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Education

What’s the Difference? Dutch-Processed, Natural and Drinking Cocoa

Three cocoas: Dutch-processed (L), Valrhona natural (R) and Les Confitures à l'Ancienne drinking cocoa (bottom)

Three cocoas: Dutch-processed (L), Valrhona natural (R) and Les Confitures à l’Ancienne drinking cocoa (bottom)

At this time of year, customers often pop into the shop looking for cocoa – whether for baking a dense chocolate torte or for a warming cup of hot cocoa after hours of shoveling. There are a few different type of cocoa available and we thought it would be helpful to shed a bit of light on the differences.

What is cocoa?
Cocoa is the result of processing raw cacao seeds into what is called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. Cocoa mass is made up of roughly equal parts cocoa solids and cocoa butter. When you buy a chocolate bar it often has a percentage figure on it. If, for example, the label indicates 75%, that means the bar is made up of 75% cocoa mass and unless other ingredients are mixed in, 25% sugar. If  you’ve ever had a taste of 100% cocoa mass, you know how important the sugar is to counterbalance the natural acidity and tannic quality of the pure cocoa. In some cases, a bit of extra cocoa butter may be added to give the chocolate a smoother textural dimension – a greater melt-in-your-mouth quality. Continue Reading »

Butter, Beurre and Burro: What Distinguishes Different Butters?

Here at the shop, we carry quite a variety of butters and sometimes folks ask us what distinguishes them from each other – a very fair question!

Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP: What’s in Your Bottle of Vinegar?

Historically, the category of balsamic, balsamico or balsamic vinegar consisted of products with levels of quality all over the map. Some careful producers, employing traditional methods, produced balsamics with beautiful balance and depth of flavor. At the same time, large, industrial producers sold balsamics using inexpensive ingredients and time-saving technologies to maximize profits, capitalizing on the balsamic name.

Balsamico Tradizionale: True Balsamic Vinegar

The easiest way to introduce the nuances of balsamic vinegar is by taking a look at Balsamico Tradizionale from two small provinces in Italy: Modena and Reggio-Emilia. The highest quality balsamic, representing the purest form of the condiment, is produced only in these two provinces.

Crème de Cassis de Dijon: The Secret to “Kir”

This week we’re highlighting one of our favorite French liqueurs, the inky black currant flavored Crème de Cassis de Dijon. These sweet little bottles of crème de cassis are made in Burgundy by Briottet, a company run by the Briottet family in the town of Dijon since 1836.