Update: I just wanted to add this post to R khooks’ initiative to “Stop the Traffik Chocolate competition“ regarding Fair Trade/Slave-labour free chocolate. Visit the round-up to see who else participated and give your input/support on this initiative!”
- Join us for World Nutella Day on February 6, 2007!
The theme this month is Chocolate by Brand. I was pretty excited because I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn from other bloggers about some specific brands of chocolate that I’d probably never heard of or tried.
And then, of course, I’d be forced to go out and seek them.
I decided on the brand of chocolate I would use before the recipe. These palline di cioccolato, little chocolate balls are super nutty, mascarpone laced delights made with fair-trade chocolate from AltroMercato, an Italian consortium providing fair-trade goods including fabrics, clothing and foodstuffs. They have shops all over Italy and most supermarkets carry a small fair trade section (equo solidale in Italian) from AltroMercato.
I used the fair trade cocoa from AltroMercato and I devised a way to include what is quickly becoming my favorite chocolate – the relatively new fair trade chocolate from Modica, Sicily called Quetzal, which is also sold by AltroMercato. What’s so special about it?
Chocolate from Modica has a rough texture and is oh, so delicious.
Chocolate from Modica is made the way the Aztecs made it (the recipe was brought back to Italy by the Spanish) with heated lava stones (see: Mt. Etna in Sicily) and kept at a low(er) temperature so that the sugar crystals don’t melt in completely with the cacao, which results in that grainy, crumbly texture.
The fair trade Modica chocolate is available in several flavors – black tea, hot pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger and coffee. I’m having a tough time deciding my favorite, but I think cinnamon has pulled ahead of the others. The fact that the chocolate isn’t smooth means that the chocolate taste hits you first, then the secondary flavor – fresh cinnamon, earthy hot pepper or tart ginger – and the sugary crystals are the last to go.
Palline di Cioccolato (Little Chocolate Balls)
- 250g biscotti secchi (“dry” biscuits/cookies – think animal crackers)
- 250g mascarpone
- 250g hazelnuts
- 200g (white) sugar
- 75-125g cacao (start with 75g)
- Vanillina (2.5 packets = 1 package for every 100g of ingredients) or 1-2t. vanilla extract
- Liquor – a few splashes of a liquor of your choice like rum, Baileys, Kahlua
Separately, blend the nuts, biscuits and sugar to a fine and similar size. They don’t need to be super-smooth (though the nuts should be a rough butter) as a bit of texture really adds something. In a bowl, mix the nuts, biscuits, cacao and sugar together well and add the mascarpone and vanilla. Mix with a spoon and then with hands to mix well. Add the liquor at the very end and mix well, add other ingredients to taste if necessary.
Form little balls that can then be rolled in coconut, chocolate-mixed sprinkles, or dipped in chocolate, or eaten plain. Leave in the fridge to set up.
Note: I had to add more cocoa to this mixture as I think the free-trade cocoa was a bit milder than the recipe called for – you can taste often and adjust.
I used coconut and Modica chocolate (coffee flavor) as my rolling ingredients this time around. Next time, I would like to experiment with these – using cane sugar instead of white, almonds or peanuts instead of hazelnuts, and maybe even filling them – Nutella Day, anyone???
Also, “biscotti secchi” may give some people problems but they are widely available in Italy as sweet “cookies”/crackers that are made with little to no fat and ready to be dipped in your morning coffee. I thought the best American equivalent was Animal crackers – anyone else have a better way to describe-identify them??