Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Pack and Ship Cookies for the Holidays

If you're sending cookies to friends and family here and overseas (military), you'll want to get started. I've put together a few helpful hints, and I welcome any other tips that have worked for you. There are many ways to actually send them--USPS, FedEx, UPS.

So here are several tips on how to pack cookies to ship.

Start with the right type of cookie. That's key.

Cookies to avoid: Fragile, buttery cookies that could end up as crumbs .. although I like cookie crumbs. Cookies with jam or cream-filled centers. Cookies that will be smudged  or broken if stacked together.

Cookies to include: (Of course I'm linking to Chocolate Cookies): (Drop Cookies) Chocolate Chip or( Bar Cookies)Biscotti, Gingersnaps, Sugar Cookies. Shortbread or Oatmeal.

Always Double-Box your cookies. You can use plastic containers or a a sturdy carton or box to hold cookie containers. Always add packing materials around the first container. More on that below.

Now for the actual cookie box. I'm partial to decorative tins. I pick them up at the flea market, garage sales and the White Elephant Sale. They're pretty and useful. However, you may want to use locking plastic containers which create a good seal every time. Alternatively, you can use a shoebox or a coffee can. Either must be clean and 'scent' free.

Be sure and line the container with parchment paper or crumpled wax paper.

I probably don't need to remind you, but you should wrap different types of cookies separately, so the flavors and textures don't 'leak'. Crisp cookies get soggy next to soft ones. You can use plastic wrap between layers--and over the top.

Even better is to cushion each cookie. Wrap them in pairs or individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags. Then put them in ziploc bags. Stack them in your container vertically or horizontally, packing tightly to avoid them moving, but not too tightly that you crush them.

Here's a great tip to keep your cookies fresh and moist. Add some marshmallows to the tin--loosely not in plastic.

If you're not using plastic sealed boxes, put plastic wrap over the top of the box before you close the lid, letting it drape over, to create an airtight seal. If you're using a tin, tape around the lid to add to the seal.

Before putting your container of cookies in the shipping box, put packing materials around for cushioning. Use a heavyweight cardboard shipping box, if you can. Bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper or foam peanuts  are great for cushioning. Write fragile and perishable on all sides of the box.

Send overnight if you can, so they don't end up sitting in a warehouse. If not, be sure and mail early in the week, so they don't end up in the warehouse.

What cookies are you sending? Any other packing tips?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Today is National Bavarian Cream Pie Day. Here's a great Retro Ad from 1968 for Bavarian Pudding. But since this Bavarian Cream Pie Day, I'm posting a much better recipe for Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie with an Oreo Crust! Be sure and scroll down for the recipe!


 2 ounces dark chocolate (85% cacao)
 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot whole milk
1 Tbsp gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 pint whipping cream
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
Pinch of salt

Oreo Pie Crust
24 Oreo Cookies
1/4 cup sweet butter, melted

Put cookies in food processor and pulse until crumbs.
Add melted butter and blend until combined.
Put crumb mixture in 9" pie pan and press on bottom and up sides (evenly)
Refrigerate crust for an hour before adding filling.

Soak gelatin in cold water.
Melt chocolate in double boiler (or saucepan over saucepan) over simmering water.
Add sugar, salt and hot milk. Stir.
Add gelatin to chocolate mixture.
Remove from heat and cool until mixture begins to thicken.
Beat with hand mixer until very light.
Fold in whipped cream.
Add vanilla.
Pour Chocolate Bavarian Cream mixture into Oreo Cookie Pie Crust.
Place in refrigerator to cool.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Retro 1958 Cookie Tips & Recipe for Fudge Slices

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to think about Holiday Baking. I have soooo many cookbooks, but I love my 'retro' pamphlets filled with fun chocolate cookie, candy and cake recipes. So today I thought I'd start with some Cookie Tips from Good Housekeeping's Book of Cookies (1958).  I'm also posting the recipe from the Book of Cookies for Fudge Slices. Gotta love the illustrations in this book--and the cookie dough splatters! I pick up most of these cookbooks and pamphlets at garage sales and flea markets, but I've also had some for years that have come down to me from family members. So get Baking!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Still have Thanksgiving leftovers? I posted Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes for Turkey Mole and Cranberry Sauce Truffles. Here's another favorite: Mashed Potato Chocolate Cake. There are lots of Mashed Potato Chocolate Cake recipes, but this one is very easy and absolutely delicious. This recipe won't work if you seasoned your potatoes with herbs or garlic. Mashed potatoes with butter or cream or cream cheese will work perfectly.

In case you want to make this as its own dish (not using leftovers), try the recipe I posted for White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes. I've never met a potato I didn't like!


4 oz. dark chocolate (65-75% cacao)
1 cup sweet butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. Madagascar or Mexican vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 ounces dark chocolate chopped into chip size

Melt chocolate with vanilla; cool slightly.
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
In another bowl, cream butter and sugar and beat in eggs, one by one.
Add chocolate and mashed potatoes.
Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk.
Fold in dark chocolate 'chips'.
Pour into greased 13x9 x 2  inch pan (or Bundt Pan) and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. Cool before frosting.

Friday, November 23, 2012


You'll be first in line for this simple but delicious Black Friday Cake! It's easy to make and delicious to eat. Don't be put off by the thin batter.. it will work!

Ever wonder about the origin of the term Black Friday? Black Friday is traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving when millions of people in the U.S. start their holiday shopping! Black Friday this year actually started in some locations on Thursday night. Walmart (and probably other) stores opening at 9 p.m. Obviously they don't care about their employees' Thanksgiving.  Whenever it actually starts, Black Friday is the major shopping day of the year.

There are many stories about the origins of the term Black Friday. In the 1950s, some factory managers referred to the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday" because so many workers called in sick. The day, noted one industrial magazine, was "a disease second only to the bubonic plague" in its effects on employees. In the 1960s, police in Philadelphia complained about the congested streets, clogged with motorists and pedestrians out shopping, calling it “Black Friday.”  By the mid 1970s, newspapers in and around Philadelphia used it to refer to the start of holiday shopping. But its usage also has negative associations. In the1980s, some enterprising merchants turned it around. They pointed out tthat there was a "black ink" that showed up on balance sheets as a result of the day. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit--a short hop to the idea that Black Friday was the day when retailers came out of the red and went into the black by beginning to turn a profit.

As retailers began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, with lots of bargains. Black Friday is a long day, with stores opening at 9 p.m. the night before or 3 am. in the morning on the actual Friday. It's just amazing to me that hordes of people stand in line for items they may or may not need, just because it's a bargain. For those of you who don't want to stand in an actual line, there are plenty of Black Friday sales online.

Maybe you're already out there today, and if you are, I hope you brought some chocolate to give you energy throughout the day. At home shopping online? You'll have plenty of time to make and enjoy this delicious Black Friday Cake! This is an adaptation of the original Hershey's Black Magic Cake.


1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups DARK cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee, cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract

1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
2 oz melted very dark or unsweetened chocolate, cooled
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in large mixing bowl or stand mixer.
Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter is thin.
Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13 pan or two 9 inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes for 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.
Combine frosting ingredients and mix with hand or stand mixer.
Spread frosting on cooled cakes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Mole: Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

Maybe you don't plan to give away the leftover turkey today, so you might find you have a lot. You can always invite the neighbors in for another Thanksgiving dinner or you can make sandwiches for a week, but here's another possibility: Turkey Mole! I make this Quick Turkey Mole  with Taza Chocolate Mexicano or their Chipotle Chili Chocolate Mexicano, but any good chocolate will work! Trader Joe's now sells a Mexican Chocolate in disk shape at a very reasonable price.

So here's a Quick Mole recipe adapted from Paula Deen's Quick Chicken Mole. Perfect with Turkey.

Quick Turkey Mole

2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 chipotle peppers, roughly chopped
1 (10-ounce) can chicken broth
2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 ounces Taza Chocolate Mexicano, chopped
Leftover Turkey
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish

Heat oil in heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and spices and continue to saute to toast and develop flavor. Add diced tomatoes, peppers, chipotles, broth, peanut butter, and chocolate. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and puree until smooth.

Take left over Turkey and either add to oven friendly saute pan or put in another pot and then cover with the Mole sauce. Braise in 350 oven for 45 minutes. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Holidays are the perfect time for Trifles. I make a wicked (and easy) Trifle for the Fourth of July with sponge cake, strawberries, blueberries & kirsh. So for Thanksgiving, here's an easy and sweet trifle recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Trifle that combines pumpkin and chocolate.

What's a TRIFLE? The dictionary defines 'Trifle' as something insignificant, but you'll find that this dessert is anything but insignificant. I'm not trifling with you. This is a fabulous dessert!

Trifles are traditionally made in a large clear deep bowl so you can see all the layers. I have the perfect bowl! The assembled trifle is covered and placed in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours so the flavors can mingle. This Chocolate and Pumpkin Trifle is perfect for Thanksgiving since it can feed upwards of 8 guests.

There are many variations, and you can add different things in different layers--and you can vary the size of your layers. You can follow the recipe below with cookies but stack as you please: ex, layer of pumpkin cream, layer of cookies, layer of chocolate cream, etc. This is not a science. Instead of Chocolate Wafers, you can use Chocolate Cake or Brownies or try using left over Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake (as if there is any left over!) or Pumpkin Bread.


4 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla
1 cup natural pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
1  7.5-ounce jar of Marshmallow Fluff
6 small Heath bars, chopped (still have any left over from Halloween?)
1 1/2- 9-ounce boxes chocolate wafer cookies (or chocolate cake or brownies)

Directions (but when it comes to layering, that's up to you!):
In small pot over another pot, melt chocolate with 1/2 cup cream over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. Let cool.
Using electric mixer, whip 2 cups cream with 1 tsp vanilla until stiff.
In medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, pumpkin spice and marshmallow cream. Fold in whipped cream in 2 parts; refrigerate.
Add remaining 1-1/2 cups heavy cream to mixer bowl and whip until thickened. With the machine on, slowly addchocolate mixture and remaining 1 tsp vanilla and beat until stiff but not dry.
Spread one-third of chocolate cream in 4-quart clear glass trifle bowl.
Layer with one-third of the toffee.
Make cookie (or cake) layer--be sure and stand up some cookies along the side of the bowl (it will look pretty)*
Makepumpkin cream layer.
Repeat with remaining cookies and more pumpkin cream (depending on how thick you make the layers).
Add chocolate cream layer.
Sprinkle with chopped toffee and cover with chocolate cream.
Cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours.
To serve, sprinkle with remaining toffee (or not).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I posted two different Spicy Chocolate Turkey Rubs for Thanksgiving. Here's my go to recipe for a Chocolate Side Dish -- White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes. These potatoes are not sweet because white chocolate --real white chocolate-- is not really chocolate. White chocolate has a lot of cocoa butter in it, so these potatoes will be rich. The white chocolate takes the place of butter in a 'normal' recipe. I've changed fat free milk to regular milk, because let's face it.. I love the fat. You can even use cream! Make sure you use pure white chocolate made from cocoa butter or you'll have a tasteless mess. Want to make these a bit spicy? Add a few dashes of hot sauce when you add the salt.

Happy Thanksgiving!

White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped (make sure it's pure white chocolate made from cocoa butter and not just a hydrogenated shortening)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup milk

Cook potatoes in large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender (25 minutes). Drain in colander set in sink (completely.. the less starch, the flufflier the potatoes) and return potatoes to pot. Add white chocolate to still hot potatoes; stir until white chocolate starts to melt. Stir in salt.

Use electric mixer at medium-low speed to mash potatoes slightly. Pour in milk (or cream) and continue mixing until smooth, about 1 minute. Serve hot.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Turkey Rub: Thanksgiving Barbecue Turkey

I barbecue turkey all year long, so it's not surprising that I barbecue the turkey for Thanksgiving. I love the smokiness and flavor that the barbecue brings to the bird. Barbecuing the turkey also leaves the ovens free for all the side dishes and pies.

Three years ago we started barbecuing our turkeys with spicy chocolate rubs. Here are two great recipes. We've made some adaptations, but this first recipe is for Spicy Chocolate Rub Recipe from  The BBQ Report.  Just combine everything in the Cuisinart until finely ground and pat on turkey. This recipe is for chicken, so if you're planning a 20 lb. turkey, you'll need to increase the amounts.


1 cup natural unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes, chopped fine
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Want to get a little more sophisticated with the Rub? Kunde Family Estates (great wines to accompany your turkey) has a recipe for BBQ Turkey with Ancho Chile/Chocolate Rub. This recipe includes brining the turkey first. If you buy a kosher turkey it will already be brined. This recipe is for a 12-16 pound turkey, so if yours is bigger than that, you'll need to adjust the measurements.


3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp chile powder
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. chipotle chile powder
2 tbsp. softened butter

In small bowl, combine all dry rub ingredients. Mix well. In another small bowl, mash butter together with 2 Tbsp rub – set aside.

Place turkey in large roasting pan. With fingers, gently loosen the skin over breast meat and insert butter/rub under skin; gently rub over breast meat. Rub the outside of bird well with olive oil; then sprinkle generously inside and out with rub. Loosely pack  cavity with lemon and orange slices. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen string. Place in refrigerator and let sit; uncovered, 5 – 6 hours, or until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, prepare grill. If using charcoal grill, prepare  for indirect cooking. For gas grills, heat to medium high. Put turkey in roasting pan on grill; add 2 cups water; cover. Turn all gas setting to low. Grill-roast turkey, basting with pan juices and rotating pan 180 degrees every hour, for 3 hours. (If using charcoal grill, add briquettes or mesquite every hour to maintain an even temperature). After 3 hours, insert instant-read thermometer in fleshy part of inner thigh to check for doneness. Thigh meat should register 175° F and the juices should run clear when thigh is pierced. If not done, cover and continue to cook; checking every 20 minutes for doneness.

When done, transfer turkey to a heated platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Does Chocolate have a place at your Thanksgiving Table this year?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homemade Ding Dongs: Shorter Shelf Life

Unless you live in a vacuum, you must be aware that Hostess Brands announced Friday that it's liquidating the company. This marks the end of those lunchbox snacks--Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Snow Balls.. and in terms of sandwiches, the ubiquitous Wonder Bread.

In a statement, Hostess said its bakery operations suspended all plants and is laying off most of its 18, 500 workers to focus on selling its assets. Among those assets: the recipes for its well-known brands, especially the spongy Twinkie, which holds a special place in America's culinary history. Over the years, it has been vilified by nutritionists, but it remains widely loved by snackers.

It even entered into U.S. legal history as the so-called "Twinkie defense," used by lawyers for former San Francisco city supervisor Dan White in his trial for the 1978 murder of Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk. The legal team successfully argued that White's consumption of mass amounts of junk food, including Twinkies, was a symptom of the depression that led to his shooting of Moscone and Milk. White was found guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge.

CEO and chairman Gregory F. Rayburn told CNBC that he was hopeful the company could sell its brands. He told TODAY that the move was not a negotiating ploy. "It's over. This is it," he said.

On Nov. 12, Hostess permanently closed three plants because of the strike. Two days later, the company announced that it would be forced to liquidate if enough workers did not return to restore normal operations by 5 p.m. ET Thursday. "We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," said Rayburn.
The BCTGM was not immediately available to comment. But Reuters reported that Union President Frank Hurt  blamed the company, saying it was kowtowing to Wall Street investors who have wanted to break up Hostess. Workers were still staffing picket lines early Friday.

A quick search of eBay showed people offering boxes of Twinkies for a range of prices -- from $5.00 a box to as much as $500. 

So because this is a Chocolate Blog, I thought I'd focus on Ding Dongs. Here are four Ding Dong Recipes you can make at home. The difference? Shelf Life. An average Hostess brand Ding Dong has a shelf life of 9 years. These Home Made  treats? 3-4 days in the refrigerator. 

Don't forget to scroll down and watch a classic Ding Dong Ad.


Beantown Baker 

What Megan's Making

All Recipes: Giant Ding Dong cake

How to Baker

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chocolate Baklava: National Baklava Day

Photo: Cooking Light
Today is National Baklava Day. I love Baklava. One of my favorite baklava recipes uses pistachios, but Baklava can be made with a variety of different nuts or a mixture as in the recipe below. The baklava flavor will also change with the honey you use.

Basically Baklava is a Mediterranean dessert made with nuts, flat bread (phyllo) and syrup or honey. The type of nuts or the syrup ingredients often suggest the origin of the recipe. As there are many countries within close proximity of each other, Baklava spread to other areas and evolved with new techniques and fillings.

The Phyllo we know today has a long and interesting history. Phyllo dough didn't come from Greece, but rather from Istanbul during the Ottoman reign. However, the Greeks claim to have created the paper-thin version. It's well known that the Turks brought Baklava to Central Europe. A close relative to phyllo is strudel dough. Phyllo and strudel dough shares the same ingredients, wheat flour, water and fat (oil or butter). Both are rolled out, with phyllo being much thinner.

Until 1946 Phyllo was made by hand. Pressing and stretching and pressing and stretching for hours. In 1946 Le Conie Stiles of Seattle, Washington, invented the Phyllo-stretching machine. Now anyone can buy Phyllo.

History of Baklava from The Kitchen Project:

It is widely believed that the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. were the first people who put together layers of thin bread dough with chopped nuts in between those layers, added some honey and baked it in their primitive wood burning ovens. This earliest known version of baklava was baked only on special occasions. In fact, historically baklava was considered a food for the rich until mid-19th century. In Turkey, to this day one can hear a common expression often used by the poor, or even by the middle class, saying: "I am not rich enough to eat baklava every day".

The Greek seamen and merchants traveling east to Mesopotamia soon discovered the delights of Baklava. They brought the recipe to Athens. The Greeks' major contribution to the development of this pastry is the creation of a dough technique that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf, compared to the rough, bread-like texture of the Assyrian dough. In fact, the name "Phyllo" was coined by Greeks, which means "leaf" in the Greek language. In a relatively short time, in every kitchen of wealthy households in the region, trays of baklava were being baked for all kinds of special occasions from the 3rd Century B.C. onwards.

The Armenians, as their Kingdom was located on ancient Spice and Silk Routes, integrated for the first time the cinnamon and cloves into the texture of baklava. The Arabs introduced the rose-water and cardamom. The taste changed in subtle nuances as the recipe started crossing borders. To the north of its birthplace, baklava was being baked and served in the palaces of the ancient Persian kingdom. To the west, it was baked in the kitchens of the wealthy Roman mansions, and then in the kitchens of the Byzantine Empire until the fall of the latter in 1453 A.D.

In the 15th Century A.D., the Ottomans invaded Constantinople to the west, and they also expanded their eastern territories to cover most of ancient Assyrian lands and the entire Armenian Kingdom. The Byzantine Empire came to an end, and in the east Persian Kingdom lost its western provinces to the invaders.

For four hundred years from 16th Century on, until the decline of Ottoman Empire in 19th Century, the kitchens of Imperial Ottoman Palace in Constantinople became the ultimate culinary hub of the empire. The artisans and craftsmen of all Guilds, the bakers, cooks and pastry chefs who worked in the Ottoman palaces, at the mansions of Pashas and Viziers, and at Provincial Governor (Vali) residences etc., had to be recruited from various ethnic groups that composed the empire. Armenian, Greek, Persian, Egyptian, Assyrian and occasionally Serbian, Hungarian or even French chefs were brought to Constantinople, to be employed at the kitchens of the wealthy. These chefs contributed enormously to the interaction and to the refinement of the art of cooking and pastry-making of an Empire that covered a vast region to include the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Persia, Armenia, Iraq and entire Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa and the Mediterranean and Aegean islands.

Towards the end of 19th Century, small pastry-shops started to appear in Constantinople and in major Provincial capitals, to cater the middle class, but the Ottoman Palace have always remained the top culinary "academy" of the Empire, until its end in 1923. There was a special reason for baklava being the top choice of pastry for the Turkish Sultans with their large Harems, as well as for the wealthy and their families. Two principal ingredients, the pistachio and honey, were believed to be aphrodisiacs when taken regularly. Certain spices that were added to baklava, have also helped to fine-tune and to augment the aphrodisiac characteristics of the pastry, depending on male or female consumer. Cinnamon for females, and cardamom for males and cloves for both sexes.

From the 18th century on, there was nothing much to add to baklava's already perfected taste and texture. There were however, some cosmetic modifications in shaping and in the presentation of baklava on a baking tray (called Sini). The Phyllo dough (called Youfka) which was traditionally layered and cut into squares or triangles, were given a "French touch" in late 18th century. As the Empire began opening itself to Western cultural (and culinary) influences, the General manager (Kahyabasi) of the Imperial Kitchen didn't miss the opportunity to hire Monsieur Guillaume, a former pastry chef of Marie Antoinette, who in exile at the Ottoman Turkish Palace after learning how to bake baklava, created the "dome" technique of cutting and folding of the baklava squares which was named "Baklava Francaise" (Frenk Baklavasi) after the nationality of its creator. 

Well here's a non-traditional, but  part of my tradition, recipe from  Cooking Light for Chocolate Baklava! Originally from 1998, this recipe was updated for the November 2012 Cooking Light 25th Anniversary issue. Hazel-nut spread is something you can make yourself  (here's a great recipe for Home Made Nutella from Recipe Girl) or you just buy a jar of Nutella (or another brand). So versatile. Remember to keep the  phyllo dough sheets covered when not using, so they don't dry out.


3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup sweet butter, melted

Combine honey, water and cinnamon stick in medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey dissolves. Increase heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer reads 230° (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; cover to keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Put Nutella inmicrowave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted. Combine nuts, cinnamon and salt in small bowl.

Lightly coat 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing ends of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly brush with butter. Repeat procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and butter. Drizzle about 1/3 cup melted Nutella spread over phyllo. Sprinkle evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 1/2 cup). Repeat procedure twice with phyllo, butter, Nutella and nut mixture. Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter. Press gently into pan.

Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 5 crosswise cuts to form 24 portions using sharp knife. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until phyllo is golden. Remove from oven and drizzle honey over baklava.

Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover; store at room temperature.

Because phyllo sheets are thin and delicate, handle with care so you won't tear the sheets. Keep the sheets you are not working with covered so it won't dry out.

Friday, November 16, 2012


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

I love Mixes in a Jar, and I've posted Chocolate Cookies in a Jar, Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar, Chocolate Brownies in a Jar, Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pie in a Jar, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar, and several others.

These Pumpkin Pie Bars in a Jar with Chocolate Chips are very tasty, although FYI: the recipient really has to add a lot of other ingredients. Be sure and add the instruction card to the jar. I usually cover the top of the jar with burlap or fabric and attach the card with raffia tied in a bow around the neck!


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

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

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

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

On the Recipe Card (attach to Jar) write: 

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

Preparing Bars:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil; grease foil lining.
Remove walnuts, chocolate chips, pecans and oats from Jar and place in small bowl.
Remove granulated sugar into small bowl.
Put brown sugar and flour in medium bowl.
Measure 1/4 cup granulated sugar and add to flour mixture. Stir to evenly blend.
Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Fold in oats, walnuts (pecans) and chocolate chips.
Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, eggs, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake 25 minutes.
Lift from pan by grabbing edges of foil. Cool completely. Yield: about 24 bars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Photo: Sunset Magazine
Today is National Bundt Day. According to Nordic Ware, the original makers of the Bundt Pan, "if there is a kitchen in the home, there is a Bundt pan."  Even if there's not, I think my kitchen makes up the difference. I have all kinds of bundt pans. I find the shapes so versatile and fun. I'm always buying unique bundt pans at the Flea Market or White Elephant Sale. Because of the popularity of the Bundt pan, Nordic Ware designated November 15 as National Bundt Day 6 years ago.

"Today, there are nearly 60 million Bundt pans in kitchens across the continent," says David Dalquist, President of Nordic Ware, and son of the company's co-founders. "Almost a Bundt pan in every pantry... the cultural embrace of The Bundt is now seen as a uniquely American phenomenon.

In honor of Nordic Ware's 65th Anniversary this year and to continue celebrating the popularity of the Bundt® Pan, Nordic Ware held its inaugural "History Hunt," intended to unearth some of the first Nordic Ware Bundt® Pans sold over 65 years ago. I'll keep you posted on the results. I'm sure I have a few packing away in my garage :-)

Here are some Nordic Ware Pumpkin Bundt Pans for Thanksgiving!

Nordic Ware: Great Pumpkin Bundt Pan
And in keeping with the National Bundt Day Holiday Spirit, here's a recipe from Sunset Magazine (Charity Ferreira: 2003) for Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Bundt Cake. This marbled bundt cake features two separate batters: chocolate and pumpkin. The original recipe calls for a chocolate glaze, but that's optional. The cake is rich enough as it is.


1-1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) sweet butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (I use an all natural canned pumpkin)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup buttermilk

1. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape half mixture into another bowl.
2. To make pumpkin batter: Beat pumpkin into half the butter mixture until well blended. In another bowl, stir together 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed or fold in with flexible spatula just until blended.
3. To make chocolate batter: In another bowl, mix remaining 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cocoa. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the other half of the butter mixture (starting and ending with flour mixture), beating after each addition just until blended.
4. Spoon half the pumpkin batter into a buttered and floured 12-cup bundt-cake pan. Drop half the chocolate batter by spoonfuls over (but not entirely covering) the pumpkin batter. Repeat to spoon remaining pumpkin and chocolate batters into pan. Gently run the blade of a butter knife around the center of the pan several times, then draw the knife across the width of the pan in 10 to 12 places to swirl batters.
5. Bake in 350° regular or 325° convection oven until wood skewer inserted into center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto rack, lift off pan, and cool cake completely.
Nordic Ware: Turkey Bundt Pan

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Truffles: Pumpkin Pie Truffles

See's Pumpkin Pie Truffles
I seem to be on a Pumpkin spree this week which shouldn't be surprising since Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away.

I think that there is nothing quite like a good Pumpkin Pie Truffle for the feast or as a hostess gift (how retro is that?) or for yourself. Luckily you have the choice of buying them or making them. They're easy to make, but I am quite fond of the See's Candies Pumpkin Pie Truffle. Seasonal flavors are popping up in chocolate shops everywhere. Check out your local chocolatier or check out the Chocolate Companies that make seasonal Pumpkin Truffles listed at the end of this post. Get your order in before they run out.


I always have natural pumpkin in the cupboard. Besides using it for pies, truffles and cakes, it's great for doggie upset stomachs. I also have Libby's pumpkin puree because I grew up with it, and sometimes it's just what I want. I'm not much for making my own pumpkin puree. Lazy, I guess.

Truffles are so simple to make and yet seem so elegant. Pumpkin Truffles are perfect for Thanksgiving, and they make great hostess gifts. The following recipe is from the FoodNetwork for Easy Pumpkin Truffles. They are just that--easy and delicious. But in case you want to experiment, I've added some links to other Pumpkin Truffle and Pumpkin Pie Truffle recipes.

Easy Pumpkin Truffles

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground gloves
2 cups cream
1 pound dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce sweet butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
6 ounces melted dark chocolate
3 ounces cocoa powder

In medium saucepan over low heat, combine pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until mixture reduces by half and pumpkin looks dry. Set aside.
In medium saucepan over high heat, add cream. When cream boils, take off heat.
In heatproof medium bowl, add chocolate and hot cream. Let mixture sit for minute, then slowly begin to stir, starting in center of bowl and working outwards.
Once chocolate and cream are evenly mixed, add pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.
Add butter and liqueur, if using.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
On parchment lined cookie sheet, scoop mixture into small balls using melon baller.
Place in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until chilled.
Remove truffles from refrigerator and dip each in melted chocolate.
Roll in cocoa powder and serve.  (Add some orange sprinkles for color*)

Other fun Pumpkin Truffle Recipes to check out:

Pumpkin Pie Truffles from Cake, Batter, and Bowl: Robed in orange white chocolate with insides of dark chocolate pumpkin ganache. Love the walnut half as a pumpkin stem.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles from The Yummy Mummy: White chocolate, gingersnaps, cream cheese and more. What's not to love?

Pumpkin Pie Truffles from Shugarysweets: Pumpkin-y centers robed in white chocolate.

Pumpkin Truffles from Cara's Cravings. Yum!

No time to make Truffles? Try these fabulous Pumpkin Truffles:

Knipschildt: White chocolate pumpkin ganache with a hint of nutmeg enrobed in rich, dark chocolate and topped with a toasted pumpkin seed. Available at Dean & DeLuca

Godiva: Pumpkin Patch Truffles filled with creamy pumpkin-spice ganache and enrobed in milk chocolate.

See's Pumpkin Pie Truffles: Sweet spicy flavors of cinnamon and allspice combine with the rich mellowness of real pumpkin in these one-of-a-kind Truffles. Enrobed in See's traditional milk chocolate.

Monday, November 12, 2012


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

I've posted several recipes for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, but this is one of the best and easiest!  This is from my friend Annmarie Kostyk, the Chocolate Goddess.

I love making this Easy Chocolate Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving, but I make a Chocolate Crust. I can never have enough chocolate! :-)


2 Tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can pumpkin (16 oz.)
1 unbaked pie shell  (or make a chocolate cookie crust)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup dark chocolate (chopped), melted with 1 tablespoon butter

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

Photo: Annmarie Kostyk

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fudgy Chocolate Cookie Bars: Vintage Ad & Recipe

Another great vintage recipe. You've probably made something like this before, but here's the original magazine ad and recipe. Of course, I substitute other chocolate chips and cocoa--and I always use butter, but here's the original recipe!

(Makes 24 to 36 bars)

1 3/4 cups unsifted flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1 cup cold margarine or butter
1 (12-ounce) package HERSHEY’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 (14-ounce) can EAGLE BRAND Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350°. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and cocoa; cut in margarine until crumbly (mixture will be dry). Press firmly on bottom of 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt 1 cup chips with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Pour evenly over prepared crust. Top with nuts and remaining 1 cup chips; press down firmly. Bake 20 minutes or until set. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

Thanks to the no longer updated website: recipecurio. I've been making these for a long time with various adaptations, but this is the original recipe.

Friday, November 9, 2012


I don't know what your plans are for this weekend, but I know where I'll be. Sunday, November 11, is the Fall Luxury Chocolate Salon in San Francisco, and once again, I'll be judging. It's such a difficult job, but someone's got to do it!

November 11, 2012, 10 am-5 pm
Fort Mason, Building A, San Francisco, CA

Here are some of the highlights of this year's Chocolate Salon. Hope to see you there!

Chocolate aficionados, fanatics, lovers and addicts can taste & experience the finest in artisan, gourmet & premium chocolate in one of the world's great culinary regions.

The Fall Luxury CHOCOLATE SALON participants include over 30 chocolatiers, confectioners, wineries and other culinary artisans. An intimate setting, the Fall Chocolate Salon is the perfect place to find the perfect gift, while tasting and savoring the chocolate lovers experience.

2012 Participants include Amano Artisan Chocolate, The TeaRoom Chocolate Company, Saratoga Chocolates, Toffee Talk, Smitten: Artisan Truffles, La Chatelaine Chocolat Co., Toffeeology, Jade Chocolates, Feve Artisan Chocolatier, Socola Chocolatier, Sixth Course Artisan Confections, Clarine's Florentines, Plumeria Flours, Butterfly Brittle, CocoTutti, Marti Chocolatt, Snake & Butterfly, Quail Point Chocolates, Rachel Dunn Chocolates, Kallari Chocolate, Be A Gourmet, Farm Fresh To You, Gems and Silver Jewelry, The Winery SF, Jerk'NPickle, TasteTV, and more.

Salon highlights include chocolate tasting, chef & author talks, wine tasting and ongoing interviews by TasteTV's Chocolate Television program

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, and what could be easier and better than some Dark Chocolate Almond Bark. Dark chocolate and almonds, both heart-healthy foods! Here's a simple go-to recipe.


12 ounces dark chocolate (65-75% cacao)
1 cup toasted almonds (in the oven), coarsely chopped  (some people like them whole/your choice)
Sea salt

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate until smooth in top of double boiler or saucepan placed over another saucepan with simmering water.
Set aside 6 Tbsp almonds
Stir remaining almonds into melted chocolate.
Pour mixture onto cookie sheet. Spread to 1/2-inch thickness.
Sprinkle remaining almond pieces over mixture. Sprinkle sparingly with sea salt.
Tap pan on the counter until bark is desired thickness.
Refrigerate for about 6 hours or until firm.
Break into pieces.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chocolate Curls and Grated Chocolate: Tuesday Tip

Sometimes you want grated chocolate or chocolate curls to decorate a cake or cupcakes or pancakes or other foods. Today's Tuesday Tip: Chocolate Curls and Grated Chocolate

Lots of people have different techniques. Let me know which you use or if you have some other advice. The following is in no particular order :-)

Some people swear that you should put the chocolate in the freezer for about 10 minutes before you use any of the following techniques. Others say to melt the chocolate in a pan and then refrigerator but soften slightly before working with it. So here are 8 different tips!

1. Grating: Cut chocolate into a chunk that fits comfortably in your hand. Grate the chocolate using a microplane grater, handheld grater, or the smallest holes on a box grater.

2. Curls: use a cheese slicer. Depending on what type of curls you want--thick or then.. depends on pressure you use.

3. I've been known to use a vegetable peeler.

4. And, I've also used a drum grater (Mouli Grater). Friction doesn't melt the chocolate, and there's no heat from your hands.

5. And here's a good way to make Chocolate Curls with softer chocolate: Let milk chocolate or white baking bar come to room temperature, then carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the bar. For small curls, use the thin side of the chocolate piece; for large curls, use the broad surface.

6. More info on Chocolate Curls, especially if you're going to be making a lot of them. Take a block of chocolate-1 lb. (if you don't have one, melt chocolate and put in cake pan to harden. Run knife around edges to loosen and invert). Place on heavy or sturdy surface and use a clean cheese slicer.

7. An alternative would be to melt the chocolate and put it on a cooking sheet.. use spatula to spread. Put in refrigerator, and test that it's not too soft. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a metal spatula.. curls!

8. Once curls are made, I usually put them on parchment paper until ready to use.. and sometimes store them in the fridge or a cool area if I'm not ready.

Designs: Curls, Fans and other shapes.

And whatever you do, be sure and Practice.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Donut Appreciation Day: Retro Ads & Recipe

Today is National Donut Appreciation Day. This is not the same holiday as Doughnut Day which falls on the first Friday in June. So in honor of the holiday, and I do appreciate a good donut, I'm posting several Retro Ads from the 40s, 50s and 60s for Donuts! Scroll down for a Crisco Sugar Donut recipe from the Crisco Cookbook.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Last month I reported that Michelle Obama was declared the winner of the Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off. Her white and dark chocolate-chip cookies defeated the M&M cookies submitted by Republican rival Ann Romney. However, with the election looming, I thought you might want to do your own Bake Off and Voting this weekend. Below you'll find both recipes. Let me know what you decide.

Here are the official statistics: Obama won with 51.5 percent of the nearly 10,000 votes submitted, compared to the 48.5 percent of the votes garnered by Romney.  Of the dozens of polls that forecast the next presidential election, this one is the sweetest: The bake-off has gone on to accurately predict the general election outcome all but once since it began.

The first contest took place in 1992, when Hillary Clinton’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies trounced Barbara Bush’s classic chocolate chip recipe. Four years later, Clinton used the same recipe to defeat Elizabeth Dole’s pecan rolls.

In 2000, voters chose Laura Bush’s Texas Cowboy Cookies over Tipper Gore’s gingersnaps. They gave Bush another win in 2004 by selecting her oatmeal chocolate chunks over Teresa Heinz Kerry’s pumpkin spice cookies.

The only time the cookie test failed to accurately predict who would next claim the White House was in 2008, when Obama’s lemon zest shortbread cookie recipe lost to Cindy McCain’s oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe. That win didn’t come without controversy — McCain was accused of copying the recipe from a Hershey’s website.

For this year’s bake-off, Obama submitted a “splurge” recipe created by the godmother of her daughters. Romney, a baking enthusiast, submitted a recipe for M&M cookies she claims her grandkids can’t resist.

From Michelle Obama: Every evening, Barack, the girls and I sit down for a family dinner with good conversation and healthy food. If we want to splurge, these White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, created by the girls’ godmother, is the perfect special treat.

Michelle Obama:
Mama Kaye’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies Bake at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts

1. Heat oven to 375°.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.
3. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.
5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets.
6. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Ann Romney's
M&M's Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies, Bake at 325 for 18 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (such as Karo)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda 6 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&M's candies

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M's.
 3. Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dagwood's Chocolate Sandwich: National Sandwich Day

What is more fitting than Dagwood's Chocolate Sandwich for National Sandwich Day. I believe that Dagwood probably would have added lots of other ingredients such as bananas and peanut butter, and that would be great, but how can you go wrong with chocolate, butter and good bread?

I've posted several Chocolate Sandwiches over the years,  so today I turn to my "Tie-In" Cookbook collection and Blondie's Cook Book for today's recipe. Dagwood is the iconic King of Sandwiches. My Dad used to make Dagwood Sandwiches... those were the sandwiches that contained every thing but the kitchen sink. FYI: My father never added chocolate.

Dagwood Bumstead, in case you don't know, is one of the main characters in comic artist Chic Young's long-running comic strip Blondie. He first appeared in the U.S. sometime prior to February 1933.

What's Cooking America defines the Dagwood Sandwich as a multi-layered sandwich with a variety of fillings. The term is used to denote a sandwich put together so as to attain such a tremendous size and infinite variety of contents as to stun the imagination, sight, and stomach of all but the original maker. Dagwood sandwiches is a term so well-known that it's in the Webster's New World Dictionary.

According to the creator of the comic strip, Murat Bernard “Chic” Young (1901-1973), the only thing that Dagwood could prepare in the kitchen was a mountainous pile of dissimilar leftovers precariously arranged between two slices of bread. Dagwood became known for his huge sandwiches he created on evening forays to the refrigerator. The comic strip is produced today under the direction of the creator's son, Dean Young, the strip has continued to keep up with the times.

Blondie's Cook Book: Chic Young's Classic Cook Book with New Comic Art Selections by His Son Dean Young (Gramercy Books, New York 1947, 1996)

This Comic says it all:

CHOCOLATE SANDWICHES RECIPE: Not sure how many sandwiches (or layers) this is supposed to make, but that's a lot of sugar. I've never made this recipe, so I'm thinking it might be a mistake.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day of the Dead Hot Chocolate

2 teaspoons good-quality ground cocoa
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture
1 cup whole milk

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

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

Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to organize a Chocolatada Day of the Dead party?  
Check out this post on The Holy Enchilada.