Feel that change in the weather? This is the time when all candymakers rejoice, because our days of toiling away in the confection-ruining heat and humidity are over for the year. To celebrate the official start of fall this week, here are five season-appropriate ways to enjoy chocolate.
1. Hot Chocolate
Spice it, flavor it, spike it—there are all sorts of things you can do with hot chocolate. Many high-end chocolatiers make their own hot chocolate mixes. For straight-up, Brooklyn-based Nunu has a great, not-too-sweet, fair-trade/sustainable hot chocolate. Dagoba has a couple flavored mixes, including a chai version that piqued my interest. For spicy, my favorite is Jacques Torres' "Wicked" hot chocolate mix—I don't know what he does, but it always ends up impossibly rich, with just the right amount of spice.
Of course, one of the easiest DIY ways to kick your chocolate up a notch (if you're over 21, of course) is to add a little booze. Bourbon and whiskey are classic go-tos; a touch of flavored brandy or Calvados makes things a little more exotic.
2. Make Something!
This is hardcore baking season and the recipes abound—you have no excuse. I'm all in favor of bringing more chocolate to the breakfast table; this is made insanely easy with umpteen recipes available for zucchini bread, pumpkin muffins, and other fall-friendly quickbreads just begging for a couple handfuls of chocolate chips.
If dessert is more up your alley, you're still not off the hook: pumpkin seed-cocoa nib brittle, chocolate-covered caramel apples, pumpkin brownies. Heck, make a cake or a fruit crumble with chocolate streusel on top.
3. Go on a Chocolate Tour
Plan a road trip to a local chocolate-maker who just might be amenable to taking you on a little spin around the kitchen (if you ask nicely and ahead of time). Or, better yet, make a map of local chocolate shops and create your own tour! That way it's totally customized, and you get all the info from the chocolatiers themselves (plus you don't have to pay for the guide).
4. Make Chocolate Leaves
This is surprisingly easy (once you get the hang of it) and a fun project for an aimless afternoon. You can use them for gifts/favors, table decorations, whatever. The only non-intuitive part (for me, anyway) is the fact that you put the chocolate on the underside of the leaves, not the top. You want all those cool veins and textures to show up on the finished product. This recipe on howstuffworks.com uses shortening mixed into the chocolate to make it temper-free, but hey! Go ahead and temper, now that it's nice and cool.
5. Go to the Chocolate Show
OK, so you sort of have to live in New York (or France) for this. But it's definitely worth the trip if you're headed there anyway. Dozens of producers, large and small, set up shop in the Metropolitan Pavilion for three days of sampling, selling and schmoozing. Demonstrations, panels, and a chocolate fashion show (yes, the clothes are made of chocolate) round out the experience. If you're going to be around for the show, check it out for a day. If not, well, plenty of fun can be had just going through the amazing photos of the fashion show from years past.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.