Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Queen of the May: Chocolate Cake & Maypole Parfait

I love May Day with its Maypole, Morris Dancing and all the traditions I grew up with. Chocolate Cake, alas, was not one of them. Nevertheless, here I am many years later,  and I still love everything about May Day. Check out my list of May Day Crime Fiction and Morris Dancing Mysteries at Mystery Fanfare tomorrow. A Vintage Baker's Chocolate Advertisement fills that void of chocolate treats with these vintage recipes in Ladies Home Journal for Queen of the May Chocolate Cake and Maypole Parfaits. FYI: I was never the May Queen, although I did dance around the Maypole.

Be sure to scroll down for a history of May Day, Queen of the May, and Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "The May Queen"



From Wikipedia:

The May Queen or Queen of May is a term which has two distinct but related meanings, as a mythical figure and as a personification of the holiday, and of Springtime.

Today the May Queen is a girl who must ride or walk at the front of a parade for May Day celebrations. She wears a white gown to symbolise purity and usually a tiara or crown. Her duty is to begin the May Day celebrations. She is generally crowned by flowers and makes a speech before the dancing begins. Certain age groups dance round a Maypole celebrating youth and the spring time.
Sir James George Frazer found in the figure of the May Queen, a relic of tree worship:
According to popular British folklore, the tradition once had a sinister twist, in that the May Queen was put to death once the festivities were over. The veracity of this belief is difficult to establish, but while in truth it might just be an example of anti-pagan propaganda, frequent associations between May Day rituals, the occult and human sacrifice are still to be found in popular culture today. The Wicker Man, a cult horror film starring Christopher Lee, is a prominent example of these associations.


The May Queen
 by Alfred Lord Tennyson

You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day;
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

There's many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;
There's Margaret and Mary, there's Kate and Caroline:
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land they say,
So I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break:
But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

As I came up the valley whom think ye should I see,
But Robin leaning on the bridge beneath the hazel-tree?
He thought of that sharp look, mother, I gave him yesterday,--
But I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

He thought I was a ghost, mother, for I was all in white,
And I ran by him without speaking, like a flash of light.
They call me cruel-hearted, but I care not what they say,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

They say he's dying all for love, but that can never be:
They say his heart is breaking, mother--what is that to me?
There's many a bolder lad 'ill woo me any summer day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you'll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side 'ill come from far away,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

The honeysuckle round the porch has wov'n its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the live-long day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

All the valley, mother, 'ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale 'ill merrily glance and play,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year:
To-morrow 'ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.


Monday, April 29, 2013

The Chocolate Addict: CHOCOLATE DESSERT CUPS, dishes you can eat

Today I welcome the Queen of Chocolate Decoration and Innovation, The Chocolate Addict, Katreece Montgomery. Katreece makes chocolate decorating videos for the home chef. Visit her at: TheChocolateAddict.com.


THE CHOCOLATE ADDICT:
Chocolate Dessert Cups, dishes you can eat.

Every dessert deserves to be embellished, and presented in an elegant fashion, and most alluring is the chocolate dessert cup.

There are many ways to make chocolate dessert cups. These delightful edible containers are sure to spruce up your favorite mousse recipe, or perhaps filled with your favorite sorbet, fruit or confections. These can be in the form of cups,bowls, cylinders, boxes or any type of vessel to hold something delicious. Chocolate dessert cups are a stunning addition to a table setting for a festive dinner party, or a romantic dessert accessory for two.  Fill a chocolate container with confections and wrap in cellophane paper for a delightful chocolate lovers gift.

The easiest way to make a dessert cup is to find a food safe plastic container to use as a mold. Fill with tempered chocolate*, remove excess, refrigerate for several minutes and carefully release chocolate cup from mold. Shazam!

Your guests will be tickled pink when they find out they can eat the dishes!

*To make chocolate decorations you'll need to perform a series of steps called tempering, this will ensure your decoration with harden and look it's best. For kids projects or if you find the tempering process too time consuming, you can whip up a decoration in a jiffy with something called confectionary coating, which is chocolate flavored candy. It does not need to be tempered and is very inexpensive and convenient to use. Check out Tempering HERE.


If you love to spend time in the kitchen being creative, give chocolate decorating a try. You'll be amazed at what you can dream up with the most sensational "food of the Gods", we call chocolate.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grilled Cheese, Chocolate & Marmalade Sandwich

SantaCruzArt at Etsy.com
I tend to post a lot of recipes that revolve around Food Holidays. Not sure who designated some of these holidays or why, but no matter, I love to celebrate any and every food...especially when I can add Chocolate. So this entire month was Grilled Cheese Month and April 12 was Grilled Cheese Day. Would hate to end the month without a nod to my favorite comfort food--Grilled Cheese. So here you have the Grilled Cheese + Chocolate Sandwich.

Bread, Butter, Cheese, Chocolate--and Orange Marmalade! What could be better?

I love my Panini Press, but this sandwich should be made on the stove in an iron skillet. My mother used to make her fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches in an old iron skillet with the top of a small iron lid pressing down on the sandwiches. Both were inherited from my grandmother. I have the lid (with a 1940s era blue handle), but not the original skillet. Interesting what we hold on to.

This recipe is great for Sunday Brunch. Just add a bar of chocolate, some cheese--and place in between buttered challah or another soft bread--and make it in a big skillet. Reduce amounts if it's only two of you. Try this recipe today to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month.

Grilled Cheese, Chocolate, & Marmalade Sandwich

Ingredients
6 ounces Mascarpone
2 Tbsp Orange Marmalade (or try a hot pepper orange marmalade!)
2 Tbsp Butter (room temperature)
8 slices Challah or Brioche (sandwich size)
8 ounces Brie (sliced 1/4 inch thick)
14 ounces Dark Chocolate (65-75% cacao, fair-trade, organic), chopped

Directions
Combine orange marmalade and mascarpone.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, buttered side down on work surface.
Spread mascarpone mixture on bread.
Place brie slices over mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chunks.
Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered side up.
Heat large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes.
Put sandwiches in pan, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Watch carefully.
Turn sandwiches, pressing each firmly with spatula or heavy pot lid (smaller than the skillet).
Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until undersides are browned.
Remove cover, turn sandwiches over and press firmly with spatula or pot lid again.
Cook until cheese has melted completely.
Remove from pan and let cool 2-3 minutes.

Photo: SantaCruzArt at Etsy.com.  (There's also a great Chocolate Chip painting!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's the Tops! Retro Chocolate Topping Pie

You know I love Retro Chocolate Ads with Recipes, and Baker's made the best! Here's a great easy recipe for Chocolate Topping Pie! Love the Peppermint Filling, too. This pie is very, very easy! Make it with a Chocolate Crust, and you'll have Double the Chocolate!




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Pistachios

Oddly, today is National Zucchini Bread Day. That doesn't really make any sense since it's only April 25. Maybe this refers to zucchini growing Down Under? Oh yes, you can buy zucchini all year round, but it's a summer crop in the Northern Hemisphere. So, by mid-summer if you're growing zucchini (even one plant!), you've probably run out of friends to hand zukes off to, and you're thinking of wrapping them up in a blanket, putting them a basket and leaving them on the church steps. So you might want to save this recipe for the summer.

To be fair, Zucchini Bread doesn't use up a lot of zucchini, but it's a tasty way of serving up your courgettes! Add chocolate and you're calling my name!

When I first started baking 'vegetable' breads, I used old coffee tins for baking pans, but that was a long time ago. Now, I usually make my zucchini breads in bundt pans, and I'm always amazed by the new bundt pan shapes. Of course conventional loaf pans work, too, since this is a quick bread. Most recipes say to let the zucchini bread cool before serving. I don't follow that advice since by the time the aroma has filled my kitchen for an hour, I'm ready to devour this Chocolate Zucchini Bread and often do! Since you, too, might make short shrift of this Chocolate Zucchini Bread, you'll want to make two or double the recipe, so others get a chance to taste.

A few comments on zucchini. Depending on where you live, zucchini is also called courgettes or marrows (remember Hercule Poirot throwing the marrow over the fence in the opening of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Acroyd?) and sometimes summer squash (although in my neck of the woods summer squash is a totally different squash and a different color).

For your recipe pleasure, here are two links to recipes for different, but equally tasty Chocolate Zucchini Bread: Geeky Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Chcocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread. As you know, you can never have too many recipes for Chocolate Zucchini Bread to enjoy!

This Chocolate Zucchini Bread tastes great toasted with a little cream cheese or mascarpone! And, the secret ingredient: Pistachios!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD with Pistachios!

Ingredients
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla
2 Tbsp sweet butter
6 Tbsp DARK Cocoa
2 cups zucchini, grated
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped chocolate chunks or dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
2 tsp. flour

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°.
In large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
In small saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter, add 6 Tbsp cocoa and blend tuntil smooth. Set aside to cool.
Peel and grate zucchini. Add zucchini and cooled cocoa mixture to the large mixing bowl and blend well.
In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the batter. Stir only enough to blend in all the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, coat broken up chocolate chunks (or chips) with 2 tsp. flour.
Fold in flour-coated chocolate chunks and chopped pistachios to the batter.
Spoon batter into two greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans or into a greased bundt pan.
Bake 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 5-10 minutes.
Remove from pans and continue to cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Easy Anytime Nutella Cookies

I don't usually promote specific stores, but I'm a fan of Cost Plus World Market. Always have been. When I was younger, I loved their exotic items and foods. It was my way of traveling without leaving town. I'm a tea drinker, and I buy my Barry's Irish Breakfast tea there, 6-8 boxes at a time. Over the years, I've bought many fun fabrics, dishes, glasses, drapes, and food--including Nutella, my favorite chocolate hazelnut spread.

So, I signed up for their emails. In today's inbox, not only is there a one day discounted coupon for 40% off up to 4 jars of Nutella, but a recipe for Easy Anytime Nutella Cookies from Chef Katie Chin of the Sweet and Sour Chonicles for World Market. As I've mentioned, recipes can be found anywhere! You just have to find them.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Easy Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake: National Cherry Cheesecake Day

Photo: Pillsbury (I usually leave off the chocolate on top)
In celebration of National Cherry Cheesecake Day (don't you just love these food holidays?), I thought I'd post an easy delicious recipe for Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake adapted from Pillsbury.

About the crust. Sometimes I bake it first, and sometimes I don't. It won't matter in this recipe, but I like it to be a bit more crunchy for texture, so I posted with baking it before adding filling.


CHOCOLATE CHERRY CHEESECAKE

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate Cookie Crust
About 40 chocolate wafers (Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers-2 cups crumbs)
6 tablespoons sweet butter, melted and slightly cooled
Pinch of salt

Directions
1. Process cookies in food processor until finely ground.
2. Transfer crumbs to mixing bowl & combine crumbs, butter, salt. Stir until crumbs are moistened.
3. Press mixture evenly across bottom of 10-inch springform pan and all the way up sides of pan. Pack tightly so crust is even.
4. Bake in 350° oven for 6-8 minutes or until crisp.
5. Let cool completely before filling. You can put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Filling 
4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling   (I love Chukar's Sour Cherry Pie Filling!)

Glaze 
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup (or about 6 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped

Directions
1.  Heat oven to 325°F.
In medium bowl, combine crust ingredients; mix well. Press in bottom and 1 inch up sides of ungreased 10-inch springform pan and bake (as above)
2.  In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sugar and almond extract until smooth. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream; blend well.
3.  Spoon 3 1/2 cups cream cheese mixture into crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Carefully spoon 1 cup pie filling evenly over cream cheese layer (reserve remaining pie filling for topping). Spoon remaining cream cheese mixture evenly over pie filling.
4.  Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack 1 hour.

Optional: I don't think you need to add this, but if you want more chocolate!
5.  In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup whipping cream to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped chocolate until melted.
6.  Line cookie sheet with waxed paper. Remove side of pan. Place cheesecake on paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread glaze over cooled cheesecake, allowing some to flow down side. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with remaining pie filling.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day: Cracked Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake

Earth Day! As many of you know, I blog about mystery/crime fiction at Mystery Fanfare, as well as Chocolate. I'm also the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal. The most recent issue (Volume 29:1) focuses on Environmental Crime Fiction/Mysteries. Today on Mystery Fanfare, I blogged about Reservoir Noir: Books that deal with intentional flooding of towns and villages because of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, irrigation, power and other reasons--a sad addition to the environmental crime fiction list.
I don’t know of a good crime novel that involves the chocolate trade. That’s a theme ripe for a good mystery. Something to think about while you enjoy “Cracked Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake” from the recipe below.

The recipe for the cake is adapted from Tyler Florence of the Food Network. It's his Cracked Chocolate Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake. And, it's Gluten-Free.

Cracked Earth Chocolate Flourless Cake

Ingredients
1 pound organic fair-trade dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), chopped into small pieces
1 stick sweet butter
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups heavy cream, cold 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 9-inch springform pan.
Put chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over simmering water until melted.
Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks with sugar in mixing bowl until light yellow in color.
Whisk a little of chocolate mixture into egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs - this will keep eggs from scrambling from heat of the chocolate; then whisk in rest of chocolate mixture.
Beat egg whites in mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into chocolate mixture.
Pour into prepared pan (spray bottom with nonstick spray) and bake until cake is set, top starts to crack, and toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes (and then check every five minutes after that--don't overbake).
Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Instantaneous Chocolate Vintage Ads: Stephen F. Whitman, Whitman's chocolates

I hail from Philadelphia, so I loved this advertisement when I stumbled over it. "Instantaneous Chocolate!"... what's not to like? And only 75 cents a can! Stephen F. Whitman was, of course, the founder of Whitman's Chocolates.


 History of Whitman's from the Russell Stover site.

In 1842, a 19-year-old Quaker named Stephen F. Whitman set up a small "confectionery and fruiterer shoppe" on Market Street near the Philadelphia waterfront. His shop attracted Philadelphians from all walks of life, leading citizens to sailors. Thanks to exotic ingredients taken to Whitman by well-traveled sailors, his candies quickly gained renown across the Northeast.
Whitman was an innovative marketer; he knew that presentation could be as important as taste to some customers. So he created beautiful packaging and well-crafted advertising campaigns that focused prospective customers on the quality of his candies. Whitman's became a familiar name, thanks to ads in newspapers and magazines as early as 1857.
Business thrived, and the company's facility in Philadelphia expanded. New products, including tinned Instantaneous Chocolate, brought acclaim and boosted profits. In 1869, the next generation took the reins when Horace Whitman replaced his father as company president. Horace introduced America to cellophane, a then-wondrous material that helped keep candy fresh, colorful and clean.
By 1907, Whitman's Candies were appearing on the shelves in "better drug stores" across the region. Four years later, Walter Sharp stepped in as president; he developed new products and initiated the company's money-back guarantee that continues to this day. Sharp also created the Whitman's Sampler®, an assortment of the company's best-selling chocolates. Inspired by a cross-stitched sampler hanging in his home, Sharp worked with a skilled employee to create the sampler that's reproduced on Sampler boxes to this day. By 1915, the Sampler had become America's best-selling box of chocolates, a position it still holds today.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

National Animal Crackers Day!

Today is National Animal Crackers Day. The original animal crackers of my childhood didn't have a lot of flavor, but even now when I think of them I remember the unique taste during zoo and circus visits. These trips were always exciting, and animal crackers were an important part of the experience, as that was the only time I ate them.  I remember the red cardboard boxes with pictures of animals in cages (sad now, but I didn't think about that then) and little flat strings to carry your box.

Today there are many different brands of animal crackers--vegan, chocolate, chocolate covered, covered with icing and sprinkles and so many more. There's the original Barnum's Animal Crackers, and I really like Barbara's (all natural) Snackimals Double Chocolate and Snackimals Chocolate Chip.

Want to dress up your store bought Animal Crackers today to celebrate National Animal Cracker Day? Dip the animal crackers in Chocolate:

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers/Muddy Boots

Melt a good dark chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave.
Dip animals and let cool on waxed paper.
You can either dip most of the animal (and use forks or special dipping tools) or just dip the feet as I did with the Walker Scottie Dogs with Muddy Boots. I like Trader Joe's Animal Crackers for chocolate dipping.

Want to get fancier? Healthy Happy Life (Lunchboxbunch.com) has a Chocolate-Covered Vegan Animal Cookies post with great photos and recipes.

There's even a Website devoted to Animal Crackers: www.animalcrackers.net/  Here you'll find a variety of recipes for animal crackers  such as Homemade Animal Crackers, Oatmeal Animal Crackers, Classic Animal Crackers, Cheese Animal Crackers, Chocolate Animal Crackers, and many others. Animal Crackers have been a snack since the mid nineteenth century. Today they are made by numerous well known companies, such as Keebler, Nabisco, or the Stauffer Biscuit Company. Although store bought varieties can be great, you might want to try some homemade animal crackers.

COCOA ANIMAL CRACKERS: 
Recipe adapted from AnimalCrackers.net

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup of Organic Toasted Rolled Quick Oats
1/2 Cup Softened Real Butter
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of Kosher Salt
3/4 Cup of Cold Whole Milk

Directions:
Preheat  oven to 350 degrees.
In Blender, mix organic toasted rolled quick oats, with flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and kosher salt.
Pulse until base mixture is completely ground up into delicate powder, and color and texture are even and consistent.
Pour this mixture into mixing bowl, and vigorously stir in cold whole milk and softened real butter. Stir until dough becomes stiff, adding any extra milk if you need to.
Roll animal cracker dough into ball on clean flat surface, then flatten it out into a quarter of an inch thickness.
Using animal cracker or cookie cutters, make as many shapes as you can with the dough.
Place your finished shapes on lightly greased baking sheet. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes, or until crackers are crisp.
Cool on wire wrack for half an hour.

Waiter, there's an Animal Cracker in my soup! Animal Crackers make a great starch for soups and stews.  Last year I posted a recipe for a great Chicken Mole Polano made with Animal Crackers.  Or try this recipe for White Chocolate Mole with Animal Crackers.

Want a sweet chocolate soup with Animal Crackers? O. K., this is more of a dessert. This recipe was originally found on the Hershey's Cocoa Box.

CHOCOLATE SOUP WITH ANIMAL CRACKERS

Ingredients
3/4 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa
1 egg yolk

Directions:
Heat half-and-half. Pour into bowl, leaving about 1/4 cup in saucepan or cup.
Add sugar, vanilla, cocoa to pan and mix until it is a syrup. Add egg yolk and stir over low heat. Gradually stir in preheated half-and-half. Stir until blended and thick. Pour into bowl.
Top with animal crackers.

Here's a link to several other Cocoa Soup recipes. All go well with Animal Crackers!

Enjoy this video clip of Shirley Temple singing Animal Crackers in my Soup!

THE RETURN OF CHARLES CHOCOLATES!

Fresh off the presses--or just in my inbox-- from Charles Chocolates:

The Wait is Over!

"We know that you've been waiting almost as long as we have and we're now thrilled to announce the return of Charles Chocolates. Rest assured, we haven't been sitting around doing nothing--every waking hour has been spent trying to figure out how to make Charles Chocolates the best chocolates available anywhere.

Of course, we still have some of your favorites, like the Triple Chocolate Almonds and Hazelnuts, and the Salty-Sweet Bars, but we've added to that a host of exciting new bars that are sure to sell well. We are especially excited about our new Mendiant Bars, a 1.4 oz. powerhouse of a bar packed full of candied and dried fruits and deep roasted nuts.


Charles Chocolates, 535 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. www.charleschocolates.com

Founded in 2004, Charles Chocolates began as one man’s dedication to the art of chocolate, his pursuit of perfection and a complete and total passion for producing only the finest confections. Chuck (Charles) Siegel has been a part of the San Francisco chocolate scene since 1987 when he started his first premium chocolate company at the age of 25.
 
Charles Chocolates has set out to redefine the world of fine chocolate confections. The confections are made using the finest ingredients, including some of the world’s best chocolates, organic herbs, fruits and nuts as well as organic cream and butter. Everything is made by hand in very small batches using traditional, artisanal techniques. Awards include Sunset Magazine’s “Best of the West”, Editor’s Pick by 7x7 Magazine, and “Best Chocolates” in East Bay Express. Charles Chocolates has many loyal customers for its classic line of products, and also excites customers with new innovations such as the company’s signature edible chocolate boxes."

Shop Online


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tasting Home: Judith Newton Guest Post

Today I welcome Judith Newton, author of Tasting Home: Coming of Age in the Kitchen.

Judith Newton is Professor Emerita in Women and Gender Studies at U.C. Davis where she directed the Women and Gender Studies program for eight years and the Consortium for Women and Research for four. She grew up in Compton, California, received her B.A. at Stanford in American literature and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Victorian literature at U.C. Berkeley. She is the author and co-editor of five works of nonfiction on nineteenth-century British women writers, feminist criticism, women's history, and men's movements. Four of these works were reprinted by Routledge and the University of Michigan Press in the fall of 2012. For more information, visit: http://tasting-home.com/

Judith Newton recently published her first memoir, Tasting Home: Coming of Age in the Kitchen (Shewrites Press/March 1, 2013). In this wonderful memoir, Judith Newton shares the unforgettable story of a life on the front lines of activism and in the kitchen. During a difficult childhood, food and cooking were sources of comfort and emotional sustenance. And in the decades to come, through her marriage to a gay man, her discovery of feminism, her life in a commune, and her career as an academic, she used food to sustain personal and political relationships, mourn losses, and celebrate victories. As she earned her activist stripes in the 1960s and beyond, she also learned how food could ease tension, foster community, and build cross-racial ties. Each chapter is finished with a delicious recipe that ties in perfectly with the story.

JUDITH NEWTON: TASTING HOME

“My mother made three kinds of fudge: a dense, honey-colored, cleave-to-the-mouth peanut butter; a rich chocolate made with syrup and cocoa, which my mother labeled simply “fudge,” and the See’s version made with chocolate chips, a half cup of margarine, walnuts, and an entire jar of marshmallow cream.”—From Tasting Home.

Four years ago, while standing in my kitchen, I had an epiphany about my life. The pantry in my newly purchased home, seeming too small to accommodate my 140 cookbooks, had prompted me to consider pruning my collection. Yet how to begin? I’d moved so many times in my life that each new relocation recalled at least two others. Perhaps that was why I began to dwell upon a book I’d disposed of during a previous change of place—a desk calendar with French recipes and French menus. I hadn’t used the calendar in two decades, and most of its pages had come loose, but, out of nowhere, its absence began to feel like a wound. I‘d been fond of its black-and-white pictures of Paris and the French countryside, had imagined serving one of its chic menus, and at one point had even cooked one or two of its dishes. And now, without knowing why, I longed to see those menus again, yearned to remember what I’d tried to cook, struggled to place the book and its pleasures in my life. Had it been published in the 1970s? I began to ache for the ’70s and for the pantry in Philadelphia I had painted deep orange red.

I saw I had to keep my books. I’d written in their margins, ranked their recipes, thumbed through their pages with buttery fingers, and read through several as if they’d been Holy Script. They spoke of the decades and cooking fashions I’d lived through, reminded me of men I’d once loved, recalled the life stages of my daughter, who’d given me such happiness, and brought me face to face with earlier versions of myself. But still wondering at my hunger for a calendar I hadn’t looked at in many years, I realized that the cookbooks were more to me than a reflection of my past. They’d been agents of my recovery—from childhood misery, from profound self-loss, from my fear even as an adult that the world would never seem like home. I’d cooked from them to save my life and I’d succeeded. It was then I realized that if I were to tell the story of my long journey home, I would tell it through my cookbooks. And that was the beginning of my memoir, Tasting Home.
__________________________________________________________________

My Mother’s Recipe for See’s Chocolate Fudge 

3 (12 ounce) packages chocolate chips
A 7 oz jar of Marshmallow Cream
1/2 lb margarine (you can use butter, but that was too expensive for my mother)
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped walnuts
4-1/2 cups sugar
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

1. Place first five ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
2. Mix sugar and evaporated milk together and boil for 9 minutes, stirring constantly
3. Pour hot mixture over chocolate mixture. Mix well
4. Pour into pan and refrigerate.
5. Cut into squares before the fudge is firm. ______________________________________________________________________________ Photo with permission from http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2012/12/sees-copycat-fudge.html

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Crisco Chocolate Marble Cake: Retro Ad & Recipe

I know you'll like this Retro Recipe for Crisco's Marble Cake.
"Now easier than ever to bake.. this lighter, richer Crisco Cake"


I grew up with Crisco, and I still use it in many recipes. Crisco was introduced by Procter & Gamble in 1911 to provide an economical alternative to animal fats and butter. Crisco was the first solidified shortening product made entirely of vegetable oil. This was the result of hydrogenation, a new process that produced shortening that would stay in solid form year-round, regardless of temperature.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Death and Taxes Truffles

April 15: Tax Day.  

"The only things certain in life are Death and Taxes." This quotation is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, The Yale Book of Quotations quotes “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” from Christopher Bullock, The Cobler of Preston (1716). The YBQ also quotes “Death and Taxes, they are certain,” from Edward Ward, The Dancing Devils (1724). No matter who said it, it's true.

Last year, Socola Chocolate created a truffle to mark the day: THE INEVITABLE EDIBLE Truffle. Perfect for Tax Day.  It's a dark chocolate truffle made with Santa Rosa's Moonlight Brewing Company's Death & Taxes Stout.

Socola is a San Francisco artisan chocolate company, the brain child of sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu. Their truffles feature flavors from burnt caramel with sea salt to sriracha (Sriracha Flying Rooster Chocolate Truffles--my favorite!).

After meeting with Moonlight brewer Brian Hunt at the Fancy Food Show, the Lieu sisters developed a truffle that features the regional favorite Death and Taxes. The Inevitable Edible has a smooth center robed with dark chocolate. The beer flavor in Death and Taxes is subtle. If you need a stronger beer flavor to get you through tax day, try their Guinness Truffle.

A little history of the Lieu sisters from their website:
Wendy, the older of the two sisters and is Sôcôla’s chief Chocolatier. A pastry school graduate, Wendy began experimenting with Klutz's Cookbook for Kids at age nine and with truffles recipes at age nineteen. She holds a degree in managerial economics from UC Davis and works as a consultant in San Francisco, but chocolate is where the heart is: mostly self-taught, she finds that her thoughts wander frequently now to new truffle recipes, and she’s even begun dreaming up ganache concoctions in her sleep.

By contrast, Susan couldn’t tell the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons as a child, and her early attempts at friendship bread (referred to as the Great Salt Incident of ’95) tasted like the Dead Sea. Her talents lie outside the kitchen, as a fundraiser, activist, and saleswoman. A Harvard graduate with a degree in Social Studies, Susan feels most at home when she’s stirring up fervor in people—whether for sustainable farming methods in Vietnam, international relief for refugees in Africa, or for her and Wendy’s chocolates.

When Wendy began experimenting with chocolate recipes in 2001, she never intended for the truffles to be anything other than Christmas gifts, but her friends and family members kept asking where they could find more of them. One neighbor suggested that she try marketing and selling the chocolates, which inspired Susan to begin promoting. Weeks later, Wendy and Susan (then nineteen and sixteen years old) were featured on KSRO 1350's Pat Thurston Show. They chatted excitedly about their chocolates, took in callers, and raffled truffles, and audiences throughout Sonoma County fell in love—with the girls no less than with the truffles.

Sôcôla Chocolates can be found available online at their website: www.socolachocolates.com and at DarTealing Lounge in San Francisco (470 Third St.). They make great wedding favors and business gifts!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chocolate Pecan Brownie Fudge Cake

Today is National Pecan Day! I've been waiting to post this recipe for awhile now. It's one of my absolute favorites. Gluten- free.. Kosher for Passover (with a few tweaks) and just plain fabulous. This adapted recipe first appeared in the L.A. Times on April 14, 2011 and again in August 2012 with a photo by Glenn Koenig (which will make your drool), so be sure and check out what the finished cake looks like.

Instead of flour, the recipe calls for ground blanched almonds. Almond and chocolate go very well together. The almond flour gives the following cake a nutty flavor that is complemented by the Pecans! Try using different types of chocolate to achieve the flavor you like best.This cake is simple to make and easy to enjoy! Add some fresh whipped cream if you need to. I particularly like the crunchy top of this cake and the fudge-y insides.

Notes on special ingredients:

Almond Flour:  Almond flour is readily available where I live, as well as online, but you can grind your own. Use a hand grinder (a clean coffee grinder) or blender. Don't use a food processor or you might end up making oil. If you use a blender, do it in small increments, about 1/2 cup at a time.

Turbinado Sugar: Turbinado sugar is a sugar cane-based, minimally refined sugar. It's medium brown in color and has large crystals. It's often mistaken for traditional brown sugar because of its light brown color, but it's made in a different way. It contains more moisture than regular white or brown sugar, so get some for your pantry. If you don't have it, and you want to make this cake today, you can substitute granulated sugar.

Potato Starch: No you don't have to make your own! Potato starch is available from Bob's Red Mill, King Arthur Flour and many other sources. It is not the same product as potato flour.

CHOCOLATE PECAN BROWNIE FUDGE CAKE

Ingredients
1/3 cup potato starch (see my note above)
1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds (see note above)
1 cup turbinado sugar (in a pinch you can use granulated sugar)
Pinch salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate (the very best quality!), melted
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 9-inch round or square baking pan and line with parchment paper so paper extends 2 inches beyond the pan. (Always good to ease the cake out of the pan)
2. In medium bowl, whisk together potato starch, ground almonds, sugar and salt.
3. In small bowl, whisk together oil, eggs and vanilla. Pour oil mixture over dry ingredients and stir together with wooden spoon until thoroughly combined and smooth. Stir in melted chocolate and chopped pecans. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Level with frosting spatula dipped in cold water, if necessary.
4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out slightly moist but without crumbs.
5. While still warm, cut into 8 equal pieces, leaving cake in pan. Set aside cake to cool completely, then chill.
6. Bring cake back to room temperature before lifting out of pan (using parchment 'handles'), and gently separate into portions.
7. Top with fresh whipped cream and serve!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

National Scrabble Day: Scrabble Cakes

Today is Scrabble Day. I'm addicted to Scrabble. I love words, so Scrabble has always been apart of my life. I even had a mini-scrabble game that I carried when I backpacked across Europe many years ago. That was pre-internet, pre-game devices. I now have an iPad, and, of course, I have Scrabble on it. I play most every day--against the computer. So, if you're like me, you'll love this medley of Scrabble Cake photos I found on the Internet. Full disclosure: none of them are mine, but I identify them and list the source. Let me know if you've made a Scrabble Cake or saw one at a party. Love to include your photos!

This unique Scrabble wedding cake was made for a bride and groom who played Scrabble together over the internet while he was stationed in Iraq. K, worth five points, was at the top because both the bride and groom have names starting with K. I love this cake from the PinkCakeBox Blog.

And a few more:
From MySweetandsaucy.com
 From Sweetthings-Toronto comes two Scrabble Related items:
A Wedding Cake and Cupcakes.





And, from Mindylong.com come photos of this Scrabble Cake for Word Lovers from the National Capital Area Cake Show:



And, from CakeCentral comes this Birthday Cake spelling out greetings for an 80th Birthday:


Happy Scrabble Day!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Joanne Fluke: Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes

I just love when my two worlds of mystery and chocolate collide. Today I welcome mystery and cookbook author Joanne Fluke. Be sure and scroll down for Joanne's recipe for Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes!

JOANNE FLUKE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries, which include Apple Turnover Murder, Cream Puff Murder, Cinnamon Roll Murder, and the book that started it all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. Like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in Southern California. Readers are welcome to visit www.KensingtonBooks.com/JoanneFluke for more information. Honored by Romantic Times as a “Living Legend,” Fluke’s compilation of vignettes and recipes from the Hannah Swensen series, JOANNE FLUKE’S LAKE EDEN COOKBOOK, was a Top 10 New York Times Bestselling Cookbook.

Last month, Fluke and Hannah returned with RED VELVET CUPCAKE MURDER, a hardcover caper with over 20 recipes interspersed throughout, including Tickled Pink Lemonade Cookies, Jamboree Muffins, Oatmeal Apple Pancakes, Guac Ad Hoc, Snappy Turtle Pie, and of course, Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes. The Paula Deen of cozies, Joanne Fluke never fails to cook up culinary mysteries that are just as famous for their scrumptious excess of calories as for their eccentric characters and unexpected endings.

In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, the series' sleuth suddenly finds the tables turned when her rival turns up dead and Hannah is the prime suspect. The sticky caper begins on a hot summer evening in Lake Eden, Minnesota. Hannah Swensen is serving her famous cupcakes at the Grand Opening celebration for the new Red Velvet Lounge when an unexpected guest makes a splashy appearance: Hannah’s nemesis, Doctor Bev, who hasn’t been seen since she left town in shame two years before. But Bev doesn’t have too much time to stir things up before she’s murdered in cold blood on a hot summer night. The only clue the police have is the Red Velvet cupcake Bev ate right before she died—and the tranquilizers someone seems to have baked into it.  

Q&A with Joanne Fluke

When did you first start writing? 

My 8th grade English teacher got me started. Every Friday our assignment was to write a one-page short story. I loved it. Everybody else in the class hated it! How did you start writing cozy culinary mysteries? I always wanted to write a cookbook, but since I’m not a celebrity dessert chef and I don’t own a famous restaurant or bakery, no one took me seriously. That was when I was asked if I’d like to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery series. I said yes, as long as I could include some of the family recipes I had stacked in twenty-three shoeboxes in the corner of my kitchen. And that’s when Hannah Swensen, small town baker and amateur sleuth, was born.

Is Hannah based on a real person? 

Hannah, as a character, is my conception of the perfect friend. She's funny, supportive, kind, generous, and if she lived next door to me, she'd probably bring me cookies. What more could you ask for in a friend? Hannah doesn't remind me of any one person I know, but she's very real to me. I went to my local grocery store yesterday to pick up some apples for a recipe I was trying. I caught myself just as I was about to turn around to ask Hannah if I should buy Granny Smiths or Gala

What first inspired you to create original recipes for your books? 

My biggest baking influence is my family. I grew up in small town Minnesota, and it was considered rude to serve coffee without some sort of sweet treat to go with it. Almost every woman in town baked and when I was four years old, I started to help my mother and my grandmother bake. They gave me a big wooden spoon and let me stir. Because of them, baking has become a lifelong joy for me.

What would you do if you weren’t an author? 

I'd try to open a cookie and coffee shop like Hannah Swensen. I love to bake almost as much as I love to write.

What book is on your nightstand right now? 

I’m currently reading a book called Video Kill, and it’s a mystery I wrote years ago. I’m in the process of making some final edits and now that I’m re-reading it, I realize that the idea for Hannah Swensen’s cat Moishe began with a cat named Al in Video Kill. (Kensington Publishing will re-release Video Kill in paperback in May of this year.)

RED VELVET SURPRISE CUPCAKES

If you’re going to make these cupcakes right away, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

Hannah’s Note: To make these cupcakes, you must first make Chocolate Apricot Surprises. Don’t worry. They’ll only take you 15 minutes at the most. If you’d prefer to make them at night and not bake the cupcakes until morn- ing, preheat the oven at that time.

CHOCOLATE APRICOT SURPRISES

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (that’s one cup of chips)
2 Tablespoons apricot jam
2 Tablespoons salted butter
If the apricot jam has big pieces of apricots, cut them into smaller pieces before you measure out the jam. You can also simply pick them out and only use the clear part of the jam.

Place the 3 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. (I used a 2-cup measuring cup.)
Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Take the chocolate mixture out of the microwave and stir the contents smooth.
Tear off a piece of waxed paper and place it on a piece of cardboard or a cookie sheet right next to the chocolate mixture.
Use a quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the chocolate mixture. Scrape it out of the spoon with your impeccably clean finger and drop it onto the waxed paper in little mounds. If it spreads out too much and won’t mound, let it cool for a minute or two longer.
Once you start making the chocolate mounds, keep in mind that you will need 24 Chocolate Apricot Surprises for your cupcakes. If you end up with less, pinch a little off the larger mounds and transfer it to the smaller mounds. If you end up with too much chocolate left, either make the existing mounds bigger, or make several mounds on a different piece of wax paper and hide them in a small container in the back of your refrigerator for the times you have a chocolate deficiency.
Refrigerate the Chocolate Apricot Surprises until you’re ready to use them in your cupcakes. (You can make them the night before you make your cupcakes, but only if you live alone. If you have a family, someone is bound to get up in the middle of the night to eat them.)

RED VELVET CUPCAKES
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

1 and 1⁄2 cups white (granulated) sugar
1⁄2 cup salted butter (1 stick, 4 ounces, 1⁄4 pound), softened to room temperature
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons red food color gel (if you can’t find gel, you can use liquid food coloring, but gel is best—I used Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 and 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or white vinegar if you can’t find red wine vinegar)

Line 24 cupcake cups with cupcake papers. (My cupcake pans hold 12 apiece, so I used 2 cupcake pans. I also used double cupcake papers in each cup.)

WARNING ABOUT FOOD COLOR GEL: Make sure you don’t buy red decorating gel instead of red food color gel. The decorating gel comes in individual tubes and is used to write on the top of cakes in various colors of gel frosting. You need to buy the concentrated food color gel that will color your cupcake batter red. If you can’t find food color gel, you can use liquid food coloring, but you’ll have to use double the amount.

Place the white sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the softened, salted butter and vegetable oil. Beat until the resulting mixture is nice and fluffy.
Mix in the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Mix it in thoroughly.
Add the 2 teaspoons of red food color gel and the vanilla extract. Beat until the color is mixed in evenly.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add one cup of flour to your bowl and mix it in thoroughly. Then shut off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Pour in a half-cup of buttermilk and mix that in thoroughly on LOW speed.
Add a second cup of flour to your bowl. Mix it in thoroughly and then shut off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
Add the rest of the buttermilk (1⁄2 cup) to your bowl. Mix well.
Mix in the rest of the flour (1⁄2 cup) and mix thoroughly.
Mix in the red wine vinegar.
Shut off the mixer, remove the bowl, and give your cup- cake batter a final scrape and stir with the rubber spatula.
The vinegar may make your batter foam up a bit. That’s perfectly all right.
Fill the cupcake papers 1⁄3 full of batter. (Lisa and I used a 2-Tablespoon scoop to do this at The Cookie Jar.)
Take the Chocolate Apricot Surprises you made out of the refrigerator. Peel them off the waxed paper one by one, and put them in the center of each cupcake. Push them down slightly, but be careful not to push them all the way to the bottom of the cupcakes!
Fill the cupcake papers with batter until they’re 3⁄4 full. These cupcakes don’t rise very much so you don’t have to worry about them overflowing.
Bake the Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 20 to 23 minutes. (Mine took 21 minutes.)
Take the cupcake pans out of the oven and let them cool completely on a cold stove burner or a wire rack. Do not remove the cupcakes from the pan until they are completely cool.
Yield: 24 cupcakes

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING FOR RED VELVET SURPRISE CUPCAKES
4 ounces cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Brand in the rectangular silver package—half a package was 4 ounces)
1⁄4 cup salted butter (1⁄2 stick, 2 ounces, 1⁄8 pound)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (pack it down in the cup
when you measure it)

Place the cream cheese and the butter in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl. (I used a quart measuring cup.) Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir. If you can stir the cream cheese and the butter smooth, take the bowl out and put it on the counter. If it’s still not soft enough to stir, microwave on HIGH in 20-second intervals until it is.
Add the vanilla extract to your bowl and stir that in.
Add the powdered sugar, a half-cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Continue to add powdered sugar until the frosting is spreadable, not runny.
Work from the center out when you frost your Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes. Don’t go all the way to the edges. Leave a little of the red cupcake showing all the way around.

Yield: This recipe will frost 24 cupcakes. (If there’s any frosting left over, spread it on graham crackers or soda crackers for the kids.)
When Lisa and I baked these for the grand opening of the Albion Hotel, we sprinkled the top of the Cream Cheese Frosting with red decorating sugar.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Retro Ad & Recipe: Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake

Time for another vintage recipe and ad. "LoveLight" 2 Egg Chiffon Layer Cake from Betty Crocker.. made with Wesson Oil.

Wesson Oil... the shortening that pours..



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marshamallow Chocolate Pie: Retro Ad & Recipe

I always say you find recipes in the oddest places. Not sure what Wrigley's gum has to do with Marshmallow Chocolate Pie, but this is a great and easy recipe. Substitute some great chocolate, and you're good to go! I just love this. Add a chocolate crust, and it's a double chocolate pie!

I just love these Retro Ads and Recipes!



Monday, April 8, 2013

5 Tons Nutella Stolen: Stuffed Challah Nutella French Toast


Five Tons of Nutella Stolen in Germany:
The jars of hazelnut spread were in a parked trailer in the center of the town of Bad Hersfeld, the U.K. Express said, citing a report Monday from German news agency dpa. The haul, taken some time over the weekend, is valued at approximately 15,000 euros.

Police aren't sure how many culprits they are looking for, but it is believed the same thieves stole a truckload of Red Bull from the same location a few weeks ago, and then about $40,000 worth of coffee two weeks ago. Bad Hersfeld is around 400 southwest of Berlin.

Here's a Nutella recipe that the perps might be able to use: increase recipe by 10,000x. Check proportions. :-)

Stuffed Challah Nutella French Toast

Here's an easy Nutella French Toast Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated. I use Challah, but Brioche is great, too! Remember: Stale bread makes great French Toast.

Ingredients
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp melted sweet butter
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
Pinch of Salt
8 fat slices of challah (egg bread)
Nutella, a few Tbsp
Powdered sugar

Directions
Whisk egg, milk, melted butter, salt, sugar and vanilla.
Spread Nutella (a few tbsp) on 4 of  challah slices and add second slice.
Add 2 tbsp butter to skillet over medium heat

In flat-ish dish pour 1/2 batter and soak both sides of 2 'sandwiches'. (Hint: don't use all the batter at once or your first Stuffed French toasts will soak it all up and you won't have any batter left for the others).
Remove and fry. Turning over, of course.
Dip second two French toast sandwiches, soak, and fry about 1-2 minutes on first side. Flip. They're done when they're golden brown and crisp.
Remove from heat, dust with powdered sugar and eat. Fabulous!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chocolate Marble Coffee Cake: National Coffee Cake Day

Today is National Coffee Cake Day, and there are so many wonderful recipes for Chocolate Coffee Cake, Chocolate Marble Coffee Cake, and hey, lots of pound cakes are coffee cakes. Coffee cakes are sweet cakes usually meant to accompany coffee. They are usually single layer cakes, baked in loaf or bundt pans, but other shapes are fine. I have a square chiffon cake pan that works with the following recipe.

This recipe for Chocolate Marble Coffee Cake produces a cake with a great dense texture, and it will appeal to both chocolate and vanilla cake lovers--and it has coffee in it, so it's a perfect "Coffee Cake."  This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Jaworski's on Joy of Baking. If you're not familiar with her website, you should get acquainted. Lots of great recipes.

Chocolate Marble Coffee Cake

2 1/2 ounces 65-75% organic, fair-trade dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon brewed coffee or espresso
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sweet butter
1 1/4 cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk

Marble Cake: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Butter 10 inch bundt or tube pan.
2. In stainless steel bowl, over saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with coffee. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
4. In bowl of electric mixer (or with hand mixer), beat butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add beaten eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract and sour cream.
5. With mixer on low speed, alternately add  flour mixture and milk to the batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.
6. After preparing batter, pour half of batter into separate bowl. Stir melted chocolate into one half of batter, mixing well. Place batter into prepared pan by alternating spoons of vanilla batter and chocolate batter. Then, with flat knife almost to bottom of pan, gently draw swirls (up, over and down) through batter as you rotate pan (if you're using round bundt) to marbleize it. Don't over mix. Smooth top of batter.
7. Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before removing cake from pan to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I think this cake is fine the way it is (not too sweet), but you can dust with powdered sugar, drip with a chocolate glaze or frost with a chocolate ganache.

This cake will keep for a couple of days at room temperature or it can be frozen.

No time to bake today? Grab a slice of Starbucks: Marble Pound Cake to celebrate National Coffee Cake Day!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake: Carleen M. Loper guest post

Today I welcome Carleen M. Loper. I 'met' Carleen through a Facebook group: Picture This. Our group is all about taking photos. Of course, as any group goes, there are also other shared interests. Chocolate is usually one of them!

Carleen M. Loper is an Assistant Librarian at Bridgewater State University (MA). She writes humor and nature essays, as well as being a supporter of environmental causes and baking up a storm.

CARLEEN M. LOPER:

Janet saw my Facebook photo of an Orange-Chocolate Bundt Cake, and because she's human, she immediately wanted a slice. As it goes with recipes, I adapted my recipe from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen version, and she in turn had adapted hers from Ina Garten's Barfeoot Contessa Parties! original. Cooking and baking are all about making food your own!

I'm a volunteer with a land trust, and we have programs that include "light refreshments." Tomorrow morning residents will hopefully be inspired to help the environment when they hear a local river restoration specialist. I do my best to bribe attendance with fabulous baked goods. At the last event, a little old woman with a babushka-vibe about her piled about ten pieces of my banana-carrot bread into her satchel. If she attends again, she may want to look out for the ooey-gooey factor of this cake!

Adapted recipe: cut the sugar down to a little under one and a half cups. Left off the ganache -- not needed. Cake is very chocolatey and very delicious!

Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake

Ingredients
1/2 pound sweet butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup grated orange zest (from 4 large oranges)
3 cups flour, plus 2 Tbsp
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
 2 cups good dark chocolate chunks (or dark chocolate chips)

Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add orange zest.
3. Sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.
4. In another bowl, combine orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla.
5. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to creamed butter, beginning and ending with flour.
6. Toss chocolate chunks (or chips) with 2 tablespoons flour and add to batter.
7. Pour into pan, smooth top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make syrup: In small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar with orange juice until sugar dissolves. Remove cake from pan, set on a rack over a tray, and spoon orange syrup over the cake. Allow cake to cool completely.