FUN FACTS ABOUT PIZZA

Let’s start our Pizza Week with some fun facts about the cheesy delight itself!

  1. Americans consume about 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni every year
  2. There are about 61,269 pizzerias in the United States
  3. Pizza comes from the latin root word ‘Picea’ which means the blackening of crust by fire
  4. An average slice of a medium-sized cheese pizza slice ranges from 220 to 370 calories
  5. 5 billion pizzas are annually sold worldwide
  6. National Pizza Month is October
  7. The most expensive pizza ever created cost $2,745 and contained edible gold toppings
  8. Pizza used to be considered a poor man’s food
  9. Saturday night is traditionally the most popular night of the week for eating pizza
  10. Anchovies are the least favourite toppings of Americans

– Nomster Chara

Sources: [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

#chocolateweek: Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Perfection comes in many forms. It is the irresistible fragrance emanating from within the oven that pervades the air – the distinct aroma of roasted macadamia, pecans and heavenly chocolate. It is the delectable sight of a cracked topmost surface, revealing a warm and soft interior. It is the dense, crumbly yet chewy texture that brings forth a decadent taste upon eating. It is the perfect blend of bitter and sweet infused with richness, inundating the taste buds with an incomparable and luscious taste.

Perfection is a double chocolate chunk cookie.

Look at that beauty.
Look at that beauty.
Mixing the mixture.

It was already past midnight when we hatched up the ingenious idea to bake these delectable treats. We here at Nomsters Club are big on not wasting food. Hence, we were obliged to use all our leftover melted butter from our previous baking session (refer to this post). The BEST decision ever. We here at Nomsters Club also love a super-soft and chewy cookie. Sinful, crumbly and heavenly: A concoction of pure bliss.

Completed and now onto the baking trays.
Divided onto the baking trays.
Divided onto the baking trays.

After surfing the web for a recipe to use we came across Martha Stewart’s ‘Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies’ recipe. It wasn’t until we completed mixing the ingredients that we realised the recipe yields about three dozen cookies. Well… three dozen cookies is certainly a large number that we didn’t end up baking. It was most likely due to the sheer size of these cookies; they were BIG. Scooping up a fairly large amount of batter using an ice-scream scooper, we only managed to bake under twenty cookies. Twenty LARGE cookies. As they say, quality over quantity. In this case, the quality being the size. Not only were the cookies larger, the amount of batter used attributed to creating a dense and chewy texture. The cookies were intended to be extremely soft, especially in the centre. They certainly didn’t disappoint. Taking a step further to elevate this recipe, we added cashews and macadamia nuts. Without realising it, we actually accidentally used double the amount of chocolate required. But a little more (a lot more) chocolate never hurts. The only thing it may be hurting are our expanding waistlines, but oh well. When something tastes this good, all health consciousness  is forgone.

Is there anything more delightful that a tasty and indulgent cookie? No, not really.

So try it out yourself with the following recipe. Depending on your preference just simply add any other fillings you want.

The beauties have arrived.

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from Martha Stewart)

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen (it depends)

Ingredients: 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, 4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set side.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Transfer chocolate mixture into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until combined.

Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in flour mixture.

Fold in chocolate chunks. (And any other preferred additional fillings.)

Scoop batter using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Place them 2 inches apart. 

Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the cookies onto wire racks.

Let cool 5 minutes. (Hard, we know.)

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. (They probably won’t last that long.)

A creation of pure bliss.
A creation of pure bliss.

– Nomsters Inés (Li Ting)

#chocolateweek: Matt’s The Chocolate Shop

The Matt’s The Chocolate Shop out at One Raffles Place occupies a small cozy booth in the basement. The fact that it has virtually no seating space means that patrons usually drop by to get a take out . We were told that their speciality Tiramisu and Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake is popular amongst the office workers working in the nearby central business district and often lives up to their expectations as a chocolate specialist.

Matthew’s love for baking and experimentation with different recipes allowed him to perfect his unique chocolate cake recipe. He often baked chocolate cakes for his colleagues while he was working in the office and the popularity of his chocolate cakes amongst his co-wokers spurred him to pursue his interest in baking. Soon, what started out as a hobby soon became something more and resulted in the birth of Matt’s The Chocolate Shop. Starting in mid-2012, Matt’s chocolate has since expanded from an outlet in Amoy Street to the second which is conveniently located at One Raffles Place. Here’s our take on the food from the somewhat limited menu of The Chocolate Shop.

AlfQRTMiSjcsfjxiyCT6oRIqsXLhLAAYzFz8ilC2QbEz

One of Matt’s The Chocolate Shop’s speciality is the Double Layer Tiramisu. It consists of ladyfinger biscuits that are heavily soaked with Espresso and Baileys as a base and topped with mascarpone cream that is light and not too overpowering. The cream is good and just about the right sweetness. However, the ladyfinger biscuits were slightly too moist making the Tiramisu too soggy. Overall, the Double Layer Tiramisu is a good treat but is definitely not worth the hefty $10.( In our opinion, anyway)

Rating:3/5

Am0JtbZMBVl_5AJI-R9IiSZI6kMagrJeL8LlTDNZrlYs

Another speciality that Matt’s The Chocolate Shop has to offer is the Matt’s Fudge Cake ($4). Matt’s Fudge Cake, a chocolate caked topped with chocolate ganache, did not impress us as much as the Double Layer Tiramisu did. We thought that the cake could have been marginally more moist and ironically, Matt’s Fudge Cake seemed to not have any fudge in it. Overall, we feel that Matt’s Fudge Cake was overrated and, although it is reasonably good-tasting, it is not as impressive as many people before us say it was. With the texture of moist dirt and what appeared to be sticky icing with thick chocolate water, what was claimed to be the best item on the menu was actually the worst.

Rating: 2.5/5

20150329052601

Finally, the Chocolate Chip cookies($6) was the saving grace of the store. The portion was just enough to fill your appetite for a tasty treat and its bite sized shape makes it easy to chew and eat. The crispy-ness of the cookie is complimented by the slightly salty tinge that elevates the flavour of the cookie and gives it a unique edge. Without being too sweet, the chocolate chip cookies gives you just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.Let the delicious feel of chocolate slowly melting in your mouth allow you to become one with the cookie; pure unadulterated happiness you can hold in your hands.

  Rating: 4/5

On the whole Matt’s Chocolate shop did not really live up to our expectations as a chocolate dish serving specialist. Although, as all the cakes contain half the sugar content of your typical chocolate cake, this could be a longed for alternative for those who are more health conscious. Our verdict? An OK snack to pick up if you’re in the area and craving chocolate, but definitely not something travelling specifically for.

-Nomster Cordelia, Nomster Jayshan, Nomster Lucas, Nomster Markus and Nomster Amrit

ApvI7_iG6unK69R33jrxkjztHFkSfnPwnpzotwy14z08

#chocolateweek: Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ermagad.

Gooey chocolatey flowing centres? yas.

Molten lava cakes is a signature, if not the best, chocolate cake to be worshiped. If you look through the history of all possible dessert permutations, you will find that most of them were created by chance. A slight mishap in the kitchen or what you may call “accidents” have brought about some of the most loved baked goods. People believe it was French Chef Vongeritchen who invented the cake, when he took a chocolate sponge cake out of the oven a little too early. However, some claim Molten Lava cakes have been bringing chocolate bliss to the french for a long time in history.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Rich chocolate batter.
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Dividing the batter in muffin tins.
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Buttered and sugar-dusted muffin holes.

In honour of chocolate, that dark brown sweet rich divine stuff, one must bake Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. Though it has a perplexing molten centre and contrastingly cooked sides, this cake is not (I repeat not) difficult to bake. A simple batter. No magic potions, no fancy tools, nothing mysterious.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
cute mini lava cakes mmmmm.

Usually molten lava cakes are baked in ramekins. No porcelain ramekins in your kitchen? No oven-proof dishes? Got a muffin pan? Good.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I like how this recipe makes 6 small lava cakes. But I love how it makes use of a muffin pan. Muffin pans are life savers when it comes to baking in big batches, which was great for the nomsters cause feeding 8 hungry kiddos (who are bound to ask for second helpings) is somewhat challenging. For you, as glorious as lava cakes are, the experience is only memorable if you have friends or family to share it with. If you ever need a recipe for a large batch of molten chocolate cakes, this one is for you.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Only complete with vanilla ice-cream.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Our first nomsters baking session was definitely what I’d call a success. A super sweet chocolatey success. With minimal mishaps, except for a few egg-cracking tragedies, all was good. The hungry nomsters enjoyed their lava cakes right out of the oven, with the best vanilla ice cream from dreyers to compliment that bomb of a chocolate flavour.

A beautiful crack in the crust, with moist cakey sides, calling you to pry open that wet ooey gooey indentation in the centre. Not too runny or flowy, but the cake yielded an oozing chocolate sensation nonetheless.

This recipe is a foolproof, just for you.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Molten Chocolate Cakes (from Martha Stewart
Makes 6 servings. Double the recipe for a large group.

Ingredients: 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for muffin tins

1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for muffin tins

3 large eggs

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Vanilla Ice-cream, for serving (we highly recommend Dreyers)

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Butter a 6-cup muffin tin. Dust with granulated sugar and tap out excess.

Melt chocolate over a double boiler. (Find out how to here)

Mix the flour and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

On low speed, beat in the flour and salt mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

Beat in melted chocolate until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide batter in prepared muffin tin. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the tops no longer jiggle when the pan is lightly shaken.

Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.

Turn cakes out onto plates with a generous serving of cold vanilla ice cream yum yum.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
That crackled molten centre.

– Nomster Andrea

Chocolate: 20 Fun Facts

  1. White chocolate isn’t actually chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids or liquids.
  2. Eating dark chocolate everyday can reduce your risk of heart disease by ⅓.
  3. Chocolate has an antibacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay.
  4. A lethal dose of chocolate for humans would be about 40 Hershey bars.
  5. At one point in WW2, the Nazis planned to assassinate Winston Churchill with a bar of exploding chocolate.
  6. When the Aztecs ruled Mesoamerica, cacao beans were used as a form of currency.
  7. The largest chocolate bar ever weighed 12,770 pounds.
  8. Tests have shown that people who consume cocoa more regularly have a lower blood pressure, and are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
  9. Chocolate cravings cannot be satisfied by any other sweet/candy other than chocolate itself.
  10. The word chocolate comes from the Aztec word “Xocolatl” which means “bitter water”.
  11. Hershey’s produces over 80 million Kisses every day.
  12. Red wine goes the best with dark chocolate; champagne and sparkling wine are too acidic.
  13. Chocolate is the only edible substance that melts at a temperature of around 33.8 ºC due to the presence of cocoa butter.
  14. One chocolate chip can give a person enough energy to walk 45.7m.
  15. Hershey’s kisses used to be shaped like squares.
  16. The first chocolate bar was made by Cadbury.
  17. To make one pound of chocolate requires 400 cacao beans.
  18. Chocolate is America’s favourite flavour.
  19. The Swiss eat the most chocolate on average: 22 pounds per person, as of 2010.
  20. Research has shown a high correlation between a nation’s average chocolate intake and the number of Nobel prize winners from that nation.

– Nomster Chara

Sources: [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

The Cultural Uses of Chocolate

During the time of the Aztecs in Mexico, cocoa was used mostly as a beverage. The white pulp around the seeds of the cocoa pod yielded wines and drinks, whereas the actual beans were used to make hot chocolate, and were sometimes even roasted and mixed with sugar (a foaming agent), toasted corn and water. Pragmatically, these beans were used as currency and to pay taxes, and the oily layer coating the beans made it useful as protection against the sun. Cocoa also held religious significance to the Aztecs. Believed to have been of divine origin, the cocoa tree was worshipped as a bridge between Heaven and Earth; chocolate was given to their gods as sanctification before making human sacrifices, and the Aztecs believed that drinking chocolate gave them some of the wisdom of Quetzalcoatl, the God of learning and of the wind.

However, that is not to say that chocolate no longer remains in culture today. In the United States, chocolate is used to celebrate special occasions. You might find some in your Halloween candy, or receive some on Valentine’s Day. Easter bunnies and chocolate Santas are common for Christian folk as well. Jewish children receive chocolate Chanukah gelt for Hanukkah—chocolate wrapped in gold or silver foil, just like the chocolate coins we sometimes receive during Chinese New Year. This is also given to children in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands during their St. Nicholas holiday.

In Mexico, hot chocolate may be consumed along with festive foods in celebration of the 12 Days of Christmas and Candlemas. Mexicans also celebrate Dia de la Muertos (Day of the Dead) from 31st October to 2nd November with chocolate drinks amongst the living, and other chocolate offerings for the deceased. Curanderos (traditional healers) in Oaxaca, Mexico, also make use of chocolate drinks: to cure bronchitis, and to ward off strings from scorpions or bees! As part of a customary superstition, cacao beans are planted to rid evil forces and heal those who suffer from espanto.

The Kuna Indians of Panama drink five or more cups of chocolate each day, and interestingly have low incidence of heart disease and cancer. The smoke emitted by burnt cacao beans is used by their shamans (priests who use magic, acting as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds) for medical diagnosis, and the Kuna (indigenous people of Panama and Colombia) also use it to heal malaria and similar diseases.

Quetzalcoatl_magliabechiano
Quetzalcoatl: God of Learning and the Wind

– Nomster Odette

Sources: [x] [x] [x]

Chocolate’s Evolution

Everyone thinks chocolate is simple. Everyone probably thinks Hershey’s kisses are the real deal, but you’re all so so wrong. Chocolate has a history as deep as its natural shade of brown. Let me outline it for you.

Once upon a time, in Mexico near 1000 BC, the Olmecs began cultivating the cacao tree. Yes, you read that right. The Olmecs, not the Mayans. It’s a common misconception. But by 300 AD, it was indeed the Mayans that took over cacao and all its magnificence. They worshipped the cacao tree and named it cacahuaquchtl (pronounced cah-cah-WA-tay), and revered Ek-Chuah, its patron saint. After the Mayans came the Toltecs, and after the Toltecs came the Aztecs, but basically all you need to know is cacao was used primarily as a beverage and as currency during this time. The Aztecs transformed cacao into a drink called cacahuatl or xocolatl, meaning “sun beans”, and they used the golden bean as payment for goods and services. Xocolatl was a foamy mixture of cacao, chili, allspice, honey or vanilla, and Christopher Columbus got really confused when the Aztecs offered cacao beans in trade for his own European goods. Europeans in general were confused with the bitter bean, and so cacao failed to make its way to Europe for another few decades.

Finally in 1528, Herman Coste, Spanish expeditioner and spearhead of the fall of the Aztec empire, brought cacao back to Spain, along with the necessary tools and knowledge to make xocolatl. At first, xocolatl was badly received, but as people got creative and began infusing the foamy liquid with spices like cinnamon and vanilla, the beverage began to get popular among the nobles and royals. The Spanish saw the value of the beans and started cultivating them in their territory near the equator, including Haiti, Mexico and the Caribbean, before importing them back to Spain to be sold. The Spanish were ultra protective of their cacao cultivation and processing secrets because the bean was extremely profitable. They kept this up for a full eighty years.

However, by the 1600s, chocolate had spread across Europe; From Holland to Italy to Germany to Great Britain, France and Switzerland. Chocolate was going vogue. In France, David Chaillou’s chocolate shop, the only shop permitted to sell chocolate, played a huge role in making chocolate the latest fad amongst the French aristocracy. It was exotic, and it’s appeal toxic, and by 1657, the first chocolate house was opened in England. It was basically a place where people paid large sums of money to enter and sip on chocolate beverages together. Chocolate had establishments of its own. Chocolate was that cool.

The 1700s and its industrial revolution had a huge impact on chocolate processing. The steam engine meant faster grounding of cacao beans, and that meant greater amounts of beans could be processed with less time and manpower, and that meant prices plummeted, and soon, most of the working population could afford the treat. 1765 saw the first chocolate factory being built in America by Dr. James and John Hannon. This first chocolate company still exists today and is known as Baker’s Chocolate to the general public.

1847 saw the first chocolate bar being created, and thank god for that. It was a mixture of melted cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar pressed into a mold, and people went nuts for it. People soon began to crave chocolate in solid form as much as in liquid form. But just imagine the insanity that ensued when Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle of Switzerland found a way to incorporate powdered milk into chocolate in 1879, creating the first milk chocolate and forming the world-famous Nestle company in the process.

1879 also saw Rudolphe Lindt inventing the process of “conching”, which involved giving chocolate a much smoother texture by blending it earlier in processing. After this, chocolate establishments began popping up all over the world, from Hershey’s chocolate bars in 1893 to Godiva Belgian chocolates in 1926 to Toll House Cookies in 1930.

Chocolate has evolved from the traditional, revered drink of the gods to snooty, aristocratic fad food to a common household treat. Chocolate continues to evolve even now, as people are ever more creative, coming up with new chocolate flavours like mint chocolate, white chocolate and salted caramel chocolate. We at NOMSTERS believe that chocolate has a long path ahead of it, and will be around for generations to come. I mean, it better be. What else are our grandchildren going to binge on in the heat of a late night study session, or give their beloved for Valentine’s Day? Chocolate makes the world a better place, so let’s keep growing those beans.

chocolate
Xocolatl: An Ancient Beverage

– Nomster Tori

Sources: [x] [x]