Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Healthy Chocolate


I've written about chocolate as a health food before. We know it's good for the heart, circulation, cholesterol, and even as a diet food. We also know it's a mood enhancer, well, we who eat chocolate know that. In the June 26 issue of the SF Examiner, Jim Evans, a Senior Fitness columnist, answers the question of "Sweet Tooth in Savannah" who eats a lot of chocolate and says it makes him/her feel better but that it doesn't seem to help with weight loss. Although the questioner is concerned about diet and losing weight, as is Jim Evans in his answer, for the chocoholics out there there's another lesson. Chocolate is good for your well-being. Chocolate is a healthy junk food! (junk food? not the chocolate I eat)

According to University of California researchers, there is documented evidence that the tendency to overeat sweets such as chocolate is a natural physiological response to chronic stress. Dr. Abby Aronowitz has taken things one step further by endorsing chocolate - and other "healthy junk foods" - in her revolutionary book Your Final Diet (www.yourfinaldiet.com/)."

Aronowitz, who holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D from Columbia University, has been a consultant to Weight Watchers International, Inc., and is a member of the American Psychological Association and Mensa. She believes that managing sugar, carbs, and fat instead of bingeing or depriving is a more effective way to lose weight. "A well-adjusted secure feeling will replace the highs and lows of failed diets," says Aronowitz.

"Sugar and fat relieve chronic stress on a biological level," says Aronowitz, "and chocolate cake and ice cream, for example, simply shut down the stress system, bringing relief and relaxation. Therefore, we must learn how to manage the foods we crave instead of overindulging or depriving ourselves."

Read more Here.

Reduce Stress, Eat Chocolate!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding


So June 26 was National Chocolate Pudding, and I posted an easy chocolate pudding recipe.

Here's a Chocolate Bread Pudding recipe that's great. It's from Fannie Farmer's
The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896), a book that is one of the best known and most influential of American cookbooks and has been in print from 1896 until today ( the newer editions are updated and revised).

Interesting note, the original publishers, Little, Brown, were afraid of losing money on a cookbook, and they required Fannie Farmer to pay for the first printing herself. However, she kept ownership of the copyright on the book. Definitely a mistake on Little, Brown's part.

The first edition of 3000 quickly sold out; it was reprinted twice in 1897 and once a year thereafter until 1906, when a revised edition was issued. New and revised editions, in multiple reprints, continue to be published. It was reprinted in England and translated into French, Spanish, Japanese and Braille.

O.K. continuing the theme of frugality in this new economy, you can use whatever left over bread you have. I also have lots of leftover chocolate from chocolate tastings, so for me this is definitely being thrifty. Bread and Chocolate, a theme from a past Blog.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ingredients

2 cups stale bread torn up (this is always a great variable: French bread, cinnamon bread, challah?)/in the original recipe it says crumbs, but I use pieces of bread and that's what's really called for.
4 cups scalded milk (or 3 cups milk/1 cup cream)
2 squares Baker's chocolate (or a nice dark 70% or higher chocolate/I use about 6 oz.)
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak bread in milk thirty minutes; melt chocolate in saucepan placed over hot water, add one-half sugar and enough milk taken from bread and milk to make of consistency to pour; add to mixture with remaining sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs slightly beaten; turn into buttered pudding-dish and bake on hour in a moderate oven.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chocolate Pudding Day


June 26 is Chocolate Pudding Day. In this economy, pudding as we know it in the U.S. can be very economical. Just open a box and mix or pull off the top and eat. General Foods (Jell-O) introduced chocolate pudding mix in 1934 as "Walter Baker's Dessert". It was renamed "Jell-O Chocolate Pudding" in 1936.

There are two types of chocolate pudding: a boiled then chilled (like a custard set with starch) which is popular in the U.S, Canada; and a steamed/baked version similar to cake that is popular in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Not to confuse you, but in the U.K. pudding is also a word that is often used to refer to any dessert, as in "We had a strawberry tart for pudding."

The American version of chocolate pudding is a variation on chocolate custard, with starch used as thickener rather than eggs. Of course, I've seen recipes using egg yolks that still has that creamy consistency. Always a variation.

Pudding was thought of as an appropriate food for the sick and children, as well as dessert. Many were the days when I was a child that chocolate (and occasionally vanilla) pudding was given to us when sick. Even the mixes took time. There was water and sugar? to add, and then mix, heat and cool. A few steps less, but still a production. I liked my chocolate pudding hot right out of the pot and loved to scrape the bowl and eat the hot pudding. Here's a recipe for easy chocolate pudding.

Easy Recipe for Chocolate Pudding

1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. cocoa (or 2-3 oz. bittersweet/70% chocolate)--or a mix of both
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt in saucepan. Stir in milk, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Stir and cook 3 minutes longer; stir in vanilla and cook for another minute or two. Cool in refrigerator uncovered for a few hours.

Pudding: An American Comfort Food

Photo is not mine. Haven't made pudding in awhile, but aim to do so soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More S'mores


As I've mentioned before, Summertime is the time to bring on the S'mores. TeamBuilding Unlimited likes to add S'mores at the end of our Wacky Beach Games or Sensational Sandcastle Building. Open fires aren't always allowed on our beaches, but there are definitely some alternatives. Have a look at my entry from last week, for Chocolate Chip S'mores, but here's yet another variation.

I just received an email from Vosges, famous for its fabulous chocolate and especially it's delicious Mo Bacon Bar. The email reads "spice up your s'mores. Give the old campfire favorite a spicy makeover. Add ancho & chipotle chiles, salty bacon or curry & coconut."

How to make an Exotic S'more:
Toast your marshmallows to your liking - blush, bronze or burned.
Place a square of any Exotic Candy Bar between two graham crackers.
Ease your marshmallow on top of the chocolate and squeeze lightly to ooze the marshmallow out to the sides.
Wait a few moments, while the warm marshmallow melts the chocolate.

No campfire? You can make this in the microwave.

Vosge is offering a Summer Deal: Buy any 5 3 oz Candy Bars and get the 6th free. To order, go here.

I want s'more...

Chocolate & Health


I've written about the healthy aspects of chocolate: to fight cardiovascular disease, lower risk for cancer, help the liver, aid digestion and as a diet food. But now Science News reports that German researchers have shown that dark chocolate can fight skin cancer.

It's a small clinical trial of just 24 women who added cocoa to their breakfast everyday for 3 months. Half the women drank hot cocoa containing a big dose of flavonoids (natural plant-based antioxidants that are said to prevent heart attacks). Remaining volunteers got cocoa that had little of the flavonoids. Read the full story, but basically the outcome is that the women getting the abundant flavonoids had skin that was 11 % smoother and 13% moister with reduced reddening in response to UV light--total: by 25% than that of the other women.

Researchers are unclear about the exact mechanism for most of the skin benefits, but suspect that improved blood circulation is more than likely a factor. The skin, as with all other bodily tissues, depends on healthy blood flow.

Flavonoids help protect the skin via a twofold process—they absorb UV light that can damage skin, and they act as antioxidants, scavenging the damaging oxidants UV light creates. Some flavonoids also have been found to inhibit the inflammatory process (skin reddening) involved in sun-damaged skin.

Other foods that add ultraviolet defense are tomatoes, pomegranates, salmon and green tea.

Rx: Don't give up your sunscreen, but add dark chocolate hot cocoa every morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Going On a Picnic and bringing Chocolate Cherry Pie

Because this is Picnic Month, Months of Edible Celebrations is holding an Online Picnic. In order to participate in the Picnic Game, each blogger chooses a letter and a dish that they will be bringing. Remember it's a virtual picnic. There are a few more letters left, so go to Months of Edible Celebrations and sign up.

No big surprise, I have chosen the letter C. And to make it a double C, I have chosen to bring Chocolate Cherry Pie. The original recipe comes from Local Lemons, a great website. Recipe and photo reprinted with permission.

Ingredients for Chocolate Cherry Pie

One 9 inch pie dish

Crust:
1 ½ cups organic, all-purpose flour. If you can, put it in the fridge overnight.
14 tablespoons of unsalted butter, frozen or very cold. That’s 2 sticks, minus 2 tablespoons.
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup finely ground honey graham crackers. Use a food processor and chop them until they are the consistency of flour.
1 cup of icy cold water
1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water to make an egg wash.

Cherry filling:
2 ½ pounds of fresh cherries (about 2 pounds pitted)
½ cup agave nectar
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
½ cup of shredded chocolate. Use mostly dark, with some milk chocolate mixed in, also chopped in a food processor.

The butter: Chop the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer while you prepare everything else.

The filling: Pit the cherries using a handy cherry-pitter and put them in a large bowl. This contraption also works very well for olives. Add the chopped chocolate, 4 tablespoons of flour and the agave nectar. Gently toss until the cherries are well coated.

Prepare the crust
Preheat your oven to 400F. Sift together the flour, salt and ground graham crackers. Add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Make sure the cup of cold water is within reach. Add the frozen butter to the bowl and pulse. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough looks like course breadcrumbs. Try not to add too much water or your dough will be soggy. The dough should not form a ball in the food processor–it should just come together when you pinch it with your fingers.

Remove the dough from the bowl and work it with your hands to form a ball. Divide it in half. Lightly flour your surface, rolling pin and hands, and roll out one half of the dough until it fits into a 9 inch pie dish. Carefully pick it up and place it in the dish, cutting off the overhang.

Fill the dough with the cherry mixture.

Roll out the second half of the dough and place it on top of the pie. Pinch the sides closed with your thumb and forefinger, and use a sharp knife to cut three vents into the top of the crust. Brush with the egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes in the middle of your oven. Lower the heat to 350F and bake for 25 more minutes.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day Chocolate



What to give Dad for Father's Day? What a dilemma. There are so many cool chocolate items available that Dad will love. Of course, you can always get out the mixer and bake a chocolate cake!

Several different companies make molded novelty chocolate. Chocolate Vault offers a 6 piece tool set that is very fun! They also offer some nice looking chocolate ties. Does your father still wear ties? In addition there are Beer Mug chocolate lollies and lots of individual bars that say World's Greatest Dad, etc. If Dad has a hobby, you have more choices such as fishing, tools, computers, and money! Dad can't have enough money, can he, even if it's chocolate?

Totally Chocolate has lots of fabulous molded chocolates, and I've tasted their delicious Belgian milk and dark chocolate. Their chocolates are exquisitely engraved and molded and very reasonable. I love their package of chocolate golf balls--white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Located in Blaine, WA, they ship all over the U.S. I especially enjoyed their Bite Back at the IRS chocolate bars. They have ready to ship favorite designs, and they'll do custom designs, as well.

My father wasn't much of a chocolate lover, but I loved him all the same. He passed away 7 years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. He encouraged and supported me throughout my varying careers and educational pursuits, and he always told me I could accomplish anything and succeed in whatever I tried.

One thing we shared in common was our love of mysteries. I'm the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal and blogger for Mystery Fanfare. Over the years my taste in mysteries has changed. I read more hardboiled, dark mysteries now like he always did. You can't imagine how many times I finish a book, and I say to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." My father engendered a love of mysteries in me through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Magazines.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

As his gravestone reads,

Beloved husband, father, grandfather
Beloved physician, teacher, friend
A man who practiced chesed*
And loved his fellow men

*kindness, pure giving

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nestle Recall of Toll House Refrigerated Dough


Well this news came as a shock today, especially after tolling the virtues of refrigerated cookie dough on the anniversary of the birth of Toll House Cookie inventor, Ruth Wakefield.

According to the New York Times this morning, Food maker Nestle USA voluntarily recalled its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products after a number of illnesses were reported by those who ate the dough raw. And, let's face it, who hasn't eaten the cookie dough raw? I know it helped me get through some of the more unpleasant times in my life. What a great treat. I actually kept it in the freezer. For me, it was a comfort food. Ben & Jerry's icecream certainly capitalized on America's love of chocolate chip cookie dough. Rest assured, though, they do not use Nestle's Toll House.

Nestle said the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are investigating reported E. coli illnesses that might be related to the ingestion of raw cookie dough.In a statement, the FDA said there have been 66 reports of illness across 28 states since March. About 25 people have been hospitalized, but no one has died.

The FDA advised consumers to throw away any prepackaged, refrigerated Nestle Toll House cookie dough products in their homes. Retailers, restauranteurs and employees at other food-service operations should also not sell or serve any of the products.

Nestle spokeswoman Roz O'Hearn said "this has been a very quickly moving situation," adding the company took action less than 24 hours after hearing of the problem.

O'Hearn said the company will "cooperate fully" with the FDA's investigation.

The recall includes refrigerated cookie bar dough, cookie dough tub, cookie dough tubes, limited edition cookie dough items, seasonal cookie dough and Ultimates cookie bar dough. It does not affect any other Toll House products.

So make your own chocolate chip cookies this weekend from scratch. For two great recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mores, go here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chocolate Chip S'mores

Teambuilding Unlimited, my interactive teambuilding event company, does lots of Sandcastle Building on the beaches around the U.S., and if permitted to make a fire, we like to top the event off with S'mores! So, I've put together a few 'different' recipes for the ultimate S'mores. I welcome comments and more recipes.

At Affordable Meetings West this year, the Marriott Hotels put together a booklet called Recipes for a Successful Meeting. The San Diego Marriott Mission Valley submitted the following recipe for S'mores.

Start with your favorite chocolate chip dough--or if you're baking-challenged, grab your favorite pre-made cookie dough at the grocery store. (My favorite is Nestle Toll House, the 'original' toll house cookie dough.).
Bake the cookies per instructions and remove half-way through the baking process. Note: the key to a great Tollhouse cookie is baking them at a low heat. 225?)
Remove the cookies from the oven and top with 3 mini-marshmallows (Depends on size of cookie, you can always add more)
Place back in the oven for the duration of the baking time (Note: do not over-bake cookie or caramelize marshmallows)
Remove from oven and sprinkle with crushed cinnamon graham crackers over the melted marshmallows.
Drizzle cookies with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. Best served warm out of the oven.

Picky Palate had a really cool recipe for chocolate chip S'mores.. She calls them Oozing Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mor Sandwiches. Everyone in the food community is so gracious, and Jenny gave me permission to reprint her recipe here--and use her fantastic photo!

She found one of the most interesting additions to her recipe at Target -- Kraft makes chocolate covered mini marshmallows. She mixed them into the cookie dough. How cool is that? Of course, you can make the dough with or without them.

Oozing Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mor Sandwiches

2 sticks softened butter
3/4 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz package Kraft Chocolate Covered Mini Marshmallows, if you can find them
1/2 Cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 Cups mini baking M&M's

Mini Marshmallows (less than 1 bag full)
Mini Hersey bars

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat butter and sugars in stand or electric mixer until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined as well. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients as well as marshmallows, chips and M&M's until just combined. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are just turning golden brown. Remove and let cool completely.

2. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Top bottom shapes with a layer of mini marshmallows and place under broiler until puffed. Top with Hershey bars to melt. Top with another cookie to close sandwich. Serve warm.

Enjoy! I can't wait to try Picky Palate's recipe. I don't need a day at the Beach!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ruth Graves Wakefield, the Birth of Toll House Cookies


Happy Birthday, Ruth Graves Wakefield! Not a household name? Well, she should be. You've probably used her recipe numerous times. Ruth Graves Wakefield 'invented' the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Ruth Graves Wakefield (June 17, 1903-January 10, 1977) graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924. After graduation, she worked as a dietitian and food lecturer. In 1930, she and her husband bought the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachussets. It had been built in 1709 and had a rich history of providing a night's solace to weary travelers. Located about halfway between Boston and New Bedford, it was a place where passengers had historically paid a toll, changed horses and eaten much-welcomed home-cooked meals.

When the Wakefields opened their business, they named the establishment the Toll House Inn and took it upon themselves to uphold the lodge's tradition. Ruth cooked and served all the food and soon gained local fame for her desserts. The restaurant had many visitors including Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy (before he gained the U.S. presidency in 1960).

One day in 1934, while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a favorite recipe dating back to Colonial days, Ruth cut a bar of NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate into tiny bits and added them to the dough of her Butter Drop Do cookies, expecting them to melt. The chocolate held its shape and softened to a delicate creamy texture. She called it her Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. The resulting creation became very popular at the Inn. Soon after, Wakefield's recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area. Regional sales of NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar skyrocketed.

Eventually Wakefield approached NESTLÉ, and they reached an agreement that permitted NESTLÉ to print what would become the TOLL HOUSE Cookie recipe on the wrapper of their Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar. Part of the agreement included supplying Ruth with all the chocolate she could use to make her delicious cookies for the rest of her life. A pretty sweet deal!

As the popularity of the Toll House cookie grew, Nestle looked for ways to make it easier for people to bake. Soon, they began scoring the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and packaging it with a special chopper for easily cutting it into small morsels. Shortly after, in 1939, they began offering tiny pieces of chocolate in convenient, ready-to-use packages which is how the first NESTLÉ Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels were introduced.

Since first used by Ruth Wakefield in what would become the most popular cookie of all time, NESTLÉ Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels have satisfied the chocolate cravings of millions. Who hasn't made a batch of these cookies using the recipe on the back of the package?

I'm a cookbook collector, and I didn't have a copy of Ruth Wakefield's Toll House Tried and True Recipes (1940), so I just ordered it. It's also available in various reprints. Wakefield donated her personal collection of cookbooks to Special Collections at Henry Whittemore Library at Framingham State College.

Our debt to Ruth Wakefield's toll house chocolate chip cookies is immense, for it would pave the way for cookie and food empires of contemporary women such as Debbie Fields and Martha Stewart.

Original Toll House Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

Directions:
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Want to see a Baking 101 Video, click Here.

On Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, May 15, I had a post devoted to the Chocolate Chip Cookie. For recipes for Extreme Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Chip overload, go here. Want 27 Tips for Creating the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie? ExtremeChocolate.com has some great tips. In my blog, I even added a recipe for bacon/chocolate chip cookies.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was born on June 17, so in her honor, I think I'll bake some "original' Toll House cookies today.

Thanks so much to Months of Edible Celebrations for the reminder about this very special birthday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

National Fudge Day

Today is National Fudge Day, not to be confused with National Nutty Fudge Day. Yes, plenty of holidays to celebrate chocolate. On May 11, I blogged about National Nutty Fudge Day and the history of fudge and gave three recipes. I'm not a candy maker, and the first two recipes are quite easy. Alton Brown's recipe is a bit more complicated and requires a candy thermometer.

Look up the other recipes, and here's another easy one. This is a variation on my Foolproof Dark Chocolate Fudge Recipe.
Ingredients:
2 cups (about 12 oz) organic fair-trade high % cacoa chocolate, broken up
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with foil.
Combine chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over lowest possible heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla extract.
Spread evenly into prepared baking pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

Pretty easy!!! Remember you can vary the taste of your fudge through the chocolate you use.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chocolate Goes Postal

I saw a link on Twitter this morning to these fabulous stamps on The Food Section.

These chocolate stamps are printed by La Poste, the French postal service. Not only do they look like chocolate, but they smell like chocolate. How cool is this?

A set of 10 stamps that comes in a booklet resembling a chocolate bar is 8.5 Euros ($11.88) at la boutique web du timbre. Stamps can be purchased online and shipped to the U.S.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bread and Chocolate


When I travelled around Europe as a college student, my food de jour was bread and chocolate. There was always good crusty bread available--and chocolate was always on hand. I didn't have money for a pain au chocolate or an eclair, but bread.. well a loaf or a roll, depending on funds, was always available.

On Chow recently I saw arecipe for a Grilled chocolate Sandwich. The salty and the sweet, curbs the appetite and fills the stomach. The Chow recipe uses cinnamon. Here's my adaptation without cinnamon. Experiment with different organic fair-trade chocolate with different amounts of cacao.

How easy is this? 15 minutes start to finish!!!

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or more/definitely the darker the better for me)
1 (7- to 8-inch) French or Sourdough roll, sliced in half horizontally
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350°F) or a grill pan over medium-low heat. (a panini press works well, too)
2. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.
3. Place chocolate inside bread, close, and evenly spread butter on the outside.
4. Grill 5 minutes, pressing frequently with a metal spatula, until grill marks have formed and crust is browned. Flip. Grill the other side until browned and crusty, about 5 to 8 minutes more.
5. Remove from heat

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chocolate: Where Worlds Collide

Chocolate: Where Worlds Collide. As many of you know, I have two blogs, Mystery Fanfare and Dying for Chocolate. Several years ago I had two issues of the Mystery Readers Journal devoted to Culinary Crime. The authors who contributed essays also included a recipe. Several mystery writers include chocolate in their novels as a pivotal plot device, background, or just for fun. Many mystery authors post recipes from time to time on their websites, blogs and newsletters. That's the case for this entry.

Vicki Lane writes the Elizabeth Goodweather mystery series and is up for an Anthony award this year for In a Dark Season. Thanks to Kaye Barley who writes the wonderful Meanderings and Muses blog for alerting me to this recipe for Vicki Lane's Frozen Chocolate Pie. It's easy and delicious. Thanks, too, to Vicki Lane, of course.

Vicki Lane's Frozen Chocolate Pie
A wonderful, mostly do-ahead crowd pleaser

Pecan Crust (1 9-inch)
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons coffee liqueur (you can use rum if you don't have coffee liqueur around)

Stir ingredients together; press mixture firmly onto bottom and up side of a nine-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. Gently press sides of crust with back of a spoon; cool. Frozen

Chocolate Pie Filling
6 (1 ounce) semi-sweet chocolate squares (or break up a high end dark chocolate bar)
2 tablespoons strong coffee (or 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, divided (again, you can use rum instead)
1/2 cups whipping cream, divided (half will be used to top the pie)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate squares with the coffee in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir about one-fourth of the hot chocolate mixture into the beaten eggs; now add the egg-chocolate mixture back to the remaining chocolate, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in three tablespoons coffee liqueur (or rum) and cook, continuing to stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Beat 3/4 cup of whipping cream with the vanilla till soft peaks form. Fold into cooled chocolate mixture. Spoon into pecan crust. Cover and freeze. Thaw slightly before serving so it will be easier to cut.

Before serving, whip remaining 3/4 cup whipping cream with 1 tablespoon rum till stiff peaks form. Spread on top of pie and grate a bit of chocolate on it for decoration.

Vicki Lane writes about her series: "The Elizabeth Goodweather series is inspired by the beautiful rural mountain county in which I live -- its present and its past. We have lived here on our farm in North Carolina since 1975 and I wanted to tell some of the wonderful stories I've heard, as well as to record a way of life that is fast disappearing. What began as a lark has turned into something very real to me as I watch Elizabeth and those around her take on lives of their own." Read an interview with Vicki Lane on Cozy Library.

Friday, June 12, 2009

White Chocolate


When I was growing up, I thought that white chocolate was the epitome of chocolate. Little did I know then that white chocolate is not chocolate. It's a confection of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids. The process uses the excess cocoa butter--a bi-product of cacoa. White chocolate was invented by Nestle and first popularly distributed in America in 1948 with the introduction of Nestle's Alpine White chocolate bar.

According to Wikipedia, regulations (FDA) govern what may be marketed as "white chocolate." In the U.S. since 2004, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter (by weight), at least 14% milk solids, at least 3.5% milk fat, and less than 63% sugar or sweeteners. The European Union has adopted the same standards, except that there is no limit on sugar or sweeteners. Good white chocolate also has vanilla.

The process: When the chocolate liquor is pressed, the fat is removed. This fat is called cocoa butter, and it is the primary ingredient in white chocolate. In plain chocolate, the cocoa butter is reblended with the cocoa solids from the separation process in order to make unsweetened chocolate.

Working with white chocolate: If you're going to cook or bake with white chocolate make sure it contains cocoa butter. It should be cream color (rather than white-colored). White colored white chocolate is probably made with vegetable fat. White chocolate scorches easily, so melt over very low heat.

Some good white chocolate:

E. Guittard has 31% Cacao White Chocolate wafers. Great for baking (and eating)

Green & Black's uses cocoa butter, pressed directly from the crushed cocoa beans. They also use a blend of milk and Bourbon vanilla. Available in 3.5oz bars.

Askinosie has bean to bar white chocolate and uses goat's milk instead of cow's milk. The main ingredient in their white chocolate is 34% natural, non-deodorized cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is pressed in their factory, and they are the first small-batch chocolate maker to do this. After pressing their San Jose Del Tambo Ecuador beans to create the cocoa butter, they combine them with goat's milk powder and organic cane juice, and then craft it for days in their 85-year old German melanguer, making their white chocolate one of the only single origin white chocolates in the world. It has a very unique buttery/nutty flavor, less sweet than many other white chocolate.

Jenn on Bread and Butter had a fabulous recipe for White Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips and Pecans this week. Talk about luscious. I've tweaked it only a little bit. This recipe is reprinted with her permission.

White Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips and Pecans

1 c white chocolate chips (plus extra) -or break up a good quality white chocolate bar or wafers.
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter (softened)
2 eggs
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 c cake flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c peanut butter chips
1 c pecan pieces (plus extra)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c water

Preheat oven to 350˚F
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt. Set aside.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a bowl with the water. Heat in the microwave for 1 1/2 - 2 min or until melted. Stir the mixture after the first minute to combine. Or use the double boiler method. Bring some water to a boil in a small pot. Once the water is boiling bring it down to a simmer. Place the chocolate and water in a metal bowl and place on top of the pot. Stir chocolate occasionally to combine until melted.

In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Then add in the eggs, mixing after each one. Add in vanilla, then the melted white chocolate. Combine well then slowly add the flour mixture. Mix well until there are no lumps.

Add in the peanuts butter chips and pecan pieces.

Lightly grease preferred baking pan and pour in the batter. Sprinkle some more white chocolate chips and pecan pieces on top.

Baked for 25 min. Let it cool for at least 5-10min then cut into squares.

More white chocolate recipes in the future.

It's o.k. with me that white chocolate isn't really chocolate. It's white chocolate--it's own thing, and it's delicious.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

German Chocolate Cake Day: Part II

Today is National German Chocolate Cake Day, and in my last post, I gave a bit of history and the 'original' recipe for German Chocolate Cake.

Last night Bobby Flay had a Throwdown: German Chocolate Cake. (Season 6: Episode 8) He challenged a baker from Harlem, New York's Make My Cake, to put her family's German Chocolate Cake to the test. Don't want to tell you who won in case you haven't seen this episode yet, but here's Aliyyah Baylor's recipe. I did notice that the extra chocolate chips that she put in the cake for the TV challenge are omitted in this recipe. The chocolate chips gave her cake an extra bit of crunch.

Ingredients Cake Layers:
* 4 ounces baker's chocolate (recommend: Baker's German Sweet Chocolate)
* 1/2 cup water
* 2 cups cake flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 4 eggs, separated
* 1 cup buttermilk
* Frosting, recipe follows or whatever you prefer

Directions
In a micro-safe bowl, melt chocolate and water together in microwave or over a double boiler. Stir until smooth and set aside. In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla extract, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in melted chocolate. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating, until everything is combined.

Using an electric mixer beat egg whites, in a small bowl, until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the batter.

Pour batter into 3 (9-inch) cake pans or 2 (12 capacity) cupcake tins. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Yield: 3 (9-inch) cakes or 24 cupcakes

Coconut Pecan Frosting/Filling:
* 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
* 5 egg yolks, slightly beaten
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup butter
* 2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
* 2 cups toasted pecans

Combine evaporated milk, slightly beaten egg yolks, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and butter in a large saucepan or heavy pot over low heat. When butter melts raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken after 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coconut and pecans and cool before frosting cakes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

German Chocolate Cake Day

June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day. It may sound odd that's there's a national holiday for German Chocolate Cake, but this cake is not German. German Chocolate Cake is an American creation that contains the key ingredients of sweet baking chocolate, coconut, and pecans.

Some History:
In 1852, Sam German created a dark baking chocolate bar for Baker's Chocolate Company, and in his honor, the company named it "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate." In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the "s" have been dropped. In 1957, probably the first published recipe for German's chocolate cake showed up in a Dallas newspaper and supposedly came from a Texas homemaker. The cake quickly gained in popularity and the recipe together with photos spread all over the country. America fell in love with German Chocolate Cake, and food editors were swamped with requests for information on where to buy the chocolate. In one year, there was a 73% sales jump in German's Baker Sweet chocolate sales (then owned by General Mills). I grew up with Baker's chocolate as the baking chocolate we used for brownies and other chocolate recipes. German Chocolate Cake is also regular item in bakeries and supermarkets across the country, and there are mixes in most markets.

However, the cake most likely didn't originate from a Dallas housewife. Buttermilk chocolate cakes were popular in the South for over 70 years, and pecans were plentiful, also, to
make the frosting. Point of fact: German's chocolate is similar to a milk chocolate and sweeter than regular baking chocolate.

Here's the "Original Recipe." I found this specific recipe in many places on the Internet, and I daresay no one can claim it as its own. Actually in 1957, Baker's was flooded with messages from newspapers demanding the recipe. So even if you think you're making Grandmom's recipe--and it might be with a few changes over the years- the following is a basic one that millions use. That's not to say I didn't find several unique recipes for German Chocolate Cake that peaked my interest. But those are for another time.

THE CAKE
1 pkg. Baker's German’s sweet chocolate (4 oz.)
1/2 cup Water, boiling
1 cup Butter or margarine
2 cup Sugar
4 Eggs, separated
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2 cups Flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Buttermilk
Coconut-pecan frosting

Approx. Cook Time: 30min
1. Melt chocolate in water and cool.
2. Cream butter and Sugar.
3. Beat in egg yolks.
4. Stir in vanilla and chocolate.
5. Mix flour, soda and salt. beat in flour mixture, alternately with buttermilk.
6. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Pour batter into three 9-inch layer pans, lined on bottoms with waxed paper.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in
center Cool 15 minutes; remove and cool on rack.

THE FILLING AND TOPPING
1-14 oz. can of condensed milk such as Eagle Brand
½ Cup water
3 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
1/2 C butter (1 stick)
1 1/3 c Pecans; chopped reserve 10 whole pecan halves for garnish.
1 ¾ c Angel flake coconut

Directions:
Cook the milk, eggs, and water over a double boiler until thickened.
Cook it over direct heat if you use complete concentration.
Then add the vanilla and butter and whisk in until it is melted and smooth.
Add the chopped pecans and coconut.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1 stick or 1/2 Cup butter, softened
9 squares Baker's German's chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 TBS milk
for a richer chocolate flavor, add cocoa powder- or use more German's chocolate

Mix butter and chocolate in mixing bowl. Stir in powdered sugar.
Beat vanilla and milk until smooth and of spreading consistency.

Assembly:
Divide the filling evenly between the 3 cakes putting the 1st layer down, then spread the filling evenly. Repeat with the other layer.
Frost the side or top of the cake only. (Maybe--but make more, and you can frost everything)
For garnish you can place pecan halves around the top edge.

Have a wonderful German Chocolate Cake Day on June 11!

Top photo from Wikipedia. My cakes never look like this, but something to aspire to...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saucepan Brownies

I'm always looking for a good brownie recipe. Here are three different saucepan brownie recipes. I've made this recipe .. or something similar.. before, and I would definitely add more high quality chocolate and use the sea salt as in the third recipe.

Tracy Schneider on Al Dente had a recipe for Saucepan Brownies that she found in her mother's recipe box and was attributed to Ladies Home Journal, October 1959. The brownies are mixed on the stovetop and then baked in the oven.

Saucepan Brownies

Ingredients:
1/3 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

1. Place butter and chocolate in a saucepan and melt together over a low heat, stirring frequently.

2. Remove from heat and stir in, in this order: sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, salt and pecans.

3. Pour batter into a greased 8 inch x 8 inch x 2 inch baking pan and bake in a moderately hot oven, 375 degrees F, for 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies are firm and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

4. Cut into 2 inch squares.

Makes 16 brownies.

I found a similar recipe on Southernfood.com Differences: walnuts instead of pecans, and baking at 325 for the same amount of time.

Hershey's has a double recipe for Supreme Chocolate Saucepan Brownies that uses macadamia nuts--and, of course, a larger baking pan--and cooks at 350.

Epicurious has a recipe that uses more chocolate and kosher or sea salt instead of table salt. This is closer to the one I use, and I love the idea of the kosher salt. I might make these today.

Be sure and check past Brownie entries on DyingforChocolate.com

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Simple Chocolate for the Sick

My friend Janet Appel just got back from Kentucky where she received a reprint of an old cookbook--The Blue Ribbon Cook Book by Jennie C. Benedict (1860-1928). Benedict was once a famous caterer in Louisville, owned a tearoom and soda fountain, and trained with Fannie Farmer at the Boston Cooking School.

The book contains a chapter on "Simple Dishes for the Sick." Interestingly many of those recipes have alcoholic ingredients in this Prohibition edition of the cook book.

Cocoa Cordial

1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons port wine

Mix cocoa and sugar add enough of the water to form a paste. Stir in remainder of water and boil one minute then add wine. Useful in cases of chill or exhaustion.

There are also menus. Here is one of several that had chocolate.

DAINTY MENUS FOR CONVALESCENT PATIENTS

Broiled breast of chicken with drawn butter
Creamed sweetbreads on toast with peas
Bread and Butter sandwiches
A cup of delicate chocolate
A little whipped cream, frozen

Sure sounds like a lot of food for a "dainty menu".

Publisher's note on the latest edition of Jennie C. Benedict's The Blue Ribbon Cook Book: Jennie C. Benedict's "The Blue Ribbon Cook Book" represents the very best in the tradition of southern regional cooking. Recipes for such classic dishes as Parker House rolls, lamb chops, corn pudding, Waldorf salad, and cheese and nut sandwiches are nestled among longtime local favorites such as apple butter, rice pudding, griddle cakes, and Benedictine, the cucumber sandwich spread bore Benedict's name. Throughout the cookbook, Benedict's delightful voice shines. Benedict, who was once the most famous caterer in Louisville and also operated a celebrated tea room and soda fountain, trained with Fannie Farmer at the Boston Cooking School. Five editions of Benedict's famous cookbook were published, and her aim in sharing her recipes was simple; as she mentions in the preface, "I have tried to give the young housekeeper just what she needs, and for more experienced ones, the best that can be had in the culinary art." As a creative entrepreneur, Benedict had a significant influence on the local culture and foodways. Her sweet and savory dishes were the stars of many Derby parties, and yet she placed equal emphasis on simple luncheon and dinner recipes to satisfy the needs of home cooks. While her popular dishes graced genteel tables all over the Bluegrass, Benedict's chicken salad sandwiches, sold from a pushcart, offered Louisville children the first school lunches in the city. This new edition of "The" "Blue Ribbon Cook Book" will now welcome new generations of readers and cooks--those who remember wearing white gloves and eating delicate tea sandwiches at the downtown department store as well as those who want to make satisfying regional classics such as blackberry jam cake like their grandmother used to make. Food writer Susan Reigler introduces the story of Benedict's life and cuisine, and this edition is the first to come complete with the now-famous spread that bears Benedict's name.


Dieting for Chocolate by Steve Steinbock


Dieting For Chocolate by Steve Steinbock

Steve Steinbock, reviewer and educator, mentioned he had recently lost 20 pounds-and he did it by eating chocolate. Too good to be true, I asked him to tell me and DyingforChocolate.com readers how this was possible.
**

If you could only eat chocolate, imagine how much weight you could lose. I mean, how much chocolate can a person actually eat in one day, day after day? I used to say this to my family, only half jokingly, as I unwrapped a dozen Hershey’s Kisses® and popped them into my mouth, three at a time.

The half that wasn’t joking was on to something.

During my middle years I’d packed a fair amount of paunch onto my smallish frame. Six months ago, with one of those cornerstone birthdays approaching, I wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror. I made some changes, and have lost just over twenty pounds. And I’m eating more chocolate than ever before.

I don’t go in for fad diets. I’ve never watched a single episode of “The Biggest Loser.” (If I did, it would only be to look at Jillian Michaels). I hate to exercise, I love to eat, and I tend to sit at my desk most of the day. To lose the fat I found I had to make some basic, realistic changes. I wasn’t about to give up carbohydrates, or subscribe to a prepackaged meal service, or hire a personal trainer. The keywords of my strategy have been moderation and metabolism.

Instead of going to the gym four times a week – having to drive, change, sweat, and shower – I break up my day with three mini workouts. Three times a day I stop what I’m doing, do some stretches, do a set of sit-ups, a set of push-ups, a set of crunches, and a few more stretches. It gets my blood pumping and my muscles sore, but I barely break a sweat. And it gets my metabolism charged up.

I said that I’ve never watched “The Biggest Loser,” and it’s true. But I have seen Jillian Michaels interviewed on television, and what she has said about metabolism I’ve taken to heart, literally and figuratively.

Half of the life change strategy was to get my furnace burning more fuel. The other half has been putting the right fuel in the furnace. And chocolate is a great fuel. Below are a few of my specific chocolaty secrets.

Darker is Better

I’m a lifelong lover of milk chocolate. But milk chocolate contains more of the bad fats and less of the healthy properties of chocolate. I still have a weakness for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and an occasional truffle. But I generally avoid the light stuff. Generally, the higher the cacao percentage, the less cacao butter you’re getting, and the more your body will benefit. These days there are plenty of options on the supermarket shelves. Ghirardelli makes a bar called “Midnight Reverie” that has 86% cacao content. Another of my favorite bars is the “Lindt Excellence Chile” bar made by Lindt & Sprungli. As the name suggests, it has a spicy bite to it from the red chili extract. But my chocolate of choice for snacking is Callebaut’s semi-sweet baking chocolate. This is a high quality baking chocolate from Belgium that can be found in a lot of American specialty food stores. I always keep a brick around – for medicinal purposes.

Cacao nibs

The broken husks of cacao beans take a little getting used to. Dryer, crunchier, and more bitter than chocolate, they nevertheless have that distinct chocolaty je ne c’est pas. You can find packages of nibs at certain health food or specialty food stores. They go great in yogurt. I keep a little bowl of them on the counter, and a couple times a day I’ll grab of pinch of them and toss them in my mouth. In this form, the raw material of chocolate is high in fiber, high in antioxidants, and promote the vim and vigor needed to maintain an active lifestyle.

I’ve crushed cacao nibs into a course cocoa that I mix with chili powder, cumin, vinegar, and olive oil for an incredible marinade.

Xocolatl

Drinking Chocolate has come a long way from Swiss Miss. There are a number of high quality “adult” chocolate drinks on the market. I’m particularly fond of traditional Central American chocolate, or Xocolatl. A cup of thick hot cocoa done with a good dose of chili is a wonderful way to regenerate. There are several products on the market. Dagoba and Lake Champlain both make a nice Aztec style mix. They’re good, but hardly low cal. You can make your own by melting bittersweet chocolate with milk (or soy milk), a bit of sweetener, a splash of vanilla extract, and a punch in the eye of chili peppers.

Pancakes and Waffles

I’m in the habit of fixing myself waffles each morning, adding some raw oats and crushed flax seed to a third of a cup of instant pancake mix, then adding a small handful of semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips. Yummy and guilt free. Recently I’ve been finding that the waffles have been sticking to the waffle-iron, so I’ve switched to pancakes.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If Janet will have me, I’d be happy to come back and share a recipe or two. Meanwhile, please pass the chocolate.

Steve Steinbock: Grew up across the pond from Seattle. Survived high school. Studied religion at Univ. of Wash. before going off to grad school. He's the author of three books (plus several booklets and guides). He has written a few hundred published book reviews, articles, and interviews. He lives in Maine with his family.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

National Doughnut Day: Make mine Chocolate


The first Friday in June is National Doughnut Day celebrating the doughnut, an edible, ring shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried and sweetened. This holiday event began in 1938 as a Chicago Salvation Army fundraiser for much needed funds during the depression. The day also recognized special women known as "Doughnut Lassies" who made and served doughnuts to homesick WWI soldiers in France, since doughnuts were thought to be the quintessential American food. Here's a song from a 1918 songbook celebrating doughnuts in WWI.

“A doughnut’s just a doughnut, boys, ’til you are “over there,”
And day and night you’re in a trench away in France somewhere;

You get a fresh-made doughnut, seems it comes from heaven above,

That doughnut, boys, reminds you of a slice of mother’s love.”


Read more.

The history of donuts, like so many foods, is debatable. Some believe that Dutch settlers brought doughnut making techniques from Holland. Hostess Donuts were first launched in the 1930's at a time in our history were looking for inexpensive ways to treat themselves. America's favorite doughnut is glazed, followed by chocolate, powdered sugar and plain.
There are 10 billion donuts made every year.

For a wonderful entry about Donut Day, you'll want to go to: Months of Edible Celebrations' website. Not only is there a great discussion of the history, but Months of Edible Celebrations includes recipes from The Donut Book by Sally Levitt Steinberg, granddaughter of Adolph Levitt, the inventor of the first doughnut machine (1920). As Louise says in her entry, "Sally brings the doughnut to life." You've got to read this.

And to celebrate Doughnut Day, several doughnut places have:

Free Donuts (alternative spelling) June 5: National Doughnut Day

Krispy Kreme: Visit a participating Krispy Kreme store for a free donut. One per customer. Fewer and fewer of these stores around these days.

Dunkin' Donuts: Participating stores will be giving away a free donut of your choice with any beverage purchase.

LaMar’s Donuts – Participating stores will be giving a complimentary Ray’s Original Glazed donut to customers in honor of the founder, Ray Lamar. No purchase necessary.

Bashas' in Arizona will be delivering dozens of fresh-baked donuts to police departments in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler and Glendale. They will also donate 10% of their donut sales on Donut Day to the Salvation Army.

Think you know something about donuts? Check out LaMar's Donuts for a quiz on donuts. A donut by any other name? churro (no hole), Beignet (no hole)... they're not donuts to me.

Want to be a bit more upscale with your doughnuts? Many bakeries, specialty shops and restaurants around the U.S. will be offering special doughnuts on June 5. Neal Fraser of Grace Restaurant in Los Angeles is offering a doughnut tasting menu with wine pairing. Sadly no chocolate doughnuts.

Patronize your favorite doughnut shop today! Love to hear where and how you celebrate.

Here's an original Salvation army recipe for Doughnuts (not chocolate), but fun from an historical perspective.

Double Chocolate Chunk Muffins from The Crepes of Wrath


Sometimes I see a recipe online, and I say this looks fabulous. So yesterday I saw a recipe for Double Chocolate Chunk Muffins on The Crepes of Wrath. I asked Sydney if I could repost here on DyingforChocolate. What's really cool about this recipe is that the tops are so crunchy because they're sprinkled with raw sugar--well, that and the fact that there is so much chocolate in this recipe.

I'm a big muffin fan, and this is an easy and delicious recipe. Be sure and check out the Crepes of Wrath site for great step by step instructions and fabulous photos. As in all recipes, they start somewhere and over time are changed a bit by each baker. This recipe is an adaptation of Baking Addiction's adaptation of Dorie Greenspan's recipe's for Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins. So here is my adaptation of several adaptations.

Double Chocolate Chunk Muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
7-8 ounces 70% or more organic dark chocolate, coarsely chopped or broken up
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (I used Scharffen Berger)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
coarse/raw sugar (turbinado), for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line and/or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin tin.
2. Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a greased saucepan or a double boiler; or do this in a microwave (very carefully in 30 second intervals). Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined, then add in the chocolate and butter mixture. Mix in the flour mixture until just moistened. Don’t worry about being thorough — a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Fold in the remaining chopped chocolate.
4. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin tin and top with a teaspoon or two of raw sugar.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Makes about 12 muffins.

Photo by permission Crepes of Wrath

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Top 10 Chocolate Blogs

This should keep you busy for awhile. Blogs.com has chosen its Top 10 List for All-About-Chocolate Blogs on the Web.

8chocolate Blog

Bittersweet

Choc Star

Chocablog

Chocolate Blog

Chocolate Bytes

Chocolate Obsession

The Chocolate Life

The Chocolate Nerd

The Chocolate Review

This should keep your chocolate habit busy for a long time. Great sites!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chocolate Honey Cake


It's Spring, although you wouldn't know it where I live. It's so cold and foggy, and I have the heat on today. June 2. Brrr... Anyway, it was warmer before, and I've been thinking about bees and honey, and I love the Nordic Ware Beehive Bundt Pan. It's the perfect pan for this Chocolate Honey Cake. It's available at Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma and online. Sadly, it's sold out at Signals that had it for less.

Bees and honey play an important part in my life--almost as much as chocolate and mystery. First, the bees are so important to my garden. I have over 100 rose bushes (down by 15 or so this year because of gophers), and I depend on these guys for pollination. And, I've been using honey, a tsp. a day in my tea, for many years for my allergies, and it really works. Of course it takes several years to build up an immunity.

I only use local honey, and I'm so lucky to live in an area where there are so many different honeys. I buy honey at farmers' markets and where ever I find it, but mostly I make several trips a year to Beekind in Sebastopol (CA) and stock up. Sonoma county is the U.S. test location for pollen allergies, and I know why, having suffered in Petaluma (every month has its own pollen problem and there are many microclimates/many pollens). Eating honey is much better than getting shots. The Beekind honey store sells pure, raw, natural and pesticide free honey. There's a tasting bar, and even though I know the locations and types of honeys I want, I always come away with new ones. Flavor changes with seasons as well as locale and plants. There were over 75 different varietals last summer, not as many recently, but the new honeys are coming in. I buy honey that comes from all over the Bay Area, although mostly from Sonoma county: wildflower, buckwheat, eucalyptus, blackberry, honeydew, apple, early Spring wildflower, sage, and so many others. It's a fun shop, and you can also order on line.

So I decided to look for my grandmother's honey cake recipe that I make a few times a year. As I've mentioned before, my grandmother was a baker who used a little bit of this, a little of that, and I tend to follow that model. She didn't add chocolate, but I usually add cocoa to her recipe, and it's turned out great. When I can't find her recipe (I'm not all that organized), I've adapted Marcy Goldman's from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (not the recipe on the website) which is meant to be a chocolate honey cake. Honey cakes can be dry, and adding more oil can prevent that. Of course, it also matters when you take it out of the oven. Be sure and give your cake the toothpick test, but don't overbake. In making any honey cake--chocolate or not, be sure to get the very best flavorful local honey. It will make a real difference in your cake. Skip the clover honey unless it's local.

Chocolate Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman's A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup of white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup good quality local honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites, plus 2 eggs (or 4 whole eggs)
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted (I would use a bit more, and, of course, good quality-can be unsweetened, there's a lot of sweetness in this recipe)
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup coca cola or brewed coffee, at room temperature (which you choose makes a difference also in sweetness)
½ cup (or a bit more) coarsely chopped dark chocolate (70% or higher)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the bottom only of a 9- or 10-inch angel food or tube pan--or the Beehive Bundt Pan (grease the whole thing). Cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the bottom if it's an angel food or tube pan.

In a medium bowl, blend the oil with the sugar, honey, and vanilla. Blend in the eggs. Mix well. In a larger bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, slowly adding the coke or coffee. Blend well to make a smooth batter.

Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 and bake another hour, or until the cake springs back when touched.

Sprinkle on the chopped chocolate. Shake the pan to loosen the cake from the bottom, but do not remove it. Refrigerate the cake to set the chocolate. Once the chocolate is set, invert and remove the cake from the pan. If you're using a traditional pan (not the Beehive pan), you can just serve it with the chocolate on top.

When I use this cool new Beehive Bundt Pan, I'll let you know how it works. I think the ingredients look just about right for this pan since it holds 10 cups.

Later... want to know more about honeybees and how they swarm? Check out this site.
Bethany Chamberlain, Napa Valley beekeeper. writes about Honeybees: Eye of the Swarm.

Article begins with this Old English Saying: “A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.”