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/Laura Rosen Cohen

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So far Laura Rosen Cohen has created 227 blog entries.

July 2017

Happy World Chocolate Day!

July 7th, 2017|

Chocolate is one of those foods that just goes with everything!

It’s for holidays, for date nights and celebrations. It goes with dessert, on top of dessert, inside of it and is equally delicious in hot and cold drinks and ice cream.  There are so many ways you can enjoy your chocolate whether you like milk, white or dark.

Although chocolate is generally considered a sweet and ‘happy’ treat that was not always the case. It actually has a long and complicated history, as well as some underlying ethical issues relating to its production that persist to this day.

Until relatively recently, chocolate was consumed as a bitter beverage rather than a sweet treat. The ancient Aztec, Mayan and Olmec civilizations saw chocolate as a mood enhancer and aphrodisiac. Many other cultures including these ones felt that chocolate had mystical powers, and thus chocolate was considered a treat exclusively for the elite.

The ancient Aztecs could not actually grow cacao beans in their own territory in the dry highlands of central Mexico. They traded with the Aztecs, using cacao beans as currency! The legendary Aztec emperor Montezuma is reported to have consumed three gallons of chocolate a day to increase his libido.

Chocolate travelled to Europe with the European explorers and quickly became a hit in royal circles and then within aristocratic circles. A chocolate revolution happened in 1828 when Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press. The van Houten press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into moulds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. All of the sudden, chocolate became an affordable treat for the masses.

Other European companies like William Cadbury and Joseph Fry were quick to jump on the bandwagon The Frys became the sole suppliers of chocolate to the navy, making them the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world, and not to be outdone, the rival Cadbury family gained the title of purveyors of chocolate to Queen Victoria. She was so obsessed with its life-enhancing qualities that she sent 500,000 lbs. to her army.

The rest, as they say, is history, and chocolate remains one of the world’s favourite treats.

Exit questions: Is white chocolate really chocolate?

According to Bon Appetite magazine: no.

“White chocolate is made with a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and a fatty substance called lecithin. Technically, white chocolate is not a chocolate—and it doesn’t really taste like one—because it doesn’t contain chocolate solids. When cocoa beans are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked open, and their shells discarded, what results is a nib. Chocolate nibs are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor can be separated into cocoa solids, which provide the flavor, and cocoa butter, which is the fat. Though white chocolate contains extracted cocoa butter, it lacks the component that defines real chocolate.”

What about ‘dark chocolate’? What’s the difference?

As per Baking Bites:

“Dark chocolate is chocolate that is made primarily with sugar, cocoa and cocoa butter, and does not contain milk or milk solids. The amount of sugar, cocoa and cocoa butter can vary dramatically from brand to brand, but it is the lack of milk that really distinguishes dark chocolate from milk chocolate. Dark chocolates also often include vanilla and an emulsifier, to keep the chocolate as smooth as possible. In the US, there is not specific minimum cacao percentage for dark chocolate. Cacao percentage refers to the amount of cocoa solids in a product. Cocoa solids are all of the ingredients from a cocoa bean, including cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and chocolate liquor. In Europe, the definition of dark chocolate specifies 35% cocoa solids. Premium dark chocolates have a higher cacao percentage and a higher price tag than less expensive dark chocolates.

“Semisweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and extra dark chocolate are all names that have been created to describe different types of dark chocolate, but all three are dark chocolate. There are no strict definitions that divide these sub-types of dark chocolate. They are primarily inventions of chocolate manufacturers to make it easier for consumers to differentiate between dark chocolates with more intense flavour.”

Sources:

The Sweet History of Chocolate

Food and Drink

A Brief History of Cocoa

Ten Reasons Why You Should Eat Chocolate

About White Chocolate

What Is Dark Chocolate?

The History of Chocolate (video)

A Brief History of Chocolate (Just In Time For Valentine’s Day)

 

 

 

 

 

 

U of T’s Chef Suman Dishes on Indian Food on Campus

July 5th, 2017|

The latest food concept at UTSG is streetside Indian and so far, it’s a great success.  It’s called CUMIN, and we spent some time recently with Chef Suman Roy the launch and how the idea originated.

“The key factor for us was authenticity,” explains Chef Suman.

“We wanted to make sure that we offer a completely authentic Indian food experience, and to make our foods flavourful but not to heavy-to keep it light,” he adds, explaining that they will be staying away from heavy cream in the CUMIN recipes.

Toronto is an incredibly multicultural city, he notes, and its diners have a very diverse, accepting and adventurous palate. Chef Suman says that in addition to a high demand for Indian food in the city, there has also been a great appetite for Indian food right here on campus.

“Indian food is really popular in general, so last year, we started introducing some Indian dishes in our residences and they were really well received. We started off with a Tandoori Chicken and that went amazingly well. Students really responded to the flavours and also liked that it was a substantial portion of food, but not fried and it was also full of vegetables,” he says.

Having vegetarian options is also a key component of the CUMIN concept. Chef Suman says that there will always be a vegetarian option available for those abstaining from meat, and even “snacky” items like vegetarian pakoras. All of the recipes have gone through a rigorous testing and tasting period and now the culinary team has them down pat and ready to go.

“CUMIN provides UTSG students, faculty and staff with an authentic Indian food experience, just like they would eat in Delhi,” says Chef Suman. He adds that they are serving top of the line basmati rice, and foods that are layered with home-ground spices, including saffron and many others.

Be sure to check out CUMIN at the Robarts Library food court. It’s absolutely currylicious!

 

June 2017

Berry Exciting! It’s International Strawberry Parfait Day!

June 25th, 2017|

How sweet!

It’s International Strawberry Parfait Day.

Here are some berry, berry interesting facts about this delicious treat!

The strawberry is part of the rosaceae (Rose) family of plants. All varieties of the strawberry plant belong to the fragaria genus. Strawberries are also not really berries or fruit, but are instead the enlarged ends of the plant’s stamen! It is the small black spots which are actually the fruit. Wow! Strawberry season in Ontario mainly runs throughout July and August, and over 13 million pounds of the strawberries are grown here each season.

Sources:

Ontario Berries

Ontario Strawberries

School’s Out But Chefs Are In!

June 15th, 2017|

Food 365 recently sat down with U of T Sous Chef Santana Ferguson to talk about the delicious breakfast program that was launched at the Gourmet Burger House at Sid Smith earlier this summer.

“This has been a really great experience from the start,” says Ferguson, explaining that her whole team was involved in creating the breakfast menu from the very beginning.

“One of the best parts for GBH staff was working collaboratively on the menu, sharing ideas and then watching the whole thing come together. Having a sense of ownership has really made the GBH culinary team feel extremely satisfied and proud of the program”, she adds.

Ferguson says that even though fewer students are on campus in the summer, the culinary team remains busy, developing recipes and programs and piloting new items that are evaluated and then introduced during the school year. She’s looking forward to seeing how students respond to the new breakfast menu.

“We have a really great variety of foods on the menu, and have even added some variety, like different kinds such as rye and whole grain as a result of some customer feedback,” she says.

Regular breakfast customers include students, faculty, administrative staff and also a large number of construction workers from various work sites on the St. George campus. A special GBH loyalty program was also rolled out with the breakfast program, awarding one free meal after 9 loyalty stamps are collected.

“Altogether, the breakfast program is really working out well and we’re looking forward to students coming back in September and checking it out. It’s great value, fresh and fast and we’re sure they are really going to like it,” she adds.