Harbor Sweets Worth the Trip

It’s no secret to anyone who has spent time near me that I am a chocolate fiend.  I’ll grab the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar just as easily as I will reach for the high-end and well made chocolates.  That’s not to say I’m not discerning – I am, my ideal chocolate is dark with nuts in it (but not too many) and has a high cocoa butter content, but if my ideal isn’t available (which sometimes happens) I’ll reach for that Hershey bar without thinking twice.  Luckily for me I recently had the chance to eat some high quality chocolate and watch it made from scratch right in Salem, MA by Harbor Sweets Chocolates.

Harbor Sweets is a totally enchanting chocolate shop that makes an effort to make chocolates by hand with care.  When Harbor Sweets invited the Boston Bloggers over for a tour and tasting I was not expecting what I got.  We were greeted at the door by a large tray of chocolates with all of the chocolates that Harbor had to offer, I chose a Sweet Sloop (Harbor Sweet’s signature chocolate).  As Megan chose her chocolate I wandered a bit of the shop which actually looks out over the area of Harbor Sweets where the Sweet Sloops are made!

HS makes chocolates by hand, from the copper kettles that they cook the almond butter crunch for the Sweet Sloops to the people standing on the line to add the line to the sails of the sloop everything is given careful attention.  Watching everyone work there was a wonderful experience and made me want to eat more of their chocolate.  I loved knowing just how much effort and though went into a single one of my chocolates.

Now, the chocolates – they were fantastic (far and away greater than any Hershey bar, I assure you).  I don’t much care for white chocolate but the Sweet Sloop – a triangle of almond butter crunch covered in white chocolate with a base dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in quite a while.

As our tour guide brought us around the workshop I felt spoiled and indulgent, the rich chocolate scents everywhere were magnificent.  We (Megan, Kevin, and I) saw everything from start to finish, from tempered chocolate, to filled molds, to the cooling room.  There was the giant perfectly scored table where THOUSANDS of sweet sloops had been cut and those copper kettles.  There were entire rooms where people hand fed chocolates onto conveyor belts and wrapped candies.  I was enchanted and wanted to live in this Willy Wonka-esque wonderland of chocolate.

I left Harbor Sweets full of chocolate and with a goodie bag to boot.  I will definitely be back to this New England gem to get more of their wonderful chocolate.  And you should totally go check them out too!  They’re on twitter and offer full (and insured) shipping of all of their chocolates from their online storefront.  Go on, give them a try and yes they do ship internationally, in case you were curious.

 My tour of Harbor Sweets was complementary but, as always, my opinions are my own.

Fudgy Brownies with a Swirl

So, here’s the thing.  I love these brownies and I tend to swirl them with whatever I have on hand – Biscoff spread, ooey-gooey caramel, peanut butter, sea-salt flakes – basically anything that will lend itself to chocolate.  I am partial to the swirl of Biscoff spread – it’s a little bit cinnamony and a whole lot of tasty that makes the chocolate much less decadent and totally sinful.  I found these brownies before I even started blogging and immediately made them to BF’s groans of general brownie dislike.

The crux of a good brownie, I have taken to thinking, is that it must contain some sort of balance and MUST MUST MUST have mad quantities of butter inside.  They should also be an soft brownie, one specifically designed to be fudgy and dense – but still fully cooked.  These are that magical brownie that falls between overly rich and heavy and cake.  They are moist and addictive.

That first batch of brownies was plain, with a sprinkle of Maldon flaky sea salt.  Brownie batch number 2 was a swirl of peanut butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Batch number 3 was a swirl of Biscoff and batch number 4 had a caramel swirl.  All of the brownies had their pros and cons – salty lovely caramel, creamy lush Biscoff, peanut butter, and the simplicity of a well chosen salt.  These would probably also lend themselves to a swirl of Nutella if that’s your thing.

Regardless, you should probably make these brownies, for yourself or just to give to a friend who needs some cheering – as long as they like chocolate!

Fudgy Brownies with a Swirl
Adapted from Bake or Break (I think, this recipe has been floating around my apt for a while).  I have modified the recipe so use more unsweetened baking chocolate (because I have an excess) and I cook mine a little more than she suggests.  I have added directions to swirl ingredients in but I will leave it up to your discretion as to what that swirl you choose, if any.

10 Tbs unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch processed will be richest)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup peanut butter, biscoff spread, caramel sauce, dulce de leche (whatever)
1/2 tsp sea-salt

Preheat an oven to 350  degrees.  Grease and flour a 9″ round or square pan, if you want to get really fancy you can line it with parchment paper (a tutorial can be found here).  In a small-ish (microwave-safe) bowl, or in a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter together until well blended, about 45 seconds in the microwave stirring every 15 secs or so.  Allow the chocolate/butter mixture to cool slightly.  One at a time add cocoa powder, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and flour – making sure to fully incorporate each ingredient before moving to the next.  Pour the batter in to the prepared pan.  If you are adding a swirl to your brownies you will do that now, drop tablespoonfuls of your swirl (Peanut butter, biscoff etc) into the pan strategically and gently swirl them in with a knife making sure to not get too close to the edges of the pan or scrape the bottom.      Sprinkle the salt onto the top of the swirled batter.  Bake for 30-40 mins, until the edges are set and the middle is set (but not necessarily firm), at this point a toothpick inserted into the center will come out with a bit of batter (though it shouldn’t be much).  Cool the brownies at room temp for 20-30 mins, I like these brownies when they’re warm from the oven but if you want it less gooey stick it in the fridge.  The brownies will still be rich, but less messy.  These go fast, especially if you like brownies.