Friday, August 31, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Blueberry Mixed Nut Trail Mix

Today is National Trail Mix Day. Last year, I posted an easy S'mores Trail Mix recipe, but although very tasty, it really isn't all that healthy. So this year I decided to post a delicious and healthier recipe.

Trail mix is one of the easiest things to make, and there's such variety. It's perfect to take on a hike, as snacks for school, or throw some into your next oatmeal cookie dough for an out of this world cookie.  The following trail mix is good for the heart. Blueberries have the highest antioxidants  of almost any dried fruit, and you all know the benefits of dark chocolate. Most of the nuts in this trail mix recipe are salted, but if you want to be really healthy, cut back on the salt. And, of course, you can add anything else you'd like to the mix: other nuts, coconut, other berries.


2 cups roasted salted peanuts
1 cup roasted salted almonds
1 cup roasted whole cashews
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the darker, the better)
1 cup dried tart cherries
1 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

Mix together. How easy is that?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Toasted Marshmallow Flourless Chocolate Cake

Today is Toasted Marshmallow Day, and, of course, you can make S'mores--and all the variations thereof. Here's a link to a S'mores Round-up on National S'mores Day on August 10.

But how about something different? Something easy and great for the Gluten-Free Folks? The following Flourless Chocolate Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Topping is fabulous!

You can use your favorite flourless cake or try the easy Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe below. For the Marshmallows, I recommend using high quality marshmallows or making your own. Here's a link to Michael Recchiuti's Marshmallow recipe.  If you only have 'regular marshmallows', that will work, too.

Toasted Marshmallow Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 ounces dark chocolate 70-75% cacoa
1 cup sweet butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa
25 marshmallows 

Preheat oven to 375°F
Butter 10-inch spring form round baking pan. Line bottom with buttered wax paper.
Break chocolate into pieces.
In double boiler or metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.
Add eggs and whisk well.
Sift cocoa over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 35-40 minutes, or until top has formed thin crust and toothpick comes out moist but not wet.
Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes.
Remove springform sides. Leave cake on bottom of pan.
Put cake (still on springform base) on cookie sheet.
Top with marshmallows while still warm (leave an inch around edge free-they spread).
Put cake back in oven at 375 for 5 minutes--until marshmallows are 'toasted'.
Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Photo: Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies Secret Ingredient: Lemon Juice

Today is National Lemon Juice Day. I have several lemon trees, mostly Meyer lemons, so I could make lemonade, but since it's National Lemon Juice Day, I thought I'd share a secret. Lemon Juice is a secret ingredient in making chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. So if you're given lemons, make Chocolate Chip Cookies. You're not going to taste the lemon juice, but it will make for a chewier cookie. And, the reality is that since you only use a teaspoon in the batter,  you can make lemonade with the rest of the juice to go with these cookies!

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Secret Ingredient Lemon Juice

1/2 cup rolled oats, ground to fine powder in blender or food processor
2-1/4 cups flour  (if you have bread flour, give it a try.. it will make an awesome cookie)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened (do not microwave)**
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp Madegascar vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice 
2 eggs
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chopped into chunks

1. Grind rolled oats in blender or food processor until very fine.
2. Measure flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in blender jar and use blender to combine all the dry ingredients.
3. Cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir after each addition. Beat until fluffy.
4. Combine dry ingredients with wet stuff, and mix until fully combined.
5. Add chocolate chips and stir by hand to fold in the chocolate.
6. Refrigerate dough for an hour--o.k. I usually skip this step.. but if you're a purist...
7. Drop dough by large spoonfuls or using an ice cream scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Leave room for cookies to spread as they cook.
8. Bake in preheated over at 350° F for approximately 16 minutes, or until barely golden and still slightly raw.
9. Cool cookies in pan for five minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Tips: 5 DIY Chocolate Face Mask Recipes

We all know that Chocolate is good for the heart, blood pressure, and a lot more. When I was growing up, we were told that chocolate was bad for the skin. That it actually caused acne. This is not true. Chocolate is full of antioxidants that actually gives the skin extra protection against free radicals and can nourish the skin. The following masks can increase hydration, support skin's defense against UV damage, decrease roughness, and actually improve blood flow. Give one or all of them a try.

Pros of Chocolate Face Mask: The skin becomes glowing and soft. The skin becomes firm and smooth. Even if the mask goes into your mouth, no problem, it tastes yummy. The final Chocolate Face Mask even has an alternative fudge recipe.

So today's Tuesday Chocolate Tip: 5 D-I-Y Chocolate Face Mask Recipes! They're all simple to make. Let me know which is your favorite.

1. Chocolate Mask from Household Magic: Daily Tips

Mix together a heaping Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder with heavy cream to form a paste.
Apply to clean, dry skin and leave the paste on for 15 minutes.
Wipe off mask with washcloth.
Rinse face with lukewarm water and pat dry.

2. Chocolate Yogurt Honey Mask from Flavor Fiesta

1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp yogurt
1 tsp honey

1. Blend cocoa powder with honey and yogurt. Cocoa powder can be difficult to blend, so be patient with this step. Keep mixing until mixture looks like melted chocolate.
2. Clean your face with lukewarm water. Dab dry and then apply the mask evenly all over your face except the eye and lip areas. Relax for 15-20 minutes and let the mask do it’s magic.
3. Wash off with lukewarm water and dab dry.
Apply moisturizer.

3. Chocolate Brown Sugar Sea Salt Mask from WikiHow

2 bars of dark chocolate
2/3 cup of milk
Sea salt
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Heat dark chocolate in a double boiler for about 3 minutes.
Mix sea salt, brown sugar, and 2/3 of a cup milk in a bowl.
Remove melted chocolate from heat.
Mix melted chocolate with salt/milk mixture.
Allow to cool.
Apply to face while cool but not hardened.
Leave on until it hardens.
Wash or chip off with mild cleanser and warm water.
Add moisturizer when done.

4. Chocolate Oatmeal Honey Mask from Skin Care and Remedies

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup organic honey
2 Tbsp of heavy cream (or sour cream)
3 tsp oatmeal powder

Mix all ingredients until mass in consistent.
Apply to face, gently massaging so oatmeal can start exfoliating the dead skin cell layer.
Leave on for about 15-20 minutes
Rinse off with lukewarm water.

This is one of my favorites because it's so versatile.. with a tiny bit of tweaking, you can make fudge! How cool is that!

5. Chocolate Avocado, Honey, Oatmeal Face Mask (or Fudge)  
 from Meghan Telpner-Making Love in the Kitchen

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup organic honey
2 Tbsp smashed avocado
3 tsp oatmeal powder (leave this out if making soft fudge, leave in if you want a harder texture)

Directions: Face Mask
Mix all the ingredient until mass is consistent.
Apply on face, gently massaging so oatmeal can start exfoliating the dead skin cell layer.
Leave on for 15-20 minutes
Rinse off with lukewarm water.

Instructions: Fudge
Mix all ingredients (except oatmeal) until mass is consistent.
Spread in small pyrex dish or into individual ramikens
Allow to set in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Photo: Meghan Telpner: Making Love in the Kitchen

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chocolate Gravenstein Apple Pie: Topper's Apples

Topper retrieves Gravenstein Apples
I love Gravenstein apples. There really are no apples quite like Gravensteins. If you don't live in Northern California, you may not have had tasted Gravensteins since they have a short shelf life. They are tart and crunchy and sweet, all at the same time. Now's the perfect time to get some at the Farmer's Market or up in Sonoma county. They're great to eat, great for pies, and great for applesauce. Trader Joe's sells Gravenstein first press applesauce that's delicious.

Frank used to have a Gravenstein apple orchard in Sebastopol, so we planted 9 trees on our property here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this is a banner year for apples!

Many of the apples fall from the trees before we can pick them, and our golden retriever, Topper, loves Gravensteins as much as we do. He's always retrieving the ground apples and eating them. When there are no apples on the ground, he's learned a very smart trick to remedy the situation. He jumps up against the tree, shaking it, and causing the apples to fall. He's one intelligent dog. The photo above is of Topper with a Gravenstein Apple in his mouth.

So what's my favorite apple for baking? Gravensteins, of course! Here's a recipe for Chocolate Gravenstein Apple Pie.


Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie, unbaked
8-10 tart Gravenstein apples (peeled, cored and sliced thinly)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup 70-85% dark chocolate fair-trade organic, chopped into smallish pieces

1. Apples: Peel, core, and slice thinly.
2. Combine cinnamon & sugar = cinnamon sugar. (you may need a tiny bit more).
3. Place 1 layer of apple slices on bottom crust. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar.
4. Spread broken chocolate pieces over top.
4. Using remaining apples, make 3 more apple/cinnamon sugar layers.
5. Top with 2nd crust and seal edges. Make a cut on top--or prick with fork in a few places.
6. Bake in preheated 450 F oven for 15 minutes (until golden).
7. Lower heat to 350F and continue baking for another 25-30 minutes, or until apples are tender.

I tweaked this recipe a bit. I posted it on Apple Pie Day, but I like to use more chocolate and Gravenstein apples. It makes a difference. Adjust the number of apples in the recipe to the size of your apples. If you have any left over, eat them!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chocolate Bytes: World's largest Lollipop

In case you missed this...

See's Candies has created the world's largest lollipop. This local San Francisco candy company erected a 7,000 pound lollipop in Justin Herman Plaza, shattering the Guinness record for the world's largest lollipop.

The extra large lollipop is a 16-foot, 7-inch confection and is now on display in front of the See's Candies San Francisco flagship store. It's been making the rounds of San Francisco places, including AT &T Ball park.

The Lollipop weighs 7,000 pounds (not including the stick!)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Banana Split with Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce

Today is National Banana Split Day, and everyone knows a good banana split needs a good Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce. Following is a great recipe for an easy Dark Chocolate Sauce.

The Birth of the Banana Split like so many food creations does not have a clear  invention history. Latrobe, PA claims that the banana split was invented by Dr. David Strickler, who in 1904 was a 23 year-old working at Tassell Pharmacy. This sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the cost of other sundaes. Dave Strickler became a pharmacist and optician, and purchased the pharmacy which was renamed "Stricklers." His banana splits were a big hit with the students from nearby Saint Vincent College and the word spread. According to his daughter, her dad "was always the great experimenter" and he even originated the first banana split dish: "There were no dishes for such a concoction, so he drew up his own" and a company in nearby Grapeville produced it.

The banana split was also showcased at the Boston convention of the National Association of Retail Druggists in 1905. Stinson Thomas, chief dispenser at Butler's Department Store in Boston promoted the banana split there. According to an article about the convention in The Soda Fountain magazine, "among all the beverages dispensed here, none was more novel with the ladies than the banana split." The magazine also quotes Mr. Thomas: "My trade here is always looking for something new and so, one day it occurred to me that I might prepare a popular fountain beverage with a banana. I sent my boy out to buy half a dozen bananas, and when he returned I cut off the ends of a banana, split it open, put a portion of ice cream on top and a spoonful of crushed strawberries. It certainly looked swell and I believed that the public would like it." As with most new creations though, there was some trial and error. "At first we left the peel on the banana in the plate, but some time ago we began removing it altogether. We found that the ladies preferred to have the peel removed."

Banana Split

"Split" Bananas (with peel on) lengthwise. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on the cut sides of bananas. Let sit for several minutes. Grill bananas cut side down on direct heat for 2 minutes. Turn (with tongs) and cook 5 more minutes. Remove skins. Put bananas in bowl. Add vanilla ice cream. Pour Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce over. Sprinkle with nuts and add whipped cream--with a cherry on top?

Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sweet butter at room temperature
8 ounces Dark chocolate -65-75% cacao, chopped
2 Tbsp superfine sugar
1/8 cup Kahlua
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla

Heat cream in small saucepan until almost boiling.
Add butter and sugar. Stir to combine.
Remove from heat and pour over chocolate.
Whisk until melted and combined.
Add Kahlua and vanilla. Stir until cool to touch.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside or refrigerate.

Illustration: Triple Banana Split Boy,  written by my friend Lucha Corpi. Illustrated by Lisa Fields. (Arte Publico Press)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chocolate Peach Pie: National Peach Pie Day

Today is National Peach Pie day, and to celebrate I'm making a Chocolate Peach Pie. I've found that adding chocolate to the peach filling is way too sweet and gooey, so I'm keeping it simple.  The chocolate in the following recipe is a traditional chocolate cookie crust made of chocolate wafers. Sometimes I don't add sugar, but for today's pie, I am. The peach filling is also simple, but feel free to substitute your favorite peach pie filling.

Since peaches are in season (here in California), and there are so many different varieties to choose from, I'll be able to make a fabulous pie! This peach pie is best served chilled, but there are plenty of other recipes out there for a warm peach pie, if you prefer!


2 cups chocolate wafers
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp sweet butter (or salted if you're inclined)

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

1 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
Peeled Fresh Peach halves (pitted)
1/2 pint heavy cream

Mix sugar and cornstarch.
Cover inside of chocolate cookie crust with 3/4 of this mixture. Go out to sides
Arranged peeled peach halves around outside edge (insides of peaches up).
Fill in with other peaches until full.
Sprinkle rest of mixture over peaches.
Put cream inside each peach center.
Bake at 325 for about 30-40 minutes.
Chill and serve.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Today is National Sponge Cake Day! I posted this lovely Chocolate Almond Sponge Cake recipe last April for Passover, but it's a recipe that can be made at any time. It has a great nutty flavor. Add whipped cream and strawberries for a great Chocolate Almond Strawberry Short Cake--or you can cut this cake up and use it in a trifle. Or you can always eat it plain! It tastes great with coffee or tea for breakfast. I actually toast sponge cake and eat with butter and jam... but that's me :-)

This Chocolate Almond Sponge Cake is Gluten-Free.

A few hints. Almond flour is readily available where I live, but you can grind your own. Use a hand grinder (a clean coffee grinder) or blender (not a food processor to avoid making oil). I use a blender, and just do this in smaller increments, about 1/2 cup at a time. Almond and chocolate go very well together. Try using different types of chocolate to achieve the flavor you like best. Enjoy!


7 ounces dark chocolate (60-75% cacao), chopped
10 eggs, separated
3/4 cup white sugar
2 cups ground almonds

1. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or a saucepan over another saucepan of simmering water. Set aside.
2. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar. Blend in chocolate and almonds.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate batter.
4. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10 inch Bundt pan or tall springform pan with hole in the middle.
5. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
6. Remove from oven, invert pan, and cool about 40 minutes before removing from pan.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1-2-3 Fudge Sauce Retro Ad & Recipe

I really like Fudge Sauce on ice cream. This Retro Ad & Recipe for 1-2-3 Fudge Sauce is from Carnation Evaporated Milk, September 7, 1953. You can follow the recipe, or you can make your own. I just love these vintage ads, don't you? So here's a way to beat the heat! I would use 4 squares, of course.. and probably substitute some excellent artisan chocolate!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Chocolate Tips: Chocolate Dipping

Over the years, I've dipped just about everything in chocolate, but there are a few tricks and tools that will make your dipping easier. So my Tuesday Tip is all about Chocolate Dipping!


1. Work in small batches.

2. Whatever you plan to dip, make sure the the tools and treats are dry (i.e. strawberries and fruit). As I mentioned in How to Melt Chocolate, even a drop of water will cause chocolate to seize. So if you're making chocolate covered strawberries or other fruit, makes sure to leave them out at room temperature and pat them dry. If you're dipping cookies, use a soft brush to remove crumbs before dipping.

3. Choose the right container for dipping. This will depend on what you're dipping. For truffles, choose a shallow bowl, so you'll be able to totally coat the truffle.

4. Melt the Chocolate

5. Before dipping, make sure the Chocolate shouldn't be too hot or too cool.

6. Tools: Chocolate Dipping Spoons or Fork are tools you can purchase. They work well, but if you don't feel like investing, you can always use the two fork method for truffles.

7. How to Dip. If you're using a dipping fork or spoon, dip straight down. If you don't have enough chocolate, dip halfway (or maybe that's what you wanted all along?). You can also tilt the container.  Some people actually drop the item into the chocolate and then fish it out. You decide.  However, you should probably get rid of excess chocolate by tapping the spoon or forks on the side of the container. Sometimes I shake the treat. You'll have less of a puddle or 'foot' around the base of the fruit or sweet. I often use two forks to dip truffles and other treats. The extra chocolate drips through before I put the item on the wax paper lined tray. Sometimes I use tongs--for things like oreo cookies, but you don't always get an all over chocolate result.

8. Put your Chocolate dipped treat on a parchment or wax paper lined tray. I'm sure a Silpat will work, too, I just haven't used them often. Once you've put all your chocolate dipped item on  the tray, you can move them to the refrigerator. You don't have to do this, but I usually do. It helps them cool quickly. However, take out of refrigerator when set. Don't leave your chocolate treats in the refrigerator too long or the chocolate will bloom (see xx) or change consistency.

9. If you have extra chocolate after you've dipped everything, use the leftover chocolate to make a bark or something else. Yum!

Links to Chocolate Dipped Sweets:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries to Die For 

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate Covered Strawberries stuffed with Marscapone, Cheesecake or Cookie Dough

Walkers Shortbread Finger Dips & Chocolate Toffee Shortbread

Cleo Coyle's Mocha Dipped Rum Macaroons

Chocolate Dipped Pistachio Apricots

Chocolate Truffles Recipe Round-up (Some are dipped)
including Tequila Truffles

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Dreidles

S'mores on a Stick

Pattie Tierney's Chocolate Dipped Orange Peels

Walker's Scotty Dogs with Muddy Boots 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Soft Ice Cream Day: History, Retro Ads & Signs, Recipe

Today is National Soft Ice Cream Day. That doesn't mean ice cream that's melting. No soft ice cream for me will always come swirling out of a metal dispenser. We always called it Frozen Custard, and it had its own place in my heart--and stomach. It wasn't a substitute for ice cream. It was just different. At least to me.

So today, in honor of the holiday, I thought I'd post some vintage Ads and Signs for Tastee Freez & Dairy Queen. And, if you scroll down there's a recipe for Cheater Chocolate Soft Ice Cream.

History of Soft Ice Cream

From eHow:

The Dairy Queen Story 
According to the book "The Cone with the Curl on Top," a history of Dairy Queen, J.F. McCullough and his son, Alex, opened an ice cream shop in 1927 in Davenport, Illinois. In the early 1930s, they moved to an ice cream factory in Green River, Illinois, and decided to find out if customers preferred ice cream before it was completely frozen, which was how they liked it best. The colder ice cream had less flavor than the softer version, they felt. After an experimental, all-you-can-eat sale in Kankanee, Illinois, where they found the softer ice cream was a success, they bought a machine from a street vendor in Chicago in 1939, had a machine company tweak the design, and sold their frozen custard exclusively to a store run by Sherb Noble in Joliet, Illinois, in 1940. They nicknamed the store Dairy Queen. They bought a second store in 1941, and a third that spring.

Carvel's Story 
According to National Geographic and The Nibble magazine, Carvelas sold ice cream on the street in New York. After a flat tire in Hartsdale, New York, caused his ice cream to begin to melt, he sold the partially melted product as a new treat---and his customers loved it. He opened Carvel Frozen Custard in Hartsdale in 1934 and began to build a series of frozen custard shops along highways. He built a soft-serve machine in 1939.

The McCulloughs continued to improve the design of their soft-serve machine and expand their business. Carvel continued to expand its chain aggressively, too, as did another competitor, Tastee-Freez. By 1956, soft-serve ice cream consumption was increasing 25 percent every year, according to the U.S. Department of agriculture.

That same year, Tastee-Freez had 1,500 stores, and Carvel had 500.

Carvel was a true innovator: he was the first to offer “buy one, get one free”; the first to franchise an ice cream store; and his patented glass building was copied by McDonald’s. Dairy Queen opened its first soft-serve ice cream store in Joliet, Illinois in 1940. Carvel’s Flying Saucer sandwich was introduced in 1951. 

technique adapted from John T. Edge's The Truck Food via Oprah 
Makes one quart

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups chocolate ice cream, softened

Using a handheld electric mixer, whisk cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla and continue whisking to make stiff peaks, about 30 seconds more.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in ice cream until well combined.
Transfer mixture to a large, resealable freezer bag and freeze until semi-firm (like soft-serve ice cream), 4 to 6 hours.
When ready to serve, remove ice cream from freezer and, if needed, knead bag until uniformly soft, about 30 seconds. (Cover bag with a towel to protect your hands from the cold.)
Snip off a corner of the bag to pipe ice cream into a cone, or simply scoop and serve.

Dairy Queen Cones

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gayle Trent: Two Recipes honoring Elvis

My mystery and chocolate worlds collide again. Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and this post from mystery author Gayle Trent has two recipes that honor the King. Her latest novel Killer Sweet Tooth takes place at an Elvis Impersonators' Convention. First there's a fabulous recipe from her Great Aunt Pat Tolbert Hurley for Banana Pudding. And, then there's her recipe for White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.

Win a copy of KILLER SWEET TOOTH. Make a comment on the blog. Winners will be chosen randomly. Do you have an Elvis recipe?


I write a cake decorating series for Simon & Schuster’s Gallery imprint. The series originated with Bell Bridge Books, a small press owned and operated by a group of authors, including Deborah Smith and Debra Dixon. The first two books, MURDER TAKES THE CAKE and DEAD PAN were published in trade paperback and ebook form by Bell Bridge Books. After a particularly successful holiday promotion, MURDER TAKES THE CAKE caught the attention of my current agent, Robert Gottlieb, who sold the reprint rights to the book. Since then, Gallery has published the third book in the cake decorating series, KILLER SWEET TOOTH, and has contracted for book four, BATTERED TO DEATH.

The series centers around Daphne Martin who returns to her hometown to start a cake decorating business after divorcing her abusive husband. Her childhood sweetheart is still living in the town, and he has never married, so there’s a spark there.

In MURDER TAKES THE CAKE, Daphne makes her first cake delivery to a paying customer only to find the customer dead. Naturally, suspicions turn to recently returned Virginia native and cake decorator Daphne. But all she did was deliver a spice cake with cream cheese frosting–and discover Yodel’s dead body. Now, Daphne must get her hands dirty to help solve the murder and clear her good name before things get any worse. But the small town is brimming with people who had good reason to kill Yodel–and Daphne’s entire family is among them.

In the second book, DEAD PAN, several people become sick at Brea Ridge Pharmaceuticals’ annual holiday party for its employees, and one–Fred Duncan–dies. Fred’s mother insists on Daphne’s help in learning why Fred died; and since none of the food has yet been exonerated, Daphne feels compelled to find out what made everyone so ill.

In the latest book, KILLER SWEET TOOTH, an Elvis impersonator has Brea Ridge residents “all shook up.” But he—and the rest of the convention of Elvis impersonators—aren’t bothering Daphne half as much as the fact that the Brea Ridge police found her wielding an oversized plastic toothbrush over a dentist’s dead body.

Naturally, in KILLER SWEET TOOTH, there are plenty of Elvis Presley references, including his legendary love for peanut butter and bananas. So, I had my great-aunt Pat Hurley Tolbert pass along her mother’s recipe for banana pudding. It’s an old-fashioned Southern recipe that I think you will enjoy.

Pat Tolbert’s Banana Pudding

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
dash of salt
3 eggs, separated
3 cups milk (can use evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 12-ounce box of vanilla wafers
6 medium bananas

Combine flour, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and salt in heavy saucepan.
Beat egg yolks and milk, mixing well.
Stir in dry ingredients.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened.
Remove from heat and add one teaspoon vanilla.
Let pudding cool some before putting together.
Layer about 1/3 of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.
Slice 2 bananas over them and pour 1/3 of custard over; continue to layer, repeat twice.
Beat egg whites until foamy (should be at room temperature).
Gradually add remaining sugar and beat to stiff peaks.
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Spread meringue over custard, sealing to edge of dish.
Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes.


These cupcakes were in the display case at Chocolate World in Hershey. They were for sale, but we had a lot of ground to cover, so I did not indulge. But do you see those tan ones on the bottom row right there in the middle? They were white chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, each had a white chocolate Reese's cup on top, and they sang their siren song to me. I'm still hearing it! So, I came home and looked for a comparable recipe.
White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1 18.25oz  French Vanilla Cake Mix
1/3 Cup Oil
1 1/3 Cup Water
2/3 Cup Chunky/Crunchy Peanut Butter
3 Large Eggs
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 Cup Ghirardelli’s Ground White Chocolate (Powder)
24 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Minis

16 oz liquid Pastry Pride or Rich’s Buttercreme
Ghirardelli’s Ground White Chocolate
1 tsp Chocolate flavoring
12 Reese's White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (Regular size)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees w/rack in middle of oven.
Mix together all ingredients on low for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl down. Mix at medium for 2 minutes. Line cupcake pan with 24 paper liners. Fill each cupcake 1/4 of the way full. Place a mini Reeses PB cup in each cupcake ensuring you do not push it all the way down to the bottom. Fill remaining cupcake so that it is 2/3-3/4 of the way full and the PB cup is covered completely. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top springs/bounces back when touched…should be a light golden color. Remove and place pan on cooling rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take each cupcake out and let cool.

For the icing, I used 1lb of liquid Pastry Pride. Make sure it is completely thawed. Put it in your mixer and mix at medium speed until it starts to form medium size peaks. I cannot tell you how much white chocolate i used as I just poured it in and tasted as I went. You can add as little or as much as you want. I also added 1 tsp of chocolate flavoring…enough to add a tiny bit of flavor, but not so much to change the color.

I piped the frosting onto the cupcakes and cut each White Choc Reese’s PB Cup in half and place it on top the frosting, PB side down and ridged edge facing top. You can also use White Chocolate Ganache/Buttercream. Do not need to refrigerate.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chocolate Rum Balls: National Rum Day

Today is National Rum Day. I posted this recipe last year for a Rum Celebration, and it deserves a repeat appearance! I'm all about retro, and perhaps the most popular retro chocolate and rum recipe is for Chocolate Rum Balls!

Traditional Rum Balls contain crushed wafers or cookies, but this recipe is for a Chocolate Rum Ball that is more like a truffle, made with a rum ganache--recipe from Alex Guarneschelli of the Food Network. Yes, she's one of the judges  on Chopped and has her own show The Cooking Loft.

These chocolate rum balls are simple and quick to make. I usually chill my rum balls at the end. Either way, it works. I especially like that she uses three different types of chocolate in these Chocolate Rum Balls: Two in the ganache itself and then chocolate sprinkles to coat. Maybe that's why I like these Rum Balls so much, and they're so easy!


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 stick sweet butter, cut into small pieces
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
Chocolate sprinkles, for rolling

1. In medium bowl, combine the 2 types of chocolate and melt over a double boiler. (Or in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water.) Whisk in butter pieces. Whisk in sugar and rum.
2. Put sprinkles in bowl. Roll chocolate mixture into small balls, about 1 1/2 inches each. Roll them in sprinkles until fully coated. Store in airtight container.

Photo: Food Network

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Julia! Reine de Saba Birthday Cake

Unless you really live in the back of beyond, you know that today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday! How to celebrate?

In The Way to Cook, Julia Child wrote that Reine de Saba was the first French cake she had ever eaten and that she never forgot it. What could be more fitting, then, than Julia Child's own favorite Chocolate and Almond Cake-- Reine de Saba with Chocolate Butter Icing? The recipe below can be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, p. 677-78 and The Way to Cook, p. 471.

According to the National Museum of American History at th Smithsonian where Julia's Kitchen is displayed: In the hundredth episode of the television series, The French Chef, Julia made the Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba cake. One of the tools she used for making this special cake with the grand name was an ordinary rubber spatula. Essential for folding the smooth and shiny beaten egg whites into the batter, Julia also noted that the rubber spatula was one of America’s great culinary contributions. She kept her spatulas in a ceramic crock on a shelf above her stove.

I must admit that I haven't made this cake in years, but it's not too difficult and it's absolutely fabulous. It's kind of like a dense brownie with creamy chocolate frosting with almonds.

REINE DE SABA [Chocolate and Almond Cake] This extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality. It is covered with a chocolate-butter icing, and decorated with almonds. Because of its creamy center it needs no filling. It can be made by starting out with a beating of egg yolks and sugar, then proceeding with the rest of the ingredients. But because the chocolate and the almonds make a batter so stiff it is difficult to fold in the egg whites, we have chosen another method, that of creaming together the butter and sugar, and then incorporating the remaining items. - Mastering the Art of French Cooking





For the cake:

4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate melted with 2 Tablespoons rum or coffee
1/4 lb. or 1 stick softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup pulverized almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the icing:
2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tb rum or coffee
5 to 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter 


For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter and flour the cake pan. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.
4. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
5. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
6. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
7. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2-1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.
8. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.
9. To serve, use the chocolate-butter icing recipe below, then press a design of almonds over the icing.

For the Icing:
Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Reprinted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking


Want 100 other ways to celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday? Check out Random House Canada's blog with 100 ways to celebrate. Fabulous list!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Great Ways to Use Cocoa Nibs: Tuesday Tips

I try to give a tip every Tuesday on this blog, and one part of the cocoa bean that I haven't addressed as far as tips go is the Cocoa Nib. I've posted recipes, of course, but today my Tuesday Tip is on What to Do with Cocoa Nibs. 

Cocoa Nibs are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans. Cocoa nibs are not chocolate pieces. They are roasted beans separated from their husks.  But, it's just chocolate in a different form--not sweet--since sugar isn't added. Nevertheless, they have a very unique chocolate taste. There are both raw and roasted cocoa nibs. They have different tastes, and I prefer roasted cocoa nibs. If you're going to buy cocoa nibs, go for organic, and definitely choose a chocolatier you like.

I use cocoa nibs in lots of ways, but my best advice is to use them sparingly until you get the hang of them. They're a bit bitter, and you won't want to overwhelm your dish. You'll soon figure out how many to put into your favorite foods. That being said, I use cocoa nibs in both savory and sweet dishes.


Add them to salads for some special crunch.

For an hors d'oeuvre, roll a log of goat cheese in crushed cacoa nibs.

Use as a crust on chicken.

Add them to chili.

Grind them up and use in your barbecue rub.

Add them to mole.


Roll chocolate ganache truffles in chopped nibs in place of cocoa or nuts.

Add them to pancake batter.

Add them to granola or bake them into granola bars.

Mix into Greek yogurt (I add a little honey, too)

Throw them on your oatmeal.

Add them to smoothies.

Use them as sprinkles on cupcakes

Use them as sprinkles on ice cream.

Add them to brittle instead of nuts.

Use them instead of nuts or chocolate chips in Chocolate Chip Cookies. (see recipe below)

Add them instead of nuts in brownies.

Candy them with a caramel glaze.

Dip them in chocolate for another great snack.


Add some to your coffee grinder for a special blend.

Eat some plain.

And here's a surprising use: Chew some as a Breath Freshener.

And, if all else fails, have some around and just smell them. The aroma is quite heady!

Chocolate Chip Cocoa Nib Cookies  
a variation on the traditional Toll House Cookie recipe

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweet butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate chunks)
3/4 cup chopped cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and cocoa nibs. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dying for Chocolate Cupcakes: Krista Davis

Photo: Krista Davis
My mystery and chocolate worlds collide again. Today I welcome Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva Mystery series (Berkley Prime Crime).

Krista Davis's The Diva Runs Out of Thyme and The Diva Haunts the House were nominated for Agatha awards. Her most recent book, The Diva Digs Up the Dirt, joined The Diva Haunts the House in the honor of making the extended New York Times Bestseller List. The Diva Frosts a Cupcake will be released in June. Visit Krista at and at her blogs, MysteryLoversKitchen h and Killer Characters. Her novels include recipes and entertaining tips, as well as being fun mysteries! Thanks, Krista, for this fabulous recipe and mouth-watering photos!


My name is Krista, and I am a chocoholic. When Janet so very kindly asked me if I would provide a recipe for Dying for Chocolate -- I flipped. Just the excuse I needed to play with chocolate. I immediately thought of a triple chocolate mousse cake that I used to indulge in. Those who live near Arlington, Virginia might know of Pastries by Randolph. His cakes are heavenly and the triple chocolate mousse cake has long been my favorite.

So I tried a recipe for a torte with a layer of white chocolate mousse, another of milk chocolate mousse and one of dark chocolate mousse. It wasn’t worthy of Randolph but it came out fairly well. Or so I thought.

Two out of four tasters had complaints. One, a die-hard chocolate lover, even said she could do with just the white chocolate mousse! Clearly, I need to do some tweaking on that recipe, but without a house full of company to eat such a cake, well, I’m sure you see the problem.

So I turned my focus to cupcakes. My next Domestic Diva Mystery will be THE DIVA FROSTS A CUPCAKE, with loads of cupcake recipes. Have you noticed that cupcakes have gotten super fancy? It’s not enough to bake them and add frosting. Now they have to have fillings, too! Plus, I knew the Dying for Chocolate audience would be special. You’re chocoholics, like me. So I embarked on Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Filling and Raspberry Tinged Chocolate Frosting. Any recipe with a name that long deserves a special name, and since they were developed just for Dying for Chocolate, I’m calling them Dying for Chocolate Cupcakes.

If you’re not game for lots of steps, skip the raspberry cream. I decorated some with a raspberry (easy!), left some plain (easiest), and dotted some with Callebaut’s Dark Crispearls. If you haven’t tried the Crispearls yet, look for them. They’re terrific!

There’s good news and bad news about this recipe. The good news is that it freezes very well. Just slide the cooled cupcakes into a zip type freezer bag. I usually slide a sheet of waxed paper inside over top of them so they won’t stick to the bag. To thaw, simply remove from freezer to room temperature for 45 minutes or so. The bad news is that they’re actually pretty good frozen should you happen to have a middle-of-the-night chocolate crisis. I would recommend filling and frosting them after they have thawed. I did freeze some filled ones for about a week and the filling, while not as good as when fresh, wasn’t the soggy mess I expected.

Dying for Chocolate Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes (makes 18 cupcakes)

16 hazelnuts
1 cup flour
1/4 cup high quality unsweetened powdered chocolate like Pensey’s
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (1 square)
1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
 2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400.

Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan.

Toast hazelnuts on a pan for about 4-5 minutes until fragrant. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate. When you take the hazelnuts out of the oven, reduce the heat to 350. Let the hazelnuts cool enough to handle, then rub off the skin. It’s okay if a little skin remains. Grind the hazelnuts fine.

Combine flour, hazelnuts, powdered chocolate, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and blend well with a small whisk or a fork.

Cream butter with sugar. Add each egg and beat well. Add the flour mixture in small amounts, alternating with the milk. Beat in the melted chocolate and then the vanilla. Beat to combine.

Divide between cupcake papers, filling each about 1/2 full. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cream Filling

1/4 cup sweetened whipped cream
3 tablespoons defrosted frozen raspberries* (set aside the liquid for the frosting)

Mix the whipped cream with the raspberries. Cut a small divot out of the middle of each cupcake. Fill. Replace divot and frost.


2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
liquid from raspberries plus enough water to equal 1/4 cup
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate with the butter. I do this in short bursts in the microwave. Add enough water to the reserved raspberry liquid to make 1/4 cup and heat. Mix the chocolate with the raspberry liquid. Beat in powdered sugar until the consistency is thick but not stiff, (about 3 ½ cups of the powdered sugar). Refrigerate about 15 minutes until it’s easier to handle and will keep its shape. Frost the cupcakes.

Photos: All photos c. Krista Davis

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Retro Pudding Cupcakes in Chocolate Crusts

This Retro Ad from June 15, 1962 for No Bake Pudding "Cupcakes' in a Candy Crust was the spring board for a really delicious pudding cupcake. The Chocolate Crust recipe is simple and elegant, and to fill the cupcake shells, you can use your own recipe for Chocolate Pudding.  Or you can fill these Chocolate Cupcake Crusts with chocolate mousse or something else!

Chocolate Cupcake Crusts 
Makes 6-8 cupcakes

Melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate in small saucepan over low heat.
Spoon chocolate around sides and bottom of 6-8 paper baking cups.
Chill about 1/2 hour.
Peel paper cups from candy crusts before filling

Friday, August 10, 2012

National S'mores Day: S'mores Recipe Round-Up

S'mores Pops
Today is National S'mores Day, and there's a lot to celebrate! S'mores are made by sandwiching a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate in between two graham crackers and heating the whole 'sandwich' over the campfire or grill.

The name S'mores (alternatively Smores) comes from the two words "some more," because everyone always want s'more. This American treat was developed by the Girl Scouts in the early part of the 20th century, making use of the newly mass-produced marshmallow. Marshmallows were easy to transport, as were candy bars and graham crackers, and the marshmallows could be toasted over a fire to make a fabulous campfire treat in a situation where other types of sweets would have been difficult to come by. Of course, the quality of the chocolate and marshmallow, and even the graham crackers (if you make your own) will vary, but S'mores aren't about haute cuisine, at least not in my house.

The true origin of the snack is unknown, as camping recipes were passed from family to family - often over the campfire itself. The  first printed record of the recipe was in 1927 in a girl scout manual "Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts".  Read more HERE.

The Original 1927 Girl Scout Recipe for S'mores

Some More:
8 sticks (for toasting the marshmallows)
16 graham crackers
8 bars plain chocolate (any of the good plain brands, broken in two)
16 marshmallows

Toast two marshmallows over the coals to a crisp gooey state and then put them inside a graham cracker and chocolate bar sandwich. The heat of the marshmallow between the halves of chocolate bar will melt the chocolate a bit. Though it tastes like "some more" one is really enough.

I have a Round-Up of S'mores Recipes at the end of this post, but I wanted to post another fun recipe. Maybe you've already tried this on your own. Let's face it, S'mores are pretty versatile!

One of the newest ballpark foods at AT&T Park (Go, Giants!) is the S'mores Sandwich. This ooey-gooey delight is an excellent way to eat your s'mores. Marshmallows and Ghirardelli chocolate are sandwiched between two pieces of fresh buttered bread and grilled. Yum! The closest I've been able to come up with a recipe to match this treat. I love using my Panini Press! Depending on the bread, chocolate and marshmallows, you'll have a lot of variety in this easy recipe! 

S'mores Panini 


Sweet butter, room temperature
4 slices sourdough (or buttermilk bread)
8  large marshmallows (or 1/2 cup marshmallow creme)
2 Tbsp. dark chocolate chips or 3 ounces dark chocolate, broken


Butter one side of the bread.
Place 2 slices on a plate, buttered side down.
Put 4 marshmallows on each piece of bread--(or divide marshmallow creme among bread slices, spreading evenly and leaving a 1-inch border).
Sprinkle chocolate chips or broken chocolate pieces over marshmallows, dividing equally (leave an inch margin if you can).
Cover with remaining bread, buttered side up, pressing slightly.
Preheat panini press to 375 degrees.
Put sandwiches on press; close press.
Cook sandwiches until golden brown and heated through, about 3 minutes.
Transfer to a work surface. Cool for 1 minute.
Cut in half and serve.

And in celebration of National S'mores Day, here's a Round-up of Recipes for S'mores that I've shared here on over the years. 

Traditional S'mores on the Grill

S'mores Brownies using a Brownie Mix

Brownie S'mores from Scratch

S'mores Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mores (2 recipes)

Chewy S'mores Bar Cookies

S'mores Pie 

S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich

S'mores Ice Cream Pie

S'mores in the Microwave

Wacky Candy Bar S'Mores 

Peanut Butter S'mores  

S'mores on a Stick (S'mores Pops)

Want to drink your S'mores? 

Make a S'mores Martini! Two recipes

Novelty S'mores Recipe: 

S'mores Keyboard 

Girl Scout S'mores Merit Badges

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Howard Johnson's Retro Ad

I remember long summertime car trips on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We'd always stop at Howard Johnon's for ice cream.  This advertisement is from July 2, 1951. With 28 flavors, I find it fun that the cone in the ad is chocolate!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is National Zucchini Day. Zucchini is such an abundant summer crop. Plant a single plant, and you'll be picking zucchini all summer long.

So what to do with it? Add Chocolate!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Pistachios
Geeky Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

White Chocolate Walnut Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

The other day was National Chocolate Chip Day. I did a Round-up of Chocolate Chip recipes last year, but alas, no Zucchini Chocolate Chip recipe! What an oversight. So here in honor of the Zucchini Day holiday, is my go-to recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies!

This recipe is from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007) by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. I've added walnuts, because I like a little crunch.  This book should be a staple on your shelf. It's part memoir, part journalistic investigation. It tells the story of how the family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they live. Barbara Kingsolver wrote the central narrative; Steven Hopp's sidebars explore various aspects of food-production science and industry; Camille Kingsolver's brief essays offer a nineteen-year-old's perspective on the local-food project, plus nutritional information, meal plans and most importantly for this blog, the recipes. Being that it's mid-summer: there's a Zucchini Season Meal Plan in the book. The recipes are all fabulous, and here is the recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. As I mentioned, I added walnuts for extra crunch.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Combine in large bowl.

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture.

1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking
sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350F degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.

How easy is this? And delicious...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Tips: Natural vs Dutch Process Cocoa

How often have you wondered if you should use Natural or Dutch cocoa in a recipe? And what exactly is the difference? Will it affect your baking?

Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove 3/4 of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch-processed.

Actually, there's nothing very Dutch about Dutch Processed Cocoa. It's only called a Dutching process because the person who invented it, Coenraad J. van Houten, was a 19th century Dutchman who pioneered the use of the hydraulic press to defat chocolate liquor. Van Houten's solution lay in simple chemistry. Cocoa in its natural state is slightly acidic, as indicated by its pH value of around 5.4. By soaking the cocoa nibs in a basic (or alkaline) solution, he found he could raise the pH to 7 (neutral) or even higher. The higher the pH, the darker the color. And, the acids present in natural cocoa were neutralized, reducing its harshness.

To learn more about the differences between Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa, read this article in Cook's Illustrated.

Planning to bake with cocoa? Here's advice from David Lebowitz, the King of Chocolate.

Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.

Many classic American recipes, like Devil’s Food Cake, use natural cocoa powder. There is also a reaction between natural cocoa powder and baking soda that occurs in recipes, which creates a reddish crumb, like Devil’s Food Cake.

There are exceptions to each, of course. And according to Fine Cooking magazine, “You can substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch-process in most recipes (though not vice versa). Flavor and texture can be affected, but generally only in recipes calling for 3/4 cup or more.” However when a batter-based recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch-process cocoa powder. But I always advise folks to follow what the recipe says. For sauces and ice creams, they can be swapped out. For cakes and cookies, I don’t recommend it, as your results may not be the same if you make substitutions.

If a recipe calls for either, the main different is that Dutch-process cocoa will give a darker color and a more complex flavor whereas natural cocoa powder tends to be fruitier tasting and lighter in color.

Here are a few cocoas I like that are great in brownies, devil's food cake and other chocolate baked goods: King Arthur Flour Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa,  Callebaut, Guittard, Valrhona, Ghirardelli, and Trader Joe's.

When used alone in cakes, cocoa powder gives a full rich chocolate flavor and dark color. Cocoa powder can also be used in recipes with other chocolate (unsweetened or dark) and this combination produces a cake with a more intense chocolate flavor than if the cocoa wasn't present.

Most recipes call for sifting the cocoa powder with the flour but to bring out its full flavor, combine the cocoa powder with a small amount of boiling water. (If you want to try this in a recipe, substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for the boiling water.)

As I mentioned above there are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch-processed. When in doubt, use the type specified in the recipe. Some prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa as a slight bitterness may be tasted in cakes using natural cocoa and baking soda.

Another Tip: Don't confuse unsweetened natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powder with sweetened cocoa drink mixes. They are not the same thing. 

O.K. all the above is basic baking cocoa information. For me, though, the reality is that natural and Dutch processed cocoa powder are pretty much interchangeable. There are very few recipes that are thrown off by the presence or absence of the acidity of cocoa powder. In fact, many of the ingredients you regularly use in baking are slightly acidic, so even recipes that seem to rely on the acidity of cocoa powder to produce leavening are getting their acidity from milk, butter, egg yolks, honey (sugar is neutral), etc, and the recipe should turn out just fine whichever cocoa you use-- Dutch process or natural cocoa powder.