Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Search: Part Deux

Good news: I’ve discovered some allergy-friendly, Swiss chocolate! Bad news: I had to make it myself…

Contacting Chocolatiers

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’ve been searching for allergy-friendly Swiss chocolate (dairy/egg/nut-free). Following my visit to Salon du Chocolat in Zurich this spring, I decided to follow-up with a couple dozen of Switzerland’s chocolate makers and vendors to see what if any of their chocolate is dairy, egg, and nut-free.

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Famous Swiss Chocolatier, Philippe Suchard

To date, 12 of the 30 companies I emailed on March 30 have responded to my inquiry. Of these responses, only one company could guarantee a chocolate product free of my son’s allergens: Cailler’s Chocolate Powder (ingredients: sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract). After reviewing their website, Cailler’s unsweetened cacao powder also looks to be allergy-friendly. Please note: In the interest of full disclosure, my emails were written in English, so language could have influenced a company’s nonresponse.

Overall, I received some very thoughtful emails from the chocolate companies, but my investigation continues… In the meantime, I decided to try making my own chocolate bars—something I never thought I would attempt, but it was actually really easy to do.

Making Homemade Chocolate

I found two recipes for homemade chocolate online using coconut oil—a product I’ve found easily at our neighborhood market and Coop (Migros likely has it too, I just haven’t checked yet). As in the past, I used Coop’s bio cacao powder, and voila! Homemade Swiss chocolate that’s safe for my son.

Here’s my quick review of these very, easy recipes. For both of them, I used maple syrup as the liquid sweetener.

Raw Chocolate Recipe #2, The Veggie Nook: I added raisins and ground hazelnuts to this recipe. The mixture was quite thick. So, when I scraped it onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, I had to press it into a bar-like shape. I put it in the freezer, and the final product was a little fudgey. It cut easily with a very sharp knife (i.e., didn’t crack). The chocolate is very dark and rich.

Three-Ingredient Chocolate Bars, Chocolate-Covered Katie: After the first recipe, I was surprised by how this mixture was very thin and smooth (like a thick hot chocolate). I poured it into a pie plate lined with parchment paper and placed it in our tiny freezer to cool. Next time, since the chocolate mixture is so thin, I’ll use something smaller and with a better shape. Maybe my madeleine pan?

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In the end, I would make both recipes again because I like having chocolate on hand that’s safe for our whole family. Luckily, my husband just returned from a trip to the United States, so we have a stockpile of Enjoy Life chocolate bars, chips and cookies.

Mail-Order Chocolate

For those of us that can’t walk into a store and easily find allergy-friendly chocolate, and if you’re looking for chocolate that can ship to your Swiss address, here are a few Europe-based companies. I haven’t purchased products from any of them yet, so if you have recommendations or advice to share, I’ll use the information to update this list.

As a reminder, it’s Food Allergy Awareness Week in the United States (May 12-18). There are lots of great activities and resources connected with this event. Please help spread the word. Thanks, and bon week-end!

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Lots of Gâteaux and Homemade Easter Chocolates

On Saturday, we finished our grocery and farmers’ market shopping early to avoid the crowds. Everything shuts down on Easter Sunday and Monday, so we stocked up in preparation for the holiday. As usual, one of our local chocolatiers had the most beautiful treats, including some gorgeous Easter cakes.

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Inspired by these beautiful cakes, I tried adapting three gâteaux recipes over the weekend. While my baking experiments tasted good, their appearance needs some perfecting. Stay tuned…

Once again, my beleaguered family had to endure all of my baking. We’ve had so much cake recently, my youngest son assumes every meal involves cake. The other night when my husband put corn bread on the table to accompany our chili, the little guy shouted with glee, “Cake! Cake! Cake!” He has most definitely inherited my sweet tooth.

Homemade Easter Egg Truffles

Yes, it’s true. I should have ordered some dairy/egg/nut-free chocolate bunnies in advance from an online retailer for Easter. However, I already had some allergy-friendly jelly beans from the United States my mother brought during her last visit. So instead, I ended up making my own little chocolate egg truffles, using cocoa powder and some of the only allergy-friendly chocolate I’ve found in Switzerland so far (that’s actually made in the UK).

First, I made some vegan chocolate fudge. Then, as it cooled, I shaped it into little eggs (or what I hoped looked like eggs). After that, I put them in the freezer, and while they hardened, melted some dark chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water. Finally, I dipped the fudge-eggs into the melted chocolate and cooled them on a wire rack. Some got sprinkled with cocoa powder.

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I was delighted when my food-allergic son first saw them on Easter morning and said, “egg,” because I really thought they looked more like poop. The chocolate didn’t totally harden, so maybe another round in the freezer would have helped. Regardless, the chocolates tasted good and were (thankfully) well-received by both my boys.

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I hope you had a happy and safe Easter! I’ll try and post one of my new favorite cake recipes this week. Just a little more practice to get it right…

Salon du Chocolat and Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Search

On Thursday night, I had the unique opportunity to attend the VIP Inaugural Soirée for Salon du Chocolat in Zurich. A very special thanks goes out to Kerrin of My Kugelhopf for hooking me up with some tickets (kugelhopf is the Alsatian version of a bundt cake)! In the afternoon, I jumped on a train, and by 6:30 PM, I was sampling delicious Swiss chocolate from some of the world’s finest chocolatiers.

Delicious chocolate and amazing macaroons (one of my favorite treats at the event) from Sprüngli

Delicious chocolate and macaroons (one of my favorite treats at the event) from Sprüngli

Salon du Chocolat Fashion Show -- clothing made with chocolate!

Salon du Chocolat Fashion Show –  clothing made with chocolate! Check out New In Zurich‘s video.

Another new favorite - Zurich's Läderach, and their wonderful chocolate bark

Another new favorite – Läderach and their wonderful chocolate bark

Salon du Chocolat would have been challenging to navigate with our food-allergic son. Milk and/or almonds are likely ingredients in nearly everything at the event. Our son’s allergies also require us to avoid products with traces of these ingredients (and eggs too), which further limits our search for safe chocolate. It would have been cruel to expose our little guy to such glorious treats, and then tell him he couldn’t have any!

Just to make sure, I’m in the process of sending follow-up emails to a few dozen chocolatiers and other vendors from Salon du Chocolat inquiring about the availability of allergy-friendly chocolate. I’ll be sure to spread the word if I make the exciting discovery of Swiss-made, dairy/nut/egg-free chocolate!


Searching for Allergy-Friendly Chocolate

Since arriving in Switzerland, I’ve been hunting for chocolate that’s safe for my son (in the United States, our go-to chocolate was from Enjoy Life Foods, but I haven’t seen these products in Europe). In all, I’ve probably spent a couple hours reading chocolate labels in search of the elusive, Swiss-made and allergy-friendly chocolate. Often times I’ll come close with a dark chocolate, but then there will be that “peut contenir traces de…” label with our allergens, and it’s right back on the shelf.

After all this searching, other than cocoa powder from Coop, we’ve only found one kind of chocolate that’s safe for our son. However, this chocolate bar isn’t made in Switzerland. And, instead of sugar, it contains Xylitol—a sweetener made from Birch trees in Finland (who knew?). Apparently, Xylitol has fewer calories than sugar and is safe for diabetics. While the chocolate tastes pretty good, the main feature is that it’s dairy-free and nut-free (and gluten-free, as well, for those who need it). At 6.40 CHF per bar (!), I would buy this again, but would prefer a less medicinal-seeming chocolate. I want chocolate with good ol’ sugar, and made in Switzerland, if you please.

Choxy from Xylotil UK

Choxy from Xylitol UK

Of course, I could order allergy-friendly chocolate online from the UK or elsewhere, but for some reason, I really want to find a good-quality, Swiss chocolate that anyone would eat—not just one catering to those with special dietary needs. Maybe I’m asking for too much? The Great Allergy-Friendly Swiss Chocolate search continues…

For those without food allergies looking for an amazing Swiss chocolate experience this weekend, check out the Salon du Chocolat, which runs today and tomorrow in Zurich from 10h00 to 19h00 at Messe Zürich – Hall 5, Wallisellenstrasse 49. Bon week-end!

Getting Our Chocolate Fix

As we all know, Switzerland is famous for its chocolate. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I’m delighted about living in such a beautiful, chocolate paradise. It’s hard to resist the aisle devoted to chocolate bars at the grocery store, or the two handmade chocolate shops less than 100 yards from our apartment.

At the same time, I have no problem avoiding Swiss chocolate because most, if not all, contains or has exposure to my son’s confirmed and potential allergens—milk, peanuts and tree nuts. That’s not to say I won’t buy a chocolate bar when we’re at the grocery store. We’ll just wait to eat it until he’s napping or asleep for the night. At 16 months, he’s not old enough to understand his allergies yet and why his older brother can have chocolate, but not him.

Since we’re still relatively new to these allergies, I’m learning about allergy-friendly chocolate options. My go-to chocolate substitute here is Coop’s organic cocoa, but I’m on the hunt for an allergy-friendly chocolate bar. An American living here in Switzerland recently recommended some online retailers in France that could have allergen-free chocolate and other products for us, which I have yet to check out: Allergoora, Parallerg, and Natâma.

One of my favorite allergy-friendly recipes for satisfying chocolate cravings is Crazy Cake. A neighbor in Minnesota introduced this to my mother, who made it throughout my childhood. It’s a Depression-era cake, so the cost-conscious recipe doesn’t call for any eggs or dairy. I’ve made it as a layer cake, sheet cake and Bundt. When you make it as a sheet cake, you can mix the ingredients in a 9 x 13-inch pan with a fork, which makes it fun for kids. Here’s the recipe, and it’s super easy.

 

Crazy Cake

1/3 cup cocoa
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
3/4 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla (or vanilla sugar or rum)
2 cups water

Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa into ungreased 9×13-inch cake pan.* Make three wells in the dry ingredients and add oil, vinegar and vanilla in each of the wells. Pour water over all and blend well with a fork, but do not beat. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

*Please note: For a Bundt cake, it’s easier to mix the ingredients in a bowl and then dump them into a floured Bundt pan (I recommend using cocoa powder instead of flour). You will also have to adjust the baking time to about 50-60 minutes. For a layer cake, also use floured pans and decrease the baking time to about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pan.

Updated: July 2, 2014