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A Degree of Sweetness: What it takes to become a Chocolate Scientist
Whenever Peter Higgins (that’s him in the photo, on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast) introduces himself as President & Chocolate Scientist at Purdys Chocolatier, he gets asked a lot of questions about the latter. And since it’s grad season (say conGRADS with our cap-and-gown chocolate collection), we thought why not cozy up with Peter and a box of Hedgehogs for a Q&A?If you’re a frequent reader of the blog, you might recognize Peter from his blog posts on Sustainable Cocoa, most recently the one on our Clean Water Project that aims to raise funds for LifeStraw Community water filters in Ivory Coast. Q: How does someone become a Chocolate Scientist?Peter: I have a Food Science degree from the University of British Columbia. It’s a very hands-on degree, it’s not all studying in a classroom. You get to go out there, learn about different types of soils, you learn about chemistry and molecules that make up food, it’s a lot of practical stuff. That’s the kind of thing that interests me. Chocolate-making is a science, it’s recipes, it’s testing flavour combinations, it’s being creative. I’m using my degree every day. Q: What’s a typical day for you? Peter: I’ve been with Purdys for 19 years now so I feel pretty good about saying this: there’s no typical day. I could be in all-day strategic planning meetings or sampling test chocolates or brainstorming ideas with our chocolatier Rachel McKinley. I also do a lot of TV and radio appearances, I love doing that and getting together with people and sharing chocolates and talking about it. But my absolute favourite is that I have the opportunity to visit some of our farmer partners in rural cocoa-growing communities. I get to witness firsthand the impact of our Sustainable Cocoa Program, chat with our farmer partners, I even had the chance to plant cocoa trees!Q: Was a degree in Food Science always your plan?Peter: Actually, no, I was going to be an ophthalmologist. But at UBC, and other universities I’m sure, you get the chance to tour other departments and get of idea of what they do, what they can teach you. I really connected with the Agricultural Sciences department, I remember thinking it sparked my interest and I just fell in love with it, really. That was it, I switched majors in my second year. Q: Any advice for recent high school grads? Peter: Say yes to a lot of things. You can make a lot of great connections at university that’ll help you later in your career. You can find your niche, find the thing that excites you. It’s a really great time to explore, audit courses that sound interesting, talk to a lot of professors. Just let your curiosity guide you.
Groovy, Baby: Check out Purdys’ fab take on Banoffee Pie
Keira Knightley’s character in the film Love Actually (like Banoffee Pie, it’s another British triumph) attempts to extend an olive branch to another character by way of tasty pastry.We’ve all been there, and Banoffee Pie is probably of the best ways to bribe someone—but you didn’t hear it from us.You can find hundreds, if not thousands, of Banoffee Pie recipes online and it’s now a dessert that’s famous worldwide.But what exactly is Banoffee Pie? Well, it’s an English dessert (hail, Britannia!) comprised of a crumb or pastry base, a toffee filling, and topped with fresh bananas and whipped cream. The pie is often garnished with additional caramel sauce or chocolate shavings and, if you’re feeling particularly sinful, custard or ice cream.Banoffee Pie (originally spelled Banoffi Pie) was invented in 1971 at The Hungry Monk Restaurant in East Sussex by chef Ian Dowding, with some help and encouragement from the restaurant’s owner Nigel Mackenzie.But back to our Banoffee, which packs just as much of a flavourful punch as the original.You can enjoy it on its own or as part of an utterly epic cookie sandwich:Ingredients:For cookie dough:1 cup butter1 cup sugar1 1/2 cups flour3/4 cup shredded coconut1 tsp baking soda1 tsp baking powder1/2 cup brown sugar1 egg1 1/4 cups oatmealFor filling:Purdys' Banoffee1 large bananaInstructions:Preheat oven at 350°FCream together butter and sugar.Add remaining cookie dough ingredients and mix until blended.Roll into 1 inch balls or use a scoop. Flatten dough slightly.Place on pan lined with parchment paper.Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.Once cookies are out of the oven, turn them over with a pair of tongs.Slice each Banoffee piece in half and place on one half of the cookies. The heat from the cookies should slightly melt the Banoffee. If not, warm cookies in microwave slightly.Slice banana onto the other half of the cookies.Squish the cookie sides together to make a Banana Banoffee sandwich!
Put on your baking hats, it's World Baking Day!
It's World Baking Day today!That's a whole entire day dedicated to cookies! crumbles! pies! shortbread! cheesecake!It's also exactly 1 month and 1 day to Father's Day, so we thought we'd do something for World Baking Day and create a recipe that's a cool nod to dads everywhere.Enter Shawn Taylor, Culinary Advisor (and Photographer!) at Purdys Chocolatier. As Culinary Advisor, Shawn has created or collaborated on hundreds of both savoury and sweet recipes for Purdys, either online at purdys.com or for our special eBook collections.And as Photographer at Purdys, Shawn has also styled and shot every single one of your favourite chocolates. We know, we know, it's a sweet job and somebody's gotta do it.Shawn (that's him in the photo with his son) is the father of two impossibly adorable children, and he took inspiration from them: "I’m really into baking and cooking, and I love showing my kids how you get to enjoy something you made yourself and how it’s easy to work with chocolate when you follow the steps."Licorice Caramel Shortbread SquaresIngredients:2/3 cup + 1 tbps butter1/4 cup sugar1 1/4 cup flour, sifted10 Purdys Licorice Caramels4 Purdys Vanilla Caramels4 tbsp cream100 g Purdys Classic Dark ChocolateInstructions:Preheat oven to 350°F.Prepare a 9 inch square pan with cooking oil or line with parchment paper.In a medium bowl, use a mixer to cream 2/3 cup butter and sugar together until fluffy.Sift flour and stir it into creamed butter until mixture is evenly crumbly. Be careful not to over mix or shortbread will become tough.Press into a 9 inch square pan and bake for 20 minutes. When finished, set aside to cool.Cut caramels into quarters and melt in saucepan with cream on medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Be careful not to burn the mixture as the chocolate will melt quickly but the caramel will need another 1-2 minutes to melt. Continue stirring until emulsified, for another 2-3 minutes.Spread caramel onto cooled shortbread and set aside to cool.Chop dark chocolate into small pieces and melt in heatproof bowl in microwave for 20 seconds at a time until melted. Stir in 1 tbsp butter until mixture is smooth and silky.With a spoon, drizzle the chocolate on top of the caramel layer and chill for 20 minutes in fridge or for 1 hour at room temperature.Cut into 2 inch squares to serve.You can also grab the printable version of this recipe.
The real Magic Beans: How cocoa took over the world
No question about it, the cocoa bean is the best bean in the world (sorry, coffee lovers, real talk).We found out some epic trivia about cocoa beans while researching Aztec drinking chocolate recipes.Make yourself a mug of Purdys’ Aztec Spiced Hot Chocolate and read up on these cool facts about cocoa:Ancient South American cultures, like the Mayans and the Aztecs, mention cocoa as part of their creation myth—cocoa was a gift from the gods. This actually inspired the cocoa tree’s scientific name Theobroma cacao, which literally translates to “Food of the Gods”. Originally, chocolate was strictly a ceremonial drink. Cocoa beans were fermented, roasted and ground into a paste to be mixed with water and spices to create xocolatl (‘bitter water’). The Spanish conquistadors took chocolate back to Europe and tweaked the recipe by adding sugar.Soon enough, enterprising bakers took an interest in the actual cocoa beans.In 1828, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, inventor Van Houton created the cocoa press, which separated cocoa powder from cocoa solids. Chocolate bars became a thing, and the demand for raw cocoa was such that cocoa trees (originally from South America) were planted near the equator in regions such as Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria.Want to know where Purdys’ cocoa comes from? We purchase only from 100% sustainable sources that benefit cocoa farmers and the environment. Check out Purdys’ Sustainable Cocoa Program.