DIY Recap: How to Make Chocolate with Taza

by Marshall Bright, CGNE youth member

When I was a kid, my favorite part of Mr. Rogers were the segments when we got to visit a factory and see how things were made, so when I heard about the opportunity to go to a DIY event where we got to visit a real-live chocolate factory, I knew I had to go.

Touring the Taza Chocolate factory was a dream come true for both the Mr. Roger’s fan and food nerd in me. Located in Somerville, MA, Taza offers daily tours led by their super-knowledgeable guides. Taza makes Mexican-style organic, fair-trade chocolate, which is a far cry from the milky, super-sweet stuff sold at grocery store counters.

We began the tour learning about what chocolate beans get up to before arriving in Somerville. Our guide explained how the cacao beans are harvested, and how Taza works directly with farmers to get the best quality beans possible in their chocolate. We also learned what makes Mexican-style chocolate so different from what Americans typically eat. Mexican chocolate is stone-ground and typically sold in rounds. No milk is ever added, instead, just coarsely-ground cane sugar. With much more of a crunch and complexity than many European-style chocolates, Mexican-style chocolate is most often used in Latin America to melt into drinks much more comparable to coffee than hot chocolate.

Next we got to see where the beans are roasted. Roasting brings out a lot of the nuttiness in chocolate, and is a vital part of the process. This was also the step in the tour where we got to don our super-stylish hair nets. In the roasting room we got to try chocolate nibs, which is the shelled and roasted product halfway between cocoa beans and chocolate. Biting into it was a lot like sneaking a bite of the baker’s chocolate your mom had in the pantry when you were a kid. I knew no sugar was added, yet I was still taken aback by how bitter it tasted. We were then handed chocolate-covered nibs–much better.

Next, we got to see where the chocolate is wrapped and packaged. One thing that makes Taza unique is that, in one location, the chocolate is made from beans to bar. Many chocolate companies will start with “chocolate product,” not cacao beans. The “bean to bar” method is just one way that Taza ensures the highest quality ingredients go into their chocolate.

Photo by Finn of Eyes Wide Stomach:

Our last stop was getting to see the cacao beans turn from bitter nibs to sweet, rich chocolate. The chocolate is stone-ground by hand-carved wheels. These wheels were made by Taza founder Alex Whitmore, who fell in love with Mexican-style chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca. The hand-carved stones can only be made by master carvers and the tradition is typically handed down through family members. These stones, however, are carved right here in Somerville. He earned the title of master carver after apprenticing in Oaxaca for a year after his revelatory experience tasting Mexican chocolate.

After grinding the nibs and sugar, flavors are added like cinnamon, or salt and pepper. Surprisingly, that’s it–no waxes, gums, or preservatives (but you don’t have to worry about Taza going bad on you, it has a shelf life up to a year). Next, the mixture is plopped into molds (this was my favorite part) by a donut machine to make either circular or bar-shaped chocolate. The chocolate then goes to the packaging room where it is wrapped up and shipped out of the factory… or eaten up by hungry tour groups before it ever gets a chance to leave.

We ended the tour at the gift shop, sampling chocolate and grilling our ever-knowledgeable and gracious guide with more chocolate trivia. I was impressed they knew everything from the nitty gritty of fair trade certification to chocolate throughout history (I was a history major, I had to ask!). We even got to sample some drinking chocolate, a mix of the regular Mexican chocolate and chocolate seasoned with peppers for a kick.

We all left happy and full of free samples, having learned something about science, history, culture, social justice, and food. All in all, a highly successful way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.

Interested in joining us for a future DIY event? Visit the CGNE website to learn about future events.


DIY: How to Make Chocolate

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

Learn all about how chocolate is made with Taza Chocolate and the Culinary Guild of New England. Plus, tweet us for a chance to win a sampler of delicious Mexican-style chocolate. Details below.

Chocolate. You love it, you eat it, you give it as gifts…but do you know how it’s made? Why is one chocolate smooth while other is crumbly? Why is some more mild and some more acidic?

On Thursday, November 1 at 5:30pm, we will be touring the Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville, MA to learn more about chocolate and how it’s made. We’ll learn about Taza as a business as well as what makes their Mexican-style chocolate so different and special. And, not to be forgotten, we’ll taste samples of their chocolates and a special Mexian-style hot chocolate.

Don’t miss this great event!

Want to win your own Taza Chocolate Sampler? Here’s how:

1 entry per person. Tweets must be completed by 5:00p.m. on Sunday, 10/21/2012 for a chance to win. 1 person will be chosen at random as a winner of a Taza Chocolate Mexicano Sampler worth $20 and containing eight 1.5oz Chocolate Mexicano discs, one each of Cacao Puro, Chipotle Chili, Cinnamon,Ginger, Guajillo Chili, Orange, Salt & Pepper, and Vanilla Bean.

Stir-Frying with Grace Young

By Lena Hanson, CGNE communications manager

On a cold Monday night in January, members of the Culinary Guild gathered at Golden Temple restaurant in Brookline to learn more about celebrating the Chinese New Year from renowned author and chef Grace Young. While the attendees enjoyed appetizers prepared by the restaurant, Grace shared stories of the stir-fry as it has evolved in Chinese communities around the world, explained the use and meaning of a traditional wok, and then demonstrated two recipes from her book.

The stories Grace shared ranged from the traditional interpretations of the stir-fry as an economical way to feed one’s family in China, to the blended interpretations that satisfied a family without access to the traditional ingredients or equipment. Grace even shared the story of her discovery of a Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice while exploring Chinese cuisine in Jamaica.

Grace’s loyalty to the traditional, carbon-steel wok goes without question, not only for performance reasons, but because she feels that the wok is an “iron thread that has linked Chinese food and tradition for over 2,000 years”. This loyalty runs so deep, Grace has travels everywhere with her wok — in her carry-on — as she searched out stories and recipes for her latest book, much to the confusion of TSA agents all over the world.

Grace continued to share techniques of the wok and some background of the ingredients she had chosen for the evening’s demonstration while she prepared two recipes from her latest book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge — Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp and Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms.

After treating everyone to samples of her demonstration dishes, Grace kindly signed and personalized copies of her book for all of the attendees while chatting with anyone who cared to linger for the pleasure of speaking with her for just an extra moment or two.

Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp (from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge)
Serves 2 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds

  1. In a large bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the salt with 1 quart cold water. Add the shrimp and swish the shrimp in the water with your hand for about 30 seconds. Drain. Add 1 more tablespoon salt to the bowl with 1 quart of cold water and repeat. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and ground Sichuan peppercorns.
  2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the garlic, ginger, and chili, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the garlic mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp, and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp just begin to turn orange. Sprinkle on the salt mixture and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked.

Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms (from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge)
Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish.

8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch Chinese long beans (about 12 ounces)
2 Ounces Sichuan preserved vegetable (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup ground pork (about 2 ounces)
1 Chinese sausage, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

  1. In a medium shallow bowl soak the mushrooms in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Cut off the stems and mince the mushrooms.
  2. Trim 1/4 inch from the ends of the long beans. Cut the long beans into 1/4-inch-long pieces to make about 3 cups.
  3. Rinse the preserved vegetable in cold water until the red chili paste coating is removed and pat dry. Finely chop to make about 1/4 cup. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.
  4. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the pork and sausage. Using a metal spatula, break up the pork, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the pork is no longer pink. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil, add the beans, and stir-fry 1 minute. Swirl in the 2 tablespoons reserved mushroom liquid. Cover and cook 30 seconds. Uncover and add the preserved vegetable, scallions, and cilantro. Swirl the soy sauce mixture into the wok. Sprinkle on the salt, sugar, and pepper, and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the pork and sausage are cooked and the vegetables are crisp-tender.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Guild or attending one of our events, please visit the Culinary Guild of New England’s website.

About the Chef: Grace Young is the author of the James Beard Foundation’’s Award for Best International Cookbook: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge. Grace’’s career has been devoted to demystifying the art of stir-frying and celebrating wok cookery.

A Modern Feast of the Fishes

By Janet Kalandranis of Food Beautiful

It’s part tradition, part modern feast and a whole lot of seafood deliciousness. On Monday, November 7th, the Culinary Guild of New England hosted its very first Feast of the Seven Fishes at Hotel Commonwealth. With special guest and cooking demonstrations by Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar (ICOB) the night was filled with more than just yummy eats.

Jeremy Sewall gives a chef demo of searing scallops.

I think many people forget that seafood is a great (and acceptable!) option for a holiday feast. Lucky for us New Englanders, our location provides fresh fish all year round. But what is this Feast of the Seven Fishes you ask? Well that’s just the mystery – this Italian American tradition celebrated on Christmas Eve features a multitude of fishes with no rules or guidelines. It seems every family and every region has their own specialties, their own dishes, and their own fishes. And why the number Seven? No one really knows – maybe the Seven Sacraments for the Catholic Church or the Seven Virtues or maybe that’s the number of fish one household could handle! Whatever you choose, the goal is always the same – to have a fish feast that can become a tradition.

Our first Feast of the Seven Fishes did not disappoint. In an amazing space in the Hotel Commonwealth (right above ICOB – one of the best seafood restaurants in the city if you ask me!), greeted with local wine from Lower Falls Wine Company how could the night not get off to a great start! With a glass of sparkling white – think delicate, Prosecco-like bubbles – I perused what was offered for some of our first bites of the night.

Fish One: Island Creek Oysters with lemon and mignonette

If you’ve never had an Island Creek oyster, you’ve never had an oyster. Okay, maybe I’m biased since I live down the street from the Island Creek Oyster Farm, but I do believe them to be some of the tastiest oysters I’ve ever had. Full of texture and flavor, these oysters simply stand on their own and can be the star. And for a little entertainment all of the oysters were shucked right in front of us as you waited with plate in hand to receive this yummy first course.

Fish Two: House Smoked Salmon, Trout & Sturgeon

I find something extremely refreshing about an appetizer of raw fish. It’s light on the palette and if fresh and served correctly is the perfect start to a seafood-filled night. Of course our friends at ICOB didn’t disappoint. And since the tray of perfect and pretty fishes was gone in no time I think this was a hit.

Fish Three: Jonah Crab Beignets with smoked paprika aioli

This dish was the start of tradition meets modern as these crab beignets use a familiar fish in a very new and tasty way. Not heavy but delightfully light, I’m now in love with crab beignets. Don’t you think everything should be made into a beignet – okay maybe not everything, but most things.

Fish Four: Roasted Sugar Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque

Soup in a shot glass??? Yes please! I’m not a huge fan of bisques. I tend to find them heavy and missing the flavor mark. However ICOB has made me a bisque believer. And when you put anything in a shot glass I’m pretty much in love. Want to know the secret to why this bisque is so delicious…fresh seafood stock. A must-have in Chef Sewall’s mind – and now in mine too.

Fish Five: Tuna Crudo with olive & basil relish

I’m Greek and I don’t eat olives. Except when they are prepared as a lovely and delectable relish to accompany tuna crudo. Fresh, simple and perfect party food for a night of seven fishes. I love how the tuna was the star and the relish simply enhanced every tuna flavor you tasted. Sometimes simple is best.

Fish Six: Maine Lobster Stew with fall vegetables & sherry cream

And now for the main feature of the night. Once everyone was content with nibbles and drinks it was time to learn a little more about cooking fish from Chef Sewall. His entertaining and calm personality made it seem as though anyone can pull off a Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Chef started with a lobster stew that screamed with the flavors of fall. Using his go-to, homemade fish stock (from ground up shrimp shells – seriously it was heaven) and adding whatever root vegetables he had on hand he created the base for some fresh Maine lobster. I love the way this dish resonated holidays and home. I’m also pretty sure I could have eaten an entire pot of Chef Sewall’s lobster stew.

Fish Seven: Seared Scallops with citrus & chive risotto

To end the night Chef Sewall talked a lot about fish in general – a topic I could discuss for hours on end. Mentioning the recent topic of mislabeled fish, Sewall gave some helpful tips to being a savvy fish shopper.

    • If it smells like fish, don’t buy it
    • Buy from a reputable fish retailer
    • Ask lots of questions
    • If it seems like you are a getting a steal on an expensive fish – be weary

While he was chatting away, Chef Sewall effortlessly created the last dish of the night. Perfectly sautéed scallops in an easy risotto. The comforting risotto was nicely offset by the fresh scallops and the addition of citrus – something I wouldn’t have thought to add. I like to think of this dish as tradition with a twist. All accessible and everyday ingredients but rearranged to become the start of a new tradition.

Feast of the Seven Fishes with Jeremy Sewall

Interview and article by CGNE member Maggie Brooks
As the owner of Coolidge Corner restaurant, LiNEaGe, as well as the executive chef for Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, Chef Jeremy Sewall knows a little something about seafood. For CGNE’s Feast of the Seven Fishes, he’s taking a traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebration and bringing it to New England. I sat down with Jeremy to talk about how he prepares for such an iconic celebration and cooking for a group passionate foodies.

How did you learn about CGNE?

The restaurant’s PR company reached out to me about [CGNE] and I’m looking forward to getting involved. I think it’s a great organization.

Are you preparing for this event differently than you would be for an event of non-food experts?

Not that differently. It’s really fun to be able to get in front a group that’s so passionate about food. I have more freedom to show recipes that are a little more exciting.

You wrote the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Were you familiar with the feast? How did you approach something so traditional to make it more modern?

It wasn’t something I grew up with so I had to do some research. I spent some time reading recipes to familiarize myself with the meal and where we could take it. The key to the tradition is how regional the food is, so it’s using a modern American flair while staying to true to local food and what the meal is about.

What kind of dishes can we look forward to?

Definitely some oysters. We’re having a raw bar, plus serving fresh ceviche. We’re giving a nod to the traditional with a lobster casserole. Basically it’ll be local fish and seafood prepared our way.

You’re also doing a presentation. Is it intimidating to cook in front of food industry folks?

Not at all. It makes it more fun for me to cook for people who love food.

What are some of the most common seafood handling mistakes that you’ve come across?

Probably not storing seafood correctly. Like covering shellfish. Those guys are alive so covering them just kills them. Also buying quality. Don’t go looking for a bargain when buying seafood or meat.

What are your favorite holiday seafood dishes?

I’m from southern Maine and my family have been lobstermen for years, so lobsters are always a huge part of our holiday. I still get all my lobster from my brother. Littlenecks are a must for me. My father-in-law is a scallop fanatic so we have to have those too.

Are there any holiday menu specials we should be looking forward to at your restaurants?

Eastern Standard does an amazing prix fixe menu. We’ve worked for several years to make this good. It’s all of our classics plus a roasted turkey entrée. LiNEaGe is closed for Thanksgiving, but we do have a meal-to-go option that’ll be really great.

The Guild is partnered with Future Chefs, a program is dedicated to giving opportunities to aspiring young chefs.  Any words of wisdom?

Wow, lots. Stick with it. This is challenging, demanding, and at times, frustrating business to be in. Having pride and humility in your work will take you far. It’s a craft to be constantly worked at your entire career, you’re never too good to [keep] learning.

On November 7th from 6:30 – 9:30 PM, CGNE is teaming up with Island Creek Oyster Bar and Hotel Commonwealth for a Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian holiday. Island Creek Oyster Bar will give their take on the Italian feast with a tidal wave of seafood. Come taste an array of seafood dishes, enjoy delicious wine pairings from Lower Falls Wine Company, try your hand at shucking oysters, and meet Chef Jeremy Sewall in person as he demonstrates lobster stew and seared scallop recipes. Cost for the evening is $55 for members and $70 for non-members and tastings of all dishes, wine, and hors d’oeuvres are included. Click here to register!

Sugar Baby Gesine Bullock-Prado at the Weelesley Library

Thursday, April 7, 2011  Demo and Book Signing with Gesine Bullock-Prado – 7 PM
Open to the Public; Free Event; Book cost is $29.95 plus tax
SUGAR BABY: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes For Cooking With Sugar
Gesine Bullock-Prado will be doing a demo and bringing treats from her book SUGAR BABY: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes For Cooking With Sugar at the Wellesley Library.

Gesine, a former Hollywood film developer and sister to actress Sandra Bullock, is the founder of the Gesine Confectionary product line and author of My Life from Scratch.

We are pleased to be able to share a recipe from her amazing book here on the CGNE blog!

Dark ChocolateTaffy

This is the candy I end up shoving into my mouth multiple pieces at a time, ending up with drool pouring liberally out of my mouth and contracting lockjaw when I try to chew all those pieces together. This particular taffy has the added advantage of having a deliciously dark chocolate base that makes this otherwise childish candy utterly and satisfyingly adult.

Makes approximately 10 pieces

  • 2 cups sugar (400 g)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (40 g)
  • 1 cup corn syrup (240 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (2.5 g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3 g)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (28 g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (1 g)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (1 g)
  • 1/2 cup coffee (120 ml)

A Note from the Sugar Baby: Yes, you have to pull and pull and pull. Why? Pulling aerates the confection, giving it a pliability that you’ll really appreciate once you start chewing. So don’t think you can get away with no pulling, or just a little pulling. Believe me, I’ll know if you’ve skimped on pulling the taffy because it will call me up the second your back is turned and rat on you. Now get back to pulling.

  1. In a heavy saucepan, whisk the sugar and cocoa until they are well combined.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir over low heat until all the ingredients are combined and the sugar is completely melted.
  3. Clip on a candy thermometer, raise the heat to medium-high, and stop stirring! Heat to 250ーF (121ーC).
  4. Immediately pour the hot taffy onto a prepared surface (the back of a sheet pan, a marble slab, or a silicone baking mat) sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. Using a bench scraper or two spatulas also sprayed with nonstick spray, catch the ends of the moving hot taffy and fold the ends of the taffy towards the middle. Continue doing this until the taffy is cool enough to handle.
  6. Spray your hands (or your latex-gloved hands) with nonstick spray and start pulling the taffy, bringing the ends together and folding the taffy in half. Keep pulling and folding until it’s impossible to pull the taffy anymore and it starts to lighten in color.
  7. On a sprayed work surface, pull the taffy into a long rope about 1/2 inch (12 mm) in diameter. Using scissors (also sprayed with nonstick spray), cut the taffy into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces.
  8. Wrap immediately in pieces of wax paper. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a week.

Enjoy the recipe and please join us at the Wellesley Library at 7:00pm for the event!

From Gesine's Blog