Taza is a wholesome bean-to-bar chocolate operation based in Somerville, MA, the kind of goody two-shoe you love to hate until you realize it deserves your love. Their website claims they are the “only producer in the U.S. of 100% stone ground, organic chocolate.” That is an impressive claim to be able to make, and their chocolate is just off the charts, ridiculous, life-altering, and really damn good. Cursed with a voracious sweet tooth, I daresay I have tried almost all the chocolate out there — Hershey’s, Reese’s, Dove, Lindt, See’s, Ritter, Ghiradelli, brands high and low and everything in between. If Taza’s is what chocolate used to be, I vouch that modern technology and the modern palette have collectively destroyed what chocolate was beyond recognition.
Two features of this chocolate make it unique: texture and flavor. Ground by Oaxacan stone mills, the chocolate retains these delightful, crunchy particles of sugar and cacao that really do “pop” in your mouth. Remember pop rocks? Channel that, except without the neon colors and weird bubbling sensation. Unadulterated by milk and other add-ins, Taza’s chocolate contains nothing but ground single origin cacao and raw Brazailian cane sugar. Both sustainably sourced, was there even any doubt? I tried and fell hard for the salted almond variety, to which organic almonds and kosher salt are added. The fact that this chocolate contains only four ingredients: that is mind boggling to me. Reese’s peanut butter cups will always find a home in my stomach– I’m an unfortunate product of my time– but they no longer have my heart.
Bittman calls this “Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding,” but as the only thing really qualifying it as “Mexican” is the combination of spices, I prefer to think of it as a pudding with attitude — feisty with an unabashed kick, but sophisticated enough to serve anywhere, anytime. It hits your tongue with smoky sweetness, inviting the same kind of “ooh la la” as crossing paths with a steamy broad (or your preferred equivalent) does. This pudding insinuates heat without actually being spicy, and has a light soft texture more akin to mousse than custard. I might try whipping and folding in a few egg whites next time to up the ante. Top with a brittle shard, wafer, or thin crisp for dressed-up dessert, or plop down on the couch with a spoon and dig in. This is not the JELL-O pudding of your youth, but beware: it’s equally satisfying and just as addictive.
Chocolate tofu pudding with attitude
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe
— Serves 4-6 —
3/4 cup white sugar
1 lb box of silken tofu
1/2 cup 70% pure ground chocolate (NOT cocoa powder — alternatively, you can use 8 oz. of your best chocolate)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Mexican chili powder
1. In a small pot, combine sugar with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate, vanilla, and spices and stir to combine. Allow mixture to cool.
2. Roughly chop tofu and place all ingredients in a blender; puree until desired consistency is achieved. Chill for at least two hours before serving.
When I dog-earred this pound cake recipe from Nicole Rees via Serious Eats, I had every intention of making pound cake loaves that were true to form. The tender, golden crust and moist, rich crumb spoke to me this rainy morning, and having superfluous sticks of butter in my fridge did not hurt. After removing the loaves from the oven and letting them cool, I eagerly prodded the cakes out of the loaf pans, only to discover that they would not budge. Even after knifing clean the sides, the cakes resisted removal. And when the tops of my loaves finally did break free, the lower halves did not follow, remaining stubbornly clung to my insufficiently-buttered pan bottoms. So much for proper pound cake. But, rather than mope around and proclaim the failure of a lost cause, this blog entry by David Lebovitz on the non-difference between banana bread and banana cake sprung to mind. Who needs pound cake in bread-shaped form, anyway? So I scraped everything out and packed it all — tops, bottoms, pan crumbs — into a casserole dish and baked this collection of former pound cakes for an additional 10 minutes. Dress with some makeshift chocolate ganache to hide the blemishes and voila, the end product bears a strong resemblance to the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which, like blessed few things in life, never goes out of style.
[This is the second in a series of posts on tea time buffets in Hong Kong.]
“Chocolate afternoon tea” at the Mandarin Oriental — hell yes.