Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans: National Espresso Day

Today is National Espresso Day! Maybe you already celebrated with an espresso this morning. Maybe not? 

Espresso is a great ingredient to add to lots of chocolate food: truffles, brownies, cookies, cakes. It enhances the flavor of the chocolate. But I also adore Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans... the rich sweetness of the dark chocolate and the crunchiness of the espresso bean. Of course, depending on how many you eat, you could be wired up for days! I usually have some of these in my purse. Never know when you might need them!

FYI: You can use either coffee or espresso beans. The taste will change with the type of chocolate and the type of bean. Experiment with chocolate from different areas and different amounts of cacao, as well as coffee from different parts of the world! However, I'm a big fan of Espresso Beans! I like the contrast and the espresso beans are already very roasted.

CHOCOLATE COVERED ESPRESSO BEANS

Ingredients
1/3 cup roasted espresso beans
1/2 cup dark chocolate, 70%-85 % cacao, organic, fair trade

Directions
Melt chocolate until smooth in double boiler or saucepan over saucepan over simmering water. Remove from heat. Drop in a handful of beans and stir around. Lift out with two salad forks (letting extra chocolate drip a little back into the mixture), and put beans on wax paper (or silpat mat). Keep beans separated. Continue until all beans are covered and on paper or mat. Let beans dry completely. They will harden overnight, but you can freeze them for about half an hour, if you can't wait! Once hard, the beans won't stick together. Store in air-tight container.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chocolate Cashew Butter

Today is National Cashew Day. Now contrary to what you might think, Cashews are not nuts. They're really seeds of the cashew drupe, a member of the poison ivy family! The cashew’s seed lining contains a powerful irritant called anacardic acid (which is why they are never served or sold in their skins). The botanical name Anacardium refers to the shape of the fruit, which looks like an inverted heart.

So to celebrate National Cashew Day, I'm posting a recipe for Chocolate Cashew Butter. Don't get confused. This is nothing like Nutella, the popular chocolate hazelnut spread. However, it can be used in the same way. It's fabulous on toast! Making your own nut spread is easy. And, since you're in charge of the ingredients, you can play around with the ingredients until you're satisfied (less sugar or honey//roasted or raw cashews, etc). The texture of Chocolate Cashew Butter is grittier than you'd expect, but that's what makes it so good! You don't want to refrigerate this nut butter, as the oil will separate. Nothing perishable in the ingredients, so don't worry. This Chocolate Cashew Butter also makes a great gift! This recipe is adapted from TheDabblist.com.


CHOCOLATE CASHEW BUTTER

Ingredients
1-3/4 cup cashews (roasted or raw)
1/2 tablespoon oil (mild-flavored oil is preferred--but I've tried coconut oil) If you use coconut oil, don't put it in the fridge.. well, this nut butter doesn't need to refrigerated, anyway.
2 Tbsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
2 Tbsp sugar (or honey)
Dash Madagascar vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Directions
In food processor, puree cashews with oil until mixture becomes creamy.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse together until totally combined.
Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gingerbread Truffles: National Gingerbread Day!

Today is National Gingerbread Day! Now, I will be posting lots of gingerbread recipes as we get closer to Christmas, but in honor of today's holiday, here are three very different recipes for Gingerbread Truffles. All three are terrific. As always, adapt the recipes to your needs or to what you have on hand. I always have different types and brands of chocolate at the ready. The secret--well, it's not really a secret--is to use the very best ingredients.

These three recipes for Gingerbread Truffles will reproduce the taste of Gingerbread Dough enrobed in chocolate! Be creative in your decorations--from sprinkles to sugars to candied ginger... it's up to you! Perfect for Thanksgiving and all the upcoming holidays!

The First Recipe for White Chocolate Gingerbread Truffles is from Elizabeth LaBau at About.com 
The Second Recipe for Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Recipe is from Epicurious.
The Third Recipe is for White Chocolate Gingerbread Truffles from Organic Authority.

Do you have a favorite?

WHITE CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TRUFFLES

Ingredients:
1 cup white chocolate chips (or Green & Black White Chocolate Bar broken up)
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped nuts
2.5 cups gingersnap crumbs (about one 12-oz box)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Directions:
1. Place white chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent overheating.
2. Once white chocolate is melted, add corn syrup, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. If it seems to be separating, stir gently with whisk until it comes back together. Stir in gingersnap crumbs, powdered sugar, all spices, salt, and chopped nuts. Place mixture in refrigerator until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.
3. Using teaspoon or small scoop, make balls by rolling between palms.
4. Place granulated sugar in small bowl, and roll balls in the sugar--or roll in powdered sugar.
Want to get fancy? Roll the balls in colored sugars (red or green or gold?) or dip them in dark chocolate!
Keep them in refrigerator until you're ready to serve them, and then let them warm bit to room temperature.

DARK CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TRUFFLES

Ingredients
3/4 cup whipping cream
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 Tbsp mild-flavored (light) molasses
1 1/2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
7 ounces plus 12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
7 ounces plus 12 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger plus additional for garnish

Preparation
1. Bring first 7 ingredients just to boil in heavy medium saucepan; remove from heat and let steep 1 hour.
2. Combine 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 7 ounces white chocolate in large metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Strain cream mixture into chocolate; stir to blend. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger. Chill filling until firm, at least 3 hours.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment. Using melon baller or small scoop, scoop filling and roll between palms to form balls. Place on parchment. Chill truffles at least 2 hours.
4. Line another sheet with parchment. Place 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Cool until thermometer inserted into chocolate registers 115°F. Quickly submerge 1 truffle in chocolate. Using fork, lift out truffle and tap fork against side of bowl so excess coating drips off. Using knife, slide truffle off fork and onto prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. Chill until set.
5. Line another baking sheet with parchment. Place 12 ounces white chocolate in another medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Cool until thermometer inserted into chocolate registers 100°F. Hold 1 truffle between thumb and index finger; dip halfway into white chocolate. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. If desired, press small pieces of crystallized ginger atop truffles. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
You can also dip in colored sprinkles!

WHITE CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TRUFFLES

Ingredients
3/4 cup organic whipping cream
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 Tbsp organic light molasses
1 1/2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
18 to 20 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (choose organic and fair trade)
14 to 16 ounces organic, fair trade white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger, plus extra for garnish

Preparation:
1. In heavy medium-sized saucepan, bring first seven ingredients to a boil. Remove pan from heat and let steep for an hour.
2. Chop 7 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 7 ounces of white chocolate into large metal bowl. Place bowl in saucepan of simmering water and stir  chocolate unti melted and smooth. Strain cream mixture into chocolate and stir in 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger (make sure it is minced fine). Chill filling at least 3 hours; it should be firm but not hard.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment. Take small spoonful of filling and roll quickly between hands until it forms a ball of one inch or less. If filling gets too sticky, return it to bowl and take another spoonful. Place each truffle on parchment. It's okay if they're imperfect! They're not finished. Chill truffles another 2 hours.
4. Line another sheet with parchment. Chop remaining bittersweet chocolate into another metal bowl and melt as before. Remove bowl from water and let cool to 115 degrees. Drop one truffle in chocolate and immediately lift it out with fork. Tap fork gently against side of bowl to remove excess chocolate, then use a knife to slide the truffle off the fork and onto parchment. Repeat. Chill your truffles until chocolate sets.
5. Line another sheet with parchment, and melt white chocolate in another bowl. Let cool to 100 degrees. Hold truffle in your fingers and dip top half into white chocolate. Place it on the parchment and press a bit of crystallized ginger into the top. Repeat. Chill again, at least 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Extra Nutty Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

Today is National Peanut Butter Fudge Day! I've posted recipes for Peanut Butter Fudge, but today I'd like to change it up a bit with this easy recipe for Extra Nutty Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies adapted from a Pillsbury recipe. I don't usually use boxed mixes, but this is a good recipe. Of course you can make your own brownies and just add the layer of peanut butter fudge and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. I really like the clean salty taste of plain roasted peanuts, rather than the recommended honey-roasted peanuts in the original recipe. I also add chocolate chips to the recipe and cut down on the peanut butter chips. You can never have enough chocolate!

Have a Peanut Buttery Day!

EXTRA NUTTY PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE BROWNIES!

Ingredients
2 (15.8 oz) pkg. fudge brownie mix with chocolate syrup
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
 2 eggs
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
7 ounces peanut butter chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray with nonstick cooking spray or grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan.
In large bowl, combine brownie mixes, chocolate pouches from mixes, oil, water and eggs; beat 50 strokes with spoon. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour about half of batter into sprayed pan.
In large saucepan, combine condensed milk, peanut butter chips and peanut butter; cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until chips and peanut butter are melted, stirring constantly.
Spoon and spread peanut butter mixture over batter. Drop remaining half of batter over peanut butter layer.
Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
Bake at 350°F. for 35 to 40 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.
DO NOT OVERBAKE. 
Cool 2 hours.
Refrigerate 1-1/2 hours or until completely cooled before serving.
Cut into bars.