Thursday, December 31, 2020

CHAMPAGNE BROWNIES: Happy New Year!

Here's a great recipe for Champagne Brownies for your New Year's Eve celebration! And, today is National Champagne Day! What better way to ring in the New Year and celebrate Champagne Day  -- Champagne and Chocolate! 

CHAMPAGNE BROWNIES

Ingredients 
16 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for buttering pan
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup champagne

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter 9 x 9 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper (leave extra overhanging edges for easy removal).
Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan over saucepan over simmering water (or double boiler).
Beat salt, vanilla, eggs, and sugar into melted chocolate and beat thoroughly to incorporate.
Add flour and mix just until blended.
Add champagne and continue mixing batter until it becomes shiny and pulls away from sides of bowl. (2-3 minutes on high for a stand mixer.)
Turn into prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Want to be festive? Cut these brownies into stars or decorate with edible gold...

Serve with your favorite Champagne!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

CHAMPAGNE TRUFFLES for New Year's Eve

It should be no surprise that December 31 is National Champagne Day, since it's the Perfect Food Holiday for New Year's Eve. I've done many wine/champagne chocolate pairing events with my company TeamBuilding Unlimited, and we often begin with a trivia quizz. How many bubbles in a bottle of champagne? Answer: 49 million to 250 million! Now, that's a lot of bubbles.

You won't have any bubbles in these Champagne Truffles for New Year's Eve, but you will taste the Champagne - and the Cognac. This is my favorite Champagne Truffle recipe. This recipe uses more champagne than most Champagne Truffle recipes, and the Cognac adds zip. If you're in a pinch, you can use a different type of sugar or cocoa to coat the truffles. Sanding sugar, though, gives it a festive New Year's Eve appearance!

No time to make these? Here's a link to Champagne Truffles you can buy to ring in the new year!

Martha Stewart's Champagne Truffles
Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Champagne
1 Tablespoon Cognac
Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling

Directions
Bring cream to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Immediately pour hot cream over chocolate in medium bowl; stir until smooth. Stir in Champagne and Cognac. Refrigerate until chocolate mixture is firm enough to roll into balls, about 1 hour. (or more!!)
Using small melon baller or ice-cream scoop, form 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in coarse sanding sugar and transfer to rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate truffles at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days before serving.

You can also use unsweetened cocoa or confectioner's sugar if you don't have sanding sugar. This recipe was in Martha Stewart's wedding section, so the sparkly white sugar looks great for weddings and holidays, but cocoa tastes just as good.. just different.

What Is Sanding Sugar?
Sanding sugar is large crystal sugar used as edible decoration that will not dissolve when subjected to heat. Also called pearl sugar or decorating sugar, sanding sugar adds "sparkle" to cookies, baked goods and candies. The sparkling affect is achieved because the sugar crystal grains are large and reflect light. You can order Sanding Sugar online or buy it in cake decorating departments.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

CHAMPAGNE CHOCOLATE CAKE for New Year's Eve

Champagne Chocolate Cake is the perfect addition to your New Year's Eve Celebration! Here's a great and easy recipe.

Champagne Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 cup DARK cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar (superfine is best, regular is ok), divided
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Champagne
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
7 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites, at room temperature

Directions
Preheat oven to 325F. Use an ungreased 10" Bundt Pan.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar (reserving 2 Tbsp), baking powder, and salt.
In medium bowl, whisk together champagne, vegetable oil, vanilla, and egg yolks, then pour into dry ingredients and whisk until just smooth.
In another large bowl, using electric mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Add remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar gradually, starting when whites begin to get foamy.
Once egg whites have reached stiff peaks (do not overheat), gently whisk 1/4 of egg whites into champagne batter. Gently, working in two additions, fold remaining beaten whites into champagne batter until no streaks of egg white foam remain visible and batter is uniform color. Be sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl well.
Pour into ungreased bundt pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until top of cake springs back when gently touched and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Invert onto wire rack and let cool completely.
Once cooled, run knife around the edges and turn cake out onto a serving platter.
Dust with powdered sugar or cocoa.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, December 28, 2020

HOMEMADE MOUNDS BARS: National Chocolate Candy Day

Today is National Chocolate Candy Day. So many recipes to choose from! But since I love Retro Ads, especially those with recipes, I chose this one from Welch's for Chocolate Covered Cocoanut Bars aka Mounds Bars. Mounds Bars are now made by Hersheys not Welch's. The recipe on the Ad is for Chocolate Covered Cocoanut Bars with the final line on the recipe:

"But why go to all this work when no one makes cocoanut bars better than Welch!"


So if you're inclined to make your own, here's the recipe! 



Sunday, December 27, 2020

CHOCOLATE FRUITCAKE: National Fruitcake Day

December 27 is National Fruitcake Day, but it seems a bit late for a Fruitcake recipe. I suggest you bookmark this recipe for next year...or make this Chocolate Fruitcake for another holiday?

If you're like me, you're saying Fruitcake? Why bother? It's just an over-inebriated rock hard cake with artificial fruits that gets passed around the family kind of like a white elephant gift? Well, it doesn't have to be. There are actually some wonderful recipes for Chocolate Fruitcake. Aha, your eyes and tastebuds have already picked up.

Of course, I'm all about easy, so here's an easy recipe for Chocolate Fruitcake. One caveat, you won't be able to eat this today. Fruitcake really does need to ferment a bit. Following is a recipe for Chocolate Fruitcake adapted from Diana Rattray at Southern Food. This recipe originally called for candied red and green cherries, but I really don't like those. I use dried cranberries or dried cherries or dried apricots (or a mix), lots of nuts, and different alcohol. This is quite a versatile recipe. The original recipe didn't use booze, but what's a fruitcake without alcohol? Another recipe for Chocolate Fruitcake that I really like is David Lebovitz's Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake.

Either way, if you like chocolate, you'll find this chocolate twist on an old holiday standard quite to your liking!

Chocolate Fruitcake

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces dark chocolate (65-75% cacao, fair-trade), chopped
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1-1/2 cups combination of walnuts and pecans, chopped
1/2 cup rum, whiskey, or amaretto.. (or whatever you like)

Directions:
A day ahead, plump the dried fruits by tossing them in 1/2 cup of amaretto,  rum or whiskey (or whatever alcohol you like!), cover for later use in the cake.

To Make Cake:
Melt butter and chocolate in large heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring often. Remove from heat, and cool for 15 minutes.
Stir in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add flour and salt, stirring until blended. Stir in chopped boozy fruits and chopped nuts. Spoon mixture into 4 greased and floured 5 x 3 x 2-inch loaf pans.
Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes
Poke lots of small holes in cakes with skewer. Pour 3 Tbsp liquor (see above) onto each cake. Let cool for another 10-15 minutes or so.
Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.
Wrap in plastic and store for up to 7 days.

If you're making these Fruitcakes ahead, you can brush with more liquor every day. Don't freeze if you're adding alcohol.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

PEAR AND CHOCOLATE TRIFLE for BOXING DAY


Being an Anglophile, I often came across references to Boxing Day in books I was reading. What exactly is Boxing Day? Without any 'real' Boxing Day experience, when I was younger, I thought it was the day after Christmas when you boxed up all your ornaments and returned them to the attic. I also thought Boxing Day was the day that you boxed up your presents and returned them to the stores where they were purchased. I was so wrong.

According to Wikipedia, Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas when wealthy people and homeowners in the United Kingdom would give a box containing a gift to their servants. It's now a National Bank Holiday. Read more on my other blog: Mystery Fanfare, where I also have a list of Boxing Day mysteries.

Here's a lovely British recipe to celebrate Boxing Day: Pear and Chocolate Trifle. What could be better for Boxing Day than a trifle? This recipe is from John Torode in BBC Good Food Magazine. I've adjusted the measurements for American Cooking. If you're just too tired to bake another thing after the holidays, a shortcut would be to use leftover Chocolate Cake in the trifle.

BOXING DAY PEAR AND CHOCOLATE TRIFLE

FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER
7 ounces dark chocolate, broken into chunks
1 cup sweet butter
2 cups superfine (if you don't have golden caster) sugar
5 large eggs, separated

FOR THE POACHED PEARS
6 firm pears, peeled
1 vanilla pod, split

FOR THE MASCARPONE LAYER
2 large egg yolks
4 tbsp golden caster sugar
5 ounces marsala
2 - 9 ounce tubs mascarpone

TO FINISH
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, grated
5 tbsp very strong coffee (or espresso)

1. For the cake, melt the chocolate and butter together, then cool. Meanwhile, heat oven to 300F  and butter and line the base and sides of a 9" springform tin with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks until very pale and thick, about 5 mins. Fold in the chocolate mix using a large metal spoon. Put the egg whites and a pinch of salt into another bowl and, with clean beaters, whisk until you have medium peaks. Fold this gently but thoroughly into the chocolate mix with your metal spoon, then spoon into the tin and bake for 1½ hrs until risen all over. Insert a skewer into the middle of the tin to test; it should come out with just a few damp crumbs but no wet mix. The cake will sink once it cools. Can be frozen up to 1 month ahead.

3. While the cake cooks, put the pears, vanilla pod and 4 cups water into a saucepan. Weigh the pears down under the surface with a small plate, then simmer for 20 mins, covered, until tender. Leave to cool in the liquid if you have time. Cut each pear into 6 long slices, then remove the stalk and the core. Can be cooked up to a week ahead and kept chilled in some of their poaching liquid.

4. For the mascarpone layer, half-fill a medium saucepan with water, then bring to a simmer. Put the yolks, sugar and 6 tbsp of the Marsala into a large bowl, sit it over the just-simmering water, then whisk for 5 mins until the mixture is thick and holds a trail for a few secs. Put the mascarpone into a bowl, beat with 2 tbsp more Marsala to loosen, then whisk in the egg mix in 2 batches, until smooth, thick and light. Can be made ahead and kept in the fridge. Keep no longer than 2 days in total.

5. You're now ready to assemble the trifle. Cut the cake in half - it will be squidgy, so don't worry if it breaks up. Spoon some of the mascarpone layer into the bottom of a dish, then top with a few pears and a sprinkling of grated chocolate. Put half of the cake on top, then sprinkle with a little of the remaining Marsala and coffee. Spoon more of the mascarpone over, then top with more pears and more chocolate. Top this with the next piece of cake, spoon over more Marsala and coffee, then spoon the remaining mascarpone mix over the top. Finish with the remaining pears. Chill for at least 2 hrs, or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, scatter with the last of the grated chocolate.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

FIGGY PUDDING: History & Recipe for Chocolate Figgy Pudding

"Now! Bring us some figgy pudding and bring some out here!"

How long have you been singing this Christmas Carol? Have you ever had Figgy Pudding aka Christmas Pudding? And what, exactly is it?


One other question, can you add chocolate? Yes! Scroll down for Ghirardelli's recipe for Chocolate Figgy Pudding.

Figgy Pudding is pretty much exactly what it sounds like -- a pudding/cake with figs in it. The reason that it's in such high demand, though, has more to do with its inedible ingredients. Coins, rings and other trinkets were often hidden in the Christmas pudding and each supposedly predicted the recipient's fortune for the coming year. For example, if you found a coin, you would become wealthy. If you found a ring, you'd get married ... and so on. Think of it as an Old English fortune cookie.

From WiseGeek.com:

It's amazing what a brief mention in one Victorian-era Christmas carol can do for an obscure little dessert called figgy pudding. Every year, thousands of people around the world become curious about the dessert mentioned in the secular English carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Apparently, the party-goers mentioned in the lyrics refuse to leave until they get some of this pudding from their host. This must be some seriously good pudding.

In actuality, figgy pudding is more of a cake than a pudding. There have been recipes for it since the 15th century, although its popularity as a Christmas dessert probably reached its peak during the late 19th century. Several factors have significantly hampered the wholesale expansion of the figgy pudding industry, including an interminably long cooking time, an exotic ingredients list and a cringe-inducing dependency on saturated fats for texture.
There are numerous recipes for this pudding, from a traditional steamed version similar to modern bread pudding to a pastry-covered blend of figs, dates, fruits and spices. Nearly all recipes call for three or four hours of steaming. This is accomplished by placing a metal bowl with the pudding mixture into a larger bowl partially filled with boiling water. The indirect heat generated by the boiling water cooks the dessert evenly and slowly. This is equivalent to using a bain marie water bath for individual ramekins filled with batter.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Figgy Pudding


Ingredients
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
4 cups soft bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped suet (I use unsalted butter)
2 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups chopped dried figs
3/4 cup Ghirardelli's Ground Chocolate
1/2 cup hot milk
3/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Beat eggs, add sugar, bread crumbs, suet, figs (dredged with flour), chocolate mixed with hot milk, and salt, stir thoroughly.
Steam three hours in a greased mold.
Serve hot with a hard sauce.

Hard sauce: Great recipe at The Pioneer Woman

Merry Christmas!

CHRISTMAS SCONES

Scones are the perfect pastry for the holiday! There are so many varieties, but being that we're in the holiday season, I thought I'd post a great recipe for Christmas Scones.

A scone is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, and I imagine you'll need lots of cuppas during the upcoming holidays. I serve my scones with clotted cream and jam, but then my grandmother spent many years in England, and we adopted some of the British ways of eating and drinking.

Scones like biscuits are made from flour, leavening, a little salt, some fat, milk, and a bit of sugar. As in making biscuits, you cut the fat into the dry ingredients, add liquid, roll, and bake.. But that's where the similarity ends. The texture of a scone is completely different from that of a biscuit. Scones are denser, drier, and more crumbly. They usually contain less butter, too. One other main difference is that in the making of scones, you use your hands to massage the butter into the dry ingredients. This will help create the proper texture.

This recipe for Scones is originally from Epicurious. You can change up the nuts and fruits for different seasons, but here's one especially for the Winter holidays.

CHRISTMAS SCONES

Ingredients
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon peel
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries (I use Trader Joe's unsweetened)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (or more) chilled half and half, divided

Directions
Position rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice in bowl for glaze.
In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, lemon peel, salt, and 1 cup sugar. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Mix in cranberries and walnuts. Add 1/2 cup half and half and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Toss with fork until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more half and half if dough is dry.
Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Press out each half on floured surface to 6-inch-diameter (1-inch-high) round. Cut each round into 6 wedges.
Transfer to baking sheet; brush with glaze.
Bake scones until golden and tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

CHOCOLATE BERRY SANDWICH COOKIES

Photo: Bonne Maman
I love Bonne Maman preserves and jellies. There's nothing quite like them for flavor--and I love the jars. I use the jars for layering 'Brownies in a Jar' and other fun gifts, as well as presenting various 'foods' on a stick. I also used several jars this year for flavored sugars. And, on my desk, I have a few jars filled with office supplies and pencils and pens. The jar is such a great shape (see end of post), I always find a use for them. They never end up in the recycling bin because I "recycle" them 'in-house'.

But loving the jar shouldn't take precedence over the taste of the Bonne Maman delicious preserves and jellies. They are truly fabulous. The Bonne Maman website has lots of great recipes using their products. You'll want to have a peek. One of my favorites is this recipe for Chocolate-Berry Sandwich Cookies. If you don't have time to make the cookies from scratch, just grab your favorite chocolate cookies, make the filling, and assemble. Perfect for the holidays! Very Festive.

CHOCOLATE-BERRY SANDWICH COOKIES

Ingredients

Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for shaping and rolling
2/3 cup natural cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry or Cherry Filling 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves or Cherry Preserves 

Directions 

Make the cookies:
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until pale yellow and airy, about 5 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until evenly combined.
Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each mound of dough into ball, flatten into disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350° and line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use rolling pin to roll one of chilled cookie dough discs into a 1/4 inch thick sheet.
Use 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut dough into circles and place them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.
Bake cookies until their edges are firm and centers are slightly soft and puffed, 8 to 10 minutes.
Use metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
Cool cookies completely before filling.

Make filling: 
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes.
Turn off mixer, remove bowl from the mixer stand and stir in strawberry (or cherry) preserves.
Transfer filling to a piping bag fitted with small tube tip and pipe 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling on the center of half of the cookies (or use spoon to scoop the filling).
Top each filling-topped half with another cookie and press down slightly to evenly distribute the filling.
Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

PEPPERMINT BARK BROWNIES!

Still looking for special treats for the Holidays? The Ghirardelli Chocolate site has two great recipes for one of my favorite holiday treats: Peppermint Bark Brownies. These are great to serve or make as gifts. I like to give gifts in unique containers, and old tins are my gift giving choice. I collect tins all year at the Flea Market, the White Elephant Sale.. and my own garage. You never know what you'll find where.

I'm not adverse to using mixes, and I like Ghirardelli Chocolate, and the first recipe uses their packaged Double Chocolate Brownie mix. Of course, you can always use your own brownie recipe and different white chocolate and follow the same steps. The second recipe is a from scratch brownie-mix and uses Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark or Peppermint Bark Squares. Both are great!

I. Peppermint Bark Brownies

Brownies:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1- 20 oz package or 1 pouch Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix

Peppermint Topping:
2 cups (12 oz) Ghirardelli Classic White Chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup crushed peppermint candy (about 16 hard, round candies)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

For Brownie: 
In medium bowl, blend together oil, water, and egg.
Add brownie mix and stir until moistened.
Spoon batter into lightly greased 13x9x2-inch pan.
Bake 24-26 minutes.
Let brownies cool completely.

For Peppermint Topping: 
Place white chips and vegetable oil in small bowl.
Microwave at 50% power for approximately 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
Spread melted white chocolate over cooled brownie.
Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy. Let topping set before cutting.

II. Peppermint Bark Brownies

Ingredients 
Cooking spray
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Ground Cocoa
1 2/3 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Chips, divided
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (3.5-ounce) Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark with Dark Chocolate bar, coarsely chopped, divided (or 16 Peppermint Bark Squares, coarsely chopped, divided)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, allowing about inch of paper to extend over opposite sides of pan; lightly coat with cooking spray.
In microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter and 1-1/3 cups chocolate baking chips on medium (50% power) for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds , until melted and combined, about 2 minutes total. Whisk in sugar (mixture will look grainy). Whisk in eggs and vanilla, mixing until smooth.
In separate bowl whisk together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture until just combined. Fold in half of peppermint bark.
Pour mixture into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
Lift brownies from pan using parchment as handles and transfer brownies to rack to cool completely.
Place brownies on cooling rack set over rimmed baking sheet.
Place remaining 1/3 cup chocolate baking chips in medium glass bowl. Warm cream in small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate baking chips. Let stand for 2 minutes; whisk until smooth. Pour over brownies and spread to edges with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with remaining peppermint bark.
Before serving, let stand, or refrigerate, until glaze sets.

Rudolph's Secret Snowball Kisses: Cookies for Christmas

I love Rudolph's Secret Snowball Kisses? The big secret is that there's a Hershey's kiss inside each "snowball" cookie. This cookie is perfect for your cookie tray for Christmas or New Year's Eve.

RUDOLPH'S SECRET SNOWBALL KISSES 

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened 

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Hershey's Kisses

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions

In large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Stir together flour and salt and add to mixture and beat well. Fold in walnuts. Refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Remove wrappers from Hershey's Kisses. Flatten balls and put a chocolate kiss in the middle of each. Pinch dough around kiss. Cover Hershey's Kiss completely. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet (makes about 3 dozen).

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until set. Do not brown.

Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. 

When cooled completely; roll cookies in powdered sugar. 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 21, 2020

CHOCOLATE PLUM PUDDING CAKE

So much baking this holiday season! Here's another great and easy recipe! Chocolate Plum Pudding Cake! Who doesn't love a great fruitcake, especially a chocolate one? This one is moist and delicious.

Chocolate Plum Pudding Cake

Ingredients
2/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put raisins in small saucepan. Cover with boiling water. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain. Grease and flour a 9 inch tube pan.
Sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs, then applesauce. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Spread batter evenly into prepared tube pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 80 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely; chill.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Bûche de Noël aka Yule Log: Winter Solstice

With the Winter Solstice and Christmas holidays upon us, I'm posting a recipe for Bûche de Noël aka Yule Log. I've tried various recipes for Bûche de Noël, but I really like this one. Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served at the Solstice and during the Christmas holidays in many countries. Basically it looks like a log ready for the fire, hence the Yule Log.

The traditional Bûche de Noël is made from a Genoise (see recipe below) filled and frosted with buttercream. The Bûche de Noël is often iced to look like a piece of the branch has broken off. Sometimes there are fresh berries and meringue or marzipan mushrooms. Bûche de Noël is one of my favorite holiday desserts. The log represents the hearth -- the center of the house, and this yule log (Bûche de Noël) will be the center of your holiday table.

Stuck for time? Check out your local bakery and order one!

Bûche de Noël aka Yule Log
(recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients
2 cups heavy cream (cold)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks (eggs at room temperature)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
 6 egg whites (room temp)
1/4 cup white sugar
Confectioners Sugar for Dusting
Meringue Mushrooms (see recipe below)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 10x15 inch greased jellyroll pan with greased (sprayed) parchment paper. In large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.

In large bowl, use electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale (about 5 minutes). Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form very stiff peaks. Immediately fold yolk mixture into whites. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Dust heavily clean dishtowel with lots of confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edge of pan, and turn warm cake out onto silicone baking mat (or towel, but the mat works better!). Remove and discard parchment paper. Let cool before rolling. Starting at short edge of cake, roll cake up with towel. Use the towel as the rolling agent. Cool for 30 minutes. Unroll cake, and spread filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll cake up with filling inside. Place seam side down onto serving plate. Ice with remaining filling. Run tines across to simulate bark. Refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Add meringue mushrooms before serving (do not refrigerate the mushrooms) or use some 'real' holly leaves with

MERINGUE MUSHROOMS
(recipe-Southern Living-1999)

Ingredients 
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2 teaspoons cocoa

Directions
Combine first 5 ingredients; beat at high speed with electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes).
Spoon mixture into decorating bag fitted with large round tip. Pipe 32 (1 1/4-inch-wide) mounds to resemble mushroom caps and 32 (1-inch-tall) columns to resemble stems onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 200° for 1 1/2 hours; turn oven off. Let meringues stand in closed oven 2 hours.
Spread thin layer of melted chocolate on flat side of caps. Trim rounded end of stems to make them flat; press stems against chocolate to attach them to caps. Sprinkle meringues lightly with cocoa.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Mincemeat Pie: History & Recipe for Chocolate Mincemeat Pies

There's something very odd about the notion of mincemeat pie, but it's all in the name. For many, Mincemeat Pie is a holiday tradition. My sister's Mother-in-Law always made mincemeat pies for the holidays, so when I saw this Retro Advertisement with a tip from Elsie, the Borden Cow,  I just had to post it. And, here's a little history on Mincemeat Pies -- and a recipe for individual Chocolate Mincemeat Pies!

What exactly is mince meat? Mincemeat (one word or two) is a mixture of currants, raisins, sugar, apples, candied citrus peel, spices, and suet, typically baked in a pie.

History of Mincemeat from: Whatscookingamerica.net

Mincemeat developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England, where mince pies are still considered an essential accompaniment to holiday dinners just like the traditional plum pudding. This pie is a remnant of a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, that have survived because of its association with Christmas. These pies have also been known as Christmas Pies. Mince pie as part of the Christmas table had long been an English custom. Today, we are accustomed to eating mince pie as a dessert, but actually "minced" pie and its follow-up "mincemeat pie" began as a main course dish with with more meat than fruit (a mixture of meat, dried fruits, and spices). As fruits and spices became more plentiful in the 17th century, the spiciness of the pies increased accordingly. Read more HERE.

And what's a chocolate blog without chocolate? Here's a great recipe from the BBC for individual Chocolate Mincemeat Pies.

CHOCOLATE MINCEMEAT PIES

Ingredients
10 ounces plain flour, sifted
4½ ounces icing sugar, sifted (powdered/confectioners sugar)
2 oz cocoa powder, sifted
pinch salt
7 oz cold butter, diced
2 free-range egg yolks
1 lb 2 ounces ready-made mincemeat
2 clementines, zest and juice
2 Tbsp milk
1 free-range egg, beaten

Directions
Mix flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a bowl. Mix in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in egg until the mixture comes together in clumps (you may need to a little cold water).
Knead the dough briefly until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and leave to chill in refrigerator for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix mincemeat, clementine zest, and juice together in bowl.
Remove pastry from fridge, and roll out to thickness of 1/4 inch.
Using a 3 inch fluted cutter, stamp out 12 discs from the pastry and use them to line a 12-hole bun tin.
Fill each hole with two teaspoons of mincemeat mixture and brush edges with a little milk.
Using a 2 1/2 inch fluted cutter, cut out 12 circles and use them to top the mince pies, pressing the edges together with your fingertips.
Re-roll any remaining pastry and cut out snowflakes or star shapes to decorate top.
Brush top of each mince pie with beaten egg and gently place the decorations on top, then brush again with egg.
Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until pastry is cooked through.

Friday, December 18, 2020

CARAMEL FUDGE BALLS: Retro Ad & Recipes for Holiday Cookies

I love all the Vintage/Retro Cookie Ads for the Holidays. So much fun, and recipes that are still so delicious and easy to make. Here's one from Diamond Walnuts for Caramel Fudge Balls. This recipe definitely earns a place on the Cookie Table!




ICE CREAM YULE LOG aka BUCHE DE NOEL: Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is almost upon us, and what could be more fitting that a Yule Log aka Bûche de Noël. And yes, it can also be served for Christmas. We all know about these cross-over traditions of winter holidays.

The tradition of the Yule Log spans millennia and actually precedes Christianity. Peasants used to burn a yule log on the Winter Solstice in December to keep evil spirits away, which they presumed might come because of the prolonged darkness at the Winter Solstice.

As Christianity grew, the yule log became more commonly associated with Christmas celebrations and Christianity adopted the Yule log tradition. For centuries, Christians cut their own yule logs at Christmas time or they would try to find a yule log to burn. During the 1700s and 1800s, it was a regular Christmas tradition for men to go out in search of a yule log. Many European countries had traditions surrounding the Yule log, but a Yule log was burned either in the days preceding Christmas or on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

For the purposes of this blog, the expression "Yule log" has also come to refer to a log-shaped Christmas cake or"Bûche de Noël."

Here's a simple recipe adapted from the Breyers Ice cream site for a Buche de Noel aka Yule Log Ice Cream Cake. You can always change the ice cream to a flavor you like best. Personally I think chocolate looks the best! How easy is this?

ICE CREAM YULE LOG aka BUCHE DE NOEL

1 box (16 oz.) angel food cake mix or Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake mix (guess which one I use?)
1 Tbsp confectioners sugar PLUS extra for garnish
1 container (1.5 qt.) Chocolate or Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (original recipe uses strawberry)
3 large marshmallows
6 mini marshmallows
Unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1 can (16 ounces) chocolate frosting
Fresh mint sprigs
Cranberries
Ground cocoa nibs

Directions
Preheat oven to 350° Line 15-1/2 x 10-1/2-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Prepare cake mix according to package; pour into prepared pan. Bake 22 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. On wire rack, cool 15 minutes.
Run metal spatula around edges of cake to loosen; sift 1 Tbsp sugar onto cake. Invert onto clean kitchen towel; remove parchment paper.
Starting at short end of cake, roll up tightly, jelly-roll style, folding towel into cake; refrigerate 30 minutes or until chilled.
On cutting board, unroll cake. With scissors, cut carton from softened (leave out for 10 minutes) Ice Cream (or if you're using another brand of ice-cream, let it soften until you can spread it). Arrange Ice Cream on its side, then cut crosswise into 8 slices. Arrange slices on cake leaving 1-1/2-inch border at one end of cake; pressing to form an even layer. Roll cake up tightly, using towel to help roll cake; freeze 3 hours or overnight. Freeze serving platter 30 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, for ''mushrooms'', with scissors, snip large marshmallows in half crosswise; press mini marshmallows onto sticky side of large marshmallows. Sift cocoa powder over mushrooms; set aside.
On cutting board, remove towel from cake. With serrated knife, slice 1-1/2-inch diagonal piece off one end of cake. On chilled serving platter, arrange large ''log.'' Place diagonal slice against side of ''log'' to form ''branch.''
Frost "log" and "branch" with chocolate frosting, leaving ends unfrosted. Drag fork across frosting to create "bark"; press on "mushrooms." Return to freezer to firm up.
To serve, garnish with cranberries and mint and sprinkle with additional confectioners sugar. Serve on a bed of ground up cocoa nibs!

TIP: The frosting will cover any cracks you may get in the cake when rolling.

Don't have time to do this? Baskin & Robbins usually has Ice Cream Buches de Noel for sale. You get to pick the ice cream flavor you like. They're ready for take-out or they'll customize it for you. Check with them, though, because 2020 is a 'different' year!

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT TRIFLE: A VERY ENGLISH CHRISTMAS DESSERT

Here's a great idea for your holiday dessert! Trifle!! I love a good trifle, and I have posted several recipes for trifle before. In case you haven't planned your holiday dessert yet, I thought a  Chocolate Peppermint Trifle would be great-- a very English Christmas dessert.  Trifle is easy and quick to make. I'm posting two great recipes. One is simple and fast, the other a bit longer but very good. Both recipes call for chocolate cake, but brownies work well, too. A true trifle includes alcohol, but you can eliminate it if you must.

Just an FYI: You can assemble mini-trifles in glass mugs or mason jars for individual servings. Stick a candy cane into the mug for a festive touch.

#1 Chocolate Peppermint Trifle

This one is fast and easy to make, and you can use the Peppermint Bark you've made or purchased.

Ingredients
1 chocolate cake (or brownies) cut up into cubes
1 large box of chocolate pudding (add a couple of drops of Peppermint Schnapps to the pudding). Make the pudding.
Ghirardelli (or another--Trader Joe's--or your own) Peppermint Bark, chopped into chunks
Whipped Cream (I always whip my own with a little sugar)

Directions
Layering:
Cake on the bottom, then add a layer of pudding, then a layer of the chopped up Peppermint Bark, then a layer of whipped cream. Then repeat.
Top it off with finely crushed candy canes or a bit more chopped up Peppermint Bark.

O.K. I'm not much for proportions, but most trifles aren't. Use what you have, and I'm sure you won't go wrong.

#2 Chocolate Peppermint Trifle

This is the longer of the two recipes, but absolutely delicious. I've adapted Martha Stewart's recipe for Triple-Chocolate Peppermint Trifle. She has a chocolate cake recipe, but you can skip it and make a good chocolate cake from a mix, then follow the rest of this recipe.

You can make the trifle components the day before you assemble the trifle. Be sure and refrigerate everything in separate airtight containers.

Ingredients

FOR THE SYRUP
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup chocolate flavored liqueur, such as Godiva

FOR THE MOUSSE
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (the highest quality)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peppermint candies or candy canes

FOR THE PUDDING
8 ounces chocolate 40-65% cacao, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks, room temperature

FOR SERVING
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup chopped peppermint candies or candy canes

Make the syrup: Bring sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Let cool completely. Stir in liqueur.

Make the mousse: Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Bring 1 cup cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Place white chocolate in a food processor; with machine running, pour in hot cream in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl set in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 15 minutes.

Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups cream to nearly stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture, then fold in candies. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thickened and almost firm, 4 to 6 hours.

Make the pudding: Put chocolate into a large bowl; set aside. Bring cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk yolks in a bowl. Pour in hot cream in a slow, steady stream, whisking.

Pour mixture back into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Pour through a fine sieve over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Set bowl in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

To assemble: Spread one-third of the mousse into bottom of a glass trifle bowl that is 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Top with a cake layer, and brush with half the syrup.

Top with half the pudding, then another third of mousse. Place remaining cake layer on top; brush with remaining syrup. Top with remaining pudding, then mousse. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12 hours.

Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Top trifle with the whipped cream, and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy or crushed candy canes.

This recipe is divine.

**
As with most recipes, you don't have to add alcohol, but a true trifle should have it.

Chocolate Maple Syrup, Chocolate Maple Syrup Truffles: National Maple Syrup Day!

Today is National Maple Syrup Day. When I was young, we traveled to Canada, Maine, and Vermont for fishing trips (my father was a fresh water fisherman). One of my fond memories was seeing the taps in the maple trees in the woods. So magical to me.. a city kid. They were just like beer taps (or for me at that age, they probably looked like soda fountain taps). Tapping the trees for maple syrup was always the highlight of these trips. This experience broadened the school history lesson about the early settlers and Maple Syrup. Of course the indigenous people tapped the trees first, but that wasn't part of our lesson at that time. 

An individual maple tree can be tapped one to three times per year (depending on how big the diameter of its trunk is), producing up to 13 gallons of sap every one to two month harvesting season. Maple trees keep the starch inside their roots and trunk before winter sets in which is then later converted to sugar that appears in the tree's sap in winter and early spring.

It is the starchy sugar that makes maple syrup so characteristically sweet. In order to turn sap into sugar, it's heated and boiled to evaporate the excess water, with the concentrated syrup remaining. Sugar shacks were set up for this process, and those were also available for viewing in small Vermont and Canadian towns. I imagine they still are.

Want to know more about the history of Maple Syrup? Read "Tapping into the history of maple syrup" at Chronically Vintage.

What to do with maple syrup? Well, growing up, maple syrup at our house came in a little crock and was only used to pour over waffles and pancakes. But Maple Syrup is actually a great item to have in your pantry and can be used in lots of ways. Maple syrup is a healthy alternative to sugar in many baked goods and desserts.

Conversion tips:
Substitute an equal amount of maple syrup for sugar.
For each cup of syrup, reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients in the recipe (water, milk, juice) by about a quarter of a cup.
Maple syrup can also serve as a one-to-one substitution for other liquid sweeteners, such as honey, molasses and corn syrup.

And, with the holidays coming up, here are two great recipes to make and give or serve: Chocolate Maple Syrup and Chocolate Maple Truffles.

CHOCOLATE MAPLE SYRUP

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup
4 Tbsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chopped
Pinch of salt

Directions
Heat maple syrup in small sturdy saucepan over moderate heat until hot.
Whisk in cocoa powder, butter, and pinch of salt. Turn down to simmer and whisk for a minute.
Serve syrup warm.
Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.

CHOCOLATE MAPLE SYRUP TRUFFLES
This recipe is from the Pure Canadian Maple Syrup site

Ingredients for Centers 
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp orange juice, just squeezed
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur optional

Ingredients for Coating
8 ounces premium quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Directions
To prepare the centers, melt 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in double boiler over gently simmering water until completely melted, stirring only once or twice. Set aside.
Chop dates by hand, so they're not sticky (can become sticky if you use a food processor) If you are using food processor, place pecans in with the dates and pulse.
Add melted chocolate, Maple syrup, orange juice and liqueur; pulse until mixture just comes together. Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together by hand in a medium mixing bowl.
To form and coat truffles, prepare coating:
Melt remaining 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate over double boiler of gently simmering water and cool to about 90°. While chocolate is cooling, form truffles. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form truffles into small tiny bite sized balls. Place cookie sheet of truffles to left of you. Place melted chocolate in front of you and have sifted cocoa to right of you To far right have cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and or paper truffle cups ready to place coated truffles.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

HOLIDAY CANDIES: RETRO FUDGE RECIPES

I have two of these "Holiday"Retro Cookbooks. One is for Cookies and one is for Candies. One of my readers said she always thought these cookbooks were Swedish because her family had them (she is of Swedish heritage) .. and because of the illustrations. Anyone know? These books and recipes are perfect for the Holidays. Today I'm posting Fudge Recipes from Holiday Candies, published by Peter Pauper Press (1954). Be sure and try all the Fudge recipes. Perfect to make, take, or mail!




Tuesday, December 15, 2020

SNOWMAN CUPCAKES: National Cupcake Day

Today is National Cupcake Day, and since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought I'd post this graphic for Snowmen Cupcakes. I have no idea where I found this, but I saved it. Love to give credit to whomever posted this cute cupcake collage! Easy to follow and make these for the holidays.




RETRO COOKIES COOKBOOK: Cookie Tips & Recipe for Chocolate Fudge Slices

I have so many cookbooks, I love all my 'retro' pamphlets filled with fun chocolate cookie, candy and cake recipes. Today I'm adding more Cookie Tips, this time from Good Housekeeping's Book of Cookies (1958). I'm also posting the recipe from the Book of Cookies for Fudge Slices. Gotta love the illustrations in this book--and the cookie dough splatters! I pick up most of these cookbooks and pamphlets at garage sales and flea markets, but I've also had some for years that have come down to me from family members. So get Baking for the Holidays!





Monday, December 14, 2020

Christmas M & M Magic Bars

I love M&Ms.They're always a great addition to cookies, bars, and brownies! Here's an easy holiday treat to make with the Christmas Red & Green M & Ms: M & M Magic Bars! So festive. Recipe adapted from The Foodnetwork.

Christmas M & M MAGIC BARS

Ingredients 
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for buttering the dish
14 chocolate graham crackers
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 10-ounce bag mint chocolate chips
1 cup cocktail peanuts, coarsely chopped
 2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup red and green M&M's
1/2 cup coarsely chopped candy canes
1/4 cup red and green sprinkles

Directions
Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Line 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil, leaving 2-inch overhang on both sides. Butter foil. Pulse graham crackers into fine crumbs in food processor. Add melted butter and pulse to combine (mixture should hold together when squeezed).
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and press it into bottom in even layer, using bottom of measuring cup to help. Pour sweetened condensed milk over crumbs. Sprinkle chocolate chips, peanuts, marshmallows, M&M's, candy canes and sprinkles over condensed milk.
Bake until  sides are golden brown and begin to pull away from baking dish, 30 to 35 minutes.
Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Using foil liner as handles, lift bars out of baking dish; remove foil.
Cut into 24 bars.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS CAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

Here's a great Retro Devil's Food Chocolate Christmas Cake Ad. Note that you can save money because this recipe doesn't call for those "expensive" eggs. Happy Holidays




RICH CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES

I can never have enough cookies--or cookie recipes, especially around the holidays. As much as I love Chocolate Chip cookies, Rich Dark Chocolate Cookies are my favorite. I love a good crisp chocolate cookie with a rich chocolate-y taste. As always that is achieved by using an excellent quality chocolate or cocoa and a perfect recipe.

I saw this recipe in the New York Times a few years ago as the cover story of The Holiday Issue, and I realized I'd made this recipe in the past. And, since the holidays are coming up, I advise you to get out your holiday cookie cutters for this cookie. Reindeer Cookie Cutters are my favorite, and I have several because my last name is Rudolph! For the red noses on chocolate cookies, use a bit of red icing. You can make it, or buy a can or mix at the store. These cookies can be decorated, but why mess with a good thing? I like my cookies unadulterated. If you do decorate these cookies, use royal icing for careful lines. Of course, you can use other shaped cookie cutters, such as Santa, Stars, Christmas Trees. Get creative with your cutters!

This recipe was sent to The New York Times several years ago by Mari Pfeiffer, a reader in California; it’s from the cookbook “Great Cookies,” published in 2003 by Carole Walter. The cookies have the great flavors of cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder.

RICH CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sifted Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted in double boiler (I use 90% cacao from Guittard and cut back a bit on sugar)
Optional: Royal icing, for decorating

Directions
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl of standing mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar in steady stream, continuing to beat for 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and espresso mixture. Continue beating, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, then mix in melted chocolate.

Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing just enough to combine after each addition. Divide dough in two and form into two flattened disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll out chilled dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper until it's 3/16-inch thick. Cut into shapes, using cookie cutters of different sizes to use as much dough as possible. (The dough will not be as good if it is rolled out a second time.) Transfer cookies to baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating sheets once to ensure even baking, or until cookies look set on top and have slight sheen. Remove from oven and wait 2 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool.  

Frost with royal icing, if desired.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

UNIQUE HOT COCOA RECIPES for NATIONAL COCOA DAY!

Today is National Cocoa Day,  and it's blustery outside. This is a great day for a good cup of Cocoa. I always post on National Cocoa Day. Cocoa or Hot Chocolate, whatever you call it, it's great--all year round!

A few years ago,  I posted several brands of cocoa that I enjoy, plus links and recipes. You'll definitely want to take a look. And, remember, using the best ingredients will result in the best cocoa/hot chocolate!

Want to know the difference between Natural and Dutch Process Cocoa? Click HERE.

Following are variations on classic Cocoa/Hot Chocolate. Some recipes are for one, some for four, and some for a crowd. Some use cocoa powder, others use chocolate bars, some use both, but all are delicious. If you have a favorite cocoa recipe, comment below with a link!


Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces 70-80% cacao chocolate, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp peppermint oil

Directions: Add milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar to pot and place over medium heat. When milk mixture is hot, add chopped chocolate and stir constantly. Continue stirring, adding remaining ingredients. When mixture is starting to simmer, take off heat and serve.

Eggnog Hot Cocoa
What would the holidays be without eggnog? Try this and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp unsweetened Dark Cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions: In blender or processor,  combine egg, milk, water, cocoa, and nutmeg, blend until well mixed. Transfer mixture to top of  double boiler. Hear stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming. Do not boil.

Argentinian Hot Cocoa

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp Madagascar or Mexican Vanilla
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, broken into 1 ounce pieces

Directions: Heat milk, sugar, and vanilla in pan until almost boiled. Remove from heat and divide  into 4 mugs. Immediately, put piece of chocolate in each mug. It will melt and have a fabulous taste.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
2 tsp good-quality ground DARK cocoa
1 tsp sugar, plus extra to taste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture.
1 cup milk

Directions: Mix all ingredients, except milk, together in empty, clean glass jar. Shake until completely combined. Heat  milk in a 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.

Mexican Hot Chocolate II

Ingredients
5  ounces dark Mexican Chocolate
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup hot water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp instant coffee
2 cups whole milk
1 egg (optional)
1/4 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
1 dried red chile pepper, smashed
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions: In saucepan over medium-low heat, add Mexican chocolate, honey, hot water, salt, coffee, and chile pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring constantly, for another minute. Carefully stir in milk and let sit over low heat until chocolate is too warm to touch. In bowl, beat egg until frothy. Add vanilla extract and beat in well. Pour hot chocolate mixture over the frothed egg and beat for about 15 seconds. (until you have about foam on top) Pour into mugs. Sprinkle mugs with ground cinnamon and shaved chocolate.

Honey Hot Cocoa  

The flavor of your cocoa will change with the variety of honey. Try lavender honey, sage, wildflower.

Ingredients
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp honey
4 cups milk

Directions: Combine ingredients in medium-size sauce pan. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until hot.

Hot Cocoa with Brown Sugar

Ingredients:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup water
4 cups hot milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
dash of salt

Preparation: In double boiler (or saucepan over a saucepan), melt chocolate and water together. Slowly mix in milk, sugar, and salt. Whisk until chocolate is smooth and blended.

Parisian Warm Chocolate
I'm not sure where I found this recipe, but it works! Anything French works! Lots of varieties on this. Experiment!

Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1/3 heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
6 oz chocolate- 65-75% cacao, chopped

Directions: Simmer milk, cream, and sugar together until just boiling. Stir in chocolate until melted. Don't let it boil. Serve warm in mugs.

Spicy White Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
4 cups milk
7 ounces good white chocolate (Guittard, Ghirardelli, Green & Black), chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions: Put white chocolate in medium metal bowl or saucepan over another saucepan of  simmering water, or in top part of double boiler. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. Stir in cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Whisk in egg until smooth. Gradually whisk in one cup of milk until completely incorporated (2-3 minutes). Gradually whisk in remaining milk, and heat until hot, but not simmering. Put in mugs and sprinkle with cinnamon or chocolate.

Peppermint White Chocolate Cocoa

Ingredients:
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 cups whole milk
6 hard peppermint candies, crushed fine
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2/3 cup whipping cream

Directions: Beat chilled cream with crushed mints until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Heat milk to simmer, them mix in chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add mint extract and stir through. Pour into mugs and top with minty whipped cream.

Candy Cane Cocoa   
variation on recipe from Sean Paajanen at About.com

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
3 ounces 60-85% cacao chocolate, chopped
4 red and white striped peppermint candies crushed
4 small red and white striped candy canes
whipped cream

Directions: In sauce pan bring milk to simmer. Add chocolate and crushed candies. Whisk until smooth. Divide hot cocoa between mugs and garnish with whipped cream and serve with candy cane stirring stick.

Brandied Hot Cocoa

Ingredients 
4 cups milk
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
5 Tbsp brandy
6 Tbsp whipped cream
4 tsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder, sifted

Directions 
In saucepan, bring milk just to boil. Remove from heat.
Put chocolate in small saucepan and add 2 Tbsp hot milk. Stir over low heat until chocolate has melted, then stir chocolate mixture back into hot milk.
Add and stir in sugar. Stir in brandy and pour into four heatproof glasses.
Top each with whipped cream and sprinkle with sifted cocoa.

Kahlua Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coffee
2 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Kahlua

Directions
Melt chocolate in saucepan over another saucepan over simmering water.
Once melted, add all other ingredients except Kahlua.
Raise heat to medium high, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and just starting to bubble (2-3 minutes).
Remove from heat, stir in Kahlua.
Pour into mug and serve.
Add marshmallows or whipped cream as you see fit.

English Toffee Cocoa

Ingredients
4 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
1 tsp Madegascar vanilla extract
1/4 cup English toffee, crushed
Whipped cream
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions
Combine milk, water, and sugar in saucepan and sttir over medium heat until just boiling.
Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate and vanilla.
Beat with whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is frothy.
Pour hot chocolate into 2 big mugs.
Top with whipped cream and crushed English toffee. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dark Cocoa (I like Ghiradelli)
1/3 cup water
1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Hazelnut Syrup (or Toffee Nut Syrup from Starbucks)
2 Tbsp Caramel Sauce, Caramel Drizzle
Whipped Cream (or Reddi Whip)

Directions
Mix Sugar, Cocoa, and 1 tsp Salt. Add water and boil for 1 minute. Add milk and heat until warm. Mix in Vanilla, Hazelnut Syrup and Caramel Sauce Pour into coffee cup and top with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and sea salt  

About the photo: This Vintage Advertisement for Cadbury Cocoa is special to me. My sister, Judie Siddall, is the President of the Transferware Collectors Club and sells antique blue and white transferware (pottery), similar to what is pictured in this advertisement, although, her wares are much older. She can be found at Merlin Antiques. She also blogs at Dishy News.

CANDY CANE TRUFFLES: Two easy recipes for the Holidays

Candy Canes shout Christmas to me. I love chocolate and peppermint! You'll love these Candy Cane Truffles! What's better than homemade truffles? Here are two easy recipes for Candy Cane Truffles for gifts or to have around the house! And, if one recipe is good, two is better! Find the one you like best! As always, use the very best chocolate.

1. CANDY CANE TRUFFLES 

Ingredients
4 ounces soft cream cheese
2 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/3 cup crushed candy canes

Directions
Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth.
Melt chopped chocolate in top of double boiler or saucepan over a saucepan over simmering water.
Add chocolate and peppermint extract to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth and combined. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Scoop chocolate with melon baller or two spoons and hand roll into balls.
Roll balls in crushed candy canes.

And, here's a second Candy Cane Truffle recipe that I really love. It's from Hungry Girl por Vida. What's cool about it, besides the fact that the Truffles are delicious, is that it's made into little cubes rather than balls. Perfect for dropping into a hot cup of milk or cocoa

2. CANDY CANE TRUFFLES
 
Ingredients
4 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
3 candy canes, crushed

Directions
Line small loaf pan with parchment, set aside.
Put chocolate in medium bowl and set aside.
Heat cream in small saucepan over medium-low heat to scald (just before it boils, there will be little bubbles around the edges of the pan).
Pour hot cream over chocolate and cover for about 5 minutes.
Remove cover and stir until smooth.
Stir in vanilla and peppermint extracts until combined.
Pour chocolate mixture into loaf pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with candy cane pieces and allow to cool to room temperature.
Chill in refrigerator until firm, 30-60 minutes.
Remove from pan and cut into cubes.

Cubes can be added to hot milk to make Cocoa or eat as you would truffles..or give as a gift to friends!

Friday, December 11, 2020

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CHRISTMAS CAKE

Who says Guinness is just for St Patrick's Day? Guinness has a long history as a Christmas baking ingredient -- from truffles to cupcakes to brownies to cake! I've posted several Guinness Cake recipes, but here's a new one for this year's holiday. As always use the very best ingredients. Decorate this fabulous chocolate cake with holiday designs or mistletoe (don't eat the mistletoe). Save the recipe for St. Paddy's Day!

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CHRISTMAS CAKE

Ingredients 

Cake 
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups Guinness
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sour cream

Ganache 
16 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Guinness
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

Cake 
With rack in middle position, preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch springform pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour sides.
In  bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Set aside.
In saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with beer and cocoa powder, stirring with whisk. Let cool. In large bowl, combine brown sugar, sugar and salt. With whisk, add lukewarm butter mixture alternately with dry ingredients and eggs. Add sour cream and stir until mixture is smooth.
Divide batter between pans and bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of each cake comes out clean. Turn out cakes and let cool.

Ganache 
Place chocolate in bowl. Set aside. In saucepan, bring beer, cream and syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute. With whisk, gently stir mixture until chocolate has completely melted. Add butter and stir until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until ganache is spreadable but not too thick. If needed, microwave a few seconds at a time and stir until spreadable.
Cut and discard rounded tops of each cake.
Spread one-quarter of ganache onto one layer. Top with second cake layer and frost with remaining ganache.
Decorate with holiday designs or mistletoe (don't eat the mistletoe-it's poisonous).