Photography: Paul Strabbing
Before serving hot chocolate to customers, top it with a spoonful of steamed milk.
Everyone has their own version of the ideal "comfort" food, and bakeries are often full of them. Memories of these products are often powerful, and when elegantly packaged and presented, these impulse buys drive sales at peak times of the year. Chocolate is one of the most popular comfort foods, and with the holiday season fast approaching, now is the perfect time to begin promoting your chocolate specialties.
Throughout history, chocolate has taken on many forms and functions. At its roots, chocolate was only consumed in liquid form. In England by the 1700s, chocolate houses were all the rage. Perhaps they were predecessors to today's coffee bars.
Perfect winter combo
A great option for the winter months is a beautifully packaged assortment of chocolate cookies paired with hot chocolate. Offer this hot chocolate collection for breakfast parties, cookie parties, tea parties or even as the St. Nick special. It is an easy way to boost customer appreciation, and in turn, increase profits for the holiday season. You can use your favorite cookie formulas, but I prefer chocolate macaroons sandwiched with chocolate/tea ganache, chocolate financiers and chocolate diamants.
I have provided a straightforward formula for hot chocolate, but you can grab your customers' interest by using an Oaxacan mole (a sauce made of chile peppers, spices, and unsweetened chocolate) or infusing the milk with various herbs, teas, honeys or seasonal spices. The simplest cup of hot chocolate can be used to create a midmorning surge of business, promote return business to your establishment, or entice customers to stay longer by accompanying their dessert with a beverage.
Remember, however, even though the terms are often used interchangeably, a difference exists between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, the result of chocolate pressed free of fat or cocoa butter, while hot chocolate is made from the chocolate bar itself, melted and added to milk or cream.
Hot chocolate has perpetually been recognized for its medicinal qualities. In 1785, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America..." Today, it receives acclaim for being part of a diet rich in antioxidants, and the chemicals in chocolate have been shown to ward off cancer, heart disease and aging. As a matter of fact, researchers claim that hot chocolate contains more antioxidants per cup than comparable servings of red wine or tea.
However you choose to present this information to your customers, it is a surefire selling point. After all, who would turn away from a deliciously warm indulgence that also contributes to their well-being and health? And, when you pair it with cookies, the combination will be irresistible.
Chocolate macaroon tea ganache
|Earl Grey ganache|
|Heavy cream, 35% fat||1.5 kg||3||3|
|Earl Grey tea||84 g||3|
|Dark couverture, 58%||1.5 kg||3||3|
|Milk chocolate, 38%||252 g||9|
|Butter, 82% fat||150 g||12|
|Total appr. wt.||3.516 kg||7||15|
|Method: Bring the cream to a boil. Add the tea, and cover. Let steep for four minutes, and strain. Add more cream to the tea/cream mixture to bring its weight back up to 500 g, and warm again. Pour the hot cream over half melted dark and milk chocolate. Let sit for one minute, and blend. When the chocolate reaches 100ºF (38ºC), add the soft butter and the trimoline. Cover the bowl and rest. Pipe onto macaroons.|
|Almond flour||570 g||1||5|
|Confectioners’ sugar||1.02 kg||2||4|
|Cocoa powder||105 g||3.6|
|Egg whites||450 g||15|
|Egg white powder||21 g||0.75|
|Total appr. wt.||2.301 kg||5||2|
|Method: Sift the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder, and mix well. Whisk the egg whites, sucrose and egg white powder until firm. Fold the dry mix into the egg whites until the mixture becomes shiny and somewhat loose, but not runny. Pour into a piping bag, and pipe quarter size bulbs onto a silicone baking mat. Let rest for 30 minutes. Bake at 315°F (157°C) for five minutes with the vent closed and six to seven minutes with the vent open. Let cool, and freeze immediately. Yields 120 cookies|
|Confectioners’ sugar||450 g||15|
|Almond powder||150 g||6|
|Pastry flour||105 g||3|
|Cocoa powder||45 g||1.5|
|Egg whites||375 g||12|
|Apple compote||37.5 g||1.5|
|Total appr. wt.||1.538 g||3||3|
|Method: Prepare beurre noisette (brown butter) by heating the butter in a saucepan until light brown, then strain. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the egg whites, the apple compote and the strained beurre noisette. Let rest overnight. Pipe into small, square moulds, and place a roasted nut in the center of each financier. Bake in a 375°F (191ºC) convection oven, vent closed for about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack with a towel, and store in an airtight container. Yields 90 cookies.|
|Butter, 82% fat||300 g||10.5|
|Confectioners’ sugar||131.25 g||4.5|
|Egg yolks||30 g||1.05|
|Vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2|
|Cocoa powder||60 g||3|
|Turbinado sugar, as needed|
|Total appr. wt.||859 g||1||15|
|Method: Cream the butter with the vanilla bean. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt and egg yolks. Gently add the sifted flour. Do not over mix. Divide the dough into 200 g pieces, and shape each piece into logs with quarter-size diameters. Egg wash each log, and roll them in turbinado sugar. Cut 1.5 cm slices, and lay them flat on a silicone baking mat. Bake at 320°F (160°C) on double sheet pan about 18 minutes or until brown. Yields 90 cookies.|
|Dark couverture, 68%||450 g||1|
|Heavy cream, 35% fat||375 g||13|
|Whole milk||1.95 kg||4||4|
|Bourbon vanilla bean pulp||1.5 g||1.5|
|Total appr. wt.||2.777 kg||6||2.5|
|Method: Finely chop the chocolate. Warm the cream in a thick bottom saucepan. Add the chocolate to the cream, and stir until well blended. Add the milk and vanilla, and heat the mixture to 132ºF (80ºC). Cool on ice as quickly as possible, and let rest, covered, at room temperature for 12 hours. Warm on a bain-marie, pour into a pitcher and whisk with a chocolate wood tool. Makes 10 servings.|
Chef John Kraus, pastry chef and instructor at The French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago, teaches his students the art of pastry that includes advanced bread techniques. In 2005 and 2006, Chef Kraus was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in the United States by a national pastry magazine. For more information on The French Pastry School, visit www.frenchpastryschool.com