This is a must-read for flavour and aromas fans, and to whet your appetite, here’s part of it: “The sight of 15 adults sucking their spoons like babies was an unusual start to a dinner party, but they had surprisingly different flavours. Copper and zinc were bold and assertive, with bitter, metallic tastes; the copper spoons even smelt metallic as they gently oxidised in the air. The silver spoon, despite its beauty, tasted dull in comparison, while the stainless steel had a faintly metallic flavour that is normally overlooked. As Miodownik pointed out, we were not just tasting the spoons but actually eating them, because with each lick we were consuming ‘perhaps a hundred billion atoms’.”
Next: try chocolate spoons, please
I do think the people she quotes at the end should pay a visit to Switzerland, where many of us already routinely use high quality chocolate spoons. My favourite supplier: La cuillère suisse, mmmm.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – I always thought the characters in Stieg Larsson‘s and Henning Mankell’s Swedish novels drank coffee endlessly out of nervousness or boredom, despite their crime-chasing lives.
Our icy winter weather with days on end of sharp winds and sub-zero temperatures on Lake Geneva have made me reconsider that this might just be a reaction to too much cold weather.
I’ve tripled my coffee intake in the past two weeks, sitting in front of the computer.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Swiss supermarket chain Migros will undoubtedly have chocolate Santas and trees for the holiday season, but this year it’s come up with an unusual Christmas treat: a milk chocolate foil-wrapped camel fit for the Three Kings of Christmas lore.
The supermarket will stock them in 100 of its shops.
It notes that at least 21 percent of the milk is powdered camel’s milk from camel stables in the Emirates. Camel’s milk has been considered by desert nomads “since the start of time to be an elixir”. The other ingredients: natural Bourbon vanilla, acacia honey and selected cocoa beans.
The 130g treat was designed by chocolatier Al Nassna de Dubai and sells for CHF19.
A GenevaLunch news story on Kraft, which this year bought out Cadbury, moving some of its tax base to Zurich prompted one reader and former Cadbury fan to write that he’s looking for new chocolate companies. I suggested he check this list of chocolate companies on wikipedia.
His search reminded me that if you live outside Switzerland or you’re new to the country it’s easy to lump all Swiss chocolate together, and it deserves a closer look. Switzerland, this tiny country of only 7.4 million, consumes more than 68,000 tons a year of the 106,000 tons of chocolate it produces, although an unmeasurable but probably large portion is bought by tourists.
The chocolate the Swiss themselves eat
There are three basic types of Swiss chocolate, to my thinking: products manufactured by large companies like Kraft and Nestlé, chocolate made by smaller manufacturers, and artisanal chocolates.
I’ll buy the last one any day: Switzerland has several extraordinary specialists in handmade chocolates, and I tend to write about these. But they are not in the everyday budgets of most of us, and the shops are not always convenient.
Supermarket selections of the largest manufacturers’ chocolates are good, affordable and easy to find, with a range of quality and prices. These are the ones my family buys to pack in their pockets for the ski slopes. Visiting friends and family from abroad are usually happiest taking these home. I find them mostly too fatty and sugary, but that doesn’t stop me from eating them.
The third group, smaller manufacturers, most of whom are more active in Switzerland than abroad, survive in the Swiss market because they have special products or are niche chocolate-makers. They make some very good products and are affordable, so if you’re looking for something cheaper than artisanal chocolate, but want to buy something you won’t find in 75 other countries, consider these.
Chocolat.ch brings together one group of them and several of the smaller companies are members of the Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers, Chocosuisse.
One of the stellar companies listed there is Chocolat Bernrain/Chocolat Stella, who have been producing organic chocolate for more than 15 years and who were one of the early companies to produce chocolate without added sugar. They mostly make private-order chocolate for other companies but if you’re north of Zurich or in Ticino consider visiting their factory stores for a taste of a very special Swiss manufactured chocolate product.
In French-speaking Switzerland Favarger in Versoix is famous for its Avelines. Its shop is well worth a visit. The town of Courtelary, in the Bernese Jura, is home to Camille Bloch, famous for its Ragusa bars, filled with praline and whole hazelnuts (the dark chocolate ones are wonderful). The bars were born as the result of shortages during the second world war, but they are hugely popular with the Swiss.
Villars, in Fribourg, has a shop that is fun to visit, and it is one of the few non-artisanal chocolate-makers producing reduced-sugar bars. They use stevia as a sweetener.
A special addition to the list is Max Havelaar, the fair trade company, which provides a list of online shops that offer fair trade chocolate as well as a list of Swiss sales points for its chocolate products. It has yet to convince Swiss consumers to eat more fair trade products, which account for only half a bar for every 100 sold.
Click on images to view larger
There is nothing that beats just-warm brownies and a little glass of cold milk when it is snowing. The first snowfall of the season is exciting and everyone heads outdoors. By the second or third, snow starts looking like work, people get cold, and the kitchen beckons. A good way to keep family and friends busy and happy is to put them to work making brownies.
This is my adaptation for Switzerland of an old James Beard brownie recipe, which I consider one of the best. Susan Mosse in Ireland, a wonderful cook and baker, introduced me to it 30 years ago, and it wasn’t new then.
Notes: some ingredients have varying amounts as a matter of taste only. This recipe is from the bad old days of calories, sugar, fats, and it simply isn’t the same if you use substitutes, so don’t. Invite a crowd to avoid eating them all yourself if the calories worry you.
Swiss cooking chocolate has some sugar in it, so US recipes calling for unsweetened chocolate have to be adjusted, as has been done here.
1/2 cup (115 grams) softened butter – no substitutes!
180-200 grams Swiss baking chocolate (menage)
1-1/2 cup (340 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs, 50-60 grams
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (250 ml) white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 to 1 cup broken walnuts
Melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat, stir well.
Stir in sugar.
Beat in eggs and vanila.
Quickly stir in flour, salt and nuts, just enough to lightly mix.
Spread into non-stick or buttered pan, 8 x 10 inches, or 9 x 12 inches (21 x 26 cm or the equivalent volume).
Bake at 180C or 170 in a fan oven, 35 minutes for the smaller pan size, 30 minutes for the larger, and five minutes less if you have a fan oven. Do not overbake!
To test for doneness: the top will not spring back like a cake when you touch it, but it should resist a bit. Use a sharp knife or baking tester stick, which should come out clean when put into the center.
IMPORTANT: Cut into squares with a lightly buttered or greased knife (I use a plastic salad knife) while still slightly warm, but let cool for two hours, to set, before eating.
Lausanne, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – You still have a couple days left to sample artisanal chocolates and buy them at a discount at several chocolate boutiques in the region. Chocolate Week, the brainchild of Neuchatel’s chocolate-makers several years ago, was adopted by Vaud five years ago and more recently by Fribourg and Geneva. The idea is to introduce local chocolate lovers to hand-crafted chocolates, which not only taste good, but tend to use better products, have less sugar and lower fat content. Here’s the list of who is participating and what they’re offering in 2010. The chocolate week ends Saturday 6 November. Some of my favourites don’t take part officially, but they won’t object if we celebrate by stopping by.
Personally, I’ve done my bit by stopping in at Tristan’s chocolate boutique in Bougy-sur-Villars, one of my favourites in the region, where I stocked up on presents for the family (including me). He has two new chocolates which are now on my “best” list since my last visit in July, a dark chocolate with pecans with extraordinary flavour and a Cambodian pepper chocolate which is quite different from his Tasmanian or pimiento pepper chocolates. Less bite, more elegant pepper flavour and feel. I also bought rosemary, green tea in dark chocolate and myrtle chocolates.
Myrtle, if you’re not familiar with it and are seeing “myrte” in the shop, is not myrtille, or blueberry. Myrtle comes from a shrub, and is akin in flavour to juniper and rosemary. It was used years ago in making Italy’s famous mortadella, but juniper is more commonly used for that now.
I am heading out the door to Morges soon to try one of the Vaud bouchon specialties, which I’ve never had. I’ll report back soon on that, with a photo.
And lucky for me, one of the participating chocolatiers is in Saint Prex, Boillat, and they’re offering 10 percent off on chocolate, a dangerously good deal. We’re doubly blessed, with a second excellent chocolate maker, Alexandre, right in the old town section of Saint Prex, and his busy, tiny shop is one of the nicest places around for morning coffee. With a bit of chocolate, of course.
Not bad for a town of 5,000.
Warning: once you develop a taste for this kind of chocolate you may find it extremely difficult to settle for the popular big commercial brands, although I did just receive a last-minute additional request from an overseas family member to whom I am shipping some of Tristan’s chocolate, at his request: “The Lindt chocolate in the red package is really good. Like… Lindor but in bar form? Creamy in the middle? That one was really good, feel free to send some of that. I have finished all the chocolate you brought over by the way.”
Related news story on Barry Callebaut financial results, the International Cocoa Agreement, 4 November 2010
By Ellen Wallace, GL editor
The most popular post on National Public Radio‘s web site right now is about a 26-page brownie recipe published by – guess who? The US Pentagon. The story is fun reading and the notion of such a long recipe is mind-boggling but the answer to my question is disappointing: apparently they are not so good.
My favourite recipe, after trying scores over the years, remains the heavy-on-butter, heavy-on-sugar, James Beard classic chocolate brownies version. I limit myself to making these once a year, and unlike the Pentagon, I never make them with the idea they have to last several weeks: they’re gone before they have a chance to cool properly.
In fact, I know what I’ll be doing this weekend, in addition to making a fresh rhubarb pie, so I’ll be back with photos of the brownies soon and additional notes on making brownies using Swiss chocolate.
by Jonell Galloway
The best chocolate is indisputably to be found in Switzerland, and I would guess Geneva has the highest concentration of high-quality, original Easter chocolates, so I thought I’d give you a little help in finding the perfect chocolate for your needs.
There is much discussion among natives of Geneva as to which is best, but purist that I am, no matter how many chocolate shops I try, I always come back to the same one: Chocolaterie Auer, located downtown in the main tram street.
They offer the traditional dark, milk and white chocolate bunnies and eggs, and even if their creations are perhaps not as aesthetically original as some others, the quality of the chocolate cannot be rivaled. There’s nothing like chocolate made straight from the bean. Industrial cocoa powder just doesn’t cut it in my book.