Graycliff Chocolatier, Nassau Bahamas

I didn’t mean to leave you. Ok, I take that back. I did mean to leave but not until I published a few more posts. But (there is always a ‘but’ isn’t there?) somehow a trip to the Bahamas consumed my every thought from January 2nd until we boarded the plane to escape the dreary cold of the Midwest.

I baked and delivered, and baked some more. I caught up on laundry, packed my bag, stocked the house with food, laid out clothes for the kids, wrote a detailed note, and left my little people and husband behind. Before long I was boarding a cruise ship with five of my closest lady-friends for a short, but restful, weekend.

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The first day we arrived in Nassau, Bahamas and promptly left the ship for (what turned out to be) a long walk to Graycliff Chocolatier. The only chocolate factory in the Bahamas, it is located on the Graycliff estate which also holds a five star restaurant, mansion hotel, pool cottage and cigar factory. Said to be built in 1740, the various buildings sprawl across a small cliff and little courtyards and gorgeous tropical gardens greet you at every turn. Being the curious bunch that we are, the short walk to the chocolatier was lengthened by stops and detours along the way to view various terraces, dining rooms, and outdoor gathering spaces.

The tiny chocolate shop smelled amazing, and looked even better. The cases were lined with perfectly formed candies containing wondrous flavors such as brandy, rum, caramel, pistachio and even bacon.

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We were enthusiastically greeted by two ladies. Both local Bahamians, they were obviously (and rightfully) very proud of the shop and took us through a back door to the inner workings of the company. Our guide handed around disposable hospital-gown-looking garments for the tour and proceeded to give us a thorough introduction while we adjusted our new attire.

The chocolatier is located in a converted house. We wound our way through halls, passing storage rooms, dish tanks and an office, and finally arrived in the heart of the operation. Probably once a large great room, the walls were white, ceilings high, and machinery lined the walls and made an isle down the middle. Two employees stood working at various contraptions which spewed white chocolate in beautiful ribbons.

Our time in the main production room was brief and our next stop was to an adjacent room. One half contained three pieces of machinery for processing cocoa from the bean, and the other half was lined with tables with enough place settings for our group.

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This is when the real fun began! We were given a large cup of tempered chocolate and a mold embossed with the Graycliff logo. Following our guide’s directions, we polished the mold with cotton, then poured the chocolate. A plate was provided with generous helpings of granola, coconut, chocolate chips, sliced almonds and we added our favorite flavors to our own personal bar. A few thunks of the mold on the table, and they were set aside to cool.

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The rest of the chocolate was ours to be as creative as we wanted to be. I opted to make chocolate drops with various toppings.

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We were given a Graycliff cigar box to package our creations and our molds containing the graycliff bar were ready to be released.

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We had a fabulous time learning about the bean to bar process, getting messy with our own creations, and an even better time consuming them once back at home in the cold Midwest. With every bite I can feel the warmth of the ocean breeze, can hear the laughter of my girlfriends, and let my shoulders relax a little.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Graycliff Chocolateir, nor have I been asked, paid or encouraged to write about it. It is simply a great little excursion I took while relaxing on a short vacation.

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Chocolate Caramel Surprise Cookies (Plus BONUS Gluten Free Version)

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It was Independence Day and we were gearing up for our annual BBQ and Ka-Boom Party. It took me a while to get everything in order since fatigue would set in without notice. Once it was finally all set, I anxiously awaited our guests, especially Spunky Girl.

Mystery Man and I had been keep my pregnancy a secret, as most people do for the first trimester. But, she was the one friend that I looked forward to sharing my news, and I knew she would keep it quiet until I was ready.

Friends and neighbors started piling in. Family by family they handed me covered dishes, grabbed a cold drink, and headed out to the heat of the back deck to the smell of meat on the grill.

The moment Spunky Girl arrived we headed upstairs to my closest for our continuous exchange of borrowed clothes. I gave here my ‘I know something you don’t’ slanted grin. She took the bait and asked what was up. As I shared the news, suddenly, her face started to change. A ‘I know something you don’t’ slanted grin came over her.

“No!”

“Yes!”

Not only were we both keeping a secret, our due dates were within two weeks.

As we shared in the journey of pregnancy, we also shared our most lethal cravings. Spunky Girl brought these cookies to me and I was hooked with the first bite. You obviously do not have to be pregnant to enjoy, but if you crave a chocolaty, salty, caramel trifecta on occasion, these are your cure.

Keep scrolling for the Gluten Free option…

Chocolate Caramel Surprise Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour, plus 1/4 cup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Heath bars, chopped, or 1 bag Heath chips (or skip the Heath topping and opt for salt flakes)
6 rolls Rollo Caramel Chewy candies

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a stand-mixer bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar.. Mix on medium for about one minute or until mixture is fluffy, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Add eggs, one at a time. Then add vanilla. Scrape down bowl if needed.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
  • With the mixer on low, add flour mixture a small amount at a time making sure each addition is mixed in thoroughly before adding more. (if you have a splash guard for your mixer, now would be a great time to use it.)
  • Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Place Heath pieces in a small bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon sugar.
  • Measure out chilled dough with a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop. Wrap each portion around a Rollo candy, totally encasing the candy with the dough and rolling it into a ball.
  • Press each ball into the Heath mixture, covering just 1/2 of the ball (or sprinkle the top with a bit of salt.)
  • Place three inches apart on a cookie sheet, Heath, or salt, side up.
  • Bake 7-10 minutes. Cookies should look cracked and slightly undercooked in the center.
  • Allow cookies to cool five minutes before transferring to a rack. (This is important – if you place them on the rack too soon, the caramel will run out the bottom and through the rack onto your counter.)

NOTES: Can be transformed into a chocolate/mint cookie by substituting mint Hershey kisses for the Rollos, and crushed candy canes for the Heath topping.

GLUTEN FREE Chocolate Caramel Surprise Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

12 ounces semi sweet chocolate (chips, or chopped)
4 ounces gluten free flour blend**
3/4 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup packed) light brown sugar
1 3/4 ounces (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted, then slightly cooled)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 Heath bars, chopped, or 1 bag Heath chips (or skip the Heath topping and opt for salt flakes)
(Check your Heath bar label for gluten contents!)
3  rolls Rollo Caramel Chewy* candies

* Although Rollo Caramel Chewy candies are not labeled gluten free, the ingredient list does not reflect any gluten. As always, do your own research for gluten free items and substitute accordingly.

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

Preparation:

  • Microwave semisweet chocolate in a bowl at 50 percent power, thirty second sessions, until melted (stirring between sessions). Let cool slightly.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together measured flour blend, cocoa, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum, set aside.
  • In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, oil, melted butter, vanilla, and espresso powder.
  • Whisk in slightly cooled chocolate. Combine until smooth.
  • With rubber spatula, incorporate the flour mixture until a sticky dough forms and no white streaks are left behind.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 30 minutes.
    (Do not short change the resting period of the dough, or the cookies will be slightly gritty and not as chewy.)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Measure out chilled dough with a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop. I find applying vegetable spray to the scoop helps keep the dough from sticking. Wrap each portion around a Rollo candy, totally encasing the candy with the dough and rolling it into a ball.
  • Press each ball into the Heath mixture, covering just 1/2 of the ball (or sprinkle the top with a bit of salt.)
  • Place three inches apart on a cookie sheet, Heath, or salt, side up.
  • Bake 12-14 minutes. Cookies should look cracked and slightly undercooked in the center.
  • Allow cookies to cool five minutes before transferring to a rack. (This is important – if you place them on the rack too soon, the caramel will run out the bottom and through the rack onto your counter.)

NOTES: Can be transformed into a chocolate/mint cookie by substituting mint Hershey kisses for the Rollos, and crushed candy canes for the Heath topping. Again, check any substitutions for gluten contents.

Chocolate Souffle and Espresso Creme Anglaise

I am risking something big.

Right now.

I am risking revealing something about myself that some of you might not know. I am exposing that I am spoiled. Rotten. I am confessing I am a food snob.

And spoiled.

Mystery Man and I have eaten at a five diamond restaurant in Orlando for every single anniversary. Named Victoria and Albert’s located at the Grand Floridian Re­sort at Disney World. The first year was a mistake of sorts. We were originally at Disney to skate an Inline Marathon. It happened to be scheduled during our anni­versary so we made a vacation out of it including dinner at V&A’s.

Year number two was the same story, only this time we brought friends, the mara­thon was rained out, and we scored the Chef’s Table.

“Chef’s Table?” You ask?

Literally in the kitchen. Where the Chef cooks for you.

and only you.

and comes to you and describes the dish in detail.

toasts you with Champagne.

and it is Heaven.

Year three the Marathon was no-more so we had no plans to travel to Orlando. About a week prior to our anniversary Mystery Man turned to me and asked where I would like to go, or what I would like to do for our anniversary. I playfully replied “ummm, duh. V&A’s.” He played along and said he would be game if I could find air­line tickets for a-hundred bucks.

I did.

We literally flew in, enjoyed our dinner, and flew out the next morning. That’ll teach him.

Year four we repeated year three. Yes, I am the master at finding air fare deals.

Year five we returned with another set of friends. The Chef’s Table was again at our disposal. It. Was. Wonderful.

And then there was year six. Oh, year six.

We just had our son three months prior and the plan was to stop the V&A’s trip at year five. After all, we should really branch out, right?

Mystery Man had a conference in Ft. Lauderdale the week of our anniversary, so the little one and I were going along to relax at the sunny resort while he worked. Sounded just fine to me.

I boarded the plane, sat down, and struggled to adjust the baby and a seat belt. I settled in and took a look at the stranger sitting next to me, waiting to get a look of “oh great, I have to sit by a baby…”  I found it was no stranger. It was my Mom.

“What the….!”

She handed me a piece of paper and snatched the baby out of my arms. The paper was an itinerary for a side trip to Orlando while Grandma watched the baby. A res­ervation confirmation for V&A’s was included. Mystery Man had pulled a fast one.

The years go on and on and yet we still return to taste the chang­es in the menu, the small tweaks in recipes and the newest fads in fine dining.

But, enough about how spoiled I am because you are about to benefit, and benefit big my friends. How do you feel about making a five star restaurant dessert right in your kitchen with all the steps laid out in front of you? “Bring it on!“ You say? Fine, but I don’t ever want to hear you talking behind my back about how rotten I am.

This is a souffle that I have created with helpful tips from the Pastry Chefs I have hounded in numerous restaurants, mainly V&A’s. I have this way of asking questions, mainly about method since I can usually tinker with ingredients in my own kitchen. It’s a wonder they don’t lock their doors when they see me coming. But, lucky for you they still take our reservation.

Chocolate Soufflé

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter and sugar for preparing dishes
8 oz bittersweet chocolate – chopped (the best you can find!)
6 large eggs (separated)
1/8 t. salt
½ t. cream of tarter
¾ c. sugar (divided into ½ c. & ¼ c.)
1 t. vanilla extract or 1 T. Cointreau

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat  400 degrees. 8 1-cup soufflé ramekins and dust the bottom and sides with sugar. Cut strips of parchment paper long enough to wrap around the ramekins and two inches taller than ramekins. Make a sleeve using chef’s twine around each one. Place on a large cookie sheet.

Melt the chocolate by placing in the top of a double boiler nested over barely simmering water (not touching). Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly. (Or melt in the microwave in 30 second increments.)

BY HAND:

In a large, clean bowl, whisk together the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter with a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Slowly add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

OR

BY MIXER:

In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the whip/wire attachment or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter on medium high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale in color. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of the sugar and the vanilla.

Using a rubber spatula add small amounts of the chocolate to the egg white mixture and fold until completely combined and no white streaks remain. (Stirring will deflate the whipped egg whites and will result in a heavier souffle.

Spoon into the prepared dishes until nearly level with the top of the dish. When the souffle rises the parchment sleeve prevents overflow and encourage height for a light and fluffy souffle.

Bake the soufflé until set, puffed, and the center still jiggles when the dish is gently shaken. 8-12 minutes.

Using tongs, place souffles on cool dishes, remove string and parchment paper.

Serve immediately! With Espresso Creme Anglaise.

 

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Espresso Crème Anglaise

Ingredients:

2 c. heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
½ c. sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso (Jessica’s Note – or use a double shot of straight espresso)
1/8 t. cinnamon
2 T. brandy
1 t. vanilla extract

Bring the cream to a gentle boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until slightly thickened and  lemon-colored. Slowly whisk ½ c. of the hot cream into the egg mixture – careful not to cook the eggs. Whisk in the coffee and cinnamon. In a slow, steady stream, gradually add the egg mixture to the pan of remaining hot cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or reads 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Put mixture through a fine mesh strainer, if needed.  Add the brandy and vanilla and mix well. Serve with Chocolate Soufflé immediately.

Note:

To use later, press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent skin forming. Refrigerate.