Hot CocoaNymph + Giveaway

Hot CocoaNymph, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I heard about the hot chocolate festival pretty late - when it was already halfway through.
And of course, I had to at least make a pilgrimage to Cocoa Nymph (3739 West 10th Ave. @ Alma) and try her legendary hot chocolate. All of my visits there were purely business so far, and very busy at that - so I never actually just sat down and enjoyed a cup of hot CocoNymph before! Fortunately for me, Rachel was taking a little break, and we were able to just hang out, relax, chat and enjoy her company as well as a few other regular customers and friends whose faces I already recognize (and sometime can even guess their name right...). CocoNymph should be a weekly pilgrimage to Kitsilano just for that atmosphere alone. And did I mention they do live music shows there - almost every weekend?

Back to hot chocolate: You can find 4 flavours on a regular basis - white, milk, dark and dark spicy (inspired by the original Aztec power drink), made on site from real wholesome ingredients and topped with Rachel's marshmallows.

During the hot chocolate festival there is a new limited edition flavour at CocoaNymph every week - for both the hot chocolate AND the marshmallows, which are made on site from scratch!

The first week, it was the reverse switch - white hot chocoate topped with a milk chocolate marshamllow. Second week it was hazelnut hot chocolate topped with Crown Royal marshmallows. Last week - Earl Grey hot chocolate topped with Guilt inspired marshmallows (made with orange oil and juice!). The Earl Grey was sold out that weekend, but I have I tried the Guilt-y, orangey marshmallow, and am thrilled to report they are utter bliss and I just can't wait for the Earl Grey infused hot chocolate to return.

This week, the special flavour is a black-pepper infused hot chocolate topped with salted caramel marshmallows!
Salted caramel is CocoaNymph's signature flavour - the first bonbons Rachel made and got this business started were her salted caramel chocolates. Her most popular confections are the English Toffee (highly salted and crunchy) and the SeaNymph bar (with sea salt and crushed pieces of the above-mentioned English toffee).

I sipped the dark hot chocolate, topped with the salted caramel marshmallows, which really balanced it well - and made it very easy to drink up what turned out to be a whole cup of heavy cream (!) with melted dark chocolate. This is hard core hot chocolate indulgence, yet I had no trouble at all getting to the bottom of it...

The experience was inspiring, and I'm really intrigued by the combination of tea and chocolate together... Or any infusions into liquid chocolate... Mmm... Maybe an idea for something to serve on my Valentine's Day "Spice It Up" Tea Party next Sunday? What do you think?

Last but not least, I'd like to use this opportunity to mention a giveaway via Vancouver Foodster Magazine - who are giving away a box of chocolates from CocoaNymph (value of $60) and a Roses et Chocolat mini + chocolate bar (value of $60 as well). All you need to do is comment, and tweet about it, and you will be entered :-)

P.s. In the photograph: Top right is white hot chocolate topped with vanilla marshmallow. Bottom left - dark hot chocolate with salted caramel marshmallow.

Chocolates in the making

Visited with CocoaNymph this afternoon to work out the final details of the packaging, put together a display of my Gourmand perfumes at the shop, and plan our event on Tuesday, when we will launch the 3 new chocolate bars!

This is going to be a fine evening of chocolate & wine tasting paired with the perfumes that inspired this unique chocolate collection. The molds are lovely, and look as if someone in the chocolate molding business was just sitting there at their drafting table thinking of a bar shape especially for us...

Just looking at those bars all wrapped up made me giddy with happiness... I just can't wait to share them all with you on Tuesday!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:CocoaNymph Chocolates & Confections

Out With The Old...

Out With The Old..., originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I reorganized my testers this afternoon to make room for some new limited editions at my studio.
The testers for these fragrances - Arsenal, Coeli, Guilt and Magnolia Petal - have stepped out to make room for new fragrances, about which I will be posting shortly.

P.s. Attention online shoppers: There are still last few bottles left for these - 1 flacon and 1 roll-on in Magnolia Petal; 1 miniature of Guilt; a 10ml roll-on of Arsenal. Coeli is completely sold out.

Good Enough to Eat

I'm often asked, if and when or why don't I have my own line of scented body products. My answer to this 3-part question is that I would love to create an original line of my very own beautifully scented natural body care. Which means, I would like to have my very own formulations rather than take some existing bases and add a scent to them. This is not advisable from technical point of view, not to mention marketing wise: each scent has a different chemical make up, therefore it is hard to predict how it will interact with a given base or the other. Often times, when a fragrance is added to, say, an existing unscented body lotion "base" - the lotion simply breaks down. Not a pretty site, but also not something you would want to put on your skin.

There are many technical difficulties, challenges and problems when developing a new skin care line: the texture, fragrance and performance of the product (i.e.: how does it make your skin feel after), not to mention packaging. Unlike my existing products, which I assume most of my customers use when their hands are clean and fairly dry - one could not expect such handling of a body products that will be most likely stored and used in the bathroom - or even the bathtub or shower! I won't bore you with the details of what it takes to develop the line from start to finish, but I will let you in on some of my recent experiments of very simple body care products that are all natural, free of preservatives, that will make your skin feel good and smell fantastic.

I've already begun my adventure with the bath salts for Mother's Day which require a very simple procedure of blending essential oils with a salt-mix. The next step for me was to figure out a formula for a sugar scrub that will be as fun to use as some of my favourite body products. I love sugar scrubs, and especially the more luxurious ones, because they do two tasks at once: the exfoliate my skin while leaving it gently moisturized. A good sugar scrub, in my opinion, needn't be followed by a body lotion or a cream. It should be the kind that will emulsify with the bathing water and leave the skin soft and smooth...

A while back, I created a body-butter consistency sugar scrub. The challenge with that was that it left the skin a little too greasy, plus the butters and some of the oils (i.e.: coconut oil) harden too much in cooler weather. So my task today was to make a sugar scrub that will look pretty much the same in most room temperature ranges.

My first trial was one based on Guilt perfume, which I've been meaning to make for a loooong time. The concept was to use ground up cacao nibs as an additional exfolliant besides the sugar. Although I was tempted to use cacao butter, I decided to opt for something more stable: shea oil, which is liquid rather than solid in room temperature. Along with vegetable glycerine, fractionated coconut oil and vitamin E it's bound to leave behind a silky-smooth skin. The ground cacao nibs add a nice texture and an earthy, irresistible yummy chocolate smell, which I only enforced with very little bit of cacao and vanilla absolute. It also has sweet orange and wild orange oils, and of course - orange flower absolute. Using the scrub in the bath was a real treat: it's like playing with mud but not really getting dirty beacuse it is so easy to wash off (it would have been a totally different story if I put cacao powder instead of the nibs!). And it makes the skin look all dark and tan or for the duration of the scrubbing ceremony, which I thoroughly enjoy myself. Yet the nicest surprise was that the orange blossom lingered on the skin for about an hour after bathing!

Guilt-Marnier Chocolate Truffles

These scrumptious chocolate truffles are the dessert version of my Guilt perfume. Orange and chocolate re a classic combination. Here we go the extra step by using wild orange essential - a particularly bright and sparkling citrus essence, as well as the sweet richness of Grand Marnier liquer. But it is really the addition of orange flower absolute that makes these truffles a departure from your every day treats: this precious floral essence adds a surprising twist, a melt-in-your-mouth bouquet.

I highly recommend using the 70% bittersweet chocolate from Lindt, not only for its flavour, but also for the super-thin squares which can be crubled effortlessly by hand; if you use these, simply brake each square into four by hand.

Get organic whipping cream if you can find it. The ones with no additives will truly make the whole difference. I find these to be preferable for any dessert preparations: the natural whipping cream whipps to a lighter and prettier whipped cream than those that have stabilizers. And the flavour is completely out of this world.

400 gr Bittersweet Chocolate
1 cup heavy (aka whipping) cream
1 Tbs. Grand Marnier Liquor
15 drops Wild Orange Oil
5 drops Sweet Orange Oil
3 drops Oranage Flower Absolute
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted

a. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, or break by hand, into more or less similar size pieces.
b. Place in a Bain Marie over gently simmering water, and stir with a wire-whisk.
c. Once the chocolate is melted, add the cream and the Grand Marnier. Stir with a wire-whisk until the cream completely blends with the chocolate.
d. Remove from the heat.
e. Add the essential oils drop by drop, and stir with the wire whisk until completely blended.
f. Transfer into a tupperware container and refrigerate until firm (for 2 hours or more).
g. Cover a baking sheet with the cocoa powder
h. Scoop the truffles using a melon-scooper. It is really going to save you a lot of trouble. But if you can't find a melon-scooper, you can use a shapely measuring teaspoon (1/2 tsp. size will suffice - you want to keep the truffles small and special!)
i. Roll the truffles between your palms to turn them into perfect spheres, and place the truffles on the sheet
j. Rinse the scooper in warm water in between truffles, to make it easier
k. Once all the truffles are made, shake the baking sheet to cover the truffles with cocoa.
l. Refrigerate until firm before serving.

If the aroma and flavour of home-made chocolate truffles seems to not be worth the effort, consider these side-effects of making truffles at home:
1) Your house will smell so good when you cook the ganache - and after.
2) The sensory experience is quite therapeutic. Ask Freud - or look at this photo. I haven't had so much fun since I played in mud as a kid or went to the pottery studio...
3) The earthy scent of chocolate will linger on your hands for hours to come, making you feel oh so delicious on your own...

If you don't happen to have all the essential oils mentioned within hand reach, there is some flexibility in this recipe. Of course, the result will be different, but it will still be a delight for the senses. The orange essences can be replaced by sweet orange oil, which is widely available from all aromatherapy and health food stores. It's always recommended to use organic citrus essential oils - their aroma is superior, and they don't contain some of the toxins that are so abundant in the peel of sprayed citrus fruit.

Variations: This recipe can also serve as an inspiration: it can be tweaked and improvised on. I highly recommend experimenting with other liquor flavours and other essential oils. Substitue the Grand Marnier with Galliano, Kaluah, Kirsch, or any other berry liquor. When pairing essential oils with these, use your imagination - but don't forget that essential oils are highly concentrated. It's better to use less and add more, than put too much. The pleasure will be diminished and the results can be quite frightening - particualrly with strong spice and floral oils. Add a drop at a time, mix well and taste in between to avoid olfactory disasters of the palette!

* The instruction for this recipe are loosely adopted from the recipe for Chocolate-Mint Truffles from the book Aroma by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson (Page 43).

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