Cultural Notes

 

ec0-chocomaze

While we were in Slovakia, we had an amazing opportunity to visit the CHOCOMAZE workshop and try our hands at making some beautiful—and delicious—chocolate treats.

CHOCOMAZE is based in Komárno, our sleepy home town in Slovakia. It was founded in 2013 by Katalin Vargha, and while it’s still a small business, it has already received recognition from all over Europe. CHOCOMAZE specializes in handcrafted chocolate bars and delights; and not only did we get a peek at how they do all this, we got a chance to make our very own treats with the help of the lovely Marti, who herself has only been working at CHOCOMAZE for about six weeks! 

We closely examined all the different add-ins that they have to work with!

First, Marti showed us the tempering machines. They have two, one for milk chocolate and one for dark. Tempering helps the fatty acids in the chocolate crystallize into a more stable, which gives the finished product a glossy look and a nice snap when you bite it. Very important! Here’s a good explanation of tempering.

 

Our first volunteer worker chose to make white chocolate heart lollipops. For a little added flair, we also used edible ink transfers on one side. Marti prepared the mold, placing the ink transfer paper on one side. One of the main components of the ink is cocoa butter, so it practically melts into the surface of the chocolate bar.ec2-chocomaze

 

The white chocolate was already in a warming pan, but needed a good stir, and then Marti used the cool marble slab to get it down to the right temperature for molding. This was mesmerizing to watch. Since we were the only ones eating this product, we used a very simple instrument to see whether the chocolate had reached the right temperature: the finger test! White chocolate should be about body temperature when it’s ready to work with.

ec3-chocomaze

 

Marti drizzled the chocolate into the molds, then tapped them to get rid of any bubbles.

ec4-chocomaze

 

She added the sticks, and it was time to decorate!

Volunteer worker number two went for dark chocolate mignons. Since the chocolate came straight from the tempering machine, there was no need to cool it on the work surface. The tempering machine even has a setting to jiggle the bubbles out of the chocolate.

 

ec5-chocomaze

 

Then the chocolate goes in the fridge to continue cooling and solidifying. CHOCOMAZE does every step by hand, even the packaging. So that’s what we did too.

ec6-chocomaze

 

It was too bad that we had just a few too many to fit in the box, so we had to eat them. The sacrifices we make! Everyone gave the finished products a big thumbs-up. The chocolate is rich and melts in your mouth, and we all approved the choices of tart dried fruits and little crispy dragées. We certainly gained an appreciation for the painstaking work it takes to produce these beautiful creations. If you’re in Slovakia or Hungary, you can try CHOCOMAZE’s treats for yourself. You can even special order your own mix of chocolate flavors and add-ins.

 

Thank you Marti, Kati, and CHOCOMAZE!

Save

Save

Save

Hey! The blog has been really quiet for ages (years!), I know. But we’re back in Slovakia for a few weeks, so we thought we’d share some thoughts and pictures from the old homestead. We’ll try out some recipes as well.

yogurt granola parfe 4

One of the first things we noticed was how much the food culture here has improved. Score! I used to tease Valerian because he always reads the supermarket circulars that come in the mail (which go straight to recycling in California). But they’re actually worth a look these days; while the pictures of raw chicken are still a feature, there are so many new products! There’s chia seeds, hummus, fancy cheese, and yes, that’s Ben & Jerry’s!

Circulars

Really, though, we’ve come for nostalgia: utopenci, Mila, kifli/rožok, lángos, yogurt and all the candy. There’s even a retro version of the local beer, isn’t it cute?

Pheasant by bowl

When we moved to our house in Slovakia, we were so excited to have a huge garden. We went a little crazy planting trees, which were still skinny saplings when we left. No longer! We have a jungle out there.

IMG_20160620_224321

The plums were sadly shut out by a late frost, but the cherries are loaded–we have a long-suffering old tree in the front of the yard, and back in the orchard, we have several varieties of both sweet and tart/cooking cherries. Apples and Asian apple-pears are on their way, and possibly even before we leave there will be peaches ready to eat.

Valerian created a “berry alley,” which is now overgrown into more of a patch, with plenty of raspberries, some struggling gooseberries, and rampaging currants both black and red.

yogurt grnola parfe 5

Years ago when I visited a Swedish friend at her home near Stockholm, she served an amazing dinner and afterwards, took us out to her back yard where she had a thicket of red currant bushes at the edge of a lake. We filled a bowl in the late twilight of the far north, and then brought the berries back in where my friend crushed them with a little sugar and served them over vanilla ice cream. It was a simple and splendid way to finish the evening.

yogurt granola parfe 2

We do love our European yogurt, so I was inspired to layer up some parfaits to celebrate our summer return. Easy and festive! Maybe you’ve had red currant sauce at Ikea, or tried black currant jam; if you see some in the produce section, snap up a pint and try this recipe (or just substitute another berry). If you can’t find currants, raspberries or blueberries are just as delicious, and probably need less sugar.

Granola and currant yogurt parfaits
Serves 4
Crispy granola, creamy yogurt, and sweet-tart currants make a satisfying breakfast or, with a drizzle of honey, a festive dessert
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the granola
  1. 2 cups oats
  2. 1 cup slivered almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups puffed rice
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
  6. 1/3 cup honey
For the parfaits
  1. 2 cups red or black currants, or a mixture (about a pint), or another berry
  2. 2 tsp. granulated sugar or to taste
  3. 4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
First, make the granola
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in oil and honey. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir gently, then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stirring to get nice chunks of granola.
While the granola bakes, prepare the currants
  1. In a medium bowl, gently crush the currants with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sugar.
Create the parfaits
  1. When the granola is cool, layer the yogurt and currants in four jars or glasses. Top with the granola (you'll likely have leftovers). Top with additional honey, if you like a sweeter treat!
Notes
  1. Granola adapted from Megan Gordon, A Sweet Spoonful
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
Save