What Price Chocolate?

Will chocolate become the new caviar?

That was the question asked on NPR’s news blog last week.

With farmers in Africa abandoning cocoa for crops that are easier to grow and monetise, the piece painted a futurescape of ever scarcer cocoa beans and ever more expensive bars of chocolate (I mean really, as if our economic woes weren’t bad enough…).

Whether this grim prediction regarding our most beloved of confections holds up, I am not qualified to say. Whether it is worth paying a premium for any chocolate, on that, at least I have an opinion, which is that the very good stuff is often worth the extra (though, in the Irish case, we may have to go to the European Central Bank or the International Monetary Fund to get the necessary spondulicks).

If indeed it is the good stuff you’re after (and you’re feeling suitably solvent) you may want to consider the chocolate of Claudio Corallo, described (by people I can only presume to be more knowledgeable than I) as the best chocolate in the world. No pressure there, then.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

Claudio Corallo 73.5% chocolate with cocoa nibs

From São Tomé e Príncipe off the coast of Cameroon, the product is unique for the fact that the cocoa is grown and the chocolate made in Africa. It is being brought to Ireland through the good offices of Value Added In Africa and being sold, among others, by Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.

At a tasting this week, where Italian-born Claudio was in attendance, I got that warm feeling I often get when I listen to people who are utterly passionate about what they do. The best chocolate in the world started out as a search for the best cocoa beans, lacking the bitterness often associated with their brethern. With great attention to detail and dedication to quality, the rest followed.

And the chocolate? My favourite was a bar with 73.5% cocoa solids and shot through with cocoa nibs. It seemed lighter and cleaner than other 70%+ chocolate of my acquaintance. Claudio also produces, among others, a 100% chocolate bar and it’s a testament to the quality of the beans that the chocolate can be savoured without added sugar, even if 100% chocolate is somewhat of an acquired taste.

Temple Bar Chocolate Christmas 2010

Also worth savouring is the return of the Temple Bar Chocolate Festival, this year with a December date and Christmas theme. There will be plenty of diversions for the chocolate-minded over the course of the festival, which runs from the 3rd to the 5th of December, with everything from tasting workshops to truffle-making, plus the requisite Chocolate Fair in Meeting House Square on Sunday December 5th. In sharp contrast to the projected direction of chocolate prices, many of the festival events are free (but do require booking – consult the festival program for more information). If it’s anything like last year’s event, it’s sure to be well worth a look.

  Print It

Hazelnut Brownies

With all this talk of chocolate, I just had to obey the urge to make some brownies.

The fact is that I’ve had brownies on my mind more or less since Foodcamp. They were brought in great numbers to the event, but I was particularly taken with the cocoa brownies made by Caroline from Bibliocook. Then just last week, my favourite baker-blogger Jenni posted about some swish-sounding cocoa brownies based on an Alton Brown formula.

Thing is, when I looked at both recipes, they were strikingly similar in composition. What I present below is really a mish-mash of the two, with added hazelnuts, because I rather like hazelnuts, especially where chocolate is concerned.

Brownies

You’ll need:
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g butter, melted and cooled
  • 275g soft brown sugar (I used light muscovado)
  • 1.5 tsp very finely ground coffee
  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g cocoa powder (I used Green & Black’s, which is a Dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • 75g plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp salt
You’ll also need:
  • A baking tin for the brownies – mine was 27cm x 18cm x 5cm deep – plus a second tin for roasting the hazelnuts. You’ll also need a spice or coffee grinder for grinding the hazelnuts.
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 160C and either line your brownie tin with parchment paper or grease it very well.
  • Using another baking tin, lightly toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 10 minutes or so. Allow them to cool a little, then enclose them in a tea towel or other dry cloth and rub the cloth over and back to remove as much of the hazelnut skins as will come off easily. Finely grind about half of the nuts using a spice or coffee grinder and chop the remaining nuts roughly.
  • Stir the vanilla extract into the melted butter. Add the sugar and ground coffee to a large mixing bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix well, making sure no lumps remain in the sugar.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Sieve together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the sugar/butter/egg mixture. You’ll have a thick, dark, addictive batter.
  • Stir in both the ground and chopped hazelnuts.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared tin, trying not to eat too much of it on the way. Bake until just set in the middle. This took around 30 minutes for me, but ovens do vary, so it may take a bit longer for yours to get there.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling, after which you may slice and eat at will.
The Variations:
  • You can, of course, omit the toasted hazelnuts and add walnuts to the batter instead, as Caroline does in her version, or leave the nuts out altogether if you prefer.
The Results:
  • One tray of brownies, the numbers will depend on your preferred brownie size.
Comments
  • Funny enough, the PR people for Claudio Corallo invited me to the tasting event – not realizing that I’m in NYC – and I dearly wish I could have attended. Their products sound magnificent. And your brownies look magnificent too! You can’t go wrong with chocolate and hazelnuts! :)

  • Hey Diva – that must mean they consider you to be honorary Irish :D And I’d have to agree about chocolate and hazelnuts. Chances are lots of Nutella eaters would agree too!

  • I’ve never heard of those chocolates! But I’ll be leaving here to check them out! The brownies sound completely delicious – I’m quite a fan of chocolate and hazelnuts!

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daily Spud, Susan . Susan said: RT @DailySpud: They won't fix the economy, but hazelnut brownies might just make you feel better… http://su.pr/2o68HI [...]

  • Ok. Chocolate I can handle. Good (nay GREAT) chocolate especially. But I may have to hold off commenting on you Captin Spud of Spud Trek (or whatever that is). I have not quite been able to bring myself to view that one. But maybe I’ll boldly go there next. GREG

  • I like the hazelnut/coffee combo, Spud. Must try it myself, if the family ever consent to letting me play with the recipe – even the nut-haters normally prefer the walnuts! I have been playing with a Cheesecake Brownie recipe of recent times though…

  • I’m not familiar with those chocolates but it looks really divine. What awesome brownies you made of it. They look edible off the screen!

  • Reeni: I have no idea if Claudio Corallo chocolate is available in the States (yet!), though I think it is available to order online

    sippitysup: Ah, sorry to wreck your head with that one Greg. I didn’t know until I showed it to an American friend that the Star Trekkin’ song/video had not made it to the US. It’ll be more familiar to Irish and UK readers of a certain vintage, but I do hope you boldly go there someday :)

    Caroline: I can understand why the family would have objections to tinkering with the original! I think I will be doing some more tweaking myself, though – I feel this has opened up a whole world of brownie possibilities (and cheesecake brownies sound like a pretty good route to take right now :) )

    diva: Ah, I must confess that I didn’t use the ultra special chocolate for the brownies – I’m saving that to be enjoyed on its own. Green & Black’s cocoa did a good job instead, though!

  • My daughter and I are currently sitting eating brownies and they sure don’t sound as good as yours.

  • Ah, Medifast, I’m sure your brownies were pretty good too :)

  • I would love to try that chocolate with chocolate nibs! And the brownies are sure scrumptious, love the hazelnuts in them!

  • I just bought 2 Costco jars of Nutella. They (chocolates, I mean) better be safe, y’all hear? Or hell shall break loose!!! Will even a Hershey chocolate and Snickers become a rarity? Now that is a laugh…

  • I love brownies with hazelnuts and these look irresistible! Never had brownies with coffee before, bet it gives a stunning flavor.

  • 5 Star Foodie: I know you’d be interested to try that chocolate, perhaps it’ll be available in the States before long

    sophia: I know, it’s hard to imagine, right? Best get a safe for those jars of nutella :D

    zerrin: coffee and cocoa are really so closely related, they just back each other up flavour-wise

  • Coffee and brownies…I am not too sure but since you say so why not give it a try…

  • While I doubt I’ll get around to making this recipe, I can testify to the high quality of the results — and how they make good breakfast too :-)

    That 100% chocolate sounds like a great fun stocking stuffer — I must get some!

  • Better add Sheridan’s shop to my ‘to-visit’ list when I’m up in Dublin for the Choc Festival so!

  • Ah, now this is the dessert to go with spud fest. Hazelnut brownies are all that is needed to send me into a stupor of satisfaction

  • Recently I discovered Perugrina chocolate and it’s amazing. I just love it. I don’t buy it often – but when I do it haunts me until it’s gone.

    As much as I enjoy listening to NPR as the default radio station in my car – truth is a lot of times they take a rather negative spin on things. NPR doesn’t have a business savvy mindset to realize things often evolve for the better and innovation will prevail. People who care will figure out how to grow more chocolat in the same amount of space. We cannot be without it – so it’ll be available. I have faith.

  • Great looking brownies! I’ve been crazy about TCHO chocolate lately but they don’t have +80%. I’ll have to give the Claudio Corallo 100% a try.

  • I made the brownies and they are superduper !!!!

  • Sharon: sure you can always give it a try once and see what you think

    Tim: ah, so you were afflicted by the brownies for breakfast syndrome too, then – it’s practically contagious!

    Gillian: that you will :)

    OysterCulture: …and judging by the reactions I’ve had from people who’ve eaten the brownies, a stupor of satisfaction does indeed seem a very likely result :D

    Denise: Thanks for stopping by! You are absolutely right about our (very great) need to have chocolate and I’m definitely with you on taking the more optimistic view on its future availability.

    Maggie: it’s becoming a little easier to find 100% chocolate over here, though I don’t know about the States – good luck with getting your hands on some :)

    kat: thanks so much for letting me know – I love hearing that!

  • Oh thanks for the few great links you share with us!
    Only few chocolate makers in the world are able to make a tasty 100% chocolate bar. It is indeed a testament to the quality of the beans, the conching (as important as the bean!), the tempering, in other words of the chocolate maker itself. Bravo Claudio, you’re a national champion.

    I buy my chocolate bars from the Savorique link I share (for those who wonder where to buy Claudio among others).

  • Heh! SippitySup said it! Run me chocolate bath and I will get back to you on the results…I will be wearing nothing but a dark coco smile…okay I want some!

  • Lovely! Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be using this on the weekend. x

  • Fred: thanks for sharing that link, nice to meet another fan :)

    Chef E: ooh, such a decadent idea!

    diva: do enjoy, m’dear :)

  • my dear Daily Spud, I’m glad you didn’t use that special chocolate (savour it on its own mmmm) in these brownies. regular Hershey’s cocoa did such a fine job for mine so I think Green & Blacks must’ve been so awesome! Thanks so much for the recipe. I’ll be using it again and again. It really was delish.

  • ♥ them brownies, and am glad you mixed 2 great recipes to get this winner. Got here for the ‘Diva’s’ … these are decadent!

  • diva: I am *so* glad not only that you liked, nay, loved these, but that they got Mama Diva’s seal of approval too – is there anything better?

    deeba: hey there – yes, they are decadent and we all need a little bit of that from time to time :)

  • Your hazlenut brownies rock, my friend!

    They are looking so appetizing too!

  • Oh Sophie, I’d have to agree. Makes me want to go and bake another batch!

  • Another wonderful event attended by a Spud, another fit of envy indulged in by a Noodle. But I’m over it now, thanks to your scrumptious-looking Hazelnut Brownie recipe (even though, the actual goods mailed to me in a care package would’ve been an even more effective cure).

  • Gosh darn it, TN, you need to send me your address!

  • Oooh! A 100% bar that tastes good?! That is saying Quite A Lot! You is lucky–you gets to do the fun stuff.

    Glad the Alton Brownish recipe came in handy–hazelnuts could only make it better. And dare I suggest a shot of Frangelico in the mix?

  • A shot of Frangelico you say, Jenni? Why, I don’t mind if I do! It occurred to me (having eaten that last of another batch) that adding some orange zest to the batter would work nicely too. Time to make some more, then…

  • [...] and rewarded appropriately. Here in Ireland, you may also find products, such as the excellent chocolate made by Claudio Corallo, which are sourced by Value Added In Africa, an organisation which aims to enable African [...]

  • [...] and rewarded appropriately. Here in Ireland, you may also find products, such as the excellent chocolate made by Claudio Corallo, which are sourced by Value Added In Africa, an organisation which aims to enable African [...]

  • @likemamuse2bake I use a cocoa-based brownie recipe & does work v. well
    http://t.co/v8Nmsyt6Jn
    @edibleireland @italianfoodie @miglorious

  • Anything you'd like to add...?

    (required)

    (required)