As previously mentioned, Anabel is a phenomenal gift giver and includes a chocolate bar with most every present. Her chocolate selection is always impeccable and, I think, can serve to evidence just how well she knows me. A prime example is my 2015 Valentine's Day care package, which included 2 mind-blowing TCHO chocolate bars: Galactic Gelato and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. (!!!!!)
After finishing the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie chocolate in record speed, I realized that perhaps I should have saved that one to share with my dear mom, rhubarb and chocolate separately being two of her very favorite things. This afterthought spurred a mission to find a local purveyor of TCHO chocolate, which proved surprisingly difficult. (I did come across the brand in Seattle, but sadly only found the more traditional flavors.) I contemplated purchasing a bar online; however the shipping and handling brought the price to $18, which seemed a tad much for a chocolate bar. And so the mission was converted into a cooking project to recreate the TCHO experience.
Reading up on chocolate bar making, I learned that adding moisture is a no-go as it will cause the chocolate to seize, so my initial idea of mixing a strawberry rhubarb compote into the melted chocolate was quickly replaced with notions of freeze dried fruit. While freeze dried strawberries were quite easy to find, rhubarb was not and thus I decided to go ahead and dry the rhubarb myself, which turned out to be quite the challenge (and something I feel I have yet to gain a handle on).
The chocolate did turn out quite beautiful and delicious. And I also learned a bit along the way, including:
1) Home freeze drying tequniques (or at least the ones I followed) yield a slightly leathery product that can not be ground to the fine powder that store-bought freeze dried fruits can.
2) When pouring chocolate, the bottom side of the cup will be the smooth, professional-looking side. Next time, I plan to place the toppings on the bottom of the cup before pouring in the chocolate.
3) If you dehydrate fruit on white parchment paper, the color will transfer and create some beautiful potential wrapping paper.
And because one can never have too much rhubarb in their life, I mixed the extra rhubarb with berries to make a vegan crisp that was super easy and delicious.
The beauty of the crisp is that it is not an exact science and very forgiving-- one of those things you can throw together what you have and end up with a lil master piece.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (NACHO)* Chocolate Bars
2 bars baking chocolate bars (I used Ghirardelli's 60% bittersweet)
1 C freeze dried strawberries
4-5 stalks of rhubarb (aprox 4 cups chopped)
First, wash and chop rhubarb. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange rhubarb pieces such that none are touching. Dehydarte in oven on lowest tempature for approximately 6 hours (and up to 8 hours), occasionally checking (or you can go ahead and use a dehydrator if you have one!). After rhubarb has thoroughly dehydrated, remove from oven and allow to cure (continue to dry out) on counter top, placing the fruit in a bowl with a muslin cloth (I used porous cheese cloth) to allow air to circulate for approximately one day. Place rhubarb on a cookie sheet (or dehydrating rack if you have one) and set in freezer for 4-7 days to freeze dry.
Once rhubarb is adequately dried, place in food processor and grind down as finely as possible and transfer to a bowl, Then grind freeze dried strawberries into powder and add to ground rhubarb.
Now it is time to melt the chocolate. Place a pot of water on medium heat and set a metal bowl atop. Before the water is boiling, add the chocolate to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon as the chocolate melts. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the pot from the heat add half of the ground dried rhubarb-strawberry powder mix. The rest of the dried ground fruit will be added as toping (which you can either place in the cup before or after pouring in the chocolate, depending on desired aesthetic). For chocolate molds, any plastic container will do (I used 4 medium small cups from my IKEA set). After pouring the chocolate in the molds, allow to cool + harden in fridge for approximately 20 minutes. Once the chocolate has set, turn over plastic containers and tap against a cutting board. The chocolate should dislodge quite easily,
*NACHO = Not TCHO (but still delicious!)
Rhubarb Berry Crisp
For the filling
4 C chopped rhubarb
3-4 C berries (I used frozen blueberries and strawberries)
2-3 Tblsp raw sugar
For the topping
2 C Oats
1 C almonds, ground
1/3 C sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 - 1/3 C coconut oil, solid (or chilled butter or olive oil)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the fruit in a 9''x14'' pyrex pan, sprinkle with sugar, and toss. In a separate bowl, add the topping ingredients and use a fork to mix in the solid coconut oil. Spread the topping over the fruit and make for approximately 50 minutes.
Since I went light on the sugar, I served the crisp with a drizzle of honey.