How Sweet It Is! Feeling Better about Hershey.

You kind of have to hand it to Americans. We can turn anything into a reason for consumption. The journey from a day honoring early Christian martyrs to the World’s Largest Inflatable Heart is by no means direct.

But whatever. Chocolate is yummy.

Anyway, I wanted to take this Valentine’s Day to remind you of the problem of child slavery on cocoa plantations. It’s real. It’s bad. But encouraging signs are appearing…

Hershey’s recently released an announcement that by the end of 2012, 100% of the cocoa for their Bliss line of chocolate will be Rainforest Alliance Certified–meaning that the production of this cocoa will meet third-party standards for environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. Additionally, Hershey’s has promised to invest $10 million in West Africa for various educational and development initiatives intended to improve the lives of cocoa workers. (Beings that they netted $510 million in 2010, that’s not a lot, but okay.)

There’s still farther to go–Bliss and Dagoba represent a mere fraction of Hershey’s brands, which include York, Mounds, Almond Joy, LifeSavers, BreathSavers, Reese’s, Heath, Jolly Ranchers, Mauna Loa, Scharffen Berger, Twizzlers, and many more. They could do more. We can do more.

It’s movements like Raise the Bar, Hersheys! that raised awareness enough to put pressure for these small changes. Now, an eighth-grader from Philadelphia, Jasper Perry-Anderson, has created a Change.org petition to petition the trustees of the Milton Hershey School to put pressure on Hershey to take more pointed measures at ending child labor and human trafficking in the plantations from which they source ingredients.

Why not sign the petition? It’s kind of the least we can do.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

you NEED to make these cookies!

This is what my mom and I will be baking this weekend, as the week ahead holds the traditional cookie-exchange parties and other standard church-lady get-togethers. It is a seriously yummy cookie–almost chewy-brownie-like, yet still a cookie–perfect with a glass of milk.

It’s kind of like:+ (PLUS) +

YUM.

I brought some to the library (to thank them for their unending patience with my unending interlibrary loan piles) and to A.’s violin teacher (also a fount of unending patience.) Plus, Tim took some to work.

(And I may or may not have eaten one with milk before dinner. Don’t tell.)

And so:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

1 cup of butter

3/4 cup of brown sugar

3/4 cup of white granulated sugar

When light and fluffy, beat in thoroughly:

1 large egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Meanwhile, blend together with a wire whisk IN A SEPARATE BOWL:

1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

3/4 cup of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Pinch of salt

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just blended–do not overbeat.

Fold in:

1 cup of peppermint bark, whirled a few times in the food processor

(For the bark, you can substitute 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate and 1/2 cup broken peppermint stick pieces)

Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart. Bake in center of oven for 6 minutes, rotate pan, bake another 6 minutes.
Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

{Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies. Inspired, as many things are, by Elise @ Simply Recipes.}

MAKE SOME TODAY!

In Which I’m a “Good Girl”

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook has a classic recipe for French pots de crème [say “po de khrehm”] a delicious, airy, not-too-sweet chocolate mousse. I made it for Mr. and Mrs. S a few weeks ago and again on Saturday as the finish to a meal of green beans and pasta with meat sauce.

Actually, despite what Fannie says, I think these are not true pots de crème–according to the Wikipedia article, pots de crème are baked in a water bath, like a custard. These are, I think, mousse au chocolat. Oh, well. Fannie was not necessarily known for her command of French cuisine.

Any Francophiles want to weigh in on this? Nora?

Whatever you call it, this stuff is good. Fair warning, though: they contain copious amounts of raw egg. I’m pretty comfortable eating raw stuff–provided that I know it has come from a clean environment–but I don’t feed it to my kids.

Which means more for me, hooray!

Oh, yes. And the “conscience” part. Mousse au Chocolat or pots de crème or whatever you call them typically call for melted chocolate. Yes, I could buy fair trade chocolate bars (see yesterday’s post) but I didn’t have any on hand. What I do have is some lovely fair trade organic Dutch-process cocoa, which we use for making chocolate birthday cakes and hot chocolate.

{here are some cocoa farmers in Uganda who are able to make a living wage selling their beans for a fair price.}

And it can be used to make mousse au chocolat, too!

Maybe not the classic recipe or technique, but it sure was good, especially with super-fresh farm eggs. Be sure your cocoa is Dutch-process–it makes a big difference; it’s milder and much, much smoother.

[Mrs. S. said: “This was delicious. You’re a good girl.”]

Well, shoot. Just when I think I’ve given to someone who can’t repay, she goes and does just that.

Here’s my recipe:

Melt together over low heat:

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons fair-trade Dutch process cocoa powder

6 tablespoons sugar (fair trade!)

2 tablespoons water

Meanwhile, separate:

4 eggs

Beat the whites until stiff and glossy and set aside.

Beat the yolks until very thick and lemon-colored, and then beat in the cooled, melted chocolate mixture. Beat in:

1 teaspoon each of vanilla extract and rum or brandy

Gently, gently, gently fold in the whites. Spoon into small cups or glasses (about 1/2 cup in each). Chill, covered, for 12 hours.

Serves 4-6

Real Halloween Nightmares

I have always loved candy, but I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating when I was a kid. The prevailing sentiment in the churches we attended was that Halloween was a “devil’s holiday.” We had “harvest parties” instead. I certainly never was lacking for candy around the 31st of October.

My kids haven’t gone trick-or-treating either, but that’s mostly because we’ve lived overseas for most of their lives; last year, we were here, but Aidan had a broken leg and getting him around to go trick-or-treating was pretty much out of the question. So far, then, I haven’t had to give a great deal of thought to Halloween candy.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m not opposed to letting my kids have sugar. We went to an Easter Egg hunt at the state park in springtime, which (brilliantly, I thought) had receptacles for unwanted candy to be redistributed to needy kids who hadn’t been able to attend. I think the food traditions in a culture–trick-or-treating, cupcakes at school for birthdays–are kind of nice. If there’s any beef I have at all, it’s that the ordinary days are a bit out of control.

[What’s the point banning birthday cupcakes at school if the kids get access to soda and sweet snacks from vending machines at school?!?]

Simplify our ordinary days, that we may be able to enjoy a good celebration.

The last thing I want to do is be a killjoy who takes candy from kids. But what if that candy takes kids from their parents?

In West Africa, an estimated 200,000 children are enslaved on cocoa plantations. And major chocolate producers like Hershey’s get their cocoa from these places.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Fair trade chocolate exists. When you buy a certified fair trade product (like chocolate or coffee), you pay a little extra, but it means that the working conditions have been found to meet certain minimum criteria, and that the workers have been fairly compensated for their work, and, most importantly, that they are not victims of trafficking. (People who have been moved to a different location and/or held there under force, fraud, or coercion.)Chocolate’s no longer an exotic luxury; for most of us, it can be had pretty cheaply. But the mini-bars and fun-sizes come cheap at a very, very high cost to the children whose labor brings them to us.

I want my kids to have a fun and safe time on Oct. 31.

But I want that for all God’s kids, too.

You can sign a petition asking Hershey to begin sourcing Fairly Traded chocolate here.

You can watch a whole documentary on child slave labor on cocoa farms here and below.