Wine and Chocolate indulgence -Part 2

The Wine and chocolate indulgence was conducted by a stylish dessert bar here in Singapore. The chef was a young lady, who had travelled to learn how chocolates were made around the world. Interestingly she shared with us three chocolate recipes that did not use the traditional milk-sugar- cocoa powder concept alone.

My learning from the chocolate indulgence took me on a steep curve.

Lesson 1 : The bitter chocolate base that is used in making chocolates differs based on the percentage of cocoa in it. They come from exotic places like Madagascar, The Rhone valley and Venezuela!

Valrhona Manjari  is extra bitter with 64% cocoa and is superior base chocolate to make high quality chocolates. These are cocoa beans from Madagascar. It has an Orangey flavour and highly acidic if eaten plain.

The plain Valrhona is a high-grade luxury chocolate from the Rhone valley of France. The cocoa percentage of the Valrhona differs.

The Araguani is a fine blend of cocoa beans from Venezuela .It has 72% cocoa and is very bitter.

Lesson 2:  The PATE A BOMBE is THE base used for many mousse, chocolates and cake recipes!

Ok, if you are new to the terms in baking and chocolate making like I was till last evening, Pate a bomb will sound like jargon. The term is used to describe egg yolks beaten with sugar syrup and then aerated. Just like the term Meringue is used to refer to whipped egg whites and sugar.

Lesson 3: Chocolates can be made in unusual flavours using your imagination!

 The chef demonstrated three different recipes of chocolates with unusual ingredients like vinegar and chillies!

We were also told that we could bring an exquisite twist to the taste when we replace it with orange peel, cognac, whisky, mango puree, citrus peel or any other berries.

Lesson 4:  When you don’t need air bubbles in your whisked mixture, it is always safer to use a spatula than an automated whisk or beater.

Also there is a technique in hand whisking with a spatula. Never start from the outer side of the pan and work inwards. Always work from the middle to the outer so that you don’t agitate the mixture. Agitating the mixture will cause the mixture to ‘split’ the chocolate. The split can be rectified using glucose or water to the mix but not without changing the consistency of the chocolate mixture.

Lesson 5:  No matter how much you have whisked the pate a bombe or meringue, ultimately what decides how well your chocolate will set depends on how you fold in the mixtures into each other.

This is a technique one has to master if you don’t want your chocolates to collapse in front of your eyes!

Lesson 6: You may have whisked up the best of ingredients to the perfect stage and folded it in and set it perfectly. The ultimate success of your chocolate is in the presentation.

I could never imagine using dill flowers to present something as exquisite as chocolate but the smell and taste blends so well with the chocolates served last evening!

Lesson 7: No matter how old your wine or how fresh, no matter if it is red or white, every wine can be paired with a chocolate ganache!

The Tintoralba went superbly well with the Vinegar chocolate and the Pedro Ximenez was delightful with the Chilli chocolate bricks.

If you are dying to try out the recipes, I can be persuaded to share them with you!

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Wine and Chocolate indulgence -Part 1

When the Volvo dealer, sent us an invite to be a part of a wine and chocolate indulgence evening a few weeks back, I signed up immediately. In May, when on my trip to Italy, I had promised myself a wine education and this opportunity presented itself! I was eager to find out what I was going to learn on this special evening and I was not disappointed. As I write this, I am more knowledgeable about wine and can whisk up three varieties of offbeat chocolates if it came to serious entertaining.


The evening started off with wine tasting. The first wine was Tintoralba(2007), which in Spanish means ‘Red Sunset’. It is a wine from Spain, apt choice too, after the FIFA world cup win.

The second bottle of wine was a Sherry, a fortified wine made from white grapes, called Pedro Xeminez (1980)(Pronounced – Pedh-ro Khi-menez). The wine comes from an area called Jerez ( Pronounced Kherez) in Spain. The Pedro Xeminez is grown on white chalky soil and is also called the Champagne of Spain ( The original French Champagne is also grown on white mud)

Lesson 1 : The colour of the wine depends on the weather conditions of the area where the grape is grown.

The Tintoralba, is made in the vineyards of the Spanish province of Almansa. The weather conditions of this area are hot which makes the wine dark in colour.

The Pedro Xeminez  is made from the grapes harvested in the province of Valdivia, Southern Spain. The Pedro is also grown in dry weather. The grapes are picked in September and dried in the sun for a week till the flavors concentrate.

Lesson 2 : Wines change colour with age. Red wines get lighter  and transparent as they age while a freshly bottled red wine will be opaque and dark when held up to a light source. White wine gets darker as it ages.

The bottle of Tintoralba that we were served was bottled in the year 2007 which made it quite dark.

Due to the aging of the wine, the Pedro Xeminez, was very dark, almost rusty amber, in colour. It was a 30 year old wine and the colour looked more like a young red wine than white.

Lesson 3 : The more viscous the wine the more it sticks to the sides of the wine glass. When you swirl the wine, you will see bands of liquid on the walls of the wine glass.

Both the Tintoralba and the Pedro Xeminez  turned out to be viscous wines.

Lesson 4: When you smell a glass of wine, the first breath should be a brief sharp breath. Ponder over the smells that hit your olfactory senses and then take another long breath with your nose just inside of the mouth of the wine glass. You will discern the most identifiable smells that could range from woodsy( because wine ages in Oak casks), fruity, flowery, spicy or earthy.

 The Tintoralba was chocolaty, oaky and maybe also smelt of burnt coffee.

The Pedro Xeminez  had a spicier smell. And definitely smelt more woodsy because of the aging. I could also distinctly smell caramelized banana, fig and other fruity smells.

Lesson 5: All wines leave a sediment at the bottom of the glass. Some are very obvious because as wine ages, they leave more sediment.

 The Tintoralba, (though only three years old ),left  brown dust in the bottom of the glass.

I did not finish the glass of Pedro so did not notice the sediment.

Lesson 6: When you taste a red wine first and then a white wine, make sure you rinse the glass or ask for another glass; when you taste the white first, you can use the same glass without rinsing.

More on the chocolates and how they paired with the wine in my next post!

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No more excuses

No more excuses!I have been putting off getting back to my fitness regime for a year now. A year back, I was a regular at the gym even if it meant only going thrice a week. A year back my world turned upside down. Or that is how it seemed. Or at least that is how I would like to explain my lack of regular exercise. First daddy fell sick in June last year. Then he passed away in July. To get done with the ceremonies took till August. Then mom came to stay with me. We talked about Dad and getting over the grief of his death took till October.Then there was this news about our relocation that came out at the end of October. Where was the time to exercise when there was so much to do before the relocation? Then out of the blue came this wonderful opporunity in December to get back to full time training. When training , you anyway pace the classroom and drink a lot of water. So I gave myself brownie points for having got some sort of work out done.Training kept me busy till February. March was end of year exams at school. When you are busy with revisions, you feel guilty to be thinking about fitness regimens. Then there was so many places to visit, so many people to say goodbye to. There was loads of time after relocation that I could exercise and catch up.

After the relocation was this “to die” for vacation at Italy. At Italy there was was wine with every dinner. And every dinner finished with dessert. When we got back there was always loads of time to get back to working out. Not in the first few weeks when you are busy setting up the house and getting used to the new place. When the kitchen was not yet set how could I cook at home? There were so many new restaurants to try out. The new place had ice creams that were so different from what we got back home. The new house was equipped with a state of the art oven and I had always wanted to bake. Baking meant cheese and vegetables. Till I learnt to bake a home made pound cake there was only Betty Crocker and the best of her flavors is the devilish chocolate brownie. There was a gym at the condo and I could always go when I was ready.

Ready I was not.

Not till I realized that my well fitting clothes looked like they were filling up to the seams, when anything other than black made me look huger than I was, when the mere attempt of squatting beat the breath out of my lungs, when climbing stairways seemed like punishment, when the signs of an impending birthday spelt like doom.

No more excuses. I gave decided to get back to my old fitness levels. Took the first step today. Here is to my fit old self.