Typically, each of my chocolate photoshoots (which usually take place on Saturday afternoons) net between 4-8 photos.  My goal is a minimum of two shots of each chocolate (wrapped) and one shot unwrapped (providing the
chocolate didn’t melt in transit, and also provided the mold the maker used was unique enough).

Every time, I find myself saving a few “outtake” photos that are just too good to delete, and going through those now I found a rather accurate picture-by-picture portrayal of the “behind the scenes of a chocolate photoshoot”.

True, if I fast-forwarded to the end, there are photos like this:

Pump Street Bakery Ecuador 60% Dark Milk Chocolate

(Pictured: Pump Street Bakery – Ecuador 60% Dark Milk)  (Due to ordering it in the winter and thanks to Caputo’s stellar packaging, this bar arrived practically pristine!)

But during the entire process, lots of stuff happens.

Things get broken.

99.9% of the time, this candle was used to tack down one of the four corners of the foam mat backdrops I use for 99.9% of my pictures. The other 0.1% of the time it actually got to be in the photo itself. Then one day it got a little too close to the edge of the table and well… It’s gone now.  (Though if I would have thought there was a creative way to showcase glass shards and chocolate together I probably would have kept it…)

Half the outdoors comes indoors with me.

Behind The Scenes of a Chocolate Photoshoot - Venezuelan National Tree

Armed with clippers (and sometimes a basket or a tray), I often can be seen snipping this tree or trimming that bush and bringing in flowers, blooms, and branches. (Apparently I’m not very particular, because I’ve also brought in cactus, berries that may or may not have been poisonous, and an invasive vine*.  I think the purple-tinted burr bushes may be next.)  A few weeks ago some glossy yellow-green neem pods caught my eye and when coming back inside my comment was something along the lines of, “I didn’t know how many sprigs I would need…  So I brought back the whole tree.”

My photography set-up gets hijacked.

While the white background and camera are out, I get asked if it would be possible to work in a few pictures of arduino parts. (Yes, I realize asking nicely doesn’t exactly equal hijacking, but hijacking sounds more dramatic, and I am known for being a little dramatic.)  Sometimes a mini arduino photoshoot includes the meticulous process of taping everything down with double-sided tape.  On the plus side, one can be meticulous with such things without worrying about them melting (unlike my subjects)!

Then there are the hijinks.

Because apparently it’s funny to come in with whatever one happens to be carrying at the time and stick in the shot to see how I react.  This particular time it was a pair of pliers. Other times anything from a phone to a tongue have suddenly photo-bombed my chocolate.

At the end of the day?

Behind The Scenes of a Chocolate Photoshoot - End of Day

It’s a mess.  Everything ends up jumbled together in my hurry to get as much done as possible, and, as always, get.it.done.before.the.chocolate.melts.  It’s a colorful interesting mess, but a mess nonetheless.

There’s even more that goes on behind the scenes of a chocolate photoshoot.  The photo of someone (very dramatically) “passed out” on my floor after trying their first Lindt truffle comes to mind (they really liked it!), but I have a feeling I’d be in more than a little ‘trouble’ if I posted that photo, so…use your imagination!

*That invasive vine I mentioned just happens to be in the Pump Street Bakery photo above.  I thought it was rather pretty.

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You heard me.  Everyone wants me to have a meltdown. In fact, everyone I know wouldn’t mind if I had a meltdown every single week.

But it is not as bad as it sounds.  By meltdown, they don’t mean a hissy fit or dissolving into tears.  Instead, it means they’re waiting for me to literally melt down something brown and sweet and…yes, you knew this was going to involve chocolate somehow.

(Suddenly I am reminded of Rilla of Ingleside and her supposed overuse of italics. I always thought her use of italics was spot on.)

In short, me having a meltdown is code for me making fudge. Or chocolate mint thins.  Or truffles.  Naturally, there is photo evidence of my latest meltdown.

Everyone Wants Me to Have a Meltdown

Peanut butter truffles.   Yes, they are having a very bad hair day (or whatever you say when truffles start sweating because they don’t like the temperature of the photography studio place where I take photos).

The initial plan was to keep all the truffles. After all, it was a four day weekend (plenty of time for plenty of truffles) and there are some definite peanut-butter-lovers in my family (including the dog, who gets to lick the empty jar).  Yet somehow two truffles here and two truffles there went off to new homes and before I knew it there were ten missing. To any concerned parties who thought we were shorted on account of my unapologetic sharing tendencies, we STILL had plenty.  (But yes, I will make you more.  On your birthday.  Which I cannot be fooled into thinking is in March.)

Want to have your own meltdown?  I have some tips:

  • Always melt more chocolate than you think you’re going to need.  Because you can make all sorts of things with the leftovers.
  • Never let anybody watch you handle the chocolate because they will start marveling how it is possible for one person to leave chocolate on so many surfaces.
  • Also never let anyone know you are making anything because they will show up with puppy dog eyes begging for chunks of chocolate or truffle centers.
  • Always make sure there is room in the freezer/fridge BEFORE standing there with messy hands and a full sized pizza pan laden with truffles, wondering where you’re going to put it.
  • And last but not least…either portion off truffles so everyone has their own container, or insist on being around to divvy them up.

‘Cause otherwise they’re gone.

Ps.  The peanut butter truffle recipe is from Use Real Butter.

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“Waaaaaaait just one second,” I can hear you saying.  “Chocolate Recycling? How is that even possible?! Hasn’t she ever heard there are no recipes for leftover chocolate?” Yep. I have.  (Despite Googling just now and finding that to be a total untruth.)  But hear me out.  Part of my recycling story doesn’t involve chocolate itself, and part of my story involves the extra chocolate I melt with the express purpose of having enough leftover to “recycle” into my current favorite “I-made-it-myself” chocolate: Mint Thins

Chocolate Recycling - Homemade Mint Thins

These are incredibly simple and incredibly delicious.  They’re admittedly not the prettiest chocolates in the world, but I could round up at least a dozen people who would testify to the fact that the taste was good enough to make up for what these chocolates lack in the looks department.

Today’s post is brought to you today by the letter E (for Easy) and the number 2 (for the amount of ingredients needed).

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By now you’ve probably noticed a theme.  I like BRIGHT.  I like flowers.  And I like chocolate.

Pictured: Variqui Chocolateria mini bars in milk, dark, and macadamia.

Some friends dropped by while I was photographing these.  It was the perfect opportunity to get more opinions; macadamia ended up being the favorite.

It’s been so rainy lately… so I picked a nice sunshine-y photo.  With chocolate.  Of course.

I was getting ready to tell you about Thanksgiving.   (All the way back in November.  Although it’s the middle of December.  Apparently it’s taken me that long to recover.)

But first, in honor of Chocolate Covered Anything Day, I made this little collage of, well, chocolate covered everything:

Nontraditional Thanksgiving Foods & Chocolate Covered Everything

All pictures are my own.  All opinions are also my own:

Chocolate Covered Bacon:  Fun for something different.
Chocolate Covered Oreos:  Yes.  Oh yes.  Just don’t try this at home.  You might eat too many oreos.  (I didn’t, but I can see how it could happen quite easily!)
Chocolate Covered Potato Chips:  This tasted about the same as the bacon, just not as chewy.
Chocolate Covered Coconut:  Delicious.
Chocolate Covered Celery:  Nope.  Don’t do it.  (I knew it wouldn’t like it.  I did it for the picture, not because I thought it would be incredibly tasty or the next big craze.)
Chocolate Covered Apples:  Also Delicious
Chocolate Covered Pineapple: Very Delicious

Now back to Thanksgiving….

…which usually brings to mind foods like turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and that stuff that some people cook in the turkey (and some people don’t) that some people call stuffing and some people call dressing.  My family was confusing the issue by calling it both.  Next year we should combine the two and call it “stressing”.  🙂

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…but I am celebrating with CAKE.  <grin>   (Chocolate cake, OF COURSE.)

Call me a rebel, call me what you will,
say I’m old fashioned, say I’m over the hill…
(#oldiesmusiclover)

(Yes.  Apparently I am one of those people who mishear lyrics.  All of this time I thought that line from Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll was “call me a rebel”, until I just went & looked it up to make sure I was quoting it correctly.  I was not.  It is really supposed to be “call me a relic”.  I left it as “rebel” because I’ve been singing that way for years, because it fit my purpose better, and because I’m not the only one who thought it was “rebel”. 🙂

my-birthday-is-on-nationa-cookie-day-triple-chocolate-cookies-from-delectably-different-kitchen
These cookies?  Triple Chocolate Cookies from Delectably Different Kitchen.  (They were GOOD.)  Don’t miss the cute recipe video on Youtube!

Cookies and I go way, way back.  Chocolate chocolate chip cookies, cookies that (you might want to close your eyes during this part) don’t actually contain chocolate (lemon cookies or raspberry jam thumbprint sugar cookies are two of my favorites), and of course, regular chocolate chip cookies.  (Strange fact: I don’t make chocolate chip cookies. I EAT chocolate chip cookies, but gave up making them a long time ago.  This stems from the fact they always used to turn out crispy when they were supposed to be chewy.)

There’s just something about cookies.  They’re small enough to have several (unless you live in Seattle – I’ve heard tell of cookies the size of plates in Seattle), great for sharing, can by made in a myriad of flavors…

Someday if I ever have enough craft chocolate I’d like to make special chocolate chunk cookies.  Think: A sugar cookie base liberally studded with Ritual Novo Coffee or Taza Toffee, Almond, & Sea Salt, or any of dozens of other mouthwatering options.   Sounds amazing to me!

Are you celebrating (Inter)National Cookie Day properly (a.k.a. with actual cookies)?  If so, what kind?

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I bring you the latest chocolate happenings…or at least the latest chocolate happenings that amused me, made me slightly sad, made me go “hmmm”….

First, allow me to present my latest favorite chocolate-and-tea-photograph.The Latest Chocolate Happenings - Celestial Seasoings Tea & Chocolate Still Life Photo

Pictured: Orange peels covered in dark chocolate by St. Moritz & Celestial Seasonings fruit tea sampler.  (I love this sampler, though it is hard to choose between wild berry, true blueberry, country peach passion, raspberry zinger, and wild cherry berry.)

The latest chocolate news that made me go hmmmm….

MycoTechnology Uses Mushrooms to Create Sweeter Chocolate With Less Sugar

“By using gourmet mushrooms and their natural cleansing abilities, we are able to train them to consume only the bitter compounds in chocolate,” the company explains on its website. “The mushrooms symbiotically interact with their food source, giving back valuable nutrients otherwise unavailable in chocolate.”

In other words, we will be able to eat more chocolate.  Because there will be less sugar.  Because some mushrooms took special eating classes.  Ok then.  As long as the taste of the mushroom chocolate is in no wise compromised by the mushrooms themselves (and apparently it isn’t, as “they can make great tasting chocolate”) I’m game for trying it!

The latest chocolate news I got quite a chuckle out of:

The Toblerone debacle (as I call it). If you missed all the fuss, it boils down to the fact that Toblerone, when faced with rising production costs, decided to *gasp* widen the gap between each triangle “mountain” shape they are so famous for (therefore reducing the amount of chocolate per bar).

Twitter went crazy.  A search on #Toblerone provided several chuckles.

Apparently this switch means I may be the unexpected owner of two “limited edition” Toblerone bars that could be worth a lot of money if I hang on to them long enough.  (Which isn’t likely.)  (I say “may”, because I haven’t rustled through my chocolate drawer yet to see if the size I have was affected by the new design.  In all the uproar, not everyone realized that not nearly all Toblerone sizes were affected.)

The latest chocolate happening that made me a little sad:

The Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, which wrapped this Sunday (if I have the story straight).  Judging by a slew of Instagram posts, it was one of THE, if not THE, chocolate events of the year (at least in the U.S.).  Quite a few people came away with quite impressive hauls of craft chocolate (Exhibit A and Exhibit B, to name a few) and it looks like great fun was had by all (meeting the people behind the brands, meeting the chocolate aficionados, tasting all that amazing chocolate)…  I am a little sorry to have missed it, but I most certainly enjoyed all the photos.  I saw SO many brands I have yet to try & so many brands that I have tried once and loved (TCHO, Dick Taylor, Amano, etc.)

(One of the) Latest chocolate(s) I tried for the first time:

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate with Quinoa.  While I enjoyed the crunchy dark chocolate itself, I had a blast taking pictures of it.  (Let’s just say by the time I was finished, my mom wouldn’t have wanted the quinoa I “borrowed” back.)  Pictures are coming as soon as I finish sweeping up quinoa from the far corners of my room…

That’s all for now…

 

Alaina Cursive Signature

 

 

 

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If you’re reading this on Friday, October 28th: Today is NATIONAL* CHOCOLATE DAY!

If you’re reading this after Friday, October 28th: Today is the day to belatedly celebrate NATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY!

checkmark-chocolates-the-chocolate-website-gallery-photo

Unfortunately, I will not be celebrating with these lovely chocolates (or praline or bonbons or bombones or whatever you call them!) They were rapidly devoured within minutes of this picture being taken.

My celebration is tomorrow, which may involve:

Nibmor Mint (It depends on if I have time to take pictures.  The rule around here is you can’t eat it ’til after I’ve got pictures of it.)  (Seriously.  When I gave somebody a new chocolate without photographing it first, there were several jaws I had to pick up off the floor.)

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds (Same rule applies here.)

I’m starting to see an alarming trend.  All of my chocolates need photographed before I can eat them, and I may not have time.  Doesn’t that sound like I need to go out and get something I’ve already tried / photographed / enjoyed (ie.  BUY MORE CHOCOLATE)?  (Yes. I know.  You could see that suggestion coming from a mile away.)

Perhaps at the very least I will go online and admire chocolates like Rozsavolgyi Csokolade (Milk Chocolate with Carmalized Lavender Flowers) & Artisan du Chocolat Ginger and Lemongrass Chocolate from a distance.

Or perhaps there will be cookies.  With chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.  Chocolate chocolate chip cookies, to be exact.  Of course cookies don’t exactly materialize out of thin air…

How are you celebrating?

Alaina Cursive Signature

 

 

(*In my book, national = whatever nation you happen to be in!)

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It’s Chocolate Week! In the UK.  I’m not in the UK and have never been to the UK and maybe never will have a chance to visit the UK.  But that’s ok. I have assured myself it can still be Chocolate Week.  Not only that, but I’m sure it’s fine if you pretend it’s Chocolate Week too. Even if you’re not in the UK either.

Speaking of chocolate and weeks, there’s been a lot of chocolate happenings going on at my house in the past few weeks.

#1.  There was that Saturday I made Oreo Truffles, Mint Thins, AND Smores Bark… all in one day.

oreo-truffles-and-mint-thins-and-smores-bark
Yeah.  That was pretty epic.

#2. Ever heard of Funny-Faced Fudge?  I hadn’t either.  It started out as rather normal looking fudge that was placed in the fridge to set up. (Back story: The idea was that if some semi-waxy milk chocolate the boys weren’t eating (or at least they weren’t eating as fast as they normally eat milk chocolate) was melted together with a particularly strong brand of sweetened condensed milk that it might turn into a decent fudge.  Let’s just say it was edible and leave it at that.)  When the pan was retrieved hours later, we were amused to find somebody had scratched a funny face into the top. Sorry, no pictures.  It was evening and my no-natural-lighting picture-taking capabilities are shaky at best.

(I’m sure my brother just snorted when he read this.  Fine.  My no-natural-lighting picture taking capabilities are non-existent.)

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There are some chocolates (or candy with chocolate in them or on them; it depends on who you ask) that can be found just about anywhere on the planet. Like Hersheys.  Or Snickers.  (Disclaimer: Hopefully I’m not starting another passionate debate on what constitutes REAL chocolate. When it comes to  brands, I really don’t take sides.  I have absolutely no problem with talking about M&Ms and Dick Taylor in the same sentence, nor would I have any problem whatsoever with eating both of them in the same weekend.) I’m not a chocolate “snob”.  Nor do I have anything against chocolate “snobs”.  (From what I can tell, they call themselves that, and it’s all in good-natured fun.) (They’re missing out on the M&Ms, but apparently they’re not worried.)  (Yes.  I just entirely overused parentheses just now.)

The Allure of Limited Editions Chocolate - Mantuano Aji Dulce

In contrast with the-found-just-about-anywhere chocolate, there are the chocolates that are found just-about-nowhere. Just as there is a certain allure of limited editions in the wonderful world of literature, limited edition chocolates also exists.  Both are designed to make you feel special.  While I’ve never gotten swept into the limited edition book craze (despite being so much of an avid reader in my youth that my mother had to impose a limit of one book a day to save my eyesight), I seem to be dabbling in limited edition chocolate.

News reached my ears (via social media) that Mantuano debuted a special limited edition chocolate bar in honor of Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe, the 2016 winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize.  Only 500 of these bars exist (if I have the story straight).  Out of those, only 200 were shipped to my neck of the woods.

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Alternate Title: Decorating Homes with Genuine Chocolate Flakes is a Thing…Right?

My apologies for the long radio silence.  Apparently I’ve allowed taking pictures of chocolate and eating chocolate to interfere with writing about chocolate.  (In my defense, how am I going to have anything to write about if I don’t get to play with it?)  The pictures I’ve taken are available on Instagram or right here in the photo gallery.  Thanks to the recent rains, there were fresh flowers available to help decorate some shots.  I thought flowers looked lovely with the stunning (and very tasty) Marou Lam Dong 74% chocolate from Vietnam.

Marou Chocolate - Vietnam - Part of "Making Chocolate Requires Caution Tape"

Today, I’m mainly here to tell you about how much I got teased for the dedication to my art.
(Those are my words. If you would have asked the bystanders, they would have said I got teased because I made a mess.)

Scene: The Kitchen
Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm some weekends ago
Main Cast: Me (Because I was the only one making the mess doing all the work.)
Supporting Cast:  My mom and my siblings (Because they were doing all the wisecracking.)

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Today is World Chocolate Day.  Not to be confused with International Chocolate Day, which is September 13th.  (Actually, that is confusing, but I don’t make the rules.  If I did, every day would be World Chocolate Day or International Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call it.) And what better day than World Chocolate Day to tell you what chocolate-y things I’ve been up to?

White and Milk Chocolate Oreo Cookie Chocolate Bark
(It was a thought to wax poetic about chocolate today, which would have incorporated things such as chocolate having the ability to transform people’s days, inspire new businesses, and even ignite passionate debates on social media… but it’s easier (and a more fun!) to tell you about my latest chocolate exploits.)

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