Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chocolate With Bread

Go On, Butter Me Up

While it has long been the practice of discerning gourmands to pair chocolate with bread — usually by inserting it into the bread, a la pain au chocolate, or by spreading it onto the bread — it has taken a rather long time for someone (a discerning chocolatier, say) to invert the concept, and put the bread inside the chocolate.

This is exactly what Minnesota chocolatier B. T. McElrath has done with its Buttered Toast Chocolate Bar. Lined up on a shelf of other exotic variations, including the now somewhat pedestrian chili, lavender, blood orange, chai, red peppercorn and even bacon chocolate bars, this one stood out to me for being so down to earth. Among all these bars which sounded like come-ons in a foreign language, this one spoke to me in terms I could understand. It said “come on — you know you want to.”

Brian McElrath describes the bar thusly: “We toast breadcrumbs in pure creamery butter and then drench them in our signature milk chocolate.” That would be 40% milk chocolate, which cuddles up to the rich and sweet side in the chocolate spectrum. It’s a richness that lives on in your chest for some time after you’ve eaten a few rectangles. An inspection of the texture reveals a crumbly, grainy solid, dotted through with tiny air pockets not a whole lot smaller than the toasted sourdough breadcrumbs. If I had an reservations about the success of this venture into comfort food, I would say the crumbs need to be a bit bigger so that they can be detected; here, they simply become part of the overall crumb. What’s the point in foregrounding a special ingredient if it gets lost in the mix? If I likened them to sand in a batch of concrete, that would be a bit mean because the bar is not nearly as bad as all that, but it might give you an idea of their role.

While I’m at it, I would suggest that the appeal of the butteriness of the breadcrumbs could be enhanced by toning down the cocoa butter content, which simply nullifies the whole “creamery butter” aspect. All I end up tasting is butter — when it seems I should also be getting a tang of the fruity sourdough to temper it. The addition of salt to chocolate gives it extra dimension; nothing appear added here.

At 65 cents per rectangle, I’d want this to be more special than a cheapo Nestle Chocolate Crunch bar, but ultimately, that’s what it reminds me of. Next time, I’ll just do it the old-fashioned way — spread some melted chocolate on buttered toast. After all, that’s what I really wanted, I suppose. Also, I’ll tell anyone trying to sweet-talk me by appealing merely to my id to take a hike, or in other words, “vamoose!”

Maker: B.T. McElrath (
Bar: Buttered Toast Chocolate Bar
Size: 3 oz
Price $6.50
Calories: 240 per half bar (44% saturated fat)

Ingredients: Milk chocolate (pure cane sugar, full cream milk, cocoa butter, cacao beans, soya lecithin, vanilla bean), sourdough bread (enriched wheat flour, sea salt, malt, yeast), turbinado sugar, salted butter, natural flavor.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Phucking Phacebook

An Open Letter

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

I saw that you got married this weekend. Congratulations and all that. I read that you had one of those “surprise” weddings where the guests think they are attending something completely different — in your case, your girlfriend’s graduation — and find out that they are really attending your wedding once they are safely behind the security fence in order to stay gossiping tongues. Whatev. Your guests probably all said “oh my goodness, what a surprise!” and all that, but what they were really thinking was “that fucker doesn’t trust me? What the fuck. Glad I didn’t buy him a wedding gift.” Not that you need wedding gifts.

What you do need, however, is a sense of occasion. I know you’re all about the comfort and the low-profile etc., but a business suit, skinny tie and cheapo accessories? For your wedding? Dude: your bride went to the trouble of wearing  a dress. A white dress (ahem). The least you could do for the pictures if nothing else, was cast your personal aversion to style aside for one lousy afternoon and don a tuxedo. No wonder Priscilla looks so…grin-and-bear-it in your wedding photos, rather than big-ole-grin. But like I say, good luck with that.

Actually I’m writing because of the way you chose to tell the world your news: via facebook. It’s a lifestyle network, in case you haven’t heard of it. OK, I just made up the definition “lifestyle network,” because that’s what it’s become: facebook fucking rules your whole life. Don’t believe me? You ought to check it out sometime. (My mother once gave me great advice: she said “don’t be facetious unless you can spell it.” F-A-C-E-T-I-O-U-S. Thanks Mom).  

I’m not even using a capital F for facebook because A) if’s so damn ubiquitous it’s moved into the realm of lower-case; and B) you don’t capitalize it yourself. But here’s the thing: doing the cute change-relationship-status-at-the-same-time thing probably worked for you because you’re like, the inventor of facebook, but it doesn’t work like that for ordinary stiffs like me and my new fiancé.

We got engaged yesterday and wanted to be cute like you, but facebook wouldn’t let us. It only let him change his status to “engaged” while it merely cancelled out my relationship altogether. Nothing I did could make it come back. Panic ensued: instead of the cavalcade of congratulations and “likes” we expected, we feared all of his friends would be puzzled and all of mine upset. What happened was that a long time later, I got a “relationship confirmation request” asking me if I was engaged to my fiancé. Only once I’d responded to that would facebook allow me to re-create, from scratch, my relationship with him. And it took even longer for both of our statuses to reflect that we were both engaged. And it took all freaking day for comments posted by all of our friends to show up. And it wouldn’t let either of us reply to those comments and still won’t.

So, Mr. Zuckerberg, I say bollocks to that. You have, like, a hundred billion dollars, right? Surely you can make facebook work, right?

Or is it that now that it’s gone public, you don’t give a toss?

I’d like it very much if you would consider my plight on your honeymoon. If you even had one. Perhaps you can help assuage the mental anguish your invention cost my fiancé and I by donating the cost of a honeymoon to us. Or, say, a wedding. (He’ll be wearing a tuxedo, even if he has to sell a kidney to rent one).