Monday, November 12, 2018

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sheet Cake: Guest Post by Judy Clemens

My mystery and chocolate worlds collide again. Today I welcome back Judy Clemens aka JC Lane. J.C. Lane is the author of the thriller Tag, You’re Dead. Judy also writes mysteries as Judy Clemens, including the Stella Crown series and the Grim Reaper mysteries

JUDY CLEMENS:
CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER SHEET CAKE

Chocolate and peanut butter are a popular combination in my family, whether it’s chocolate ice cream with peanut butter cup pieces, chocolate cookies with peanut butter in the middle, or a chocolate peanut butter banana milkshake we’ve been making since the kids were little. I cut this recipe out of a magazine years ago and re-discovered it while doing some kitchen renovations this year. The cake tastes as amazing as it looks – moist and dense – and the frosting is heavenly. The chopped-up crunchiness of the peanuts tops it all off.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

Ingredients

Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup baking cocoa
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla

Frosting
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tesp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
In a small bowl, combine water, butter, peanut butter, and cocoa; bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. (I heated mine in the microwave. You could heat it on the stove if you prefer.) Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.
In a small bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream, and vanilla until blended; add to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Transfer to prepared pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Prepare frosting while cake is baking.
In a large bowl, beat the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary, to get it to spreading consistency.

Remove cake from oven; place on a wire rack. Immediately spread with frosting and sprinkle with peanuts. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

WWII & Chocolate: Veterans Day

It's Veterans Day, and the perfect time to link to this great article on Chocolate Bars in the Second World War by Sean Jacobson on the Smithsonian website. I've also posted some chocolate ads from the time.




HOT FUDGE SUNDAE CAKE: National Sundae Day

Today is National Sundae Day! For me, there is only one sundae--a hot fudge sundae!

The classic Hot Fudge Sundae is a creation of vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate sauce ("hot fudge"), whipped cream, nuts, and a single maraschino cherry on top. A Hot Fudge Sundae can be made with any flavor of ice cream, but vanilla is preferred!

There are many variations about the origins of the Hot Fudge Sundae. According to Wikipedia, a frequent theme is that the dish arose in contravention to so-called blue laws against Sunday consumption of either ice cream or ice cream soda (the latter invented by Robert M. Green in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1874). The religious laws are said to have led druggists to produce a substitute for these popular treats for consumption on Sunday. According to this theory of the name's origin, the spelling was changed to sundae to avoid offending religious conventions. Since I grew up in Philadelphia, I remember the Blue Laws, although at that time they pertained to alcohol and not ice cream.

In support of this idea, Peter Bird wrote in The First Food Empire: A History of J. Lyons and Co. (2000) that the name 'sundae' was adopted as a result of Illinois state's early prohibition of ice cream consumption on Sundays, because ice cream with a topping that obscured the main product was not deemed to be ice cream. However, according to documentation published by the Evanston, Illinois Public Library, it was the drinking of soda, not the eating of ice cream, that was outlawed on Sundays in Illinois.

Other origin stories for the sundae focus on the novelty or inventiveness of the treat or the name of the originator, and make no mention of legal pressures.

You don't really need a recipe for a hot fudge sundae. I gave the ingredients above. However, like anything else, it's all about the quality of the ingredients. Hot Fudge Sundae Cake is a great variation on this traditional treat, and it can be made in a pan in the oven or in a Slow Cooker. See recipe HERE.

Following is a recipe adapted from Betty Crocker for Hot Fudge Sundae Cake in a pan. It's an easy one bowl/pan recipe. What's especially delicious about this cake is that as the cake bakes it separates into a chocolate cake and a dark fudgy sauce. Now that's what Hot Fudge Sundaes are all about! Add the ice cream and you're all set.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons DARK unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa
1 3/4 cups very hot water
Vanilla Ice cream

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt in ungreased square pan, 9x9x2 inches. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with fork until smooth. Stir in nuts. Spread in pan.
Sprinkle brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa over batter. Pour water over batter.
Bake about 40 minutes or until top is dry.
Spoon warm cake into dessert dishes. Top with ice cream. Spoon sauce from pan onto each serving.

Rather have Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes? Check out Joy the Baker's recipe and photos.

Want Hot Fudge Sundae Macarons? Barbara Bakes has the perfect recipe!

Cake photo: Betty Crocker

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veterans Day Toll House Cookies: Vintage Ad & Recipe

This Vintage Nestle Ad for Toll House Cookies in Good Housekeeping 1943 seems appropriate for Veterans Day. Toll House Cookies: "Make up a batch of those golden-brown, crunchy Toll House Cookie and send to that soldier boy of yours.' And these are still terrific cookies for the Veteran in your life, as well as our men and women still in in service. Recipe below.


Friday, November 9, 2018

FALL HOLIDAY SAN FRANCISCO CHOCOLATE SALON: November 18

Chocolate Lovers, mark your calendars! The 2018 Annual Fall Holiday Chocolate Salon returns to San Francisco on November 18 in the San Francisco County Fair Building Auditorium venue!

FALL CHOCOLATE SALON participants include over 25 chocolatiers, confectioners, and other culinary artisans. An intimate setting, the Fall Chocolate Salon is the perfect place to find the perfect gift, while tasting and savoring the chocolate lovers experience.

The upcoming 2018 Fall Holiday Salon features a curated selection of chocolate, culinary and other artisans and innovators.

Already Confirmed for the November 18th Fall Holiday CHOCOLATE SALON in San Francisco:  
Amano Artisan 
Chocolate Kids 
Cooking for Life 
Kindred Cooks 
Z. Cioccolato 
Raphio 
Chocolate Fairytale Brownies 
The Cocoa Exchange 
Michael's Chocolates 
K+M Extravirgin Chocolate 
Kokak Chocolates 
Stone Hill Chocolate 
Socola Chocolatier 
3D Candies 
Be A Gourmet 
SWEET55 
flying noir 
CocoTutti Chocolates 
Goufrais 
Rainy Day Chocolate 
Brittle California 
Snowflake Treats 
Farm Fresh To You 
Heavenly Taste Toffee 
Endorfin 
BASEL B 
Cru Chocolate

Advance Tickets may sell out. 90% of Tickets are already gone.  

RSVP HERE.

Cartoon of the Day: Pirates of the Carob Bean


Thursday, November 8, 2018

CAPPUCCINO CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS: National Cappuccino Day

Today is National Cappuccino Day! A cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk froth. The name cappuccino comes from the Capuchin friars, referring to the color of their habits. All this being said, I always look for a way to add chocolate to every 'food' holiday, and this is a great recipe for National Cappuccino Day!

Because I utilize a lot of Wilton products in my baking, from pans to coloring, I came across this great recipe for Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Muffins on the Wilton Website. I adapted it just a bit. I like to have chocolate chunks rather than chips in my muffins! I use Wilton's Jumbo Muffin Pans, because if I'm going to have a muffin on National Cappuccino Day, it may as well be a big one!

CAPPUCCINO CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Tools:
Jumbo Muffin Pan
Jumbo Baking Cups

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (or 65-75% dark chocolate, chopped into chunks)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and divided
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup instant coffee granules
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

Instructions
Makes: about 6 jumbo muffins

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line jumbo muffin pan with jumbo baking cups.
In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, 1/2 cup broken chocolate chunks,  1/4 cup chopped pecans, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In small bowl, combine milk and coffee granules; stir until completely dissolved. Add melted butter and egg; mix well.
Add coffee mixture to flour mixture; mix until just moistened (Do not overmix).
Distribute mixture evenly into baking cups.
Sprinkle top of each muffin with reserved chocolate chunks and pecans.
Bake 25 to 28 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center of muffin is clean when removed. Remove from oven; cool muffins in pan 8 minutes.
Remove muffins from pan; cool completely on cooling grid.

Photo: Wilton

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE ALMOND BARK: National Bittersweet and Almonds Day

As I've said many times before, every day is Chocolate Day for me, but today is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. In this age of high end organic, fair trade, single origin chocolate, bittersweet seems to cover a broad range of chocolate. So bittersweet as defined below leaves one open to enjoying all kinds of chocolate today--along with almonds.

According to Wikipedia, bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate) to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as 'couverture' (chocolate that contains at least 32 percent cocoa butter); many brands now print on the package the percentage of cocoa (as chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter) contained. The rule is that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate will be. The American FDA classifies chocolate as either "bittersweet" or "semisweet" that contain at least 35% cacao (either cacao solids or butter from the cacao beans).

In honor of Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, I'm going to have a bittersweet chocolate bar with almonds. So many great bars out there including Green & Black, Dandelion, Seattle Chocolates, Valor, Ghirardelli, Alter Eco --and even Hershey's.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE ALMOND BARK

Ingredients
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup toasted almonds (in the oven), coarsely chopped  (some people like them whole/your choice)
Sea salt

Directions
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate until smooth in top of double boiler or saucepan placed over another saucepan with simmering water.
Set aside 6 Tbsp almonds
Stir remaining almonds into melted chocolate.
Pour mixture onto cookie sheet. Spread to 1/2 inch thickness.
Sprinkle remaining almond pieces over mixture. Sprinkle sparingly with sea salt.
Tap pan on counter until bark is desired thickness.
Refrigerate for 6 hours or until firm.
Break into pieces.
Store in an airtight container in cool, dry place.

How easy is that?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

HELLMANN'S CHOCOLATE MAYONNAISE CAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

I just love Retro Ads and recipes! So much fun. Here's an ad for Hellmann's Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (and variations/scroll down).

HELLMANN'S CHOCOLATE MAYONNAISE CAKE

Ingredients
1 box (18 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
1 cup water
3 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans*; set aside.
Beat cake mix, Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, water, eggs and cinnamon 30 seconds in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Beat on medium speed, scraping sides occasionally, 2 minutes.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
Cool 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pans and cool completely.
Sprinkle with confectioners sugar or fill and frost.

*Or, prepare cake mix as above in 13 x 9-inch baking pan and bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

VARIATIONS: For A PECAN COCONUT TOPPED CAKE...combine 1 cup flaked coconut, 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup chopped pecans, then sprinkle over cake batter in 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For A BLACK FOREST CHOCOLATE CAKE...do not flour baking pan. Evenly spread 2 cans (21 oz. ea.) cherry pie filling over bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking pan, top with prepared cake batter and bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, then turn upside down onto serving platter.

For A DECADENT CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE...combine 2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant pudding, 2 cups water, 2 cups milk and 1/3 cup sugar until blended, then pour over cake batter in 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted along edge comes out clean and serve warm.

Monday, November 5, 2018

WINE AND DONUT PAIRINGS: National Donut Day

Today is National Donut Day, and, yes, you'd be right if you said you already celebrated National Doughnut Day on the first Friday in June. There are actually two days. Today's holiday is a second more or less official Donut Day depending on your sources. According to food holiday historian John Bryan Hopkins, who cataloged several fringe holidays for his site Foodimentary beginning in 2006, mentions of the November Doughnut Day could be found as early as the 1930s in copies of Ladies' Home Journal. Hopkins speculated that the November 5 date is close enough to Veterans Day on November 11 that a retail outlet likely introduced the date to acknowledge their service.

But donuts are good any day, and to celebrate today's holiday I have a guest post from Julissa Arangure-Garcia on pairing donuts with sweet and savory wines!  This post originally appeared on the Shari's Berries blog and shared from Julissa with a new introduction.

JULISSA ARANGURE-GARCIA:

Let’s be honest, wine was made to be paired with desserts. From wine and chocolate pairings to baking with wine (pinot noir chocolate cake anyone?), wine and desserts are a dynamic duo. Get creative at your next party or event and try pairing the sweet notes of a glass of wine with some sugary delicious donut flavors.

Shari’s Berries has the ultimate wine and donut pairings to help you create mouth-watering combinations. The guide also includes an overview of what flavor notes you’ll taste and what personality the combo is best for. Take a look and find which donut and wine pairing was made for you!

Wine and Donut Pairing Guide


Sunday, November 4, 2018

HOMEMADE ALMOND JOY: National Candy Day

Today is National Candy Day, and two of my favorite candy bars are Almond Joy and Mounds, manufactured by Hershey's. Almond Joy has a coconut-based center topped with two toasted almonds and covered in a layer of milk chocolate. Almond Joy is the sister product of Mounds, which is the same confection but without the almond and coated with dark chocolate. I'm actually partial to Mounds, but thought I'd post a recipe for Homemade Almond Joy -- with one concession, I use dark chocolate! If you're a purist, make it a Mounds bar and leave off the Almonds.


According to Wikipedia, Peter Paul Halajian, a candy retailer in Connecticut in the 1919, along with other Armenian investors, including Dutch candy manufacturer Jett Schaefer, formed the Schaefer Candy Manufacturing Company in 1919. The company first sold various brands of candies, but following sugar and coconut shortages in World War II, they dropped most brands and concentrated their efforts on the Mounds bar. The Almond Joy Bar was introduced in 1946 as a replacement for the Dream Bar (created in 1936) that contained diced almonds with the coconut. In 1978, Peter Paul merged with the Cadbury company. Hershey’s then purchased the United States portion of the combined company in 1988.

During the 1970s, the Peter Paul company used the jingle, "Sometimes you feel like a nut / Sometimes you don't / Almond Joy's got nuts / Mounds don't," to advertise Almond Joy and Mounds together. In a play on words, the "feel like a nut" portion of the jingle was typically played over a clip of someone acting like a "nut", engaged in some funny-looking activity. See the Retro Commercial from 1978 below.

And here's a variation on a good thing. Did you ever try any of these? In the 2000s, Hershey began producing variations of the product, including a limited edition Piña Colada and Double Chocolate Almond Joy in 2004, a limited edition White Chocolate Key Lime and Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit Almond Joy in 2005, and a limited edition Toasted Coconut Almond Joy in 2006. Although Peter Paul as a company no longer exists, the name still appears on the wrapper as part of the bars' brand names.

Homemade Almond Joy 

Ingredients
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
14 ounces sweetened flaked or shredded coconut
24 ounces dark chocolate, chopped  (milk chocolate if you're a traditionalist)
3/4 cup whole almonds (that you'll toast-see recipe)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F
Spread raw almonds on baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
In big mixing bowl, blend milk, butter and vanilla. Add powdered sugar a little at a time. Add coconut a little at a time and mix until combined. The mixture will be thick. Place mixture in refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Use can use your Kitchen Aid flat beater, but the texture will be better if you use a hand mixer)
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove coconut mixture from refrigerator. With hands, shape one tablespoon of coconut into small log - 2 inches long and 3/4-inch thick. Press coconut mixture tightly together. Place logs on lined baking sheet and continue until all coconut mixture is finished.
Press an almond on top of each coconut log.
Place baking sheet in freezer to chill while you melt chocolate.
In medium microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate in microwave 2-4 minutes at 30 SECOND intervals until chocolate is melted (or melt in top of double boiler or pan over saucepan of simmering water).
Remove coconut logs from freezer.
Dip in Chocolate: See next step

How to Dip in Chocolate: Two Ways

1. Place one coconut almond log on fork. Use spoon to scoop a bit of chocolate over almond. This helps almond stick to coconut log during dipping. Lower fork into chocolate and spoon chocolate over candy to coat. Lift fork and gently shake to release some of the chocolate. Scrape bottom of fork along the side of bowl and place on lined baking sheet. You might need a toothpick to help get the candy off the fork. Repeat until all candy is coated in chocolate. If chocolate gets thick, return to microwave or heat for a tiny bit more.
Let dipped candy harden for 45 minutes. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

2. Using Two Fork method (or a special dipping tool-I find this handy), dunk coconut logs in chocolate, bring up and tap on lip of bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and repeat.

"Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut! Sometimes You Don't"
Enjoy this 1978 Almond Joy Mounds Commercial! How Retro!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

CHOCOLATE MAYONNAISE BLT: National Sandwich Day

November 3 is National Sandwich Day, as opposed to National Sandwich Month which is the Month of August. According to Gone-ta-pott.com this is a day to honor and enjoy sandwiches. A sandwich is defined as a food item made of two or more slices of leavened bread with one or more layers of filling, typically meat or cheese, with the addition sometimes of vegetables or salad. Sometimes mustard, mayonnaise, or butter is used.

I've posted may recipes for Chocolate Panini and Grilled Chocolate Cheese Sandwiches and the like, but I love this recipe that appeared in 2009 in the Recchiuti Chocolate newsletter. Michael has a dynamite Recipe for Brioche and Chocolate Mayo BLT. I love bacon and chocolate, and this is a subtle pairing. There's a Recipe for brioche that looks fairly easy, but if you can't wait, go out and buy a nice artisan brioche to use in this special BLT.

At the Cheese & Chocolate Taste Project, Recchiuti assembled his BLTs with his homemade brioche, applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, fresh butter lettuce, a thick slice of heirloom tomato and this great Chocolat-y mayonnaise.

CHOCOLATE MAYONNAISE

Ingredients
6 extra-large egg yolks
1/4 pound unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (I love Recchiuti chocolate!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Directions
Place yolks in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
Combine unsweetened chocolate and olive oil in double boiler and heat mixture to 115°F.
Begin beating egg yolks on medium speed for 1 minute, then increase speed to high and whip until doubled in volume.

Reduce speed to medium and add chocolate mixture to the yolks carefully, in fine stream. The yolks will start to emulsify and thicken. If mixture becomes too thick you may add a small amount of oil to loosen the mixture. Season to taste.

Note: This mayonnaise is meant for immediate use and will not keep well in the refrigerator.

Celebrate the day with this fabulous BLT!

Cartoon of the Day: Chocolate Chip Cookies


Friday, November 2, 2018

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE: Guest recipe by Judy Clemens

I love when my mystery and chocolate worlds collide. Today I welcome Judy Clemens-Smucker aka JC Lane aka Judy Clemens. J.C. Lane is the author of the thriller Tag, You’re Dead. She also writes mysteries as Judy Clemens, including the Stella Crown series and the Grim Reaper mysteries

JUDY CLEMENS:

I am a big believer that chocolate makes people happy. It doesn’t matter the form – candy, hot cocoa, cookies, fudge -- but most of all I love a good chocolate cake…as long as it’s made from scratch. The texture, flavor, and overall taste cannot be rivaled by a boxed mix. But do not despair if you are an amateur baker, or HAVE NEVER MADE A CAKE FROM SCRATCH, you will still find this recipe do-able! There aren’t that many more steps than a boxed cake. You don’t even need an extra bowl or a mixer! Once you try this recipe, you’ll realize how fun, easy, and delicious it is to use your own ingredients and have something warm and yummy within an hour. This recipe is great for a last-minute goody to take to a potluck, give to a friend, or just devour when you need something sweet. It’s good with ice cream, a cold glass of milk, or plain and straight from the oven. So if you want to try something new, give it a whirl! I think you’ll be very satisfied with the results.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE 

Ingredients
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with fork in ungreased 8- or 9-inch square pan. (I also find a pastry cutter works well.) Mix in remaining ingredients except chocolate chips. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter.

Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes (I found that 37 minutes is perfect in my oven.)

For fun, use different flavored chips on the top, such as peanut butter, mint, or various varieties of chocolate.

This recipe can also be doubled – just put in a 9x13 (or larger) dish.

***
Photo: A double recipe of the cake in a recyclable aluminum pan--on its way to a sick friend and family.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

DAY OF THE DEAD: Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Skulls & History

Day of the Dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends who pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd in connection with the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day which occurs on November 1st and All Souls Day which occurs on November 2nd. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, making sugar and chocolate skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Many cultures and countries celebrate Day of the Dead, but in Mexico and parts of the U.S and Canada it's tied to an historic Meso-American holiday that originated with the Aztecs 3000 years ago or earlier. When the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico 500 years ago, they found the natives practicing this ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to eradicate. Although the ceremony has since merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles the Aztecs intended, a view that death is the continuation of life. Life was a dream and only in death does one become truly awake.

Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it's easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Skulls are a major symbol of the cycle of death and rebirth. The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual to honor the dead and exalt the sphere of death and rebirth.

Although sugar skulls are more common, chocolate skulls and coffins have become de rigueur. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos with three solid chocolate skulls sparkling with black salt eyes, in 3 chocolate flavors: Barcelona, Red Fire & Blanca. Day of the Dead Chocolate Skulls from Vosges.

Want to make your own? Mexican Chocolate Skulls sells skull molds. Their chocolate molds can be made with tempered chocolate, candy coating wafers, or melted chocolate chips. Their mold designs were inspired by the Mexican woodcut artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852 -1913). Here's a link to recipes using candy coating wafers, chocolate chips, or tempered chocolate with these molds.

Last week I posted a recipe for Haunted Chocolate Skull Cakes. Love the Wilton Skull Cakelette pan.

Mexican hot chocolate is one of my favorite ways to celebrate. In Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead (and other times), the many chocolate shops serve hot chocolate that is a mix of cocoa beans, cinnamon sticks, almond and sugar ground together into a paste, then grated down and mixed with steaming milk. You can make a similar version easily at home. As always use the very best chocolate.

Day of the Dead Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
2 tsp good-quality ground cocoa
1 tsp sugar, plus extra to taste
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture
1 cup whole milk

Directions
Mix all ingredients, except milk, together in an empty, clean glass jar. Shake until completely combined.
Heat milk in pan and add chocolate mix. Bring to boil and reduce heat.
Simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly; use small whisk to froth milk. Serve hot.

And, for the Bakers out there, Sunset Magazine has a wonderful Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake recipe for The Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 ounces dried pasilla chiles (chile negro) or 2 1/2 ounces dried ancho chiles plus 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (see notes)
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
5 large eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar or finely crushed piloncillo sugar (see notes)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp Mexican vanilla or 1 Tbsp coffee-flavored liqueur such as Kahlúa

Directions
Lay chiles in single layer on 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Bake in 400° oven just until pliable, about 2 minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, break off stems, shake out seeds, and break chiles into small pieces, dropping into small bowl; discard stems and seeds. Cover chiles with warm water and let soak until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain chiles and put inblender with 1/3 cup water; whirl until smooth, adding 1 more tablespoon water as needed to make thick paste. Push purée through a fine strainer; discard residue. You need 1/3 cup chile purée. If using ancho chiles, stir cayenne into the chile purée.

Line bottom of 9-inch cake pan (sides at least 1-1/2 inches tall) with parchment.

In large bowl over saucepan of simmering water (water shouldn't touch bottom of bowl), combine chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally just until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 8 minutes. Remove from over water and whisk in 1/3 cup chile purée, the egg yolks, vanilla, and flour until mixture is blended.

Pour brown sugar into small bowl and stir or whisk to break up lumps and loosen. In large bowl, with electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very frothy and foamy. Gradually add brown sugar to whites, beating until stiff, moist peaks form. With whisk, fold third of beaten whites into chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Then fold in remaining whites just until blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake in 425° regular or 400° convection oven until set and center barely jiggles when pan is gently shaken, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack for about 15 minutes. Run a knife between cake and pan rim, then invert onto  serving platter. Lift off pan and peel off parchment. Let cake cool about 30 minutes, then chill until firm and cold, at least 4 hours; cover cake once completely chilled.

For best texture, let cake come to room temperature before serving, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sift powdered sugar lightly over cake (for pattern, lay stencil on cake before sifting sugar, then carefully lift off).

In bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Stir in vanilla. Cut cake into wedges and serve each with dollop of whipped cream.

NOTES: Dried long, dark, skinny chiles labeled pasilla or chile negro give this dark chocolate cake a subtle fruit flavor with a hot finish. If these are not available, use dark, blocky chiles labeled ancho, which are sweet and fruity with little heat, and add cayenne to boost spiciness. Both pasilla and ancho chiles are available in Hispanic markets. To use piloncillo sugar (also available in Hispanic markets), put it in a heavy zip-lock plastic bag, cover it with a towel, and pound it with a mallet or hammer until finely crushed. You can make this cake up to 2 days ahead; chill airtight.

No time to bake? 

Want a quick chocolate Day of the Dead fix? 
SaveSave