Monday, March 17, 2014

Santa Barbara Chocolate Review/Giveaway and Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake!

Happy Monday, fans!  Oh my do I have an absolute TREAT for you today!

About a month ago I was contacted by a cool dude named Justin at Santa Barbara Chocolate Company.  He had stumbled across one of my old blog posts featuring this Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt and was wondering if I'd like to partner with them.  There was the promise of free organically grown, ethically traded chocolates to be had.  If you've been following me on facebook at all you'll know that I've been going dairy free for several months now because my little nursling son is sensitive.  Chocolate is often off the menu because many brands contain milk or milk ingredients.  My heart sunk at first because I thought "Why?  Why NOW do these companies find me when I cannot taste their delicious products and want chocolate sooooo badly???".  But then I went to their website and found that they offered many dairy free options!  Score!  So I shot an email back to Jason explaining my situation and asking that they please send at least one dairy-free option for me to personally try (and my husband Chris - the real sweets lover in this family anyway - could call dibs on whatever else they sent).

Let me just say that Justin is a real SoCal guy who was so much fun to "talk" to and Jason their Maitre Chocolatier BLEW ME AWAY with how fast and personalized he made my package.  Not only was there a personal hand-written note but they sent me nearly TEN POUNDS of assorted chocolates to try.  Each was even labeled "dairy free" where applicable!

So like kids at Christmas time Chris and I tasted each of the samples.

I started with the Hispaniola Rainforest Dark 60%.  It was smooth and rich.  The perfect balance of dark and a touch of sweet just like you'd expect from a high quality dark chocolate.  It's a very classic dark chocolate so would be very versatile for baking, creating candies, or eating straight out of the bag.  Having not had any chocolate in quite some time, it was pure bliss to eat and I knew it would be hard to beat...but there were still seven more samples to go!

Going a little bit darker I found myself trying the Peru Rio Tigre Extra Dark Chocolate 75% next.  Visually it was a few shades darker than the previous sample and that's to be expected since there's 15% more cacao.  My first taste impression was confusion because it was not as smooth as I'm used to and dare I say even a touch gritty.  At first I thought perhaps it was just due to the higher cacao content but I have had dark chocolates as much as 90% cacao and not had the textural impact before.  So I gave Justin and Jason a shout.  It turns out that Jason designed the chocolate to be this way.  The cocao solids (fibre in this case) are not ground as long so that they retain a higher percentage of cocao antioxidants.  Sounds healthy to me!

Santa Barbara Chocolates from Left to Right: Belgian White, Belgian Milk,  Manjo Rainforest Dark, Belgian Dark, 100% Pure Cacao, 100% Pure Cacao Organic

Similarly, I'm not sure that I have ever tasted 100% Pure Cacao.  Though I love dark and extra dark chocolates, these ultra dark unsweetened chocolate chunks were too bitter for my personal taste.  As for Chris?  Forget it!  That kid LOVES all things sugar.  Jason told me that they're wonderful for those on paleo diets or with low glycemic concerns such as diabetics because they contain no added sugar.  He even enjoys them as a fondue or with a cup of hot green tea.  I might try melting these down and adding dried fruit and nuts to create a chocolate bark.  As an aside, Chris said he had a co-worker who gave their kid 100% pure cacao when they asked to try chocolate.  As one would expect, it was not very palatable to a child and thus the parent's scheme to get the kid to not like chocolate worked ;).

The Belgian Dark 64% was good and I think would be excellent for candies but when compared to the rest of the dark chocolate samples, not particularly memorable.

The Manjo Rainforest Dark 66% woke my tastebuds right up!  There was a subtle fruitiness to it which I wasn't expecting.  You could tell that this was high quality stuff!  I had to stop myself from eating the medallions straight from the package.   I basically have been eating a chocolate medallion...or two...or three...of the Manjo everyday since receiving the package.  It contains 100% cocoa butter so it's velvety smooth and ready to eat.  I loved just popping them in my mouth and letting them slowly melt.  Frankly I was a little bit sad that Jason and Justin only sent me a smaller sample of this variety.  But now I know what I'll be buying to get my dairy-free chocolate fix!!  It was my favorite sample by a hair (followed by the Hispaniola Rainforest Dark 60%).

The Belgian Milk Chocolate and  Belgian White were taste tested by Chris alone since he is the only one in our family that can eat dairy right now.  He happily snacked on them but couldn't really give me a detailed analysis other than that the Belgian Milk Chocolate was his favorite.  Go figure since it has the least cacao (40%) of the chocolates we sampled and therefore is sweetest!  When I used the Belgian White chocolate in my baking application, it was my father-in-law's favorite of the three layers.

After sampling everything I was left with the difficult decision of how to feature the high quality chocolate varieties.  With Jason's guidance that the Peru Rio Tigre Extra Dark Chocolate 75% was designed with pastry applications in mind and in particular, flourless chocolate cakes, I knew exactly what I wanted to make because I remembered a cake which I bookmarked from years ago.

This Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake features three of Santa Barbara Chocolate's finest Couverture chocolates.  I intentionally chose two different dark chocolates because the texture of the dark layers is different.  The cake is more dense and could stand up to the heartier texture of the Peru Rio Tigre whereas I wanted the dark chocolate mousse layer to be silky smooth so used the Manjo Rainforest there.

While you could use any chocolate to create this cake I cannot stress that the quality of the chocolate you choose to use will impact your final product.  In this case, why not give Santa Barbara Chocolate's high quality products a try?  You won't regret buying from these guys and after trying their chocolates, you'll wonder how you ever thought those waxy, off-tasting chocolate chips and bars qualified as "chocolate".  Plus, your conscious will rest easy knowing that many of the products are organically grown, fair-trade, and formulated with over 100 years of chocolate making experience.

Christine's Kitchen Chronicles readers get 10% off your total order by using the code: chrisseskitchen or enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of this post to win up to NINE POUNDS of your own!  There are four different winners in this contest so be sure to be in it to win!

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake


For the bottom layer
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus extra for greasing the pan) 
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (recommend Santa Barbara Chocolate Peru Rio Tigre Extra Dark Chocolate 75%)
  • ¾ tsp. instant espresso powder 
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 4 large eggs, separated then allow whites to come to room temperature
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed 
For the middle layer
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed 
  • 5 tbsp. hot water 
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (recommend Santa Barbara Hispaniola Rainforest Dark 60%)
  • 1½ cups heavy cream 
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar 
  • Pinch of salt 
For the top layer
For garnish
  1. To make the bottom layer: Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 325˚ F. In a large glass bowl set over simmer water, combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder. Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks. Set aside. 
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add half of the brown sugar and beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Whisk in one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula. 
  3. Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour. Do not remove the cake from the pan. (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.) 
  4. To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes. 
  5. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Whisk in the cocoa powder mixture until smooth. Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles. Gently smooth the top with a spatula. Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer. 
  6. To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  
  7. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Whisk in one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no streaks remain. Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Return the cake to the refrigerator (leaving uncovered) and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.
  8. To decorate, press cut cookie pieces around the edge of the cake.  Bring 1/3 cup of cream to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Allow the ganache to cool until it is spoonable and can hold its texture.  Transfer to a piping bag and decorate the top of the cake as desired.  I decorated mine with a cornelli lace pattern using a Wilton #2 Round Tip.  If desired, garnish top of cake with additional cookies.
Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2009

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Disclaimer: Santa Barbara Chocolate Company graciously offered to sponsor this giveaway. I received complimentary samples of chocolate to try and review. All words and opinions are my own.