Saturday, March 31, 2012

Passover Flourless Brownies: Recipe Round-Up

Passover begins on Friday, April 6, and if you observe the Passover holiday (8 days) you won't be eating any leavened food products. So in terms of chocolate baking you need to tweak some things starting with not using flour. This doesn't mean you can't have Chocolate Cake, brownies or cookies.. just an adjustment.

I posted several Chocolate Passover recipes last year, and I'll post some more next week. In any case, baking without flour shouldn't be a problem, and these recipes are great any time, not just for Passover.

Because you might be baking dessert for a Seder, whether you're Jewish or not, you'll want to be sensitive and bring a Kosher for Passover dessert. That means not using flour and probably using margarine (or oil as in one of the following recipes) in lieu of butter unless you know the seder meal won't contain meat. I prefer using butter in most of my baking, so this is a hard one. However, if you plan to have sweets around at home during the Passover holidays or just want to make some new Brownie recipes, you'll love these. Use butter.

So I'm starting off this Passover Season with 4 different recipes for Passover Brownies. Think of them as Flourless Brownies! You love Flourless Chocolate Cake, right? Try all the recipes and let me know which you like best. Or do you have your own recipe for Passover Brownies?

These first two recipes I adapted from recipes I found on Chowhound in 2008.

Passover Brownies #1

1 stick sweet butter, softened
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (not chocolate chips)
8ounces finely chopped or ground almonds
Pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in egg yolks.
Melt Chocolate over double boiler (or over saucepan over saucepan with simmering water). Cool and add to butter mixture. Add finely ground almonds.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
Pour into 9" square greased baking tin.
Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 45-50 min.
Cool and cut into squares.

Passover Brownies #2

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup of matzo cake meal
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup DARK cocoa
3 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix oil and sugar.
Add eggs and mix again.
 Sift cake meal and cocoa together and add to mixture.
Fold in nuts and mix thoroughly.
Grease 8x8 pan and pour in batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Cool and cut in squares.

This third recipe is originally from Gourmet 2000 ( Epicurious). It calls for a Chocolate-Wine Glaze, and you might want to try that. I like my brownies unadulterated, but I've tried the chocolate-wine glaze, and it's yummy. Nothing quite like chocolate and Manischevitz!

Passover Brownies #3

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted margarine or (if not keeping brownies pareve) butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
3/4 cup matzo cake meal
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with wax paper or greased foil.
Melt chocolate and margarine in a metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
Beat eggs, sugar, and salt in large bowl with electric mixer on high until pale and thick. Beat in chocolate in 3 batches on low speed. Stir in zest, matzo meal, and nuts just until blended.
Spread batter in baking pan and bake in middle of oven until firm and tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on rack, then invert onto a platter and remove paper or foil.
Cut into Squares.

Passover Brownies #4

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate, chopped)
1/2 cup sweet butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
2 tbsp. unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
2 tbsp. potato starch
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
Melt chocolate and butter in doubleboiler or in saucepan on top of another saucepan with simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the cake meal, cocoa powder and potato starch.
Combine the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until light and creamy – about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture until smooth, then add the cake meal mixture, beating on low speed just until combined. Batter is thick.
Fold in chopped nuts and spread in prepared baking dish.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or just until the entire surface has puffed slightly. Brownies will still be moist in the center.
Remove from oven and cool before cutting into squares.

I especially love Passover Brownies #4--very, very fudgy!!! Of course, I use very good chocolate! It really makes a difference!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

I've posted so many Birthdays these past few months-- Girl Scouts, Oreos, Dr. Seuss--that I almost forgot my own. Well today is my birthday, and I'm celebrating with 500 of my closest friends here at Left Coast Crime, a mystery convention I helped found over 20 years ago.  Since I'm not home, there might not be a cake, but there will be chocolate. I come prepared. I always give my panelists chocolate. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than with mystery readers and chocolate lovers! O.K. maybe Paris :-)

I also like Cheese and the photo on the right is a "Cheese Cake." I saw it at the Fancy Food Show! Just the right number of candles, too!

And, because there must be Chocolate, here's a virtual Chocolate Cake from a vintage 1904 Baker's ad. Thank goodness I'm not 175.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chocolate for a Leaner You?

So the latest study shows that chocolate is good for weight loss. This shouldn't surprise a real chocoholic that eats the very best chocolate. Everything in moderation, of course.

According to the study, those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally. Chocolate does have a lot of calories but scientists believe it also has ingredients that help with weight loss.

Beatrice Golomb, a University of California, San Diego, researcher says a survey she did of about 1,000 Americans suggests that chocolate may make you leaner. The survey found that those who ate chocolate about five times a week had a body mass index one point lower than those who didn't indulge. This was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study found that regular chocolate consumption was related to a lower body mass index and the link remained even when other factors like exercise were taken into account. Scientists also found that how often you eat chocolate is more important than the amount you ate.

For someone who weighs 120 pounds and is 5 feet tall, one BMI point translates to about 5 pounds, Golomb said in a telephone interview (reported at SF Gate). The report, the first to tie chocolate consumption to lower body mass index, doesn't say how much or what type of chocolate was eaten, nor does it control for diet and exercise, opening the way for more research.

There have been many studies done on the health benefits of chocolate. Some have found chocolate to be good for your heart. Others have found that dark chocolate contains antioxidants and can help improve lean muscle mass.

The survey results suggest researchers looking at diet should consider the types, rather than number, of calories people are eating as foods such as cinnamon and chocolate are found to provide possible health benefits, said Golomb, an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the university's School of Medicine.

"Chocolate has already shown favorable associations to heart disease, all-cause mortality, blood pressure and even cavities," she said "If you're eating a couple of squares of chocolate a number of times a week, it's probably just fine. Typically chocolate is consumed as a sweet and should have adverse applications for body mass index. In fact, it's the converse," according to the survey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hot Chocolate on a Stick AKA Hot Cocoa on a Stick

Photo: Ticket Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Today is National Food on a Stick Day, and for me that would be Chocolate: Cookies, Truffles, Cake Pops, and lots more. I love Bakerella's Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks and Recipes and  Morgan Greenseth's Mini Pies Cookbook. This past week I got a copy of Linda Vandermeer's Sweets on a Stick. You see the theme on this bookshelf? The subtitle of this new book is More than 150 Kid-Friendly Recipes for Cakes, Candies, Cookies and Pies on the Go. I suggest consulting all of these cookbooks for hints and tips on supplies and treats for today's Food on a Stick Holiday!

Since it's pretty blustery today, I thought I'd post about one of my favorite Foods on a Stick: Hot Chocolate on a Stick.

Several Chocolate companies make Hot Chocolate on a Stick, but one of my favorites is Ticket Chocolate. Each Hot Chocolate on a Stick is handmade in AmberLee and Andrea’s San Francisco kitchen. They have several varieties including Salted Caramel, 3-Chili, Vanilla Mint, Venezuelan Bittersweet, French Dark Truffle and Belgian Milk.

In case you want to make your own, give the following easy recipe a try. As always, use the very best ingredients. I have used all kinds of dark chocolate--something over 65% cacao, fair trade & organic. If you're adding marshmallows, you might want to make your own or buy some really good confections. It will make a difference, but if you don't have any, use what you have. You can cut the marshmallows to size (square) or use minis. You can also wrap individual Cocoa on Sticks in cellophane, add a bow and directions for use. It's the perfect gift. Want to get adventurous? Add other ingredients such as vanilla or chile to your fudge blend. Experiment.


1/2 cup whipping cream
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
18 oz (about 3 cups) chopped semi-sweet chocolate
4 oz (about 3/4 cup) chopped unsweetened chocolate
25 lollipop sticks

Line an 8 x 8 pan  with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Place chopped semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolates in large heat-safe bowl.
Pour whipping cream and condensed milk into medium saucepan and whisk until combined.
Put saucepan over medium heat. Bring liquid to a simmer, whisking frequently so condensed milk does not scorch bottom of pan.
Once liquid is simmering, pour hot cream over chopped chocolate and let sit for minute to soften. Begin whisking cream and chocolate together, until chocolate is melted and there's a smooth mixture. It will be fairly thick.
Pour chocolate into prepared pan and smooth into even layer. Allow to sit and firm up overnight, or for 3-4 hours in refrigerator.
Once fudge block is firm, use large, sharp knife to cut into twenty-five pieces (five rows and five columns). For smoothest cuts, rinse knife in hot water and dry between each cut.
Skewer each block with a lollipop stick (make sure they're natural and not colored--or meant for some other craft-might contain chemicals).

To make hot chocolate, heat mug of milk (water does not work well) and add a chocolate block on a stick. Allow to sit and soften for minute, then vigorously stir until dissolved.

Store Hot Chocolate On A Stick in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature, two weeks in refrigerator, or up to a month in the freezer.

Get Fancier: How to use a cube mold and add marshmallows. See recipe here on 30 Pounds of Apples

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chocolate Fondue: A Retro Mad Men Party?

Fondue was very popular in the 60s and 70s, and every bride received at least one fondue pot. I'm sure the new Mrs Draper on Mad Men did.

Fondue and Fondue Parties are making a renaissance, and although I've posted recipes for Chocolate Fondue with Toasted Marshmallows, Avery Aames' Chocolate Fondue with Cheese,  and Chocolate Caramel Fondue, there's always room for another recipe.

Why not have a Fondue Party during the next Mad Men episode. A few tips: You can make everything ahead of time: cut up the fruit, put out the marshmallows, and other dippers. Be sure and have lots of napkins on hand, it can get messy. Fondue pots are readily available at most kitchen stores and many hardware stores, and online, of course. Or.. search the attic or ask your mother. You're bound to find one--maybe even one that's never been used.

Here from a Retro Cookbook--Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking-- is a two-fer recipe page: Chocolate Fondue and Chocolate-Nut Fondue.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chocolate (Theobroma Cacao) Botanical Illustration

I took a course last weekend on Botanical Illustration at the University of California Botanical Garden. I've always been interested in botanical illustration both as an observer, collector, and as a practitioner. I say practitioner because I am not an artist, but I'm practicing.

I find the recording of plants in such intricate detail fascinating. There's room for creativity, of course, but the purpose of botanical illustration is to portray a true portrait of the plant and its parts with scientific accuracy.

I didn't draw any cacao pods, but there is a cacao tree in the UC Botanical Garden greenhouse. I've seen pods there, but didn't get a chance to peek this time and see if there were any pods there now. Next time I see one, I'll spend some time with it. It's hard to do a botanical illustration without the subject being close up, but I'll post my drawing, if it happens. However, in the interim, I thought I'd post a few well known botanical illustrations of the Theobroma Cacao Plant.

This one below is from "Der Cacao und die Chocolate by Alfred Mitscherlich", Berlin 1859.

This second one is From Koehler's Medizinal Pflanze (1887):  Theobroma Cacao--as is this third and the one at the top.

Not sure where this is from, but I love that it shows the different colors the pods take during their growth period--and it has the cross section of the pod and the flowers in graphite (or ink?). Very cool.

This is a Cacao Wall Chart used to teach botany students.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ghirardelli Chocolate Waffles with Top Chef Casey

Today is National Waffle Day, and I must admit my Waffle Maker doesn't come out as often as it should. I love waffles. There's something about all those edges that increases the flavor for me.

A few years ago I went to the The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. It was a lot of fun with great chocolate treats, but the highlight for me was watching Top Chef Casey Thompson prepare Chocolate Waffles.

I always love chef demos and this was even better since it had the added elements of being set in San Francisco: crowds, wind and noise. Top Chef Casey did a great job interacting with the audience while working with what looked like a temperamental waffle maker. She shared lots of good tips like giving the waffle maker a quick spritz of non-stick organic canola oil. The first batch did stick a little but that was o.k. Smooth sailing really. All this took place while overlooking San Francisco Bay. Beautiful.

I found a wonderful spot to stand... oh yes, all the seats were taken early, but I was right up front on the side. Great for photos, easy to hear and see. The recipe for chocolate waffles was from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook. Surprisingly I didn't have this one in my collection. That was remedied when Casey started asking questions about Chocolate and Ghirardelli. First question: When was Ghirardelli chocolate started? Frank Price, native San Franciscan, who leads our TeamBuilding Unlimited Chocolate Tours and Tastings came closest to the correct answer, and he won a copy of the cookbook! (the right answer was 1852) Of course, he gave it to me for my collection, perhaps hoping I would make something for him from the cookbook!  A guy can dream...

Top Chef Casey also made the Chocolate Sauce. Delicious!

Chocolate Waffles (makes 6 servings)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs, separated
4 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat waffle iron according to the manufacturer's directions.

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt and whisk to thoroughly mix. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, and oil. Add to the flour and whisk gently until just combined.
2. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric beater at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Fold into the batter and mix in the chocolate chips.
3. Ladle one-third of the batter onto the center of the waffle iron. Close the top and cook until the waffle is crispy on both sides. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cooling time. Serve immediately.
4. Drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce (make this first)*

4 oz Ghirardelli 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet Chocolate baking bar, broken or chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine the chocolate and cream in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until very smooth. Keep warm, or reheat before using.

What a great way to start the day!

Read an interview with Top Chef Casey Thompson on Serious Eats.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chocolate Covered Raisins: Raisinets, Dancing Raisins & More

Today is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day. If you read this blog, you'll know that I've posted about Chocolate Covered Raisins before because I love them. Throw some in your oatmeal or use in cookies, bread, muffins or coffee cake--or just eat them as a snack!

Raisinets are one of my favorite 'movie' treats. Raisinets were first made in 1927 by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Nestlé acquired the brand in 1984 and added the motto "Taste the Sunshine". Raisinets are made with California Raisins and milk chocolate. There is now a dark chocolate version, as well.  Many confectioners make chocolate covered raisins, so check them out, along with your favorite chocolatier.

Raisinets are nostalgia foods for me. The real cook in me says make your own if you want to get a higher end chocolate covered raisin. Here's a simple recipe, and you can change it up by using different types of chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Raisins

6 ounces Chocolate --60%-75% cacao fair trade organic chocolate, broken up
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
2 cup organic raisins

Combine chocolate and corn syrup in saucepan on top of another saucepan (or double boiler). Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook until chocolate melts, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, vanilla and raisins.
Drop by half teaspoons onto waxed paper; chill. Store in refrigerator.

Celebrate Chocolate Covered Raisins Day! 
Love the California Raisins ads.. Enjoy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

World's Most Expensive Chocolate Easter Egg

The record for the most expensive non-jewelled chocolate egg sold was cracked March 20 when a chocolate egg weighing 50 kilos was bought for an incredible £7,000 in London.

The 50 kilo egg designed by British chocolatier William Curley was bought by technology investor Cyrus Vandrevala at the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt charity auction event.

The hand-made egg took three days to make by seven artisan chocolatiers at Curley's Twickenham production kitchen. Its shell is made from Amadei chocolate sourced from the Chuao region of Venezuela, which is often heralded as being the best chocolate in the world by food experts. The filling includes muscovado caramel, Japanese black vinegar, rosemary and olive oil, toasted sesame,  juniper berry, cassis and a hint of edible gold leaf.

The auction formed part of World Record London, a calendar of record-breaking events taking place in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mad Men Retro Chocolate Cakes

Yes, Mad Men, one of my favorite shows, returns to the small screen Sunday night for the two hour premiere of Season 5. Over the last few seasons of the show, I've posted 'retro' recipes that Betty or any number of the 'women' on the show might have used. Here are two of my favorite chocolate cakes from the 60s.

The first recipe is for a Coca Cola Chocolate Cake. If you'll remember, Betty was a former model, and she returned to her 'career' to shoot a Coca Cola ad (see below). There are many versions of this Coca Cola Chocolate Cake, and if you're a Pepsi fan, you can always substitute Pepsi in the recipe. See the Retro Pepsi Ad below. Is that Don Draper in the Ad? Was it his account?

The second recipe is for 7-Up Chocolate Cake that's made from a mix. Mixes were new and 'time-saving' in the 50s and 60s. You'll love the instructions. They're pretty retro, too. I couldn't resist, though, posting three different icing recipes (and techniques). Take your pick.

So, get out your 'Pyrex' dish and bake a Retro Chocolate Cake!


2 cups unsifted cake flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Sift together the flour and sugar. Heat to boiling point the butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola. Add to flour and sugar mixture. Stir to blend. Add buttermilk, soda, eggs, salt and vanilla. Stir with spoon until well blended. Pour into greased and floured oblong pan (Pyrex dish). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Batter will be thin. Ice while hot.


1/2 cup butter
6 tbsp. Coca-Cola
1 box confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cocoa

Heat to boiling point--butter, cocoa and Cola-Cola. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla; stir to blend. Using a fork, make holes in hot cake and pour hot icing over it.


6 Tbsp Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar; Dark, Packed
2/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Milk
2/3 cup Peanuts; Chopped

Cream Butter, sugar, and peanut butter. Add milk and stir well. Add nuts. Spread over warm cake. Place iced cake under broiler about 4-inches from heat source. Broil just a few seconds, or until topping starts to bubble. DO NOT scorch! Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Chocolate 7-Up Cake would have been perfect for that party!  This Chocolate 7-Up Cake recipe uses Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix and 7-Up, and the Dobash Frosting uses Ghirardelli cocoa, one of my favorites. 7-Up Cakes are light and airy.


Cake Ingredients
1 box Duncan Hines Devil Food cake mix
3 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 can 7-Up

Combine above and beat for 4 minutes with electric mixer.
Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Pour in batter.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Dobash Frosting
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Ghirardelli cocoa
pinch of salt

Combine all in saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add 1/2 cup water to make a paste. Stir into cocoa mixture with whisk over heat until it thickens. Pour while hot over cake and spread.

Are you a Dr. Pepper Fan? Read this post on Dr. Pepper and a Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Mad Men Themed Ice Cream

Vulture reported that Ben & Jerry's is releasing a new "Mad Men"-themed ice cream flavor, and it's called Sterling Scooper (a riff on the show's agency Sterling Cooper). The flavor includes top shelf vodka, flakes of gold and chocolate cigars. :-)

OK, this is not real.. but wouldn't it be fun?

"Mad Men" returns Sunday for its season five premier this Sunday, March 25.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries for California Strawberry Day

Tomorrow is California Strawberry Day, and it's a great way to celebrate the start of Spring. I love strawberries, and they go so well with chocolate. I've posted lots of strawberry recipes, but here's an old favorite: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. So easy. Want to get fancier? You can always stuff strawberries with chocolate cream, marscapone, chocolate chip cookie dough, cheesecake or tiramasu before dipping--and you can drizzle some white chocolate over the finished dipped strawberries.

The Chef pictured in the photo is by Sonoma artist Cynthia Hipkiss. I love her oddball humor, and I have several of her sculptures. I love this Chef, in particular, and he holds a coveted space by my stove (the blue O'Keefe Merritt), and I've had him forever. What's particularly fun about him is what he's holding can be changed. I have a strawberry shortcake, a birthday cake, and a plate of hot dogs with all the trimmings.  The smaller food sculptures are attached with velcro. Very clever! Hipkiss Gallery is located in Sonoma, CA, and her work is carried in several art galleries. Many of her sculptures of women remind me of my aunts from whom I learned many baking tips. Luckily I'm not quite as full-bodied as they were, but then they were great bakers and ate a lot of what they baked!


1 quart fresh large fresh strawberries, with tops
1 cup Dark Chocolate 60-65% cacao, broken or chopped
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate 72-85% cacao, broken or chopped
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

Rinse strawberries and dry thoroughly, keeping tops on. In top of double boiler or a stainless
steel bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, combine chocolate and heavy cream. Stir until
chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Dip strawberries 1/2 to 3/4 way up in chocolate mixture and place on parchment-
lined cookie sheet to allow chocolate to harden.

Wash strawberries and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Make sure strawberries are
completely dry. A drop of water in melted chocolate can cause it to "seize" and turn the
entire mixture into a mess.
How to Fix Seized Chocolate

How to dip:
Grasp stem of strawberry and dip into chocolate, swirling to partially cover with chocolate.
Give the strawberry a small shake as you pull it out of chocolate. When strawberry is
completely out of chocolate, swirl it in quick, clockwise motion to let excess chocolate drip off.
Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat with rest of strawberries.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chocolate Bytes: How to 'Fix' Seized Chocolate

How many times have you been melting chocolate waiting for that wonderful smooth satiny mixture when all of a sudden it turns into a grainy clump? Overheated chocolate or chocolate that has come in contact with water often 'seizes'. This has happened to me more than once, and I've seen it happen to the best chefs. So today I thought I'd mention a few hints to prevent or to fix the problem.

As in most processes, it's best to avoid the problem by taking proper steps from the beginning.

Before melting chocolate, make sure ALL your utensils and equipment are totally dry.
Avoid using wooden spoons or bowls or other wooden tools that are porous and can retain moisture.
Eliminate any chance of the chocolate coming into contact with water. 
If you're using a double boiler to melt chocolate, keep the water simmering not boiling or turn off heat before the chocolate is placed on top. Boiling water can splash above rim of saucepan and cause water to fall in the chocolate. Boiling water also gives off a lot of steam that can cause chocolate to seize.
When taking off container holding the chocolate, always remember to wipe off the moisture underneath it using a cloth. If you don't do this, there's a risk of water getting into your chocolate.
Never cover warm chocolate with a lid--condensation could form.

Usng a microwave instead of a doubleboiler
Choose a container that does not retain a lot of heat after a few minutes of microwaving.
Set the heating level on your microwave to low, and occasionally stop to stir in between.

How to Fix Seized Chocolate!

Seized chocolate, as I mentioned, is a clumpy, grainy mess. 
To fix it:
Take your chocolate off the heat.
To bring back seized chocolate, you'll need some fat -- vegetable oil or shortening, cocoa butter, or clarified butter. I use olive oil.
Add fat in small amounts (about 1 tbsp to 6 ounces chocolate) and keep stirring gently until chocolate returns to normal.. or almost normal. You won't want to use it for dipping, but you can use it for other baking such as brownies, cakes or cookies.

Overheated Chocolate

Overheated chocolate: Chocolate cooked on too high a heat is not the same as seized chocolate.  It's thick and muddy and harder to 'save'.
Once again an ounce of prevention--or chocolate--is worth a pound of cure.
Because chocolate is sensitive to high temperatures, don't heat it above 110-120 degrees (depending on the type of chocolate). I have to admit, I don't always remember to use a thermometer, but it's good to have one, especially if you plan to work with chocolate.  It is very easy to overheat chocolate using  a double boiler if you boil the water on the lower part or if you microwave on full power.
Overheated chocolate is thick and muddy

How to Fix Overheated Chocolate!

Cool the chocolate: remove the bowl from heat source, transfer chocolate to dry, cool bowl, and stir in a handful of solid chocolate chunks. Stir constantly and allow solid chocolate to bring down the temperature of the melted chocolate.
If this doesn't work, try straining it through a sieve.
Not working? Add a spoon of vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening and stir thoroughly. 
If nothing works, save it for baking and make a fresh batch of chocolate.

Good luck! Love to hear your chocolate tips for seized or overheated chocolate!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Cherry Bread & Guinness Brown Breads

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Today's post is about bread! I posted several recipes for St. Patrick's Day yesterday, and a few more are always welcome. If you want to make your own Irish Soda Bread, try this recipe. But if you want to try something new, try one of these dark breads.

The first recipe is for Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread is a yeast bread, so because it has several rises, you'll want to get started early. Maybe you'll serve it with tomorrow's breakfast?

Then I move into classic Irish Brown Breads. You can use a Guinness Bread Mix or make your own from scratch. With the Brown Bread Guinness Mix, you usually would add raisins, but I think it works well with chopped dark chocolate (or dark chocolate chips). You add treacle (yes, you can substitute molasses, but you can find treacle online or at specialty food stores).

The Guinness Brown Bread from scratch recipe doesn't use chocolate chips, and I would spread Nutella on the bread to keep with the theme of this chocolate blog. Your choice. It's a lovely brown bread.


This recipe first appeared in CookingLight in January 2003. Thanks to the Internet, it's still available to all. I've made it once, and it's really delicious. The Guinness adds a special flavor. Chocolate and dried cherries are staples here at my house!

4 1/4 cups bread flour, divided
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, beer, and yeast in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Remove mixture from refrigerator; let stand 1 hour.
Add 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and salt; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). Knead in cherries and chocolate.
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press 2 fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Shape dough into a 9-inch round; place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Uncover the dough. Combine water and egg white, stirring with a whisk, and brush over dough.  Make a 1/4-inch-deep cut down the center of dough using a sharp knife.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bread is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.


Thanks to The Nibble, I was alerted to Guinness Bread Mix. You have to add a few delicious ingredients, but it's worth it. I first became aware of this mix thanks to The Nibble, a great food site! As I mentioned above, I add chopped chocolate instead of raisins, but that's up to you. Since I add chocolate chunks to the bread, I suggest serving it with mascapone or goat cheese or plain. This mix is available in specialty food stores and online. There are 3 packets in each Bag which is a good value. The ingredients in the mix include Whole Meal Flour, Plain Flour, Oatmeal, Baking Soda, Brown Sugar and Salt. You need to add Butter, Black Treacle (dark molasses), Chopped Dark Chocolate (instead of raisins), milk, and a 1/2 cup of Guinness.

No time to get the mix, try this recipe from Jump into Ireland (Discover Ireland) for Guinness Brown Bread. It's not as sweet as the recipe above, so instead of adding chocolate chips or chunks, serve it with a Hazelnut (Nutella) spread.. just to keep it in the chocolate family! I've changed a few thingss in the recipe, but I know you'll like it.


4.5 cups Bread Flour
1.1 cups Steel Cut Oats
A pinch of salt
A pinch of sugar
3.5 ounces sweet butter
34 ounces buttermilk
12.3 ounces treacle (molasses)
5 ounces Guinness Stout
1 level teaspoon of baking soda

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the buttermilk and heat until tepid.
Now add the treacle to the saucepan and stir slowly until well combined through the buttermilk.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Add Guinness and stir.
Make a well in the middle of  dry ingredients, add the liquid and stir gently to make a moist paste.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare baking pan by brushing inside with butter and dusting with flour.
Pour mixture into pan and place in preheated oven for ten minutes, then reduce heat to 275°F and bake for 40 more minutes.
After removing bread from oven, allow to cool on a bread rack for 10 minutes.
Serve with Nutella.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Truffles: Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day! Time to bring out the Guinness.

I've posted this easy recipe before. It really does taste like Guinness, and Guinness goes well with Chocolate! Hoist a few of these:


3/4 cup Guinness
1 pound dark chocolate  (65-75% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional: chopped nuts

Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler or saucepan over another saucepan with simmering water.
Gradually stir in cream.
Gradually add Guinness, stirring gently to blend.
Cover and chill overnight.
Shape mixture into 3/4 inch balls, using about a tablespoon for each.
Roll in cocoa (optional: then roll in nuts)

Need some more St. Patrick's Day Chocolate Recipes?

Guinness Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Chocolate Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Ice Cream
Bailey's Irish Cream Truffles (made with Kerry Gold Pure Irish Butter)
Bailey's Chocolate Trifle
You Make Me Want to Stout Cupcakes (Scharffen Berger)
Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tardis Chocolate Box

This hand-made Tardis Chocolate Box by Michelle Quinn is making the rounds on the Internet. It's posted on the Facebook page of Doctor Who and the Tardis by Craig Hurle. It's a hand made box, but it's filled with yummy chocolates. It must be bigger on the inside! Wish it were for sale.
 (Hat Tip to Jon Jordan of CrimeSpree)

There are chocolate Tardis molds out there, but too complicated for me.  Someone is working on a good chocolate mold, and I'll keep you posted.

So in the meantime, if you're a Dr. Who Fan, I think you'll find it easier to make this Tardis Chocolate Box and add chocolates!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips: National Potato Chip Day

Today is National Potato Chip Day. If you like your chocolate caramel truffles with sea salt, you'll love Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. It's all about the sweet and salty. And, with St. Patrick's Day coming up, this will be the perfect treat! Following are two recipes for Chocolate Covered Potato Chips--and a recipe for Double Chip Cookies: Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I love Potato Chips. No wonder. It's America's #1 Snack Food. I grew up with Wise Potato Chips, probably because they were locally made. Here's a bit of Potato Chip history from Food History. If you haven't visited this website, it's a must. So much information.

As a world food, potatoes are second in human consumption only to rice. And as thin, salted, crisp chips, they are America's favorite snack food. Potato chips originated in New England as one man's variation on the French-fried potato, and their production was the result not of a sudden stroke of culinary invention but of a fit of pique.

In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. On Moon Lake Lodge's restaurant menu were French-fried potatoes, prepared by Crum in the standard, thick-cut French style that was popularized in 1700s France and enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson as ambassador to that country. Ever since Jefferson brought the recipe to America and served French fries to guests at Monticello, the dish was popular and serious dinner fare.

At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum's French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with disapproval. Exasperated, Crum decided to rile the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners requested Crum's potato chips, which began to appear on the menu as Saratoga Chips, a house specialty.

In 1860 George opened his own restaurant in a building on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake, and within a few years was catering to wealthy clients including William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. His restaurant closed around 1890 and he died in 1914 at the age of 92.

The idea of making them as a food item for sale in grocery stores came to many people at around the same time, but perhaps the first was William Tappendon of Cleveland, OH, in 1895. He began making chips in his kitchen and delivering to neighborhood stores but later converted a barn in the rear of his house into "one of the first potato chip factories" in the country.

At that time, potatoes were tediously peeled and sliced by hand. It was the invention of the mechanical potato peeler in the 1920s that paved the way for potato chips to soar from a small specialty item to a top-selling snack food. For several decades after their creation, potato chips were largely a Northern dinner dish.
In 1921, Bill and Sallie Utz started the Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Salie Utz used her knowledge of good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking to make the chips in a small summer house behind their home. The hand-operated equipment made about fifty pounds of potato chips per hour. While Salie stayed home making chips, Bill delivered them to "mom and pop" grocery stores and farmer's markets in the Hanover, PA and Baltimore, MD area.

In Monterey Park, California the Scudders company started making potato chips in 1926. Laura Scudder is credited with developing the wax paper bag for potato chips which made a wider distribution possible because of its preserving properties. Prior to this bag potato chips were dispensed in bulk from barrels or glass display cases.

In 1932, Herman Lay founded Lay's in Nashville, Tenn., which distributed potato chips from a factory in Atlanta, Ga. Herman Lay, a traveling salesman in the South, helped popularize the food from Atlanta to Tennessee. Lay peddled potato chips to Southern grocers out of the trunk of his car, building a business and a name that would become synonymous with the thin, salty snack. Lay's potato chips became the first successfully marketed national brand.

The industry that George Crum launched in 1853 continues to grow and prosper. Potato chips are America's favorite snack.

What are you favorite Potato Chips?

You can now buy Chocolate Covered Potato Chips, but you might want to make your own to celebrate National Potato Chip Day--or to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! To make either of the two Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips, be sure and choose a ridged potato chip. They're stronger and will work better. As always, use the very best chocolate for the very best results and taste! Depending on how you feel, you can dip or paint half or all of the chip. Here are two ways to do this. Lovely to have the salt and sweet.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips I

24 ounces dark (65-75% cacao) chopped chocolate
16-ounce bag ridged potato chips

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
Melt chocolate in adouble boiler over simmering water or put chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl and microwave in one-minute increments until melted, stirring after every minute to prevent overheating.
Dip bristles of large pastry brush in melted chocolate and paint one side of potato chip with thin layer of chocolate. Place potato chip chocolate-side up on prepared baking sheet.
Repeat painting with remaining chocolate and chips.
Let chocolate covered chips set up.
Chips are best eaten soon right after made, to keep crunchiness of the chips.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips II

1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
8 cups ridged potato chips

Prepare a cookie sheet with waxed paper.
Melt 3/4 of the chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water (or saucepan on top of saucepan)--or melt in microwave as above. Stir until chocolate melts. Add rest of chocolate and stir until melted.
Using tongs, dip potato chips one at a time into chocolate. Place on waxed paper starting at point farthest from you and working way in so you don't drip on finished chips.
Cool until set.

And here's a recipe for Double Chip Cookies from the 
Wise Potato Chip Cookbook: Recipes that Pep Up Meals

Double Chip Cookies

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eating Key West & Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe: Lucy Burdette

Once again my worlds of mystery and chocolate collide. Today I welcome mystery author Lucy Burdette, aka Roberta Isleib.

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, including AN APPETITE FOR MURDER and DEATH IN FOUR COURSES (coming in September.) Her short story, “The Itinerary” (written as Roberta Isleib), has been nominated for an Agatha award.

Eating Key West by Lucy Burdette:

While researching the Key West food critic mystery series (AKA procrastinating,) I came across this fascinating tidbit of information: The state of Massachusetts has a state bean (navy), a state dessert (Boston cream pie), a state cookie (chocolate chip), and a state donut (Boston cream.) My own home state—Connecticut—turned out to be a great disappointment, with no state foods whatsoever. No state fruit, no state vegetable, no state dessert. Nothing. Luckily Florida, the setting for my new series, came through with an official state pie. Key lime, of course.

As I’ve gone about eating my way through Key West (also in the name of research), I’ve tried any number of Key lime pies, cheesecakes, ice creams, and yogurts. Here’s one of my favorites, the fabulous pie served with a little raspberry sauce at Louie’s Backyard. (The view from the dining area is terrific too!)

But I’ve also come across some other amazing desserts. One of my favorites bears no relationship to the official state pie—the bread pudding at Santiago’s Bodega—served with blueberries and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. (I don’t even like bread pudding and I’m crazy for this dish.)

On special days, I satisfy my hankerings with one of the sweet crepes at La Creperie on Petronia Street. There, French pastry chefs Yolande and Sylvie dish up desserts like this red velvet crepe, made with raspberry chocolate ganache, English custard ice cream, and raspberry coulis.

But if I develop a yearning for sheer chocolate madness, I make my way through the streets of Old Town Key West to Michael’s Restaurant. There, as the waiter takes down your dinner preferences, he will warn you that if you’d like a chocolate lava cake for dessert, you’d best put your order in now. And we always do.

Chocolate Lava Cake (adapted from Epicurious)

6 oz. bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, diced
3 large eggs and 3 egg yolks
6 TBSP sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 TBSP all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter six 3/4 cup custard or soufflé cups. Stir chocolate and butter together in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm. With a mixer, beat the eggs, the yolks, the sugar, and salt until pale yellow and thick (about 5 minutes.) Fold the cooled chocolate into this mixture and sift the flour over the top. Fold in. Divide the batter into the prepared cups and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until set but the centers are still soft. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary: Thin Mint Truffles

Today is the is the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. The original registration book shows 102 girls enlisted within just a few weeks. By 1914 there were 1000 Girl Scouts, then 5000 just a year later. By 1917, enrollment had swelled to 13,000, and today the girls number 3.3 million nationwide.

I was both a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and I'm a huge fan of Thin Mints (it's Girl Scout Cookie Time), so I had to do a post on this important Anniversary. As a Brownie and Girl Scout, I trudged around selling cookies door to door by myself. There were no cookies being sold on street corners, nor were there any fathers (or mothers) coercing colleagues or employees to buy multiple boxes, although as a pediatrician, my father could have sold a lot of boxes for me. No, we were responsible for the sale--and the delivery- of those boxes. Since I wanted to sell a lot in order to be the 'highest' seller in my area (I never was), I remember going very far afield one year. My mother actually had to help me deliver that year, and she was astounded by how far I had gone. We lived in the city, where neighborhoods changed block by block. No matter, it never occurred to me not to knock on any doors. Good thing I didn't read adult mysteries or watch the news then. I must have been a Brownie, because I was only a girl scout after we moved to the suburbs. So I was under 10. Times were different. I wore my uniform, and I had no fear. Kind of like superwoman only my costume was more modest. Still it protected me! In those times, it was all about selling the most cookies, not worrying about the deviant at the door. I got through my sales unscathed except for the development of my fondness for Chocolate Mints, now known as Thin Mints. Yum! Thin Mints make up over 24% of Girl Scout Cookies sales. No surprise to me. 

A little history of the Girl Scouts. Juliette Gordon Low rounded up her first troop on March 12, 1912, a time when few women held jobs and only six states allowed them to vote. "Girl Scouting from its inception was forward-looking. Although it was  rooted in domesticity, it always opened further paths to women."
The first Girl Scout handbook, published in 1913, encouraged girls to shoot rifles and gave instructions for tying up intruders. My kind of group! The original Scouts took camping trips and played basketball on outdoor courts shrouded from public view by curtains hung so that men couldn't glimpse the girls in their bloomers. O.K., I'm not much for group sports, but luckily by my time that wasn't necessary since we had gym in school. Outdoor activity also included gardening, and learning the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms was in the first handbook. Good to know.

Lest you think that the first Girl Guides in the US (later changed to the Girl Scouts) were not also being trained to be wives and mothers, Juliette Gordon Low had the Girls learn about cooking and preserving food. She wanted them to know how to run a sterile kitchen. She taught about nursing—taking care of invalids and sick children—and sewing. Anything that a wife and mother should do she thought she could train her girls to do better.

Low understood how it was possible that any woman might find herself in the situation of needing to take care of herself. So, she emphasized career training for girls. Some of the early badges were about flying, typing, telegraph skills and farming.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was a Girl Scout, as was Laura Bush. Barbara Walters, Peggy Fleming, Venus Williams and Mariah Carey all wore Girl Scout uniforms, as did at least seven astronauts, 13 current and former members of Congress and numerous executives and CEOs.

I'm proud to count myself within the ranks!

Girl Scout Cookies

The first cookie sales by an individual Scout unit was by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma in December 1912. In 1922, the Girl Scout magazine The American Girl suggested cookie sales as a fund-raiser and provided recipes. The first Girl Scout cookie recipe was a sugar cookie

Early Girl Scout Sugar Cookie® Recipe

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar plus additional amount for topping (optional)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.

In 1934, Girl Scout Cookies went commercial when the Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia Council (my council, but not my time) became the first council to sell commercially baked cookies in the city's gas and electric company windows. By 1937, over 125 councils nationwide held cookie sales, with the trefoil-shaped Shortbread as the first official Girl Scout Cookie. Cookie Sales taught girls leadership and life skills such as entrepreneurship, money management and goal setting.

Despite flour, butter and sugar shortages caused by World War II, the Girl Scout Cookie program prevailed. In 1942 there were 48 cookies per box, available in either vanilla or chocolate. Customers were limited to two boxes during some war years.

In 1951, two other Girl Scout Cookies were introduced to the world—in addition to Shortbreads, the public could also purchase cream-filled Sandwiches and in 1954 Chocolate Mints (now called Thin Mints) were introduced. Some bakeries even offered optional flavors to their respective councils.

Read more about Girl Scout Cookies.

I stopped by the bank the other day, and there were Girl Scouts selling cookies. I resisted this time, as I already have a supply of Thin Mints purchased from neighborhood children. However, if you don't run into any Girl Scouts (how can you avoid them?), you can make this home-made version of Thin Mints that Pattie Tierney posted on Dying for Chocolate last year.

And I found this great sign on etsy that I must have.

Of course, I just to post at least one new recipe here. You must try Thin Mint Truffles from The Hungry Housewife. This recipe calls for a final coating of cookie crumbs, but you can also dip the truffles in dark chocolate with chocolate sprinkles or roll them in cocoa.

Thin Mint Truffles

1/2 box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies (1 sleeve) + 3 cookies
4 oz Cream Cheese, softened

In a food processor, process 1 sleeve of Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies until they resemble course sand.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the cream cheese. Mix together by hand until fully incorporated. Scoop out by the tablespoon (or use a small scoop) and roll into a nice ball in your hands to form truffles.
Pulse the extra 3 cookies in the food processor until it resembles course sand and place in a small bowl. Roll the truffles in the processed cookie crumbs to coat.
Chill coated truffles for at least an hour to set up.... or overnight for flavors to really develop with the cream cheese.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chocolate Revelations: Mounds of Brownies

Today I welcome Cece Brune, cookbook author and mystery reader. Always love when my worlds of mystery and chocolate collide. Cece shares Baking and Chocolate tips and a recipe for Mounds of Brownies.

Cece Brune: 
Chocolate Revelations 

I was delighted that Janet asked me to submit a guest post. I love CHOCOLATE and I am a mystery reader…a wonderful intersection of her blogging. I also maintain two blogs; and Texas Jot is about my life in Texas (and my reading list) and Fashion Plate has recipes and retro Barbie fashions that I have been designing for my grand-daughter. I am the author of Texas Manners: A Guide to Gracious Living, an avid quilter and have an Etsy store. I hope you enjoy my baking tips and recipe for Mounds of Brownies. My cookbooks are available on the blogs or at

Mystery of the 9x13-inch Pan

As the author of two cookbooks, Chocolate Crimes and Chocolate Rehab, I spend an inordinate amount of time in my kitchen. While researching for my first cookbook, I stumbled upon the mystery of the 9x13-inch pan. If you started baking in the 1960’s, you probably have a Pyrex pan that measures 7 ¼ x11 inches. Maybe you have one from the 1980’s measuring 7 ½ by 12 inches. If you are a modern baker, you probably own a real 9x13-inch pan.

Despite the dimension change of the “9x13-inch” pan, there has been no recipe adjustment over the years. If your mom’s recipe is over-cooking in your modern-day size pan, reduce the baking time by five minutes and check at one minute intervals to achieve your prime result.

Most of my recipes will work in any size “9x13” pan, but occasionally there is one that I indicate must be made in the full-size pan.

Who Lied About the Microwave?

I do own a double boiler, but I have found that melting chocolate in the microwave is faster and makes less mess. JUST GO SLOWLY. Even though the chocolate may look like it is still formed in a solid piece, give it a stir to see how soft it has become. Be sure to use a high heat spatula. (Yes, I’ve melted three of the other kind.) White chocolate is a little more temperamental, but it will work if you are patient. The safest method for melting chocolate is to put the chocolate (white or dark) in a glass bowl on a heating pad and let it melt while you are doing something else. It is also a good way to keep chocolate at the correct temperature for dipping or drizzling.

Passion in My Pantry

With chocolate, you get what you pay for and the difference will show up on your taste buds. In some recipes, a generic chocolate won’t make much difference. When chocolate is the featured performer, you will be happy that you used a premium chocolate bar.

For years I baked exclusively with Hershey’s cocoa powder, but if you want a real chocolate jolt, try European dark cocoa. It makes a jet black frosting, so don’t go overboard.

I have numerous recipes that call for mocha powder/espresso. You can use any brand you like. You’ll be surprised at what a boost this gives chocolate items without imparting any coffee flavor. Finally, I must divulge the truth about white chocolate. Unless you purchase a product containing cocoa butter, your “white chocolate” is just sweet white stuff, guilty of impersonation.

Mounds of Brownies
Cut these into tiny pieces. They are so rich—one bite is all you need. I make these for cookbook signings and they are a crowd favorite.

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup (one stick) butter
1½ cups granulated sugar

Until combined. Add:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

Beat until smooth. Add:
1 cup flour

Place in 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350° for 27 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with a mixture of:
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2¼ cups shredded coconut

Return to oven and bake 20 more minutes. Top with chocolate icing.

In microwave, melt:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

for 1 minute. Add:

½ cup whipping cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar