Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Not Chocolate?

Since the cranberry sorbet I recently made was just a trial balloon, I needed some unsuspecting victims upon which to unload it. But what to serve it with? I considered lemon & cornmeal sugar cookies. Or a vanilla pound cake with whipped cream. Or soft gingersnap cookies. Or...

... why not chocolate? Why ever not?

And, as it turns out, I'd been looking for an excuse to give you an update on my ethical cocoa investigations. It turns out that the issue is even more complex than it might appear. (Of course.) Since my post re: ethical chocolate, I'd noticed that my go-to chocolatier, Guittard, offers a line of fair-trade certified chocolate chips. "What did that mean about their other chocolates?," I wondered. I shot an email off to the family-owned company and received a prompt reply from Gary Guittard. It turns out that the TransFair USA's certification "Fair Trade," which purportedly entails "fair labor conditions" has some loopholes, namely child labor like unto indentured servitude.

Gary has been involved in negotiations within the World Cocoa Association within the past month on behalf of the Guittard company. He states, The focus of the meeting was West Africa and what needs to be done to alleviate the child labor issues. Basically the problem needs to be approached as a whole. You can not separate the child labor issues from many of the other issues that effect the farmers in West Africa. ...focus and effort (are) being put on West Africa now from the G20, industry groups, and certifiers, but this is a long term issue in which we, as well as others, have invested a great deal of money to help correct. All these groups have to work together and put their differences aside. We are committed to a real and lasting solution.
After a clarifying email, it is obvious that Guittard is committed to being a part of the solution. Their chocolates are not exclusively single-origin or all FT certified. I appreciated his honesty as well as his summary: Cocoa that is slave-free and without forced child labor is how 98% of the cocoa in Africa is harvested. I think you and I would agree that we wouldn't agree with the conditions that do exist for this 98%. The present definition of what is acceptable is not acceptable!

You make the call. Consumer dollars speak loudly. But so do interactions with suppliers and vendors. Be informed. Be vocal. Spend wisely.

I saw some Green&Black's 72% cocoa baking chocolate on sale and picked up a bar. This company offers exclusively organic chocolate from South America, some of which is FT certified. Since certified organic farms must also comply with fair labor practices (which means no slavery, but perhaps "not acceptable" work conditions), buying organic chocolate means also getting ethical chocolate.

And so after much ado... that is what I served for dessert: a dark chocolate gelato, destined for greatness beside cranberry-vanilla sorbet, with a sprinkling of candied orange peel.

Dark Chocolate Gelato

2 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 c half-and-half
1 c milk
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder (unsweetened)
4 large egg yolks

Coarsely chop chocolate. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan bring half-and-half and milk along with 1/4 c sugar just to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add cocoa powder and chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat yolks and remaining sugar until thick and pale. Add hot chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into saucepan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let boil.) If custard is lumpy, pour through a sieve into a metal bowl. If smooth, pour into metal bowl. Cover bowl of custard with a lid or cling wrap and set bowl into a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Chill custard until cold.

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, 1 to 3 hours.

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