chocolate chips. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Using a pastry brush, spread 1/2 of melted chocolate across entire crust, including edge.

Combine all other ingredients except ground chocolate chips. Fold in chocolate chips and fill shell; it will be very full. Bake pie approximately one hour or until filling surface is slightly firm to the touch.

Cool one hour on wire rack and then for 1/2 hour in refrigerator. Reheat melted chocolate in double boiler. Use pastry brush to 'paint' the pie top with remaining chocolate. Cool at least 15 more minutes and then serve.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chocolat in Fredericksburg

Visual Traveler returns with the 200th entry, today, and it's good to be back. Sometimes, you just have to leave things alone and let them simmer awhile before you can return for another taste, and that's what I've done with this blog. Recovery from a broken elbow through much of the summer, plus intensive travels through the state of Kansas while doing research for a travel guide have resulted in a new focus. Look for food-related posts on Wednesdays, a Crossing Kansas entry on Fridays, and another travel entry - often related to food - on Mondays. And, most of all, ENJOY!

Lecia Duke watches intently as we pop liquid center chocolates in our mouths, during a press trip to Fredericksburg, TX. She encourages us to let them sit on our tongues until the chocolate shell warms up and breaks open. A rush of Almendrado (almond) tequila suddenly bathes my tongue, swirling together with the melted dark chocolate shell. I immediately want to try a second. This time there’s an explosion of rich, seductive ruby port as melting chocolate envelopes my tongue.

These are only a few varieties of the liquid center chocolates available at Chocolat/Quintessential Chocolates Co., Inc., a must-visit local destination for chocolate lovers. Duke’s ‘Spirited Selection’ liquid centers include Tennessee Whiskey, Amaretto, French Cognac Champagne, spiced rum and Russian Orange Vodka. Wine lovers can sample chocolates made with blackberry, orange Muscat, Washington raspberry and Muscat Hamburg wines, and non-alcohol selections include mesquite roasted or espresso coffee and black cherry or peach nectar.

Duke created her three- to five-day chocolate molding and filling process following her apprenticeship with a Swiss master chocolatier. By 1984, Chocolat was born. Duke casts all of her molds in the store. She and her staff use Merckens Yucatan chocolate, with 53-70% cacao, and her American roots inspired her to add liquid flavorings that Americans would appreciate. She’s also quick to point out that one of these decadent chocolates, made with at least 50 percent cacao, has only 28 calories and an astounding antioxidant level of 13,000.
But there’s more to Duke’s repertoire than liquid chocolates. Sample her silk fudge – melt-in-your-mouth, creamy and luscious, in German Chocolate, Raspberry and several other decadent flavors. Crafted only with chocolate, heavy whipping cream and flavoring, these chocolate-based confections have no added sugar, taking their sweetness from the chocolate itself. Across the tiny lobby samples of chile-laced dark chocolate are rich and satisfying, while the heat grows with each bite.

I guarantee that you won't want to stop with just one.