Friday, January 15, 2021

FUDGE TRUFFLE CHEESECAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

I just love Retro Ads with Recipes. Here's one from Hershey's with an especially delicious recipe for Fudge Truffle Cheesecake. Let me know what you think when you make this. I love it!




Thursday, January 14, 2021

ICELANDIC COCOA SOUP aka Kakósúpa: National Soup Month

January is Soup Month.  Several years ago, my friend Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations (sadly Louise passed away and her website was taken down) sent me a link to Cocoa Soup. The thickening agent is what makes this a soup and not a steaming hot cup of cocoa. So here's a recipe to warm you up today.


Icelandic Cocoa Soup, Kakósúpa, although it uses potato or cornstarch, is not all that thick. Nevertheless, it has a different texture and taste from regular drinking cocoa. Give it a try. The savory Cocoa Black Bean Soup definitely has a different flavor with the addition of the cocoa.

According to the website Gestgjafinn, Sweet Dessert Soups are common in Iceland and Northern Europe. This unusual dessert soup often surprises visitors to Iceland, who will not encounter it at restaurants but may be served it in private homes.

Icelandic Cocoa Soup

Ingredients
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups water
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon potato starch or 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of Salt

Directions:
Mix cocoa powder, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan.
Add water gradually and stir until smooth.
Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add milk, reheat to boiling point and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Mix potato starch or cornstarch with a little cold water, stir into soup, and remove from heat.
Salt to taste and serve.
Serve with crushed zwiebacks.

For a fancier version, use 3 ounces dark chocolate (55-75% cacao) instead of cocoa powder and serve soup with whipped cream instead of zwiebacks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: National Gluten Free Day!

Today is National Gluten Free Day! So many of the readers of this blog are gluten-free, so I thought I'd post two of my favorite Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies recipes. Do you have a favorite? Post a link below.

The first recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies is from King Arthur Flour. This is my favorite. I definitely want vanilla in my chocolate chip cookies! If you're not following King Arthur Flour on Twitter or Facebook, it's time. I get their emails, too. Their photos are enticing but even more, their products and recipes are fantastic! Just a heads up, I usually bake with unsalted butter, especially when I'm adding salt to the recipe, so I've designated that in both the following recipes. The original recipes didn't.

1. Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 1/3 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts, optional

Directions
Beat butter, sugars, vanilla and salt till fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time, being sure to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl midway through to make sure everything is well combined.
Whisk together flour or flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, and baking soda.
Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture, then blend in chocolate chips and nuts. Again, scrape bottom and sides of bowl to be sure everything is well blended.
Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour, or for up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line with parchment.
Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto prepared baking sheets; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Leave space betweencookies so they can spread.
Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest on baking sheets for 5 minutes, to set, before transferring to racks to cool completely. Or allow to cool right on baking sheets.

This second Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe is from Rachael Ray. It's quick and easy. As I've said before, you can never have enough recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, especially Gluten-Free. Try both recipes and see what you think!

2. Rachael Ray's Easy Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups of gluten-free baking flour
1 tsp baking soda 

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup of crushed pecans

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheet.
In medium sized bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and stir until blended. Slowly add  gluten-free flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop teaspoon sized cookies onto prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until slightly brown and not wet.
Let cookies cool for 5 minutes before taking them off sheet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN COOKIES: National Marzipan Day!

Today is National Marzipan Day. I love marzipan, and I usually have some around, but for today's holiday, here's an easy recipe from Santa Barbara Chocolate for Chocolate Marzipan Cookies (or truffles, if you don't squash them down and bake them). 

What exactly is marzipan

Marzipan is an elastic paste made with almonds and powdered sugar. It's like an edible dough, and you can make shapes with it, and, of course, enrobe it in chocolate.

History of Marzipan from Serious Eats:
The invention of marzipan is usually attributed to Lübeck, Germany. Legend has it that during a 15th century famine when flour for making bread became scarce, the senate of Lübeck ordered bakers to create a replacement. Using eggs, sugar, and stores of almonds, the clever bakers came up with marzipan. But cities like Venice, Florence, Konigsberg and more all lay claim to inventing marzipan and put forth similar stories with different dates, making it hard to determine where the sweet actually came from.
Although the origin of marzipan is fuzzy, it has clearly been embraced by many different cultures and is enjoyed worldwide. Marzipan is a traditional food to eat on weddings and religious feast days in Italy, Greece, and Cyprus.
In Latin America, a popular marzipan-like treat which replaces the almonds with peanuts is called "mazapan." In Mexico, pine nuts and pistachios are other substitutes for almonds in marzipan. You can find marzipan in the Middle East, too, usually flavored with orange-flower water. In Germany and throughout much of northern Europe it is considered good luck to receive a marzipan pig on Christmas or New Year's Day. The Spanish and Portuguese are big consumers of marzipan too. But perhaps the form of marzipan that Americans are most familiar with are the cute little miniature fruit shapes that pop up all over.

Whatever the origins, there is nothing quite like chocolate and marzipan! So for today's holiday here's an easy and original recipe for Chocolate Marzipan Cookies from Santa Barbara Chocolate Company.

CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN COOKIES

Ingredients
1 cup of almonds, peeled
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup Rainforest Bulk Cocoa Powder
1 egg or 2 tbsp honey - egg is used in the traditional marzipan recipe (but use honey if you don't want to use raw eggs)
Chocolate sprinkles

Directions
Chop peeled almonds and put them in blender or food processor. Blend until you get almond flour texture. Be careful to blend really well to avoid big chunks.
In saucepan add almond flour, Cocoa Powder, and powdered sugar, mix together. Incorporate egg in middle and place over low heat. Stir continuously until all ingredients are combined. Keep stirring for 5 minutes and then take off heat. Place in refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes before decorating. This way the marzipan is going to hold its shape. 
When chilled, roll dough into a tube shape. Pull off pieces and make into balls. Cover balls with chocolate sprinkles to decorate. Place on baking sheet and slightly press down with back of spoon. Let set in refrigerator for 5 minutes more and serve.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie: National Milk Day!

Today is National Milk Day, and according to "Anonymous" who frequently comments on this blog, there's nothing quite like a tall glass of milk with chocolate brownies, cookies, or cakes!

So to celebrate National Milk Day, here's a very simple recipe that includes a cup of milk: Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie. It's a great combination of healthy foods to give you a boost in the morning or mid afternoon!

CHOCOLATE BANANA PEANUT BUTTER SMOOTHIE

1 cup Milk
1 ripe Banana (or frozen banana)
1 cup Ice
2 Tbsp Vanilla Greek Style Yogurt
3 Tbsp Chocolate Syrup
2 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter

In a blender, combine milk, banana, yogurt, ice, chocolate syrup, peanut butter, and blend until smooth.
Pour into glass and drink.

How are you celebrating National Milk Day?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

Since I review, eat, and bake chocolate, the word bittersweet isn't really part of my lexicon. Although I have purchased chocolate that is labeled bittersweet, I buy chocolate based on its origins, fair-trade, and amount of cacao. Bittersweet is just too vague a term for me. Nevertheless today is Bittersweet Chocolate Day, so I'm celebrating!

According to Wikipedia, Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate not liqueur) to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as 'couverture' (chocolate that contains at least 32 percent cocoa butter); many brands (the ones I like) print on the package the percentage of cocoa (as chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter) contained. The rule is that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate will be. The American FDA classifies chocolate as either "bittersweet" or "semisweet" that contain at least 35% cacao (either cacao solids or butter from the cacao beans).

So using this definition, almost any of my recipes will work since I use mostly very dark chocolate.

Here's a recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Bundt Cake adapted from Nestle Toll House's Chocolate Pound Cake recipe. It's easy and delicious. If you use Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bars, be sure and add more sugar to the recipe.

I don't usually make a glaze, but I've included the recipe in case you'd like to. Sometimes I sprinkle this cake with powdered sugar, as in the photo. This cake goes well with ice cream or whipped cream, too!

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE


INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp Instant Coffee Granules (something you'll only use for this)*
8 ounces dark chocolate (75%-85%), chopped, divided (save 2 oz for glaze if you're making it)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
3 large eggs

CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

FOR CAKE:
PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan.
COMBINE flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl. Bring water and coffee granules to boil in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add 6 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth.
BEAT sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat on high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture alternately with chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared Bundt pan.
BAKE for 50 to 60 minutes or until long wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Place on plate.

Optional: Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze or Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar

** Sometimes I pour the glaze over the bundt cake while it's still a bit warm. That way, the cake absorbs the glaze, and it's extra chocolatey delicious!

FOR CHOCOLATE GLAZE: 

Melt remaining 2 ounces of chocolate with butter in small, saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar alternately with water. Stir in vanilla extract. Drizzle over cake.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

CHOCOLATE APRICOT CREAM CAKES: National Apricot Day

Today is National Apricot Day! Add Chocolate. Here's a Retro Baker Ad and recipe for Chocolate Apricot Cream Cakes. Perfect to make today! As a bonus, the second recipe for Chocolate Upside Down Cake can be made with apricots instead of peaches.



Friday, January 8, 2021

TOFFEE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES: National English Toffee Day

Today is National English Toffee Day. I love English Toffee. I always have toffee around, and today is the perfect day to bake bake some cookies using Toffee. 

Here's a great recipe that combines my love of Peanut Butter Cookies with English Toffee. I have a toffee hammer (well, I have three of them) for breaking up toffee. Clearly this is something I like to do! The small hammers used to come with the toffee tins. Very cool. As always, use the very best peanut butter and toffee.

Toffee Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup sweet butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 ounces Toffee Bits

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.
Whip butter with peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugars until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another bowl, sift together dry dry ingredients, then mix into batter. Fold in Toffee bits.
Scoop cookies onto ungreased baking sheet.
Lightly flatten each cookie with fork or back of hand.
Bake for 10 minutes for chewy cookie or 13 minutes for crunchy one.
These cookies will fast become favorites!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Gingerbread House


 

ENGLISH TOFFEE TRUFFLES: National English Toffee Day

Tomorrow is English Toffee Day, and if you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know I love Toffee. I've been a Toffee Judge for the International Chocolate Salon for five years. So to celebrate the day, here's a recipe for English Toffee Truffles. This easy recipe is adapted from myrecipes.com. As always, the flavor will change with the quality of your ingredients, so use the very best!

English Toffee Truffles

Ingredients
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp whipping cream
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
5 small English Toffee-flavored candy bars, crushed (i.e. Heath Bars or Chopped Toffee)

Directions
Heat chocolate and butter in saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Remove from heat; stir in cream. Let cool 5 minutes. Stir in pecans.
Cover and chill 2 hours or until mixture is firm.
Shape chocolate mixture into 1" balls; roll in crushed toffee candy.
Store truffles in refrigerator up to one week.

Tips: Crush toffee bars easily by sealing them in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag, crush with a rolling pin. Use a 1 1/4" metal scoop to shape into truffles. It streamlines the process.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD FINGERS: National Shortbread Day!

Today is National Shortbread Day. Since Shortbread is all about butter, use the very best butter in the following recipe! A few years ago on National Shortbread Day I posted Michael Recchiuti's recipe for Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. They're absolutely delicious and worth the time and effort. This year for National Shortbread Day, I'm more about easy and quick, so here's my favorite recipe for Chocolate Shortbread. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. You can also make cookies using this recipe, but that's for another day. I use unsalted butter in this recipe, but then I use unsalted butter in just about every recipe!

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD FINGERS

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups plus two Tbsp all-purpose flour
4-1/2 Tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened  (this is really key.. butter should be room temperature)
1 cup superfine sugar (ok, I have this on hand, but if you don't, put granulated sugar in the blender. Be sure and measure again)
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Directions
Preheat oven to 325F. 
Butter 12 x 8 inch pan. Line with parchment paper.
In bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda until combined.
Place butter and superfine sugar in mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy – three to four minutes (use the paddle attachment). Scrape down sides of bowl and add flour mixture. Beat on medium until just combined.
Spread dough in pan, using spatula or your fingers to even out the surface. Freeze dough until firm – approximately 15 minutes. Prick dough all over with tines of a fork, and place in oven. Bake 20 (to 30) minutes. Dough should be just firm to the touch.
Place pan on wire rack to cool. While still hot, cut dough into strips, and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Dough should cool completely in pan.

For a twist: Sprinkle sea salt on top instead of sugar--or a mixture of both.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM: Milk, Dark, & White for National Whipped Cream Day!

Today is National Whipped Cream Day. I've posted many recipes that call for whipped cream including chocolate whipped cream for National Cream Puff Day. Today I have three recipes for Chocolate Whipped Cream -- milk, dark, and white.

Chocolate Whipped Cream is terrific to add to desserts, fill cream puffs, and even add to your coffee. There are so many creative uses. Whipped Cream is easy to make, and it's delicious. You can use it as an icing or filling. You can use it with just about anything you would use regular whipped cream for, including Chocolate Strawberry Short Cake!

The first recipe for Milk Chocolate Whipped Cream is from Martha Stewart. Martha uses chocolate whipped cream for the filling of chocolate sandwich cookies. Fabulous!  I love these Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Whipped Cream, and you can use any chocolate cookie recipe!

The second Chocolate Whipped Cream Recipe uses a lot more chocolate, and it's dark chocolate. Which chocolate you choose depends on what you like and what you have.

The third Chocolate Whipped Cream is from the Queen of Chocolate, Alice Medrich. It's for White Chocolate Whipped Cream. Of course, Medrich has great recipes for Dark and Milk chocolate, too, so check out her recipes online and in her many cookbooks.

The Retro Advertisement is for Reddi-Wip! Don't use a can if you have the ingredients and time to make your own. It's so much better!

Photo: Martha Stewart

1. CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM  
(from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients
4 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp sugar

Directions
Place chocolate in medium bowl; set aside.
Heat sugar and 1 cup cream in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until sugar has dissolved.
Pour cream mixture over chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted. Let cool.
Transfer chocolate mixture to electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add remaining cup heavy cream and beat on medium speed until thick and fluffy.

How easy is that?

2. DARK CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM (from Sherry Yard)

I really love this recipe from Sherry Yard for Chocolate Whipped Cream. It's definitely more of a rich whipped ganache, but then isn't that what it's all about? Sherry Yard was the executive pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago in Beverly Hills and shared this recipe on Cookin' with Good Morning America (December 25, 2003). It's also in in her book Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts.

Ingredients
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp sugar

Directions
Using serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place in medium heatproof bowl.
Bring cream and sugar to boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Immediately pour hot cream over chopped chocolate. Tap bowl on counter to settle chocolate into cream, then let sit for 1 minute.
Using rubber spatula, slowly stir in circular motion, starting from center of bowl and working out to sides. Stir until all chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.
Pour ganache into medium container, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. It should be consistency of peanut butter.
Once ganache has chilled, transfer to large bowl. Using balloon whisk, whip ganache by hand until it just reaches soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Be sure to lift whisk out of cream with each pass to bring in as much air as possible. Do not overwhip. Don't worry if cream doesn't seem firm enough. It will have consistency of mustard but will solidify more after it sets in the refrigerator. You can also use a hand mixer.
Use this cream immediately to fill pastries, tarts, and cakes. After dessert is filled, refrigerate for about 1 hour to set the Chocolate Whipped Cream.

3. White Chocolate Whipped Cream from Alice Medrich

Ingredients
4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp water
A pinch or two of salt (optional)

Directions
Put chocolate in medium bowl.
Bring cream and water to simmer in saucepan and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds, then stir well.
Let stand for 15 minutes to finish melting chocolate, then stir again until every last bit of chocolate is melted into cream. Let cool. Taste and add salt, if desired.
Cover and refrigerate for at least several hours, or until completely chilled.
To serve, whip the cream with electric mixer until it holds a shape.
Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

And, as always, your final product will only be as good as your ingredients. Use the best. Here's one of my favorite whipping creams!



Monday, January 4, 2021

COOKIES AND CREAM MICKEY CUPCAKES: The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook

If you're a Walt Disney Parks fan, you're probably lamenting the fact that you've been unable to go this past year, at least here in California. And, because of the pandemic, you're probably doing a lot more cooking and baking. Well The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook will bring a bit of the Walt Disney magic into your own kitchen. This book features 100 Disney-inspired recipes ranging from the classic Dole Whip and Mickey Pretzels to new favorites like blue milk from Star Wars land and Jack Jack’s Cookie Num Nums from Pixar Pier. 

The cookbook is organized by park — from Disneyland to Epcot, Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Animal Kingdom — and showcases recipes for some of the amazing foods you can find from Main Street USA to Galaxy’s Edge. With The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook, you can explore every delicious nook and cranny the parks have to offer, all without leaving the comfort of your own home. 

And, since this is a Chocolate blog, here's one of my favorites from the cookbook:

Cookies and Cream Mickey Cupcakes

Main Street, U.S.A., Disneyland

Candy Palace on Main Street, U.S.A., was renovated in 2012 and given a very sweet interior. Many of the features are meant to look edible, such as the chandelier that seems to be dripping ice cream, and the exit sign shaped as a wrapped candy. And among its actually edible creations are delectable, supersweet Cookies and Cream Mickey Cupcakes. Topped with the iconic mouse ears, these popular treats are easy to whip up and sure to please.

 

YIELDS 24 CUPCAKES

For Cupcakes

3 tablespoons salted butter, softened

1 12 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 13 cups all-purpose flour

14 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

34 cup cocoa powder

14 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

1.      ‌To make Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.

2.      ‌In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and sugar. Using the flat beater attachment, cream together well. Add eggs and vanilla. While mixer is running, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt; continue mixing until well combined. Add milk slowly.

3.      ‌Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins, filling cups just above halfway.

4.      ‌Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, about 1 hour, before frosting.


For Frosting

12 cup salted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons heavy cream

10 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed

48 mini chocolate sandwich cookies, whole

1.      ‌To make Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, and heavy cream. Using the flat beater attachment, whip until light and fluffy. Add crushed cookies and mix until combined.

 

2.      ‌Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Swirl a generous amount of frosting on each cupcake, creating a pointed mound. Stand a mini sandwich cookie upright on either side of pointed mount to create Mickey Mouse ears.


MIX IT UP

Frosting swirls are adorable, but if you prefer less frosting on your cupcakes, you can just use a knife to spread a thinner layer of frosting on top of the cupcakes—enough to push in the mouse ears.

***

Excerpted from The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. Copyright @2020 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Photography by Harper Point Photography. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

How Bean to Baked Goods at Real Chocolate Shops Inspired The Bean to Bar Mysteries: Guest post by Amber Royer

AMBER ROYER:

My Bean to Bar Mysteries series is my newest foray into the realm of all things chocolate.  Ever since I did the chocolate cookbook (my first chocolate-related project), I have made it a point to visit chocolate shops/factories whenever I travel (oh, pre-COVID travel, how I miss you!) so that I can Instagram my favorite flavors and wrappers.  As a result, Felicity’s shop is basically a combination of some of the coolest aspects of different shops I’ve seen – from the bean to baked good aspect, to the artistic labels that tell her story, to the coffee and dirty horchata station to keep visitors in the shop.

I acknowledge that in some ways this may be unrealistic.  For instance, I have her just starting out, but she’s already visited origin to purchase beans for one of the chocolates she’s working on.  But I gave her the funds to do so because I wanted to be able to write about the most interesting aspects of craft chocolate.  After all, it is those kind of visits – in person or virtual -- that allow craft chocolate makers to sell you a story, of the farm the beans came from, of the care that went into turning those beans into something special.

But once you’ve bought that special chocolate, how can you show it off?  Consider baking with it.

Although most baking recipes call for blended-origin chocolate, so that you don’t have to take into account a particular chocolate’s flavors to get the “chocolaty” notes people expect, you can intentionally use the specific flavor notes of single-origin chocolate to either reinforce or contrast other flavor notes in a dish.  This is why a chocolate with a lot of tannins, which often comes across as citrus, goes well with lemon or bergamot flavors.  Chocolate with bright, fruity notes can often be paired with – or even take the place of – raisins or cherries. 

If you’re going for contrast, pair a fruity chocolate in a crust for a more savory cheesecake base.  A bitter chocolate layer can be the foil for a super-sweet filling.

And look for unexpected ways to be playful.  A tip I picked up from one maker that also has a café: chocolate with smoky notes go great in anything s’mores-inspired.

In Grand Openings Can Be Murder, Felicity’s assistant Carmen makes baked goods from Felicity’s chocolate.  One of the things she makes is chocolate-chunk pan dulce – in this case Besos (the word is Spanish for kisses), also known as yo-yos, because that’s what they look like.  There are a number of variations on what they’re sandwiched together with, and how they’re coated. 

Here’s a snippet of the scene from the book, showing how Carmen makes hers:

Logan takes a mini chocolate-chunk beso off the plate that had been under the glass cloche. “If Carmen’s innocent, then Monaco’s our main suspect. Unless you think it was Paul.”

“I’m not sure it was either of them. . . .”

I pick up one of the besos too and bite into it. Besos are a traditional Mexican sweet bread, made from a raised dough baked as two half spheres. Carmen had added chunks of my fruity Sierra Nevada chocolate to the mix, and joined the pieces with home-made strawberry jam and rolled the whole thing in fine coconut that had been infused with lavender. Traditional, yet elevated.

NOTES: If you’re up for making your own jam, you can infuse it with vanilla bean, which Carmen would have done for added depth of flavor. If you plan well in advance, you can make proper lavender infused sugar by layering lavender and sugar in a jar and shaking it once a day for about a month, then sifting out the flowers.  What I’m detailing below is a quick version that grinds the flowers into the sugar.


Single Origin Chocolate Chunk Mini Besos

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, plus one additional yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup water

1 cup chocolate chunks

1 tablespoon food grade lavender flowers

1 tablespoon caster sugar, plus 2 additional tablespoons

1 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup strawberry jam

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, yeast and baking powder. Set aside.

Place the softened butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and cream the mixture until it becomes fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla, then mix until well combined  Add the flour mixture, the water, and the vanilla extract.  Mix on low for 1 minute, to combine and then increase the speed to medium. Continue mixing until the dough takes on a soft, smooth texture (about 10-20 minutes). Add the chocolate chunks and work them into the mixture using your hands or a spoon.

Using a 2-ounce baking scoop or the palm of your hand, place half spheres of dough roughly 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the spheres are browned (about 15-20 minutes). Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, combine the lavender flowers and the tablespoon of caster sugar. Grind until you achieve a fine powder, then put the powder through a fine-mesh strainer. Re-grind any remaining solids. Discard anything that won’t go through the strainer. Place the lavender sugar in a medium bowl, add the remining caster sugar and the coconut flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of strawberry jam on the flat side of one cooled beso half. Place another half, flat side against the filling to create a sandwich with the jam in the middle.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes to stick better. 

Using your fingers, coat the cooled beso halves with the room-temperature butter. Roll into coconut sugar mixture, then tap off the excess coconut.

***

Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS: National Cream Puff Day

Today is National Cream Puff Day. 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 in so many ways! 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.

A Cream Puff is just 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 recipe for non-traditional Chocolate Cream Puffs.

CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 tsp 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

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

Chocolate Cream Filling

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

Directions

Place chocolate in top pot of 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.
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.
Pour all of melted chocolate into whipped cream quickly, continue to mix on high speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute.
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!
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Or you can make Chocolate Cream Puffs. The following recipe adds cocoa to a traditional cream puff (choux) 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.

CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp sugar
4 eggs

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



Friday, January 1, 2021

CHOCOLATE RESOLUTION CAKE: New Year's Day

Have you made your New Year's Resolutions? This Retro advertisement from 1952 begins, "Here's a resolution you can make from this minute on..." This Ad is 70 years old.. but the recipe, if not the Dexo, is still fun and easy. This Chocolate Clock Cake is perfect to celebrate the New Year- and the new decade!

Dexo was a brand of hydrogenated vegetable shortening similar to Crisco: "Blendable, dependable and thrifty."

CHOCOLATE RESOLUTION CAKE