Pineapple and Passion Fruit Jam

Fruity, sweet and tangy all in one spoonful, this delicious jam is perfect for spreading on toast or can also be used as an accompaniment for cheese or as a topping for ice cream. You will also start feeling grateful that you captured the very exotic flavors of passion fruit in a jar. If you like jams and preserves with lively tartness and not too much sweetness, try this out.

Pineapple and Passion Fruit Jam

Ingredients:

2 pineapples, skin & core removed, chopped (about 575 grams)
700 grams granulated sugar
235 millilitres passion fruit juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1.5 packets pectin

Directions:

Mix the pectin with 200 grams of the sugar (set the rest of the sugar aside for now). This helps to keep the pectin from clumping up.

Stir the pectin/200 grams sugar mixture into the chopped pineapple, lemon juice and passion fruit juice. Put the mix in a non-reactive pot and put it on the stove.

Bring the mixture back to a full boil.

Add the remaining sugar and bring the mixture back to a full boil. Once it hits a full, rolling boil, stir and boil for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids. Submerge jars in large pot filled halfway with simmering water, and lids in small pot of simmering water. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.

Remove jars one at a time from hot water, and fill with jam, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Seal with lids. Place canning rack or cake rack in bottom of large pot, and return sealed jars to pot, adding extra water to cover jars by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Remove jars from water, and cool.

This recipe makes 6 8-oz. jars.

For USDA canning guidelines, please click here.

Note: The recipes on this site are my original creations or have been adapted from existing recipes with the original sources attributed. All recipes on this site have been tested at least once in my kitchen. Any and all errors are entirely mine.

Copyright© 2015 . All My Nosh . All Rights Reserved

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Pear and Ginger Jam

Love of food can make you do strange things. I have over six kinds of jam in my fridge – because of my love of jam. So, for a while, I fantasized about making my own jam. This is my first attempt at jam making. The pairing of pears and ginger gives fragrant and delicious jam. It is comfort in a jar, perfect for a warm piece of toast or croissant.

Making jam is relatively simple, and once you have made one kind of jam, others just easily fall into place for you. The instructions for basic jams are all pretty much the same. You only need to make minor modifications for different fruits. Jam making could be addictive, but give it a chance.

Pear & Ginger Jam

Ingredients:

4 lb. ripe but firm pear (e.g., Bosc)
4 cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 Tbs. pectin

Directions:

Peel and core the pears. Grate the pears using largest holes on a hand grater. Combine the grated pears with sugar, lemon juice, and ginger in large stainless steel pot.

Bring the pear mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 minutes until jam has thickened. Stir pectin into ¼ cup jam liquid, and add to jam. Cook 3 minutes more, or until jam is thick.

Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids. Submerge jars in large pot filled halfway with simmering water, and lids in small pot of simmering water. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.

Remove jars one at a time from hot water, and fill with jam, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Seal with lids. Place canning rack or cake rack in bottom of large pot, and return sealed jars to pot, adding extra water to cover jars by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Remove jars from water, and cool.

This recipe makes 6 8-oz. jars.

Note: The recipes on this site are my original creations or have been adapted from existing recipes with the original sources attributed. All recipes on this site have been tested at least once in my kitchen. Any and all errors are entirely mine.

Copyright© 2014 . All My Nosh . All Rights Reserved

Chocolate: The Basics

Often people ask me about the types of chocolate I use in my desserts and the variations between the different types of chocolate. So here you will find some basic information that will demystify chocolate. Chocolate is generally divided into two distinct categories: (1) Real Chocolate; and, (2) Compound Chocolate. Both real chocolate and compound chocolate are chocolate – the difference is the type of lipid (fat) or oil used in the production.

Real Chocolate

Real chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cacao bean. Cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient which has some unusual characteristics or quirks. Because of the nature of cocoa butter, real chocolate requires going through a special procedure during the melting process called tempering, which re-establishes the cocoa butter crystals, giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap and taste. Additionally, and of vital importance, tempering prevents bloom, where the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and comes to the surface, turning the chocolate whitish or grayish in color. If you are making candy or dipping items that won’t be consumed within a day or so, tempering is absolutely mandatory for all real chocolate.


Real chocolate is subdivided into three (3) categories based on the quality of the product (quality of the cocoa beans) and most importantly, the cocoa butter content: regular chocolate, couverture chocolate, and ultra couverture chocolate.

Regular chocolate comes typically in chocolate chip form and it is sweetened with sugar. It is generally made from moderate quality cocoa beans and has very low cocoa butter content and a high viscosity (thickness when in a melted state). Generally used in baking (e.g., chocolate chip cookies, cakes, etc.), regular chocolate holds its shape and is not the best choice when molding, dipping or enrobing. Another form of regular chocolate is unsweetened blocks or bars of baking chocolate (also called plain chocolate), which generally has a relatively low cocoa butter content and doesn’t require tempering when used in normal baking applications. I use this type of chocolate for general baking and it is a decent (i.e., cost-effective) choice for chocolate cakes or cookies. Baker’s Chocolate is a popular brand in this category and is widely available in North American supermarkets.


Couverture chocolate: The term couverture translates to “covering” and refers to the finest professional quality chocolate. It is produced with a high percentage of cocoa butter and uses premium cacao beans. A couverture has at least 55% cacao content, that is, either/or coco butter and cocoa solids. To put it another way, couverture contains a maximum of 45% sugar content. It melts smoothly, making it ideal for specialty confectionary-making and molding. When tempered and cooled, it forms an elegant glossy finish. I use either Callebaut or Valrhona. They are equally good products and reasonably priced but I prefer Valrhona. If you have deeper pockets, you can consider Michel Cluizel. I always use couverture chocolate for chocolate mousse, chocolate torte, ganache and covering.


Ultra couverture chocolate is equal in quality to couverture chocolate, but with even higher cocoa butter content. Due to the higher cocoa butter content and very low viscosity, it is the perfect chocolate for dipping and enrobing. Few manufacturers are able to successfully produce this type of chocolate because of the difficulty in balancing the higher cocoa butter content while retaining superb taste and texture. When tempered and cooled, it forms a thin and elegant glossy shell. I seldom use ultra couverture chocolate, but Michel Cluizel makes excellent products in this category. If you love hot chocolate, this recipe made with ultra couverture chocolate will give you an excellent cup of hot chocolate. Unless you are a master chocolatier or a chocolate connoisseur, you can just use couverture chocolate instead of ultra couverture.

Compound Chocolate

Compound chocolate contains vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and tempering is not required. They are often used in lower-grade candy bars like Butterfinger and Baby Ruth. Generally, they have low cocoa solids percentage and high vegetable fats/tropical fats such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter. However, home hobbyists and professionals alike have utilized compound chocolate due to its ease of use and lower price. Some high quality chocolate manufactures also make compound chocolates. For example, Callebaut’s compounds are ready to use and no tempering needed. They mimic dark, milk and white chocolate, and with their technical specifications, they match even the most specific applications. In textures, they offer a choice ranging from the hard chocolate-like crack to a smooth and soft texture.

About White Chocolate and Milk Chocolate

Technically, white chocolate cannot be called “chocolate” because it does not contain chocolate liquor. White chocolate is the combination of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, vanilla, and lecithin, and is able to be kept from 6-10 months if stored in a cool, dry place. Generally, white chocolate is ivory-colored, but white chocolate which is made with vegetable fat is white-colored. White chocolate was first made in Switzerland after World War I by Nestlé in 1930 under the name Galak. In the US, white chocolate was first made in New Hampshire by the M&M Candy company. In 1948 Nestlé popularized white chocolate by introducing the Alpine White chocolate bar containing white chocolate and chopped almonds. If you have to use white chocolate, make sure to get a good product. One of the best white chocolates I ever tasted was Davao White Chocolate Bar by Askinosie. It’s unfortunately too expensive for baking. Both Callebaut and Valrhona make excellent white chocolates at reasonable price points. Their ingredients are high-quality so the flavors are pronounced.


Milk chocolate, on the other hand, is the combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, vanilla, milk solids, and lecithin. This type of chocolate could be kept up to a year if stored in a cool, dry place. Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% of cocoa liquor, 3.7% milk fats, and 12% milk solids. The US regulations require a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor while EU regulations specify a minimum of 25% chocolate liquor. The use of cocoa butter substitutes in Canada is not permitted, and chocolate sold in Canada cannot contain vegetable fats or oils. This makes European milk chocolate better than American milk chocolate, because the more chocolate liquor added the more delicious it gets. In baking milk chocolate and other low cocoa solid chocolates are not really appropriate as they have a weak chocolate flavour which dissipates during baking do a finer chocolate is necessary.

How to Select Chocolate

Not all chocolates are created equal, and in general, there is a strong correlation between quality and price. I am not suggesting that you should always buy the most expensive chocolate, but keep in mind that high-quality chocolates with large amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids will cost more than their inferior counterparts. The quality of chocolate you use will be the primary determining factor of how the finished chocolate confectionary taste.

Most of the high quality chocolates are made from cacao beans grown in Central America, especially Venezuela where the Criollo variety of cocao beans are grown. Like wine, selecting chocolate is a sensory experience. So here are some pointers to consider when you select chocolate:

  • Before you taste the chocolate, look at it closely. You want chocolate that has a glossy surface and is free from blemishes. If the surface is scarred, cloudy, or gray, this may be a sign that the chocolate is old or has been subject to extremes in temperature or handling.
  • Next, break the chocolate in pieces. You want a chocolate with a clean, hard “snap” to it. If it bends or crumbles, either the quality is low or the chocolate is old.
  • Good chocolate will smell strongly of chocolate. Rub your fingers over the surface to warm the chocolate, and then smell the bar. If it doesn’t smell like chocolate, or if it smells primarily of vanilla or other added ingredients, it probably won’t taste very much like chocolate either. Chocolate easily picks up odours from its environment.
  • Finally, taste the chocolate. Pay attention to the way it melts in your mouth. In general, a smooth, velvety feel is preferred. Chewy, dense, waxy, slippery or sandy feel suggest poor quality. Also notice what flavours you can find in the chocolate. Common descriptions of chocolate notes include floral, citrus, berry, coffee, and wine undertones. Notice if the flavour bursts out all at once or if it gradually builds in intensity and lingers after the chocolate has left. Above all, trust your own taste buds. Chocolate preference is very personal, and you know what tastes good to you, so select chocolate that you will enjoy eating.

High Quality Brands

There are many, many different brands of chocolate and chocolate manufacturers to choose from. Names to look for include: Callebaut, Amedei, Bonnat, Michel Cluizel, El Rey, Guittard, Valrhona, and Scharffen Berger. There are numerous other high quality chocolate brands who do not currently sell their products in the US and Canada like Bernachon and Chocolaterie de L’Opera (France), Corné de la Toison d’Or (Belgium), Haigh’s Chocolates (Australia) and Ludwig Weinrich (Germany). Apart from these well known brands, you can also find artisan chocolatiers in your local area. If you are in the Toronto area, try SOMA, LeFeuvre’s Chocolatier, and/or Ambiance Chocolat.

Resources

If you are interested in learning more about chocolate and chocolate confectionary, here are some excellent sources:

  • Allchocolate: An excellent website for all sorts of information about chocolate, from the rich history of chocolate to health benefits of chocolate.
  • The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz: Written by a well known pastry chef, this book gives information on how chocolate is made, terminology, buying, storage, notable American and European chocolatiers and some recipes.
  • The True History of Chocolate by Sophie Coe and Michael Coe: You get a good understanding of the significance of chocolate in Mayan and Aztec culture, followed by a thorough history of the evolution of chocolate.
  • Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé: This is a book written for those who have a little baking experience and are looking to expand their horizons, and most of the recipes here are geared towards intermediate pastry chefs.
  • Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner by Peter P. Greweling and the Culinary Institute of America: This is a serious chocolate book for serious chocolate people. This book is heavy on the science of chocolate. The recipes and formulas are extremely precise and assume a fair amount of interest in the chemistry and molecular structures of things. But, if you have the interest, this book will be one of the most fascinating books you can find on the subject of chocolate confectionary.
  • The Art of the Chocolatier: From Classic Confections to Sensational Showpieces by Ewald Notter: Written by a renowned confectionery expert, this is an excellent guide to chocolate making and chocolate showpiece design. Tilled a bit towards the professionals, it covers basic information on ingredients, equipment, and common techniques in the pastry kitchen, while also offering clear, step-by-step instructions on creating small candies and large-scale chocolate pieces.

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
Katherine Hepburn (1907-2003)

Photo credits: http://www.callebaut.com for Callebaut products and http://www.valrhona.com for Valrhona products.

Copyright© 2012 . All My Nosh . All Rights Reserved

Brookside Dark Chocolate Fruit Crunch

Life can be stressful sometimes. However, I have found just the thing to give a quick pick-me-up: Brookside Dark Chocolate Fruit Crunch. I think the name most certainly doesn’t do the taste justice so let me preface my review with a preamble that it should be called “best things come in small things”. Brookside has elegantly blended cranberries, fruit juice pieces (aҫai, blueberry and pomegranate), crunchy rice crisps, and whole grain oats with a chewy truffle centre covered in rich dark chocolate. Each delicious chocolate drenched nugget is unique and absolutely delicious! I fell in love with it after my first bite.


It is a Canadian-made product (the best things all are), and I found it in my local supermarket. I usually gravitate to dark chocolate when I indulge (or binge) in cocoa so this seemed like a good supermarket splurge. One third cup (or 40g) of these tasty gems sets you back 190 calories (surely, that doesn’t break the calorie bank), but I can’t keep my hand out of the bag. Last time I had them I finished the whole package in one sitting. For me anything with chocolate is here today and gone today. So my chocolate binges invariably lead to extra long cardio workouts. But, few extra laps have been well worth the gratification I get from chocolate.

Brookside has eight different chocolate and fruit/nut pairings, from Dark Chocolate Mango Mangosteen to Dark Chocolate Goji and Raspberry. If you are looking for a better reason to indulge in chocolate you can go for Goji and Raspberry – according to the package, a 40g portion has 60mg of cocoa flavanols which means it’s full of antioxidants and good for you. And, the goji berry apparently has been used for thousands of years by herbalists as a remedy for all kinds of ailments. A friend tried Dark Chocolate Goji and Raspberry and she tells me it is a good one to try if you like something sweet and a little tangy.


Any excuse to eat chocolate is alright by me. But, do you really need a reason to have chocolate? I think not!

“If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?”
Marquise de Sévigné (1626 – 1696)

Copyright© 2012 . All My Nosh . All Rights Reserved

Is Cupcake Mania Over?

I hate to be the party pooper, but I just don’t get why cupcakes are still trendy. Unless you are totally out of the loop on food trends, cupcakes are popping up everywhere, from bakery shelves to wedding showers. The cupcake craze has spawned dozens of bakeries devoted entirely to them. There are cookbooks, blogs, a cupcake truck with over 14,000 followers on Twitter, and magazines specifically dedicated to cupcakes. Cupcakes got a lot of attention in “Sex and the City” when Sarah Jessica Parker bit into a pink-frosted cupcake outside Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street in New York City. Also, remember the cupcake-inspired “Lazy Sunday” rap video, which was No.1 for some time on YouTube?

Before I give my two cents about cupcakes, here is a bit of cupcake history. Apparently, the cupcake evolved in the USA in the 19th century, and it was revolutionary because of the amount of time it saved in the kitchen. Food historians have yet to pinpoint exactly where the name of the cupcake originated. There are two theories: one, the cakes were originally cooked in cups; and, second, the ingredients used to make the cupcakes were measured out by the cup. Cupcakes were convenient because they cooked much quicker than larger cakes. Since their creation, cupcakes have become a pop culture trend in the culinary world.


Confectionary trends are changing very fast, and cupcakes are facing challenges from several fronts. For some reason, people went nuts for macarons in the past couple of years and everyone, from Toronto to Tokyo, seemed to be fascinated by these little sandwich cookies. I am not exactly sure why so many people are fascinated with macarons. You can find them at many neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops, and even in supermarkets. You can find macarons in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate, etc.) to off-beat (marmite, matcha, etc.).


Artisan donuts are also vying to share the spotlight with cupcakes. The James Beard Foundation named artisan donuts one of its 2012 trends to watch, and there are plenty of places to watch it. Most civilized cities (yes, that’s right) now boast at least one shop offering exotically flavored donuts at prices so far reserved for something more substantial – like a LV bag. At one Brooklyn eatery, the US$11 foie gras donuts sell out every night. Closer to home in Toronto, Paulette’s Original Doughnuts & Chicken offers exotic flavors – mojito, pretzel chocolate, raspberry balsamic, rose & berry, mocha, and garam masala – at a reasonable price.

Cupcakes also have become a victim of healthy living wars. As schools across the USA started enforcing federally mandated wellness policies, many schools have begun banning the little treats. Those cupcake addicted parents are fighting back though. Luckily for cupcake aficionados in Canada, the ban-the cupcakes-movement hasn’t crossed the 42nd parallel yet.

I don’t think the death of cupcakes is imminent. But I think cupcakes are no longer in vogue. People still like cupcakes for many reasons: easy to transport in those nifty cupcake boxes; can get a higher frosting ratio than a regular slice of cake; can get your very own decorations; and, can eat them with your hands. You have to consider the nostalgia aspect as well. Especially among those over-indulged baby boomers whose childhoods are littered with cupcake liners and sprinkles forever embedded in the wall-to-wall broadloom carpets of their living rooms.

But I wish if someone could convince me that the cupcake fad will pass, ideally soon. Just imagine — people might have to eat a real dessert! What a concept, no?

Copyright© 2012 . All My Nosh . All Rights Reserved