Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Orange Mascarpone Crème studded with Cocoa Nibs & a Foodie Cause

Here's a new creation I made this week after looking through my pantry and noticing the pack of cocoa nibs I'd bought from Dean & Deluca a few weeks back. I immediately thought they'd be great mixed in with a tiramisu-type dessert, except my husband hates coffee so I had to back peddle a bit. Of course I've already shared my love of mascarpone, so that was alright as it was. I made a dinner the night before utilizing some clementines and thought that orange, chocolate and cream would be an attractive combination (there aren't a lot of fruits that don't pair well with chocolate, if any).

What ended up happening..

Orange Mascarpone Crème studded with Cocoa Nibs

1 8 oz. Tub Mascarpone
1 8 oz. Tub Cream or Neufchatel Cheese
1/2 c. Sugar
2 small Oranges – 1 zested & juiced
1/2 c. Heavy Cream
¼ c. Cocoa Nibs
2 oz. Dark Chocolate – broken into small bits & put in microwave safe bowl
4 delicate long Cookies (like pirouette, lace, tuille etc)

~ With an electric mixer blend mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, orange & heavy cream on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Fold in cocoa nibs by hand then transfer this mixture to a large plastic ziploc baggie or pastry bag. Place the bag in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

~ Gently melt the chocolate in a microwave, in small 10 second increments, until almost all the chocolate bits are melted. Stir continuously until completely smooth and let cool for a few minutes. Take a chilled glass (wine, parfait or other) and drizzle melted chocolate along the sides of the glass. Place the glasses in the fridge.

~ Cut remaining orange into decorative wedges

~ Snip off one corner of the baggie holding the cream mixture and pipe into chilled glasses. To serve, stick a long/thin cookie into the glass and garnish with an orange slice. Top with a few more cocoa nib

Serves 4

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Cocoa nibs..
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Chocolate Pirouette Cookies
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This is an incredibly easy dessert that you can prepare in less than 10 minutes (mascarpone is wicked awesome like that). You can dress it up with different flavors, types of chocolate and kinds of cookies like.. keylime, melba (raspberries/currants), blood oranges, meyer lemons, coffee, caramel, balsamic strawberries, figs, pistachios, almonds, mint, mangoes, white chocolate, tuille cookies, lady fingers.. A lot of possibilities. Ooh, I think next time I'm going to go with a white chocolate/melba combo!

Now I'd like to discuss for a bit, a new social issue that is very concerning to me as both a chef and a mother especially.. Child slave labor in chocolate production.

I think it's relatively safe to say that not many of us give a second thought to where that hershey bar/ kit kat/ butterfinger that we're in the middle of enjoying originated from. The United States is the top importer of chocolate in the world (worth $80bn!). And the top 2 cocoa producing countries lie in West Africa – Ghana & the Ivory Coast (together producing more than ½ the world's supply of chocolate). Both are known for their huge child labor trafficking problems. Over a quarter of a million children, some as young as 10, work the cocoa fields of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. They often do this in lieu of attending school and are frequently stolen from their parents and/or sold by family members to cocoa farmers. To learn more about this disconcerting issue, I recommend watching the BBC documentary “Chocolate - The Bitter Truth” (available for viewing as a 6pt series on youtube).

It's a pretty demented reality that while our children are enticed to sell candybars as a means of school fund-raising, it comes at the cost of another family giving up on their own children's education.

I know what you're thinking. How on earth am I supposed to know what products are child labor-free? I know... a lot of producers don't readily market the means of acquirement on their packaging. Luckily, modern consumers are starting a revolution. Fair Trade farming is making a splash – a concept meant to give farmers fair opportunity to sell their goods and fair payment for said goods. The hope is that if these farmers are paid an honest wage, they'll be less likely to need to drive down costs by using slave labor and if they do use children on their farms (which in some instances is completely socially acceptable) that they will compensate these families for their children's work monetarily or by providing them an education. There is a lot more to understand about the issue so I urge you to read through the link.

So when looking to buy chocolate, keep an eye out for fair trade labels on the packaging (reading labels is our most important resource as consumers). Chocolate is also one of those items that are smart to buy organically. West Africa doesn't really grown organic cocoa so, more than likely, chocolate marketed as such is child labor-free.

Let's start saying no to this..
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Where to buy Fair Trade Chocolate and other FT items: