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The Hearth

For many centuries in Italy and around the world, the hearth of the home has been the center of everything. It is a place where families and friends gather, eat and drink, share stories and create memories.

In the spirit of preserving that tradition, The Hearth is an online community available exclusively for A Tavola members. The Hearth grants exclusive access to a library of special recipes, stories, and culinary tips from Michael Chiarello. Check back often, and we'll let you know when there's something new!

Allison Negron
 
August 19, 2015 | Allison Negron

Tartrate Crystals in Wine

Have you ever wondered about the little glass-like crystals clinging to the cork or collecting at the bottom of a bottle of wine? These “wine diamonds” are called tartrate crystals, natural particulates that form during and after the winemaking process when the wine drops to a cold temperature. The crystals form when two naturally occurring elements found in wine, tartaric acid and potassium meet under cold temperatures and bind together to form potassium bitartrate, which is essentially a salt. This is why you might find that crystals form in a white wine once you put it in the refrigerator.

Wines are often clarified and stabilized before bottling to remove small particles of yeast, tannin, and other grape matter prior to bottling. Among these processes are filtering, fining and cold stabilization (essentially refrigerating the wine) to help clarify the wine prior to bottling. These processes help prevent the formation of tartrate crystals, which form when the correct elements and cold temperatures are present together in the wine.

Because we do not clarify our wines prior to bottling, it is common to see tartrate crystals form in our Chiara Bianco and Chiara Rosé of Zinfandel, especially once you put it in the refrigerator. The most important thing to know: they are harmless! Tartrate crystals have no impact on the flavor or quality of the wine. By not filtering or fining our wine before bottling, the result is a more aromatic, textured wine that has weight and a beautiful finish. 

Allison Negron
 
August 10, 2015 | Allison Negron

Michael's Molten Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Molten Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

It is wonderfully child-like to eat a cupcake. Make that cupcake out of a flourless chocolate cake batter and they grow up to be just plain wonderful. Arrange on a two-tiered dessert stand and dust the entire pyramid with powdered sugar. These are perfect to serve at a buffet dinner, as you need no plate, simply a napkin to catch the drop of oozing chocolate running down your chin.

Ingredients:
Vegetable spray for greasing the pan
Individual cupcake liners (gold if you can find them), paper
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bitter-sweet chocolate, preferably Scharffen Berger
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 300 degree F.
Preheat cupcake pan in a 300 degree F oven on baking sheets for about 5 minutes.
Lightly grease a muffin pan with room for 12 muffins (each mold should hold about 1/3 cup). Dust each mold with cocoa.
Combine the butter and cream in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Thinly shave 5 ounces of the chocolate with a large knife and put the chocolate in a medium bowl. When the cream mixture comes to a simmer, pour it over the chocolate and mix gently to incorporate the ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, mayonnaise, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt just until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and gently mix just until the homogeneous. Mixing too much will prevent the eggs from rising in the oven. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter into each mold (about 3/4 of the way up the sides). Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. While hot, add a chunk of remaining 3 ounces of chocolate in the center of each, by gently pushing it through the top of the cupcake in the center. Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then unmold them. Serve warm on a pedestal or platter, stacked two-high if possible in pyramid form. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Serving Suggestion:
This is one of the few desserts I love with red wine, a very ripe Zinfandel - great with our 2012 Giana Zinfandel!

Michael's Notes:
Be certain to add the chocolate chunk into the cake while still quite hot from the oven otherwise the crust will form and you will damage the appearance. The mayonnaise is here to add moisture to the cake. You could omit it with out adjusting the recipe but it has an amazing effect.

For a printable version of the recipe, click here.

Allison Negron
 
July 31, 2015 | Allison Negron

Michael Chiarello's Perfect Day in Napa Valley

We are so often asked what are our favorite restaurants, wineries and things to do in Napa Valley. Here, Michael shares his favorite picks for a perfect day in his hometown. Read the article here.