Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Contest Giveaway

12/2/10 And the Winner of the Peppermint Bark Gift Pack is Mason Canyon! (random generated) Mason, be sure and send me your snail mail address, so I can have Ghirardelli mail you the Peppermint Bark Gift Pack. Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who commented. Check out the Peppermint/Chocolate recipes I'll be posting this month. Have a great Holiday!

 It's no secret that I love Peppermint Bark, but what I haven't mentioned is that at this time of year I stash Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares in my desk. Peppermint Bark is a seasonal flavor at Ghirardelli, so get these while you can. You can buy these wonderful squares in bags, bars or gift tins at several outlets or you can order online.

Win a Gift Pack filled with Ghirardelli Squares Limited Edition Peppermint Bark Comment on this post below why you like Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark--or why you want to try it-- for a chance to win. Winner will be chosen at random.  Be sure and stop back to this post on December 2 to see if you won. At that time I'll post the winning name, and I'll need your mailing address. Gift Pack will be sent directly from Ghirardelli!

And, here's an idea for a holiday treat using Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. Toss a 1/2 square into a cup of Hot Coffee for a fabulous brew! You'll create a peppermint mocha!

Don't want the coffee, but love the chocolate? Try Ghirardelli Chocolate Peppermint Hot Cocoa!

Today on CyberMonday, 11/29/10,  Ghirardelli has 15% off on Any Purchase. Code: Holidaygift

Tomorrow: Peppermint Bark Brownies

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stuffed Chocolate French Toast

Today is National French Toast Day.

I posted a great recipe last Spring for Stuffed Challah Nutella French Toast, and if you have Nutella on hand, today's the day to make it!

I also posted a recipe  in 2009 on National French Toast Day for Chocolate French Toast. That recipe calls for Cocoa as the Chocolate, and the cocoa is actually in the batter. It's lovely, and I usually make it with cinnamon bread, so there's the extra taste of cinnamon.

Today I have a totally different recipe for a Stuffed Chocolate French Toast that is more like a French Toast Chocolate Croissant! Using Challah or Brioche is great because they're egg breads, so they're richer. Adds to the flavor!

Stuffed Chocolate French Toast

3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
dash of salt
3 tablespoons sweet butter
8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices brioche or challah
4+ ounces dark chocolate, 55-85% cacao,  finely chopped

Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, and salt in large shallow dish until mixture is combined.
Melt 1-1/2 tablespoons butter in large heavy nonstick skillet or griddle over moderately high heat.
Dip 2 bread slices in egg mixture until lightly soaked, turning once.
Transfer to skillet and reduce heat to moderate.
Sprinkle each slice with a fourth of chocolate and top with 2 more slices of egg-dipped bread.
Press sandwiches gently with a spatula to help slices stick together.
Cook, turning sandwiches over once, until chocolate is melted and French toast is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes total.
Transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered.
Wipe out skillet and make 2 more sandwiches in same manner.

Cut French toast in half and sprinkle with powdered sugar or a bit more chopped chocolate.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Chunk Meringues

So many holiday recipes, but these Chocolate Cherry Chunk Meringues are sure to please. They're easy to make, and very easy to eat! Recipe from Wendy Kalen, CookingLight, 2004 on

Meringues are like a little bit of heaven-- Light, Airy and Sweet! These Chocolate Cherry Chunk Meringues don't take long to make, but they take hours to bake, so be prepared! The edges of the meringues are crisp, but the pieces in the center are slightly soft. Don't chop the chocolate too finely or it will completely melt in the meringue. That's why these are called Chunk Meringues!


4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 200º.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 14 x 10-inch rectangle on paper. Turn paper over; secure with masking tape.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high, and gradually add granulated sugar and then powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add extract; beat just until blended. Fold in cherries and chocolate. Spread batter onto drawn rectangle using the back of a spoon. Score rectangle into 2-inch squares using the tip of a sharp knife.

Bake at 200º for 2 hours. Turn oven off, and cool meringue in closed oven 1 1/2 hours or until dry. Carefully remove meringue from paper. Break into (2-inch) squares.

Photo: Randy Mayor, Cooking Light

Friday, November 26, 2010

Little Miss Muffet Chocolate Cake

Today is National Cake Day! Well, you know I've posted lots of Chocolate Cake recipes over the years, but here's one that's a bit unique and a lot of fun. There's just a bit of tangy-ness in the cake and that gives it a unique flavor.

Little Miss Muffet Chocolate Cake 

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider, who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

This simple and delicious chocolate cake is made with whey, the liquid leftover after making yogurt cheese. Whey contains valuable nutrients, and this recipe puts them to good use. You'll be making yogurt cheese just for the whey to make this delicious treat. Adapted from a Stonyfield recipe for Chocolae Cake. Don't know exactly what whey is or how to get it? Check out the recipe for Making Whey below.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or stone ground whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup DARK Cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whey  (see instruction for how to make whey below)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl beat the liquid ingredients together. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix together until blended. Pour into a greased 8 inch square or round pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with frosting, whipped cream, or by itself.  (Whipped cream is great!)

How to Make Whey from Yogurt: The Cheeseslave

2 cups of yogurt
Clean cheesecloth (or thin dishtowel)

1. Set a large steel mesh strainer in a large glass bowl or pitcher (do not use metal) and line it with some cheesecloth or a very thin dishtowel (if you use a thick one, it will soak up too much of the liquid)
2. Transfer the yogurt into the strainer.
3. Let it drip for a few hours. When the dripping slows, tie the cheesecloth or towel to a wooden spoon (or any big spoon) and place the spoon on top of the pitcher to where the towel of yogurt is hanging suspended in the pitcher from the spoon. You can also tie the cheesecloth to a cupboard handle and let it drip into the bowl below.
4. Let it drip overnight.
5. When it is has completely stopped dripping, pour the the liquid whey that dripped into the bowl or pitcher into a clean glass mason jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for about 6 months.
6. The white creamy stuff (Yogurt Cheese) in the towel is similar to cream cheese, and can be used in recipes or spread on toast. It will last a few weeks to a month in the fridge.

Chocolate Cherry Pancakes in a Jar

I love Homemade Mixes in a Jar. I've posted quite a few including this one before during Cherry Season. Mixes are great to give as gifts and good to have around. Saves a little time, and you'll always have the ingredients at the ready. This would be perfect for Holiday guests or for a Holiday gift, so I thought I'd post again.

One thing about mixes is to really pack the ingredients in. Use a tamper, if you have one...except for the dried cherries and chocolate.

You can also substitute dried blueberries or other berries for cherries. I thought Cherries would be great for the Holiday because of their red color.

Chocolate Cherry Pancakes in a Jar

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup dark chocolate chopped into chip size

Layer flour, then sugar, then the baking powder mixed with baking soda and salt in a 1-quart wide-mouth jar.  Add cherries, then chocolate. Seal Jar. Cover jar with burlap or other fabric and tie with raffia or a bow. Attach gift tag with the following instructions:

Chocolate Cherry Pancakes 
Makes 25 pancakes
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sweet butter, melted
Contents of Jar of "Chocolate Cherry Pancakes"
1-1/2 to 2 cups whole milk

Mix eggs and melted butter in large bowl. Add contents of jar. Stir until well blended. Add 1-1/2 cups milk. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Heat griddle or skillet. Pour batter onto hot griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Cook pancakes until golden on both sides.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Brownie Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

I've subscribed to Sunset Magazine forever. I love this 'Western' magazine for its home and travel tips and, of course, for the recipes! Over the years the recipes have changed from using heavy ingredients to producing lighter, healthier fare. Chocolate has been a constant, and the writers and editors at Sunset are always discovering new and delicious combinations.

I love ice cream sandwiches, and I've posted several simple recipes. Here's a fabulous twist from Sunset for Mini Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Terrific for your guests this weekend, especially if you use Pumpkin Ice Cream! You can even freeze these for up to a week. If you planned to make brownies anyway, this is a great way to elevate them!

Brownie Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pt. ice cream (any flavor you like--try pumpkin ice cream this weekend!)


1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium pot, bring 1 in. water to a simmer. Put chocolate and butter in a medium metal bowl and set bowl over pot, being careful not to let bottom of bowl touch water. Heat until chocolate is almost completely melted, then add sugar and eggs and mix thoroughly. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt, then add to chocolate mixture, stirring well. Pour batter into a greased 10- by 15-in. baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

2. Invert brownie sheet onto a work surface and cut into 1 1/2-in. squares; arrange on pan. Freeze brownies 30 minutes. During last 10 minutes, remove ice cream from freezer to soften.

3. Working in batches, scoop 1 heaping tbsp. ice cream onto half of brownie squares. Set remaining squares, shiny side up, on top of ice cream and press gently.

4. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Straighten tops of brownies and trim oozing ice cream with a paring knife if you like. Freeze, covered, up to 1 week.

Photo: Sunset Magazine, Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Karen Shinto

Extra "Chocolate" Holiday Seating

If you're like me, you're going to have a lot of people for Thanksgiving. I'm having almost 20, and I have a very small dining room. I'll probably set up a 'kid's table' in the archway into the living room.  Of course, I'll need more chairs. Given that I'm a Chocolate Maven, these would have been perfect!

I have my eye on the Ice Cream Sandwich!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

National Espresso Day: Espresso Truffles

Today is National Espresso Day. I'm always looking for an easy way to combine the food of the day with chocolate, and what could be easier than Chocolate Espresso Truffles. Following are two recipes. The results are different, so you might want to try both and compare. The first is my own easy recipe, and the second comes from

Espresso Truffles I

For ganache:
8.5 ounces of Dark Chocolate (70% or so)
1/2 cup heavy Cream
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 tsp Espresso

For coating:
Cocoa powder

1. Grate or Chop chocolate
2. Heat cream just until boiling. Add espresso and mix well.
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and using the double-boiler method, melt the chocolate. (Place pan with chocolate and cream over simmering water,  stirring until  chocolate is melted).
4. Add vanilla extract to melted chocolate and mix well until smooth. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
5. Remove from refrigerator. Place cocoa on plate.
6. Using a small cookie scooper or two spoons scoop chocolate. Roll into a ball using your hands.
7. Roll the chocolate balls in cocoa,  thoroughly coating truffle. Place truffle on parchment lined tray.
8. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use.

From Real Simple:

Espresso Truffles II

20 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (or semisweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee
1 cup confectioners' sugar or shredded coconut

1. Make the filling: Place 8 ounces of the chocolate pieces and the butter in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour half the cream into the bowl. As the chocolate melts, slowly whisk the mixture together until smooth. Then gradually add the remaining cream until it's completely incorporated and the ganache is thick and shiny. Whisk in the coffee.
2. Form the truffles: Pour the ganache into a 2-inch-deep baking pan, spread evenly, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until set (it should have the consistency of fudge). Using a melon baller or a small spoon, form rounds and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Let the truffles harden in the freezer for about 15 minutes. After removing from the freezer, roll truffles between your hands into marble-size spheres, squeezing slightly (try to do this quickly, otherwise they'll become too soft).
3. Make the coating: Let the truffles rest in the freezer while you make the chocolate glaze. Place the remaining chocolate pieces in a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate starts to set at the edge of the bowl. Drop the truffles into the melted chocolate and retrieve them with a fork, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off. Garnish immediately or leave the truffles plain and proceed to step 5.
4. Garnish: For a coconut garnish, roll the freshly coated truffles in a shallow dish of shredded coconut. For a confectioners' sugar garnish, set the freshly coated truffles on a plate and sift the garnish over them. Turn the truffles and sift again to cover completely.
5. Storage: Place the truffles on the lined baking sheet and allow them to set in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. Truffles will keep for about 2 weeks, chilled or at room temperature, when stored in a tightly sealed container.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Lavender Truffle Pops

I make truffles a lot--the easy ones. Here's a simple but elegant recipe for Chocolate Lavender Truffle Pops. These look so fabulous and taste so great that no one will believe how easy they are to make! A tray of these at the end of Thanksgiving dinner would be awesome.

Chocolate Lavender Truffle Pops

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried lavender florets
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (as always, use the very best chocolate)
Popsicle sticks

Grate chocolate.
Bring cream and lavender to a simmer for one minute, then strain.
Add cream to chocolate and stir to melt in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until mixture is smooth. Mix well.
Chill at least 3 hours.
Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop or a round tablespoon measure, scoop the ganache into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment.
Put a popsicle stick into each ball and freeze, stick side up, until firm, about 30 minutes.

Serve on plate sprinkled sparingly with lavender. Be sure the pops are at room temperature before serving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Today is National Gingerbread Day! I work a lot with Gingerbread Cookies at this time of year with my team building company, Teambuilding-Unlimited. As part of their philanthropic holiday parties, many of my clients choose to decorate Gingerbread Cookies and donate them to food banks, the VA, children's and senior centers. We actually have my favorite bakery make the undecorated cookies, and then we bring in all the royal icing and other decorating items the groups will need. It's a fun activity for everyone.

However, for my own baking, there's nothing like the taste of Martha Stewart's Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. OMG! What really makes this recipe and the final results so great is the use of fresh and ground ginger! Fabulous! This will become a staple on your holiday cookie list!


7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
8 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (the type you use will affect taste)
1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolve in  1 1/2 tsp boiling water)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours (3 hours to overnight is better)
4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll balls in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake: Another Recipe

With Thanksgiving drawing near, I thought I'd post another great Pumpkin/Chocolate recipe. I've posted a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and a Pumpkin Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Chunks.

This Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake is totally different. It's on the King Arthur Flour recipe site. I mentioned the other day that I'm a big fan of King Arthur Flour, not just the flour, but all the food products, pans, videos and more. This recipe is originally from The Baking Sheet Newsletters, Volume II, No. 9, September 1991.

What's really nice about this cake is that it's not too sweet. You'll love it!


4 large eggs
2 cups puréed pumpkin (1-pound can)
1 cup (7 ounces) vegetable oil
1 cup (2 1/8 ounces) bran cereal
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cloves and cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon EACH allspice and ginger (or substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice for the preceding four spices)
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts
2- 2/3 cups (16 ounces) chocolate chips (you can use chocolate chunks 55-75% cacao)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs till foamy. Stir in pumpkin, vegetable oil and bran cereal; combine well.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices. Add to wet ingredients and mix gently, till just combined. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Photo: King Arthur Flour

Friday, November 19, 2010

NYC Chocolate Fashion Show

The Daily News reports on the NYC Chocolate Fashion Show, November 10!

High Chocolate Couture. How sweet it is!!!

Check out all the Photos, HERE.

Fall Chocolate Salon Awards

Loved all the Chocolate at the Fabulous Fall Chocolate Salon! Some of my new favorites were Choclatique's Root Beer Float and Socola's Chocolate Hazelnut truffle. Other favorites: Cocolux's Brown Sugar Brownie Truffle, Snake & Butterfly's Bacon Bar (you've got to try no other), Landru's Candied orange peel (covered in chocolate), Plumeria Flour's variety of Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookies, Saratoga Chocolates' Vanilla Carmel Truffle, Vice Chocolates everything! I adored the hot chocolate from Amano, and I understand they will have a recipe on their site soon. Also tried a new Amano bar--love their bars! Coco Delice's new Sonoma Brut Champagne Truffle was exceptional. Looking for my notes, and I'll have reviews soon because I know I've forgotten some of my favorites. Definitely loved all the chocolates below.  Judging is always such a daunting task-- such fabulous chocolate, but someone's got to do it, so it might as well be me.

Also enjoyed meeting The Chocolate Addict (Kat Montgomery). Photo below. Great demo on Decorating with Chocolate. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Turkey Cookie Treats

Here's a fun and simple recipe that will make kids and adults happy at Thanksgiving.

I found this on the Betty Crocker Website, a great resource for decorating tips and recipes. The recipe calls for using the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and decorating gels. You can substitute your own cookie recipes and frosting, but if you're in a hurry, mixes are great!

I've also made these adorable Turkey Cookies with chocolate cookies because you can never have enough chocolate.

Turkey Cookie Treats

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 container (12 oz) Betty Crocker® Whipped chocolate frosting
Candy corn
1 tube (4.25 oz) Betty Crocker® yellow decorating icing
Miniature candy-coated semisweet chocolate baking bits
1 tube (0.68 oz) Betty Crocker® black decorating gel

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart.
2. Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
3. Frost and decorate 1 cookie at a time. After spreading frosting on cookie, add candy corn for feathers. Pipe yellow icing for beak and feet. Add baking bits for eyes; pipe black gel for center of each eye.

Photo: Betty Crocker

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cranberry Fudge Pie Recipe from King Arthur Flour

I'm a big fan of King Arthur Flour, not just the flour, but all the food products, pans, videos and more. Great gluten-free help for the holidays, too! The King Arthur Flour website also has wonderful recipes.

I'm signed up for email updates, and you might want to do that, too. I might have missed this incredible Recipe for Cranberry Fudge Pie. Perfect for Thanksgiving. You can always use a prepared graham cracker crust, but it's so easy to make yourself. As always use the very best chocolate and other ingredients! I've kept the link to glazing sugar. Definitely great to have in your pantry. I'm all about easy, and this recipe is simple!


1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (One cellophane-wrapped packet of graham crackers (11 whole crackers) will yield this amount of crumbs)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
6 tablespoons melted sweet butter

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate (Don't use bittersweet chocolate; with the acidic tang of the cranberries, it's just too much. You want a dark chocolate that's noticeably sweet; most chocolate chips will be fine)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup diced walnuts or pecans

1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup dried cranberries
12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries, a generous 3 cups
You'll need about 15 ounces (a scant 1 1/2 cups) topping for the pie.

1) Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2) To make the crust: Process the crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor until crumbly and well combined.
3) Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan.
4) Bake the crust for about 7 to 8 minutes, until it's set, but not brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
5) To make the filling: Put the chips (or chopped chocolate) and cream in a microwave-safe container, and heat for about 90 seconds.
6) Remove from the microwave, and stir until the mixture becomes smooth and dark brown; you're simply making a basic ganache.
7) Spoon the hot ganache into the cooled crust, and sprinkle the nuts on top.
8) Refrigerate the pie for at least 1 hour, probably 2, until the ganache has firmed up.
9) While the pie is chilling, make the topping. Bring the sugar, salt, and cranberry juice to a boil.
10) Stir in the dried cranberries, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
11) Add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until some of the berries have burst.
12) Remove the cranberries from the heat, spoon into a bowl, and chill.
13) To finish assembling the pie: Spoon 1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce atop the fudge/nut filling. Chill until ready to serve.

Photo: King Arthur Flour

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Bars in a Jar

As I've mentioned before, there are some wonderful recipes to find on the back of sugar boxes, inside the butter box and on food company and food association Internet sites. I found a terrific recipe at Ball (Jars) Home Crafting for Pumpkin Pie Bars in a Jar. I, of course, would add Chocolate Chips to the mix. This is great to take as a Thanksgiving gift.

I love mixes in a Jar, and I've posted Chocolate Cookies in a Jar, Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar,
Chocolate Brownies in a Jar, Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pie in a Jar, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar, and a few others.
These Pumpkin Pie Bars in a Jar with Chocolate Chips are fabulous! Be sure and add the instruction card to the jar. I usually cover the top of the jar with burlap or fabric and attach the card with raffia tied in a bow around the neck!


1 Ball Wide Mouth Quart Jar
1 Ball Wide Mouth Lid and Band
Jar Funnel
Jar Tamper

Mix for Jar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 cup DARK chocolate chips

Getting Started:
Read all instructions for Pumpkin Pie Bars before starting.
Assemble all supplies and ingredients.

Preparing Layered Mix: 
Layer the first four ingredients into Jar, firmly packing with Jar tamper in between each layer. Layer walnuts (pecans) and chocolate chips into the Jar, screw lid and band onto Jar.
Makes base for one recipe of Pumpkin Pie Bars.

On the Instruction Card write: 

To Prepare:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold sweet butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil; grease foil lining. Remove walnuts, chocolate chips, pecans and oats from Jar and place in small bowl. Remove granulated sugar into small bowl. Put brown sugar and flour in medium bowl. Put 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl. Stir to evenly blend. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats, walnuts (pecans) and chocolate chips. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes. Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, eggs, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 25 minutes. Lift from pan by grabbing edges of foil. Cool completely. Yield: about 24 bars.

Photo: Ball® Jars

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Chunks

Thanksgiving is a time for Pumpkin. I've posted lots of Chocolate & Pumpkin recipes--be sure and scroll back or check the index. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin BreadPumpkin Chocolate Chip Cheescake. Chocolate Cheesecake from Annmarie Kostyk, the Chocolate Goddess.

I've adapted this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Cake  from a  Whole Foods recipe. Among the things that differ is that I added Chocolate Chunks, because I can never have enough Chocolate!


1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup DARK cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon Madegascar or Mexican vanilla extract
1/2 cup (approximately) dark chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an (8-inch) square baking pan with oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until well combined. Fold in Chocolate Chunks (or Chips) then transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until the cakes pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Set aside to let cool then cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar, if you like.

Photo: Whole Foods, without the chocolate chunks :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Decadent Recipe from Elizabeth Sims

As you know my world's of Chocolate and Crime Fiction often collide. Today I welcome mystery author Elizabeth Sims who is guest blogging a truly decadent and easy recipe for Chocolate and Peanut Butter. Simple and delicious. You probably already have the ingredients in your pantry! :-)

Elizabeth Sims is the author of the Rita Farmer mysteries and the Lambda Award-winning Lillian Byrd mysteries. As a contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine she specializes in the art and craft of fiction. Visit her at

Elizabeth Sims:

I’m writing this on Halloween night in between answering the door to trick-or-treaters. So far all have been little and cute; by the time the tough teenagers start coming around we’ll have the light out and the door strapped shut with police tape. And the leftover Milky Ways WILL BE MINE, ALL MINE.

Thinking about children and candy, I’m remembering my teenaged babysitting days and a recipe I developed then. It works like a charm when you really need to shut them up.

As an adult, one might call the recipe shamelessly trashy. But once you read it, you know you’ll try it. So be it. Extremely easy: no cooking, no dish, even.


1) Jar of peanut butter
2) Spoon
3) Chocolate chips

1) Open jar of peanut butter.
2) Gouge your spoon deep into it.
3) Come up with a large glob.
4) Press chocolate chips into the peanut butter.This is the crucial step. Do not merely sprinkle the chips on the peanut butter.

5) Keep pressing in chocolate chips until no more can fit.
6) Serve.

Eating method 1: Nibble while reading a book.
Eating method 2: Cram the whole thing into your mouth at once. This is so depraved I can only do it when alone.

A traditional version of this recipe would involve Jif peanut butter and Nestlé's chocolate chips. If bridge club is coming over, however, I advise going gourmet with a natural-style peanut butter (no sugar added) and Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chips in the dark-brown bag (60% cacao).

If you try this, let us all know just how transformative the experience was.

A really great time to make and eat this recipe will be on November 18 just before you attend my live webinar, How to Write a Dynamite Mystery or Thriller That Sells, 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. I’m teaching this in cooperation with Writer’s Digest, where I’m a contributing editor. It’ll be jam-packed with the essential elements of the mystery-thriller, how-to advice, tips, and the hard-earned wisdom of somebody who’s written and gotten published seven mysteries. Plus you get to send in a page of your writing for a personal, constructive critique from me. For full information, hit this link or go to Writer’s Digest dot com and enter ‘Webinar Sims’ into the search. (It’s just easier than clicking through.)

Thanks for reading.

Photos: Marcia Burrows (thanks!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is coming up, and what's Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie?

Last year I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake. You can also have a regular Pumpkin Pie with a Chocolate Cookie Crust. But here's a totally different and fabulous recipe from my friend Annmarie Kostyk, the Chocolate Goddess, for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.  Be sure and check out all her chocolate postings.

I know I'm making this Chocolate Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving, but I'll be making a Chocolate Crust. I can never have enough chocolate! :-)


2 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 can pumpkin (16 oz.)
1 unbaked pie shell
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup dark chocolate (chopped), melted with 1 tablespoon butter

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add eggs. Stir in half and half and chocolate. Mix thoroughly and pour into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 40 minutes longer, until custard tests done.

Photo: Annmarie Kostyk

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

San Francisco Fall Luxury Chocolate Salon: November 14

I've posted and tweeted about this before, but I wanted to make sure that all the chocoholics in the Bay Area are aware of the fabulous  SAN FRANCISCO: FALL LUXURY CHOCOLATE SALON this Sunday, November 14. I'll be a Judge, and I'd love to meet you!

Join other Chocolate Aficianados, Fanatics, Lovers and Addicts for a day of elegant and fabulous Chocolate! Taste and enjoy the finest in artisan, gourmet and premium chocolate in one of the world's great culinary metropolitan areas: San Francisco.

The Luxury Chocolate Salon will be held in an intimate setting which will give you time to question, taste and enjoy! This is the perfect place to find the perfect gift, while tasting and savoring the chocolate experience.

All tickets are Advance Purchase only

The 1st Annual Fall Luxury CHOCOLATE SALON participants include over 30 chocolatiers, confectioners, wineries and other culinary artisans such as TCHO, Saratoga Chocolates, The Tea Room chocolate, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Salt Side Down Chocolates, CocoTutti, Landru Chocolates, Choclatique, Coco-luxe Confections, Sterling Confections, Coco Delice Fine Chocolates, Socola Chocolatier, Gateau et Ganache, ALTER ECO Fair Trade, CJ's Bitz, Snake & Butterfly, Jade Chocolates, Amano Artisan Chocolate, Carlos Mann Nicaraguan Artisan Chocolates, Clarine's Florentines, Au Coeur Des Chocolats, Poco Dolce, Vice Chocolates, Plumeria Flours, Christopher Michael Chocolates, Farm Fresh To You, Carolyn Tillie Designs' Chocolate Jewelry, Quady Winery, Punk Dog Wines, Rigolo Cafe, 122° West Wines, TasteTV, and more.

Salon highlights include chocolate tasting, chef and author talks, wine tasting and ongoing interviews by TasteTV's Chocolate Television program. (Salon Entry includes all chocolate & confection tastings, demos, etc.).  Check out the schedule HERE. Can't wait to meet Kat Montgomery, The Chocolate Addict, who will be doing a demo, "Dress Up Your Day with Chocolate" at 1:15.

Advance Tickets available through November 12th, while quantities last.
($20 Advance, No Tickets at Door) at

Location: Fort Mason Conference Center, Building A, 1 Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

General Ticket Information
Adults: $20 (Advance Tickets Required)
Children under 6: Free*
Children, 6 to 12: $10
*Applies to 2 children per adult. Each additional child under 6: $10


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baby Ruth Cookies

I love Vintage ads, and this one for Baby Ruth Candy Bars and Cookies sent me in search of the cookie recipe. I suppose you could just flatten the bars out and bake, but that would be a gooey mess. Here's a recipe for very tasty, if not that healthy, 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.


1/2 cup sweet 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

1. In a 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.
2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. 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.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Muffins: National Cappucino Day

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

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


Jumbo Muffin Pan
Jumbo Baking Cups

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

Makes: about 6 jumbo muffins

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

Photo: Wilton

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake: Kaye Wilkinson Barley guest blog

As many of you know I have several blogs. I blog about crime fiction at Mystery Fanfare, I blog about chocolate here on DyingforChocolate and I blog about team building at TeamBuilding Talk

My worlds often collide, and today is one of them. Kaye Wilkinson Barley  blogs about mysteries and crime fiction at Meanderings and Muses--and she loves chocolate! Last January she guest blogged here on Dying for Chocolate with a fabulous recipe for Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake. You're going to love this recipe, too, for Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake. Kaye is the Bundt Cake Queen! Thanks, Kaye, for stopping by again!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley:

I don't really do a lot of cooking.  I'm not overly fond of cooking, and I'm not all that good at it.
But I do love to bake.  Husband Donald and Wonder Corgi Harley and I live in a very rural neighborhood in the North Carolina mountains.
We're a small, close knit neighborhood.  And we all love to eat.
We get together fairly often for pot luck meals and since everyone else cooks so well, I just leave them to it and I bring a dessert.
Usually a pound cake or a bundt cake; and usually chocolate.
Who doesn't love chocolate?!
This was my first try with the Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake and wouldn't you know it; I left out an ingredient (which I've noted in the recipe below).
But, you know what?  It didn't matter!  The cake was divine and was a huge hit, so probably that missing ingredient will be permanently scratched from my version of the recipe.
Enjoy!  with or without that missing ingredient!

Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake
(Modified version of recipe originally from Sur La Table)
 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (Valhrona)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (do not use kosher salt)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 cup boiling water (note: This is the modification. I forgot to add this cup of boiling water and the cake still turned out wonderfully, so I'm not even sure what the point of it is.)

Chocolate truffle mixture:
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
2 teaspoon powdered sugar
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12 cup capacity bundt pan and dust with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. In a large bowl, using a triple sifter, sift the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk well and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle (I just used my hand mixer), beat the butter until creamy. Add the granulated sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well for about 30 seconds, after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with two additions of the sour cream. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated. Gradually beat in the boiling water.

Prepare the chocolate truffle mixture by melting butter with vanilla. Sift cocoa with powdered sugar. Toss bittersweet chocolate with melted butter-vanilla mixture then add cocoa-sugar mixture and fold into the cake batter

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for ten minutes on top of a wire rack. Turn the cake out onto the wire rack and cool completely. Dust it lightly with powdered sugar before slicing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ghirardelli "Ground Chocolate" Vintage Ad

Guy Fawkes Night: Bonfire Brownies

Guy Fawkes Night, aka Bonfire Night, is an annual celebration, primarily in Great Britain, traditionally held on the evening of November 5. Festivities are centered on the use of fireworks and the lighting of bonfires.

Historically, the celebrations mark the anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes Night originates from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed conspiracy by a group of provincial English Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic head of state. The survival of the king was first celebrated on 5 November 1605, after Guy Fawkes, left in charge of the gunpowder placed underneath the House of Lords, was discovered and arrested.

During the Celebration, an effigy or "guy" representing Fawkes is ritually burnt on the bonfire. There are special foods associated with Guy Fawkes Night, none of them Chocolate, so I was thrilled to find this wonderful recipe on for Bonfire Brownies. This fabulous bonfire stack is built of chocolate brownies, Wall's Cream of Cornish ice cream, chocolate sticks and butterscotch sauce for the fireglow. Because this is a UK holiday, I didn't convert the measurements in this recipe, but you can find several converters on the web. You could always make your own brownies and get your own ice cream and butterscotch sauce! I definitely can't get Wall's Cream of Cornish ice cream, so Haagen Daz will probably have to do! I just found this so charming, I wanted to share it!

Bonfire Brownies

Ingredients for chocolate brownies – makes 6” square – 4 x 3” round or 9 x 2” round
100g plain chocolate – 70% cocoa solids
125g unsalted butter
175g light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
 80g plain flour
Preheat oven to 140C (fan) gas 3. Melt chocolate and allow to cool. Grease a 6” square deep cake tin and line with non-stick baking parchment. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add the eggs a little at a time until all incorporated. Pour in the melted chocolate, beating all the time. Stir in the vanilla and fold in the flour. Spoon into the lined tin and bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from tin. Cut out rounds with 3” cutter or 2” cutter

Ingredients for butterscotch sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g granulated sugar
75g soft brown sugar
150g golden syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
110ml double cream

Melt the butter, sugars and syrups together in a saucepan until melted. Continue to heat for 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and double cream and heat for 2 minutes until completely smooth.

To serve, place some of the chocolate brownies on a large white plate. Top with a rounded scoop of Wall’s Cream of Cornish ice cream or alternatively Wall’s Soft Scoop Vanilla ice cream. Surround the bonfire stack with 8 chocolate sticks. Pour the hot butterscotch sauce over it all. Insert an indoor sparkler, light as the dessert is brought to the table and serve immediately.

For variations on Bonfire Brownies, go HERE.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

National Sandwich Day: Chocolate Sandwiches

Today is National Sandwich Day. According to Punchbowl, it is no coincidence that November 3 is also the birthday of John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. This 18th-century English noble wanted to eat his meal with one hand during a 24-hour gambling event, so he instructed his servants to serve him his lunch meat between two slices of bread. In celebration of this occasion, November 3 is now celebrated as National Sandwich Day!
Chocolate is no stranger to the Sandwich. Here are  links to some of my favorites:

Nutella & Mashmallow Fluff Sandwich
Grilled Chocolate Cheesecake Sandwich
Grilled Chocolate Sandwich
Panini with Strawberries and Chocolate 

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream Sandwiches
Easy Ice Cream Sandwiches
Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

S'mores (in several variations)

We're having very warm weather today, so here's a recipe straight from Starbucks for Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream Sandwiches. I've tried these. Easy and delicious, and I like the look of the white chocolate drizzle on top. Want to get even fancier? Roll the finished sandwiches in min-chocolate chips. Yum!

Photos: King Arthur Flour, Starbucks

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day of the Dead: Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake, Mexican Hot Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day of the Dead Hot Chocolate
2 teaspoons good-quality ground cocoa
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture
1 cup milk

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

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

2 1/2 ounces dried pasilla chiles (also called chile negro) or 2 1/2 ounces dried ancho chiles plus 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (see notes)
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (6 oz.) butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
5 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar or finely crushed piloncillo sugar (see notes)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur such as Kahlúa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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