Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Weekend Wrap-Up

Chocolate comes from the fruit (or pod) of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. You can see cacao trees growing in the Fuqua Conservatory at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. On September 10-11, 2011 the Garden celebrated the cacao tree with cooking demos, tasting tables, games and crafts during Chocolate-Covered Weekend. Here are a few highlights and recipes.

These are cacao (or cocoa) beans. You probably don’t see these very often because they don’t taste good and it takes a lot of time and equipment to turn them into tasty chocolate.
Many fascinated visitors discovered the process of bean to bar in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen thanks to Chef Robert Gerstenecker from Park 75 at The Four Seasons Hotel. The restaurant makes their own chocolate from raw cacao beans!
Park 75’s three back to back demos on Sunday ended in a sweet treat featuring the “homemade” chocolate.
Sugar-Coated Radical explored Savory with Chocolate.
These Atlanta Cupcake Factory delights might look too cute to eat but that didn’t slow down the visitors.
Cynthia Wong, Pastry Chet at Empire State South encouraged the crowd not to be afraid of ganache. Her recipe is below if you’d like to confront your fear of ganache at home.

Halloween Spice Candy Bars
by Cynthia Wong of Empire State South

Line an 8”x 8” square pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl over simmering water, gently melt:
8 oz milk chocolate

Fold in:
1/2 c crushed cornflakes or puffed rice cereal

Spread in the paper-lined pan and refrigerate until set.

Once the base layer is set, make the ganache topping, as follows:
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:
1/2 c heavy cream
1 T butter
3 T maple syrup
1/8 tsp each: ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice

Pour the boiling cream mixture over:
8 ounces dark chocolate in a medium bowl

Put the chocolate and cream mixture back over a pot of gently simmering water. Let melt and stir to combine. Spread evenly over the crispy base. Chill until firm. Cut into small pieces and enjoy!

Garden Chef Megan McCarthy kept her chocolate recipe light and fresh!

Fresh Berries with Chocolate Sauce and Mint

½ cup water
¼ cup evaporated cane sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup agave nectar
1 oz bittersweet or unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
fresh mint, chopped
1 cup each, fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, combined

Combine water and cane sugar in saucepan and heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa powder and agave nectar and bring up to a boil and remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and stir until melted and texture is smooth. Add in vanilla and stir. Let cool. Drizzle chocolate sauce over fresh berries and garnish with fresh chopped mint.

Keep an eye out for Chocolate-Covered Weekend in 2012. It’s the most indulgent time to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden!

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