Monday, December 31, 2012

Champagne Truffles: Ring in the New Year

December 31 is National Champagne Day. A Perfect Food Holiday for New Year's Eve. I do a lot of wine/champagne chocolate pairing events with my company TeamBuilding Unlimited, and we often have trivia quizzes. How many bubbles in a bottle of champagne? 49 million to 250 million! Now, that's a lot of bubbles.

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

Martha Stewart's Champagne Truffles
Makes about 3 dozen

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

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

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

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

Photo: Martha Stewart website

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chocolate Reflections: Food Holidays, Chocolate and Me

As the year comes to an end, I once again reflect on this blog. I posted this a few years ago, but I think it still sums up my intentions in blogging about chocolate every day.
Many years ago I read The Five Year Sentence by Booker Prize winner Bernice Rubens. In it a woman who works in a sweets (candy) factory is preparing for her last day of work. She’s cleaned her house, and she’s checked the oven. Everything is ready for her return from the day when with nothing left to do in her life, she will return home and turn on the gas. Fate intervenes, and she is given a 5 year diary as a retirement gift. It’s as if she’s been given  ‘a five year sentence’. She feels she has an obligation to write an entry each day. The novel takes some imaginative turns, and Bernice Rubens, a quirky writer, should be sought out and read.

Sometimes I feel like the woman in The Five Year Sentence…not the suicide bit… but being given a ‘purpose’ to do what I do. When I started this blog, I followed a similar thought process, and although I do posts with chocolate reviews, chocolate news and recipes as they strike me, a lot of the time I post recipes that coincide with the Food Holiday of the Day. They’re at the top of my ‘Diary’.

Surprisingly every day is some sort of Food Holiday (See The Nibble). Even if some Food Holidays aren’t specifically chocolate food holidays, just about everything goes well with chocolate, so I post a chocolate recipe! The big holidays are easy: Christmas, Easter, Passover, Halloween…lots of chocolate, but there are some very esoteric food holidays, such as:

Chocolate Covered Insect Day (October 14): Chocolate Scorpions (not for the faint of heart)

National Cocoa Day (December 12): Recipe Round up from Mexican to Peppermint

National Espresso Day (November 24): Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

California Strawberry Day (March 21): Strawberry Extra-Chocolately Brownies

White Chocolate Day (September 23): White Chocolate Cheesecake

National Pecan Day (April 14): Chocolate Pecan Pie

Be sure and search for more Food Holidays and easy chocolate recipes.

As well as writing chocolate posts to fit a particular holiday, I do something similar on my mystery blog, Mystery Fanfare. On Mystery Fanfare, along with posts about the mystery world in general, I am drawn to dates and holidays and make extensive lists of titles that fit the holidays. Have a look at my Christmas Crime Novels list that is so big this year that I divided it into 5 posts. I’ve also posted Halloween Mysteries, Memorial Day Mysteries, Father’s Day Mysteries, Mother's Day Crime Fiction and lots of other holidays.  I also post Chocolate Recipes on those days.

I suppose I’m still in school with the teacher giving me a topic to use as a springboard, or as in Bernice Rubens’ novel, a day in a diary to fill in. I’m so lucky to write about my passions chocolate and crime fiction! This isn’t to say I don’t stray a bit with reviews and recipes off list, but for the most part I find it fun to fulfill the day and holiday… in mystery and in chocolate.

So, you might say my whole life is about mystery and chocolate. How sweet it is!
Next Holiday: New Year's! Watch for New Year's Eve Champagne Truffles and New Year's Crime Fiction on my blogs! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday "Cooky" Inspiration: Retro Ad & Recipe

If you're still baking this week, you'll love this Retro Pillsbury Flour Advertisement from November 14, 1949 (Life Magazine) for Holiday Cooky Inspiration

 "5 Kinds of cookies from just 1 cooky dough" 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CHOCOLATE FRUITCAKE: National Fruitcake Day

December 27 might seem a little late for National Fruitcake Day, but as they say, better late than never.  If you're like me, you're saying Fruitcake? Really? That over-inebriated rock hard cake with artificial fruit that gets passed around the family kind of like a white elephant gift? Well, it doesn't have to be. There are actually some wonderful recipes for Chocolate Fruitcake.

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

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

Chocolate Fruitcake

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

Today is National Candy Cane Day, so I thought I'd make something a little different. It actually would have been easier to just dip Candy Canes in Chocolate, great for stirring in coffee or hot chocolate) or make some Candy Cane Fudge, but since I like food on a stick, I thought I'd make Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Marshmallows--the stick, of course, is a candy cane. I've made Smores on a Stick, and they turned out great, so I essentially did the same thing substituting a small candy cane for the plain stick and using crushed candy cane pieces for the graham cracker crumbs. These, didn't turn out very pretty, but they're incredibly tasty! Oh well, I learned a few things.. trial and error.


Melt good quality dark chocolate in a saucepan on top of another saucepan with simmering water.
Crush candy canes.. Here's the rub.. I should have left the candy cane pieces chunkier.. I kind of pulverized them.
Put a small curled candy cane in center of marshmallow.
Holding candy cane, dip marshmallow in melted chocolate.
Immediately swirl the marshmallow in crushed candy cane bits (or spoon candy cane bits over chocolate).
Put finished Candy Cane Chocolate Marshmallow on parchment lined cookie sheet. I recommend putting them flat with the candy cane straight up. I didn't do that, and as you can see, they were wobbly.
When you've dipped them all, put them in the refrigerator to firm up.

History of the Candy Cane from   

During the 17th century, Europeans adopted Christmas trees as part of Christmas celebrations, and they often made cookies and sugar stick candy as decorations. The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's staff. The all white candy canes were given out to children during the nativity services. This tradition of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America.

The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when German immigrant August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.

About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Father Christmas eats a Kit Kat

Father Christmas has to watch his weight--well he is eating all those cookies and mince pies all over the world, so after a hard sleigh ride on Christmas Eve, he pours himself a cup of tea and eats a Kit Kat--only 107 calories. I love this ad. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peelabanana for Santa: Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

O.K. I know Bananas don't jump to mind when you think Santa and Christmas, but the United Fruit Company thinks you should. Check out this cool Retro 1967 Ad from the United Fruit Company. There's a recipe for Banana Quick Bread on the ad, but I am posting my favorite Banana Bread recipe--with Chocolate Chunks, of course. Santa can use the extra energy from the chocolate. Want to be festive? Double the recipe and bake it in a holiday bundt pan.


2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 ounces dark chocolate (70-85% cacoa) very coarsely chopped (I like them big)

Heat oven to 350ºF. Stir eggs, bananas, oil and milk until blended. Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir until just moistened. Stir in chocolate.
Pour into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cook in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool on wire rack.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bonne Maman Chocolate-Berry Sandwich Cookies

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Candy Cane Frosting: Cleo Coyle

Photo: Cleo Coyle
Over at Mystery Fanfare, I've been posting hundreds of titles of Mysteries set during the Christmas holidays. One of the latest is Cleo Coyle's Holiday Buzz. Cleo Coyle has been a guest blogger here on, and you know I just love when my Mystery and Chocolate worlds collide. Cleo Coyle's "holiday special" is HOLIDAY BUZZ and is available in both digital and paperback formats.

HOLIDAY BUZZ is the perfect holiday read! Mix up some Candy Cane Frosting for Cleo Coyle's Aphrodisiac Brownies and enjoy the holidays. For more fabulous recipes--and great photos-- from Cleo Coyle, go to an internet coffeehouse for readers of Cleo Coyle's Coffehouse Mystery series, where coffee and crime are always brewing.

Postcard Photos: Cleo Coyle

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guinness Truffles for Christmas

I love Guinness  truffles. How great to have some of these Chocolate Guinness Truffles around for the holidays. Make a lot. There won't be any left over! These really do taste like Guinness, and Guinness goes so well with Chocolate!


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

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

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chocolate Figgy Pudding Recipe: Vintage Christmas Cat and Figgy Pudding Cards

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

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

Continuing the Retro holiday theme, today I address Figgy Pudding. One other question, can you add chocolate? Yes! Scroll down for Ghirardelli's recipe for Chocolate Figgy Pudding.

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


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

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

Ghirardelli Chocolate Figgy Pudding

3 eggs
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
4 cups soft bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped suet
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups chopped dried figs
3/4 cup Ghirardelli's Ground Chocolate
1/2 cup hot milk
3/4 teaspoon salt

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

Hard sauce:  Great recipe at The Pioneer Woman

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Retro Christmas Mince Meat Ad & Chocolate Mincemeat Pie Recipe

There's something very odd about the notion of mincemeat pie, albeit, it's all in the name. For many Mincemeat Pie is a holiday tradition. I saw this Retro Advertisement with a tip from Elsie, the Borden Cow, and I just had to post it. Too Funny! So here's a little history on Mincemeat Pies--and a recipe for individual Chocolate Mincemeat Pies!

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

History of Mincemeat from:

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

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


280g/10 oz plain flour, sifted
125g/4½ oz icing sugar, sifted (powdered/confectioners sugar)
50g/2 oz cocoa powder, sifted
pinch salt
200g/7 oz cold butter, diced
2 free-range egg yolks
500g/1 lb 2oz ready-made mincemeat
2 clementines, zest and juice
2 tbsp milk
1 free-range egg, beaten

Mix flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a bowl. Mix in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in egg until the mixture comes together in clumps (you may need to a little cold water).
Knead the dough briefly until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and leave to chill in refrigerator for one hour.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Mix mincemeat, clementine zest and juice together in a bowl.
Remove pastry from fridge, and roll out to thickness of 0.5cm/¼in.
Using a 7.5cm/3in fluted cutter, stamp out 12 discs from the pastry and use them to line a 12-hole bun tin.
Fill each hole with two teaspoons of mincemeat mixture and brush edges with a little milk.
Using a 6cm/2½in fluted cutter, cut out 12 circles and use them to top the mince pies, pressing the edges together with your fingertips.
Re-roll any remaining pastry and cut our snowflakes or star shapes to decorate the top.
Brush top of each mince pie with beaten egg and gently place the decorations on top, then brush again with egg.
Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo: Pattie Tierney
Just in time for more holiday cookie baking, I welcome back my favorite food bloggers and friend Pattie Tierney. Pattie blogs at Olla-Podrida. We share similar passions, two of which are mystery and chocolate! So when I saw Pattie's link to her Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies on Facebook yesterday, I asked if I could repost it here on This recipe is great. According to Pattie, the dough can be made ahead or refrigerated for up to three days--or wrapped in foil and frozen for up to three months. You'll have freshly baked cookies throughout the holidays.

Pattie Tierney is a blogger, reader, traveler, diner, jewelry-maker, and lover of all things chocolate and mysterious. Visit Pattie's Etsy store for really cool and crafty mystery jewelry, and check out her mouth-watering blog: Olla-Podrida. Follow her on Twitter @pattietierney


Born from my love of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate, this cookie has been filling my cookie jar since the early eighties when I first began to experiment with cookie recipes. None of them ever had enough chocolate taste to suit me, so I had to come up with something on my own. This crunchy, chocolaty cookie with just a hint of spice satisfied those chocolate cravings like nothing else ever could. It has since become one of my family's favorites, so I hope you like it too.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 extra large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled*
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips*

Cream butter with sugars using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat in egg and melted chocolate.
Sift flour with baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a medium sized bowl.
With mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do not over beat!
Stir in remaining cup of chocolate morsels until thoroughly incorporated.
Turn dough out onto board and divide in half.
Form each portion into a ball and then roll ball into a cylinder approximately 2 inches in diameter by 10 inches long.
Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut chilled dough into 1/4" slices.
Arrange on sheets leaving about 2 inches of space between each cookie. These do not spread, so a bit of crowding is acceptable.
Bake cookies for 15 minutes.
Remove from over and allow to cool on sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

* In both instances I use the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips. The chips are rather large, so I roughly chop those that are stirred into the dough for ease of slicing. The richness of flavor is assured by using this brand.

Photo: Pattie Tierney

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Egg Nog evokes the holiday spirit, and Chocolate Eggnog... well how delicious can you get? Love it! So many variations... Following are three great recipes. FYI: this wonderful rich drink can be spelled as one word or two: egg nog or eggnog, so I'm going to change it up in the recipes below.

The History of Eggnog From Wikipedia:

The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog may have originated in East Anglia, England; or it may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk.

The "nog" part of its name may come from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol. However, the British drink was also called an Egg Flip (from the practice of "flipping" (rapidly pouring) the mixture between two pitchers to mix it).

Another story is that the term derived from egg and grog, a common Colonial term used for the drink made with rum. Eventually, that term was shortened to egg'n'grog, then eggnog. One very early example: Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797 (published in 1800) wrote: "The American travellers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together;..."

In Britain, the drink was popular mainly among the aristocracy. Those who could get milk and eggs mixed it with brandy, Madeira or sherry to make a drink similar to modern alcoholic egg nog. The drink is described in Cold Comfort Farm as a Hell's Angel, made with an egg, two ounces of brandy, a teaspoonful of cream, and some chips of ice, where it is served as breakfast.

Eggnog crossed the Atlantic to the English colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute. The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America. When the supply of rum to the newly-founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute.

The Eggnog Riot occurred at the United States Military Academy on 23–25 December 1826. Whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make eggnog for a Christmas Day party. The incident resulted in the court-martialing of twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier.

Chocolate Eggnog
 from Woodhouse Chocolate via The Nibble

6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
Dash of salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces of quality dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Bourbon
Whipped cream
Gresh-grated nutmeg for garnish

Place chopped chocolate in medium mixing bowl and set aside. Also have at the ready the heavy cream in measuring cup or pitcher.
In second medium-size bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in milk, then pour mixture into saucepan.
Heat egg mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 160°F. Be careful to heat gently and remove from heat as soon as the mixture reaches 160°, or eggs will curdle.
Pour about 1/2 cup of hot egg/milk mixture over chocolate and pour rest back into bowl in which you whisked it in. Immediately, stir cold cream into the egg/milk mixture in bowl (not chocolate bowl). With small whisk, start whisking in center of chocolate mixture, working in small, circular motions to emulsify chocolate.
When you have smooth, homogenous mixture, gradually add rest of egg/milk mixture.
Whisk in vanilla, nutmeg and Bourbon.
Chill for several hours, preferably overnight, to mellow flavors.
Serve cold, with dollop of whipped cream and sprinkling of grated nutmeg.

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Egg Nog 
from Martha Stewart

2 quarts whole milk, plus more if needed
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
4 cinnamon sticks
12 egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
3 ounces milk chocolate, melted
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups brandy
Whole nutmeg, for garnish
Cayenne pepper, for sprinkling

Heat 2 quarts milk, sugar, salt, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon sticks inlarge pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and mixture is heated through. Remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Prepare ice-water bath. Whisk yolks in medium bowl until pale, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 cup of milk mixture into yolks in slow, steady stream. Whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes. (Do not boil.)
Remove pot from heat, add melted bittersweet and milk chocolates, and stir until incorporated. Discard vanilla pod and cinnamon sticks.
Pour mixture into a large bowl set in ice-water bath, and let cool, stirring often.
Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Pour cooled eggnog into large serving bowl, and add brandy (Add more milk to eggnog if necessary to reach desired consistency.)
Top with whipped cream. Grate nutmeg over top, and sprinkle sparingly with cayenne.
Serve immediately

Easy White Chocolate Egg Nog 
from Sandra Lee, Food Network

1 quart egg nog
1/2 cup white rum
1/2 cup white chocolate liqueur
1 cup whipped topping
Grated white chocolate, for garnish
Pumpkin pie spice, for garnish

In punch bowl, combine egg nog, rum, and white chocolate liqueur.
When ready to serve, whisk egg nog to make it frothy and pour mixture into cups.
Place 1 heaping tablespoon of whipped topping into each cup.
Garnish each with grated white chocolate and sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Swedish Chocolate Balls: Chokladbollar

Here's a post and super easy chocolate holiday recipe from my friend Sue Trowbridge. Sue was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and grew up in the U.S., but she has maintained her interest in Swedish culture, food and traditions. She now does web and ebook design in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sue Trowbridge: Chokladbollar

This is a no-bake recipe, and it’s super easy and fun for kids. I used to make these when I was a youngster. Oh, and before you ask, no, these are not related to another Christmas treat, Schweddy Balls.

You’ll need 7 tablespoons of softened butter and 2/3 cup of sugar. Stir them together well — this step requires strong arms!

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of strong coffee (liquid). I rarely make coffee at home — I’m mainly a tea gal — but luckily, my parents had left some in the freezer so I had some on hand.

Add the coffee, a teaspoon of vanilla and two tablespoons of cocoa to the butter/sugar mixture.

Add 1 1/3 cup of quick oats. Stir, stir, stir!

The result looks a little bit like my mom’s Swedish meatball mixture.

Using 1 teaspoon of mixture at a time, roll into small balls. Roll these in coconut, coating well. It will make your hands extremely greasy and messy, which meant I had to stop in the middle and wash my hands so I could take this picture. It can be difficult to serve as both chef and photographer!

The result. You will want to eat them immediately, but don’t — stick ‘em in the fridge for an hour or two, or, in a pinch, the freezer for about half an hour.

I made these to bring to a holiday party, and they disappeared quickly, but then again, so did pretty much everything. Still, I like to imagine that the people who managed to get one enjoyed it. I’m still annoyed that I missed out on my friend Trish’s chocolate bark with Australian sea salt because I didn’t get to the dessert table quickly enough…

Here is the recipe in full:


7 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp strong coffee (liquid)
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 1/3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup coconut for coating

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla, coffee, cocoa and oats. Mix well. Using 1 teaspoon of mixture at a time, roll into small balls. Roll these in coconut, coating well. Refrigerate. Makes about 30.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bûche de Noël

A Bûche de Noël is not for the faint of heart. The few times I've had this Holiday Classic, I've bought it at a French Bakery. Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec and other French related countries. Basically it looks like a log ready for the fire.

The traditional Bûche de Noël is made from a Genoise (see recipe below) filled and frosted with buttercream. The Bûche de Noël is frosted to look like a piece of the branch has broken off. Sometimes there are fresh berries and meringue or marzipan mushrooms.

Bûche de Noël is one of my favorite holiday desserts. The log represents the hearth - -the center of the house, and this yule log (Bûche de Noël) will be the center of your holiday table.

Here's the Bûche de Noël recipe from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri (HarperCollins, 2002) reprinted on If I were to make this, I know I'd do a more traditional chocolate butter cream, but the coffee buttercream sounds good. If you opt for chocolate buttercream, you could always add a little Kahlua.

Bûche de Noël


Coffee Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons sweet butter, softened
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp rum or brandy

1 Chocolate Genoise Sheet, recipe follows

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup 
For Finishing:
Cocoa powder
Red and green liquid food gel
Confectioners' sugar


To make the buttercream: Whisk egg whites and sugar together in bowl of electric mixer. Set bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until sugar is dissolved and egg whites are hot. Attach bowl to mixer and whip with whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to paddle and beat in softened butter and continue beating until buttercream is smooth. Dissolve instant coffee in liquor and beat into buttercream.

Turn genoise layer over and peel away paper. Invert onto fresh piece of paper. Spread tlayer with half buttercream. Use paper to help roll cake into a tight cylinder. Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve remaining buttercream for outside of buche.

To make the marzipan: Combine almond paste and 1 cup of sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half corn syrup, then continue mixing until bit of marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; marzipan in bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

To make marzipan mushrooms
: Roll 1/3 of marzipan into 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder.  

To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 remaining marzipan and roll it into long cylinder. Flatten with back of a spoon, then loosen it from surface with  spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use cutter.

To make holly berries: Knead red color into tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.

To make pine cones: Knead cocoa powder into remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with points with scissors.

Unwrap the cake
. Trim the ends on diagonal, starting cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position larger cut piece on buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover buche with reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak buttercream with fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer buche to platter and decorate with marzipan. Sprinkle platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."

Chocolate Genoise Sheet

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment

Set rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Half-fill medium saucepan with water and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat so water is simmering.
Whisk eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Place over pan of simmering water and whisk gently until mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach bowl to mixer and with whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until egg mixture is cooled (touch outside of bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.
While eggs are whipping, stir together flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.
Sift 1/3 of flour mixture over beaten eggs. Use rubber spatula to fold in flour mixture, making sure to scrape all way to the bottom of bowl on every pass through batter to prevent flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with remainder.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to touch. (Make sure cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)
Use small paring knife to loosen  cake from sides of the pan. Invert cake onto rack and let cake cool right side up on paper. Remove paper when cake is cool.


Now this is a lot of work. As I mentioned, when I have a Bûche de Noël, I buy one at my favorite French Bakery, but if you have the time... try this!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

National Cocoa Day: Cocoa Recipe Round-Up

Today is National Cocoa Day, and it's blustery out there, so be sure and try one of these recipes to warm you up! I always post on National Cocoa Day, and this is an updated post with some new recipes. Cocoa or Hot Chocolate, whatever you call it, it's great!

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

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

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

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon Madegascar vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces 75-85% cacao chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil

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

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

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons Unsweetened Dark Cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

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

Argentinian Hot Chocolate

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

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

Mexican Hot Chocolate

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

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

Mexican Hot Chocolate II

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

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

Honey Hot Chocolate   
The flavor of your cocoa will change with the variety of honey. Try lavender honey, sage, wildflower. I get my honey from Beekind. They carry many local varieties, but also have international honeys. Available in Sebastopol and the Ferry Building in San Francisco, plus Internet.

4 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons honey
4 cups milk

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

Hot Chocolate with Brown Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

Spicy White Hot Chocolate

4 cups milk
7 oz. good white chocolate (Guittard, Ghirardelli), chopped
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon

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

Peppermint White Chocolate Cocoa (is that redundant?)

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

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

Candy Cane Cocoa   
variation on recipe from Sean Paajanen at

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

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

Pumpkin Pie Cocoa from Pattie Tierney

Cocoa in a Jar: Great for gifts or just to have on hand -- and so many variations!

About the photo: This Vintage Advertisement for Cadbury Cocoa is special to me. First, my niece-in-law is a descendent of the founders of Cadbury Chocolate company. Second, my sister, Judie Siddall, is the President of the Transferware Collectors Club and sells antique blue and white transferware (pottery), similar to what is pictured in this advertisement, although, her wares are much older. She can be found at Merlin Antiques.  And, we all like chocolate, so it's all in the Family!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe & Cool Gingerbread Cookie Cutters

Christmas is a great time to bring out the Cookie Cutters. Here are some favorites that are perfect for Chocolate Gingerbread Men. Be sure and scroll down for a Recipe for awesome Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and some Gingerbread Cookie Icing Tips!
Yoga Cookie Cutters Set 1: Lotus Group from Patti Paige Baked Ideas

Yoga Cookie Cutters Set 2: Down Dog from Patti Paige Baked Ideas

GingerDead Men Cookie Cutters:

NinjaBread Men:

Fred ABC Cookies Cutters: Which part do you eat first?

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
This awesome recipe is from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito - Food & Wine Magazine


3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sweet butter, softened
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
2 ounces dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), melted and cooled

1. In medium bowl, whisk flour with cocoa powder, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In bowl of standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat softened butter with shortening at medium speed until mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add egg to cookie batter and beat until incorporated. Beat in molasses and then melted chocolate. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating between additions. Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each part into a disk, then wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate cookie dough until chilled, about 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough 1/4 inch thick. Using 4- to 5-inch cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Reroll dough scraps and cut out more cookies.
4. Bake cookies for about 7 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking until tops are dry. Let cookies cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Gingerbread Cookie Icing Tips!!

You can make Royal Icing or try this Recipe for Mascarpone Filling that doubles as Decorating Icing. Put it in a bag and pipe! Or use Wilton Decorating Icing in the squeeze bottles.

Decorate your cookies. Let stand until icing dries, about 30 minutes.

Make Ahead: Chocolate gingerbread cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Recipes

Holiday Cookie Time. There's nothing quite like Chocolate and Peppermint to evoke the holidays. Here are two wonderful recipes for totally different Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies. Make one or both recipes! You'll love these.

This first recipe is adapted from Sunset Magazine and uses their Chocolate Decadence Cookie recipe.

1. Chocolate Peppermint Patty Sandwich Cookies

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup sweet butter, cut into chunk
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Put chocolates and butter in medium metal bowl set over pan filled with simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Whisk in eggs and sugar, mixing until combined.
Whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt.
Chill dough, covered, until firm, about 2 hours.
Let dough sit at room temperature 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 Tbsp portions of dough, rolling each into a ball, flatten into 1/4 inch thick rounds with palm of hand and put on sheets 1 inch apart.
Bake cookies until they no longer look wet on top, about 8 minutes.
Let cool on baking sheets.

In bowl, mix 3 cups powdered sugar, 4 tbsp. milk, and 3/4 tsp. peppermint extract.
Spread 1 heaping tsp. peppermint icing onto flat side of 1 cookie.
Top with flat side of second cookie to form sandwich, pressing together to squeeze filling to edge. Roll edge of cookie in crushed and sifted candy canes.

I've also made this amazing recipe for Peppermint Bark Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe by Garrett McCord on Simply Recipes. To make these cookies, you can purchase peppermint bark or make your own.


1 cup of butter
3/4 cupbrown sugar
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tps baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup peppermint bark, broken into little chip size pieces

1 Preheat oven to 350°F.
2 Creambutter and sugars together for about two minutes at medium speed or until well incorporated and light in color.
3 Add egg and vanilla extract until well incorporated, about minute. Be sure to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl halfway through.
4 Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Add to butter mixture slowly, and beating at medium speed, stopping once all is incorporated (do not overmix).
5 Fold in peppermint bark chips.
6 Take small spoonfuls of dough and roll into one inch sized balls and place onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for -12 minutes. Let cool on pan forfew minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chocolate Cream Puffs: National Pastry Day

Today is National Pastry Day, and Cream Puffs are one of the easiest pastries to make, and incredibly versatile. You can stuff them, top them, add flavoring to the choux and really change them up! For example, during the holidays, you can make a Croquembuche, a pyramid of cream puffs drizzled with chocolate or spun sugar. You can stuff Cream Puffs with all manner of sweet and savory fillings.

The Cream Puff is a baked puffed shell of choux pastry. In spite of the Betty Crocker Vintage Ads from the 1950s for Cream Puff mixes displayed below, they're really simple to make from scratch.  Following is an easy basic recipe for Cream Puffs and Chocolate Cream, as well as a non-traditional recipe for Chocolate Cream Puffs.


1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (some people use bread flour and that will really give these a different taste and texture, give it a try)
4 eggs

Preheat Oven to 425.
1. In large pot, bring water and butter to rolling boil.
2. Stir in flour and salt until mixture forms a ball. Transfer dough to large mixing bowl.
3. Using wooden spoon or mixer, beat in eggs one at time, mixing well after each.
4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
6. When the shells are cool,  split and fill.
How easy is that!

Chocolate Cream Filling

14 ounces dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar


1. Place chocolate in top pot of a double boiler over simmering water in lower pot (or in a saucepan over another saucepan that has simmering water). Stir just until chocolate melts, then remove from heat.
2. Pour cream into bowl. Using electric mixer set on high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 20 seconds.
3. Pour all of melted chocolate into whipped cream quickly, continue to mix on high speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute.
4. Place chocolate cream in clean pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe into bottoms of cooled cream puffs. Replace tops on filled bottoms and serve immediately. Alternatively, spoon cream onto bottoms being careful not to put too much. Of course, it looks pretty when it's piped!

Or you can make Chocolate Cream Puffs. The following recipe adds cocoa to a traditional cream puff recipe. Stuff with sweetened whipped cream. You don't need to add the sugar in the cream puff recipe, but I find the chocolate cream puffs taste a little better since there's no sugar in the cocoa. Of course, you could try this recipe with sweetened cocoa. Let me know what you think if you do that.


1 cup water
1/2 cup sweet butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs

Preheat Oven to 400.
1. Combine flour, cocoa and sugar in small bowl.
2. In heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring water, butter and salt to a boil.
3. Stir in flour, cocoa, sugar mixture, until smooth ball forms. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth and shiny.
5. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls (golf ball size), 3 inches apart onto greased (or parchment lined) baking sheets.
6. Bake (in middle of oven) at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set and browned.
7. Remove to wire racks. Let cool before splitting.
Cool puffs completely before filling with whipped Cream, Ice Cream, or whatever!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

National Brownie Day: Brownies Recipe Round-Up

Photo: Ghiradelli Gluten-Free Brownies
Today is National Brownie Day. I've posted so many recipes for Brownies over the years, including my favorite, Aunt Sylvia's Brownies. Here's a Round-up of many of the Brownie Recipes. I'm sure I didn't catch them all, but it's a start. Feel free to add links to your own favorites in the comments. Be sure to scroll down for some 'vintage' brownie recipes and variations circa 1958.

Brownie Recipe Round-Up

Aunt Sylvia's Brownies

Peppermint Bark Brownies

Guy Fawkes Night: Bonfire Brownies

Peanut Butter Toffee Cheesecake Brownies

White Chocolate Brownies with Macadamia Nuts 

Full Moon Brownies

Fudgy Mocha Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies

Kahlua Brownies

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Strawberry Extra-Chocolately Brownies

Ghirardelli Gluten-Free Brownies

S'mores Brownies from a Mix

S'mores Brownies from Scratch

Gravenstein Apple Chocolate Brownies

Cocoanut Golden-Brownies

Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Chocolate Raspberry Beer Brownies

Bacon Brownies

Brandy Alexander Brownies

Double Chocolate Fresh Cherry Brownies

Candy Corn Brownies

Halloween Oreo Brownies

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Passover Flourless Brownies (2 recipes)

Dutch Process Cocoa Brownies

"Mounds" of Brownies

Brownies in a Jar

And even more variations on this page from Good Housekeeping's Book of Cookies (1958). Brownies, after all, are a type of Bar Cookie!