I’m a bit late getting posts out this weekend. It’s been one of those weeks. Actually a couple of weeks. We’ve been suffering through a series of migraines. It’s exhausting for Stuart to have them every other day. As for me, it’s a struggle to figure out what is causing them so we can stop the migraines. It took a while, but we finally determined the offending food item and have stopped consuming it. Ta da! The migraine beast is back on its leash.
The migraines were caused by food that had been grown in contaminated soil. Food security is a complicated component of the migraine puzzle. I’ll discuss the science in future blog posts. For now let’s get back to something more enjoyable, chocolate.
One of the challenges I faced as a step-parent was creating a unique birthday tradition for the boys. It needed to be different from the bio-parent’s celebration, but familiar enough to be fun. I went for cake, chocolate of course.
Growing up in America, chocolate bars to me are Hershey’s bars. The thin bars would snap off perfectly and melt in your mouth. In my opinion they are the perfect width for a S’more, providing the right mix of melting chocolate nestled up to the toasted marshmallow. Sure other chocolates taste better, but the consistency of the S’more wasn’t right.
Hershey’s was also an integral component of my mother’s pantry. Hershey’s baker’s chocolate was used to make pudding and our homemade hot fudge. Hershey’s cocoa was used to make everything from hot chocolates to my birthday cake. My mother even gave me a cookbook that she got from Hershey’s by sending in proofs of purchase. It’s a gold mine of chocolate foods.
I used that Hershey’s cookbook to create our birthday tradition. My chocolate loving boys and husband were allowed to pick anything they wanted from the Hershey’s book and I would produce it for their birthday. Anything. Weeks before their birthday I would pull out the book and ask them to pick something. They would spend days pouring through the pages tagging their favourites. We would discuss the pros and cons of their choices and eventually they would decide.
The day would finally come to make their creation. The rule was that you couldn’t help, it was your birthday after all. Your brothers would help and you could watch from afar while we poured our love into the batter, taste tested to ensure it was going to be edible and did our best to recreate the picture of the cake you picked.
It may not have looked exactly like the picture in the Hershey’s book, but it was perfect.
Chocolate can be perfect for migraineurs. You just want to be sure that your baking/cooking chocolate is just that, chocolate. Carefully read the labels to ensure that there are no migraine triggering ingredients. The main culprits that I have seen on chocolate labels are:
- Soy lecithin
- Malted barley
- Yeast extract
- Natural flavours (a euphemism for yeast extract)
- Added glutamates
Soy lecithin is commonly added as an emulsifier to bind the cocoa butter and cocoa together to form cooking chocolate. It is an added glutamate and may trigger a migraine. Clearly soy lecithin is not an essential ingredient, as you can find plenty of chocolate without it. The moral is always read the ingredients label.
If you are looking for a migraine-friendly cooking chocolate, start with organic varieties. Here in Sydney I couldn’t find any migraine-friendly cooking chocolate or chocolate chips at the supermarket, only at whole food shops. My local Harris Farm, who kindly let me photograph their collection, had 12 different types of pure cooking chocolate.
Here are some of my favourite things to do with cooking chocolate. Enjoy my friends.
Something for the Pantry
This old school hot fudge uses evaporated milk to give it a creamy, thick texture. I think it’s the only thing I use evaporated milk for. I’ve tried making it with cream and it tends to split and is not as thick and creamy. The great thing about evaporated milk is that you can get it anywhere you can buy chocolate and whip this up for a guaranteed hit of bottomless hot fudge sundaes. The bottomless refers to the hot fudge, as you let everyone decide their own perfect ice cream to hot fudge ratio. A few bananas or a Migraineur’s Brownie in the bottom of the bowl won’t go amiss.
Migraineur’s Hot Fudge
The perfect chocolate sauce for ice cream.
Required skills: using a measuring cup instead of eyeballing it; melting chocolate at a low to medium heat on the stove.
- 100 gms dark cooking chocolate that is free from preservatives, soy lecithin and other emulsifiers, and added glutamates (malted- barley or dextran) I used Origin Organic Chocolate Ecuador 68%.
- 50 gms salted butter
- ⅓ to ½ cup white sugar, we prefer ⅓ cup to allow the chocolate to shine through
- ⅔ cup evaporated milk
- Metal spoon, water in a wooden spoon will spoil the sauce.
- Sterilised jar
- Melt the butter and chocolate in the saucepan over a low heat. Stir with a metal spoon, ensuring the chocolate doesn’t burn. Turn the heat down as necessary.
- Once melted, stir in the sugar. Continue stirring over a low heat to dissolve the sugar into the chocolate and butter mixture. It will not be smooth, but it shouldn’t be granular either.
- Slowly add the evaporated milk while continuously stirring.
- Cook over low to medium heat while stirring continuously until mixture comes to a boil.
- Remove from heat and pour into sterilised jar.
- Keep unused portion in refrigerator up to one month.
- Can be reheated in the microwave. Remove lid and reheat at 50% power at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until desired temperature.
Reliably Good in a Hurry
These blondies go from pantry to plate in 30 minutes.
Blondies make a great change from brownies. Just like Migraineur’s Brownies, these are a one bowl to the pan simple treat. The brown sugar and butter creates a rich, butterscotchy base for the morsels of chocolate and cherries. Dried apricots and cranberries can work in this as well. These blondies do not have nuts, because for migraineurs, chocolate and nuts don’t mix. It would be a double hit of arginine rich foods in a single item. I think that by up scaling the dried fruit to one that marries well with the chocolate, you won’t be missing the nuts.
Moist blondies that go from pantry to plate in 30 minutes
Required skills: melting butter in the microwave; egg breaking with no shells in the bowl; using a measuring cup instead of eyeballing it; lining a baking tin with baking paper; setting a timer and doing things when it dings.
Migraineur’s Blondies are an easy peasy, one bowl, 5 minute slap together with 20-25 minutes in the oven. Migraine sufferers should avoid mixing nuts and chocolate, but if you are going to indulge, ⅓ cup hazelnuts doesn’t go amiss. These can be serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
- 100 gms butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 50 gms baking chocolate free from preservatives, soy lecithin and added glutamates cut into chunks
- ⅓ cup preservative free dried cherries
- 9 inch square pan
- baking paper
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line pan with baking paper.
- In a mixing bowl melt the butter in the microwave.
- Add in the sugar and vanilla and mix well.
- Stir in the egg.
- Sift in the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture and mix well.
- Fold in the chocolate and cherries.
- Spread in baking paper lined pan, it will be a thin layer.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until Blondies begin to pull away from the edge of the pan.
- Lift by baking paper and place on a rack to cool. Cut into 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Stuart loves chocolate mousse. He’s been known to select it out of the Hershey’s book instead of a cake for his birthday treat. I’m more of a chocolate pudding kind of gal. But either way there is something indulgent about a bowl of chocolate and a spoon.
By the way, eating the previous hot fudge from the jar with a spoon is not the same thing.
I grew up making chocolate pudding, so I had to learn how to make mousse. Chocolate pudding has a hearty, comfort food feel about it. It’s a very different beast as mousse uses whipped cream and egg whites to give the chocolate a light, delicate feel. It took me a while to find the right recipe.
After much trial and experimentation Valli Little’s tribute to Nigella Lawson is my go to chocolate mousse. You can get to the recipe here. But before you run off, just a few words about Valli Little.
Sadly Valli passed away in June this year after a long battle with cancer. For those of you outside of Australia, she was an unstoppable force shaping modern Australian cooking. As the editor of Delicious magazine she wrote 50 new recipes a month. That’s 600 new recipes a year. 600! These dishes are made by generations of home cooks and continue to appear on tables every day. I can not fathom that amount of work. Luckily for us her legacy lives on in that we can readily access her recipes through the Delicious magazine web site and her numerous cookbooks.
Here are my tips for making Valli Little’s Domestic Goddess Chocolate Mousse:
- Since the mouse will need some time to set, you should plan ahead and make it at the latest 6 hours before you want to serve it. Just be sure and put a layer of plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the mouse to prevent a tough skin from forming.
- We prefer just the milk chocolate mousse. I cut the recipe to one fourth and it makes enough for two. This brings the recipe down to a single egg.
- I use 80 gms of Pico Organic Milk Chocolate which contains coconut sugar; so I cut the sugar by half.
- Best served simply in glass bowls with some fresh raspberries.
So my friends, what are your three favourite things to do with chocolate?