Wednesday, January 23, 2019

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE: Rhubarb Pie Day

Today is National Rhubarb Pie Day,  and what's a Rhubarb Pie without Strawberries?  To celebrate the day, I'm posting my favorite recipe for Strawberry Fields Forever Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Chocolate Cookie Crust!

A little info on rhubarb: In culinary use, fresh raw petioles (leaf stalks) are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong, tart taste. Most commonly, the plant's leaf stalks are cooked with sugar and used in pies and other desserts. Rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable. In the United States, however, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. And, a warning: Do not eat or use the leaves.

The following recipe is easy and great. Most people do a two crust pie.. the top crust being a lattice; however, I don't think this works with a chocolate crust. You can always do a crumble on top! Or make a traditional pie crust and add a lattice crust on top. As always, it's your choice! Enjoy and celebrate the day!

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE WITH CHOCOLATE COOKIE CRUST

Chocolate Cookie Crust

Ingredients 
2 cups chocolate wafers
6 Tbsp unsalted butter (or salted if you're inclined), melted

Directions 
Melt butter. Put chocolate wafers in plastic bag and crush with spoon or rolling pin. Should be pea-size. Combine melted butter and ground chocolate wafers. Press ingredients into 9 inch buttered pie pan--bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes at 325. Let cool.  

Filling

Ingredients
3-1/2 cups rhubarb stalks, in 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup cornstarch
Dash of salt
3 1/2 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, quartered  (or thinly sliced)

Directions
Combine filling ingredients in bowl and toss well. Spread into prepared crust and bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees or until rhubarb is tender and filling is bubbly.

So easy! Make this today -- or tomorrow! And here's something to listen to while you bake this pie!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

RETRO CONGO SQUARES aka BLOND BROWNIES: National Blond Brownies Day

Today is National Blond Brownies Day. Blond Brownies is a misnomer. Blondies are not Brownies! They get their flavor from brown sugar and not cocoa or chocolate, but they're wonderful for exactly what they are--a great butterscotch 'brownie.' Over the years, I've added macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, or a combination of these ingredients to the following basic recipe. The variety of additions is huge, and the basic batter is a delicious brown sugar concoction. Blondies are simple to make, and I highly recommend them. I use dark brown sugar because I think it has more flavor. As in any recipe, the quality of the ingredients makes a difference in your final product.

 Love this Retro Ad & Recipe for Congo Squares aka Blondies or Blond Brownies. As always, you can never have too many recipes!  

Congo Squares or Bars, by the way, have nothing to do with Africa. There's nothing like these sweet in any African country that I know of...and you can't even grow wheat in Central Africa. So why are they called Congo Squares? Who knows.. maybe because of the exotic ingredients (chocolate, cocoanut, nuts) which might come from Africa? I also read somewhere that these Congo Squares originated in the Southeast (US). There was a plaza in New Orleans called Congo Square which in the early 19th century was a gathering place for both free and enslaved African-Americans who met for marketing, music-making and dancing... probably not the connection, but a possibility. Whatever the origin, this is a great treat for the weekend! This Nestle ad is from 1949 and doesn't include the cocoanut, but throw some toasted cocoanut in.





Monday, January 21, 2019

BLOOD MOON ECLIPSE BROWNIES

Last night there was a total eclipse of the Blood Moon. It was pretty spectacular, and the Blood Moon Eclipse got me thinking. I've posted a recipe for Full Moon Brownies, but what about Beet Brownies? Many chocolate cakes such as Red Velvet Cakes can be made with beets. So in honor of the Blood Moon Eclipse, here's a great recipe for Blood Moon Eclipse Brownies.

BLOOD MOON ECLIPSE BROWNIES

Ingredients 
1/2 pound fresh beets, scrubbed
1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering parchment paper
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour  (I buy this from King Arthur Flour)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions
Put beets in saucepan and add water to cover by ½ inch. Set over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25-35 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to ice bath until cool. Transfer cool beets to food processor and pulse until minced.
Preheat oven to 350°
Line 9-inch by 9-inch brownie pan with parchment paper; lightly coat with butter.
Cut sticks of butter into chunks and put in heavy saucepan. Add chopped chocolate and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly until chocolate begins to melt.
Remove pan from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, gently mix eggs for about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and brown sugar; mix on medium-high until light and airy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed and add minced beets then slowly add chocolate mixture and mix just until combined.
Slowly add flour mixture and amix just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool brownies in pan for 5-10 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.
Cut and serve.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

HOMEMADE ALMOND ROCA: National Buttercrunch Day

Today is National Buttercrunch Day. Almond Roca is also known as Almond Buttercrunch. I first had Almond Roca as a young girl. A neighbor who drove us to school always had Almond Roca on the coffee table in the recreation room. This neighbor didn't have the same rules as in my household (No Candy until after dinner--not to mention BEFORE school!). So I always enjoyed Almond Roca when this neighbor was driving. So for today's holiday--Buttercrunch Day, I suggest you make the following recipe for Homemade Almond Roca. No time to cook? Pick up a bar of Almond Roca. It's not too late. We all need something sweet this weekend! This recipe for Home-made Almond Roca is adapted from Elizabeth LaBau on AboutFood.com

Home-Made Almond Roca

Ingredients 
4 ounces butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Directions
Prepare 8 x 4 loaf pan by lining with aluminum foil and spraying foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and stir until brown sugar dissolves.
Once brown sugar melts, start timer and cook candy for exactly 6 minutes, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. If you use a candy thermometer, stir and boil toffee until it reaches 290 degrees.
After six minutes, take toffee (buttercrunch) pan off heat and stir in 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds. Scrape toffee into prepared loaf pan—it should be in a layer about 1/2-inch thick.
Let toffee set for about 3 minutes, then use pizza cutter or paring knife to cut toffee into thin bars about 1/2-inch by 2 -1/2 inches. They will look small, but once they're dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, they'll be bigger. After another 2 minutes, go over your cuts again as toffee continues to harden.
As you wait for toffee to set, chop remaining 1 cup of toasted almonds very finely, or put them in food processor and pulse for several seconds until they are in very small pieces. Pour finely chopped almonds into shallow bowl.
Once toffee is completely cool and set, break into pieces along lines you made, and trim off any jagged edges with knife.
Melt chocolate. Dip each piece of Almond Buttercrunch in melted chocolate, then place in bowl of nuts. Roll it around until coated with nuts on all sides, then take it out of nuts with fork and place on baking sheet. Repeat until all toffee pieces are coated with chocolate and nuts.
Optional: To make it 'really' look like Almond Roca, wrap individual pieces in gold foil.
Refrigerate tray to set chocolate (about 10 minutes).
Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

THIN MINTS: Wine, Beer, and Spirit Pairings

In my 'real' life  (www.teambuilding-unlimited.com), I facilitate chocolate pairings--with wine or with beer..and sometimes with Scotch and other Spirits. So because it's the weekend, I thought I'd do a mini-round-up of Girl Scout Cookie/ alcohol pairings and drinks, focusing on my favorite Girl Scout Cookie - Thin Mints.

Vivino is a wine app that allows users (over 13 million members) to snap a shot of a wine label or list and receive ratings and reviews. They've also put together a guide to pairing wine with other Girl Scout cookies. How awesome is this? Since my favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Thin Mints, I immediately checked that out. Be sure and look at the entire list or get the app. Quite fun! You can do a pairing at home! Invite friends.

Babble has an infograph (on the right)

So maybe you're not a wine drinker. You're more of a stout or ale type of person? Beer & Brewing has a great pairing for you, with a 2019 update. Once again, there are several pairings, but I'm sticking with Thin Mints. Recommendation from Beer & Brewing consists of several stouts and ales.

Perennial Artisan Ales 17
Alesmith Speedway Stout
Shipyard Mint Chocolate Stout
Epic Big Bad Baptist
Hardywood Sidamo Coffee Stout

I would add Speakeasy Chocolate Stout, and be sure and put the Thin Mints in the Freezer before your pairing. I think it enhances the tasting flavors. Check out other Girl Scout Cookie/Beer pairings here.

O.K.  So maybe you're a Bourbon drinker?  The Bourbon Review suggests Thin Mints & Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Be sure and go to Bourbon Review if you're partial to another cookie.

Scotch? Lagavulin goes well with Thin Mints.


Friday, January 18, 2019

HONEY CHOCOLATE PIE: Winnie the Pooh Day

Today is Winnie the Pooh Day. Yes, there's a holiday for everything! Here's a recipe for Honey Chocolate Pie from The Pooh Cook Book by Virginia H. Ellison, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (1969: Dell Publishing). This Cook Book (yes, two words) is inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.

One of my favorite stuffed animals as a child was Tigger, and I have always been a big honey fan, probably because of the Winnie the Pooh stories. I have honey every day, and perhaps Winnie had allergies, too, and needed his "Hunny."I have found that a teaspoon of local honey every day has alleviated my Spring allergies.


From the Introduction to The Pooh Cook Book:

As a cook you should know that honey is almost twice as sweet as sugar, and yet when you eat it, it doesn't make you want to go on eating sweets. Honey is also healthful, and very good for active people. When used in cooking it keeps food moist and adds a flavor all its won, as you will see when you've made some of the dishes in The Pooh Cook Book. Clover honey is the best all-purpose honey but there are as many flavors, or kinds of honey as there are blossoms on flowers and bushes and trees."

HONEY CHOCOLATE PIE

Thursday, January 17, 2019

HOT BUTTERED RUM COCOA: National Hot Buttered Rum Day

Today is National Hot Buttered Rum Day. Here in Northern California it's pretty blustery, rainy, and cold out here, so this is the perfect drink to celebrate the day!

This recipe for Hot Buttered Rum Cocoa is from the Wisconsin Cheese Board (one of my favorite recipe sites!) So many Food associations have great recipes. Be sure and check them out.

If you don't have time to make Hot Buttered Rum Cocoa, you can always celebrate this food holiday with Seattle Chocolates' Hot Buttered Rum Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar. Fabulous! This bar is buttery, smooth with a light hint of rum and toffee crunch in milk chocolate.

Hot Buttered Rum Cocoa

Ingredients
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
4 cups milk

Directions
Combine butter, brown sugar, and seasonings in small bowl, mixing until well-blended.
Drop six spoonfuls onto plastic wrap-lined plate; chill while preparing beverage, then form into balls.
Combine rum, sugar and cocoa in 2 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute; add milk. Cook until heated through; do not boil.
Pour into six mugs; place one butter ball in each cup.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

ULTIMATE FUDGY BROWNIES: Guest Post by Judy Clemens

Who doesn't need another brownie recipe? especially one as good as this? Today I welcome back my mystery writing friend 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:
ULTIMATE FUDGY BROWNIES

Brownies are a staple in the dessert world. They’re great for potlucks, birthdays, picnics, Superbowl parties, and casual get-togethers. You can make them from scratch or from a box, with nuts or without, iced or plain. Brownies can be made from milk chocolate or dark, with pieces that are fluffy or flat. All are yummy, and, in the case of boxed versions, can be made by people without much experience in the kitchen. I think we can all agree it’s hard to find a bad brownie!

This recipe, however, kicks most other brownies to the back of the brownie line. I discovered it several years ago, and haven’t found a better recipe since. It’s a bit more complex than most brownie recipes, but very, very worth it. The dessert comes out of the oven moist on the inside, and crispy on the outside. An added bonus is that cut pieces are pretty enough for a dinner party. Whenever I make this recipe for just my family, the entire pan is gone before I can consider what dessert to make next. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ultimate Fudgy Brownies 

Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup water
2 3/4 cups (16 oz.) dark chocolate chips, divided
4 large eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend up and over sides.

In a large saucepan or in the microwave, combine sugars, butter, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat; add 1 ¾ c. chocolate chips and stir until melted. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until foamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla; gradually stir in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining chocolate chips and the walnuts.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake on a lower oven rack for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs (do not overbake). Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Lifting with parchment paper, remove brownies from pan and cut into 16 squares.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

COCOA-MINT CHOCOLATE CAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

It's snowy and blustery in much of the U.S. today, so this is the perfect cake to make! Pillsbury used to have a product called Sno Sheen Cake Flour (super-light...for higher, finer cakes). This Retro Advertisement is for Cocoa-Mint Cake.



Monday, January 14, 2019

GIRL SCOUT THIN MINT COOKIES BROWNIES

You can't miss them. Every street corner, every park, every office is filled with girls in green uniforms and/or mothers and fathers hawking the taste of the season: Girl Scout Cookies.

Girl Scout Cookies are hard for me to pass up. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and I used to pound the pavement selling and then delivering door to door. Those were different times, but not the cookies. I still love them. Anyway, by this time of year, I have a cupboard filled with Samoas, Tagalongs and Thin Mints.. well, not the cupboard for the Thin Mints. I put them in the freezer. I've been freezing my Thin Mints for more years than I want to remember. Not that they're being frozen for future times. I just think they taste best that way. It's no secret that my favorite cookies are Thin Mints. Several years ago on the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts, I posted a recipe for Thin Mint Truffles. So easy and delicious.

So this year, I thought I'd post a recipe for Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies Brownies. Plenty of other ways to use Girl Scout Cookies. Be sure and scroll down for more tips!

Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies Brownies

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 Box Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies, crushed into small chunks

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter 9”x9” square baking pan.
In double boiler over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together and remove from heat.
In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
When chocolate/butter mixture has cooled a little, whisk in eggs and vanilla. Note: it is important to cool chocolate/butter mixture or eggs will cook.
Add rest of dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
Pour batter into prepared baking pan.
Bake 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Other things to do with Girl Scout Cookies:
Crush them up and use them as ice cream toppings, in cakes and cookies, truffles and brownies.
Girl Scout Cookies are also great to use as pie crusts, in the same way you'd make a chocolate wafer cookie crust or graham cracker crust. Yum.

So which cookies will you buy? 

2019 Girl Scout Cookies



Sunday, January 13, 2019

BABY RUTH COOKIES: WWII Ad & Recipe

Everyone loves Baby Ruth. I do! I also love Retro Ads, and this Retro Ad for Baby Ruth Candy Bars and Cookies from WWII sent me in search of the cookie recipe. Here's a recipe for very tasty Baby Ruth Cookies.

The Curtiss Candy Company claimed that the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, Ruth Cleveland. However,  Ruth Cleveland died 16 years before the introduction of the Baby Ruth bar.

The company had originally negotiated a failed endorsement deal with baseball player Babe Ruth. People have suggested that secretly naming the candy bar after Ruth was a way to tie him to their product without paying any royalties. Talk about shrewd advertising, company founder Otto Schnering chartered a plane in 1923 to drop thousands of Baby Ruth bars over the city of Pittsburgh -- each with its own mini parachute. His marketing plan must have worked -- Baby Ruth has gone on to become a top brand. Today, the Baby Ruth bar is owned by Nestlé.

BABY RUTH COOKIES

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Baby Ruth candy bars (2.1 ounces each), chopped into smallish pieces

Directions
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in candy bars.
Chill 30 minutes.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Immediately remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4 dozen.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN COOKIES: Marzipan Day

Today is National Marzipan Day. I love marzipan, and I usually have some around, but for today's holiday, here's an easy recipe from Santa Barbara Chocolate for Chocolate Marzipan Cookies (or truffles, if you don't squash them down). 

What exactly is marzipan? It's an elastic paste made with almonds and powdered sugar. It's like an edible dough, and you can make shapes with him, and, of course, enrobe it in chocolate.

History of Marzipan from Serious Eats:
The invention of marzipan is usually attributed to Lübeck, Germany. Legend has it that during a 15th century famine when flour for making bread became scarce, the senate of Lübeck ordered bakers to create a replacement. Using eggs, sugar, and stores of almonds, the clever bakers came up with marzipan. But cities like Venice, Florence, Konigsberg and more all lay claim to inventing marzipan and put forth similar stories with different dates, making it hard to determine where the sweet actually came from.
Although the origin of marzipan is fuzzy, it has clearly been embraced by many different cultures and is enjoyed worldwide. Marzipan is a traditional food to eat on weddings and religious feast days in Italy, Greece, and Cyprus.
In Latin America, a popular marzipan-like treat which replaces the almonds with peanuts is called "mazapan." In Mexico, pine nuts and pistachios are other substitutes for almonds in marzipan. You can find marzipan in the Middle East, too, usually flavored with orange-flower water. In Germany and throughout much of northern Europe it is considered good luck to receive a marzipan pig on Christmas or New Year's Day. The Spanish and Portuguese are big consumers of marzipan too. But perhaps the form of marzipan that Americans are most familiar with are the cute little miniature fruit shapes that pop up all over.

Whatever the origins, there is nothing quite like chocolate and marzipan! So for today's holiday here's an easy and original recipe for Chocolate Marzipan Cookies from Santa Barbara Chocolate Company.


CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN COOKIES

Ingredients
1 cup of almonds, peeled
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup Rainforest Bulk Cocoa Powder
1 egg or 2 tbsp honey - egg is used in the traditional marzipan recipe (but use honey if you don't want to use raw eggs)
Chocolate sprinkles

Directions
Chop peeled almonds and put them in blender or food processor. Blend until you get almond flour texture. Be careful to blend really well to avoid big chunks.
In saucepan add almond flour, Cocoa Powder, and powdered sugar, mix together. Incorporate egg in middle and place over low heat. Stir continuously until all ingredients are combined. Keep stirring for 5 minutes and then take off heat. Place in refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes before decorating. This way the marzipan is going to hold its shape. 
When chilled, roll dough into a tube shape. Cover balls with chocolate sprinkles to decorate. Place on baking sheet and slightly press down with back of spoon. Let set in refrigerator for 5 minutes more and serve.

Friday, January 11, 2019

MIDWINTER CARNIVAL MARBLE CAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

Here's a cake that's perfect for this time of year, and it's so Retro. Not that many people celebrate Midwinter Carnival any more, but they did when this Ad was created. This Retro Ad & Recipe is from Betty Crocker with a nod to Gold Medal Flour (General Mills). This Midwinter Carnival Marble Cake uses her "Double-Quick new method!"

"Betty Crocker celebrates her Silver Anniversary and the return of Gold Medal Flour with this country-wide Midwinter Carnival"



Thursday, January 10, 2019

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE: Bittersweet Chocolate Day

Today is Bittersweet Chocolate Day. Since I review, eat, and bake chocolate, the word bittersweet isn't really part of my lexicon. Although I have purchased chocolate that is labeled bittersweet, I buy chocolate based on its origins, fair-trade, and amount of cacao. Bittersweet is just too vague a term for me.

According to Wikipedia, Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate not liqueur) 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 (the ones I like) 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).

So using this definition, almost any of my recipes will work since I use mostly very dark chocolate.

Here's a recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Bundt Cake adapted from Nestle Toll House's Chocolate Pound Cake recipe. It's easy and delicious. If you use Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bars, be sure and add more sugar to the recipe.

I don't usually make a glaze, but I've included the recipe in case you'd like to. Sometimes I sprinkle this cake with powdered sugar, as in the photo. This cake goes well with ice cream or whipped cream, too!

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE


INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp Instant Coffee Granules (something you'll only use for this)*
8 ounces dark chocolate (75%-85%), chopped, divided (save 2 oz for glaze if you're making it)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
3 large eggs

CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

FOR CAKE:
1. PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. COMBINE flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl. Bring water and coffee granules to boil in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add 6 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth.
3. BEAT sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat on high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture alternately with chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared Bundt pan.
4. BAKE for 50 to 60 minutes or until long wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Place on plate.
Optional: Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze or Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar

** Sometimes I pour the glaze over the bundt cake while it's still a bit warm. The cake absorbs the glaze, and it's extra chocolatey delicious!

FOR CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Melt remaining 2 ounces of chocolate with butter in small, saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar alternately with water. Stir in vanilla extract. Drizzle over cake.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ENGLISH TOFFEE TRUFFLES: English Toffee Day

Today is English Toffee Day, and if you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know I love Toffee. I've been a Toffee Judge for the International Chocolate Salon for five years. So to celebrate the day, here's a recipe for English Toffee Truffles. This easy recipe is adapted from myrecipes.com. As always, the flavor will change with your ingredients, so use the very best!

English Toffee Truffles

Ingredients
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp whipping cream
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
5 small English Toffee-flavored candy bars, crushed (i.e. Heath Bars or Chopped Toffee)

Directions
Heat chocolate and butter in saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Remove from heat; stir in cream. Let cool 5 minutes. Stir in pecans.
Cover and chill 2 hours or until mixture is firm.
Shape chocolate mixture into 1" balls; roll in crushed toffee candy.
Store truffles in refrigerator up to one week.

Tips: Crush toffee bars easily by sealing them in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag, crush with a rolling pin. Use a 1 1/4" metal scoop to shape into truffles. It streamlines the process.

Monday, January 7, 2019

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD FINGERS: National Shortbread Day

Today is National Shortbread Day, and Shortbread is all about butter. As always, use the very best butter in the following recipe! A few years ago on National Shortbread Day I posted Michael Recchiuti's recipe for Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. They're absolutely delicious and worth the time and effort. This year for National Shortbread Day, I'm more about easy and quick, so here's my favorite recipe for Chocolate Shortbread. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. You can also make cookies using this recipe, but that's for another day. I use unsalted butter in this recipe, but then I use unsalted butter in just about every recipe!

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD FINGERS

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups plus two Tbsp all-purpose flour
4-1/2 Tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened  (this is really key.. butter should be room temperature)
1 cup superfine sugar (ok, I have this on hand, but if you don't, put granulated sugar in the blender. Be sure and measure again)
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Directions
Preheat oven to 325F. 
Butter 12 x 8 inch pan. Line with parchment paper.
In bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda until combined
Place butter and superfine sugar in mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy – three to four minutes (use the paddle attachment). Scrape down sides of bowl and add flour mixture. Beat on medium until just combined.
Spread dough in pan, using spatula or your fingers to even out the surface. Freeze dough until firm – approximately 15 minutes. Prick dough all over with tines of a fork, and place in oven. Bake 20 (to 30) minutes. Dough should be just firm to the touch.
Place pan on wire rack to cool. While still hot, cut dough into strips, and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Dough should cool completely in pan. 


For a twist: Sprinkle sea salt on top instead of sugar--or a mixture of both.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

CHOCOLATE PUDDING WITH ESPRESSO WHIPPED CREAM: National Whipped Cream Day

Today is National Whipped Cream Day, and it's a great day to celebrate. Love this recipe from the Nielsen-Massey website for Decadent Chocolate Pudding with Espresso Whipped Cream. Easy and delicious. I love Nielsen-Massey extracts. They're pure and strong and perfect for cooking and baking.

Decadent Chocolate Pudding with Espresso Whipped Cream  

Ingredients
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract
1/2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract

Directions
In heavy saucepan, combine cornstarch and milk. Bring to boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool.
In small bowl, beat egg yolks with powdered sugar until pale yellow and have thickened. Gradually pour into cooled milk mixture. Place saucepan back onto low heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not let simmer or boil.
Remove from heat and add melted chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee extracts.
Pour into individual serving bowls or ramekins.
Chill 3-4 hours until set.
Serve with Espresso Whipped Cream.

Espresso Whipped Cream


Ingredients
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract

Directions
In chilled bowl, combine all ingredients, and whip with an electric mixer until fluffy. Serve with Decadent Chocolate Pudding.

Recipe and photo from Nielsen-Massey with permission.

Friday, January 4, 2019

CHOCOLATE SPAGHETTI: National Spaghetti Day

Today is National Spaghetti Day, and what can be better than Chocolate Spaghetti? Great flavor, great texture, so versatile. On National Pasta Day several years ago, I posted a very easy Recipe for making Chocolate Pasta. I also posted a Pasta with Sage and Chocolate recipe. That recipe can be made with plain spaghetti but with cheese and chocolate in the sauce, so it's a savory dish.

For today's National Spaghetti Day, I have two different chocolate spaghetti recipes. You can buy chocolate spaghetti online from several chocolatiers and pasta makers. My local Pasta Shop has fresh chocolate spaghetti periodically, and it freezes well.

The first recipe for Chocolate Spaghetti is from Emeril Lagasse. It's slightly more complicated than the second recipe, but has a completely different taste and is worth the effort.

Chocolate Spaghetti with Whipped Cream, Sliced Strawberries and Chocolate Nibs 
from Emeril Lagasse (Food Network)

Ingredients
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar plus 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Pinch salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (Madagascar)
2 teaspoons walnut oil or vegetable oil (go with the Walnut Oil)
1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon Nocello or brandy
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup chocolate nibs or finely chopped semisweet chocolate

Directions
In large bowl or on work surface, sift together flour, cocoa, 3 Tbsp sugar, and salt. Make a well in center and add eggs a bit at time, working them into dry ingredients using circular motion with hands. Continue working in eggs, and add vanilla and oil, until sticky dough is formed. Knead on lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic, and is no longer sticky. (Alternatively, place dry ingredients in bowl of  food processor, add eggs, vanilla and oil and pulse to form ball of dough. Turn out onto work surface and work to smooth dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 fist-sized pieces and flatten into disks. One at time, roll out each dough piece through widest setting of a pasta machine, according to manufacturer's instructions. Remove, fold into thirds and repeat. Continue rolling through machine on 4 times, dusting lightly with flour to keep from sticking. Decrease roller size down 1 notch, and roll through once, passing dough through each setting twice until desired thickness is reached and cut into spaghetti strands. Let dry briefly while assembling "sauce."

In medium bowl, beat cream with electric mixer at medium speed until it becomes thick and frothy. Beating, add sugar and Nocello, and beat until soft peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Set aside until ready to serve.

Bring pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until just al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain in colander. Place  drained pasta in large pasta bowl and toss with whipped cream, strawberries and nibs. Serve immediately.

And a second easier recipe.

Chocolate Spaghetti with White Chocolate "Cream" Sauce
 
Spaghetti
2 ounces dark chocolate (60%+ cacao), melted, cooled
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour

White Chocolate Cream Sauce
2 ounces white chocolate (Guittard or another 'real' white chocolate)
2/3 cup whipping cream

Directions for Spaghetti

Add melted chocolate to eggs. Make pasta using chocolate-egg mixture and flour. (follow any easy pasta recipe). Let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out pasta. Roll pasta sheets through spaghetti cutter. Let spaghetti dry for 30 minutes.
In large pan of boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente.
Drain spaghetti.
Make sauce.
Serve spaghetti with sauce.

Directions for Cream Sauce
Blend white chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES: 4 Recipes for Chocolate Covered Cherry Day!

Life is just a Bowl of Chocolate Covered Cherries! Because there's nothing quite like a chocolate covered cherry, I thought I'd repost a few recipes from last year's Chocolate Covered Cherry Day blog in celebration of National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day. I've added another recipe, too, for Chocolate Covered Dry Cherries. That's 4 recipes for Chocolate Covered Cherries. Still don't have any time to make these? Buy your favorite chocolate covered cherries to celebrate!

When I was growing up, I always wanted the chocolate covered cherry in the Whitman Sampler Box. As I remember they were usually covered with milk chocolate, but I'm a dark chocolate fan. Here are several simple and easy recipes for Chocolate Covered Cherries to celebrate the day.

I can buy fresh cherries at Berkeley Bowl, but if you're a locavore, you may not want to buy Chilean Cherries today. I've also provided recipes for dried or maraschino cherries. If you decide to use maraschino cherries, be sure and dry them thoroughly or your chocolate will seize. And, if you're using maraschino cherries, save the juice from the jar to make the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cocktail in this post! I also love Chukar Cherries. So many varieties. Any of these recipes would be great for Valentine's Day, so bookmark this page!

Chocolate Covered Fresh Cherries

Personally I like dark chocolate with cherries, but if you're a milk chocolate fan, go for it! As always, use the very best quality, organic, fair trade chocolate! Hint: If the melted chocolate starts to harden  before you’re done dipping, put it back on the stove for a few minutes and give it a good stir.

Ingredients
8 ounces of fair-trade chocolate (I use Guittard 65%)
1/2 pound fresh, sweet cherries

Directions
Wash and dry cherries.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or in saucepan over saucepan over simmering water.
Stir chocolate until completely melted and smooth.
Remove chocolate from heat.
Grab each cherry by stem and dip into chocolate. Swirl cherry clockwise, coating bottom 3/4. It's always nice to see the cherry showing at the top.
Place cherry on parchment paper covered baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining cherries.
Place in refrigerator until chocolate hardens.
If not eating right away, put chocolate covered cherries in covered container and keep in refrigerator for a few days.

Chocolate Covered Marschino Cherries

Use the above recipe with maraschino cherries. Just be sure and dry cherries thoroughly before dipping.

Chocolate Covered Dried Cherries

Ingredients
8 ounces Dark or Milk Chocolate
1 cup dried Cherries (Chukar or Trader Joe's)

Directions
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in double boiler as above or glass bowl in microwave. Once melted, remove from heat.
Add cherries to chocolate. Stir until coated.
Remove clumps of coated dried cherries with two forks or slotted spoon (this works very well), shaking off excess chocolate on side of bowl. Transfer to lined baking sheet.
Put baking sheet in refrigerator until chocolate hardens, about 20 minutes.
Store in refrigerator.

Feel like something alcoholic to celebrate National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day? Want to drink your Chocolate Covered Cherries?

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cocktail

Fill a tall glass with ice.
Add 1/2 ounce Bailey's, 1/2 ounce Kahlua.
Add a few drops maraschino cherry juice.
Shake.
Strain into another glass with ice.
Add a Chocolate Covered Maraschino Cherry for garnish!


And for your listening enjoyment! 
"Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" 1931.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS: National Cream Puff Day

Today is National Cream Puff Day. Cream Puffs are one of the easiest pastries to make, and incredibly versatile. You can stuff them, top them, add flavoring to the choux, and really change them up! For example, during the holidays, you can make a Croquembuche, a pyramid of cream puffs drizzled with chocolate or spun sugar. You can stuff Cream Puffs with all manner of sweet and savory fillings.

A Cream Puff is just a baked puffed shell of choux pastry. In spite of the Betty Crocker Vintage Ads from the 1950s for Cream Puff mixes displayed below, they're really simple to make from scratch. Following is an easy basic recipe for Cream Puffs and Chocolate Cream, as well as a recipe for non-traditional Chocolate Cream Puffs.

CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (some people use bread flour and that will really give these a different taste and texture, give it a try)
4 eggs

Directions
Preheat Oven to 425.
In large pot, bring water and butter to rolling boil.
Stir in flour and salt until mixture forms a ball. Transfer dough to large mixing bowl.
Using wooden spoon or mixer, beat in eggs one at time, mixing well after each.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
When the shells are cool, split and fill.
How easy is that!

Chocolate Cream Filling

Ingredients 
14 ounces dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Directions

Place chocolate in top pot of double boiler over simmering water in lower pot (or in a saucepan over another saucepan that has simmering water). Stir just until chocolate melts, then remove from heat.
Pour cream into bowl. Using electric mixer set on high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 20 seconds.
Pour all of melted chocolate into whipped cream quickly, continue to mix on high speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute.
Place chocolate cream in clean pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe into bottoms of cooled cream puffs. Replace tops on filled bottoms and serve immediately. Alternatively, spoon cream onto bottoms being careful not to put too much. Of course, it looks pretty when it's piped!
***

Or you can make Chocolate Cream Puffs. The following recipe adds cocoa to a traditional cream puff (choux) recipe. Stuff with sweetened whipped cream. You don't need to add the sugar in the cream puff recipe, but I find the chocolate cream puffs taste a little better since there's no sugar in the cocoa. Of course, you could try this recipe with sweetened cocoa. Let me know what you think if you do that.

CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp sugar
4 eggs

Directions
Preheat Oven to 400.
Combine flour, cocoa, and sugar in small bowl.
In heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring water, butter, and salt to a boil.
Stir in flour, cocoa, sugar mixture, until smooth ball forms. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth and shiny.
Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls (golf ball size), 3 inches apart onto greased (or parchment lined) baking sheets.
Bake (in middle of oven) at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set and browned.
Remove to wire racks. Let cool before splitting.
Cool puffs completely before filling with Whipped Cream, Ice Cream, or whatever!